That Pandemic Summer

I’m not really sure how one writes about travel during a pandemic. For the most part, we are homebodies. Owning a camping trailer has enabled us to get out of the house and yet still have a home of our own during the summer; it’s the ultimate social distancing vehicle, complete with its own toilet. (Hallelujah!)

June was when the travel ban was finally lifted for Oregon State Parks. This happened in the middle of our long-ago planned trip to the beach, so our reservations were shortened from four nights to only two nights. Originally there were going to be other extended family members camping in adjacent sites, but in the end only SuperDad’s parents kept their reservations. Their campsite was across the road from ours. We took our oldest grandson on this trip and he had a great time despite the rain and wind on the beach (which was sparsely populated to our delight.) If you want a warm beach experience, don’t go camping in early June on the northern half of the Oregon Coast!

Since we nearly cancelled out on taking the 4-year-old camping on the coast (heavy rain was expected on the first day, iffy weather the rest of the time), we had quickly made make-up trip plans for the following week, which we kept since it was such a different trip. This time we had sunshine and warm weather in a full hook-up KOA site along the Snake River. Oma and Opa took turns keeping Little Foot occupied on land and water, and his family came out and joined us on the final afternoon/evening for little brother’s 2nd birthday celebration. (Now is probably a good time to explain that we have chosen this family as our “bubble” of 5 other people.)

We began July without reservations at a National Forest campground (no hookups) in the Idaho Panhandle. While I did a little ferrying of my mountain biking husband to his chosen trails (and picking him up from the trails he didn’t mean to take that left him 15 miles further down the scenic highway), I got in plenty of book reading while he played. We liked it so much we returned with a reservation 9 days later for another 3-night stint. (Three nights is just about perfect for camping without any way to plug in: my CPAP battery stays happy as long as I don’t try to use the vapor feature.) We plan to go again before the end of September since it is only an hour away and tends to be wonderfully quiet.

I spent the first part of August trying to find a place for our trailer that would be near where extended family was staying . Thanks to a friend from church and her connections, we were able to do so (I’ve never handed over $50/night so happily) despite everyone else in the region also trying to camp at the lake. We’d heard that RV sales had really picked up this year as so many people were trying to vacation during a pandemic. It’s all true: the campgrounds are full and the RV lots are looking sparse. I love our extended family and I need some personal space, especially when I’m one of the few who thinks we should wear face masks when playing card games at the indoor table. For three nights we ate suppers outside, spread out in the cabin yard in our folding chairs; in the afternoons we met at the local day-use swimming beach.

This was the trip where I learned that it is really difficult to attend Zoom meetings while camping. (Oops!) Later in August, some of those same family members rented a vacation home in NE Oregon while we had a site at Wallowa Lake State Park. We joined them for the tram ride up the mountain, suppers outside, and masked card games around the table inside. After 3 nights, they went home and we had 2 additional nights at our cozy campsite where the bucks entertained us during supper and cribbage tournaments.

The skies were beautifully clear (except for that first full day when we took the tram to the top of the mountain) and we could see Jupiter and Saturn each night through an opening in the tree canopy. By the time we got home again, it was September.

We stayed home for the big windstorm that whipped up fires across the region on Labor Day, but after assessing the situation, we decided to head out again and take our oldest grandson camping before it was actually fall weather. We chose a place close to where his great-grandmother had grown up. Little Foot enjoyed boating on the reservoir with Opa and roasting marshmallows for S’mores after dark. I thoroughly enjoyed staring up at the Milky Way each night. Oh, to escape completely from light pollution! This is one of the joys of camping.

We got home from that trip last Thursday, did minimal unpacking and then turned around and took a trip sans-trailer the next day. According to what was on the calendar, it was a 2-night trip; according to what I learned when we arrived 5 hours later, it was a 4-night trip. It’s probably a good thing I tend to over-pack! It’s also a good thing that I have people I can call on to check in on our cat (who was NOT happy with us about our long, unplanned absence). A few things about this particular trip:

  • We shared a house with some extended family members but had our own room. I hung out in there to read and rest instead of in the living room.
  • The smoke followed us inland and turned all but the first day into non-scenic drives (Guess who thought she could get pictures with the camera “tomorrow”?)
Flathead Lake in Montana is notoriously beautiful, but imported wildfire smoke makes it difficult to tell
  • Wearing masks while sharing meals indoors isn’t really possible, and wildfire smoke makes it unhealthy to eat outdoors
  • I was uncomfortable with not wearing a mask around extended family who were previously not part of our “bubble.”

It’s been six full months since the pandemic shut everything down for us here. I’m weary of the continued battle over whether or not masks help (spoiler alert: they do). So now we are home for a bit and I am pretty much quarantining myself after having more exposure to maskless people and many others who were wearing their masks incorrectly than I ever intended to have during a pandemic. So many noses! I was wearing my own mask around them, so I should be relatively safe. As for our relatives with whom we spent time, they continue to be healthy and we are the young ones in the bunch. However, I definitely do not wish to be the one who exposes anyone else, known or unknown, to this virus. Seeing maskless people in Montana was unnerving for me. I’ve been able to control my environment for much of the past 6 months and being at the mercy of others, where I have to rely upon their own responses to this pandemic when I don’t think they are being as careful as I try to be, makes me uncomfortable.

I’m not perfect, and I realize that there are people who are much more careful than I am. By traveling at all, I am at greater risk than staying in my own house. However, by traveling with a trailer, I am bringing along nearly everything we need and limiting our exposure to others outside our household. Luckily, we can continue camping for a while — at least until the temperatures drop significantly.

A different kind of anniversary

Three years ago on this date, we had a rather eventful day — one that included photographs and a chauffeured ride to an airport, followed by a ride in a special plane. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

leaf-filtered images of the solar eclipse, seen as “shadows” on the ground

It wasn’t fun. SuperDad suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage that morning, tearing open a vein in his brain while doing CrossFit maneuvers. That earned him a trip to the ER, an ambulance ride to the airfield and a Life Flight ride in a small plane to a Seattle hospital. I recognize my privilege in being able to go with him. This photo was taken from my seat in the back of the plane; two medical personnel attended him during the flight. I prayed and prepared messages to send out when I could reconnect with data.

aboard the Life Flight airplane

He’s never quite reached the level of fitness and endurance that he had prior to this event — a difficult comeback after spending 10 days in the hospital, especially when 8 of them were in the ICU, although age may have something to do with that. We are so lucky that he was able to completely recover, that the bleeding he had was from a vein instead of a blood clot in an artery, and that he didn’t suffer a stroke. We are also lucky to have excellent insurance because this was an event that could have ruined our finances.

21

It hardly seems possible… yet at the same time, it feels like he’s been an adult for a long time already. The Scout is 21 years old today.

his senior picture, taken by mom, October 2017

He was born in the pre-dawn hours of July 23rd, weighing in at a whopping nine-and-a-half pounds. The staff in the delivery room passed him around and guessed before weighing him, and they all guessed too low. *I* wasn’t surprised since I’d just spent 15 minutes pushing that baby OUT of my body!

The Scout and his mama on his first birthday
My four boys, summer 2000. Note the very dark tan hand around the baby’s middle.
The Scout when he was not quite 3 years old
Spring in Texas, 2003
The Scout with his Arrow of Light award
The Scout hikes: Summer 2019
Age three, he wanted a dinosaur cake. His parents made one with Cheetos… His first (but not last!) Cheesy-Puffasaurus birthday cake

HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY to my baby boy, the SnakeMaster, the Adventurer, the Eagle Scout!

With his ScoutMaster Dad, July 2016 — just a few weeks after falling out of that darn tree

Awaken… Grieve… Act…

The prophet Micah tells us, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Yesterday, the President of the United States of America decided he wanted a photo taken of himself holding a Bible in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C. 
Yesterday, people were legally and peacefully protesting when they were attacked by tear gas and rubber bullets, and they were pushed back by armored bodies. Clergy, who were at that church to assist those peaceful and legal protesters, were also pushed away from that church. No permission was asked, no warnings were given.

Should we remind ourselves WHY people were protesting? Brutality. The careless taking of a man’s life by a law enforcement officer while his fellow police officers did nothing to stop him. George Floyd is one man in a long line of people – black men in particular – who have died because they were perceived to be unworthy of justice. He wasn’t the first man in police custody who cried out that he couldn’t breathe while the very people we hire to PROTECT US become murderers.

Yesterday, the President of the United States of America decided he wanted a photo taken of himself holding a Bible in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C., and he wanted it before the mayor’s curfew began, so he gave an order – or a series of orders – that sent armored policing forces into battle using chemical weapons and rubber bullets against innocent American citizens. Are we supposed to be grateful that the bullets were made of hard rubber instead of steel?

The current President of the United States of America is a bully who likes to talk about being tough and using force. Rather than speaking words to calm hot tempers, he stirs the embers of hatred. He sows division instead of sewing us into a united people.

My heart is broken by the years of racist actions and policies in this country and by the realization that I have benefited from this even if only in small ways. I don’t fear the law enforcement officer stopping me for a traffic infraction. I didn’t worry when my sons were growing up and learning to drive that they would be seen as suspicious individuals. Oh, by that point in time I was aware that mothers of black and brown boys had those worries; it saddened me and angered me, but it wasn’t a burden I carried every day until the day it happened to a family I knew and loved. At that point my friends’ burden became my burden, too.

Yesterday, the President of the United States of America decided he wanted a photo taken of himself holding a Bible in front of an historic church in Washington, D.C., so without regard for anyone or anything else, he used his power to bully his way across the street and take what he wanted. Innocent people were hurt. He held up a book that contains God’s commandments to make himself look good.  But inside that book are these words:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Strange Spring

Monday afternoon in this strange spring of 2020

The cat is curled up in my lap right now. She’s 17 years old and we recently discovered she is deaf. This might explain why, after years of being petrified of the vacuum, she now enjoys being vacuumed. The Barefooter is mowing the lawn — second mowing of the year — and the buzz of the electric machine is distinguishable to my ears but not by much. Like most people my age who blasted music through her earbuds at a younger juncture of life, I’ve got a bit of hearing loss, but the thrumming tinnitus has been non-stop for 3 weeks and counting. I’d developed a bad headache on Easter Sunday and while the pain abated after a week or so, I’m still “hearing underwater.” After my almost sleepless night of listening to the imaginary hum of airplanes and slow-moving locomotives, I’m envious of the cat’s ability to sleep when she is tired. (The inability to sleep was last night; now I can barely hold my eyes open!)

The annual Lilac Festival would normally be happening over these next few weeks; yesterday should have been the 12-km Bloomsday run. But nothing is normal during a pandemic. Bloomsday has been rescheduled from May 3rd to September 20th, but I don’t believe it will be possible for nearly 50,000 people to gather and run or walk, or even half that many. No one is willing to acknowledge how very much life has changed and will remain different for the foreseeable time.

Sleepless at Midnight

I’m not a morning person.

Detail of Stained Glass Window, First Presbyterian Church, Everett, Washington;
photo credit mine

Oh, I appreciate the early morning quiet — the solitude, the peacefulness of taking my first cuppa in holy silence — but it is a rare event. Because sleep is precious and important, and sleep doesn’t come easily to me; it never has. As a child I had many nights where I watched magic numbers on the newfangled digital clock.

  • 10:01
  • 10:10
  • 11:11
  • 11:22
  • 11:33
  • 11:44
  • 11:55
  • 11:59 as it turned to 12:00, the dot moving from the AM to PM position.
  • 12:12
  • 12:21
  • 12:34
  • 12:51 …a mirror image on a digital clock, the colon symbol reversing the image
  • 1:01
  • 1:11
  • 1:23

I didn’t see all those numbers every night, but I often saw at least half of them. It’s not confusing to me why I had so much trouble waking up in time to go to school, although I’m sure it perturbed my father who was the parent at home on those mornings.

Unfortunately, it appears I have passed that trait down to several of my own children.
Sorry, guys! You managed to get many traits from your father, but this is one you got from me.

Thwarted Plans

The Scout left after dinner yesterday to embark upon some social isolation hiking. We knew the state parks were closed, but he was very surprised when he got to his planned starting point and discovered this:

The article I read this afternoon tells me that over 7 MILLION ACRES have been closed — and that’s just in our state. My heart breaks for my son. Hiking is one of the few things he can do; he’s spent much of the past several years in his room, socially isolating because of Post Concussion Syndrome.
Yes, I know we’re supposed to be staying home due to the novel coronavirus and the dangers of COVID-19, and except for “essential” trips away from the house, that is what we are doing. Yesterday I drove him to two different medical appointments; I stayed in the car with my phone and a book while he went in to meet with those new-to-him doctors (all part of trying to find a way to heal from PCS). The doctors have no answers. They cannot explain why The Scout had 6 weeks of reprieve from his symptoms (chronic headache and cognitive impairment) after 3 months of hiking on the PCT last year. Since they have no answers, hiking again is his best chance for regaining his healthy self. Frankly, I see his solo hiking as somewhat essential for his mental and physical health. I do not begrudge him the chance to try again for that relief. He’s already changed plans twice this spring due to park closures (state and national) and the realization that he would be unwelcome visiting small towns for resupply.

I’ll leave you with this picture of him playing in the ocean with his brother 12 years ago on a mostly deserted Virginia beach (because, like today, it was cold and blustery), when no one but a hardy few were willing to get outside and experience the power of nature.

It’s been a few months…

The writing bug appeared to have moved out and left me to my own devices — and apparently my own devices involve ignoring my blog. Sorry about that (she says in a Canadian accent).

So let’s see: when I last visited with you, The Scout was still hiking– he’s home now. I don’t want to reveal too much for those who will be getting the Christmas letter (you know, the one that hasn’t been written yet), but he hiked about 1,500 miles before deciding he “was good with that” and came home via Greyhound. His 3+ year headache had gone away! Wonderful! Unfortunately, it returned in early November along with the return of decreased brain function the following week. As I type this out, he’s having a difficult day. So we’re back to square one, making appointments with neurology.

Humorous-Juniorous joined the Air Force and spent summer and autumn at Officer Training School. It was such a good course, he did it twice. (He’s very lucky.) We flew down to the southland twice as well: the first time to hit up most of the Civil Rights memorials and museums, and the second time for graduation.  SuperDad commissioned him as a brand-new 2d Lt. just last week.  Since then, H-J has been spending time on airplanes, getting a flight physical, and reporting to his new duty station. He should be home for Christmas.img_20191212_1033329432

The Barefooter has been working for the US Forest Service but that temporary job will soon run out of hours. He likes it well enough — he’s getting paid to walk through the woods (with a vest filled with paint cartridges and measuring equipment in order to mark trees for thinning) — and his schedule has been 2 weeks of steady, daily work in a distant location followed by a week at home.  He’s been sent to a variety of places: South Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, and Arkansas.

It’s been six months + 2 weeks since my ankle fusion. The procedure worked very well and seems to have cut my pain by about 50% which is the best outcome I had been able to expect, so I’m pleased with it.  Unfortunately, I’m already developing arthritis in the first two foot joints downrange from the fused ankle joint. This is to be expected over time (8-20 years) but I might be an overachiever who is going for the “under a decade” mark before those joints also need fusing. Still… I’ve been able to withstand doing more each day that I could during the past year.  My goal is to spend 1.5 to 2 hours in the therapy (exercise) pool, three times each week.  That time is more beneficial and enjoyable than sitting for hours on airplanes.

Five days from right now is Christmas Eve, filled with family and church, candles and choir, excited children and tired adults. Hopefully we’ll get the traditional family picture taken while we’re dressed up and looking spiffy. I might have already written the Christmas letter and sent it out early if we’d managed to get that picture taken after my dad’s memorial service in May (but who am I kidding? — I still wouldn’t have those envelopes addressed).  Per usual, I am not ready for Christmas.  Also per usual, Christmas is coming whether I am ready or not!

May your holidays be sweet and filled with love, and may your time management skills fly high above my own!

img_20191216_005548729

Back to Nature

DSCN1317 (2)

 

We met up with The Scout over the weekend. He’s making good progress and, more importantly, he is content and looks happy and healthy.

DSCN1316 The Hiker with owl feather in cap and Mt. Shasta in background, WEBSIZED

 

Oh, to travel! My hiking days may be over, it’s too soon to tell, but to be able to go… to see… to experience!

DSCN1439 Mom and hiker, WEBSIZED

I’m truly grateful for the chance to see him mid-hike. (This was about 20 yards from the parked vehicle where we brought him back to access the trail again.)

He’s off now, back to solitude and daily epic views. He promises to be home for Thanksgiving.

hiker off again, websized