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Friday, December 26, 2008

It Can Stop Snowing Now...

I got out for a walk this morning for the first time in a couple of days...except for a short hike to the Post Office on Christmas Eve, I haven't left my apartment since Monday.
I've heard on the Seattle area newscasts that this is only the 10th white Christmas in this area since 1891...seems like we got ALL the snow that was allotted to us in the past 12 days or so. Looking out my window onto the roof line below, there's easily 12-14 inches of powdery white stuff piled up there.

At first I was excited, because the dog tracking project seemed to take off...but then the neighbors stopped walking their dogs down the street. I've been there...when it's too cold or the snow is just too deep to be fun, the dog walks stay pretty close to the front door. And I've found it to be unsafe to be crawling around in the snow at the edge of the road trying to measure tracks as cars slide by.

I've just called in to Ben Franklin at Monroe, and found that I'm not on the schedule for this weekend! I missed working Sunday because I can't find a safe way to get down to highway 203. As much as I hated to call in, I was afraid to try to make it down the hill to the highway. 25 years of working at a hospital where calling in was not an option makes you want to try no matter how stupid, but I'm glad I've learned this: It's not worth risking your life or your car for a few dollars more in the paycheck at the end of the week. I don't think I could have said that before my Residential Program year....funny how the most important lessons you learn are the ones you don't even realize you were enrolled in.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


This is a short but sadly funny comment...As I will be turning 50 on January 3rd, I suppose it should not have been a surprise to get a letter from AARP. Somehow, it just seems wrong to wind up on this mailing list. I don't know if I should be mad or sad. I don't feel older than, say 47 or 48. And what makes them think I'll be able to retire, anyway? Probably the smartest thing I've ever done was to cash in my retirement fund and come to the Residential Program. Given the current ecomomic news, it seems smarter than ever...but I'm wondering, will anyone of my generation and ecomomic status ever really be able to retire? Right now it does not look likely. But I'm so thankful that I took the money and ran when I did...I wouldn't have the option now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Almost Missouri Cold!

Wow! This is the first time since I got here in Sept. 2006 that we've had anything approaching Missouri cold...It's really beautiful, and I walked to work today in a foot of snow! It just snowed like crazy yesterday, and I took a snow day...I tracked dogs #2 and # 3 in my driveway. It was really funny to see the neighbors come along. At first they thought I'd fallen, and would start over to see if I was OK. But then, they realized that I'm down measuring things in the snow...that's when they would veer away and look around as if my keeper must have let me out of sight. Once I explained my project, everyone thougt it was kind of cool. I'm off tomorrow, too. I should have lots of tracks by the end of next week, as the office is closed and I can track every day but Sunday...if I'm able to get down to the highway and get into there's a high wind warning. In 06, it looked like Christmas had exploded! Trees were down and power out for a couple of weeks in some places...I have plenty of food, so no worries there, but it could be scary if it's as windy as they say it might be.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Greetings!

Those of you who know me well will be surprised to hear that I invited a friend over last night for stew and Christmas movies. You might not be so surprised to hear that the movies were "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon".
With luck, that will be the end of my holiday celebrations. With family half way across the country, I won't have to go "visit" and I won't be sad about that either.

I'm looking forward to a quiet holiday, hot tea, good book and contented cat by my side. Likely, I'll have to turn down a few invitations, and most people don't get that I'm happy to stay home on the holidays. I want to work on some crafty type projecst, and perhaps do some dog tracking at the park on Christmas morning.

With a bit more luck, I'll be able to pay my car off a couple of months early and then look at quiting the weekend job! That will give me time and energy to work on the dog tracking project for my Tracking Intensive class. I can't wait to get going on that...the Basset Hound really got me excited about what I might learn about dog tracks.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dog #1

This is Beba, a lovely and exuberant Basset Hound. She's 2 years old, and weighs 44 pounds. You could say that she "volunteered" for my project. She saw me coming from about 200 yards, and began wagging her entire body, hoping I'd come and talk to her! Once I'd explained my project, her owner readily agreed to come to the sandy beach and lay down some tracks for me...I'll bet no one ever mistakes these for coyote tracks!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dog Tracking Update to Come...and Another Coyote

I forgot to bring in my photos to share...will get them up tomorrow, along with a story about tracking a Basset Hound!

I've about lost track of the coyote it # 9 I saw today? I had to run into Monroe for Ben Franklin's Christmas breakfast early today...We shared a nice breakfast at Ixtapa, and I won a prize! On the way back in the fog, I saw another coyote standing at the edge of the highway just north of Duvall. Pretty cool! I'm astounded by my good luck today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Domestic Dog Tracking Project

Today I'm going to McCormick Park to start my Tracking Intensive project. If you hear news reports of a crazy woman accosting dog walkers in Duvall, it will probably be me.

I've been busy creating a plan, a worksheet, and a letter explaining who I am and why I want to take photos of dogs and measure their tracks. Today, I'll find out if it works.

My goal is to record measurements on 100 dogs before the project is due in May. If I could do it without taking any measurements at all, I would. But, as my friend Jonathan pointed out, it would be impossible to re-create the project later, so I may as well take all the measurements anyone will ever want to know.

Jim Halfpenny has set the standard for tracking dogs, and so I'm going to be taking 15 measurements on each set of tracks...times 3, and then getting an average value for each of the 15 measurements. And I'll be using the metric system instead of the more comfortable inches...

That's assuming I can actually talk people into going to the sandy beach area along the river. I'm not sure I'd have fallen for the "school project" story when I was walking my dog. It should be interesting to see what happens.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hunters after the Flood

I had an unexpected day off on Saturday, and so took a walk along the path at McCormick park. I couldn't go far, as water was still up to the 2nd highest strand of wire at the low spot where the farm road crosses just north of the Safeway lot.

I didn't have to go any further - there was a fair bit of wildlife out enjoying the sunshine and mellow fall temperatures. I saw this pair of hunting coyotes - numbers 7 and 8 - on the backside of the open field just about 6 city blocks below my apartment. They knew I was on the bridge, and moved out of sight, but not before I got a dozen pictures! What a cool sight...even though there were a number of people and dogs out on the path, no one else noticed them.

The coyotes (Canis latrans) looked fat and in good conditon, probably since the small mammal population had been disrupted by the flooding. The vole was just a few hundred yards down the path. I still have to look up the species...I'm not so confident of my vole ID.

I saw several of them along the path. They would come out of the piles of dry leaves after someone had passed by. But, as soon as I moved in to get a photo, back in the leaf piles they would go. My shadow spooked a couple of them, and I only got photos of the spot where one had been just seconds before. Then, I got smart. I waited in one spot with camera ready as a jogger passed by. As soon as she was gone, this little critter came out into the sunshine and I got several pics of it as well. I expect that jumpiness pays off with the coyotes so near.

As I was leaving the park, one of the coyotes had retuned to the place I'd first seen them. I took a few more photos, then, one hunter to another, I wished it well and moved on.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What a Place to Work!

Monday is an all-day Staff Dirt Time day. I'm required to leave the office, go up to our land, and spend the morning working on - whatever. Not a skill they think I need to learn - just whatever nature skill I feel called to practice. It can be one I'm good at - basket-making, perhaps, or one I struggle with. My choice. How cool is that?
It cracks me up to think of the hospital telling me that I have to take a day off to play, with pay. The entire staff will be there. No one left at the office to answer the phone. No one going to the bank or the post office. Since nature mentoring is such an important part of the job here, they build time into the schedule to practice the skills and to mentor each other. Even those of us with office jobs are expected and encouraged to learn and share the skills of the naturalist.
I will be pulling out my bow-drill kit and working on fire. I haven't tried to get a coal since the Residential Program. I might go over to our new parcel of land and explore for a while, or I might do a bit of flintknapping. I might take a walk in the Enchanted Forest and look for this guy. We saw him Sunday during Tracking Intensive. Perhaps I'll see another coyote.
Since a number of us are interested, we will be carpooling into Seattle in the afternoon to listen to a cougar predation presentation at the University of Washington. I love this job! And I realize how truly blessed I am to be able to say that.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trailing Elk

We had a guest instructor at Tracking Intensive this past weekend. Brian McConnel joined Dave Moskowitz in leading us through a day of trailing elk in the mountains just east of Snoqaulmie Pass.
There had been some lowland flooding on Friday, and more rain on the way, so starting out in the dark was a little scary. The Carnation to Fall City area seems to flood quicker than Duvall, and the web site to check King County road conditons was down. Although the rivers were up, we didn't find any road closures and crossed the pass without incident.
The Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest lacked the dense ground cover of ferns that I've become acustomed to here in our Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophyll) forest of the western slopes of the Cascades. I thought finding elk (Cervus canadensis) would be easy. Of course with 8 students and 2 instructors, we were not going to sneak up on anything.
We were successful in finding fresh elk tracks, and each of us had a turn in the lead as we trailed them through the woods. Along the way we found many varieties of mushrooms and fungi, including a deadly Amanitas variety that Brian pointed out to us. Some of them were beautiful, others just slimy and weird-looking.
We got close enough to elk to spook a couple of them, which some of us heard crashing through the brush, then we found the muddy tracks and scattered leaves they left to entice us! Go to my WebShots page to see more photos.

Friday, October 31, 2008

An Early Morning Gift

I stopped at the intersection before stepping out onto the road and looked to the left for traffic, then to the ...wait a minute...what's that? My head swiveled back to the left and there it was! Coyote number 6 was trotting up the hill about a block from my apartment. Given the location, it's likely the same animal as Coyote number 4, and the one who leaves scat on the sidewalks around the wooded area where a dry stream bed wonders down the hill toward Highway 203.

I reached for my camera, but before I could get it out of the bag and turned on, the coyote had disappeared into the blackberry bramble. It stopped to look at me first, and without any apparent fear or distress, it vanished. Cool!

I crossed the street and started to trail it...and found a bit of fresh animal skin that looked a lot like what was left of someone's black cat. Then I realized I'd be late for work if I didn't turn around.

Now, Wilderness Awareness School is one of the few workplaces where you can get away with being late because you were trailing an animal. However, I knew I had payroll and taxes to deal with, so I went on to work. But now that I've seen it I'll be out early with camera ready, and I'll get a picture of it yet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our Tax Dollars at Work, or As Close to a Political Rant as You'll Get From Me

I had to laugh at a political advertisement I saw on TV the other day. The message was that I should vote for the candidate because her opponent had not managed to pass a bill during his time in office. That's the guy I means that he didn't raise my taxes or make any new laws that will complicate my life. Let me explain...
Some years back I was late to work because the power went out for a while, and my alarm clock failed. I bought a new clock...a fancy one that re-sets it's self when the power goes out. It also corrects for Daylight Savings Time...or at least it did. Then Congress changed the dates of the changes, and my new clock now causes more problems than it solved. Instead of having to deal with the "Spring forward, Fall back" stuff twice a year, I now have to do it four times. Here's what happens...

My clock is still on the 'before Congress complicated things' time. I can't just change the time to make it right...I have to change my time zone. And then remeber to set it back - or is it forward?

I've never understood the whole Daylight Savings Time switcheroo anyway. I've never been able to explain it to a dog, either. It just doesn't make any sense to change the clocks twice a year - or 4 times if you have a fancy clock. The only reason we do it is because Congress tried to fix something that wasn't really broken in the first place. Why can't we all just re-learn to live with nature's time? We could throw away the clocks all together if we did that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October Tracking Intensive Class

My stupid, contrary, dumb, un-cooperative, and annoying computer rebelled, and I could not open the disk that contained my Tracking Intensive photos...I kept getting the message that "the administrator has blocked access to the CD/ROM ". I'm the administrator for my computer! Stupid computer!
We had a wonderful, sunny, and productive weekend at the Potholes and along the Columbia River near Vantage. It's so strange to cross the Cascades and suddenly be in high desert with sagebrush and sand. I love the contrast to our side of the mountains. And being able to see for miles is fun! This picture is near the river just outside of Vantage, with the high basalt rock walls opposite. Truly, I took both pictures from the same spot, just turning my body to get the shots.
Dave's group found a terrific sandy beach along the river with raccoon, coyote, beaver, and Canada goose tracks in the damp sand! We made plaster casts, and I found it really tough to decide what to cast. The coyote tracks sometimes paralleled the raccoon or beaver tracks. It would have been possible to get both critters in a large cast. I chose a nice set of beaver tracks, as my Dad made his winter money by trapping when I was a kid.
I'll be putting more Tracking Intensive pics up on my WebShots page, so go check them out!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tracking we will go...

It's 5:26 am, and I'm here at the office waiting for the rest of my Tracking Intensive classmates to arrive. We are off to the Potholes today!
The weather is supposed to be lovely, and there's no telling what we will find to track. Stories later...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ellen's Coyote (#5)

"Look, there's a coyote!" I almost immediatly regretted my words because Ellen threw on the brakes...and started backing up on the narrow, curvy road.

We were on the way up to Cedar Lodge to meet the new class of Residential students. Ellen was driving because I really hate to, and it was likely that there would be lots of cars in the parking lot.

It was the 5th coyote I've seen in recent months, and it hung around long enough for me to get a few pictures...not that I can prove it. I put them on a disk last night, but evidently grabed a blank one on my way out the door.

Ellen Haas is one of my bosses at Wilderness Awareness School, and one of the aouthors of "Coyote's Guide" our book that is coming out any day now. Ellen says she's only ever seen one other wild coyote, so it seems especially significant that we saw this one last night.

With luck, I'll be able to show you the pics tomorrow.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Big Reunion....

Wow, we had a great Labor Day weekend at the River Ranch Girl Scout Camp at Carnation, Washington. The weather was mostly lovely, the food incredible, and the company was outstanding.
(This is my boss at the staff meeting. Sorry Warren, I could not resist.)

It's so nice to meet the office legends and put a face to the people I've exchanged e-mails or phone conversations with!
Listening to Jon Young, Jake Swamp and Paul Raphael speak was inspiring. I've always known that what we do here is important, but now I understand that it's WAY bigger than I realized.
It's really cool to hear how the school got started from those who were there, and also really cool to see how far it's come.
"Coyote's Guide", our book that lays out the teaching method we use here is coming out in a few days! I expect that it's going to be a big thing. Look for more info shortly on that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Big Lie

I thought I'd lead off with a story, but my friend Margaret wants the confession, so I'm going to tell you about the biggest lie I ever told...and pretty near the only one of any consequence that's not some version of "It's fine, every thing's fine, I'M FINE!"

This story is about how a lie becomes a family legend, and how 4 people can be in the same place, see and hear the same things and come to 4 very different conclusions.

To set the stage, you have to read what follows with a hillbilly accent. I'll try to help...

I was born near Caplinger Mills, Missouri, which is more or less in the center of a triangle drawn from Stockton to ElDorado Springs to Humansville...OK, make that Kansas City, St. Louis and Little Rock, Arkansas. We lived on a farm pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

I'm 2 years older than my brother, and 8 years older than my sister, who was an infant at the time of the Big Lie. She was born on Thanksgiving day, and so I'm guessing that the incident took place in December or January. I don't recall a Christmas tree, so it was probably just after the first of the new year.

In the mid to late 60's there were quite a few stories of UFO's and cattle mutilations and the like going around. My Mom saw a UFO that winter. She thinks I saw one, too. Every now and then, she'll look up at me...she's 4'11" tall, and say, "I saw a flyin' saucer were probably too young to remember, but you saw one, too." I've never told her the truth, but I do remember the night in question here's the confession.

Mom always described what she saw out our back window and across the field as a big saucer -shaped object that moved up and down, right and left over the landscape with lights changing from yellow to red to green. Our neighbor a mile away claimed to see it, too. I don't think Dad ever did believe it.

On that night, probably a Saturday night, because my parents were watching wrestling (that's wrasslin in hillbilly) on the black and white TV. It was later than Jim and I were usually allowed to stay up. My sister was sleeping in her crib. Dad told us it was time to go to bed.

Now here's the part that got us into trouble. Do you remember the Green Giant commercials that were on back then? The one with the deep voice singing "Ho ho ho Green Giant!"? That's what was on TV as we went toward the room we shared. And we went stomping and singing along with the TV. I think we got to the 2nd "HO" when Mom yelled for us to be quite before we woke the baby up, and Dad came up out of his chair and started for us.

We were fixin to get a whuppin. One I didn't think we deserved. The window over my bed looked out over the same field where Mom had seen the UFO. In the time it took Dad to round the corner, I decided to lie. "There's a flying saucer," I said.

"Where? Did you see it, too?", Dad asked. My brother, who always was a quick study nodded his head and pointed out the window. Dad said, "Put your shoes on and get in the truck." He went and got the rifle as Mom wrapped my sister up in her blanket.

It was one of those clear, cold, dark nights when the grass gets crunchy with frost before midnight, and the stars are so bright they look like bits of broken glass on black velvet. We all piled into the cab of Dad's old red and white pickup and went to look for the UFO. I don't know what would have happened if we'd found one. I don't know how far we drove, or how long we were out. The inside of the windshield got frosty with our breaths.

To my Mom, I became "the girl who saw the flying saucer", someone who verified her own sighting some time earlier. For the rest of his life, my Dad looked at me with suspicion. I don't think he ever did believe...I think my brother was impressed by my quick thinking and my solution to our problem. I think he started to admire me a little that night. If he ever wondered what I did see out that window, he hasn't ever asked. My sister was too young to have an opinion, but I did promise 4 versions of what happened that night.

What I brought away was that sometimes a good story properly told will keep you out of trouble. I learned that I had the ability to make something up, and to profit from it. I learned that I was a writer. After all, that's what writing is - making stuff up and telling lies.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


So as I'm getting ready to leave work, I realize it's been a while since I've checked in...Lots of cool stuff is happening right now, and I don't even have time to tell the best stories...

Not having a phone has really had a negative impact on my keeping up with friends, this blog, and my writing....Not having a phone is a blessing because I'm not spending hours in front of the computer at home. I am releaved not to be getting calls for other people (Jesse, whoever he is didn't let his friends and family know his new number for the entire 14 months I had my last number).

I love not having a phone in the house...and I hate that I end up not checking in with my friends.

Just so you know, I haven't forgotten you...I have some cool pics to share, great stories to tell, and at least one confession to make...and on that note, I'm running out the door!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Promised Pics!

I'm so excited that it's working today because I really wanted to show off a couple of recent pics.

Here's the heron I told you about earlier...I love these big goofy birds. And I saw these beauties on my way to work one recent morning...I thought the spots would be gone by now, but this was late july, and the baby is really pretty and delicate...Enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Big Fish

For those of you who thought I don't know that a Bullfrog is an amphibian and not a reptile, give yourselves 30 points for noticing...Writers need editors, and mine was asleep at the keyboard.

My vacation adventures continued and I feel really lucky to have seen a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodius) catch a fish that was almost too big for it to swallow! I often see the big bird at McCormick Park and have taken many, many pictures of it. Some of them have even been good. I've watched it hunting and have missed the chance to get a pic of it diving after fish.

On Thursday afternoon, I was there with the camera when I noticed the critter was stalking it's prey. As I shot pics, it sank deeper into the water and slowly stretched out it's neck...and I missed the shot of the dive.

It came up with a fish - a big fish - and moved to shore. From the far bank, I took picture after picture as it tried to figure out how to eat the fish...I could see the fish flopping and watched the bird try to maneuver it into position...The bird paced the shoreline, shook the fish, used it's feet to try to turn it...The fish continued to flop.

Many pics later, and after I started to fear that the bird would choke on it's meal, it finally managed to swallow the fish. What a lucky time to be passing by with a camera!

I am trying to upload some pics, but there are "errors" so I'll try again later.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

9.2 Miles

So yesterday after my early morning neck adjustment, I stopped at Tressa's and had a cup of Chia tea and a wonderful blackberry/cream cheese scone. Then I hit the trail at McCormick Park for a short walk...

Instead, I wound up walking all the way to Carnation on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I didn't plan to go that far. But I did have a water bottle and a protein bar, so when I got to the highway where I generally turn around...I just kept walking. Sorta reminded me of Forset Gump when he ran across the USA. Every time I decided to turn back, I'd see something interesting ahead and I just kept going...

So, how long did it take me to walk 9.2 miles? 3 1/2 hours.

How many cool animal sightings did I have? Zero...unless you count the undetermined small rodent that crossed my path.

How many cool birds did I see? Let's least 5 varieties of duck, Canada geese, Great Blue Heron, 2 hawks (one I heard, and just barely saw as it flew behind me - the other was beautiful. I wish my hawk ID was good. It was large, dark, and as it lifted off the ground, I noticed the really beautiful rusty reddish brown leggings.) There were lots of smaller birds of course, most of which I noticed then passed by without stopping to appreciate.

Reptiles? Oh yeah! I heard one big Bullfrog, and saw 11 Garter snakes...Eleven!

How many times did I think I heard a bear? Just one, but it gave me a scare. I hadn't planned to hike so far...I was one knew where I was, or when I was supposed to be back...Not very good hiker behavior. I had my cell phone, but could not tell exactly where I was at any given time...I did take note of the few signs I saw along the way. "I'm south of the Oxbow Farm sign", I could tell far would not be more than a guess.

How long did I sit at the bus stop in Carnation before I caught one headed to Duvall?
About 3 1/2 hours...I could have gotten home nearly as fast if I'd walked back. Next time I'll ride to Carnation and hike back. Preferably with friends.

Funniest sight along the way? Where the trail crosses Highway 203 - the major north-south route in the area. There's a BIG yellow sign that cautions hikers to "LOOK BEFORE CROSSING"

Was it fun? You bet!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

4 Days Off!

I've had 4 days off! In a was wonderful to sleep late, take long walks - and naps. I ate lots of ice cream (Breyer's peach and mint chocolate chip), had some quality time with the cat, went to the library, and stopped in the local quilt shop to talk about the "get to know us" evening they offer each month.

I kept my twice-weekly appointments with my Chiropractor. Dr. Metcalf keeps me in shape to do the walking. I've hardly taken any over-the-counter pain meds since I started seeing him in February. The shoulder pain I've had for years responds well to regular adjustments. My first experience with Chiropractors back in Missouri brought relief to the old neck injury, but I'd put off finding someone here until I'd irritated my neck again. After an early morning adustment, I walked down to McCormick Park.

If the stupid swallows had cooperated, I'd have some cool pics to show you...what I got were pics of sand, and grass, and gravel. Those little birds fly FAST!

All in all, it was a great vacation - and I have the whole week of July 28th-Aug 1 off, too!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I didn't realize it had been so long since I'd checked in...It's been a pretty strange time for me.

I realized a couple of weeks ago that my friend Van had a birthday on July 3rd. Then I remembered that he'd taken his life last fall. That got me thinking about two other good friends that I've lost in the past couple of years.

Sid was a great guy - one of the first to let me know that it was cool to be a girl who wanted to hunt and shoot. He was a Missouri Highway Patrolman for 30 years, and that was after he'd survived Vietnam. Just after he became our Sheriff, he suffered a heartattack, and spent the final year of his life waitning for a transplant. He died of a massive infection just before he was suposed to come home. Van was a mutal friend. This happened a few months before I found Wilderness Awareness School and came west.

Steve was another guy I worked with for a long time. He helped me bury two old dogs, and gave me a Leatherman tool as a going away present. Van was the one who called to tell me that Steve had died. He had a really warped sense of humor, and liked John Wayne movies.

I miss all three of them. They were all suportive of my outdoor pursuits, even when I beat them at skeet or got a bigger turkey. They were like my brothers, and I miss them.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The 4th Coyote

He was loping up the hillside from Highway 203 to the tall grass at the edge of the road near where I live...As I've often noticed about wild animals, he didn't pay much attention to me - until I took my foot off the gas pedal. I hadn't even started to break, although the stop sign was coming up fast, and I've seen the occasional police car in that very same spot. He went into high gear, ears back, and disappeared. Like smoke.

I was heading to the laundromat early on a Sunday morning to do my weekly chores when I saw him. I remembered Filip's comment that I should sing the Wolf Honoring Song to the next coyote I saw but my Lakota is pretty bad, and my singing is awful so I just spoke the words out loud.

"Around the edge I am walking..." That's where the coyotes stay. Edges. I wonder if that has significance for me? Are my frequent coyote sightings this spring about edges? I've been living on my edges since I came west. And I mostly love it.

Coyotes do well on the edge. I've been doing well, too. Perhaps they are the welcoming committee. I expect I'll be seeing more of them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Here's what happens when you've been WARPed....I let fellow WARP07 grad Laura Hersh paint my face at graduation on Saturday. It was my first face-painting adventure.
Pretty cool, huh? Who would have expected such wild behavior from me? Nobody...that's who.
That's why I'm particularly happy to have taken the chance and changed my life. It's very empowering to do something that you don't think you can - and that no one expects. Change is good.
As I listened to WARP08 spokesperson Carolyn Temes tell of her adventures, I realized that it's neccessary to do wild and crazy things. She's about my age, and struggled with the program, as I did. She came through it with class and courage. I hope I did as well.
It's a grand thing to take on an adventure that some folks think is too risky, too wild, too crazy. It's a grander thing to come out the other side with the confidence that success brings.
As I watched Carolyn introduce her family to her clan, I saw that her sister, her husband, and both her children were looking at her with respect and awe. That's a good thing.
Life brings changes, challenges and opportunities. Take 'em on...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Graduation Tomorrow!

It's really hard to believe that the class of WARP08 graduates tomorrow. It's been really interesting to watch from the other side...I'd love to do it again with the benefit of knowing how the
year would change me...change my life. I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I'd known how it would turn out.

On the other hand, the not knowing had great value for me...and I expect I'd have chickened out if I knew all that would happen in my WARP year. It's been hard not to tell some of my stories, and I know that the best ones would stop some people from coming to check out the program. The very best ones are only shared with those who have been here...

The pendants on the rock were made by staff and former WARPies while the current class was off on survival trip...The cedar wood was collected, shaped and polished by instructors and WARP grads. The cordage was made (reverse wrapped) by 5 women who have done the program...It's nettle and dogbane. I think it turned out well. We felt just a little guilty sitting in Angie's kitchen sharing snacks and wine while the "kids" were out in the woods. Just a little...we knew they'd be fine. And they were.

Tomorrow the community will throw a party in their honor. The class of 08 will then go out into the world to make a difference. I can't wait to see what they accomplish!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Memories, Part 2

As I mentioned last week, the current crop of Residential students have made it through the year (including scout camp and survival trip) and will be graduating on Saturday.

It does not seem possible that it's been a full year since I did it. When I look back, I don't recognize the woman who came here from Missouri. She does not exist. I wish it was possible to show you the will just have to trust me on it.

I love my job in the office here at WAS. I would never have guessed that I'd be happily living in Washington, working with the coolest people I've ever met. Life is good. I just got the OK to do the Tracking Intensive this fall...which means I'll get out more and have further adventures. I love that tracking is one of the key elements of what we do here. It's really, really nice to work with people who get excited about the simplest of things...tracks in the mud, a photo of a Grossbeak on her nest, a bone found on the sandbar...For most of my life, those around me thought it strange that those things matter. Here, it matters a lot. And that's probably the thing that made the difference for me. The things that get me excited matter to everyone I work with and most of the people who walk in the door or call on the phone. Life IS good.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Today I was late for work because I wanted to go out to the river to watch this year's Residential Program class return from their survival trip.

Several of us from the office went, because we have (most of us) been on the other side of the river. It brought back such powerful memories from my return last May. People change over the course of the year here at Wilderness Awareness's an amazing process. Next week, I'll tell you a bit more and perhaps share some pics.

Today, it's too fresh to tell, and I want to do it well. In the mean time, here's a pic of my latest wildlife encounter....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Silly Bird...

I found this beautiful Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the swampy area just behind the police station at McCormick Park in Duvall. I must have taken 50 pictures of it...40 of them so nearly alike - standing still, pearing into the soup for fish- that I could delete most of them and not miss anything interesting.
I got ready to shoot another picture every time the bird tensed. Still, I missed the dive! I did get a good one of shaking off the water, though. I love the "horns" in that one! What an undiginfied look for such a beautiful bird.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The big coyote (Canis latrans) appeared at the edge of the path between Linne Doran and Mosswood Hollow.
He was beautiful, long-legged, and in fine condition with that happy canine grin that means the world is a good place today. I saw him at the same instant that I hit the ignition key, and he melted into the greenery. Ghost dog...
What does it mean when the same wild animal keeps appearing - in midday, and in places you don't expect to see one? In six weeks or so, I've seen 3 coyotes in 3 different places, and each has taken me by surprise. I've seen them before, of course. I've heard them howl - a sound that I love to hear in the evening. I've tracked them in Missouri, Oregon and here in Washington.
There just seems to be something mystical about my sudden ability to find them everywhere...or are they finding me?
The photo above is of the female I saw last month in McCormic Park. The first was along Cherry Valley Road as I went to the land for a staff meeting on a recent Sunday. This last one appeared at the end of the Plants for Food and Medicine course that I helped out at. Both of these appeared to be males. She's the only one I've seen when my camera was at hand...
I wonder if ghost dogs appear in pictures anyway?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Walk in the Park.

So my boss made me take a day off. It was sunny and warm on Monday, and I decided to walk down to McCormick Park here in Duvall and just wander. What a great naturalist's day!

The first thing I noticed was that there were LOTS of birds around (and in the interest of time and space, today I'll not bother with the Latin names). There were Mallards and Wood Ducks on the water, and a couple of duck varieties that I have to look up. Robins, Redwinged Blackbirds, Sparrows, Kinglets, Stellar's Jays, Thrushes, and many more were singing and/or going about the business of the day.

Plants are putting on new growth, and lots of them are in bloom. I saw that others are picking the young Stinging Nettle plants - I like mine in potato soup!

I saw a bunch of young Garter snakes sunning themselves in the leaves by a bridge abutment. They were only 5 inches long (a guess, as I didn't measure).

Iwas taking pictures of a Chipmunk that was busily eating cherry blossoms when one of the Residential Program students, Kate, caught up with me. We walked on south together and watched a pregnant coyote in a field of dandelions. On the way back, Kate found a Hummingbird nest with eggs! I'm really looking forward to my next day off!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Randon Thoughts

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything. I confess to going home from work and settling in with a book most days...I've been walking (25 minutes to work from home - 35 back up the hill after.) It's beautiful, with trees in bloom and mild weather. I've seen nest-building birds this week. A robin (Turdus migrtorious - look it up if you don't believe me) in my neighborhood flew off with such a big lengh of yarn that it made me laugh to watch.

I've also noted that the local Blacktail deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are looking pretty shaggy. Loosing your winter coat must itch! I saw one just along the road near Taylor Park one day as I drove home. She was grazing on the new green grass in a yard. People were walking dogs and riding bikes. It makes me happy to see them, and a little afraid that I'll witness an accident.

What I've been reading: "The Serpent's Daughter", the 3rd Jade del Cameron novel by my friend Suzanne Arruda. I love her descriptions of post WWI Africa.

"The Education of Little Tree" by Forest Carter. We sell this book at the Wilderness Awareness School website, and have had some complaints. Recently, nine staff members, Residential Program students (current and past), parents, a forner English teacher, and invited guests read the book and did some research about the author. Yes, it seems that Mr. Carter misrepresented a work of fiction as autobiographical. Yes, he does not appear to have been a nice man - and was in fact a member of the Klu Klux Clan at one point in his life.

And, yes, he wrote a wonderful book. The story, written for young adults, is lovely. None of us detected any underlying message of hate. Regardless of the man's politics, we found no reason to pull it from our shelves. We wondered how it happened that near the end of his life this book came from such an unpleasant person...we found no answers to that question.

I know that I've done and said and thought things in the past that I'm ashamed of now. Perhaps that's what happened to Forest Carter. Something else to wonder at...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Wild Weather

Coming from Missouri, I'm used to wild spring weather. Having survived 100 year floods last November, and the ugly wind storm that foll0wed in December (2006), I thought I'd seen the worst of Western Washington weather.

Saturday, March 29th, was a busy day for me. I went to Monroe to check out the used book sale at the library...and managed to stay at my 20.00 self-imposed limit. At a dollar a hardback and 50 cents a paperback, I still came home with a box full. It was chilly, but the sun teased by making short-live appearances off and on all morning. I walked in the Skykomish River Park and picked a few stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) for soup. By 2 pm I was ready to head for Carnation, about 18 miles south on Highway 203. The sun was shining. I made a final stop, and drove out of town.

I parked at the Tolt -McDonald parking lot intending to walk along the river and take some pictures of the early blooming shrubs and flowers. I could see the mountains in the distance through some cloud cover. By the time I'd walked 300 yards and had started up the bridge, it started to sleet. I turned and looked over my shoulder. The mountains were invisible! The sleet quickly turned to hail...I changed my mind about crossing the river and decided to walk closer to the parking lot. I was glad to have a pair of light weight knit gloves in my pockets... they quickly got soaked through. The sky got dark, and the wind picked up. So I decided to go to the car and arrive at my bosses' 40th birthday party a bit early.

It rained off an on throughout dinner (the homemade lasagna was wonderful!). Around 7 pm I left in a light rain. It's only 8 miles or so to my Duvall home, and the weather went through some wild rain-to-snow-to sleet changes. The road was a little slick in a few spots. Not that it slowed the other drivers much. But I made it safely home and went upstairs. I put on some dry cloths, and gathered up a bag of trash that needed to go out.

I didn't realize it was snowing humongous flakes of fluffy white snow untill I opened the door and stepped out into it. I watched it snow until midnight. I was expected at Ben Franklin for work the following morning.

The drive to Monroe on Sunday was intense - for the first half mile or so. There were
5 cars off in the ditch on the downhill drive to the highway. Another was pointing up hill in the downhill lane. It had been abandoned there. I'd have turned around and gone home, but there wasn't a safe spot to do it. The highway was fine, and the closer I got to Monroe, the less snow I saw on the ground. The sun came out again.

And it's been out most of today - until time to go home. Just after 5, it started to thunder - soemthing I rarely hear in Washington, and don't miss from Missouri. It snowed...I have to stop at the laundromat on my way home...I'll let you know if more weather adventures await.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walking in the Rain

I was a bit late getting home yesterday, and found myself walking in the rain. The up-hill portion of my walk was pleasant enough. I'm building endurance and don't have to stop half way up the hill anymore to catch my breath. I noticed that the wind was picking up, but I was wearing my good Columbia jacket and I'd stuffed my gloves in the pockets. I could have turned at the top of the rise and gone straight home.

Instead, I turned to the south and enjoyed the level, smooth roadway that takes me to the downhill part of my long block. By the time I'd gotten to the bottom, it was really raining. I stuck my gloved hands into my pockets and walked on. Having lived 30 miles from Seattle for over a year, I've made my peace with the rain.

At the corner of my street it looked as if the rain was going to moderate a bit, so I kept walking. There's a new neighborhood going in on the hillside below my street, and I've often seen deer grazing at the edge. They had better sense than I did yesterday. By the time I'd gotten to the bottom of that block the wind really picked up and I was walking into a driving, cold rain.

Didn't stop me. I kept walking. My legs began to feel the cold as the rain soaked my pants legs. My face felt frozen, and my glasses fogged. It was great!

I've finally relaxed into the idea that the weather, like life, changes. Can't stop it. Might as well learn to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Time, It Is A Changin'

I am fighting the time change with every fiber of my being...Haven't been able to drag myself out of bed to do my sit spot all week...

OK, so it's an excuse...and I am sticking to it. It seems like it's taking an awful lot of coffee to get me going this week. And I'm not going anywhere very fast. You'd think that would make sitting under a tree all the more inviting. But I'm cranky and sleepy, and I have not been sitting long under that tree. I haven't been writing every day, either. Those New Year's resolutions are quickly losing ground.

I have been walking in the evening, learning the new neighborhood. I often see deer, and have found the best place to stand and look out over the valley. It's beautiful with fog hanging in the low spots. It's more so when the sun breaks out over the ridges just before it sets. The sky turns all pink and purple and orange for a few minutes. I understand the meaning of the word "Awesome" on those evenings.

I'll adjust to the time change. I don't like it, even though I do get more evening light to explore. Change, even for the better, is hard for us humans. You'd think by now, I'd have learned to just relax into it, and not put up a fight. Apparently, that's a lesson I still have to learn.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I'm a Star!

I never thought I'd see my name in the credits at the end of a film, but I did today. I knew that Wilderness Awareness School was making a new DVD to send to people who request information about our Residential Program or our new Earth Mentor Program. And I have given permission for the use of any of my photographs that I took last year while in WARP07. But it was a big surprise today to see the end of the finished product, and then to see my name as the credits rolled.

I haven't even seen the whole film yet, and I feel like a star! It's incredibly nice to be able to give back a bit to a program that changed my life in so many ways. And the really cool thing is that the programs change things for everyone they touch. I'm excited that my photographs might encourage someone to come and give it a go. Now, if I can just stay humble....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

So, How Did I Loose Those 20 Pounds?

I've been seeing a chiropractor for recurring shoulder and neck pain, which was exacerbated by the move. Books are heavy, and I know better, but still I get in a hurry and use bigger boxes than I should. One of the keys to my recovery is going to be walking.

I love to walk. Always have. When I came out to the Residential Program, I had gotten lazy aoubt it. The excuse was that my feet hurt. Badly. Long days of moving medical supplies at full tilt on a concrete floor had abused my poor feet, and I stopped walking for fun. That's when I started to gain weight. I spent many evenings after work with my feet proped up on pillows.

One of the best things about quitting the job I'd had for 25 years was being able to take better care of myself. In the Residential Program, we walked. Up hills, mostly, and with backpacks. I took to carryng about 25 pounds of stuff - water, lunch, field guides, and extra clothing - every where I went while in class. At first, I could barely make it up the hills...I was out of breath and my legs shook. As I got stronger, it got easier. My feet didn't hurt anymore, and I could handle the hills. I was never the fastest "kid" in the class, but I stopped being the last one to get to the top of the hill...or back to the vans.

Our first field trip to the Oregon Dunes had me convinced I'd never make it...the sand dunes were brutal. I had to have help getting to the top. The entire class was cheering me on as I crawled up the final 20 feet or so. Then Andrew reached down and pulled me up to the top. I knew then that I would make it through the year. It wasn't the last time I needed help, but it was the last time I thought about quiting the program.

As we hiked the mountains of western Washington, my feet got tougher, my legs stronger, and I lost about 20 pounds. By December, I was in pretty good shape. If I fell too far behind, it was becasue I'd stopped to look at something cool.

Since graduation, I've gotten lazy again. My Monroe neighborhood was getting kind of scarey to walk in. Without a dog to walk, I just didn't get out much. I started to gain back the pounds I'd lost.

Now, under doctor's orders, and in a new neighborhood, I'm walking again. I haven't put the pack on yet, but by summer I plan to be ready for some serious hiking.

Monday, February 18, 2008

4 Days and Counting

When the alarm went off this morning I really wanted to turn over and go back to sleep...but I didn't. It's the 4th day of the sit spot challenge, and I've been out each morning sitting under a big Cedar tree. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd look up the latin name, but I'm worn out from moving, and my brain will not call up much English, let alone latin.

Mostly I've been listening to birds. Stellar's Jays, Ravens, Towhees, Robins, and small birds that I don't yet recognize. On Saturday, I saw a racoon climb head first down a tree across the road behind my apartment. It's always fun to see what happens when the "locals" forget that you are there watching. I'll keep you posted on what goes on in the early morning hours near my place.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sit Spot Story

Today begins a 30-day sit spot challenge here at Wilderness Awareness School. It's one of the simplest awareness excercises we do, and the easist to "forget".

I have to confess that I haven't done a sit spot for a long time. Too many scary young people in my old neighborhood. The big old Cedar trees at the park where I used to walk have been spray painted with bold black and red symbols and the police find stollen property in the blackberry bramble where I used to roam.

I set the alarm half an hour early today so that I could go out and sit under a tree and watch the world wake up. The morning sky was pink. The birds were vocal, and the squirrels fat and active. What a beautiful morning!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mom and the Tornado

I hadn't heard from Mom or my sister, Susan, since the tornados that hit the south last weekend. I'd tried to call, but no one answered, and I was really starting to get worried. A couple of days ago, I finally reached Mom. This is how the conversation went:

Me: Hi, I was getting worried about you. I heard on the news that there had been a lot of tornados and bad storms down your way (northern Arkansas).

Mom: Oh yes, your sister and I were right in the middle of one.

Me: (Stunned silence...)

Mom: We had been to Wal-Mart to return something, and had stopped at Ash Flats to get gas at the Mini Mart. Susan went in to pay, and they pushed her into the woman's bathroom because there was a tornado coming. She tried to get out and they threw her back in...she said she had to go out and get her Mamma...a big guy said he'd come get me. (Stopping to catch breath)

Me: (Still speachless)

Mom: All of a sudden this big guy yanks the car door open and pulls me out and drags me to the Mini Mart. I didn't know if he was kidnapping me or what....

Me: (Visions of my 4'11" mother dragging her heels in as the "big guy" tries to get her inside to safety) Didn't you know there was a tornado?

Mom: Well stuff was blowing around and it was real dark, but I didn't know there was a tornado. That guy drug me inside and threw me in the woman's bathroom with all the rest - men, too, and we waited there for a while until the men got brave and went out to see if it was safe. Next time some guy opens my car door and pulls me out, I'm just going to go with him.

Me: Ok then...that's why I'm living near Seattle.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Moving Pains

There isn't an 11:45 pm train...or a 5:30 am one either. I slept soundly in my new apartment. I awoke to peaceful surroundings. No early am car door slamming. No rowdy neighbors throwing up on my sidewalk after a night of partying. Yahoo! Not only is it half the price of my old apartment, but it's a better place for nature study. There are a couple of sweet sit spot locations just outside my windows. Clara has found a window seat on the world, too. Cat and I are both happy.

The down side? I feel like I've been run over by a truck...there's a permanent cramp in the bicep of my left arm. My neck hurts. There's a funny tingle in my lower back. The only time I've ever regretted being a reader is when I've had to move my books. Yikes...I must be getting old.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow Day

One of the cool things we learned to do in the Residential Program was called the Story of the Day. This is how my day went...

I started off feeling pretty content and thinking about all I have to do to be ready to move this weekend. There was about 3" of fresh snow on the ground here in Monroe, but the streets were not too bad, and once I hit 2o3, I didn't have any trouble...the pace was about 35 mph, and everone was driving sensibley. It doesn't often snow here in the valley, and I've seen a number of cars in the ditch when it does. On the news, I've seen the Seattle streets nearly closed by the number of cars that made it halfway up a hill, only to be abandoned when they could not go further...By Missouri standards, this morning seemed to be pretty mild.

I made it to Duvall and turned on to Cherry Valley Road and then onto Allen Street as usual. Again, it didn't look bad - I've driven up it in much worse snow and never had a bit of trouble...the Bravada has all wheel drive, and the hill isn't all that steep. I don't know what the difference was today, but I had to make 3 tries to get up the hill, then slide sideways around the corner and clipped the mail box at the edge of the parking lot.

My first wreck - unless you count the time I did $18.00 of damage to a guys car in the parking lot at Wal-Mart when I was learning to back out of a parking space. Luckily, Johnny and John W. (we also have John C. and John G., so it gets confusing) were there to help me out of the mess I'd gotten into. The landlord tells me it's happened before, and the mail box probably can be fixed really easily. As wrecks go, it was pretty uneventful, as was the rest of the day. I left early to get home before dark, and the highway was clear.

There's supposed to be a bigger storm coming in overnight, so I'm planning to use a different route to work, and park down the block in a level parking lot.

Once I'm in my new apartment, I can walk to work if I want, leaving my car in the garage...I'm really glad that I won't be navigating 203 in bad weather or after dark after this week. As much as I hate the moving process, I can't wait to get it done. I'll be giving up the bubble baths...unless I can figure out how to plug up the shower...Perhaps there's a story in here for another day.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Green Willies

I stayed out late on Thursday to learn how to do a Green Willie...Ok, so that didn't sound good. Let me explain. I was at the library learning how to tie some basic trout flies from Ron Torda, who owns the All About the Fly store here in Monroe.

I was in his shop this past spring to ask about buying a fishing license. He doesn't sell them, but told me where I could get one, and suggested some flies to use on spring trout in Lake Margaret. The Green Willie was one I bought. I did get a bite on it, the one time I've actually used my fishing license. But I got excited, and pulled the fly out before the hook was set. From what I learned on Thursday, there's a chance that it was a native Cutthroat Trout (Salmo clarki) that hit on the Green Willie.

I caught my 1st Rainbow (Salmo gairdneri) on a night crawler using a bobber and a plain old spinning reel on the Madison River in Montana the summer I was 13. My maternal grandparents took my cousin Jennifer (who was 16 and could help drive) and me to Yellowstone that August to meet our great Uncle Gerald and his wife Jean. I'd left my coat at home and fished wrapped up in a blanket off the bed in our motel room. We had the trout rolled in cornmeal and fried in lard, along with fried potatoes and onions, and hush puppies.

In southern Missouri, I caught a Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) from a pontoon boat while fishing with friends who live near Branson. It was too small to keep, and so I threw it back. Again, I was using a spinning reel.

I learned how to tie a woolly worm, then a woolly bugger, and a hare's ear nymph before I ever picked up a fly rod. I took the fly tying class at a Becoming An Outdoors Woman weekend, and the basic fly fishing class the next year. I'm not proficient by any means, and I've only caught a couple of Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) so far, but I have a standing invitation to fish Lake Margaret. And now I know how to do a Green Willie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today's Rant Brought To You By...

Sometimes it just seems like stupid runs the world...I've missed 2 days of blogging and weather journals because I couldn't get connected to the internet at home. Now, I try not to abuse the computer at work, but I did check my personal e-mail find a message from netzero explaining that I couldn't get on the internet, and telling me how to fix it. Now, it did work, but if I can't get on the internet, how is an e-mail gonna help? In all fairness to netzero, there was a phone message when I got home. It told me to go on the internet - if I had another way to connect - and find the instructions for the fix. Technology...

The other thing I'm mad about is that I've found an apartment that's close enough to my job to walk to work, and the cat's welcome, and I can park in the garage, and it's really small, so it's $400.00 cheaper than where I live now, and the utilities are paid. So I gave the state-mandated 20 day written notice, and learned that what the state means is "20 days notice, unless you plan to move in the middle of the month". Unless that notice is given before the 10th of the month, they can legally make you pay an entire months rent. So, my 20 day notice had become a 39 day notice. But the rental office assures me that I'm good to move out by the 1st of March. Looks like I'll be paying 2 months rent for February, and I'm not happy about it. And this after the January 1 big headline on the local newspaper was about how hard (and expensive) it is to rent in Monroe because there are so few apartments and so many eager, willing, and funded applicants.

The up side is that the place I'm looking at has a sweet sit spot, and it's in a quiet neighborhood where I can walk in the evening without being afraid of the neighbors. I came home yesterday to find a message from the local police warning me of car prowls in the neighborhood. That's on top of the drunks who threw up on my sidewalk at midnight while back.

And the thing that's really made me mad today? I got the clear impression driving home that my luck will change only when I am able to forgive the RB for leaving me in financial shambles. See, ya'll are not the first to listen to my rants today. And what came to me is this:
"Stop calling him a Rat B******d."

So, this is my public apology to my ex. I promise not to use that name in this blog any more. And that makes me really unhappy. Because I liked it.

I'm back on line, blogging and weather journaling- did you see that moon last night? I'm figuring out how to make this move without imploding. I'm expecting some good news in the
finacial department. And I hope the ex has a long and happy life. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Product Review: Kombi Gloves

Margaret asks what gloves I liked for winter fun here in the Pacific Northwest. The warmest ones I've used are some Kombi brand women's gloves I got at a local sports shop (Big Five) in the ski section. I got the women's medium size in the heavy weight, and they are marked "Watergaurd". I remember paying over $25.00 for them, and they were on sale. It's been a good investment.

Here are the things I like about them:
  • They fit my hands - I've had trouble finding gloves that fit well.
  • They are light-weight and attractive. If I could find a second pair in camo, I'd be tickled.
  • They are soft and flexible, which was a great help when bundled up for snowshoeing.
  • The palms are thin leather which helps grip the poles.
  • They have Velcro straps to tighten around the wrist so cold air and snow doesn't get in.
  • They are toasty warm even for long days outdoors. In fact, my hands will sweat if it's not cold enough to wear them.

There is one thing that I found a little annoying, and the label inside the glove warns about it. You do have to be very careful when removing them. The instructions say to pull each finger off individually, holding the lining as well as the outer shell. It's really easy to invert the lining, and it's a real pain to poke it back. However, if they sewed the lining to the shell, it would ruin their weatherproof function. This is a bigger problem when my hands are sweaty, so I only wear them when it's cold. They are the warmest pair of gloves I've ever had, and they are well worth paying more for.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book Review: "Living Wild and Domestic"

It's an interesting experience to finish a book and think, "I could have done that myself." Of course, I couldn't have done it as well as Robert Kimber. He says things I think with far greater skill than I even manage to think them. I found his book, "Living Wild and Domestic - The Education of a Hunter-Gardener" at the library while browsing the shelves. It looked interesting, so I added it to my pile of take-homes. And read all the others first.

Rarely does a hunter express the dichotomy of loving to hunt while hating to kill with anything approaching Kimber's finesse. Anyone who hunts successfully knows the dilema. There is - or should be - a bit of sadness attending to putting game on the table. It's a serious thing to take a life, even when it's going in the stew pot. It's the same with animals raised for meat. To get dinner on the table, the animal has to die.

Even an unrepentant carnivore like me wants some vegetables to go with the steak. Kimber's wife is the gardener in his equation. It's been about 5 years since I've been able to plant a garden...I miss it. Growing your food makes you responsible for your dinner in a way that going to the grocer does not. The care put into digging, planting and tending is revealed in the harvest. The big thing I miss about Missouri is standing in the garden in the hottest day of summer with fresh tomato juice dripping off my elbow as I eat the first Brandiwine right there.

If you are concerned about your food, where it comes from, and how it gets to the plate, this is a good book to read. If you hunt and/or grow your own food (animal or vegetable) it will sort out your feelings about your actions. If you buy all your food, it might help you understand why some of us do it ourselves.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lair of the Leopard - Day 1

I stopped under the carved leopard’s head just outside the canvas-covered doorway of Malalo Ya Chui and wondered what I’d gotten myself into. Once I stepped inside the rustic 8-sided structure I would be committing – really committing - to spending nine months of my life with whomever I found inside.

Coming here was an act of desperation. I had to make some major changes in my life if I was going to survive… changes that I chose instead of the ones that had been chosen for me. I wondered if I had the courage to do it. I was already late. Would it really matter if I just slunk off down the trail to the parking lot and left? I’d be out the deposit, but it wasn’t too late to change my mind.

My Missouri eyes had not yet adjusted to the intense greens of the lush vegetation that surrounded me. I didn’t recognize many of the trees or plants. The giant Western Red cedars (Thuja plicata) looked familiar, if much larger than the cedar trees of home, and I saw Maple-like leaves, but the trees, Vine Maples ( Acer circinatum), were different from the Maples I was familiar with. The mosses and ferns were foreign to me. Even the birds I heard calling in the forest were not the birds I knew. This place was a jungle to me.

Then I remembered the reason I was here…To learn about new things and places... To expand my paremeters...There was a welcoming wood smoke wafting up from the center of the roof, and I reasoned that the people inside must be much like me…Who else would sign up for a naturalist training program? Knowing only that told me that I had more in common with them than I had with the majority of the people I’d ever met. I was going to be alright here.

I looked to the leopard for confirmation. Lair of the Leopard - that’s what Malalo Ya Chui means. It’s located on the property called Linne Doran, or Pond of the Otter, in the Cascade foothills near Duvall, Washington. I had enrolled in the Residential Program at the Wilderness Awareness School. I was 2000 miles from home…and closer to Home than I ever had been.

The leopard was silent, letting me choose. I chose to go in. The moment I lifted the canvas to enter I knew I’d made the right decision. I can’t explain it. It just felt right, and good, and comfortable. The gut feeling I’d had when I’d stumbled on to the school’s website returned with a power that took my breath. This was where I was supposed to be now, this year, this class. This was where I needed to be. A thought came so fast and hard that I could not disbelieve it. “This is where you can heal.” Intuition is something that I had come to respect the hard way. I am a believer. I entered the lair.

My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"