Friday, May 27, 2016

Outside Girl

The Great Outdoors

It's funny, when choosing careers most people do not place serious consideration about whether they'd rather work inside or outside. I'm sure our high school and college career counselors would probably have scoffed at putting this requirement at the top of our lists, preferring to merely tailor the skill set to the individual. 

And yet indoors versus outdoors makes all the difference in the world to me. I can honestly say I was never happy at a job which left me inside from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., no matter how actively my skill set was utilized. I am just not an Indoor Girl.

When I was in my 20's, I took a short break from college but worked on campus in a secretarial capacity, serving as an in-house temp within the different departments, including at the medical center attached to the university. At the medical center -- with its multistory office complex and hallways with no windows, you could easily pass your eight hours never even seeing the outside. This was especially challenging in winter, when you could go into work before it was completely light and only emerge once darkness was setting in. I never thought about it until today, but while I was working there I'd usually spend my lunch hour in the nearby botanical gardens to soak up some greenery and nature.

The Great Indoors (UCLA Medical Center). Note lack of windows.

It's easy to see looking back that I was indeed an "outside" girl, and have been since I was in grammar school and always tried to snag a desk near the door or windows so I could look outside and daydream while I was supposed to be studying. Actually, it was more than just being outside; being on the playground or asphalt meant nothing to me. I wanted to be on and in some kind of greenery. Our school had a beautiful back lawn and I often looked out the door in Mrs. Mark's 4th grade classroom and dreamed of sitting under the shade trees of that lawn. It's probably why I didn't properly learn my multiplication tables until junior high school but, hey -- priorities.

Once I actually became a teacher, I always made sure my class and I took our books outside to the grass area when we did our independent reading, knowing I was not only helping myself, but also any other budding "outside" boys and girls. 

Not much has changed for me since, except the fact that my main job now takes place almost entirely outside, which has made me so happy. It does amaze me how such things as a preference for being indoors or outside establishes itself early on. It is probably something we are born with. My neighbor remarked the other day that as soon as I come home from working in the garden at the winery, she observed that I tend to head straight outside to care for my own garden here. She commented that I was obviously more of an "outside" girl than she was.

Damn right. And it only took me 54 years to realize it fully.

Bringing the outside in.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Spokane Word

Me and a moose.

We are back at home, resettling ourselves after our trip to Spokane. Travel these days is an enormous hassle, but if you can put up with the long TSA lines and sitting in an aluminum can with no wi-fi or food which is hurled 36,000 feet into the sky for a few hours, the perspective and sights are worth it. 

When I was in my 20's, I was a travel addict, flying all over the world. But this was in the era of decent airline meals (you were always fed), movies, cocktails and comfortable seating. As Big Ag said to me when we got on our plane, "It's not the Pan Am Era anymore, honey." Yes, and we are the worse for it, folks.

From south....

to north. And back again.

Big Ag and I were technically on a reconnaissance mission to the northern areas of Washington and Idaho to see if we might like it enough to retire there. I'm grateful we had five days there to scout around and see the sights; it gave us more than a tourist's eye for the towns we went through. Plus we have a couple of friends who have moved there who we met for breakfasts who helped us navigate some of the terra nova.

So could we live there? Absolutely. Will we live there? Quite probably, sometime in the next decade or so. Minimum three years, maximum 10. Having lived in California for most of my life, I was astonished at just how much more affordable, how much more green, how much friendlier and how beautiful the area was. Of course we'll be going back a couple more times, in other seasons, to see what we think, but for now our views are positive.

A stop at Big Ag's house of worship.

Big Ag was astonished at the sight of ammo sitting in easy reach out on the shelves of Cabelas (in California, it's kept under lock and key and you have to ask for it). How ironic that despite the well-armed population (Idaho allows you to carry weapons if you wish) I never felt safer. Folks in this part of the country are treated as adults and seem to live up to what's expected of them. Sure, they may have a gun in holster on their hip, but they are also friendly, helpful and really go out of their way to be courteous.

Downtown Spokane, however, is a hot mess. Lovely hotels and some good restaurants, but a homeless population that makes parts of it look like Downtown Portland. Lots of young, able-bodied, sane people living in their own society in a collection of homeless hotels, getting three square meals and hanging around on the sidewalk with their friends when they aren't eating or sleeping.

They don't seem to ever leave downtown at all, but seeing it makes me see a possible connection between the Holster Set and the fact that the northern parts of both Washington and Idaho are the prepping capital of the nation. Perhaps it's not the teeming masses coming out of San Francisco and Seattle they fear, but those coming out of downtown Spokane itself.

Coeur d'Alene lake. Preppers, turn north here.

So between deep philosophical conversations about the differences in culture here and looking around at real estate, we also had a lovely Sunday brunch at the historic Davenport Hotel, walked beside Lake Coeur d'Alene, checked out the Spokane Valley Mall. (Our Central Coast has no mall, which I can live with, but also no Macy's, which is difficult when you're buying clothes and don't want to shop in either Kohl's or the $300-and-up spendy boutiques downtown. I wasn't going to miss a chance to do a little shopping!) We also spent a lovely morning in the beautiful Manito Gardens in Spokane.

Brunch in the Marie Antoinette Room at The Davenport

The beautiful Manito Gardens.

The pond at Manito Gardens.
So what's next for us? For now, a return to regular life. The beautiful thing about travel is that you have new eyes when you come home. I was conscious that we have a beautiful home and a great property which may not be our forever home, but is a pretty great place for now. But, you know, pioneer blood and all that still has me looking north and dreaming of someday.

Nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

O Pioneers!

In the midst of packing and re-packing as we get ready to head to the Great Northwest for a little vacation and retirement home prospecting. Even with a full-time housesitter, there is a great deal that needs to get done around the homestead before we go, although having a housesitter helps immensely with not becoming overwhelmed with stress. Knowing that someone we know well will be actually living in our house while we're away helps with that a lot. Forget the neighbor checking in twice daily. Move someone in for the length of your vakay, I say.

Will we hate Spokane/Coeur D'Alene? Love it? Never want to come back here? I guess we'll find out. We are actually looking at retiring there in several more years (no worries residents, we are not coming to take your jobs). Most appealing to us is cost of living, followed by weather, followed by living in a place that actually has enough water. I can imagine the charm of  living in a place where enough wet stuff falls from the sky that one does not have to worry about the ol' well running dry on a year-to-year basis.

I come from a migrating tribe of people -- my family's personal story, told by our DNA and family history, takes us out of the Middle East during the Jewish diaspora, to the Mediterranean, then England, then the Eastern US, then to California. Looking over the horizon to new land is in my blood. I truly believe it is either in your DNA to be a pioneer or it isn't (and no judgement either way). You're either born with the migrating gene or not. 

But as we draw closer to the end of our careers, we ponder where we can best afford to have the quality of life we want, and where there are amenities close by that we will need or just want to have. Spokane is on the short list, and so out we go to case the promised land.

I'll take lots of pics and report in once we're home.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

So Mother's Day is one of those holidays which is kind of hit and miss around here, especially now that the kids are grown. We've had days where A Grand Effort was made, and other years when not much happened.  This year was, surprisingly, the former.

Gardens at the Paso Inn

We started out by having brunch at the Paso Inn (along with what seemed to be about half the residents from around here). It was busy but we got awesome seating -- outside, next to a huge bed planted with Stock (which smelled absolutely amazing) and instead of fold up seats, were given huge comfy wicker lounge chairs to sit in. Don't know who Big Ag or my son Trains (so called for his love of anything that rides on rails) paid to get the VIP treatment or if it was just luck, but I'm taking it happily, however it happened.

Once brunch was over we started discussing what to do. A walk on the beach was thrown around, but because it was such a nice day we decided to come home. You see, in summer we'll be 100 degrees here and the beach will be an awesome and welcome cool-off, but right now home is the place to be if you want blue skies, gentle breezes, and wonderful views.

Home is where the hang-out is.

And then the Gift portion of the day began. Got a sweet planter in my favorite color from the lovely and thoughtful stepdaughter we don't see often enough, and got this mug and dish towel from Trains' girlfriend (she can become a permanent fixture as far as I'm concerned), and awesome NASA oven mitts and t-shirt from Trains. Yes, NASA oven mitts! My stepson Groceries called in from his Navy base in South Carolina in the evening, and it was great to get to talk to him as well.

NASA oven mitts and assorted goodies. Love it all!
My gifts have a definite dichotomy between Farm and Land and Space (The Final Frontier), which would make total sense if you knew me since I'm a bit of both. Grounded but spaced out -- sometimes literally.

And while I hate to say that being taken out to brunch or given lovely gifts -- you know, material things -- makes me feel loved, the fact is, it did!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Another day at the office

Posting has been a bit light as the weather has been perfect for planting, and so I've been spending my days at "the office," as you can see here, and also harvesting lots of spinach and carrots on the home front, plus attending the ever-present Master Gardener classes (which I'd love if they weren't more than an hour's drive from home, which is sometimes difficult to integrate with the rest of my schedule).

That was an extremely good example of a run-on sentence, so grammar Nazis take note and try and see this doesn't happen to you, on any count. But bad grammar aside, you get the point. 

I'll be back soon, and within the next few weeks there should be some vacation pics to share!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring winds -- we will survive.

Windstorm 2016: We will survive.

Spring is the time for strong winds in our area, always and forever. I learned this the hard way the first spring we lived here, when I had an entire batch of home-sprouted heirloom tomatoes snapped off their little stems during one particularly blustery afternoon. We will survive to endure summer's heat, of that I am almost certain. We always do.

I now wait until May to plant most things and use a variety of wind shields to protect them -- cut up milk cartons and gallon jugs, Solo cups with the bottoms cut out, placed around the plants like a growing sleeve. Live and learn I guess.

When the weather folks give the forecast for this area, they always say something like, "30 - 40 mile per hour winds, with higher gusts on inland hills and mountain peaks." We live on such a peak. Sure, we have a spectacular view, but there's a price to pay and it's the fact that the wind plays havoc with everything that is alive and is purview to the awesome scenery we get to enjoy.

Yesterday we almost lost the fig tree in our yard and an apple tree down in the orchard due to the winds. (I'd just been bragging to someone about how awesome my fig tree was looking, so the term "pride goeth before the fall" has been lurking in my consciousness today). About mid-afternoon, I had to call Big Ag to come home and stake the trees before we lost them. While they've certainly sustained wind damage, we've secured them so that they will not die from falling over. 

Apple tree: will survive.

Wind damage on fig leaf.
Of course the white iceberg roses lost about 25 percent of their petals in this wind event, so between the turned over chairs, strewn petals everywhere and solo cups over the plants the whole yard looks like we had a wedding reception that turned into an Animal House frat party, which if you knew us (or our friends) you'd know could totally happen.

I may also have to thin the fig tree in the future, as its size gets larger than these stakes can protect -- something I'm hating the idea of, because the shade the tree gives is so lovely. The apple tree will be fine, but as it started getting uprooted just as it was blossoming and leafing out, will bear little fruit and have very few leaves this year. But at least it will live to produce next year.

Funny how when you farm or grow anything, next year becomes the repository for so many of your hopes and dreams. We don't imagine next year will be any less windy (or cold or hot or wet or dry or insect-infested, etc.), but we have at least the belief that whatever got us this year is something we'll be prepared for next time around.

Big Ag had rough winds all over his vineyards, too. Sadly, he told me about an old cottonwood that blew down with a hawk's nest in it. There were no young ones, but all the eggs were broken in the fall. Luckily it's early in the season and the hawks have plenty of time to hatch another clutch of eggs, but it's a reminder that everything suffers in these winds.

And now after yet another Big Blow, we're hoping for still air and sunshine, or even rain very soon. Really, anything but wind would be fine at this point.

Gloria Gaynor: will also survive.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald

Dancer, writer, artist.

So I was reading yesterday that actress Scarlett Johannsen will be tackling the role of Zelda Fitzgerald when F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, "The Beautiful and The Damned" comes to life in the movies soon.

I've always felt a certain huge, protective instinct where Zelda is concerned because she is a fairly close relative of mine (she is a cousin, as many times removed as our generations are) and I've always felt she got the short end of the stick where her marriage and career were concerned. Oh yes, and also where her mental health was concerned. Many people know her as "crazy Zelda," the woman who "tormented" F. Scott Fitzgerald through his most productive years. And this is simply not the case.

Zelda was a writer, an artist and a dancer in her own right and dealt not only with issues of depression, but also the unspeakable anger at having her work stolen by her husband, who regularly plagiarized her journals for fodder in his own writing. As a strong woman living in the early part of the 20th century, there was also a societally-ingrained, gender-based handicap which denied her the ability to live her own life on her own terms, due to the rampant sexism of the age. 

I first came to understand that I was related to Zelda when I got compared to her regularly when I was younger, especially in my wilder days. The "Zelda gene" was something that was of some concern to my family. When I danced (in full formal wear) into the fountains at the Music Center after a classical music concert in Los Angeles I was called Zelda. When I led the conga line into the swimming pool at a friend's wedding, I was called Zelda. When I climbed out a bathroom window at a fancy restaurant in Las Vegas and walked into the desert after getting an unexpected marriage proposal from a man I did not want to marry, I was called Zelda. So I guess it made sense that I felt like she was almost a secret sister of mine, genetically similar, creative, untamed and the wild child my father's family line somehow tends to produce on a semi-regular basis. Zelda was the one for her generation. I was for mine.

Unhappily married.

But Zelda was also diagnosed as a schizophrenic and sent into numerous, tortuous treatments that made whatever condition she really suffered from even worse. When ancestry tools first became available, I started researching both her maternal and paternal family, concerned that there really was a schizophrenic (and not just a wild child) gene in our family. 

Upon further research I learned that there was a history of mental health issues on her mother's side of the family, not her father's (through which we are related), and that today Zelda might be more accurately diagnosed as bi-polar or possibly just unhappily married and artistically frustrated to the point of clinical depression and suicidal tendencies. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Sylvia Plath, not Charles Manson.

And so I find myself in some ways wondering if Zelda's life might have turned out as happily as my own if she'd simply had a better (or no) husband, gotten treatment or just wised up early on about the hazards of binge drinking, and lived her life not quite so in the limelight. Perhaps she would have established her own limelight as a dancer, a novelist, a poet or an artist, on her own terms.

The one thing I know is that Zelda is one of us, my paternal tribe, and therefore I hope for everyone's sake that Ms. Johannsen portrays her not just as the quintessential, two dimensional drunken southern belle stereotype actresses usually tap into when portraying her, but instead attempts to portray her as the artist, -- the offbeat, smart, creative, courageous and wild thinker she was. 

I would hope for no less, if it was me and my life up there on that screen.

"Great Smoky Mountains" by Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald