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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

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"