Find My Favorite Books at

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

What a week! It's been nice to be out of the office, because my social life has been way too busy to allow for work, too. I'm not typically a social person, but the Christmas holiday options have kept me hopping.
On Monday, I took the 7:58 bus from Duvall to Bellevue, bumping into my friend Shannon O'Donnel at the transit station. We nearly walked into each other, as we were both intent on the next part of our respective journeys, but we did have time for a quick hug and wishes for happy holidays before parting. She was on her way to her first day on a new job, and my first stop was the Barnes and Noble a couple of blocks from the bus station.
I really didn't intend to buy myself a gift...but found a really cool new field guide to trees by the National Wildlife Federation...they had the bird, wildflower, and insect versions, too, but I only got the one. I really like the way it's laid out, and I think it will be a big help with my Kamana homework. Tree ID is still hard for me.
My next stop was in Kirkland to help Ellen Haas finish some Christmas cookies and set up 100 luminarias at the park. We watched the firemen set the bonfire ablaze, enjoyed the caroling from the Christmas Ship as it sat off the shore in Lake Washington, then went back to her house for cookies, a nasty rum punch, and general merriment.
I napped on the couch while we waited for the lunar eclipse to begin. Jonathan woke me up in time to run out on the deck and see the beginning of the penumbra. Now, Seattle in December is not the best time to view an eclipse. While it was not raining, the clouds were thick. Still, the sight was worth waking up for. We went out several times to look in awe at the natural phenomena.
On Tuesday morning, I make biscuits and sausage gravy - Ellen says she'd never had it before! She cooked up a nice omlet, and Jonathan joined us before heading off to visit his family in Idaho. I used my new field guide to identify the tree that Ellen had cut - it was a nice Noble Fir. Ellen said I was correct, and I was really impressed with the new book!
Ellen and I went back to the park to pick up the luminarias, and found that some of the candles were gone from the paper bags...then we started to find them burried under the tea light holder was chewed, with half the candle gone...squirrels, we decided, were at work. I pooped out before our planned trip to see the trumpeter swans land at Bob Heriman Park, and chose to catch a bus back to Duvall and go to bed early...I slept 10 hours straight!
On Wednesday evening, Shondell and Darlene came (with home-made egg nog) and we shared a rotisserie chicken and watched "Lethal Weapon", my favorite Christmas movie.
Last night was for Christmas Eve services, and early to bed...this morning I opened the package mom and Susan had sent, and was delighted to find, among other things, an autographed copy of a book of cowboy poems of faith!
Life is good here. Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Umbrellas and Mad Dogs

In my last post, I wrote about survival skills and how the things I've learned at Wilderness Awareness School kept me out of trouble with zombies and other people. Last week I had the opportunity to see how they work in with animals.
Twice while walking home from work in the dark-it's 5:21 as I write this, and has been dark out for about an hour, I was charged by an angry dog. Different dogs in different neighborhoods...I was just walking down the street...well, up the street is more correct, as I live uphill and about a mile and a half from the office. Minding my own business. Not thinking about danger. Did I mention that it was dark? Since I've been here, I've grown accustomed to walking about without a flashlight. I carry one that I use when I cross streets, or when there's traffic in the spots where there's no sidewalk. But I don't use it just to walk home. I'm not afraid of the dark anymore.
So, last Wednesday evening I was headed home, nearing the top of the hill when I heard the sound of toenails on pavement. Moving fast. In my direction. Yikes! Without even making the decision, I held my umbrella out in front of me, not as a weapon, but as a barrier. I only got a glimpse of the dog - knee high, white face and legs, dark body, and really, really big teeth...the dog was absolutely silent and going for my ankle. Bumping into the umbrella caused it to back up, then it feinted towards my ankle again. Turning, using the umbrella to fend it off, I yelled at it to go away - using my deep voice, not my girly one. Someone whistled, and the dog broke off and ran off. It happened in about 6 seconds. I didn't have to hit the dog, and avoided getting bitten. Two days later, something really similar happed with a large black lab sort near the park...I think I startled it. It came bouncing toward me all stiff-legged and woofing, but didn't get anywhere near as close to biting me as the first dog did. The umbrella seemed to be enough to discourage it from getting close enought to bite. This dog never got close enough to feel truly dangerous.
The interesting thing was my reaction - or lack of one - to both events...Startled, yes. Afraid, not so much. Survival skills, it seems have value in way more ways than I expected. Lessons learned...
  • Pay attention to your surroundings
  • Notice unusual sounds (toenails on pavement, for instance)
  • Trust your instincts
  • Carry an umbrella

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zombie Tracking , part 2 or An Awareness Test

I promised to tell you how I used the awareness and survival skills I learned at Wilderness Awareness School to save my butt when I ran afoul of a Marine at here it is. It's really kind of funny, so enjoy.
On Saturday afternoon, after having talked to a large number of zombies about survival skills and other WAS programs, I found myself speaking to a human. He was probably under 20 and was quite excited about what we offer. His friend, a bit older and devastatingly attractive in that clean cut military way was far less interested in looking at our brochures tried to pull him away. I recognized his voice as that of the Marine who had attended the Max Brooks event earlier. I heard the world-weary exasperation of someone who was in on the joke. I guessed he was only there as a favor to his young friend. I guessed he knew about survival skills.

I figured I had one chance to change his impression of our school before he drug his friend away. What I said was, "Let me give you the name of the best survival book I've ever read." The kid pulls out a pen and gets ready to write it down. The Marine's reaction was interesting. His facial expression never changed from one of neutral disinterest. There was just the slightest shift in the way his weight was distributed.
If his friend was like a Golden Retriever puppy jumping up to get my attention, he was like a Pit Bull trying to decide if he was going to bite me or just pee on my leg. The question I felt coming from him was, "OK, granny, what can you tell me about survival skills?" He'd be able to tell me the flaws in any book I mentioned.
I'm pretty good at reading people. If he'd gotten aggressive or mouthy I wouldn't have felt the same instinctive awareness of danger. It occurred to me that dangerous dogs are quiet...the barkers and growlers may bite, but the quiet ones are the ones that will kill you. Instead of being frightened, I found myself giving the kid the name of the book, which is "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. He didn't expect that. His expression didn't change, but a very subtle shift in his stance told me that he was listening to what I had to say. I followed up with something I read in "Outdoor Life" some years back - the biggest cause of accidental death in the outdoors is fatal overconfidence. Cool...I pulled it off...another subtle shift and I had his attention.
Speaking mostly to the kid, I had a chance to explain that we teach survival skills based on how the indigenous people of this area survived using the plants, trees, birds and animals that live here. The kid is taking notes. I mentioned that I have started to make some tintures and salves from plants that I locate and harvest. This got a smile from the Marine...he thought that was interesting...Did we teach mycology? Darn it...we don't yet. Mushrooms can kill you. He did seem to be impressed that I knew what mycology was. After a few more tidbits about what we do offer, the pair walked away...and they were looking at the classes mentioned on the back of our special ZomBcon postcard.

And that's the story of how I used awareness and survival skills to avoid getting my butt kicked by a very attractive Marine at ZomBcon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zombie Tracking, or They Pay Me for This

So Wilderness Awareness School go invited - yes, invited - to have a booth at the first annual ZomBcon event at Seattle Center over Halloween weekend. They asked for a speaker to talk about where Seattle residents would go and how they would get out of the city in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse. They were serious. Did we go? You bet we did. Although October was a crazy month if the bookkeeper's office, I got permission to go work the booth on Friday (the day after our annual audit!) and on Saturday. It was a hoot...and while I had expected the event to be dark and scary, I was happily surprised to find that zombies are a lot like us...well, us from Wilderness Awareness School, anyway.
The top photo shows Lindsay and Shondell in front of our "shelter" and our table displays. Jan (or Yawn, as I like to call him), who was in my WARP class in 06/07, and now works as our web guy, had created a cool zombie-themed postcard with info about our survival skills. That's him on the far right of the center photo (with Shondell looking on) demonstrating how to make a bow-drill fire.
The third photo shows Evan, another of my classmates and his zombie friend checking out our booth. Jan and I hadn't seen him since graduation, and were surprised to bump into him there.
We were supposed to have 20 minutes to talk after Max Brooks (author of the Zombie Survival Guide) and a couple of other guys spoke. We got cut to 2 minutes, but Mike was still so amazing that I had people stopping at the booth to learn more about us!
Next post, I'll tell you how the survival skills I learned at WAS kept me from getting my butt kicked by a marine who stopped by our booth! I hope they let me out of the office more often. It was fun.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unicorn Tracks

Yesterday I got up early enough to go out with the Tracking Club on their monthly adventure. It's a public program at Wilderness Awareness School, in which volunteer station guides get up really early in order to go find interesting animal tracks so that we will have something fun to show to whomever shows up at the office at 9...I missed the September session, and haven't had much opportunity to track anything except the house cats in my neighborhood for way too long. I was ready for a morning of tracking - and a little afraid that I wouldn't recognize a track when I saw one.
We found lots of domestic dog tracks along the river right away, and then black-tailed deer tracks, coyote tracks and interesting bird tracks. The sandbar where we decided to hold the morning's session was covered with beaver tracks, drag marks and chewed sticks. We also found river otter tracks, heron tracks and scat, the parallel tracks of a momma and baby raccoon, an interesting trail of a coyote with several gait changes, and the tracks of a yellowleg, a migratory shore bird that isn't usually present in our area. We thought we had a pretty good assortment of track and sign to talk.
But the best tracks (and story) came from 4-year old Rosemary, who came out with her Mom to learn a bit about tracking. She had mentioned that she like unicorns, which turned out not to be a good thing to tell adults. We kept asking her if the tracks we were looking at could be those of a unicorn. She had to keep explaining to the silly adults that unicorns are not real...a lesson that we kept forgetting.
Rosemary finally got annoyed with us and went to an area where we had not found any tracks of interest. There, she made her own tracks, explaining to me that "No one will know what made these!" She giggled as she created some really unique "tracks", which looked to me like a series of upside down Us with a single small dot in the center which she made with her index finger. Then she circled the line of "tracks" just like we'd circled the tracks we found earlier, and waited until a tracker came close enough to be lured over to discuss her station.
Trackers like to play tracking games, and she led some pretty advanced trackers through her series of tracks, denying that they were unicorn, Pegasus or centaur tracks...Her delight a having fooled them was real and quite adorable. And watching her explain to the adults how she made the tracks while they pretended to be puzzled was fun for me. At 4, she's a better station guide than I am, and my tracker friends are so much more open to the possibilities of what we might find out there than I am.

I probably learned more yesterday about tracking than I have in many hours of intense "study", thanks to a 4 year old and some really cool adults who were willing to be taught by her.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ah, September

I really like September, especially here in Western Washington. The deciduous trees are already starting to turn colors, and leaves are beginning to fall. Every living creature seems to know it's time to put up stores for the future.
Last Thursday night, I slept in my Bravada up at the school property becasue it didn't make sense to drive down the hill at 9pm only to drive back up at 8am for the second day of our annual staff training. I didn't even pitch my tent, although I had it with me. Instead, I just laid the seat down and crawled into my sleeping bag. I'd backed into the parking spot under a Vine maple (Acer circinatum) so that my head would be on the uphill, and stayed nice and warm and mostly comfortable...until I got an early wake up call.
The sky was still grey, so it was very early when I first heard something hitting the roof of my car. Something larger than raindrops - and it wasn't raining anyway. Without my glasses, I could only see that the branch above me was jerking and swaying...but only the one branch. The rest of the tree was still.
I put my glasses on, and was amused to see the little Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) cutting clusters of maple seeds from the branches! For half an hour or so, I was greatly entertained by the dark little squirrel with the short tufts on it's ears. Sometimes we were eye-to-eye when it moved to a lower branch by my window. I never stirred in my sleeping bag, and so didn't spook it away. By the time I had to get ready for the day, the entire top of my Bravada was covered with the neatly bitten off (at a 45 degree angle) seed clusters. I brushed most of them off so the day's work would not be wasted...but I brough one home to add to my nature museum of cool things I've found in the woods.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Late Summer Bounty

Lately it's seemed that I've only had bad news from friends and family - illness, job loss, the loss of a much-wanted pregnancy, and crazy disasters that defy explaination. I've been dealing with more car repairs. For the 1st time in about 10 months I have good brakes all around. Even my church has been under weird stresses that are worrisome. And yet, I've been feeling called to gratitude and celebration...
I live in a place that I love, work at a job that makes a difference in the world, and am surrounded by friends and by mountain vistas, forest, and fields...such a bounty of good things here!
Two weeks ago, I won a pound of produce at our local farmer's market! I chose 2 beautiful ripe peaches that were as good as any peaches I've ever had.
On Saturday, I spent a couple of hours hiking on a lovely trail with a new friend...and found the best tomatoes I've had since I left Missouri at Remlinger Farms in Carnation...then I took a long nap...we might have to rethink the idea we had about doing a 26 mile hike in one day...
The summer "heat wave" seems to have got all the way up to 93 one day! By Missouri standards, not so bad at all, and I'm really glad that summers here are short.
I had a week off work to enjoy good books, favorite old movies and I even got a fair amount of work done on a cross-stitch project I've been not working on for way longer than I care to reveal. In no particular order, the movies were, "Rio Bravo", "Stagecoach", "The Great Escape", "The Sound of Music", "Apollo 13", "The Stand", "Braveheart", "Men in Black", "The Hunt for Red October", and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". I still think John Wayne is the best ever...
Today, one friend got hired after 5 months of unemployment, another got good news (or so her FaceBook status implies), and I've heard a good prognosis for another. I'm overwhelmed by gratitude and thankfulness for all those things.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Wild Weekend!

Just in case you thought I'd gone crazy after my last post, I wanted to share what I did Saturday...A friend and I caught the bus in Monroe and rode up the pass on Highway 2 to Gold Bar to check out Gold Dust Days...The bus ride was nice, as the highway 2 traffic is quite intense on a sunny Saturday, and we were both happy to enjoy the scenery without worrying about the other drivers...Gold Bar is a small town, and it seemed that everyone had turned out for the festivities! We missed the parade, but got there in time to see the Civil War reenactors shoot off the cannon. The setting was beautiful, even if no Civil War battle ever got close to Washington...however, there WAS a ship called the USS Tahoma that was part of the Union Navy blockade! Tahoma was the name given to Mount Rainier by some of the indiginous Pacific Northwest tribes.
Darlene and I wondered through the classic car show entries, watched kids enjoy horseback rides, shopped the craft booths, and watched a bellydancing tribute to the Lennon Sisters - to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" !!!
We also stopped at the Washington Prospector's booth and for $5, purchased a bag of sand and a goldpanning lesson. We each brought home 6-8 flecks of gold, and think we should get a bit of gear to stick in our packs...Gold Bar got it's name for a reason.
And we still made it back to Monroe in time to hit several of the garage sales we'd seen from the bus! My personal best was about $50.00 of Pampered Chef tools for $ even better deal than the gold flakes! Burgers at Red Robin and a quick stop at an antique shop completed our day. Summer in Washington is good!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Not My Usual Thing...

Friday night, biker bar, heavy metal band...never thought I'd lead a post with that combo. A bunch of us from work gathered at Pete's in Carnation to celebrate with a friend who's decided not to do the New York to Washinton commute any longer...Although we only saw Dan a couple of times a year, it's going to seem strange to work here without him. Of course there's still e-mail and FaceBook, which is how we ususally communicate anyway, and I know that his family will appreciate the fact that he's not flying across country for work anymore. So, although I'm more of a George Strait, Gary Allen, David Ball,
Steve Wariner kind of girl, I went along for the party...Pete's is where Wilderness Awareness folks gather in Carnation. The food is good -bacon burger and fries for me, with vegetarian fare for some of the others - and I can drink a rootbeer out of a brown bottle and not look too out of place. We did not know it was Metal Night until we got there...and since we grabbed a couple of tables outside in the courtyard, the music wasn't too annoying...until we got ready to leave...5 minutes inside the bar while I paid for my meal was more than enough for this country girl. Once I can hear again, I'm gonna plug some hard core country into my CD player and apologize to my brain.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big Leaf Maple

Check out the size of the leaf on the Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) tree! I used to think I knew what big trees looked like. One of the most surprising things to me when I moved to Washington state from Missouri was how big the trees can be. I've enjoyed local honey from bees feeding on the flowers of this tree, and the flowers themselves make a nice additon to a salad, or a trail snack. Yesterday I noticed that someone (a squirrel, I expect) has been cutting leaves and twigs from the BLM at my sit spot. I bet they are trying to get the fat seeds!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Not So Traditional Basketry

While I enjoy doing traditional crafts, sometimes it's fun to just look in the sewing box and see what materials I have and experiment with what I find. This quiver is made with the same coiling technique that I've used to make pine needle baskets. I used white cotton clothesline, fine blue crochet thread, and some fancy fuzzy blue fiber I found on sale years ago. Note the vase-like curves...I still need to practice keeping the same tension. Or perhaps stop trying to watch movies while I work.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beach Art

I love the way the seaweed is draped over the shell...looks like Mermaids were designing beach art...I don't often have the opportunity to wander on the beach. Vashon Island was great fun for me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Island Fun

I just returned from 3 days on Vashon Island with my friend Cyndi. She's been trying to get me over for a visit ever since she and Max moved there last year. I caught a very early bus on Tuesday, and the ferry across to the island...I was on the north side of the boat admiring the beautiful Olympic Mountains, when the ferry turned slightly to enter the dock...and there was Mt Rainier off the other side!
Cyndi met me at the ferry, and we explored a beach, a wooded trail, and the town of Vashon, where we had a lovely lunch at The Hardware Store...I love a good burger and fries, and recommend them here!

We watched deer in the yard, and then saw "Avatar" - I thought it was a beautiful movie, but we agreed it was somewhat lacking in plot and character development.

On Wednesday, we made goat-milk soap and I spent a lot of time running from window to window to watch the deer. The twin fawns were so cute! I got to visit a cool coffee roasterie, and bought some new herbs for tincturing at home. We went down to a different beach, and then back to watch "Coco Before Channel" , which is pretty good, but in French, so the subtitles were necessary for me to follow the story.

Many Thursdays Cyndi has to go to Duvall anyway, and so we planned our day around the ferry trip...beach first - the tide was out, and so I got to walk the mud flats and picked up a bunch of shells, and saw a huge crab, a many-legged starfish, and we caught a quick glimpse of an otter! Even though it was in the Sound, we think it was a River Otter, not a Sea Otter - but still a big thrill. Cyndi treated me to lunch at The Monkey Tree, a nice vegetarian place with great bread and the best chocolate chip cookies that are as big as a salad plate!

I'm truly blessed to have friends here in the Pacific Northwest! My first island stay was fun, and I'll be eager to go back for more island adventures!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

End of School Year Notes

I've been surprisingly emotional as this year comes to a close...I'ts been 3 years since I graduated from the Wilderness Awareness School Residential Program - now known as the Anake Program. Last Friday, we welcomed this group back from their 5 day survival trip, and as always, everyone did survive. Hearing stories about how they did so is inspirational! I know that they will go out into the world with not only the solid naturalist skills that we teach, but also with the uncommon knowledge that they have gone through a rite of passage that most people don't get to experience in our culture.
I believe they will be better, and happier people for having done so...I know what an amazing experience I had, and the many ways that it affected me. I'm still learning how profound an experience it really is to go out into the wilderness with only the clothes on your back - and your classmates - your friends - your clan.

We did well. So have each year's graduates. I'm so happy to be able to remain in this amazing place as a part of this amazing program.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Babies in the Woods

Baby squirrels! It doesn't get any cuter than these guys peeking out of their front door.
The trail in McCormick Park is a good place to find babies of all kinds this spring. There are many birds that nest in the trees along the path.
I saw baby Mallard ducks yesterday, swimming fast and diving underwater...the poor mother was hard pressed to keep an eye on them all. The Great Blue Heron that hunts there was sure watching them, but had to settle for a fish!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What a Way to Spend a Saturday!

I'm not the partying kind...You won't find me dancing on a tabletop in my underwear at midnight while baying at the m0on and wearing a lampshade as a hat. Let that picture sink in...
Sometimes, though, I receive an invitation that's too good to pass up. Saturday I enjoyed a homemade wine tasting party up on Lake Margaret. It was a lovely, sunny and warm spring day. I laid for a while on the dock soaking up the vitamin D while fishermen cast into the clear water. Lake Margaret is home to a small population of native Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) , or so I hear.
The wine was good, the company pleasant, and Shannon's rabbit tart, beef liver pate, and bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese were amazing.
I liked CW's dandelion wine. Jonathan's plum wine was good, but his blackberry wine was my favorite. Cyndi and Max brought a lovely raspberry meade and a tasty elderflower cordial. I tried them all over the course of the afternoon. We (10 or 12 of us at the height of the party) all enjoyed the array of food and drink without anyone behaving badly.
The highlight of the day was watching an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) catch a fish then try to keep it when the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus luekocephalus) swooped in to take it away!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wood Duck on Stump

I saw this beautiful drake in McCormick Park last Sunday. He was standing watch over his mate, who flew up from under the bank and startled me...I wasn't expecting an explosion from under my feet!
As the pair flew off I was struck by the very un-duck like sounds they were making...ooEEK and jeweep are how the bird books describe the sounds.
The Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) is the only North American duck that typically hatches 2 broods in a year and they are among the few that nest in tree cavities or nest boxes.
I hope that I get to see the babies soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Great New Tracking Books

It's really cool to hold a book in your hand and see your friend's name as the author! Today Dave Moskowitz, my co-worker and tracking instructor brought in the first copy of his soon-to-be-released book about tracking in the Pacific northwest. See his website here - you can preorder an autographed copy by clicking on the link you will find there.
Dave's a great tracking teacher, and his photos and track drawings are fabulous...If you have any intrest in wildlife, this book is one you will want to own. I came in early today to get lots of work done...guess how that's working out!

Another good tracking book that I just recieved from is "Practical Tracking" by Louis Liebenberg, Mark Elbroch, and Adriaan Louw. I had an opportunity a couple of years ago to spend a day trailing with Adriaan, who is a superb tracker from Africa. Liebenberg is the guy who started the CyberTracker Conservation evaluations (also in Africa) and Elbroch has written some of the classic tracking field guides. It's a fun book with both African and North American species. It also tells you how to stay out of trouble with the animals you are tracking.

I'm really excited about both these books, and they make me want to leave early and go to the park to track something!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Washington Weather is a Lot Like Missouri Weather

I woke up the sound of hail hitting my window this morning. It hailed hard, coming down sideways, for about 8 minutes. My landlord's grandchildren had put up a tent in front of the garage a couple of nights ago...I don't know if any of them had been inside when the hail started. The weight of the ice pellets collapsed one side of it! The street was covered in white and the cars passing by seemed to be sliding a bit...
By the time I was dressed and ready to leave for work, the hail had vanished. Tonight we have a chance of the first snow of the winter here in the valley...and we thought Spring was here. The cherry trees have been beautiful and the entire valley seems to be decorated in white and pink blossoms. I saw a hummingbird on Tuesday evening.

I thought I'd left the wild weather behind when I left Missouri. The rain comes often, but it's typically gentle, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard thunder in the 4 years or so I've been here. I haven't been reduced to begging for a basement to hide in...tornadoes are really rare in Washington, and then usually they occur on the east side of the mountains. The big (hip deep!) snow of last winter only lasted a short while...And the summers don't have the awful humidity I hated back in the midwest.

Still, weather is always changing, hard to predict, and this close to the mountains anything can happen...I wonder if I'll get to go snowtracking in the park this weekend?

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Party Animal...

I do so wish I had a photo to share today...I'm really not much of a party animal. You won't find me dancing on a tabletop or crushing beer cans on my head.

However, last night I did attend a combo birthday/house warming party for my friend Shondel. There was a Monty Python theme...I've never seen the movie, except for the bits I watched last night between party games. I took a couple of swings at the pinata...wore an emergency costume provided by my friends. I was a shrub...and I found the Black Monster of Arggggg - or something like that.

The potluck was good, even though everything was created from Spam. My friend Jonathan debated with me all the reasons my car might be hurt, and therefor refusing to run right no. He thinks I should talk gently to it and tell it I love it. I think I should kick it in the radiator and make it straighten up. All in all, it was a silly, rainy night and I still don't get most of the jokes.

It was fun...I might do it again someday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring is Here!

One of the kids who came into the office today tells us that he picked up a snake this morning! He was pretty pleased with himself.
I think that's one of the earliest signs of Spring...the return of the cold-blooded creatures. Back in Missouri, we had several poisonous varieties, but here in Western Washington the only snake I've seen is the harmless Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). The one in the photo is from a couple of years ago, and is held by my friend Kate. While I don't scream or run, I find I don't enjoy holding reptiles much. Unlike the youngster we spoke to today, I'd rather not catch them.
My Mom is terrified of snakes, and 0ne of my earliest memories is of watching her juggle a basket of wet laundry while a garter snake - much like this one - ran between her feet. She never did make it to the clothes line in the back yard with that load of laundry! I felt like I'd accomplished something big the first time I touched one. And I have held one for a moment. I just prefer my pets to have fur and be warm-blooded.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


It's been a crazy couple of weeks in my life...we had a bad scare with my new little great niece who was very ill. She's better now and breathing on her own...should get to go home again soon.
It seems that someone I care about has been in danger ever since August...a nephew in his 2nd tour of Iraq, my brother who had a stroke in September, my sister's trip to Peru (which went very well - she got to assist a dentist on the mission trip), my niece, who had trouble with her pregnancy that resulted in the early arrival of little Aubrey...friends who had accidents or surgeries...Mom, who is always a concern because she doesn't always take good care of herself. Sometimes it seems too much to deal with. What can I do about any of it anyway except to pray and worry?
I'm really, really glad that I do remember to pay attention to the beauty around me. I heard this sparrow singing on my walk to work recently...a reminder that no matter what craziness is going on in my life all is well with the world. This little bird was announcing to everyone that Spring is here. It reminded me that even with all the challenges, life is good.
Never mind the fog that covered the valley that early morning - sing! Sing for all the good things that abound. Sing for joy! God's grace is sufficient for the day. How is it that little birds are smarter than we are? I'm here, I'm happy, and I will sing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

I've been frustrated by frequent internet outages (upgrade of service, we're told) and have not been able to properly welcome my new great niece, Aubrey Hopper to the world.

She was born early on Feb 2nd and weighed in at 5 pounds, 4 ounces. She's 3 or 4 weeks early, but healthy and at home with her mom and dad in southern Arkansas.

On those days I get frustrated by work and life in general, I remember that what we do here in Western Washington will make a real difference in the lives of kids like Aubrey and her big brother Andrew. What we teach at Wilderness Awareness School will spread across the country and little kids everywhere will benefit.

The second editon of our "Coyote's Guide" just arrived in the office yesterday. It includes a photograph that I took at the end of our Residential Program year (2007)!

Even though I work in the office, I can still have a posititive influence on kids everywhere. It's good to know that my new little great niece will grow up knowing that I helped make a difference.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guide to Literary Agents - ''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction#commentstart

Guide to Literary Agents - ''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction#commentstart

I missed getting this link into my previous post, so go read it to see what this is about...

Just for Fun

I found this cool contest on the Writer's Digest web page, and decided to of the requirements is that I mention it on my blog and/or on FaceBook, Twitter or other social network here's the link to the contest page. It's the "Dear Lucky Agent" contest by the Guide to Literary Agents editor's blog.
I've had some luck with writing contests in the past, and you all know I have a story to tell, so this one seems perfect. I have a great title..."Tracking Elephants in Snow-Memoirs of a Bad-Ass Tracker Chick"

If you have a memoir stuck in a drawer, you should enter it - some of my favorite books are memoirs, and it's one of the hardest types of book to find a publisher for.

One of the coolest things I learned at Wilderness Awareness School is the importance of telling our stories...we all have one so if you are inspired, go read the rules and get your entry in before the end of Saturday.

When you go to the site to check out my entry you do have to look a bit to find the word "comments" in tiny little letters...look below the book covers and just under the "share" button. Click on the word "comments" to see all the entries. No voting required. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Meet Sylvia

I wanted to share a couple of photos from my December visit to Kirkland.

Ellen and her dog Taz are standing beside a tree called Sylvia...the first named tree I've ever been introduced to. The Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is quite impressive, even though the top is stretched out on the ground...big does not even begin to describe her. Can you imagine what history has taken place in the 600 or so years this tree has lived?
It's a bit of a hike to find her, but well worth it! My friend Ellen did not tell me we were going to visit royalty - what a nice surprise to see her along the trail.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sapsucker Visit

This beautiful Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) landed on the tree I was leaning against just outside my apartment...It seemed to want me to move! I gave it a bit of space, and the bird rounded the tree and went right to the spot I'd been leaning against. Only then did I see the fresh holes drilled into the bark. It was fascinating to watch the bird feed - then my cell phone rang...
Since the call was from my 80 year old great aunt, I answered...the bird stayed! We talked, and I even went inside for my camera. The bird startled a bit when I returned, but did not fly away! So, phone in one hand and camera in the other, I started to take pictures...Still, the bird stayed. My aunt hung up after we had talked for about 15 minutes. I continued to watch the bird and take photos until dark - another 10 minutes or so.
It's the first time watching my sit spot was more interesting than watching the world from my sit spot! I am truly blessed.

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"