halloween recap

Can’t seem to let go of this holiday…but this will be the last of it for this year, I promise. We took a little trip to St. Helens (the town, not the mountain) to deliver boxes of apples and pears to a friend with a bakery there. Driving through on Hwy 30, one would never suspect that if you turn right, away from the strip mall atmosphere hunkered around the highway, you can wind your way down to the river’s edge, where you will find the charming remnants of the original town.

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All along both sides of the main drag, at regular intervals, inventive scarecrow-like figures stand sentinel.

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Like this tattered shade.

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A towering pirate.

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And a wacky chef doing a jig.

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An ornate iron gate protects the grandest house on the street.

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Where a gathering of ghouls and goblins await intrepid “trick or treat”ers (if, that is, they can get past the giant spiders cavorting on the stairs).

On the way home, we stopped at the Scappoose Fred Meyer to pick up a few things. The joint was jumpin. A costume contest for kids was attracting bevies of tiny princesses and fairies, hordes of skeletons, spacemen and hobos. My favorite was a mere babe in full pirate regalia. The woman who pumped our gas sported impressive black feathered wings, dark glasses and black horns sprouting through a maroon wig styled in a short bob. We live down a sheltered lane where nary a costumed kid has ventured in the six years we have lived here, no matter how much we doll up the house in attempts to lure them. That makes it vital for us to get out and about to soak up the ghostly atmosphere. Wouldn’t miss it!

happy halloween

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My tablescape for the holiday would never have happened without a suggestion from Frances over at Faire Garden. When she saw my last post about Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’, she said “Why not cut some branches, paint them shiny black, and use them as Halloween decorations?” I thought that an excellent idea. Here’s a close-up of the branch:

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And people think blogging is a useless waste of time? Thanks, Frances…and Happy Halloween to all!

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boo day is coming

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We went to a pumpkin carving party yesterday. Above is one of our number, typically concentrated on her creation.

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The fruits of our labors, all lined up and lit from within. Can you believe that some of the carvers had never before carved a pumpkin? I think they all look like the work of professionals.

remembering Memorial Day

Richard and I grew up in families with very different attitudes towards death and dying. The women in my clan all lived well into their nineties, and by the time they finally relinquished their grasp on life, they had lost any resemblance to the women we admired, resented and cherished. But even when my dad and uncle passed before reaching sixty, there was no funeral, no memorial, no forum of any kind. My cousins and I felt a vacuum, and when it came our turn to be in charge, we instituted a kind of wake/memorial, where we all gathered in some special place to tell stories, pore over family photos, cry and laugh and remember.

Given my background, I never quite understood the pull of the Union cemetery on Richard and all of his kin on Memorial Day. Having recently returned from our most recent trip to Union and points east, I think I am finally beginning to “get it”. It is where all of the family is buried…a place to honor the ancestors and reconnect with the living.

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The old part of the grounds has a wealth of monuments, with horses grazing in the distance,

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and a small chapel, but few flowers

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except for the roses in the arms of this most graceful sculpture marking the resting place of a beloved daughter who died young, long ago. I suspect they were placed there for the visual effect as much as anything.

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The newer graves are more humbly marked, but well tended and graced with living plants and bouquets of fresh flowers placed there by relatives in remembrance. The groundskeepers put small American flags on the graves of all who served in the armed forces. The overall effect is a kind of mournful gaiety.

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Having duly paid our respects, we decamped to an idyllic spot on Catherine Creek for a family picnic.

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Here is Richard gabbing with Caven (his dad’s namesake) while Corbin (the future) indulges in the endlessly fascinating sport of throwing rocks into the river.

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While Connie does some rustic cooking with very modern ingredients (roasted asparagus…yum!

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On the way out of town, we always swing by the little house in Union where the White grandparents lived. For years it has been in a state of steady deterioration, and we gird ourselves to find it razed to the ground. Well guess what! Two young men have taken it on. They are pouring sweat, love and imagination into its revival.

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They are planting a garden in newly constructed raised beds, and have incorporated the old porch posts into the design. There will be cascading ponds with a waterfall. They were tickled to learn the history of the place, and, in a quirk of fate, one of them has the last name of White.

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We followed Kathrin and John on a picturesque drive through the mountains to Orofino and wound up here, at their newly remodeled home. What began as a little cabin in the woods has morphed into a grand “spread” that would have made Caven White proud.

a snowbound merry christmas

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Know the chances of a White Christmas in Portland, Oregon? 1%! All those years of longing have been more than fulfilled with the great snowstorm of 2008. We are living in a picture postcard world, and can’t seem to stop snapping photos, even if they barely approach the crystalline beauty of the real thing. I will share a few of the best shots.

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Big juicy rose hips are even more luscious encased in ice and dusted with snow

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The birds appreciate our offerings even more than usual.

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This guy, color-coordinated with the apples still clinging to the tree, seems to have a Madonna-like instinct for posing for the camera.

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And here is Sammy. She stands no chance of sneaking up on those birds, thanks to her stark contrast to the white world in which she finds herself.

When we were driving around New England a few years ago, we fantasized about spending a snowbound winter in Vermont. Now here we are, feeding the sparrows, reading by the fire…snow-flocked trees, hikes in the snow. So, from Merrie Olde Vermontegon…

Merry Christmas!

happy feet

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Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, so I feel a little bad about pretty much ignoring it this year: no jack-o-lanterns, no cornstalks, no bowls full of candy (it has been years since we have lived in a neighborhood plied by trick-or-treaters). I thoroughly enjoyed driving to several events in October and seeing the gusto with which others had embraced the holiday. Ghouls, ghosts and goblins peeked from many a tree…and the lighting!…and the sound effects! I call it the Spielberg Effect.

Not one to be left completely out of the loop, I found these slippers at our local one-stop-shopping center, and couldn’t resist. I chuckle every time I look down. Practical, too, on these cold cement floors. So “Boo! to you”, or should I say “Grrr!”…and a belated “Happy Halloween!” thrown in for good measure.

independence day!!!

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I made the red, white and blue spinnakers for a friend with a shop with a French theme. I got them back when Lulu went into temporary hibernation. These are not colors that I am normally drawn to, but what fun to trot them out for the Fourth of July and Bastille Day.

We will be going to my ex-husband and his wife’s condo on the river for BBQ and fireworks. Din (son) will be there, and Nancy (son’s wife)’s dad, who just moved to Portland…yet a new twist to the malleable family we enjoy. When I first met the “in-laws”, lo these many years ago, they were all staunch Republicans (understandably, in the age of Tom McCall, et.al.) and talk of politics was off the table if we were to get along at all. Over the years, and especially the last seven +, they have come around. Tonight, it will be safe to mention that I have high hopes, this Independence Day, for a new direction for our country.

may day! may day!

Then April sighed, and stepped aside

…and along came pretty little May

 

I’m all for bringing back a simple tradition enjoyed in childhood: May baskets. The ones I remember were paper cones fashioned from construction paper and decorated with ribbons. The ribbons also formed a loop for hanging these very special, flower-filled vessels over a doorknob. When you are five, the bouquets are apt to contain dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace, as well as more legitimate flowers pilfered from the garden. Longevity is rarely an issue. The pleasure comes from stealing, undetected, up to the front door of a favorite aunt, sneaking the “basket” of drooping wildflowers onto the door, ringing the bell and diving for the bushes to secretly watch her face radiate delight when she discovers the tribute. As adults, we might give a thought to the practical matter of making our vessels watertight, but lets not lose sight of the gleeful aspects of secrecy and surprise.

Sweet, simple customs carry none of the freight of the sexiness and even gore of May Day’s pagan origins, when the ripeness of all nature led lads and lassies into a delirium of lust sanctioned by all. The fairest of each sex was duly proclaimed King and Queen of the May, to preside over the revelry (which often included human sacrifice). You can imagine how uncomfortable the puritans were with the mayhem. They did their best to leave it all behind when they came to the New World.

In the late 1800’s labor activists co-opted May Day for their own purposes, with marches and demonstrations sometimes described in the press as “commie” events perpetrated by “wild-eyed agitators”. What’s a neo-puritan like George W. Bush to do? Why, wipe out all traces of carnality and left-leaning sentiment with the stroke of a pen, or course. In 2003, he proclaimed May 1 as Loyalty Day, a time to reaffirm our allegience to our Nation.

Proclamations and cover-ups aside, all you have to do is step outside in the Merry Month of May to feel the stirrings of the earth awakening and be moved to mark the event in some significant way. If a pledge of allegiance is what comes to you, so be it. I myself am more likely to tear off my clothes and roll in the grass.

 

 

tomorrow is Arbor Day

Planting a tree is an act of optimism – a clear statement of belief in the future. You must have vision, especially if the tree is a mere whip at planting time. The spreading umbrella of shade or the pouf of fragrant blossom will take time to materialize. It may not achieve its full majesty in our lifetime, but a carefully planted specimen will reward us with untold pleasure as we watch it develop from year to year. I find myself driving by my old neighborhoods just to see how something I planted there is getting on. It’s like visiting the best longtime friends with shared memories. It always surprises me to see how something that I planted as a sapling has become a real tree in my absence.

Unlike perennials that can be put in willy nilly and moved around at will, a tree demands forethought. Its mature height and spread will need to be considered. Some are fast growers; others take their own sweet time. Impulse buys are best avoided on pain of creating a monument to rashness that can only be remedied with a chain saw. My natural inclination is to be haphazard. It doesn’t bode well for the siting of trees, so I enlist the aid of my partner in life, who is more inclined to take the long view. A case in point is the magnolia . We took turns standing on a proposed spot, while the other went inside to peruse the effect from various windows. After much wild gesticulating (a little to the left, back, back, not quite so far…no, that won’t do at all…), we agreed upon a setting where the little tree glows against the darker background of the forest and can be seen to advantage from three windows of the dining room. It has plenty of room to reach for the sky. I can all but see the monster blossoms unfurling to dinner plate magnificence. What a day that will be!

When we planted street trees, we did the research, made our choice and planted two flowering pears across the front of the house. They had been growing there for three years when the need for a third tree became apparent. I called my horticulturist friend, Michelle, to tell her what we were after. She came to measure the circumference of the trunks of the existing trees so she could allow for transplant shock. The new tree would have to be slightly bigger or it would never catch up. She then sought out a specimen meeting all of the requirements and delivered it to the site. Her detailed instructions for its care left us feeling she was parting with her first-born child. Now that is what I call a dedicated nursery person. Too much to ask for? Not really. You may be surprised by the ardor of arborists – and why not? Beyond their physical beauty, trees do so much for us. They clean our air, shade us from the blazing sun, produce food and stand as sentinals over the history of a place. On a practical note, each tree adds to the value of a property.

As a rule, trees are big-ticket items worth every penny. To get around financial constraints, think about joining the National Arbor Day Foundation. For a nominal membership fee, they will express their thanks by sending you ten free trees. The flowering group includes two flowering dogwoods, two Kousa dogwoods, two crabapples, two Washington hawthorns and two American redbuds. Alternatively, you can opt for a selection of two each of five varieties of oaks or ten Colorado Blue Spruces. When I received my ten free trees, I was distracted by other things. The poor little trees languished on the back porch. When I finally got around to planting them, I had little hope for their survival. I was in for a surprise. They thrived despite my shameful neglect, and within two years were flaunting pride of place and contributing considerable charm to the landscape. Imagine what might happen if one treated them with all due respect and followed the easy planting instructions to the letter.

who needs hearts & flowers?

My sweetheart gave me rocks for Valentine’s Day…and I was thrilled to pieces. Of course these were no ordinary rocks…at least not the small, smooth kind handy for skipping across bodies of water or anchoring flowers in a clear vase (I covet those, too, and on walks can never pass one by without stooping to pick it up and drop it in a pocket). No, these could more aptly be described as boulders. Richard says at the quarry they differentiate by calling them half-man, one man or two-man, depending upon how much of a man is required to lift one. R is secure enough in his manhood to settle for half-man rocks. When I suggested that, between the two of us, it should be easy to lift them out of the truck, he declared, “What do you mean? We’ll just roll them out. They’re rocks! What can happen to them?” Now the trick is placement. There are four of these beauties, and I won’t want to squander their impact by misjudging where to put them. Tomorrow is predicted to be a beautiful day, and I look forward to carting my rocks around, with the aid of a dolly, to try out different locations and dream of their future with moss and lichens and little ground covers spilling around them.

So far, so good. It’s a long time until my birthday…maybe if I play my cards right I will rate a load of gravel.