Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whine Time!

Here I am just over a week before I will need to let the movers know if I need to extend the moving date, and I find out that nothing has been happening on the mortgage!  The coordinator is now hustling, but my loan officer says the girl has been busy and just dropped the ball for awhile.  Arrrrggggggg!!!!!

She needed all kinds of info from my employer and landlord in Eugene, plus my current landlord, and I thought it was all done and off to the Rural Development underwriter.  WRONG !!  I finally contacted her this morning to see what was happening, and Diana (the loan officer) is glad I did.  I guess an urgent message from a customer carries a little more weight than from someone inside the bank.

I'm guessing my apartment manager in Eugene is on vacation this week, so that can't be done until next week.  Time is getting really, really, short and my stress level is getting really, really high.  I managed to get her the rest of the info she needed, or get it in action anyway.

I'm also guessing that I am going to have to extend the moving date by a week, because it seems unlikely that the underwriters will be able to turn it around in time for me to do anything else.  Then, of course, the paperwork all has to be mailed out here for me to sign.  I can't leave until that happens, or until I find out it's not going to happen.  Arrrrrrggggg!!!

OK.  I needed to vent. No more whining.  For now.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I wasn't thinking about Georgia when I clicked 'play' on Netflix this afternoon.  I was only thinking that the film wasn't going to be available for instant play after January 1st.  I've seen it countless times, of course, but it must have been awhile since the last time because I didn't really remember all those beautiful scenes on the Chatooga River.

I have to say, I am surprised by all the emotions raised during the movie, and they had nothing to do with the action of the actors.  My history with the Chatooga is almost as strong as my history with the Appalachian Trail.  I've hiked and backpacked over trails on both sides, and took my kayak down Section II once upon a time.  That's the tame one.  I've spent a lot of time in that little corner of Northeast Georgia -- drove up there regularly every weekend for several months and, in fact, that's where I spent my last night in Georgia.

A friend of mine has an old trailer on a five-acre parcel surrounded by National Forest Land, well above the city of Clayton and not far from the Chatooga.  We had a lot of good times up there, exploring the forests and just being.  He moved to the isolated spot 20-odd years ago, used to say (truthfully) that his was the last house in Northeast Georgia.  The dirt road went deeper into the woods, but nothing was up there other than a couple of cabins, no year-round residents.  Go a little bit north and you're into North Carolina, a little east and you hit the Chatooga.  We used to listen to the Whippoorwills at night.

This is where Deliverance was filmed.  Not in his area, but further downstream.  Being a curious sort, he had gotten to know the locals in Clayton and knew more trivia about the filming of this movie than anyone I've ever met.  Most of the mountain people featured in the film, including banjo boy, were local residents,  not Hollywood actors.  He knew their names, knew what had happened to them since the filming, knew so much. I was fascinated with the stories, but remember little. 

Not surprisingly, the movie was filmed on many different locations along the river, not in any linear trip as the movie depicted.  Some of the scenes showing the tamer, calmer river might have been filmed on Section II, which only has one Class II rapid, but the big rapids would have been on Sections III and IV, which I never dared try.  Class III and IV rapids abound here, and one Class V. I only know this from hearsay and photos, believe me! David could have told me exactly where each scene was filmed, I'm sure.

I do have personal familiarity with the big gorge at the end, where their canoe broke up and they got into all kinds of trouble.  Technically, this spot isn't even on the Chatooga.  The river flows into Tugaloo Lake, owned by Georgia Power.  This last huge rapid, which I think is called Tallulah Falls, is on the outflow from the dam, on the Tugaloo River. Every time I've seen it the Falls has been little more than a mere trickle.  For the movie, the power company increased the water flow for the first and I think only time in countless years.  I've been down into that gorge, which runs right along a highway.  A steep, rough trail descends from the highway to the river below. From there, you can follow the river and rock-hop as far as you like.  I went with a group of friends from the Georgia AT Club and can attest to the beauty, even if the river was tamed by the dam and (thankfully!) harmless.

I guess all the emotions arose because I thought I'd never see the Chatooga again, and now, with any luck, that will change.  I'd forgotten the sheer beauty of what is one of the few free-flowing Wild and Scenic rivers in the southern Appalachians.  I won't kayak it again, but I can still hike it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

One Year Later

When I posted my first entry on this blog, just shy of one year ago, I found myself wondering what I would find to write about.  I'll be the first to admit that many of the subsequent posts haven't been works of art, but I always seem to have something more to say.  :-)

This is where I share with friends. My other blogs, Tales of a Well-Lived Life and My Southern Oregon Coast each have some direction and hopefully, better and more focused writing.  The latter will soon be discontinued, of course, as my path takes me forward to Georgia.  I expect to begin a new one there, focusing on garden development and perhaps changes in the house as well.

Reading back over that first post, I find it interesting that in a way I've come full circle over this year.  Then, I wrote about plans to return to Georgia and all the reasons why.  A day or so later I decided to make an offer on a little house I'd been lusting over for awhile.  Nothing has changed, and yet, everything has changed.  That house deal just never was meant to be -- I loved it, but it had maintenance and condition issues, plus I suspected that the yard was much too shaded for any serious level of growing veggies.  I opted to go anyway -- even had an apartment waiting for me and a D-Day planned for May 1st.  Why am I not there now?

Well -- about three weeks before D-Day I had a truly overwhelming sense that I was doing the wrong thing, that I was not ready to leave Oregon or the West Coast in general.  I couldn't do it.  In one of my famous zigzags I drove down here to Brookings on Easter weekend to see this building, see if the town was as nice as I remembered, then went home and canceled the movers and the apartment in Georgia.

I needed these months here.  I needed to spend time walking beaches and trails and hugging redwoods.  I needed to see Crater Lake.  I needed a nice, long visit to San Francisco and the Bay Area. I needed a gentle separation from my buddy in Eugene. I needed to say goodbye to all that I love out here, to all that drew me to Oregon and its beautiful coast 14 years ago.

Quite frankly, I still have far too many emotions about leaving all of these, but I'm far more committed to moving than I was in April, and far more ready to do so.  I love Oregon, and I love the Pacific Northwest in general.  I could happily live here forever.  IF I could afford to buy a house here; IF I had a family or significant other; IF I had a hobby or job that filled the empty spaces.  IF any of those existed, I would not be moving. 

Unfortunately, none do exist and I need to go where I can make at least a few of them happen.  I'm just not ready for the rocking chair in front of the TV that seems to be the lot of so many of my neighbors here.  I'm still healthy, strong, energetic.  And lonely.  In Cedartown, at least I'll have genealogy contacts -- people with a common interest -- and a couple of relatives, plus I'll have the house and garden, plus the bike trail and the Appalachian Trail and genealogy and a dog or cat or both much I don't have here.  I'll have purpose, and that's what I need. I won't be doing any whitewater kayaking however -- that photo is from the past and will remain that way, as much as I loved it.  It was taken on the Etowah River, if I remember correctly, in North Georgia. 

I know I sound as if I'm not ready to go, or as if I have misgivings, but that's just sentiment talking.  I'd leave tomorrow, if I could.  I am SO ready to move forward beyond these days and weeks of waiting, SO ready to start the rather daunting work of turning 1/4 acre of grass into grass-less gardens, so ready to be in some place that will be mine, a home where the manager can't fuss at me for using the laundry too early in the morning. SO ready for the last part of my life to begin.  I may shed a tear or two, just as I did when I passed by an Appalachian Trail highway crossing the morning I left Georgia 14 years ago.  If I could leave my beloved AT behind, I can leave Oregon behind.

I'll miss these beaches and the lovely winter weather, but I'm ready to say goodbye.  More or less.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wild China, and Other Thoughts

Think National Geographic on video and you might understand what this BBC series has to offer.  I've had it on my mail disk queue for months now, but suddenly they were released for instant watching, and I didn't waste any time doing so, although it took two evenings to accomplish watching all six episodes.

As the name implies, this series explores China in a natural sense -- from the world's highest mountains, including Everest, to expansive deserts, raging rivers and a long coastline.  Focus is on the scenery, the flora and fauna and birdlife, and lots of history.  The cinematography is so good that the series is a visual feast from beginning to end.

I'm sure I'm not the only person fascinated with this vast country and its ancient history and diverse landscapes.  I'm pretty sure I'll never get there in this lifetime and even if I did, I'd never see the areas shown in this series.  Buddhist temples; remnants of the ancient 'silk road', silk processing from the time the worms gorge themselves then spin their cocoons to the spinning of the fine threads; ancient rice terraces; mountains that go on forever; and the indigenous people of the countryside.  Very little time is spent in any city or even on the famous wall.  If you get a chance, have a look at this.  Very worthwhile!

I had a fasting blood test to do this morning and our local lab doesn't open until 8am, so I was feeling a bit peckish by the time I left home.  We were right at freezing this morning, my windshields were covered with thick frost and I don't even have a scraper.  Fortunately, the car's defrost mechanisms worked quickly.  The reward for all this was a Mocha at the local Dutch Bros. and a chicken biscuit at McDonald's.  I feel much better now, although if the troubles I had navigating the drive-thru path at McDonald's were any indication, I may not be safe to drive 3100 miles to Georgia!  Let's put it down to hunger and leave it at that.

Cold or not, the day is sunny and bright and due to hit 55 or so today.  Once my breakfast settles a bit I have weight work to do.  Until then.....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Lovely Birthday!

I admit it -- as a 'Christmas' baby, I enjoy having my birthday remembered, and enjoy celebrating that day far more than I enjoy Christmas.  Some years I can get really depressed if I spend the day alone, or if nobody remembers. 

I think I've had more birthday cards this year than in total over the last 5 years.  They are coming out of the woodwork from fellow residents in this building, and one of my neighbors took me to lunch today to celebrate. Plus, my best buddy from Eugene called this morning to wish me a happy birthday and chat for awhile PLUS I just came downstairs from another stint on the treadmill and found these lovely flowers from him. I wouldn't have been much more surprised to see him standing on my doorstep. And you wonder why I'm going to miss him so much!

So, I'm a happy camper.

No progress on the house, that I know of.  It's a bad time of year to make anything happen!  There will still be time, so I'm not worried.  Just playing the waiting game, and working out as much as I can.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Morning Light -- A Tribute to Roy Disney

Pure coincidence led me to watch this documentary tonight -- it popped up on Netflix yesterday and I added it to my queue.  Until the film began and the credits rolled, I had no idea Roy Disney was behind it.  I also didn't know that he was a sailboat racer and that he'd won the TransPac twice. The film had caught my attention because of my own ancient history in sailboat racing, and my own history with this race.

What the man did was wonderful.  He took a boat -- a good boat -- and handed it over to a bunch of youngsters with varying amounts of sailing experience and no ocean racing experience, and let them race it 2225 miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

The boat is what in my time we would have called a 'sled' -- an ultralight, ultrafast, wide, flat racing machine.  From the type of the boat -- a TP52 -- I'm guessing it was designed specifically for the TransPac.  Whatever, it was a competitive boat, no slouch.  The crew were all young people, mostly 21-22 seemingly drawn from various college campuses around this country plus Australia.  They were raw.  Disney brought a bunch of them to Los Angeles for trials, where a smaller group was selected for several months of training in Hawaii.  He gave them coaches, put them through lots of safety trials, and basically honed them for the race.  Incredibly, this bunch went from raw slouches to seasoned sailors by the time the race began off Long Beach in 2007.

Not surprisingly (it is Disney, after all) the boat was equipped with lots of cameras and microphones and apparently, a chase boat for long shots (and probably safety).  For most of the trip, they were alone in the vast Pacific.  Then the only other boat like theirs appeared from the rear and stayed with them for several days, with the lead changing between the two.  The difference is that the other boat was brand new and crewed by professional sailors, not a rag-tag team of newbies.  In the end, the other boat finished first in class, but not all that far ahead.

"My" TransPac was 1971, when my friend Jim sailed his 33 foot Sandpiper (shown here on San Francisco Bay) in the race.  She was the smallest boat in the race and didn't win by any means, but she also didn't disgrace herself.  I flew down for the start, helped with the loading and packing of supplies, then went out on the press boat for the actual start (I was a legitimate member of the sailing press at the time).  After talking to a couple of guys for awhile, after the race started one of them looked at me and said 'can you say all that into a microphone?'.  I said yes, I supposed I could, so we did an interview of sorts and I told them all about Sandpiper and other things I knew about the race.  They were from one of the big all-news radio stations in LA, and as I drove a crew member's car back north I picked up pieces of the interview scattered over a couple of hours until I lost them.

A week or so later I was on an airplane headed to Honolulu.  United had promoted a 'TransPac' flight, for family members.  Once we reached the part of the Pacific where the boats were, the stewardesses rounded us all up and took us into first class, poured us some bubbly and one by one, radio contact was made with each boat and we had a chance to talk to our loved ones.  That was super. 

Each boat is assigned a local host/hostess, and when I landed in Honolulu I was met by Sandpiper's hosts with the words "we've got to hurry, Passage is about to finish off Diamond Head and we're going to sail out to watch".  We made a quick stop at my hotel so I could change clothes, and almost before I even knew I was in Hawaii, I found myself on a sailboat slicing through balmy waters in bright sunshine -- not what I was used to on San Francisco Bay!

Windward Passage (shown here on San Francisco Bay) finished first overall that year, and I can't even begin to go into the parties that began that evening and lasted for days, as each boat came in.  Suffice it to say that it was quite an experience for me and I loved every minute of it. After that first night, I spent most of my days on Blackfin, owned by Ken DeMeuse of San Francisco, who finished second overall.

But back to Morning Light.  Disney gave those kids something they will never forget, a life-changing experience that will stay with them throughout their years on this earth.  Granted, he got a documentary out of it, but I doubt if it made enough money to pay the production costs so I think it's safe to say that he did it for the right reasons.  After watching this, I have a whole new level of respect for the man.  Almost anybody can produce movies, especially if your name is Disney.  Not everybody who has the ability to do something like this for other people does it, however.

Fair winds, Roy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Julie & Julia - Encore

Since my birthday is in a couple of weeks, as is Christmas, and since I'm likely to spend both alone, I bought myself a birthday/Christmas present today.  God, how I hated hearing that when I was a child!  "Here's a present for your birthday and for Christmas, Kitty."  One present.  I was gypped, year after year.  But, that's another whine, one that I will get over once the dreaded, hated month of December is past.

I love this movie because 1) it's about food. Duh!  and 2) it's the ultimate feel-good movie and right now I need all the help I can get in feeling good.  It joins those rare few movies that I will watch again and again just because they make me feel good.  Escapism?  Perhaps,  but who cares.

Question is, if it makes me feel so all-fired good, why am I all weepy now that it's over?  Okay, so I'm just a bit extra prone to weepiness right now.  I don't remember being weepy when I first saw it, but then, that was in a big theater surrounded by strangers and it simply goes against my principles to weep in a movie theater.  At home, one has no such constraints.  I guess I'm weepy because it was such a happy movie with such a happy ending, and because it was such a wonderful love story -- two love stories, really. Could be I'm weepy because I weep a lot in December, just because it's such a lonely month for me.  I smiled all the way through the movie, however, weepy or not.

Incredible story, wonderful casting and acting.  And I don't think you have to be a total foodie to enjoy it.  I think I need to try Julia's Boeuf Bourgignon again, however, because mine didn't reach that orgasmic 'yum' that was implied here.  It was lovely, yes, but not 'yum'. And it was a lot of work.

As a side note and story, however, there was a passing reference to braised cucumber that really brought back some memories.  I don't know what Julia's recipe for braised cucumbers entails, but I can attest to the virtues of cooking cucumbers slowly in lots of butter. That is a definite 'yum'.  I know it sounds strange -- who cooks cucumbers?  When I was working at Beringer there was a fabulous restaurant in St. Helena called La Belle Helene.  In my job, I had the sad misfortune of being taken to lunch by various vendors on a regular basis at this and other local restaurants.  La Belle was my favorite, hands down.  I came away with a couple of recipe treasures, coaxed from the waiters.  One was a Creme de Laitue (lettuce soup, made of the outer leaves of butter lettuce, a little parsnip and lots of cream) that made me weep for joy.  The other, was the cucumbers in butter.  Were they braised in butter?  Perhaps -- certainly cooked at a low enough temp that it wasn't really sauteed.  (is that spelling right?).  You peel the cukes, halve them lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and then slice crosswise into little crescents about 1/2 inch thick.  Toss in a pan with lots of butter until they are warm and tender, and serve.  Wonderful -- and yet something I rarely remember to do.  Try it sometime.  I don't like raw cucumbers at all, but I love these.

Of course, the book was a constant reminder that I, too, have never really finished anything I started. That's not strictly true -- I've finished many things, but I certainly never lived up to my potential and I quit on some really important things and because of that I feel that I haven't finished things -- such as my life. I want to do that.  I want some big bang of a project that I can pour all my passion into and finish with a flourish.  What might that be?  I wish I had the answer.  The house and garden will certainly be a project, but I think I need more than that, just as Julie in the movie needed more than to simply cook every recipe in Julia's book.  She needed a deadline.  Hard to put a deadline on a house and garden, particularly when there is really no end game involved, and little money to pour into it.  But -- I need that before I die.  What will it be? And, do I have the energy left to do it?

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Tortes and Life and Love

This is all that's left.  A luscious chocolate torte to share with love and, at the same time, say goodbye. Not even a trace of fresh raspberry sauce remains to break the stark reality, to cover the blunt truth, disguise the sorrows beneath those last almost-24 hours of joy. It's possible we may meet again in this lifetime -- indeed, I need to hold onto that hope -- but much distance and newer lives for each of us will create a gap that may not be breachable.  We are, after all, no longer young and we must use our time and energies to reap the greatest joy we can from the lives we must now build so far apart.

Almost six years our lives have been indelibly intertwined.  Earlier today it occurred to me that in all my years, never has anyone -- anyone! -- been a part of my life in any deep way for so many of those years. Gratitude overwhelms even as sorrow rushes in.  Our lives never touched in the way I would have liked, or I would still be in Eugene, not traipsing off to Georgia.  But the essence of my spiritual beliefs tells me that this was not the reason we came into one another's lives.  Our purpose was to help one another heal, and I think it's safe to say we have accomplished that purpose and it is now time to let go, to move forward into new stages of our lives.  I don't like it. I don't want it.  But I recognize the truth, or at least the truth as I see it.

None of that makes this easy.  Watching him walk away after one last hug was something akin to tearing out a part of my soul.  Only now, a day later, are the tears coming as the reality hits.  I will never see him again.  He's gone. We'll talk, we'll write, we are friends for life, but will there ever be another hug? Another shared evening of food and wine and brandy and joy?  Probably not.  I knew this would be difficult, but it's beyond difficult.  It's heart-wrenching, even as I recognize the necessity and prepare to follow my own path onward to Georgia.

If all goes well with the house purchase I have 5 weeks remaining in Oregon.  Too long to begin packing and making final preparations, and yet little more remains.  I'm treading water, waiting for word that the house has appraised and that the deal is moving forward.  Outside my door, the weather is as blustery and unsettled as my emotions. And yet, all will clear. The sun will shine again, the rain will stop. And I will let go, move on, and be happy.

For you, my sweet, I wish nothing but the greatest of joy and love and happiness. And I am filled with gratitude for all that you have taught me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crabs -- Finally!

 Being tagged prior to cooking. 
Remember back last summer when I tried my own hand at crabbing and failed miserably?  After losing my trap, I opted to not waste money on another.  The commercial Dungeness Crab season opened here a couple of days ago and thus far the catch is stupendous.  I'd read about a little crab shack down on the docks and today went in search -- thinking I was only scoping it out for next week, when a friend will be visiting.  Do you think I could walk away without one?  Forget that!

Even though she was just opening up, customers arrived right after I did and we all waited while she fished our orders from a live tank, weighed and tagged them prior to cooking.  I had thought to cook it myself, but these were HUGE crabs, also rather angry crabs who would have to be handled at some point in order to put into the cooking pot -- so I wimped out and let her cook and clean it for me.  My crab weighed around 2.5 pounds -- and they were all about the same.

Can't beat the price -- it would be twice that in Eugene, and not nearly as fresh.

While I waited for the crabs to cook, I wandered around the docks, fascinated as always by the boats and water.  The floating crab shack is in the background here.

This was, of course, the commercial dock, rather than the pleasure boat marina.  I love reflections of those tall arms in the water.  I was in Brookings for awhile before I realized that those arms are let out to the sides while fishing, only raised when in port.

The big boy, cooked and at home.

Half of him produced this luscious pile of fresh crabmeat.  I'll have the other half tomorrow. Life is good.

So now, my tummy sated, it's back to reading and resting, since Thursday has worked itself into being my weekly day of rest from physical activity.  I need that rest -- I've been pushing myself fairly hard, and my body just isn't as young as it used to be, as much as I try to deny that.  I'll be back to it tomorrow -- headed back into California to tackle the Boy Scout Tree Trail again.  This time, I called ahead and made certain the road was open! Our fabulous weather is also supposed to hold for a few more days.

Before that, however, is the BIG GAME tonight in Eugene!  Since I don't have a partner in crime, I guess there's no seedy bar and beer in store for me, but I'll keep my eye on the score, probably go upstairs to our recreation room and watch it for awhile.  My friend in Eugene said this morning that the city was abuzz, and having lived there on big game days (although never one quite this big!), I know what he means.  The town simply throbs.  I found a bit of football fever spreading through Brookings while I was out - U of O flags flying on cars, the bank all decorated (more or less evenly divided between the two schools).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moon Set

About 5:30 this morning I picked up a wild hair to go chase the moon setting over the ocean.  I really didn't have to go very far, of course -- although the angle of the moon to the shore was a bit awkward and the scene changed completely after a few short moments.  It's not a prize-winner of a photo, but it served the purpose.  That bright light on the horizon is actually a boat not all that far away.  Crab season began  yesterday, and my understanding is that these guys are out all night, come back in at dawn with their catch.  There were plenty more outside camera range.

It's yet another gorgeous day here -- hard to believe it's actually December, with this weather.  Eugene was a too-cool 25 degrees this morning -- and it was around 40 here.  I did a lot of walking yesterday, have done my morning weight workout, and I'm a tad pooped, so I don't think I'll do a major outing today.  Still need my 10,000 footsteps, think I'll probably walk to the library later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Full Moon

There's this really bright light outside my window tonight -- but the man is missing.  Guess it's just too bright.

For those of you who may be wondering, the house is moving along quite swimmingly, although there's nothing to report on a daily basis.  Right now, we're waiting for the appraisal -- and I don't know when that will happen but it's been ordered. I'll keep you posted!