Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

By Nancy Boat

What sounds have you forgotten?  What songs do you no longer sing along with while doing everyday chores?  How many friends have felt snubbed because you no longer respond to their questions?

What?  That is the word that became mine forever, or so I believed.  What?  What?  What?  What seemed to be the response more and more often as my dear husband listened to me? This litany became so tedious he gave up having intelligent conversations with the woman he had married twenty years before.  What, became the precursor of tension for us both.  Luckily for me, I have a husband who is patient and kind, one who believes in the Christian ethic of forgiveness, because during the last number of years he has had to forgive a lot of what’s, what did you say, what language are they speaking on TV, what, what, what, and the what’s were becoming louder and louder?
Did you hear the eagle call, Ron would ask as we sat having our morning coffee and watching the dawn break over Birch Bay?  No, I don’t hear that was my frequent answer, so more often than not Ron would start to ask a question and then give up in frustration, he couldn’t share the sound of the rain falling on the roof, the sound of neighborhood children playing and laughing, he couldn’t share those wonderful things that make us caring human beings, those things that bring us to tears of sorrow, or smiles of joy.

We knew I had a hearing problem, the audiologist believed that the hearing in my left ear was damaged many years before during a bout with a virus.  An aid was fitted and worked just fine until it died about four years later.  Plans were made to replace it but other things kept getting in the way, a new roof, doctor’s bills, car repairs, of course there would always be those other things, and the years went by and my hearing just kept getting worse as frustrations grew.

Conversations during our Wednesday evening Bible Study became a flashback of old Laurel and Hardy skits.  A number of the members of this group are part of the “baby boomer” generation and we were all but a few in need of hearing boosters.  A frequent problem with hearing impairment is that consonants are dropped and our brains pick out new letters to take their place.  A room can become a loon, a cake can be a rake, and so it goes, a reminder of the old game of “telephone” we used to play as kids. 

Two weeks ago we decided enough was enough, I couldn’t understand conversations that were spoken softly or at lower decibels anymore, and the “what’s” were annoying everyone including me.  We knew it was time to bite the bullet, the emergencies were always going to happen and my hearing would just keep on getting worse.

After new tests, it was determined that both ears had a fairly severe hearing loss, so new aids were ordered.

Last Friday, after picking up my new aids at Hearing Northwest, while driving home I was amazed at the sounds that our turn signal made, the tires crunching the pebbles on the road.  When I finally pulled into our driveway in Birch Bay and turned around after getting out of the car, I realized for the first time in years that I could hear the creek behind our house singing it’s lilting soprano song, fed by the rains we had earlier that week.  The eagles were cooing to each other, and my husband’s breathing soothed me to sleep that night for the first time in years.  What a precious joy it is to once again hear the songs of the world surrounding me.

When asked what she would prefer to have restored, her eyesight or her hearing Helen Keller said without hesitation, “my hearing”, sight is wonderful, but hearing is our connection to humanity, without it communication almost comes to a stand still for the person with this imparity.

It’s wonderful to hear that creek sing it’s soprano songs again, although my husband may not think my singing while I clean the house is such a blessing (I still can’t carry the tune I’d like). 

Now, what can we do about my aching joints and wrinkles?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"The Blind Leading the Blind, or GPS vs Boats"

People who knew Ron and I in the past knew that a trip for us was like going to a candy store for a kid.  We couldn't just leave on the set vacation day, we always, always left the night or day before, too excited to wait one minute longer.  It's a good thing we had jobs to keep us in one spot or we would have been off on new adventures in a heart beat.

Ron and I don't travel as much or as far as we used to but still make short sojourns into the world to explore and find the unexpected. I actually love maps and was once the navigator when Ron was driving. He was always willing to turn off onto those smaller roads to "see what's over that hill." I'm now the full time driver so using a map doesn't work, and I don't like a GPS telling me where to go.  We love meeting new people, finding exciting treasures (not gold and diamonds, but local history , sights, (I'm a sucker for interesting characters), becoming enamored with new places, then finding ourselves happy to be back to our warm little home in Birch Bay after a successful treasure hunting trip.

No meal is as good as that in a small town cafe recommended by a local farmer who you met at a gas station, and oh, the people you would meet and the stories they would tell, these were fantastic treasures to fill our treasure chests.

Ron decided when we were still working that we really needed a GPS, of course he turned it on so we could find our way from our home in Santa Fe to our job in Los Alamos (we'd done this trip hundreds if not thousands of times) but guess what?  We never got lost finding our way home, so I guess the GPS worked.

Then there was the time we were traveling to visit Ron's cousin and his wife, Jerry and Jane Kirkpatrick, on their remote ranch overlooking the John Day River in northern Oregon.  Okay, I did think, maybe the GPS would come in handy for this one excursion.  Off we went, that little (kind of annoying) voice warning us ahead of time to make this turn off of the highway, how many miles to the next exit/turn, when we were near a town, etc. etc.  The Kirkpatricks lived off of a rural road they called 7-11 on a lane called Starvation Lane (read her wonderful book called "Homestead" about their life there.  Anyway, the name of the lane should say it all.  

GPS was telling us how to leave the tiny town where they collected their supplies and told us to head out on the State road, then it told us to turn left on the County maintained dirt road for seven miles, then to turn right on a  private dirt road owned by the local ranchers for another eleven miles.  All was going well until we came to the turn off for Starvation Lane, suddenly we jumped, the GPS started shouting at us "warning turn around! , warning turn around!" and on and on until we finally turned off that damn voice.  Maybe this was a hint of the winding dirt lane that took us down a cliff side showing us vistas of the river and the beautiful valley below where Jerry and Jane had built their homestead.

Yes, we made it safely, had a wonderful visit, but I've never trusted a GPS since.

As for those trips, not so many any more, I'm the full time driver so no navigating, but we do take our day trips and love hearing of our friends adventures all over the world, so those treasures are still abounding in of lifes and we feel very blessed.  Oh, I do keep an atlas next to my chair at home, and have an outdated globe to track the world's changes, so yes, maps are important, just not a fast rule for your life.

Oh, "warning turn around!, warning turn around! (you just might miss something or someone wonderful if you don't).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Play It Forward

It's been a very good day, and the day isn't over yet.

During the summer of 2009 Ron found himself more and more unsteady as he tried to transfer himself from his wheelchair to our living room chair.  This situation was not only uncomfortable for him but becoming dangerous.  At that same time our dear friend Mary's mother was being transferred to a facility where she would get more physical care.  All of a sudden a miracle happened, a "lift" chair was made available to us, Mary's mother's chair couldn't go with her and needed a new home.

That autumn and winter preparations were under way for the 2010 Winter Olympics to be held in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.  Excitement was in the air here in the Pacific Northwest.  Our neighbors just minutes north of us were gearing up for this momentous occasion.  Ron and I watched our television every day enjoying the updates about this wonderful event, wondering about border crossing times, would there be enough snow, how many tourists would come through our area into Canada?  Excitement was in the air, and we were ready to enjoy it.

 Our daughter Tracy's friend Michelle is a member of the Twawwassen  First Persons Reserve which was hosting the "Blessing of the Olympic Torch".  Michelle knew we didn't go too far from home any more and felt we might enjoy watching this spectacle with her and her family. 

On that sunny, blue day we shared the excitement with her family, elders, olympians, and many spectators.  We were invited into their long house for a feast and celebration, watching village children dance, enjoying an event that we would remember forever.

Today that "lift" chair was passed on to Michelle for her mother, who is now finding it harder to transfer herself into her living room chair.  Michelle said she wanted to pay us for this chair, but we told her it was our gift and to "Play it forward" when her mother no longer needed it.

I bought Ron a new "lift" chair for our anniversary, one that is heated (he is chilly all of the time)., and one that is more suited for his size.  Mary's mother's chair has served us well, but it was time to go to a new home.

Who knows where that chair may go in the future and what stories it will have told, but I do know it's lived a very good life wrapping wonderful people in it's warmth and will continue to do so for a long, long time.

Yes, it's been a very good day, and the day isn't over yet.

Greetings from Nancy at the Boat House

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scene from our back deck this morning.

Scene from our front porch this morning.
Hurrah, I was able to have my Ron's wonderful coffee this morning, as we sat at the table playing gin rummy and drinking coffee we could watch Lucy and Desi (our local Bald Eagle pair) checking out the water in Birch Bay (see view from our back deck) for their breakfast, we also watched a large ship moving between the islands through the binoculars we keep at tableside.

 Since we aren't traveling far any longer (we call our doctor, pharmacy, grocers visits our big date days) we feel we are really blessed to live in such a wonderful part of the Country where we can look out of our windows and see such beauty.

What ever happened to all of those years that have sped by so fast?  It seems that just last year we were working at our careers with vacations in between, just a year or so before that we were raising our families and going to sports events, and even walking great distances (ha, not a chance now, my old knees can only take me so far).  We have actually lived here in Birch Bay for ten years after retiring, twenty years before that in Santa Fe, New Mexico, working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, St. John's College and the College of Santa Fe,  all other working years in California raising our kids.

I must be getting old if I'm starting to reminice about my past.  Don't get me wrong, I still look forward to the future, there's just not quite so much of it any longer, more years gone by.

Oh well, the Boat House is still cruising, hope you can all come along for the ride.

Nancy of the Boathouse

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is Coffee the Cure?

Eyes red and blurry, can't focus, out of sorts, maybe a little shaky.  No, I'm not hung over, I just haven't had my hubby Ron's wonderful, freshly roasted, ground and brewed coffee.  I'm fasting this morning (5 AM isn't the time to do this, you need your quick start don't you)?  Having my first full Medicare physical later this morning.  I guess nothing says "welcome to Medicare" like a physical.  I should have had this last Oct. when I turned 65, but time just gets away, particularly since I've had this darn flu since Thanksgiving and just now getting over it.  To top it all off I need to go in and shave my legs this morning, something I'm remiss in doing as I get older, oh the joys of looking beautiful for the doctor, of course she couldn't care less.

Oh, back to the coffee, Ron really does roast his own coffee beans.  We order them from a broker, green beans keep forever if stored correctly, Ron roasts them about two pots worth at a time.  (They start to deteriorate as soon as they are roasted) we then grind them and make this wonderful brew when we get up in the morning or when company is here.  Yes, we really are coffee snobs, although we only drink an average of two cups in a day.

Freshly roasted coffee beans, freshly made summer sausage (also Ron's creation from meats he's ground, spices added, hung up in our smoker,  and a bottle herbed salts [my contribution) were our gift of choice for dear friends this year.

Well, time to go shave my legs, hope I can bend over far enough, maybe I'll have hairy ankles and won't have to wear socks.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Soaring Like an Eagle

Haven't posted in a while, working on a short story for a friend.  My friend asked me to imagine her childhood friend Clarice and her adventures as a young woman.  Clarice is in an elder care facility, but is still of sound mind, but wanted something new to enjoy.  So far she's enjoyed the adventures I've created for her, and amazingly many of the memories of her are accurate, although the story I've written is entirely fiction.  Hope you enjoy it also!


“Lynda, come over here and tell me why you’re crying?”  The old woman called out in a surprisingly strong voice, for someone who looked every one of the eighty nine years that she had lived.”

“Oh, Nana, the young girl said between hiccoughs, Jimmy said no one would ever want to kiss me,” he said my hair is too red, and my freckles make me look spotty.”  Nana, do you remember the first time you were ever kissed?  You told me your hair used to be red just like mine, I bet no one ever said you were spotty, and I bet you didn’t have a bratty brother like mine.

The old woman chuckled to herself as she pulled her great, great grandchild down on the porch swing next to her and gave her a gentle hug.  Looking out over the little garden in her granddaughter’s back yard Nana sighed as she related the memories of her first kiss. 

“Child, my fondest memories as a young girl were of running up to the top of the grassy hill behind my folks old farmhouse and lying on my back, watching the clouds morph into castles, and sailing ships, watching birds soar overhead, and bees and other insects flit and buzz around me, easily moving from place to place.  Oh, it would be so wonderful to soar like the hawks, to join those clouds, or to travel from flower to flower like those bees.

When I was about sixteen there was a great hubbub in the little town where we traveled to picked up feed for our livestock and necessities for us.  A crop duster/stunt pilot was coming to town, he was actually called a barnstormer in those days, and the whole community was invited to the 25 acre field outside of town to see this amazing flying machine and watch someone who could actually do what I had only dreamed about.

Wanting to make sure I could obtain the best spot to observe this fantastic event, I conspired with my best friend Delores and obtained permission to spend the night with her as long as I finished my chores around the house first.  Our plan was to sneak out without her parent’s knowledge very early in the morning to beat the other townspeople to the flying field.

We were up and on our way so early that morning that the roosters hadn’t even begun crowing.  One of the neighborhood dogs started barking and howling as we snuck by, but we soon ran out of his field of vision and continued running until we reached the old barn at the end of the 25 acre field.  Inside was the most wonderful sight I had ever beheld.  Before me stood a magnificent airplane, wings, one above the other, spread out like a bird when he soars, two seats, one in front for a passenger and one behind for the barnstormer, not enclosed like the airplanes today, and a propeller in front carved out of the most beautiful wood. 

“What are you two doing here?” boomed a deep male voice, making both of us jump, although I’m proud to say, only Delores squealed.  There staring at us by the light of his lantern were the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.

“I had to come and see for myself your wonderful flying machine,” I said.  “Soaring like a hawk has always been my most cherished dream.” Grinning with a smile that would melt butter, the young man said, “then you’re in luck Red, I’ll take you up with me today.” 

“I don’t think you should do this,” Delores whispered, but I put my arm around her and made her promise she wouldn’t tell a soul until I was back down on the ground.

It wasn’t easy stuffing my hair into the leather helmet he made me put on, and then he strapped me into the front of his amazing machine and off we went.

By that time most of the townsfolk, and many of the nearby farmers and their families, including my parents and brothers, had crowded around the rim of the field to watch the spectacle that was to take place.

After pushing the plane out of the barn and onto the packed ground of the field, the young man pulled down on the beautiful wooden propeller until it started spinning at an amazing rate, he then ran back and jumped into the seat behind me.  A boy from town pulled a wooden block out from in front of the wheels, and off we went.

We started rolling faster and faster and in the blink of an eye we were off of the ground, heading skyward up over the tops of the trees, soaring like the hawks and crows that took off around us into the air in noisy surprise.  Up higher and higher, through one of those puffy white clouds that looked so much like a castle. 

After I opened my eyes, which I’m ashamed to admit I had squeezed shut during our some of our ascent, I couldn’t believe the wonderful sights above, around, and most of all below me.  There were people waving at us from the ground, looking much like the tin soldiers that my brothers used to play with, except these tin soldiers were moving about.  The cows in the O’Malley’s field started running toward their barn, I expect they gave sour milk that evening, and you could almost imagine the town dogs growling and barking.

We did figure eights in the sky, and at one point that young man scared me witless, by doing a summersault right there in the middle of the sky.

Oh, this was such an amazing day, a day I would never forget, in more ways than one.

After a few bumps and stomach turning ups and downs, up and down, we headed back to the rutted field and we were once again on solid ground where we stopped.  The young man jumped down out of his seat and reached up to help me down from the cozy nest I had been strapped into.  He reached up and pulled the leather helmet off of my head, pulling a few hairs out in the process I’m sure.  He then looked me square in the face, said something about my having the greenest eyes he’d ever seen, and kissed me right on the lips.

That was the day I was able to soar with the hawks, was kissed by a blue-eyed young man, and was whipped with a switch when my parents found out what I’d done.

Nana, what became of the blue-eyed young man? 

Oh, he later became your great grandfather, but that’s another story for another time.

Lynda, you have a few years yet until you will be kissed, after all you’re only seven, but I can guarantee the time will come, and your red hair will be like a crown for you, and your “spots” won’t even be noticed, they just add to your beauty, and oh my, those green eyes of yours! 

Nana, tell me more, when did you and Oompa get married, did you get switched because he kissed you?  Oh no child, I was switched for lying to my parents, in fact Lynda was in trouble with her parents too.  I learned a lesson that day and was never switched again, although to be fair, I probably should have been.

I didn’t meet with Oompa again until four years later when I was traveling in Morroco, doing what folks called a “Grand Tour” after graduating from Normal School with a degree in teaching.  My maiden aunt Minta (everyone called her Minnie) was traveling with me, we had been in Europe for most of the summer when an opportunity arose to board a touring ship that sailed up the Nile River.  Oh, the exotic sights we saw, nomads on camels watching us from the river shore, the giant pyramids and the Spynx with his nose broken off.  We even were able to climb to the top of one of those pyramids, it took us hours to reach the top, but the view of Egypt was worth every minute.

Anyway, after a trip to the Rock of Gibralter we crossed over into Morocco, suddenly we were in a totally different world.  Not at all like Gibralter where we felt we were setting in a tea room in England.  The smell of exotic spices filled our noses, and colorful bolts of cloth were exhibited at the sides of the parthways. 

The hotel where we stayed for a month had been a former harem, with clay and rock walls that looked totally unassuming from the outside but, when you entered by a tall wooden door, you were suddenly in another world where there were colorful flowers everywhere, and fountains with water splashing and tinkling a wonderful lilting song, tiles of blue and green, and windows low enough to see out of if you were on tiptoe, but high enough so no one could see inside.

One day, Minnie said she just didn’t feel up to going out to explore, I suspect she had a bug from some of the spicy food we’d eaten the night before, so she suggested that I should stay in a rest also.  Well, once again I contrived to sneak out without her knowledge and walked the winding roads into the Casbah.  I had taken a precaution of putting on a local robe striped red and camel color, oh red is such a horrible color on redheads, remember that dear, and pulled a cloth over my face so I wouldn’t be too obviously a white woman alone among all of these men selling their wares, the native women who were walking around were there in groups and always seemed to have an escort with them. 

As I stopped in shop after shop to look at the treasures available for sale I realized someone had followed me along my path, hiding just outside of the open doors of shops, crouching behind carts loaded with fruits and vegetables.  Maybe I should re-consider being here in the Casbah by myself and return to the harem hotel.  As I turned around to retrace my steps I realized I didn’t know the way back, I had taken too many twists and turns, and followed too many exotic looking treasures on my little solo adventure.

Spinning around and around I was suddenly grabbed from behind and pulled roughly into a shadowy alleyway, a place just wide enough for a man or a donkey to walk down, there was a stream of who knows what trickliing down what looked like a little culvert in the middle of the alleyway.  I had been warned many times during my stay here of just this dire problem, young women who went into the Casbah alone were often abducted and sent away to be a part of someone’s harem, of course I thought I was immune to this happening to me.  Even though fear flashed through me all I could think of was how mad Aunt Minnie was going to be at me.  Once again I had gotten myself into a jam by lying, and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get out of it this time.

Trying to kick with the long robes impeding my legs and feet was useless, I flailed out with my arms, only to be hit in the side of the head.  Screaming was out of the question as a dirty hand was held over my mouth, I couldn’t even open my mouth wide enough to bite him.  Just as I felt myself going faint from lack of breath the arms that held me were jerked away.  As I fell to the ground I caught a glimpse of the bluest eyes.  No, this couldn’t be, I thought, here was the same man who took me soaring with the hawks, only he wasn’t a young man any longer, he was just perfect.  At that thought I fainted.

"Red, wake up, you’re safe now, wake up", a voice that sounded older, yet still sounded the same called out to me.  I was being held in the arms of the man who had given me my first kiss, and here he was in the Casbah, how could this possibly be?

"I thought I recognized you and your red hair kept slipping out of your scarf, and I could never forget those green eyes. I was here buying supplies for my excursion into the desert.  Whatever possessed you to walk around here alone?  If I hadn’t come along when I did you would be long gone." 

"I’m perfectly fine", I huffed, although truth be told I was anything but fine.  I shuddered when I watched the dirty robed man run around a curve in the alleyway where my rescuer found me.

"You’re a little fibber" he said, "I’m in a hurry if I’m to meet my caravan into the desert, what am I going to do with you?"

"Please, just take me back to my Aunt Minnie" I replied, trying really hard not to show him my fear, although I’m sure he saw the tears in my eyes.

"I don’t even know your name even though you were my first kiss, and the only time I ever soared with the eagles, and now you’ve saved me from heaven know what, you don't have to sound so short with me you know."

"I don’t know your name either, since we’re on such good terms I suppose you should know I’m called Jordon, named by my folks after the Jordon River, and I'm not being short with you, you just scared me, and I am in a hurry." 

I’m Clarise" I replied, and by the way thanks for saving me, I really am thankful." 

"You’re quite welcome, now, let’s get you back to your Aunt Minnie, but first, I need to do this one thing", and he bent down and kissed me once again, but this time the kiss was magical, I felt it all the way to my toes.

"Grandma, is that when you and Oompa got married?"

"No my dear, that story is for yet another time.  I’m afraid Jordon deposited me back at the Harem Hotel into the angry care of my Aunt Minnie, with a quick whisper in my ear not to get into trouble again, and off he went, not to be seen for quite a while."

"I think this trip was just too much for Aunt Minnie, because she never asked me to travel with her again."

"But, Nana, I can’t wait for another story, I need to know when you were kissed again, and when you met Oompa again?"

"Well, my child, four years later I was asked to take a teaching assignment in an old Spanish town called Santa Fe, in what at that time was the Territory of New Mexico.  My folks weren’t too happy to have me go off to such a “wild” place, but I was certainly excited to be off on another adventure, my life had been just too tame for my taste in the years after my Grand Tour."

"Santa Fe looked much like the small towns in Spain that I had visited with my Aunt Minnie.  The houses were built out of a type of clay called adobe, their roofs were flat, and the only building with a peaked roof was the Cathedral that the Catholic Bishop Lamy had built just off of the plaza." 

"As I stepped off of the train into the horse and wagon that was waiting for me, an old gentleman with grizzled hands and wearing something called a serape told me in broken English that he would take me to the little schoolhouse and small adobe cabin that would be my home for the next year.  As we road the dirt roads into my new town I could smell the bonfires of pinion wood burning all over the area, the fires were called faralitos or (little fires), and around the eaves of every adobe house were beautiful red garlands made of chiles that hung one after another, being dried for use in the winter.  What an exotic and wonderful sight, Santa Fe was surrounded by snow topped mountains with bright Aspen trees covering the lower slopes looking much like golden frosting dripping off of a birthday cake.

I knew I would have a wonderful adventure and couldn’t wait to start teaching the children of this amazing part of the country.

To be continued: