30 July 2008


It's been a heck of a week and a half. I wanted to write last night but I was exhausted beyond reckoning and actually went to bed at 7pm. Here it is roughly, in sequence and bulleted.

*The day before the lightning hike I took the Disreputable Dog to an veterinary orthopedist. Over the past few weeks he has been limping so badly in favor of his front left shoulder that he can no longer walk around the block without having to stop for a rest. The orthopedist ruled out any of the usual suspects and concluded with the thoughts that there is a strong possibility of either bone or nerve cancer. Neither of which are good. He recommended us to a osteology research clinic/ school ~250miles (~400km) to the north of Town At The Confluence Of Two Gold Medal Trout Streams (where I live) in Town Known For It's Veterinary College.

*Lightning Hike - a good break from reality - see previous post.

*Lucky for us we didn't overnight because the retina in my mother's other eye ripped that night. An early morning drive to Oil Drilling Town (~110mile/ ~180km to the west of Town At The Confluence Of Two Gold Medal Trout Streams) for more surgery.

*Next day a 5 hour drive to Town Known For It's Veterinary College. First we manage to arrange for Life Long Friend to take the Parental Dog for the day, and for Life Long Neighbor to come check in on my mom while my father and I get up at 4am for the drive. We get to the college and they take a bunch more x-rays, convinced that the orthopedist may have missed some views (can I say at this point - thank goodness I signed up for veterinary insurance for my dog while in grad school as I didn't want to ever have to choose between rent/food and my dog. If you don't have pet insurance, and you are in North America, I recommend VPI - it's better then human health insurance in the US).

*Good news: there is nothing in his lungs or soft tissue so if he does have cancer it hasn't spread there. Bad news, they still don't know what it is so we will be back for bone scans (for bone cancer) and MRI's (for nerve cancer).

*We leave Town Known For It's Veterinary College the same day, I have to get back to work, and unfortunately I'm late due to road construction (which is hard to plan for when you are driving 10 hours) an so a series of complicated phone calls ensue. Luckily my co-workers are most understanding.The Dalai Lama came to Famous Intellectual Ski Town and the bookstore had put together a bookstore for it which means that everybody is working this week and there really wasn't anybody to call but a few people who are willing to extend their hours (thank you!)

Lama who is in town the day after trip one to Town Known For It's *Because we have the bookstore we also have free lawn tickets to the actual talk by the DalaiVeterinary College. I take the bus up with my sister's step sister and my bike and we find a nice place among the aspen trees to listen. It's an interesting talk although he's a bit difficult to understand. He has a childish giggle that we understand more clearly then anything else. But forget zen (I'm kidding!), I have 1.5 hours to bike ~30miles (~50km) from Famous Intellectual Ski Town to Town At The Confluence Of Two Gold Medal Trout Streams before I have to be at work. I'm desperate to fit some exercise in here - usually I bike/ run/ hike at least once a day but with all this driving there hasn't been any. So I pedal like a mad woman and get to work with 5 minutes to spare.

*Next day is my day off. I go briefly to a summer festival then there's more news. Brother-in-Law's mother is ill with heart problems so he rushes off to Kansas. Sister's mother is in town to work on more permanent care for step father (original Marlboro man) and as they come west over the Continental Divide I go east to Mile High City where the Disreputable Dog and I spend the night at sister's step-sister's house (how's that for confusing?) alone and get up bright and early to make a 730am appointment at the veterinary college which is still a bit north. The Disreputable Dog spends the whole day getting a bone scan - they use the radio active element technetium to scan for unusual growth in the bones - and waiting until he is no longer "hot" and is safe to be picked up. And then it's back home again with another late arrival.

*Despite tiredness I cannot help but notice how beautiful the mountains are on our way back. There has been a rain and the mists are rising up the treeless hillsides. The small town we stop in for a walk is spotlighted in evening sunlight with a rainbow arching over it.

*Get up super early because a) the vet has called with results at 6am - the results are inconclusive. There seems to be unusual turnover in the left shoulder but not enough to determine whether it is cancer, and b) because my parents are back off to Oil Drilling City for another eye appointment. I'm off to work early and I'm so tired I feel like I'm hallucinating. And despite the fact that I have several telephone calls to return, some bills to pay, and a blog to catch up on I ignore it all and go to bed at the soonest possible moment.

22 July 2008

Carter Lake Hike

A flash of lightning dances along the mountain ridge. One one-thousand, Two one-thou-KABOOM! The thunder was so loud that I involuntarily sat down as did the Parental Dog (PDog). The problem was though, that we were at approximately 11,000 feet above sea level (~3,400m) and slightly above treeline - a bad place to be when the lightning is so close which is was. The rule of thumb is that if you can count to 15 after seeing the lightning before you hear the thunder then the lightning is 5 miles away, anything less then that is considered dangerous as lightning not infrequently travels 5 miles between strikes. We started to run, crouched low like crabs against the ground, going from krumholz (the twisted stunted trees at treeline) clump to krumholz clump.

My dad and his dog (PDog)

My father and the PDog were out for an over nighter, I was out for a day hike. We had reached their campsite earlier and had dropped his pack (with his rain jacket) at the site he had selected and then had hiked up beyond the lake to the pass. Hail and rain were coming down hard and the lightning zapped around us the thunder cracking so loudly in the air it was hard not jump. I stopped briefly under a clump of krumholz to dig out a wool shirt and my rain jacket. The PDog stops with me, relieved we are taking shelter, as my father dashes across a boulder field. As soon as I have my jacket on I am urging the PDog across the boulder field as my dad yells "stay low" at us - crabbing as quickly and lowly as possible across wet rock while trying not to do something stupid that might injure me. We quickly descend into the forest where we take refuge under a stand of spruce in a relatively dry space. My father is drenched. We wait no less then 20 minutes before the electric show slows down enough for us to resume hiking. And then we wait one more minute just to be sure. While there we snack, I put my long johns on, my dad puts on my wool hat, we count the distance between each strike and the thunder.

Owl's Clover

Finally we resume hiking and the ground is covered with hail that crunches under our feet. We still move rather fast and we reach the campsite to find everything drenched and my father decides to hike out with me. The final deciding point is that the PDog is absolutely drenched, wetter then I have ever seen her (despite her water-dog roots she does not like to get wet above the ankles) and would have to share a very tight space under a tarp. It turns out to be a very good decision as the roads are all washed out on our way back and there are mudslides turning the river red with silt. I am glad for the immediacy of the storm, it has pushed out of my mind all of the contemplations and worries about the Disreputable Dog's health, my mother's health, and jobs and put me square in the here and now - delighting even in the torrents of water pouring onto the trail, over my boots, and onto the road below.

18 July 2008

Tibetan Poetry

Yesterday we had a reading of Tibetan Poets at the bookstore, read by 4 actors. I wanted to share this one with you.

MADE IN CHINA by Tsoltim N Shakabpa
made in china
by unpaid prisoners
made in china
by starving prisoners
made in china
by brainwashed prisoners
made in china
by tortured prisoners
made in china
by dying prisoners
made in china
from dead prisoners
would you buy anything
made in china?

17 July 2008

Auto Insurance

Conversation with my auto insurance customer representative (CR) regarding the hole in my windshield which desperately needs to be fixed (see post: Mile 1,380/ Km 2,221 (Yukon Territory & British Columbia) .

CR: What make is your vehicle?
WS: '96 Toyota Tacoma
CR: Where did the chip happen?
WS: When I was driving through the Yukon on my way to Colorado from Alaska.
CR: No, where did the chip happen?
WS: The Yukon Territory.
CR: No, not the make of the car, where?
WS: Um...the Yukon Territory is a Province of Canada - it's kind of like a state in the US.
CR: I thought you meant you were driving your Yukon car when it happened. So the Yukon is a state?
WS: Um, my vehicle is a Tacoma. The Yukon is a territory of Canada, it is similar to a state.
CR: Why were you driving in Canada?
WS: You have to drive through Canada to get to Colorado from Alaska.
CR: Are you sure?
WS: Quite.
CR: So what date did this happen??

16 July 2008

Fame & Fortune

Two women came into the bookstore, one looked mildly familiar but it wasn't until Colleague-Who-Sometimes-Terrifies-the-Customers turned on a brilliant smile and charming manner that I was sure. They wore tattered unkempt clothes the way the famous do when they don't want to be recognized. I did not recognize the woman from her fame, although I'm mildly aware of it, but because she is the mother of sommeone I went to school with. Said daughter is now quite famous herself and her face has appeared, to my astonishment, on the tabloids lining the grocery store aisles. I have never been one for knowing who is famous - I've never lived in a house with a television, I didn't see my first movie until I was eleven, and living in remote places for extended periods of time means that I only see them in blocks and spurts (I do enjoy a good movie - don't get me wrong) - and although I seem capable of remembering the latin names for all 6 sub-species of wild turkey in North America I never seem to remember the names of the famous, not the singers who's songs I like, not movie stars, not sports heroes. It's something that comes in handy in this town which lies down valley of a playground of the rich and famous who like to pretend that they aren't.

I was not entirely sure whether I should say anything but if it was the mother of any of my other classmates I would ask because I'm always curious what people I once knew are up to. So when she bought her book I asked "You are So-and-So's mother, aren't you?". She was a bit surprised, surprised perhaps, that I didn't ask her to confirm herself to be her own famous self. I explained that I had gone to school together with her daughter and her face lit up. When I asked how her daughter was doing she said "well, she's arrived, she's made it". Well, what else did I expect? She probably would expect me to sell any real information to the paparazzi. How was she to know that I would never do such a thing? That it wouldn't cross my mind (I mean, I wouldn't even reveal her identity to you all)? Then she relented and said, "you know, thank you for asking, because just because she's famous doesn't mean it's been easy". We then talked about her sons one of whom is also famous and another who seems to be going somewhere with rugby. But what surprised me was that the one child she seemed the proudest of was the one pursuing his PhD in a difficult Asian language. She said she would pass on my greetings to her daughter and I wonder if she will remember me? I rather tend to think not since she has probably met thousands of people since being famous, but then how do you forget your classmates out of a class size of 12?

It's funny, because what I most remember about her was her ferocious temper. I wonder if she still has that temper? All of the super market tabloids that she has graced show her beautiful and smiling. She was lucky at first that they treated her well, but in the past years she has gotten rougher treatment and I hope that she does not see them although I'm sure she stands in super market aisles occasionally herself and cannot avoid them all together. I cannot imagine living life in that spotlight and would not want to but I hope she goes well.

14 July 2008

Mixed messages

So today I got turned down for a job I interviewed for and I got asked out on a date.

A very hardy primrose growing out of a concrete block

(PS - the answers are up on my music meme if you are curious)

13 July 2008

Hiking & Swimming

Another weekend hike, this time with Life-Time Friend and two of her girlfriends. This time the hike was another short 8miles because I wanted to get back to take my nephew, H, swimming, and because one of the girlfriends was leaving dad at home with the new baby for the first time and didn't want to be gone too long. It was another glorious day and it got warm enough to initiate the first skinny dipping of the season. The first is always the hardest - throwing your warm body into streams or lakes full of fresh snow or ice melt - but once you've done the first one you pretty much have to do it every hike that the weather is nice. In comparison the local municipal pool was a hot tub.

The only bad thing about the hike was that the Disreputable Dog (DDog)was not allowed to go. He has some sort of severe shoulder injury and is on restricted activity and will be seeing a doggy orthopedist next week. It nearly broke my heart (and likely his) to leave him behind. The Parental Dog (PDog) was more then happy to be spoiled for all that she is always nervous hiking about the unseen wildebeests that might be lurking out there and just waiting to pounce on her. The PDog has very poor eyesight and a very active imagination. My favorite story about her is of my dad taking her backpacking for the first time. He was sitting on a log eating his super with her sitting in front of him when an owl hooted off to the front of them. She promptly got up and went and sat behind my father! Brave she is not and as such she is usually glad to have the DDog there to have her back. Although Summit was there (the dog of Life-Long Friend) we were dog poor - I cannot remember the last time I went on an outdoor outing (discounting fieldwork) with other people where the dogs were not at least equal in number to humans if not exceeding them.

On my return H and I had a lovely time at the local pool where he showed me how he knows to blow out the air underwater by saying "artichoke" (which is a rather difficult word for him) and where we generally bounced and splashed around until his teeth were chattering and we had to lay on the hot concrete to warm up - him with his butt in the air. On our way home we stopped to look at his grandfather's current project which is to get the pool to be entirely dependent on solar energy.

11 July 2008

Of Children & Art

My just-3 year old nephew, H, has come for a week long visit (without his sister) with his grandparents and aunt. It's a bit tough with my mother's eyes, but my dad and I manage to tag team most of it even with my odd working schedule. H is a cuddle bug and has inherited his grandfather's sweet tooth. You know how some people have cognac before bed? Well, my father has a glass of maple syrup. Yep, that's right. When we were little my sister and I always had to hide any candy we had from his insatiable sweet tooth - not that he doesn't share, he's very generous but you have to get to it before he does. Tonight he had made homemade strawberry shortcake and my nephew was so excited he flapped his arms in the air and said "thank goodness the food is here!"
H experiments with the dog head cone as toy/ clothing

We've had a few bears through our yard this spring, mostly a mama black bear and her cub, and H has heard stories about them. For some reason he was talking about them and saying how if the bears come by at night he'll just punch them in the mouth. We mentioned that this would probably not work and he'd best let Disreputable Dog take care of it since he knows all about bears and what to do, when H raced inside and closed the door behind him to "keep the bears out before we go to bed".

The Disreputable Cat also enjoys the dog collar

Before joining H for dinner I went off to an art gallery opening called "We will be rich for the rest of our lives" of a childhood friend of mine, Gabe Liston - it was fabulous. He does these wonderful things called Blue Book tiles where he actually uses old books as canvases. He also does wonderful things with light in his paintings. Check out some of his work over at Lastwater and click on paintings or Blue Tiles for artwork. His subject is mostly children and he has a great knack for catching those emotional childhood moments.

09 July 2008

Weekend Hike

I worked the US holiday on the 4th of July and the weekend but had Monday and Tuesday off. Luckily, Atmospheric Chemist friend can take any day off he chooses in the summer since he works at a teaching college. He came up from Oil Drilling city with his dog and we had a lovely 8mile- 2,000 foot elevation gain - hike up to a pretty mountain lake. There was still some snow at the last bit but the lake was beautiful and we had it to ourselves.

Atmospheric Chemist friend and I met in Alaska where I was attending grad school and he doing a post-doc. It's one of the serendipitous things in life that finds us in the same state. He's altogether glad to come west to cooler elevations this time of year as I was happy to join him in the desert regions in early spring.

I came home to good news - my mother's latest eye appointment went well and she did not need additional surgery! She has now had 4 surgeries on her right eye and one on her left (and will need additional surgery on the left once the right completely heals). And blessedly she no longer has to lay still with her head at a 75 degree angle below her shoulders! Her vision is recovering, albeit slowly, and the spectre of blindness fades from our thoughts. It turns out that a childhood illness - ricketts - which the doctor did not believe she had (it has been an uncommon thing in North America for some time as it caused by malnutrition) made her more susceptible to retinal detachment. Who knew?

08 July 2008

Six Word Memoir Meme

Tagged by was tagged by Doris Rose of MacBean's Adventures & Silver Fox for this meme to write my own six word memoir. I apologize for the long delay it took before I did it!! So here are three possible six word memoirs for me... (except mine only have 5!).

"Always takes the scenic route"
"Pays attention to the details"


06 July 2008

Music Shuffle Meme

edited on 7/14 to add: Okay already, I guess nobody wanted to guess so here are the answers ! I wish you could hear how totally different this music sounds played next to each other.

Tagged by CAE at VWXYnot? I'm not tagging because I suspect that this has already made it's rounds while I was on my blog-break. But if you didn't do it and you want to - have at! - just leave a comment saying so. So the rules are that I am supposed to post the first line from the first 25 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song, and then you all are supposed to guess the artist and song that the line comes from. Erm, just looking at my list there are some really esoteric songs there but okay (and you can probably tell by my list why I'm no good at guess on other people's lists). The other rule is that I am supposed to cross out the line when someone gets it right (and when someone does I'll put it in orange) ...anyone want to enlighten me as to how to do that? Help! 'Cause I haven't' figured that whole text crossing out thing yet. And then I'll post the answers in a week or so.

So here goes nothing!

1/"When I was a child, nobody smiled..." is Nobody Knows Me At All by the Weepies
2/"Something is calling me into the mountains..." is Into the Mountains sung by Lisa Dancing Light (remember this one from the school musicals???)
3/"Es kamm Mamhad Mustafeh aus der Turkei..." is Bruder by Rainhard Fendrich
4/erm, this song has lots of saxophone in it...no words...solo jazz saxophonist is Serenity by Clarence Clemons
5/On the Road Again by Willie Nelson "On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again..."
6/"Trying just to be, and I'm trying hard just to breathe..." is Soul Swimming by Beecake
7/"Well I was sitting, waiting, wishing...." is Sitting, Waiting, Wishing by Jack Johnson
8/"Well it's been a long time, I knew we'd be together another time, another place..." is I'm Alright by Jo Dee Messina
9/"She's beating full of steel and holds a hardy, hardy crew, and there's lots of work to do..." is The Salty Sea by Alaska's Hobo Jim
10/Love Song by Sara Bareilles "Head under water, and they tell me to breathe easy for awhile..."
11/Non je ne regrette rien by Edith Piaf "Non je ne regrette rien..."
12/"I've got you under my skin, I have got you under my skin..." is I've got you under my skin sung by Diana Krall (Propter Doc & ScienceGirl had the right song)
13/"He drove her heart just like he used to..." is What you didn't say by Mary Chapin Carpenter
14/"Ein kalter shower jagt, mir durch die Haut..." is Noch ein Leben by PUR
15/"The years grow shorter not longer..." is Wonder why we ever go home by Jimmy Buffett
16/Superman (It's not easy) by Five for Fighting "I can't stand to fly, I'm not that naive..."
17/"It doesn't get any lonelier than this..." is Lonlier than this by Steve Earle
18/"Stone blind, alibi...." is Alibi by David Gray
19/"Are you breathing when I'm breathing?" is The Consequences of Falling by k.d. lang
20/"Auf dem weg zu mir, habe ich mich oft verlaufen..." is Auf dem Weg Zu Mir by Steppenwolf
21/"Llego la banda q toca todo el dia..." is Esta Borracha by Los Borgi
22/"Home is behind the world ahead..." is The Steward of Gondor from the Two Towers/ Lord of the Rings Soundtrack
23/...this one I'm going to post the title and if you can guess the artist, fabulous. The language is Twi and, to be honest, although I sign along to it I would probably totally butcher the spelling. It's called Wo ho kyere by Daddy Lumba.
24/"I wake up, looking around my room, all my dreams crystalline clear..." is Winter Dreams by Jan Garrett
25/""si, ya es hora de esconder..." is Te Dejo Madrid by Sharira

Step 1: Put your MP3 player or whatever on random.Step 2: Post the first line from the first 25 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song.Step 3: Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.Step 4: Strike through when someone gets them right. Step 5: Looking them up on Google or any other search engine is cheating.