Dear Ella...

Our great-niece, Ella, is in kindergarten this year, and loving it. She's outgoing, vivacious, friendly, loves to tease, and she's a great big sister to Vivian. I love this little curly-haired girl to pieces.

In May we got a flat manila envelope in the mail from Ella. It contained an invitation to play along with her class project, and a hand-colored Flat Stanley.

If you're not familiar with the book, it's a 1964 children's book about a little boy who is given a big bulletin board by his father. He hangs it on the wall above Stanley's bed, and during the night, it falls on the bed, flattening Stanley in his sleep. He makes the best of his new shape, sliding under doors into locked rooms, and being flown as a kite. Best of all, he now had a very special advantage: traveling by mail to visit his friends.

In the class project, we were asked to take Stanley wherever we went, and especially to take him on adventures with us. It was perfect timing: we were about to leave on a road trip in the MX-5, and were delighted to take Stanley along with us.

The first day, I took Stanley to the barn with me, where he hung out on the halters and played in the hay.

On our road trip, Stanley rode in the shotgun seat with me, went to a winery party, and did a whole lot of geocaching (470 caches in 5 days). He visited small towns like Zillah and Finley, Walla Walla and Waitsburg, Naches and Roslyn. He visited wineries and restaurants (his favorite was Bacon & Eggs, a great spot for breakfast in Walla Walla).

We sent lots of cards to Ella, telling her about Stanley's travels and adventures: from Kent and Seattle, from Maple Valley, from Kennewick, from Walla Walla, and from Vashon. I took photographs wherever we went, and we all had a very good time.

At the end of the month we had to mail Stanley back to Ella, and were sad to see him leave. I hope Stanley has many more adventures with Ella.


Cabin life...

In winter, it's quiet. The cries of eagles and osprey make a lonesome sound. Bufflehead ducks fly in and out, dotting the lake with splashes of brilliant white. The deciduous trees are sticks of white and brown, stark against the dark green firs and hemlocks. I bundle up in my Adirondack chair and pull my feet underneath, and try to keep warm under a thick antique quilt. It rains, and the woods drip. Dry days are few, and I treasure every moment outdoors.

Spring means packing for any sort of weather, and hauling vast quantities of tools from home. We cut downed trees into firewood, prune salal and huckleberry away from driveways and paths, sweep the roof and chimney, clean gutters and decks, burn brush. All around the lake the same sounds echo, as everyone cleans up after winter.

In summer, I prefer weekdays to weekends, when the lake is given back to nature and nature's inhabitants, and to the quiet fishermen. I'm glad I can choose any day to spend here... retirement means my time, my rules, and the cabin is there, waiting. In summer the evening hangs long and rich with light, and we sit outside until the light finally fades and turns to midnight blue, and the stars come out to play.

Fall comes all too soon, but is not without benefits. The huckleberries that have been green all spring and summer turn purple and ripen, ready to pick. After a few rainy days, the chanterelles poke through the leaf litter to be plucked for winter's recipes, soups and stews and pasta with garlicky red sauce. The salmon come up the most unlikely streams to lay eggs for their new crop of offspring. We walk the shorelines looking for the telltale fins that give them away. The squirrels start to build their food stash for winter, dropping fir cones on the cabin roof and waking us up each morning.

Each season has its own routine, and each is precious and anticipated, one year to the next. Cabin life has a different pace, slower and full of deep breaths, long looks around, details noticed and savored, and smiles for no reason at all.


Idaho back roads

I never found the time to write much about our Idaho road trip in May 2013. Too busy getting ready for a visit from my sister & brother-in-law, and when they left us in September, I just didn't get back to it. It seems a shame somehow, not to mention this beautiful place, this wild place, this place that stole a piece of my heart.

So here are my favorite views, my favorite places, in the wild places of Central Idaho.

The tire-eating road north of Sun Valley, with snow still on the ridges and ice in the streams.

Coming back from Salmon, I spotted a moose grazing by the river. I watched it, it watched me

Mountain pass and fly fishing stream on the drive to Red Fish Lake, where we watched a big crew unload tanker trucks of fish into the inlet to the lake.


Friday finds | Little acorn

When I gathered blooms to bring indoors today, I spotted this small acorn tucked underneath the Lady's Mantle. It still has its frilly collar, but the nut is just a web of fibers. It's damaged and no longer whole, but beautiful just the same.


Old jeans...

Way up on the top shelf of my closet, in the farthest corner.
There they were... my favorite jeans.

They haven't fit for more than a decade, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them. So I stashed them out of sight, not willing to completely give up hope. I put each size in a separate stack, neatly labeled, where I could see them and remember, where they could help me stay motivated.

I love my new shape, that my hips are narrower and my relaxed-fit jeans are no longer the right shape for me. That I can run my hands from waist to thigh and there isn't a bulge there. That I have a waist again.

In April I started wearing my size 14 jeans, and moved a stack of jeans to the Goodwill pile. In May, my favorite Eddie Bauer jeans, slimmer and high-waisted, fit perfectly. I bought a new pair of cropped jeans, a size 12, the first time I've been in this size since 2004. Soon my Gap jeans will fit, my most favorite jeans of all.

And it's not just the jeans. I've dug out favorite summer dresses and favorite sweaters, cotton camp shirts, jackets and wool slacks, two favorite jean skirts. Things I couldn't bear to give away, things that now fit me again. Things I can love, all over again.


Eagles on the premises

The big fir tree above our dock seems to be the popular spot for eagles this year. It's amazing to have them so close to the cabin. When they squabble we can hear them, even inside. And we have a great view of them from the deck.

Most of the weekend the racket has come from several eagles jostling for territory. Today there were six mature adults riding the thermals above the lake, an awesome sight to see.

Today a small bird was hassling this big guy, and he finally took flight to get away from the annoyance. One thrust of his wings took him the length of the branch, and one more took him to the next tree, thirty feet away. I nearly didn't get this shot.



Wouldn't you know... halfway (or less) through a bathroom remodel at the farmhouse, we took a break for a cabin weekend. The last day, after we had breakfast and did the dishes and got packed up, we pulled the leaky toilet and discovered a rotten floorboard. Oh, joy...

We spent four days at the cabin to get the worst of it done: removed a pocket door that divided the room in half and blocked the natural light, removed the vanity and sink, ripped up the vinyl floor, and took down the completely hideous paper paneling. In the process we discovered that there's only R7 insulation in this room that's always felt so cold, so we'll replace that too.

The big job this weekend was replacing the bad boards with new car decking. This took a couple of days, and involved a lot of crawling under the cabin with a right-angle drill. While Dave repaired the floor, I took out the old sheet flooring from the rest of the cabin and broke it into small pieces. The place looks much better with a unified floor.

Before we headed home came the fun part: measuring and brainstorming and sketching out the new bathroom. (Well, I think it's fun.) Moving the sink plumbing over will make room for a decent vanity. And we'll run the wiring properly through the studs, add an outlet (what kind of bathroom has no outlets?), and add a switch for a new light over the vanity. And finally, we'll put up bright white beadboard on the walls.

It will be a cozy, warm, and dry room, and I can hardly wait!


Rising trout...

It's 6:30 in the morning. I should be fishing.

I walked to the outhouse, then down to the dock. The fish are flopping clear out of the water, breaking the mirrored surface. There was a hatch yesterday; great for the fish and swallows (and also for the eagles).

This was my regular routine every morning in those first few years, after we bought this lot on the lake. Our cabin bathroom remodel (and need to visit the outdoor facilities) brings it back vividly. The view from the outhouse is splendid, and even though the wooden dock is getting dangerously weak, I can't resist walking out on it and checking the water for fish.

We bought our first lot (with travel trailer and deck, dock and float) at this same time of year, and had this same perfect weather all summer long. We cleaned and pruned, repaired the float and ramp, repaired the heater and stove, and banished little furry creatures from our new weekend home.

Each afternoon we'd knock off work and go for a swim, then spend an hour or so floating the lake. We'd paddle out to the middle of the lake, and dream of having a cabin. And never dropped a line into the water.

I'm glad that's changed.


I am so, so, so behind...

Blame it on... well, me.

I, on the other hand, can blame it on yard work, road trips, bathroom repairs at our cabin, house guests, dunging out the attics, and collecting a mountain of stuff for Goodwill.

The good news is a cleaner, happier house. And the size 12 jeans (me) and size 38 Dockers (for Dave) I found stuffed in a box, along with one of my favorite camp shirts that I thought I'd never wear again.

More good news to come... but first, I'll catch up with all the fun and games of our May road trip, then get on with June.