Archive for May, 2009

A Good Day

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Some days are decidedly better than others. Today is one of the best. Visitors improve my outlook. Michael, my firstborn, dropped by unexpectedly to get a first hand look at the McNary Education Center, recently built by US Fish and Wildlife as part of the Mid-Columbia River Refuge Complex. Granddaughter, Naomi came through last week on her regular route of special deliveries and wanted him to see the wonderful facility. He was equipped with his camera on a tripod. I had the Nikkon to get a shot of the baby kestrel in the nest box by the weeping willow tree at stumphenge for nwrmcnary.org. After much patience and tired arms, I succeeded as well as getting good white egret photos at the bird blind and catching black-capped terns in flight. Fish were jumping frantically in many areas of the water but I was not successful in capturing one with the head above the water.

Weather forecasts expected record temperatures and because it was already 69 F degrees at five am when I left my house, I knew that was no idle prediction. By noon while I hung out some underwear to dry, my fairly accurate thermometer registered 92. The heat does not deter starlings from cavorting in the neighbor’s dried lawn, nor the crows from cleaning up the remains of a squashed squirrel on the street.

The outdoor temperature heated up the house and I opened the windows to get a bit of a cross breeze. Very helpful. However the sun beat against the computer room window so I tacked up the window shade I removed from the kitchen some time past. I can roll it up if desired but it does cut off the direct sun from the window glass. I do not plan to use the A/C until after I return from Danny’s to prevent air exchange through the machine heating the room while I am gone. Therefore the insulating cover is still in place.

Michael recognized the problem I had with the last section of cedar fence. It was shrinking and slipping down from the brackets. A couple of blocks were nailed in place and that was fixed while recalling memories of Dad saying “When I nod my head, you hit it.”

Then I was back in the cool house and my easy chair to read more about Thomas Jefferson and his work to make our country a republic, his word for democracy.

Back to visitors. Last week a friend came by. Admiration of my ink drawings reminded me of the insect indigenous to Madagascar which I intend to draw for a childrens book. The cockroach pushes air through its trachea giving it a superiority (or so it insists as the story goes) over insects that rub legs together or flutter membranes. A good subject to catch the interest of young kids. Or the grandparents on the lookout for a cute book.

Whether it sells or not, making a story and planning its publication makes this a very good day.

What Rest?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

So here I am with one more day to work toward self publishing. Saturday was well spent and THE OPEN DOOR is ready for a cover design from Nancy when she gets time to do my stuff. I worked diligently on WILDLY IN THE ROCKIES Sunday, planning to stick to the computer until Ginny McIntyre called and wanted to have me over for a dinner party. She loves to cook and the more eaters the better. I begged off at first but then decided that by five pm I would need a break anyway.

Ginny picked Margaret, who was going to educate me on the group with which she went to Cuba. Once upon a time when I had traveling money I wanted to go there. Upon hearing the details I knew that traveling with a prayerful bunch of preachers would be beyond my endurance. We had some Mexican stuffing in a flour wrapping that was delicious and filling, although not so much that I couldn’t fit in hot rhubarb pie, all the while sipping cold salty Margaritas.

The alcohol disturbed my sleep off and on, as did the warm night air. Temperature hovered around sixty F degrees, too warm for my Pendleton blanket but too chilly without. I was up at 5 am for a fresh tomato and peas, thinking I could save electricity if I limited opening the fridge door only once to take out what I needed and once more to put stuff back. That took more planning than I was prepared for with a hangover so I blundered on.

Looking forward I have one more week of school kids at McNary — three days of first graders — then school and kids visits are over. I have two weeks to draw the figures for the childrens book about insects. Completion with Dan’s help is a hope I have of that book after June 15. Also a Createspace endeavor because iUniverse will not do childrens books. That publishing house does a good job of putting a book together but with considerable cost. I expect to have in hand a 350 page romance of Western/Intrigue for my perusal by the end of next week. If I approve it will be on Amazon, Books in Print, Barnes and Nobel and other top notch places.

Today is the last full day of non-stop editing, although my hips scream for relief that I cannot deny so there will be stops for basking under the full sun in this wonderful desert.

Through A Glass Darkly

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

How deceiving the environs can be when viewed through a windshield. At 0730 the sky to the east was very dark with clouds that threatened rain momentarily. Not only did rain not materialize but the clouds dissipated within hours. The culprit? High winds from the south. The clouds were simply cast hither and yon beyond the horizon.

However the wind did not steal in alone. The wind brought every loose piece of soil it could pick up across the areas where rooted greenery was absent. The condition was not unexpected. After the least bit of rain, the wind sweeps through my desert and wipes the moisture away. And when the day of education at McNary Discovery Center ended shortly after noon, I could ride my trusty Hyundai and yodel my way home. Westward ho. Into the wind.

Sure Badger mountain looked a bit like it got a tanning in yesterday’s 88 F degree sunshine, warm and comfortable in the distance. I knew better. The tan was the view through blowing sand. Farmers are tilling the soil in anticipation of spring planting. No matter how many acres of green crops tenaciously clutch the soil with healthy roots the capricious wind at thirty-plus miles per hour grabs a grain here and there and multiplies into a brown haze across the landscape.

It is fine as long as I can observe the view through a window. In real life some things simply have to be done outdoors. Like getting from the car into the house.

Thomas and Kathrin

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Nancy called last night just as I was about to leave en route to a party and we did not get to talk so here goes a report about it. More than a party it was a parting, the last time I could hug the Swiss volunteers with whom I had email and personal contact since February. USFW Region 1 sent out a notice then about 2 people from Switzerland looking for a five-week volunteer position. They had tried all the western parks and nature preserves they could find before trying national wildlife refuges. Everywhere else there were obstacles – stay for 3 months, or six months, no time for a security check — obstacles that obviously prevented their coming — the specified they had only 5 weeks. The Friends would be responsible for them and no government intervention necessary.

Administration receiving the offer in Burbank, Washington, said “No way. No time to train anybody, especially foreigners who would have no concept of US wildlife.” Well I knew that training volunteers was as easy as pointing to a task and letting human curiosity and ingenuity take over. However I wasn’t about to take just anybody. I researched their background and abilities. All the information I turned up about them was positive. They had resources to take care of themselves. They had jobs to which they were obliged to return. I was most happy to accept their offer of volunteering during that limited time. Their offer was a gift. And I said come along, fly into Pasco and I will pick you up. I will see that you have a place to stay but you will have to rent a vehicle for the month – $700.

They were thrilled. Even more than I was. And now at the end of those five weeks Kathrin Buehler and Thomas Fischer are leaving the Tri-Cities and the McIntyre’s where they shared a bed in a single room and used kitchen and laundry facilities. When I arrived Thomas was concentrating on a recipe of cheese fondue. Kathrin was loading a batch of clothes to be ready for the next day’s departure. She does not like cheese and in fact is fussy about eating anything. And she did not drink the white wine except to toast all around. The party was a personal thank you knowing that I was responsible for their opportunity of service. In all ways I have been gifted by their presence.

They were as reluctant to think about these last hugs as I was. But hug we did. This was a parting not a party. I have a feeling that they formed friendships which will bring them back when time permits.

Celebrate!

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

This is really about May 7. I simply got home too late to get it on JAM before ten pm which means that by the time it gets to the server and back it is tomorrow.

Work had to be done before any form of party. Sixty third grade students came from McGee Elementary school in Pasco for our fabulous environmental learning stations. They experienced leaves from the native plant area to the water’s edge, invertebrates from the water and mud, birds on the wing and in the water, life of the Wanapum Peoples in a most unlikely canvas covered teepee, and the full gamete of creatures with backbones. The wind whipped up froth on the pond and dust around the corners of the Discovery Center. Shannon, Deb, Mary (Cooke), Kathrin, Thomas and I did the honors with a new volunteer, Donna, shadowing to see what our fun was all about.

After the kids waved exuberant goodbyes, another slab of cement was calling to be subjected to the footprints of wildlife that would run across or land on the north side of the administration building. So we stomped those skunk, mice, eagles, herons and deer. Actually the process requires dusting the forms with powder, spacing them biologically correctly, then using a maul to set them. Then the washup. Can’t put the foots away dirty.

Our Swiss volunteers, Kathrin and Thomas, treated us to strawberries and Swiss cream. That was their thankyou for having the wonderful experience of volunteering at the Refuge for 5 weeks. They photographed us and the USFW staff who could pull the telephones out of their ears long enough for the treat.

Home for a couple of hours during which I pulled weeds out of my driveway and chopped vegetables for the stone soup to go to the pot luck at the Tri-Cities Democrat meeting tomorrow night. I was unsuccessful at getting a nap regardless of how long I tried. Then it was off to a swanky restaurant to give the Swiss a taste of the Pacific Northwest — chowder and huckleberries. I had a shrimp cocktail. And white Kiona wine. Kathrin turned 30 a few days ago so that was also part of the celebration. I feel like I partied all day. Couldn’t be all the rich food I ate. Of course not.

And So It Blows

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Daybreak came early as it has been these days in May, and I was not particularly excited about getting out from under my warm blankets. I headed eastward toward my Refuge facing a gloriously sunny day. Rearing up on the eastern horizon was a rim of suspiciously dark clouds. I know the earth turns toward the east and eventually those clouds would sweep overhead and blot out the sun. And sure enough, before the day was over the sky was gray. Not one drop of rain fell!

Sixty first-grade kids could handle that. They took turns inside a little wooden building we call our Bird Blind, inside the canvas teepee, or under six foot high sagebrush, or inside our fabulous new Education Center so it wasn’t as if they had to suffer the thirty mile an hour dust storm in the open for five hours. Except that the wind blew from the west-northwest right across the water which seemed to cool the air below the thermometer reading. Birds managed to fly through it all, baby kestrels squawked when mama left them, and blackbirds peeked around the phragmites, not wanting to get pushed around any more than I did.

How could I complain? Poor me. I was stuck inside the classroom showing differences between the five classes of vertebrates. Do you remember, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals? The story of evolution was never so welcome because it kept me out of the wind.

With the continuous turning of the world fun was over and the kids took off on their big yellow bus. We enclosed our teaching aids in plastic tubs to be used on yet another day. In no time at all I drove westward with the sun in my face at about the same angle as it was six hours past. Now the sun is preparing to slip off the opposite side of the sky but the wind still blows. It is past time the wind took the hint and slowed down to rest.