Roy McAlister talks with Marcus as the musician gets to know his new McAlister guitar.

Roy McAlister talks with Marcus Eaton as the musician gets to know his new McAlister guitar.

Yesterday evening was another one of those times when I am absolutely humbled and grateful for the beautiful people in my life who made it happen for me. Don’t you find that remarkable things happen as a result of collaboration? It’s always that way. Keep people you admire and respect close to you, and they will make your life better. :-)

Though we see each other rarely, one of my favourite friends of all is A, who lives out in Southeastern Washington state. He was invited to a backyard BBQ and potluck party in Gig Harbor, Washington where our mutual friend, Marcus Eaton would be playing. A couldn’t make it, and asked that I be invited to the party instead. And I was. (giggly happy dance inserted here)

It was at the home of a luthier, A told me. A man who makes high quality guitars played by musicians including Jackson Browne, Marc Cohn, Graham Nash and David Crosby. It was a unique opportunity for me to be in the presence of real artists, and only two hours’ drive from our home in Rainier, Oregon.

I got up early and made jalapeno poppers. This involves carefully cutting open fresh peppers and removing all the pulp and seeds and stuffing them with cream cheese. The task is tricky to do without tearing the peppers, which you want to close back up once they’re stuffed, so you can roast them. The bigger problem is dealing with pepper juice on your fingers. It’s 24 hours later and my skin is still burning. I always think “Next time I’ll wear gloves,” and I always forget. At least I’m consistent.

This photo doesn't do it justice, but Gig Harbor is an absolutely darling seaside Victorian town. The rain let up right before we arrived, so we were able to get out a bit, and stayed dry.

This photo doesn’t do it justice, but Gig Harbor is an absolutely darling Victorian town. The rain let up right before we arrived, so we were able to get out a bit, and stayed dry.

Down at the picturesque Harbor itself. This town is in Puget Sound, so it has full access to the Pacific Ocean, but is protected from seaside exposure.

Down at the picturesque Harbor itself. This town is in Puget Sound, so it has full access to the Pacific Ocean, but is protected from seaside exposure.

The weather was wretched and that made I-5 treacherous. The four northbound lanes are usually bumper to bumper on the way to Seattle: that’s a given. So add torrential downpours causing small lakes on the Interstate, and the omnipresent summer construction zones. Yikes. We were grateful to pull onto Highway 16 and head west over the Tacoma Narrows bridge. (I received a text from my brother that the bridge was closed due to high winds after we arrived at our hosts’ home, but luckily it was opened up again by the time we all left.)

Our plans had changed due to the weather, so we arrived rather early. Tara and I decided to explore the town of Gig Harbor and calm our nerves a bit before we ventured on. From there, it was only 15 minutes to the house.

Mrs. McAlister was as gracious as could be, considering she had never met us, and ushered us both in, introduced us to the kids, pointed out drinks and food, and showed me how to work the oven so I could broil the poppers. I met other guests and was grateful that Tara and I were not the first. Marcus was already there, and introduced me to Roy McAlister the luthier, and he introduced me to his new guitar.

The guitar should get a dedicated blog post. Sadly, I am ignorant of the technical descriptions of instruments. All I can say is that – even to me – this guitar is sexy enough to make hearts pound. Roy pointed out all the pieces: the blonde front piece, the dark sides and back, the black wood border around the face. Each piece of wood gorgeous and patterned and quilted with variations in the wood. Even the ebony of the neck was striped with lighter colours. Stunning.

Marcus begins to open up his new guitar.

Marcus begins to open up his new guitar.

His fingers blur across the frets.

His fingers blur across the frets.

Marcus had just been presented with the guitar, and played with it for a couple of hours before people started showing up, because he was trying to “open it up,” and noted that he could already hear the difference after doing that. He was so pleased he practically babbled about his gift. He said that guitars peak in sound quality after 10 years or so, and he was dying to hear the future tones of this work of art.

I was honored to be invited to Roy’s workshop in the back, filled with carved and unassembled pieces, curved and shaped and waiting to be brought to life, first by the luthier and finally by the musicians.

Guitars waiting for the tender touches of repair work.

Guitars waiting for the tender touches of repair work.

Tools waiting to be called upon.

Tools waiting to be called upon.

Roy McAlister was revealed to me by the end of the evening to be an exceptional human being. When describing the guitar for us, I could sense his efforts to maintain a calm and humble presentation but it was easy to see how excited he was. Watching carefully as the evening progressed and he hovered at the edge of the audience, soaking up the sounds of the artists with his guitars, I could see the kid inside him, straining not to bounce around with glee. If he wasn’t proud of his accomplishments while watching the musicians, he deserved to be. During the party, he talked with everyone and made each person feel appreciated, even me and Tara, total strangers. Roy made jokes all night and when he got together with Marcus, the two of them were positively juvenile. It was pretty hilarious. I teased him about being the biggest kid in the house, and he took it as a compliment.

Marcus could not stop raving about his gift. It was better than Christmas. The guitar, obviously, is gorgeous. But Marcus was just going crazy about its playability the instant he picked it up. “I’ve been fighting my guitar for three years,” he told me. “This guitar disappears when I start playing. It disappears.” You could tell by watching. There was no adjustment period as he figured it out…he just sat down and made jaws drop. In between every song he took the time to rave some more. “Sick!” he says, “I want to be more eloquent, but that’s all I’ve got.”

The rain POURED and wind raged. It had brought down a tree in the yard earlier. There was no question of being out of doors. So the lovely hosts rearranged their home and brought the show inside. That made it very intimate, and I was glad, because I was able to hear every single breath of the new guitar.

When the house was full, the artists began playing. It was a full concert with personally invited artists. I have photos only from the beginning when the light was still good. When it got dark outside, the room was dark and my little Nikon with my poor night photography skills was not able to capture anything worth posting.

Terry Holder tunes her guitar.

Terry Holder tunes her guitar.

Jerry and Terry make a great team and looked like they were having fun up there.

Jerry and Terry make a great team and looked like they were having fun up there.

Terry Holder started us off, with some fabulous back-up by her husband Jerry. I had the chance to talk to them before the show and they are both truly genuine people with quick smiles and generous hearts. Terry’s songs are as beautiful as she is, and filled with a magical, hopeful quality that I noticed is also in her personality. “Put it out into the Universe,” she said a couple of times during the night, expressing her belief that good things happen when you are true to yourself.

Rick Ruskin has skillfully wound his way around guitars for decades.

Rick Ruskin has skillfully wound his way around guitars for decades.

Rick Ruskin was up next with his McAlister guitar. Rick’s funny stories were a great accessory to his exceptional playing. It was clear that he and his guitar had been close friends for years, and his picking was relaxed and confident. He joked about playing I Wish It Would Rain the previous year, and this year’s barbecue being rained out. He played it again, hoping to cancel out the effect, and then – just in case – held us spellbound with an instrumental Here Comes The Sun. I complimented him on his set, later in the kitchen. “I give it a B+,” Rick responded. Oh, pshaww. Maybe artists find it harder to admit to greatness when there are so many greats together. But I argue: wear the coat when it fits.

Marcus in the living room of a family who play music and love music.

Marcus in the living room of a family who play and love music.

Then Marcus played a nice long set. For those who want to know, the setlist was Sunrise Lets You Down, Black Pearl, What’s The Difference, Flying Through the Fire, Reverie, I Will Be Your Shade, Better Way, The Sting, The Barbie Song, and Who You Are. His fingers fly when he plays. He sometimes watched the frets while his hands picked it out, and sometimes looked right out at us while his fingers danced and sparked like lightning. There were little gasps in the audience and quiet “wow”s around me. (I often wonder what it’s like for those hearing him for the first time) Though I have been mesmerized by his playing since 2006, twice I caught myself dizzy from holding my breath to listen. No matter how good the music is, I must still breathe. It was the first time I had heard Flying Through the Fire, inspired by a WWII messenger pigeon. “It’s about life,” said Marcus. The song touched me deeply. It’s going to have to be my new anthem. Sadly, I still don’t have the music, since it’s on Marcus’ new album. The album is so recently completed it hasn’t even been released yet!

As if that wasn’t enough music-from-the-gut, I was introduced to Keith Greeninger. First of all, his voice knocked me flat. In a good way. There is no better match of voice to songwriter ever. Each song has a message that is so profoundly beautiful it broke my heart. In a good way. I had to fight off the tears during Hop In the Truck, in which he played a mandola (everything else was on guitar). It is about American and Mexican construction workers building a border wall together because they needed the work to feed their families, and when it is finished all the foreigners get deported. The song called out politicians building campaigns by shutting out the laborers upon whose backs our country was built. After the show I found that Keith is …wait for it… deeply genuine and caring in person. He was eager to shake my hand and thank me for listening, when I was the one trying to thank him.

Every single person was wonderful, and funny, and interesting, and open. I didn’t even have a chance to meet them all, and trust me, I feel that loss. The bigger story is that I was able to meet many of them, and today my life is a hundred times richer.

The old, sad mailbox. It had a white strip of tape with one number on it, crossed out, and a different handwritten number in felt pen beneath.

The old, sad mailbox. It had a white strip of tape with one number on it, crossed out, and a different handwritten number in felt pen beneath.

Not that the old mailbox was completely unusable, but it was rusted, a bit mossy, and bent. Mail arrived as expected. Tara and I still felt compelled to replace it with a new one. Something with character, that shows we are new around here and we take pride in our place.

I don’t know whose idea it was, but we loved the idea of painting it with old, clumped and gummy nail polish. Looks terrible on nails, but it could look great on a mailbox. We’ve been collecting nail polish for years. A lot of years. Some of it was gross. But perfect for this project.

Tara found strips of tape and taped the outside into a random pattern, taking care to stick it very well to the white enameled mailbox. They spent a couple of sunny days out on the deck, choosing the oldest polish in the worst shape and painting it on. (We also used up polish that was in good shape, but awful colour. Just why did we purchase that hideous peach one? Must have been a gift.)

Partially painted mailbox with a collection of nail polish handy.

Partially painted mailbox with a collection of nail polish handy.

Tara worked away at this project. At first I meant to add my touches and make it a team effort, but it turned out so beautifully I couldn't bring myself to interfere.

Tara worked away at this project. At first I meant to add my touches and make it a team effort, but it turned out so beautifully I couldn’t bring myself to interfere.

Tape removal day, while we ate some delish fish & chips at a place we found not too far away.

Tape removal day, while we ate some delish fish & chips at a place we found not too far away.

We found both the box and the reflective numbers at The Home Depot in Longview, Washington (just across the Lewis & Clark Bridge). After the polish was dry, Tara removed the tape, then applied the numbers: nice and bright so people trying to find us will now be easily able to use the mailbox (the house numbers are hard to see).

My step-father came for a visit for a couple days  down from Moyie Springs, Idaho. He was restless looking for projects, and asked if we wanted the mailbox mounted. Yes we did! While I was working at the computer, my step-father removed the old box and got the new one ready, then called Tara and me to see if we wanted to witness the installation. Yes we did!

Finished! Isn't it gorgeous?!

Finished! Isn’t it gorgeous?!

Close-up so you can see how amazingly beautiful the colours are. Sadly, nail polish does not seem designed to withstand sunlight, and there are signs of fading already. I'll check in after a year or so, and let you see how it holds up.

Close-up so you can see how amazingly beautiful the colours are. Sadly, nail polish does not seem designed to withstand sunlight, and there are signs of fading already. I’ll check in after a year or so, and let you see how it holds up.

Ready for mounting, in the back of my step-father's pickup.

Ready for mounting, in the back of my step-father’s pickup.

Woo hoo! Our new functional work of art is in its new home.

Woo hoo! Our new functional work of art is in its new home.

We've made our mark in the neighborhood. It's a shady street at all times, so hopefully sun damage will be slow.

We’ve made our mark in the neighborhood. It’s a shady street at all times, so hopefully sun damage will be slow.

Impressive double wings on this beauty by the water.

Impressive double wings on this beauty by the water.

I’ve been sneaking quick strolls around the property when I get a break. On one such occasion I got excited about all the dragon flies in a sunny patch of the pond. I was barefoot, and couldn’t get right up close, because the sticks and reeds at the edge of the water were poking my feet. So I relied on the zoom lens.

I credit Colin at A Farm, A Forest, and Fizz for training my eye toward the buzzing, flying things more than usual over the past year. Colin focuses his fabulous macro lens on the teeniest inhabitants, including wildflowers and fungi, as well as insects and arachnids. I want to stay in the habit of noticing all the tiny things that live around me.

A crimson dragon for you

A crimson dragon for you

It is interesting to me how they rest with their wings pulled forward. I wonder why?

It is interesting to me how they rest with their wings pulled forward. I wonder why?

Not a dragon fly. But interesting  nonetheless.

Not a dragon fly. But interesting nonetheless.

A happy Humpty Dumpty was put back together by Roger Tofte, according to the sign.

A happy Humpty Dumpty was put back together by Roger Tofte, according to the sign. This is no hollow claim, since some unruly guests knocked Humpty to the ground last year, and Mr. Tofte was forced to prove that he could indeed put the egg back together.

For Tara’s 18th birthday celebration, a trip to the Enchanted Forest  was requested. We went last year and loved it, so I was on board to visit again!

This enchanted theme park has moved through too-uncool-for-middle school, and has become a hip place to go, if you are a teenager. It is clearly designed for small children, with some great additions since the 1970s that will entertain the parents, but what keeps this place well worth a visit is that it slightly misses the mark, and crosses the Uncanny Valley. What I mean is, it’s just on the other side of cute, and has turned creepy in a most delicious way.

Tara and birthday friends inside the mouth of the witch. The trail continues inside, with scenes from Snow White inside.

Tara and birthday friends inside the mouth of the witch. The trail continues into the throat, with scenes from Snow White and her evil witch stepmother.

The kids peek into the windows of the tiny house of the Seven Dwarves.

The kids peek into the windows of the tiny house of the Seven Dwarfs.

The second floor of the little house holds these darling beds, a tiny rabbit, and a squirrel doing some housekeeping.

The second floor of the little house holds these darling beds, a tiny rabbit, and a squirrel doing some housekeeping.

It is so much like the idea of Disneyland that I am amazed no one has sued. Thank goodness, because the Enchanted Forest, south of Salem, Oregon, is a high-quality theme park that’s a blast for the little ones, and genuinely amusing for everyone else. All that – for an entrance fee of $10.99, and tickets for the rides at $1 per ticket.

The park is a true family effort, envisioned by Roger Tofte, supported by his wife and children, and opened in 1971. A son grew up and learned animatronics, and built for us the awkward, jerking, breathed into life-sized beings across the park. One daughter wrote and directs the comedic plays that show at the theatre, and she also wrote all the music heard in the park, which is always played on pipes.

Hansel and Gretel couldn't resist this place. Neither could Tara.

Hansel and Gretel couldn’t resist this place. Neither could Tara.

This is by far the most frightening thing in the park: animated witch beckons Gretel into the furnace, and creaking, hesitant, animatronic Gretel slowly turns her head back and forth in a

This is by far the most frightening thing in the park: animated witch beckons Gretel into the furnace, and creaking, hesitant, animatronic Gretel slowly turns her head back and forth in a “no.” Life-sized Hansel crouches in an iron cage at her feet.

It begins just past the entrance, where guests walk along Storybook Trail through a real forest, and find miniature and life-sized creations from children’s faery tales and Mother Goose rhymes. You can stand on the trail and look, but if you get close and go inside or peek in windows, that is when the real treat begins. Or the real heebie jeebies, as the case may be.

There is a Western-themed town, which is hilarious, filled with more animatronics, and named Tofteville. The kids got a big charge out of the drunken walk, where you enter a building, and follow the path out on a floor balanced on springs. There is no way to keep steady.

I think I may just love Pinocchio Town the best, a European-style village that has several animated faces that peer from shutters two stories above you that swing open. The characters gossip loud enough to hear, about different storybook characters. You can enter a doorway and follow a path through multiple buildings, peeking into holes in walls, and holes in cheese, and reading about puppetry around the world, and controlling a miniature train on a track through snowy Alps. Through one curtained window is a kaleidescope, that simply turns as long as you stand there. One window reveals a fabulous 10-foot-high Rube Goldberg mechanism that runs balls through a wire obstacle course. And who can stand resist the singing blackbirds baked in a pie?

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.

Peek through one of the holes in an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, and you can see the home of the Three Blind Mice.

Peek through one of the holes in an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, and you can see the home of the Three Blind Mice.

Where will this lead us next?

Where will this lead us next?

Gossips in Pinocchio's Village

Gossips in Pinocchio’s Village

These inviting structures hold picnic tables, where people can eat the food they brought in, or buy from the vendors.

These inviting structures hold picnic tables, where people can eat the food they brought in, or buy from the vendors.

Rip Van Winkle sleeps on a hil

Rip Van Winkle sleeps on a hill

Jack and Jill run down the hill

Jack and Jill run down the hill

Little Red Riding Hood knocks on the door, but the wolf has already eaten Grandma

The wolf listens eagerly to Red Riding Hood’s knock.

The Crooked Man invites visitors to walk through his crooked house.

The Crooked Man invites visitors to walk through his crooked house.

Mrs. Pumpkin Eater is trapped.

Mrs. Pumpkin Eater is trapped.

The Europen-style village

The European-style village

Mad Hatter and March Hare have tea, while the Cheshire Cat looks down, grinning

Mad Hatter and March Hare have tea, while the Cheshire Cat looks down, grinning

I haven’t shown any photos of the rides, but I think I’ll save those for another day. There were too many fun photos in this post to bog it down further.

In 1960s, Roger Tofte seemed to be the only person who could see the final version in his mind’s eye. He was the target of many jokes and whispers that he had some screws loose.

Mr. Tofte can laugh at them all today, though I imagine he’s too sweet to do so. Both times we have visited the park, we have spotted him moving around, quietly under the radar, passing through doors that say “staff only” and happily waiting for toddlers to pass before he drives through on his scooter.

The Western town, named Tofteville.

The Western town, named Tofteville.

In Tofteville, a barber and his client appear startled to see me.

In Tofteville, a barber and his client appear startled to see me.

A dentist in Tofteville, getting some unruly teeth in order.

A dentist in Tofteville, getting some unruly teeth in order.

The top of Oneonta Falls as it crashes down into the narrow gorge and pool below.

The top of Oneonta Falls as it crashes down into the narrow gorge and pool below.

My friend G had the idea to go for a hike, and I remembered the Oneonta Gorge “trail” that I have been wanting to see since I moved here. It’s the way to the beautiful Oneonta Falls. No trail is possible, since it’s through a narrow creek canyon, so people access the falls by walking in the creek. I was warned ahead of time that the water is cold and the canyon is shaded and can be chilly, so save the trip for a hot day.

Well, we have certainly had some hot days!

We planned the trip on Wednesday, assuming that the weekday would decrease the number of people joining us. The weather overruled that idea: the place was packed. But just imagine how much worse it could be on the weekend.

The recently opened Oneonta Tunnel is a great photo op for adventurous people who want to climb to the top. This old tunnel was built for the original Columbia River Highway around 1920.

The recently opened Oneonta Tunnel is a great photo op for adventurous people who want to climb to the top. This old tunnel was built for the original Columbia River Highway around 1920.

The trailhead is just off the I-84 east of Portland, only 40 minutes from G’s house (and the Blue House where Tara and I used to live). We found parking along the Historic Columbia River Highway, in the shade! It was a short walk past multiple trailheads that leave from the Oneonta Gorge area. There are no signs alerting us to the beginning of the Oneonta Falls trail, but we are clever people and realized that since the trail is the creek, we would just walk into the creek and head upstream.

Also, we could just follow the people.

Dozens of people make their careful way across a log jam and rock in the middle of the creek.

Dozens of people make their careful way across a log jam and rock in the middle of the creek.

The first challenge was to clamber over a large log jam of trees that pile up every spring against an enormous rock in the middle of the creek. In some places there was only one good route, so all the people had to wait behind whomever was in front. When someone had unsteady legs, or was carrying a toddler, it brought movement to a halt. We also had to stop our forward progress for the people who were making their way out and had to use the same route.

Most of the walk was in water ankle deep or calf deep, and the deepest part of all was up to the bottom of our ribcages. Now that was cold! We were walking on the wobbly rocks underwater, while balanced on our tippie toes, trying to keep our tops out of the water. It’s amazing no one fell.

Tara and G wait for me while I gasp at the views and take photos.

Tara and G wait for me while I gasp at the views and take photos.

Creative people built about 15 towering cairns in one section of the creek.

Creative people built about 15 towering cairns in one section of the creek.

We stopped periodically to gaze in awe and admiration at the sheer cliff walls covered in moss and ferns, and topped with trees. The light was incredibly bright at the top of the gorge, and rather dark at the bottom, so I struggled to get decent photos that showed it all. I don’t have the camera skills to pull that off.

At the end, there is an inviting pool at the base of the falls. While Tara and G swam and climbed and jumped into the water, I stood waist-deep in the pool and took photos. The spray was blasting throughout the hollowed out spot, so I did not get very many photos in focus.

When we were all cold and thoroughly delighted, we turned around and headed back out.

Visiting on a weekday did not give us any privacy. Oh well.

Visiting on a weekday did not give us any privacy. Oh well.

Tara and G bravely head deeper into the cold pool.

Tara and G bravely head deeper into the cold pool.

Playing in the water.

Playing in the water.

They decided to try and swim beneath the falls.

They decided to try and swim beneath the falls.

Posing under the falls

Posing under the falls

The views on the way out. We literally had a light at the end of the tunnel.

The views on the way out. We literally had a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tara walks toward the deeper water, beneath trees soaring from the tops of the cliffs.

Tara walks toward the deeper water, beneath trees soaring from the tops of the cliffs.

My Tara and me, September 2014

My Tara and me, September 2014

Not my adulthood, of course. Tara turned 18 years old on Sunday. My baby is a legal adult now, and – just like 18-year-olds everywhere – remains part child even though they are now part adult.

It’s a really exciting time for us both. Tara has more fear about it than me. With all my adult years of experience, I can see that Tara is ready to take on the world. My child is not so sure I’m right about that, but I have confidence based in years of watching Tara meet challenges and come out victorious.

The new status doesn’t make me feel old, but does make me nostalgic. I still can’t believe that hollering, impatient, needy infant is already packing bags to leave home. Wow, how did that happen so fast? And only a month ago (wasn’t it only a month?) my index finger was being squeezed by a tiny, damp, chubby hand of someone very small learning to walk. Last week my heart thumped every time that little person ran on unsteady feet, and then the next day…off they went on their bike.

I taught Tara how to cross the street without me. How to watch the lights, and the traffic, and to think of how heavy and dangerous a car can be. And I stood on the sidewalk and held my breath till they arrived safely on the other side. Then with the glee of freedom without the weight of responsibility, Tara watched the lights and the cars, and when it was safe, came hurtling back to me. And I didn’t tell their dad for a long time, about what I had done.

And then we practiced taking the bus to ballet lessons. The #15 went right from our house to the studio. I rode with Tara the first time, telling them what to look for, what to listen for. We rode together a second time, and I waited for my child to give me instructions. We missed the stop. It was ok. And after that, Tara made the busses, the streetcars, the lightrail their own territory, and off they went again. Off to ballet, off to school, off to the mall and to a friend’s house on the other side of the city. Gone far away to return to me much later, always to the relief of my pounding heart. Always putting away the nightmares of the headlines that could read, “Reckless mother teaches child to be independent in the heart of the city.”

I took notes in the Tokyo Narita airport when I went through, and then emailed them to Tara a couple months later, so Tara could make the same trip, alone, to come visit me while I lived in Japan. “Keep your passport on you, and handy, and never never set it down. There are signs in English when you get off the plane. After you pick up your luggage, you’ll have to go through customs, and hand them your forms. Then find the terminal for domestic flights. If you don’t know where to go, follow the other people. If you get scared, ask for help.” I actually cried with relief when my 15-year-old walked into the tiny Hiroshima terminal from the plane.

And look what I’ve done to myself: ensured that this beautiful, strong, smart, brave, amazing used-to-be-child is ready to leave again. We were talking about last week’s college orientation the other night, and about Tara’s move to Corvallis when school starts. Tara says, not in an angry way at all, but matter-of-factly, “I’m sure you’re as sick of living with me as I am sick of living with you.” And you have to understand our relationship to know that it wasn’t a hurtful comment in it’s delivery or receipt: we are two very strong and independent people who respect each other enough to be honest.

Much as I am sad about the separation that will happen this Fall when it’s time to go to University, I see that I have done my job properly.

Tara checking out their Oregon State University dormitory room during orientation last week.

Tara checking out their Oregon State University dormitory room during orientation last week.

There used to be a

There used to be a “No Hunting or Trespassing” sign on a tree by the lake. Tara has it in hand, after replacing it with a different sign.

Yes, this sign suits us much better.

Yes, this sign suits us much better.

My pretty little pond.

My pretty little pond.

It’s been a great week for people working their butts off for me. I only hope that I am worthy. In return, I’ve exchanged a big, wide-open door policy: you are all always invited. Plus, there will have to be some kind of official house-warming party. Tara and I are thinking maybe the 22nd of August. We will fit you in between J & T’s wedding, and Kumoricon.

It would be great if we are done scrubbing by then, or even done with primer painting. We certainly won’t be unpacked yet, but you will forgive us. :-)

This is what the TV room looked like a week ago, and what it still looks like now. Well, except for the mattress on the floor. We have the beds set up now.

This is what the TV room looked like a week ago, and what it still looks like now. Well, except for the mattress on the floor. We have the beds set up now.

The person I bought the house from is not as clean as I am. He lived here for four years and I am pretty sure there are things he never did in four years, like clean the refrigerator or mop the wood floors. He also smoked inside the house, so the place reeked. Tara and I opened the windows and doors on our first day of occupancy, and they have not closed since. The place still stinks, but it doesn’t reek.

Obviously, Tara and I were in full agreement that we didn’t want to unpack our clean things into the filthy house. So we still have nearly everything in boxes, and we are scrubbing.

My friends who heard the story volunteered to come scrub with us – yay!

N mows the enormous lawn past our new adorable chicken coop.

N mows the enormous lawn past our new adorable chicken coop.

Our new babies have most of their feathers now, and are getting to know their new home. We have room for only four, but four eggs a day should be enough. :)

Our new babies have most of their feathers now, and are getting to know their new home. We have room for only four, but four eggs a day should be enough. :)

Racecar helps from the deck, in the way that cats do.

Racecar helps from the deck, in the way that cats do.

Last Sunday co-workers and spouses showed up. We all took on a different task, turned up the stereo, and worked hard. N soon found out that I had purchased a used riding lawnmower, and hinted until I realized she wanted to mow. Off she went and didn’t come back for about two hours. She is awesome! K didn’t want to clean but noticed how there were piles of trash at the base of several of the trees on the property. He put on gloves and began hauling old tires and rusted metal and rotting wood up the hill to the shed on the side of the house. G had lots of experience with scrubbing hospitals and felt most at ease scouring a bathroom, and went to work. Really? She wanted to clean my bathroom? I am humbled. B showed up with wife T and they brought a new chicken coop and got that set up for me.

Tara cleaned up another bathroom, and I continued the extended project of scrubbing the kitchen. The refrigerator took 3 hours earlier in the week, and this day I was washing cabinets. I found a melted KitKat bar on the top shelf above the sink. It took lots of water and a knife to gouge it out of there. “How did you know it was a KitKat?” Tara asked. “Because when I can get a large enough piece of the wrapper up, I can read it.” Eeew.

The following Wednesday, Marlene Herself, from the blog Insearchofitall, and son Tech Support came over. TS had moved wrong and hurt his back, so his name switched to Moral Support for the day. He brought his good camera, and the tripod was up on the back deck in about 5 minutes while Marlene and I made a plan of action.

I suggested that Marlene sweep the cobwebs off the front of the house and porch. The kitchen still wasn’t done, and that’s what Marlene felt comfortable with. She even insisted on washing our dishes from the day before. “I was going to wash those up real quick,” I said. “No, I will do them,” was the response. Marlene is not a woman to be trifled with.

So there was yet another friend, up to her elbows in Mr. Clean, washing out cabinets, the microwave, and ending by mopping the floor on her knees (I felt so bad about that and tried not to let her do it, but again I found it is very hard to tell Marlene what to do.) I went out to the front with a broom over my head, and cleared cobwebs, and spiders, and about 40 of those little white egg sacs (shudddderrrr) that were all over the front of the house and draping down from the porch roof. Then I swept it up and cleared away broken tiles and cigarette butts.

The end of the day was time to rest and enjoy the land.

The end of the day was time to rest and enjoy the land.

The tip of this Foxglove is still blooming. There are only two left on the property and I'm glad I get to see them before their season ends.

The tip of this Foxglove is still blooming. There are only two left on the property and I’m glad I get to see them before their season ends.

A glass of wine, a flat rock in the shade, and the gurgles of a creek are the right combination for restoring my soul.

A glass of wine, a flat rock in the shade, and the gurgles of a creek are the right combination for restoring my soul.

The kitchen is clean now so I have begun unpacking dishes and utensils and food – a priority! The bathrooms are clean now so we actually feel clean when we are done using them – another priority!

There is no way we could be this far along without the generosity of my friends. How amazing it is to let people help you. I have not asked for help for most of my life, but in the last couple of years have been practicing how to let my friends help me when I need it. I thought it would be humiliating to admit that I can’t handle everything myself. But I find instead that the greater result is that I am flattered over and over when people actually seem to like helping. And the friendships grow closer.

The sun sets over the Columbia River

The sun sets over the Columbia River

We had some mighty hot days here in Portland Oregon not too long ago. I was trying to move from my old house to the new house, in the off hours between work hours. I was tired and sweating.

A friend offered to meet me at the river and that was a great plan. I took a break from packing and was still dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, but when I spotted that water, I just waded right in. J waded in after me and we stood in the water and I unloaded all my worries for about two hours as we watched the sun drop to the horizon.

It was just what the doctor ordered.

Cars zoom past on I-205 between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. These two cities (and states) straddle the huge Columbia River.

Cars zoom past on I-205 between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. These two cities (and states) straddle the huge Columbia River.

J directed me to a beach that was west of the I-205 bridge.

J directed me to a beach that was west of the I-205 bridge.

Here, dozens of families unwound and cooled off. You can still see the bridge in the background, as well as my favourite volcano: Mt. St. Helens.

Here, dozens of families unwound and cooled off. You can still see the bridge in the background, as well as my favourite volcano: Mt. Hood.

A few sailboats were out.

A few sailboats were out.

The air was warm. The water was warm. The people were warm - even the talking and laughter were like a blanket around me. In this softness, the copper sun sank into the water.

The air was warm. The water was warm. The people were warm – even the talking and laughter were like a blanket around me. In this softness, the copper sun sank into the water.

Standing beside the back deck, looking out toward the Back Forty.

Looking out toward the Back Forty. You can see Beaver Creek on the right.

I tucked my camera in among the boxes on our first run out to the house yesterday. We arrived at 1:30 pm, so the sun was bright and direct. In different light, I’m sure I’ll be able to show the property better, but in the meantime, here is a first look.

I haven’t much to say about the house itself. It’s nice. It’s bigger than I need. It’s a long Ranch in the shape of a rectangle with a small kitchen and small bathrooms, considering the size of the large bedrooms and two living rooms. But enough about the house. I bought this place for the land.

I am standing beside the road that runs past the house. Creek on my right, and the Jeep on my right, backed up to the door for unloading.

I am standing beside the road that runs past the house. Creek on my right, and the Jeep on my left, backed up to the door for unloading.

A year-round creek has trout and crawdads.

A year-round creek has trout and crawdads.

The pond hosts a painted turtle who likes to sun himself on the tiny island.

The pond hosts a painted turtle who likes to sun himself on the tiny island. It’s also stocked with Perch, Bluegill, and Smallmouthed Bass. The man who sold the place to me said he only fished with his grandsons and they caught and released. I plan to eat what I catch! Yummy!

This is behind the pond, a park-like area that holds a few Wood Duck boxes on the trees.

This is behind the pond, a park-like area that holds a few Wood Duck boxes on the trees.

Standing beside the pond, looking up at the house on the hill.

Standing beside the pond, looking up at the house on the hill.

The back of the house, with the long deck. I expect to spend many days on that deck. Don't you think it needs a couple of trees?

The back of the house, with the long deck. I expect to spend many days on that deck. Don’t you think it needs a couple of trees?

The blonde chicks are Rhode Island Reds, and the other two I don't know. But I have time to figure it out before they come live with us.

The blonde chicks are Rhode Island Reds, and the other two types I don’t know. But I have time to figure it out before they come live with us.

We finally have the house. The purchase closed on Monday.

Things are topsy-turvy here, so this won’t be a real post, but I wanted you to know why I’ve been absent. Also, I know several of you are wondering how it’s going. :-)

The seller is still living there for a few days, so Tara and I have not moved yet. We will spend the Independence Day weekend hauling boxes and lifting furniture.

Good things have happened in the last week: 1) The seller agreed to let us begin moving in before our official move-in date. That is so generous of him. 2) The person who now owns the home we are renting agreed to let us stay 5 more days since we can’t move yet. Wow, talk about generosity. 3) I have lots of friends who have been helping us move! 4) The Uncles have loaned me their pickup to haul stuff, since all the local moving companies are booked through July (it will save money anyway, so that’s nice too). 5) Even though the house is in disarray, our kitty, Racecar, seems only mildly irritated. I think she is still doing ok, and that eases my heart.

6) And just this morning I was able to hook up the old washing machine and do a load of laundry. We have been using my machines, but since they have been moved, I wanted to re-install the old machines. I had to purchase a new bilge pipe since the old one was cracked (like me!). I got the hot and cold water mixed up at first and we dropped about a gallon of water onto the floor while we got that unhooked again. Tara was filling cups with water while I ran and dumped them into the sink. It was pretty funny.

The Uncles have been raising baby chicks for us so that by the time we are ready with a coop, the chicks will be large enough to live out there. Just imagine: fresh eggs. Isn’t that a delicious thought?

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