2. I’m reading Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe. I don’t think I read it as a child after all; it was one of those books that was always in the background, at the school library and classroom collections and garage sales. Strawberry Girl was another one, maybe I should try that next. Anyway, The Endless Steppe has the fascination of autobiography combined with the comfort of knowing it’s also a middle-grade book and there’s a limit to how terrible things will get in it. A limit lower than the one in Between Shades of Gray, which surprised me a couple of times with character deaths.
A browse at Wikipedia told me that Esther Hautzig’s daughter Deborah Hautzig wrote a novel I liked in junior high, Second Star to the Right— a fictionalized account of her anorexia. She’s written an afterword–1998 but new to me– that I’m going to read as soon as I post this. I do appreciate it when authors make new forewords and afterwords available online.
3. I was in a “must under no circumstances run out of tea” mood and placed an order at Stash, my hometown tea outfit. I tried Black Forest Black Tea and have come to the conclusion that cocoa shells do not provide what I consider to be a chocolatey flavor. It’s earthy and not terrible or anything, but not what I had in mind. I still have high hopes for Breakfast In Paris– black tea, lavender, bergamot, and vanilla.
It’s been raining all weekend, but today wasn’t too cold. I pulled on my rain gear and walked down to the canyon at Reed. It felt great to be out.
I didn’t spot the resident beavers, but they’re around.
I don’t think of camellias as December flowers, but they look as good now as they do any other time.
In the more urban part of my walk, I listened to Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life until my player’s battery died. Both this one and David Levithan’s Every Day, which I read last week, keep making me think in the back of my head while I read, “How’s the author going to pull this off? Corner is painted…what’s the path out of it?” I sort of wish I could turn this writerly perspective off, because it’s different from wondering how the characters will solve their problems. Every Day weakened a little at the end, I thought, with a Brand New Choice taking center stage. (And the main character’s last machination? It’s in character but kind of obnoxious, I thought, a little insulting and unnecessary!) I still don’t know what will happen with How to Save a Life. But highly worthwhile, both of them.
Sanguinity and I watched Terminator 2: Judgment Day last night! I hadn’t seen it since college. Why is it called “Judgment Day”? It isn’t actually about Judgment Day. Anyway, you know what I could hardly stand? The way Sarah and John both have their bangs in their eyes. Srsly I was like, fine save the world but please get your hair out of your face! It’s no coincidence that I trimmed my bangs this morning.
Work this week, and then a week and a half off! I secretly love the budget furloughs. I’d never take this many vacation days on my own for “no reason,” meaning no extended travel, but I’m psyched.
Remember how a few weeks ago I was yearning for something new to happen on my way through the Reed canyon? Yesterday I had just come down the slope from the street to the canyon floor when the bleeding-heart plant next to me started rustling. I leaned closer to see what little critter or bird was in there, then saw that the noise was coming from water drops hitting the leaves. It was a cloudy, still morning; had a rain shower started? But when I looked up, all the droplets were falling from one tree branch. I stepped back to get a better look, and confirmed: I’d almost been peed on by a squirrel 30 feet up. So that’s new.
At a trail junction a mother and daughter were staring at something I couldn’t see. “What are you looking at?” I stage-whispered, not wanting to blunder through and scare whatever it was. It turned out they were looking at the thimbleberry bush right in front of them, where one of these perched on a leaf:
None of us knew what it was, but the internet told me later it’s a banded alder borer. (Photo by Patrick Loes for forestryimages.org.)
When I passed the bee tree, it was very active and I could smell it! Like honey plus sap.
A kingfisher flew down the canyon on the other side of the water. I was looking through gaps in the greenery and couldn’t see it for long, but I could hear that rattling call that I always try to remember for the future.
Last weekend I hardly got out for exercise at all, and it made me restless and moody. I realized it was like I was tapering, but there wasn’t even a race to give it a point. Also in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading race reports with renewed interest. I think I’m ready to–and need to–ramp up the running again. Sang is going to be working most evenings for the next couple of months, so I have all sorts of plans for after-work writing and workouts. We’ll see.
By the end of the week, on Friday, I was feeling nature-deprived. In the car on the way home from chinuk lolo I said to Sanguinity, “On Sunday we could go for a hike in the Gorge.”
“We could do that,” she allowed.
“I want to.”
She agreed right away. It was that kind of I-want-to in my voice.
On Saturday, while Sang was teaching in Salem, I ran down through the college canyon. Well, mostly I walked, especially once I was on the trail and looking around. I became aware of how much I was telling myself stories in my head that I already knew, about what plants were growing near each other, what was in season, what birds were on the water. Sometimes I find it comforting to know all that stuff, feel local, narrate it to some invisible audience in my head. But now I was sick of it and felt a strong desire to learn something new from walking through and watching. Anything new, just something.
The salmonberries were ripe, but the thimbleberries hadn’t turned red yet. A juvenile mallard swimming with its parents was still in its fluffy plumage, but not for long. The turtles were sunning on their usual log; the bee tree was busy.
I continued down across the landbridge and into the lower canyon. As I crossed one of the small footbridges I saw a heron out of the corner of my eye. It was close, a few arms’-lengths away, and standing still. Clearly it did not want to be noticed.
And that seemed to be enough for me– discovering a new heron hangout. I don’t even know if it’s a habitual one, like the spot further up by the peninsula. The itch for something new was scratched. It was even okay to skip the hike on Sunday for the sake of getting the tomatoes, basil, and peppers into the garden before it really was too late, instead of just feeling too late.
When I mentioned the heron to my dad in an email, he wrote back: Great blue heron’s 2nd defense, if not being observed fails, is to stab the attacker’s eyes. We had to wear protective goggles when banding g.b. herons in a nesting colony. Even nestlings know, “go for the eyes.”
At about eleven this morning I sat bolt upright on the couch. “I have to go to Ken’s and take care of the cats today!” I said to Sanguinity.
Now, Ken and Dale only left on Friday afternoon, so yesterday would have been the soonest I’d go over there. It’s fine to wait til today because they are cats. But, I did not think of Loaner Kitty and Hermi-1 once yesterday! I mean, what if they just hadn’t popped up in my brain for several more days? It seems unreal, and not like me.
I’m going over there when Sang comes home from work, with the car.
Not a lot to salvage from this day, but I did complete my first long run of the year. Six miles, for a Week One total mileage of fourteen. It was fine. I ran around the college track and listened to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. It ended just when it was time to head home through the canyon.
I’ve walked through the canyon four times since the turn of the year, starting on New Year’s Day. I half wish I had an internet project going, posting photos every x interval and so on, but 1) I don’t need another internet project, and 2) maybe I want my acquaintance with the canyon to be more quiet than that, a gradual accretion of knowledge and familiarity. Oh, and 3) my camera is kind of big and I’ve never been that diligent at carrying and using it.
But here’s a photo from New Year’s that shows the general look of the canyon this time of year. For today, add a pair of diving ducks and the sound of Canada geese overhead, then the cawing of crows.