Current Location: Sunset House in Grants Pass at 75 degrees F at 9pm
I read my last post, just to take a moment to catch up with myself. I needed to remember what I had written and hopefully not repeat myself. Ahh, yes, I was raving about how incredibly gorgeous the summer had been thus far, blue skies, no fires, no smoke to mar the air. Tonight, as I write, I can count 30 consecutive days of smoke filled skies, with air quality ranging from a fabulous “Moderate” (once or twice) to a more normal Very Unhealthy or Hazardous. This has been the case every single day except one, last Sunday, when a breeze blew in from the west and for one fresh air filled day we had a taste of what summer could be like in our beautiful Southern Oregon.
It is hard to maintain a sense of balance when it is like this. Not only is the world dimmed to a dull grayish brown and the sun to an angry red-orange, there are the horror stories on the news about the progress of the literally dozens of fires that surround us. Stories of evacuations and misery abound. It wears on one’s soul, deeply.
I went to the store this morning, and in the process noticed that I was very easily irritated, like my scratchy eyes, my spirit felt scratchy. I saw myself reacting quickly to the smallest inconveniences, angry at stupid people, frustrated with lack of supplies on the shelves. I realized that I was getting all gritchy on an average of every 30 seconds or so. What a waste of energy! Noticing did help a bit, I tried to slow down and pay attention to myself, to stop the constant nasty internal outbursts at slow old people, fast little people, stupid drivers, and the constant brown sky.
I am not always like this, in fact I am not really often like this. Sometimes, even in the midst of the nasty smoke, hot temperatures and ugly air, I can find true happiness. Toward the end of July, about 2 weeks into the fire smoke season, Mo and I drove through the verdant and lovely Applegate Valley on a Thursday afternoon. The Red Lily winery is among our favorites, and there we shared food truck goodies and a bottle of truly epic wine in big red chairs beside the river as we listened to the great music and watched all the happy people. The sun was orange-red on that day as well, and yet I somehow found joy.
If you read my facebook, you probably already saw this, or who knows, it might have scrolled right past you, but either way, I wanted to repeat it here because it made me happy, and I don’t want to lose that feeling that I had that evening sitting by the river.
“Joy. It comes at the strangest times. I can't call it in, and have no clue what makes it come, but when it does, I am in awe. Tonight, watching the red sun through the smoke as we sat along the Applegate River at Red Lily Vineyards, I felt awash in Joy. Listening to great music, drinking truly great wine, watching families and friends having fun together, I felt it. Overwhelming joy. I forgot my camera, forgot my phone, just had to experience it in the moment. Wondering if the fact that I didn't have any kind of way to record the moment made it even more precious. When I got home, I ran outside with the camera, capturing the red sun setting through the smoke of the Taylor Fire just west of Grants Pass. Still remembering those precious moments of inexplicable joy. Treasuring the clarity of fresh air beneath the smoke, the mountains in the distance opened up from some unknown wind.”
I have also learned in this last 30 days to look downward, to look up close at the world. Skip the sweeping vistas, they are invisible anyway, and just look at what is right in front of me. We haven’t done a lot in the last few weeks, other than hang around home, working in the yard in the mornings, avoiding the worst of the heat and smoke, walking the dog in the evenings after it settles down a bit.
All thoughts of local hikes and kayak trips evaporated with the fires that began with a wild thunderstorm that crossed most of Northern California and Southern Oregon on July 15. That very day Mo and I had driven south along the Applegate River to visit a beautiful lavender farm that opened up to the public for the 2018 Lavender Festival. We have the Applegate Wine Trail, and we also have the Applegate Lavender Trail, with 15 farms participating.
The small acreage was beautiful, abuzz with bees and lovely people walking around picking their lavender bundles. We ate lavender ice cream and listened to live music on the patio, and hid from the lightning strikes that we knew would bring sadness in the coming days, but at the time, it all seemed just so lovely.
That night there were more than 1,100 lightning strikes over the Rogue Valley and the Siskiyou Mountains, and the fires that started then are still raging all around us. The horrible Carr Fire in Redding started a bit later, with a flat tire causing sparks on the pavement that ignited an inferno that killed 7 people and destroyed over 1000 homes. Fire season has only just begun, and there is no end in sight. We have until October to wait for the rains to at last extinguish the fires, but until then, anything goes. Fire/smoke season in Oregon, in the entire West, is now a reality, and something that must be planned for always. If you travel here, don’t come during fire season. It has happened every single year now since 2012, and most years prior to that since the Biscuit Fire in 2002.
I wanted to write a blog, wanted to fill the empty space that is July and August in my memory banks, but as I write I can see how very much the fires and the smoke affect everything that I do. So with that out of the way, maybe now I can think and write about some of the sweetness.
Early in July, Merikay and Craig of Merikay’s Dream decided to visit while they were camped at Valley of the Rogue State Park just a few miles south. I cooked up a good supper, Merikay brought yummy cheesecake, and we showed them around Sunset House before settling in for dinner and a rousing game of that silly card game we learned last spring from John and Carol of “Our Trip Around the Sun”. We had such a good time neither of us remembered to take any photos! Merikay and Craig are cruising around the Pacific Northwest and John and Carol are living the lifetime dream of traveling through Alaska in their motorhome.
Mid July I drove back over the Cascades to Rocky Point to help out the quilt group with the annual Rocky Point BBQ, the major fund raiser for the local volunteer fire department. It was great seeing old friends, and I invited the entire group to Sunset House for a get together, maybe some quilting, and maybe some crafting.
None of this particular group of friends had been over the mountain to visit Sunset House, so I had fun showing them around, and they enjoyed seeing the real thing after all the photos I have shared of our house and the process of building it.
I actually baked a couple of epic quiches, one vegetarian and one traditional with all the bacon I could fit. We laughed and talked, and then managed to make a big mess of fun with shaving cream and water color paints making marbleized art pieces for handmade greeting cards. It was a silly thing, but we had fun doing it. Mo isn’t part of the quilt group, but all the women have been friends of hers long before I showed up on the Rocky Point scene. It was a good day.
I especially enjoyed showing off the fabulous quilting done by Janna from Restoration Cowboy Style on my One Block Wonder quilt. She did an amazing job and the quilt ladies were duly impressed, Janna! I have been doing a bit of quilting on hot days as well, working on a big blooming nine patch with brilliant fabrics. I hope to have Janna quilt it, but will probably have to wait until spring because I am not going to get it done in time. I never sewed so many little nine patches, ever!
For everyday entertainment, I have been working on small landscaping projects while Mo works on fixing up her workshop. Mo decided that a bit of help would be nice, and invited her brother Dan and his wife Chere down for a visit and a consultation on just how to construct the new porch overhang for the small building.
This photo of the old shed is from 2013. Fires then as well. Look closely at the skinny blue door on the right, that is the same door on the right of what is left of the building in the photo below.
I thought it might be fun to throw in a shot of the old outbuilding from the days when we first owned the property. Most of it is gone now except for the main part of the building
She has been working on it for some time now, caulking and trimming, getting all the old wood cleaned up and painted. Before winter there will be a new roof and a new porch overhang, a place for her to use her saws with some protection from the weather, but not inside the building with all that sawdust getting into everything.
It is always fun spending time with Dan and Chere, and having them here for a couple of days was wonderful. We ate good food both at home and at a great restaurant in Grants Pass we hadn’t tried before, Blondie’s Bistro. First thing I noticed was that the balsamic reduction on the salad was every bit as good as any I have had, including my own. Actually, sometimes I burn mine and it ends up like caramel, and once it even turned into a sticky candy mess. So I do really appreciate a good balsamic reduction.
My gardening projects have been small, mostly getting more shrubs planted, and adding mulch to the borders around the house. With our heat, mulch makes all the difference, keeping roots cool enough, and within days after putting down the mulch, the plants look happier. We don’t yet have an automatic sprinkler system, so my mornings are spent watering, lots of hand watering. It is a job I really love, contemplative and quiet, and it gives me a chance to visit with each plant and flower, and check in on them.
We took in bids for a new fence along street side of the house and with the company 8 weeks out, I may not see the fence before I leave for Italy in September. We also contracted to get a sun shade for the porch. We love the view, but the western sun at dinner time is a bit much to bear. Whenever we have company, we pull down the brown sheet that has served for shelter until the shade arrives. It’s the little things.
We took the MoHo to Guaranty of Junction City, Oregon for an all around check up and going through, making sure everything is in good order before we head off on a trip of several thousand miles. It is a 3 hour drive, but folks from all over the country know about the service for RV’s available in Junction City, so it is worth it.
The days just seem to be so full, and I can’t really figure out why. We are taking care of dental things, some physical therapy for Mo’s ankle and for my knee, doctor appointments to get caught up with the new doctor, going to the meat market for the Thursday sales, to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings for all that lovely produce coming in from the Applegate.
I water the flowers, walk the dog, clean the house, cook, do some quilting, watch some news and check out the smoky sunsets. I made applesauce with Mo’s help peeling the apples from our Gravenstein apple tree, have spent many hours working on reservations and plans for our winter trip to Florida, spent more hours working on final plans for the three week trip to Italy.
A couple of days ago my computer started acting weird, so I tried to be sure all was backed up, and sure enough, out she went. Probably the hard drive, and she is going to the computer doctor back in Klamath Falls when we go there this weekend. Oh yes, there is that as well. A tenant moved out and we spent a couple of days at the apartments cleaning up, and will spend a couple more days there this coming weekend painting for the new tenant. Always something, it seems.
At least I have the old laptop to fill in while the big girl gets fixed. And of course, I am soo soo tempted to buy a new laptop. This one is really so very old, and the plugin doesn’t work properly and it is slow, and and and…..How do you keep from buying something new and nice when you know better?
How can such little stuff keep me so busy? How can I think that all this little stuff is even worth writing about? How very few people will read to the end of this story. Ha! Reminds me of all those facebook memes rolling around that are really long, and at the end they say something like “you probably won’t read all of this, but if you do, copy and paste to your wall etc etc etc.” I never do even if I DO read it all. So don’t copy and paste, but if you made it this far, maybe you could comment. Ha!
Nickie (Out and About with Jimmy and Nicky) called me today to commiserate about all the smoke and heat and frustration about being house bound in summer and I think we both felt better after the phone call. She laughed about having nothing to blog about except the grandbaby and I don’t even have that. Still, for me, as always, it is about memory. I need to be sure than when I return to the blog there isn’t a giant hole where July and August reside.