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Man holding a fish.

Man holding a fish.

EIGHT TIPS for men uploading photos for your online dating profile:

  1. Do not make the one where you’re holding the fish your main profile photo. Or the other one where you’re holding a fish.
  2. It is obvious which photos were taken in the 1990s. We don’t need those.
  3. Please upload photos of yourself. The photos of your bicycle, your car, your boat, your Harley, your grill, and all those photos of the fish you catch are missing the point, which is that we want to know what you look like.
  4. Smile. None of your buddies can see you here so you don’t have to pretend you’re a baddass thug. Well, if any of your buddies do see you here, then they probably think you are more attractive when you smile, too.
  5. Multiple photos of places that you have seen and/or like, including images you took from the web (yes that was obvious too)…particularly when there is no caption…do not enhance a viewer’s knowledge of who you are.
  6. Selfies in the bathroom are gross. And not just because you haven’t cleaned the glass for 18 months.
  7. All six of your photos are you mugging for yourself in front of your computer screen. I can tell because your face is lit up with blue light and you have the same exact expression. There must be a photo of you somewhere. Ask someone to take your photo. Do you have friends? Co-workers? Anyone? Hell, I will meet you for coffee and take your photo.
  8. I see that you love your dogs, but do not upload more photos of them than of you. No, not even the ones when they were puppies, or the one when they were fetching sticks in the lake, or even all the adorable photos of when they are napping on the couch. No really. Just one photo of the dogs is sufficient. Just. One.
{photo by Emmet McCusker}

fish

I’m single and busy with work and all my extra-curricular activities, and in years past I spent a lot of time parenting. A schedule like that means I do not meet eligible men. I am comfortable with a computer, which leads me to blog, but it also leads me to online dating sites. I’ve used online sites for over 10 years now, whenever I’m in a drought of meeting people. I’ve had great luck with the sites, and meet mostly genuine people who are in real life the person they projected on their dating profile. In a decade, I’ve only found one man to date long term, but better than that: I’ve made several great friends out of it that still keep in touch. And I have gone on very fun dates. One was a day learning stand up paddle, and I had a blast. The number of people I meet online is exponentially greater than the number I meet in person. Overall, it’s worth the effort to me.

{photo by Stephen Trulove}

fish

Last week, after spending an hour or so reading profiles and looking at photos, I stopped shaking my head and laughing long enough to realize I had been composing a letter in my mind to these guys about Do’s and Don’t’s of online photos. In a moment of inspiration I posted my tips on facebook, and the response was great! My step-dad added his own tip: “To the women, please include a photo of your boat.”

What I did not expect was that in response to my facebook post, my friends (men and women) started replying with pictures of fish. I’ve included a few of them here. Obviously, I had asked for it.

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Lacey wants me to hold still so she can find out whether the large black round thing on my face is edible.

The Chicken Hussies, I’ve been calling them. They are saucy and misbehaved. They are rarely home, running around the neighborhood bringing dishonor upon this house. They don’t come when I call them and I dont know where they are half the time. When they do show up, they run to me at first with joy of recognition. That turns into clucking complaints, demands, unceasing inquiries about the availability of grain. They peck my hands and my shoes, and mutter that the feed I give them is tiresome and they would prefer leftover oatmeal. “Remember that time when you fed us oatmeal?”

These hens leave their, shall we say, “fertilizer” all over the deck and the front porch, and in the equipment shed on the side of the house where they sleep. It’s a sure sign that they know where they belong. And yet do they stay here like proper ladies? Never. I fear their reputations are ruined.

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“Oh, it’s a camera? Well, here, I think this side of my head is more photogenic.”

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In back, left to right, Lacey, Jamie, Phil. The red one is Tawny.

The once sensitive topic of reciprocity has become more of a common theme. Admittedly, I am the one who brings it up. I explain about the cost of hay, feed, fencing. I explain about having a full time job and getting phone calls from irritated neighbors who wish for me to spend my off time collecting chickens from their properties. I tell the Hussies I’ve resorted to forcing my evening visitors into chicken-wrangling, in which I throw a tarp over the sleeping group and together we haul them down the hill and put them back into their perfectly darling chicken house filled with dry fluffy hay. They reply, “We were wondering what that was all about.”

Then I cautiously bring up the topic of eggs. THE POINT OF ALL THIS.

They pretend not to understand. “What are these ‘eggs’ of which you speak? Forgive us, we are dumb chickens. Is that a spider?”

One morning after a successful chicken wrangling, I was out on my deck with a cup of coffee. I looked with satisfaction and pleasure, down the hill at my lovely ladies: Tawny, Lacey, and the twins Jamie and Phil. They were safely inside their fence, clucking contentedly, eating grass, scratching for spiders. I was filled with such love for them, I called down “Good morning my chickies!!”

All four froze and turned to see me for the first time, squawking “Mom!” in unison. As you would expect if there were four Harrier jets ready for a mission, the ladies rose into the air and shot toward me. One after another, they lifted straight up and over their four-foot fence, then rocketed through the air up the hill in military formation, directly to me standing on the deck. I’ve never seen chickens fly like that. I thought the appropriate response would have been to scold them to teach a lesson, but instead I was flattered.

Still no eggs. I looked up “hussy” in Urban Dictionary and one of the definitions was “chicken.” So I had to look up chicken, and one of the definitions is a female with attractive breasts and thighs. Do you think it’s time to remind them of what happens to chickens who don’t lay?

This morning a new kind of fowl caught my attention.

Something pure white in the pond caught my eye from the kitchen window. I stared and had mostly convinced myself it was a duck. Multiple ducks, from the appearance of movement. I got out the camera and used the zoom lens to confirm. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen ducks on the pond.

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Male and female Hooded Merganser moved to the far side of the pond when they saw me sneaking down the hill toward them.

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The group of six female mergansers also decided to scoot away when I showed up. Here I captured only one straggler.

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I think it looks like a proper pond for the first time. Ducks are an excellent accessory.

In the past I have accidentally startled a lone goose, who exploded skyward as soon as I was spotted. I would love to have some long term pond-dwellers. I crept slowly down the hill, hoping not to frighten them, I hid behind trees, and crept as close as I dared. I watched them dive for goodies underwater, then pop back up onto the surface.

If they decide to stay, I hope they don’t talk to the Hussies, or I’ll likely find myself building another ineffective pen and buying more pellets for ungrateful birds.

I’m not sure this pole is as squirrel-proof as the company who sold it to me believes it to be. However, I added some olive oil, and that was more effective.

P.S. Don’t you just love the symphony of bird voices I get to hear while I work from home?

This is Peanut. He was sort of freaked out about the Nikon, but not so freaked out that he was going to pass up a peanut.

This is Peanut. He was sort of freaked out about the Nikon, but not so freaked out that he was going to pass up a peanut.

Quick note today. I just managed to snap this photo and wanted to show it to you.

The squirrels and I have a complex relationship of both attraction and conflict. I’ve trained two of them to eat from my hand: Peanut, the fat red one. And Mushroom, the silver and white one. They are both males, which proves I haven’t lost my appeal at 45. Yes, if I am handing out food, the boys will still be putty in my hands! Peanut is so greedy, he will put his tiny squirrel fingers on my fingers to pull my hand to him and get that peanut faster.

The problem with our relationship is that they also believe that the bird feeders are for them too. Peanut will pull the lid off the larger feeder and curl up inside it, and munch seeds. Mushroom has a sweet tooth, and prefers the hummingbird feeder. He will put one of the plastic flower tubes in his mouth, tip the feeder, and gulp, gulp, gulp.

I can see them from my work desk at home, and I come busting out of the house, yelling, “Get off the hummingbird feeder you brat! And you! Quit spilling cracked corn all over the grass!”

They hop a couple feet away and look at me, “Did you bring peanuts?”

My cousin called me the Squirrel Whisperer. I’ve been asked if I have taught them to pick up lentils and fold laundry yet, like in a Disney film. Not YET.

Western Scrub-Jay checking the area to see if it's being watched.

Western Scrub-Jay checking the area to see if it’s being watched.

I should have been focusing on my work, I know. But sometimes it’s much more interesting to gaze through the window at the backyard.

One of the ubiquitous Western Scrub-Jays was digging with its beak. He must have been hitting a small rock in the soil, because it went “tink, tink, tink,” as the bird gouged its beak repeatedly down. It seemed curious to me that the jay was going to so much trouble to peck a hole. If it was after insects, they surely would have scurried away by now, but the bird focused on one spot.

Tink, tink, tink, tink.

Then it picked up something that looked like a peanut, dropped it into the hole, and scratched dirt over it. What?! As I watched, the jay looked around, picked up a leaf, and dropped it onto the top of the place it had just been digging. I told myself it was coincidence. I would never have guessed a bird would be savvy about camouflage.

A little later, I watched the same scenario again, with another peanut, and a leaf. (That morning I had emptied the last of the contents from my peanut bag, that I keep to feed the squirrels.) I looked it up online, and sure enough, Western Scrub-Jays will cache food. I learned something new today!

Jay up on his tip-toes looking for a good spot to cache.

Jay up on his tip-toes looking for a good spot to cache.

Jay about to drop some food into a hole.

Jay about to drop some food into a hole.

I am so impressed with what I learned that I am going to share some of the fascinating facts with you. Scrub-Jays will also collect and bury treasure, and they actually remember their caches and can go right to them when they need to, remembering not only where they are but also what’s in them. Squirrels can’t be that smart. I’ll bet squirrels just wander around and hope they get lucky. Western Scrub-Jays are not necessarily honorable, but they are clever, and will spy on another jay burying its cache, so that they can go steal it. And, get this, Western Scrub-Jays will remember if they were being watched while they cached something, and will come back later in privacy, and dig it up and move it.

i saw my first Stellar's Jay in the yard today! I see these all over the forest, but now finally, in my yard too. Aren't they gorgeous?

i saw my first Steller’s Jay in the yard today! I see these all over the forest, but now finally, in my yard too. Aren’t they gorgeous?

She says, "Um, excuse me? it isn't polite to stare."

She says, “Um, excuse me? It isn’t polite to stare.”

The fabulous Disneyland castle, mini-sized to be more fun for kids, but still pretty darn immense and impressive.

The fabulous Disneyland castle, mini-sized to be more fun for kids, but still pretty darn immense and impressive.

Look at that castle! I think it’s stunning in the morning sunshine. We were in Anaheim for six days, and the first four of them were cold, grey, cloudy, and even a little wet. But on our last morning to go into the park, there was blue sky everywhere and the sun came out and made everything sparkle. We could see the mountains around the city of L.A. from our hotel room, it was so clear.

Wandering around the two parks (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), I marveled again and again at how drastically our landscape changed. We were in jungles and cities and deserts and on spaceships and underground.

Where do you think Disneyland is? Looking at the photo of the castle above, a reasonable person might guess it’s in the forest.

And if you guessed forest, you would be right. Disneyland is in the forest, with rivers and geysers.

And if you guessed forest, you would be right. Disneyland is in the forest, with rivers and geysers.

But… a reasonable person is not familiar with the forests of Anaheim.

Disneyland is in a desert! Everyone knows LA is in the desert.

That’s because Disneyland is in a desert! Everyone knows Anaheim is in the desert.

It's a beautiful desert, with live cacti, Route 66, and red cliffs.

It’s a beautiful wide-open, empty desert, with live cacti, Route 66, and red cliffs.

But wait… weren’t we in the middle of a gigantic city in southern California?

Yes, a city packed with buildings and people is where one finds Disneyland.

Yes, a city packed with buildings and people is where one finds Disneyland.

It's a large city, with industry, a town hall, a pagoda, a fire house, and more!

It’s a large city, with industry, a town hall, a pagoda, a fire house, and more!

That’s not a real city.

Are you thinking of a city like this?

Are you thinking of a city like this?

With a grand City Hall instead of a Toon City Hall?

With a grand City Hall instead of a Toon City Hall?

And a stately entrance like this?

And a stately entrance like this?

Yes, yes, that looks like a city to hold Disneyland. So, where did those trees come from?

Disneyland is in the snowy Alps, with crashing waterfalls, birch trees, and granite peaks.

The trees are in the snowy Alps, with crashing waterfalls, birch trees, and granite peaks.

Don't forget the Bavarian ski lodge.

Don’t forget the Bavarian ski lodge.

Let Olaf assure you: Disneyland is in the snow, for certain.

Let Olaf assure you: Disneyland is in the snow and trees, for certain.

I thought California was known more for….

Vineyards? Yes! California is where one finds grapes.

Vineyards? Yes! California is where one finds grapes.

Well I was thinking more along the lines of….

Jungle? With bamboo and cicadas screeching all day while we walked beneath dripping vines.

Jungle? With bamboo and cicadas screeching all day while we walked beneath dripping vines.

Wait a minute, things are not normal in that jungle! Since when do fireflies provide nighttime lighting?

If you see a jungle you want it to look like this.

If you see a jungle you want it to look like this.

With temple ruins and Bengal tigers and fat lazy rivers?

With temple ruins and Bengal tigers and fat lazy rivers?

Yes! Now that’s a real jungle! Now wait, you tricked me. We were trying to figure out where Disneyland is.

It's in a jungle, I'm telling you. And all the people live in treehouses.

It’s in a jungle, I’m telling you. And all the people live in treehouses.

Stop messing with me.

In a manicured garden beside a pond, you will find the park.

In a manicured garden beside a pond, you will find the park.

Or you may find it in a crazy Small World castle.

Or you may find it in a crazy Small World castle.

Again, I must protest. That is no castle.

Ah, but you see, the park is in a castle.

Ah, but you see, the park is in a castle.

The park is contained in high stone walls with turrets and towers and royalty.

The park is contained in high stone walls with turrets and towers and royalty.

It's a truly beautiful place.

It’s a truly beautiful place.

You are not being direct. You haven’t given me a clear sense of what kind of place I’ll find it in.

A Moroccan marketplace

A Moroccan marketplace

It's in an Old West frontier town.

It’s in an Old West frontier town.

Or possibly you'll find it in Hollywood of days past.

Or possibly you’ll find it in Hollywood of days past.

Here's a lovely place. Why don't we put Disneyland in this area of gardens and hills and foliage with mountains in the background. Hm, that peak looks a bit ominous.

Here’s a lovely place. Why don’t we put Disneyland in this area of gardens and hills and foliage with mountains in the background. Hm, that peak looks a bit ominous.

Ok, now that is a threatening mountain. Maybe Disney shouldn't be here after all.

Yikes! That is a threatening mountain. Maybe Disney shouldn’t be here after all.

Alright, stop it. You’re messing with me. Where is the park?

You'll find your park at an enormous carnival at the beach.

You’ll find your park at an enormous carnival at the beach.

See? Mickey Mouse logo and all; the park is here.

See? Mickey Mouse logo and all; the park is here.

Or, maybe it's in this wild world of futuristic science and space travel.

Or, maybe it’s in this wild world of futuristic science and space travel.

Possibly you'll find it in the deep South, with huge plantation houses and dripping Spanish moss.

Possibly you’ll find it in the deep South, with huge plantation houses and dripping Spanish moss.

Or in a regular California town in the warm and sunny coast lands.

Or in a regular California town in the warm and sunny coast lands.

Enough! I’m tired of playing at this. In order for everything you’ve shown me to be true, Disneyland must be in an entirely different kind of place, where the world changes completely around every corner. A place where every new sight is even more surprising than the last. If all of this exists, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks must be awfully big.

Indeed. So big that we used this to go from place to place.

Indeed. So immense that we could use this to go from place to place.

A Lesser Finch finds birch seeds outside my window.

A Lesser Goldfinch finds birch seeds outside my window.

Squirrel with attitude

Cheeky squirrel ensures my bird feeder never retains much seed.

Aside from the distinct disadvantage of shooting through glass, I have had a blast watching the critters from my office window this winter, and photographing them. I’ve learned so much! I now keep a (totally non-work-related) Word document on my desktop that includes a list of birds I’ve identified, and the dates I saw them. I’m not sure I’m right on my bird identification, but at least I take the time to make a good guess. I’ll bet by this time next year, I’ll feel a lot more sure of what I’m seeing.

A treeful of lesser goldfinches. Can you see them all? And they make the sweetest cacophony of fluttering and twittering when they are in the weeping birch tree. And below the fluff of the seed pods floats down like snow below them.

A treeful of lesser goldfinches. I count eleven. And they make the sweetest cacophony of fluttering and twittering when they are in the weeping birch tree. And below the fluff of the seed pods floats down like snow below them.

The window has received more attentive cleaning, inside and out, than it has had since we moved into this place in November 2011.

I’ve seen things I never expected to see. Last week, four juncos perched at the hummingbird feeder at once, testing the sugar water. They decided simultaneously that they didn’t like it, and flew off in unison. I’ve seen squirrels chase and chase each other, in circles, up and down trees, round and round the yard. Hilarious.

I watched a chickadee chase off a lesser goldfinch from seeds on the ground. And that cracked me up too, because the chickadee was all fluffed up and large compared to the goldfinch, and was being threatening and aggressive. It’s hard for me to think of chickadees as big mean birds, since they’re about 2 1/2 inches tall. I’ll bet they don’t get the chance to chase off others very often.

Speaking of small birds, I am surprised to discover that the birds that often make the most noise back there are the hummingbirds. I didn’t even know how to identify a hummingbird’s sound before, now they are raucous.

The Northern Flickers take my breath away with their size and beauty.

The Northern Flickers take my breath away with their size and beauty.

Can't you just feel that nasty cold wind and snow blasting? The juncos kept hiding on the windward side of the feeder, little darlings.

Can’t you just feel that nasty cold wind and snow blasting? The juncos kept hiding on the leeward side of the feeder, little darlings.

Oh, she was too fast and I missed the shot. Hello, dear. Can I help you? I've never seen a chicken in my yard before, but she is as welcome as all the other birds.

Oh, she was too fast and I missed the shot. Hello, dear. Can I help you? I’ve never seen a chicken in my yard before, but she is as welcome as all the other birds.

Well. You knew this was going to happen eventually.

Well. You knew this was going to happen eventually.

Hummingbird sipping juice from plastic flowers. I haven't decided what kind he is.

Hummingbird sipping juice from plastic flowers. I haven’t decided what kind he is.

I call them the silver squirrel and the red squirrel. There is no better way to explain it!

The silver squirrel and the red squirrel. There is no better way to describe them!

I hadn't set the tent up yet, but that's my camp, just above the water.

I hadn’t set the tent up yet, but that’s my camp, just above the water.

{as always, please click an image for the original size version}

If you were here, you would have to shake my hand and clap me on the back. I crammed a bunch of gear into my old pack and hauled that baby into the mountains yesterday. For the first time in 8 years.

columbine

columbine

I used to head out several times a summer. Since then, I’ve moved twice and don’t know the area, switched from summer parent to most-of-the-year parent, I’ve been sent on long-distance and long-term work trips the last two summers, and otherwise have found ways to fill my weekends so full that an overnight in the mountains just didn’t seem feasible.

This weekend I made it back home: to the woods.

My destination was High Lake, in the Mt. Hood National Forest (you recall the name of my favourite volcano). I chose the trail because it scored high on difficulty and high on solitude. The key idea here being: no people. The harder the hike, the less folks try it.

An example of the size of some of the blowdown over the trail. Egads.

An example of the size of some of the blowdown over the trail. Egads.

I left work early Friday and spent the time preparing my gear. You can’t believe how many dead spider carcasses I cleared from my pack. Dust, cobwebs, you name it. Arno had been kind enough to re-seal my waterproof Raichle boots while we watched Kinky Boots on Netflix a couple weeks ago. (It’s a great movie, you should rent it, then go see the Broadway show.) I found everything I wanted to have with me:  headlamp, compass, first aid kit, whisper lite stove, water filter, down sleeping bag rated to 0° when I bought it, but 12 years of lost down later, it’s probably only good to 15°.

Rhododendrons surrounded me nearly the entire length of the trail.

Rhododendrons surrounded me nearly the entire length of the trail.

Decadent pink extravagance

Decadent pink extravagance

I had a blast preparing food. With my daughter gone for a while this summer at her dad’s house, I am trying to clear the cabinets of food. I’ll eat pretty much anything, and I don’t require a balanced meal. I challenged myself to find backpacking food without going to the store. I grabbed angel hair pasta and a packet of powdered sauce, and a packet of tuna to add to the pasta for protein. I emptied a can of green chilis into a snack-sized ziplock for spice. (Don’t need the snack bags so much, now that Miss T is out of school).

For lunch I brought a tortilla to make a wrap, and coiled it into a cone and tucked it along the back of the pack to keep it in one piece.  For the filling, I cut a wedge of cream cheese and put that into a snack bag and added lots of dark meat from a leftover slow cooked chicken. I caramelized onions and garlic and put that in the bag. As I returned stuff to the fridge, I spotted a half-empty jar of sun dried tomatoes, and added some of those. Then double-bagged the snack baggie to prevent leaks. I hard boiled and peeled a couple eggs for a protein breakfast, and added home made oatmeal, walnut, and cranberry cookies. Then I mixed a little trail mix, with some of the amazing dried fruit and nuts I recently purchased from Nuts.com. (yes, an endorsement!)

Exposed rock beside the trail. You can see the trail, bottom right.

Exposed rock beside the trail. You can see the trail, bottom right.

The most important thing to bring on any outing of mine is coffee! So I filled (yet another) snack baggie with Peets Sulawesi Kalosi. For the lowest possible backpacking weight, I can’t go wrong with a plastic cone-shaped funnel and a couple #4 biodegradable filters. I chose the cheapest bottom-of-the-shelf wine I had, and poured it into a Nalgene bottle, since I love a fireside drink after a hard day humpin’ a pack. Why the cheapest? Because, if you are a camper or backpacker you will know, anything you eat or drink in the woods tastes twenty times better than it would in your kitchen.

Sadly, this is what most of the "views" consist of. I could tell there was a view out there somewhere.

Sadly, this is what most of the “views” consist of. I could tell there was a view out there somewhere.

I filled the fuel canister, filled my water bladder, collected some clothing, and packed it all into my pack. Dug my sleeping pad from the coat closet (I’ve been using it for a yoga mat) and strapped that opposite the tent on the outside of the pack. Testing the weight, I struggled to lift the whole contraption off the floor. And then decided to get a good night’s sleep and leave in the morning.

In the morning I hefted the pack again and was dismayed by the weight. I pulled out a few things, including a nalgene bottle, thinking “Now why would I need an extra bottle of water when I have the bladder?” The last thing I did in the morning was brush my teeth, and I took off in high spirits. Only remembering somewhere along the trail that I forgot the wax for my braces, when I began noticing how raw and snagged the inside of my mouth was getting…

Now, when I say I followed the ridgeline, I mean...

Now, when I say I followed the ridgeline, I mean…

The first thing I noticed on the trail was that it was high season for rhododendrons to blossom. They are among the most delightful things a person can find in the Oregon woods. These lush, gorgeous, pink explosions were along the entire trail. They inspired me to begin photographing wildflowers. Check out my set of wildflowers on flickr. I did get many, but not all, of the incredible smorgasbord of flowers.

A mess o' indian paintbrush and larkspur

Dazzling mix of Indian paintbrush and larkspur

What a beautiful cairn

What a beautiful cairn

Thank goodness for the flowers because the trail did not offer views I am accustomed to in the mountains. I remained below treeline and beneath canopies. The views, I could tell, were out there. Just not available to me. It was frustrating to see the glistening snow on a nearby volcano, with a view not even clear enough to identify which volcano.

I had Thrift Shop playing in my head all dang weekend. I kid you not. There’s this bird who, in a cranky elderly lady bronchitis voice, goes “whatwhat what what. whatwhat what what.” And, obviously, my brain filled in the rest of the song. “I’m gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket…” Crazy song to be hearing in my head in the woods.

There were many ginormous anthills seething with trillions of ants!

There were many ginormous anthills seething with trillions of ants! I had to walk right through them. shuddder.

I climbed steeply at first, then followed the ridgelines for a long time. My ascent continued steadily up, rising 2000 feet after 3 ½ miles. Then a quick drop of 300 feet to the lake. Dare I be snobbish on my first trip out? The person who wrote the guide must be catering to city people. It was not a difficult trail. I will earnestly agree that I stopped for breath. A lot. But it was a nice gradual up, up, up, up. No skill required other than fortitude.

The trail down to the lake still had a little snow

The trail down to the lake still had a little snow

There were many brushy areas where the trail was obscured by the gentle fingers of wild roses and gooseberries. Their little green claws brushed the bugs off, scoured down the first couple layers of epidermis, and gave me a pretty close shave as well. So that was all good.

Oh, and tons of scrambling over logs across the trail. That’s the downside to getting an early start on the hiking season: trails haven’t been cleared yet. I grabbed and flung branches when I wasn’t gasping for breath. But those logs. There must have been six of them chest-high to me. I just mooshed myself and my backpack onto them and toppled over the other side as ungracefully as any 43-year-old would. Passing a young, attractive couple who had stepped aside to allow me to negotiate a large area of downed trees and branches, the woman remarked, “Yes, the pack does change your center of balance, doesn’t it?” I thought, bless you beautiful child for not calling me old.

High Lake, looking up toward Fish Creek Mountain

High Lake, looking up toward Fish Creek Mountain

So yeah. The author nailed it for solitude about as accurately as he described the difficulty. That lake – a beautiful little 2.5 acre lake – was the busiest mountain lake I have ever seen. Is it always like this in Oregon? I have been so spoiled. I got the last available space to set up a tent, and thankfully it was far away from the others. While futzing around camp the rest of the day, I saw a steady stream of visitors bringing their dogs and dropping lines into the lake hoping for one of those gorgeous trout I saw. There were guys alone, guys who brought their buddies, and guys who brought their girlfriends. They were all younger than me. Even the dogs. In dog years.

To get myself in the mood for setting up camp, I went to get a cup of wine and …slapped my forehead. The nalgene bottle had WINE in it. Damn.

The tent beside the water, and also beside an outflow creek that provided a lovely gurgling sound to go to sleep to.

The tent beside the water, and also beside an outflow creek that provided a lovely gurgling sound to go to sleep to.

The "view" of Mt. Jefferson (I think) from my campsite

The “view” of Mt. Jefferson (I think) from my campsite

After I set up my tent and ate my wrap (ooh! It was incredible! Did it sound delish above? Well, it was even better.), I laid down in a sunny spot and didn’t quite doze, but was pretty much devoid of production of any kind. I came to life again to splashes and shouted profanity burst (unbidden, I am certain!) from the mouths of a dad and teenage son who wanted to flush the top layer of hike grime from their bodies, and had jumped into the lake.

Looking south. The larger campsite that held two groups of campers is out of view to the right. My camp site is out of view to the left.

Looking south. The larger campsite that held two groups of campers is directly ahead on the far side of the lake. My camp site is out of view to the left.

granite reflection

granite reflection

My rest had rejuvenated me. My muscles cried, “We feel great; let’s go on an adventure.” I answered supportively, “Great idea! What’s your plan? Hike to the top of nearby Fish Creek Mountain? The lookout? Find a trail around the lake?” “Find a place to go to the bathroom!” the muscles cried. “And after that?” I asked. “We need to take a whiz now! Whiz! Whiz!” So I scrambled through the huckleberries and gooseberries, over the hill, cushioned from any theoretical falls by thick layers of bark and pine needles. Business accomplished, I asked my muscles, “OK! Now for the adventure! Where was it you wanted to go?” And they answered, “Oh, we thought that was the adventure. We’re good now. Thanks.”

So I stayed at the lake.

The forecast had called for rain to arrive sometime in the night, and it was spot on. I had the rain flap on already, but I typically use it in the mountains for heat, even when there is no rain expected. My yoga mat was warm and comfy (and only 4 ounces), my sleeping bag was perfect, and so was the little hike pillow I have, that was a gift from a friend I hiked with once. I bounced out of the tent at 6am and brewed a delicious cup of coffee. I ate breakfast with my second cup of coffee, and said goodbye to the darling little newts in the lake.

cute newt

cute newt

<aside>These Rough Skinned Newts are wonderful. Either they’re blind or have no fear; they didn’t mind my hovering over them. They look like the last stage of water-dwelling creature before that virgin trek onto land: four well-developed limbs and eyes in front. They eat insects, gobbling them out of the water and blowing a little bubble with each gulp. When they meet, they touch

that face!

that face!

each other before moving on. Sometimes it was just one arm out against the body of the other, but I saw a group of three take turns hugging each other (just the two top limbs pressed on the shoulders of the other – a quick press – then off again). Ok, I obviously supposed it could be related to mating, but all of them did it: a quick touch, then move on. Whatever it was, I was happy to imagine it an innerspecies “hello.” </aside>

The trip back to the car took almost as much time as the trip in, because I kept lollygagging. Then I got the idea to take the empty ziplock that had held my pasta, and fill it with the delicate green pine tips of new growth on all the trees I passed. I’ve meant to try to make pine needle jelly my whole life, the way my Pa used to make it, and now I am going to try it.

In no time, the trip was over, and I zoomed back home to see if I could find time to do some laundry, pay bills, catch up on email and maybe do a blog post before it was time to go to bed and get ready for Monday.

I dare you not to pee while staring at a waterfall.

I dare you not to pee while staring at a waterfall.

Arno showed me this photo he took from the men’s restroom in the Oregon Convention Center Saturday while he and the boys were at a Lego Con. I love this intentional manipulation, playing with our inability to resist allowing a photo of a waterfall to trigger the need to urinate. We all know the sound of running water tugs at our lower genitourinary tract. There is some brilliant designer somewhere who needed to find a way to get folks in and out of the bathroom quickly, to ensure the Convention Center lines rotated through people on break as quickly as possible. If only the boys could have peered into the women’s bathroom to see what they have. Honestly, I don’t think a photo of a waterfall would be sufficient to get the women to take care of their business and get the heck out of there. You’ve seen the lines to the women’s restroom. It would take a cowboy with a red-hot branding iron, threatening to brand “Dawdler” onto her round pale butt if she didn’t wrap it up in the next 10 seconds. It reminded me of the flies in urinals in Amsterdam. You know, you remember that email that was forwarded to you in 2008, and 2005, and 2004? An article from NPR explores the idea a little more, to my savage delight. It explains that the forwarded email is true, and further, it’s scientifically supported that when men have a target, they aim for it without even knowing they’re aiming. And aiming for a fly is more appealing than aiming for a dot. Is it really proof that men never outgrow boyhood? That when faced with the mundane task of relieving themselves, they can be immediately side tracked by the opportunity to drown a fly? That when thinking about the totally cool Lego Hogwarts replica – complete with quidditch field – they can be so easily reminded that they are in front of the urinal for a single reason, and that is to empty their bladder? Oh, I love you men. I foresee a lifetime of continued amusement for me. 😉

Any resemblance?

Any resemblance?

On Thursday I got braces.  I had been wanting braces for the past two years. Added bonus: maybe I’ll slim down over the holidays.

I had braces at age 15, got them off at 16. My teeth had been remarkably crooked then. We’re talking the kind of bad teeth that make a teenager hold her hand in front of her mouth when she smiles. One of my front teeth actually hung out over my lip when my mouth was closed. My small mouth was so crowded that a new incisor began growing in the roof of my mouth. Yep, they were that bad.

But the braces worked; my mouth looked great. My joke for the longest time was, “I’m never getting braces again!” The assumption being, like bungee jumping, once you’ve done it once, you don’t actually have to do it again. You’ve done your time.

My new theory is that my teeth are naturally inclined to be so ferociously crooked, that they simply couldn’t abide by the neat straight rows, and – though it took 25 years – they managed to get all cockeyed once more.

This is the 4th day I’ve had metal in my teeth, and I’ll lay it out there: not a big fan. Dr. Angle’s office staff is fabulous, and this was loads less traumatic than the first time. Braces have made big changes in all these years. Still, there are multiple levels of pain: headache, jawache, pain chewing, pain in the butt. The sharp metal barbs are tearing the inside of my mouth to shreds, and they catch food particles just as well in 2012 as they did in 1986.

In fact, that’s the basis of the dieting plan: too lazy to clean your teeth? Don’t eat!

Just the thought of using the array of tiny plastic clean-your-braces tools brings a defeated sigh to my lips. There’s a one-inch bottle brush on a  two-inch handle, Eez-Thru floss threader, floss, concave toothbrush, long-handled dental mirror, mini toothbrush, travel toothbrush, and a bottle of fluoride rinse. There is a container of soft wax, to pack around the metal barbs once teeth are cleaned, to minimize cheek lacerations.

There is Canadian Whiskey, to numb the pain of the open wounds. (Actually, Dr. Angle’s office didn’t provide that)

Following the routine as instructed is maddening. The flossing alone takes me 15 minutes because I have to take the threading tool, get the floss up underneath the wire, unthread it, then floss that one gap. Then pull the floss out, get the tool again, thread into the next gap, etc. I’ll have to set my alarm earlier just to get to work on time! So imagine that every time you eat, even just a nibble, even just one bite of Wonder Bread (and it’s as though you’re chewing venison jerky), necessitates the routine. You will have to first spit out all the disgusting food-infused wax (that is, the parts you didn’t swallow), then begin the half-hour clean routine. Kinda makes you want to have the whiskey instead, right?

I drove into town the night before last, to pick up my daughter from the nickel arcade. I had been “dieting” all day. The brief, imagined conversation between me and an attentive officer of the law went something like this:

“Ma’am, I smell alcohol. Can you step out of the car?”

“Honest, sir, I haven’t been drinking. Not actually drinking, just sipping. It’s medicinal really, because of my braces. I mean, heck, I’ve been at the bottle all day long, but just teeny tiny sips. I hold it in my mouth till everything’s totally numb. By that time, it’s partially evaporated. There’s barely enough to swallow.”

I couldn’t anticipate it would go very well. Rather, I just prayed to Bacchus that I wouldn’t attract attention.

Yesterday morning I woke starving! Interestingly, Crown Royal does not sate hunger pangs. Any kind of chewing hurts. Biting a banana seemed too much to bear. I made a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, originally placed into my cupboard to be used in some future casserole. Ah, blessed liquid food! I finished the entire can, and – still hungry – made a second and ate that too. (I didn’t chew the little mushroom pieces. They are small enough to swallow whole.)

At the hair stylist, there was a plate of star-shaped chocolate-coated Christmas cookies. My stylist raved about them, “You must have one!” I broke off one star point at a time, set it on my tongue, and waited till it got mushy, then swallowed. Oh, it was very good. It took me 10 minutes to eat one tiny star cookie. That was enough cookies.

Holiday fudge? Peanut brittle? Peppermink bark? Nope. Roast goose? Ham? You cannot tempt me! Salad? Broccoli? Are you kidding me?  I’ll make an exception for baked yams and all their mushy goodness.

Honey, be a dear and top off my glass, will you?

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