Monday, April 28, 2008

The Dream

I probably dream more often than I think I do, but upon waking, I rarely remember more than just a few fragments of what I have dreamed the night before, not enough to think about or to try to figure out the meaning of what I do remember. This habit is probably just as psychologically significant as it would be to remember the dream fully and to offer it up for interpretation.

Recently, however, I had a dream that I remember in what (I think) is its entirety. Here I share it with you...I am certain that it is open to a number of interpretations. Feel free to attach your own meaning to it.

The dream...

I am in a jumbo jet, a 747. I do not know where I am going on this airplane. When the dream begins (or when what I remember of it begins) I am just on board along with a multitude of other passengers.

The flight seems normal. Looking out the window, I can see the mountains below. They are mountains that are akin to those in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, mountains that are old, worn away to but a portion of their former selves, mountains very similar to those through which I recently drove on my way to Boone, NC. The roads wind around the edges, ascending and descending, serpentine fashion.

The day is lovely. The sun is shining.

As I watch the scene below the plane unfold, I begin to wonder why such a large aircraft is so near the earth below. I should be seeing only clouds and sky from on high.

A voice (male) comes over the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. Please fasten your seat belts. We are going to have to make an emergency landing." His voice is calm. Assured.

The passengers are also calm. We watch as the plane descends to a curving mountain road. Just before touching down, we gain altitude, ascend to a height from which the road appears to be but a ribbon.

This descent we do three times. Each time, the landing is aborted.

The voice returns to the passenger cabin and informs us that the next attempt will be our last. The airplane must be landed, but the landing will involve passing through a mountain tunnel. Again, we are encouraged to remain calm.

The plane descends again. It nears the road, but before it touches down, it is hurtling through the tunnel at an extremely high rate of speed. I am curious, not afraid. I see the walls of the tunnel only as a blurred surface. Occasionally, the tip of a wing makes slight contact with the wall. Sparks and stars shoot in all directions. The feeling is that of being in the ending scene of "2001."

As suddenly as we entered the tunnel, we exit the far end. Sunlight returns. The plane slows. It is on a mountain road, a gravel road. Tall trees stand on either side. On one side of the road, there is a rushing creek. On the other side, a sign pointing the way into the forest to "10 Mile Falls."

Slowly, the plane taxis into a small village, where between the school and a chalet, it stops to properly observe a stop sign. This village is familiar to me. It is the exact replica of a place I have stayed on many occasions.

The plane moves forward again. With its wings nearly touching the buildings on either side, it stops at a loading dock. A crew of strong and boisterous young men form a human chain and begin to offload the cargo. I watch them from my window.

A stewardess appears at my seat. "Will you be going on with us to our next stop?"

I am startled by her question as I thought this was an emergency landing. "How will this plane take off?" I ask.

"Oh, the Captain says we will just go up the road a bit, turn around, and then take off from there. We will be going downhill so that should help us gain enough speed to take off."

"I think I will just get off here," I tell her.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Suggestion for Your Next Vacation

If you are looking for a suggestion for your next vacation, and If you happen to be free for the dates of July 30-August 3, and if you can get to Clinton, Montana (it's a long way from nowhere to Clinton, but worth the trip for the look-see at the scenery), and if you want to own your town's bragging rights to having had the most unusual trip of the summer, then you might want to consider attending the Testicle Festival.

Could I even imagine such a thing? Could I make it up? Would I try to fool you?

This festival bills itself as "A gathering of people who love to eat food, frolic in the mountains, and just plain have fun."
And, of course, the piece d'resistance is the Rocky Mountain Oyster, carefully and precisely defined as "the testicle of a bull."

Check it out for yourself on the official Testicle Festival website: where they provide a cautionary word of advice "No kids, no hassles, no brought-in beverages."

So go. Leave the kids and the six-pack behind. And have a ball! (Har-har-har!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Getting a TomTom vs. Having a Child

I can tell you one thing, both can be painful experiences.

But first, for the uninitiated, as I was before Deirdre and Norman literally punted me out of the 20th Century into the 21st by presenting me with a TomTom GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system for the car so that I would always know where I was and so that I could find out how to get to wherever it was that I was going. Good-bye to my beloved Rand-McNally atlas given to me by my hometown State farm agent for my many years of loyalty (with all the money I have funneled into State Farm, I could buy airline tickets everywhere forever!)...hello to a brave new world!

I have spent over a week with TomTom now and I can compare the experience only with the experience of having and living with a child.

Ways in Which TomTom and a Child Are Alike:

1. Neither can be left unattended in a car.
2. Neither can be prevented from saying whatever it wants to say, even if you don't particularly want to hear it.

"800 yards, turn right,"
"Turn right."
"Turn right."
"Turn right."

"Are we there yet?"
"I'm hungry."
"I'm bored."
"I have to go to the bathroom."

Ways in Which TomTom and a Child Are Not Alike:

1. TomTom arrives with a full set of instructions,plus internet help websites, plus an 800 number customer service help desk. With the arrival of a child, you are on your own. (It helps to have done some baby sitting when you were a teenager.)

2. If you purchase a TomTom that turns out to be defective, you can exchange it for another one or even get your money back as long as you have the receipt. Hospitals, generally, do not recognize a receipt from the facility as a mandate to change out an infant you deem unsuitable. For whatever reasons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Warning Sign

Somewhere...had the infamous TomTom GPS "device" been working, the location could have been more accurately determined...but that's another story and I won't get into it here...suffice it to say that miles from nowhere (literally) along the Montana portion of I-90, there was a sign at a rest stop that was quite interesting. The sign was a permanent type highway metal sign meant to be a permanent fixture there in front of the facility's main building. The sign said, and I repeat:

"Stay on the sidewalk. Rattlesnakes are frequently seen in the area."

I followed the instructions.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's a Good Question

The question: How do you know for sure that you are in Wasta, South Dakota and not in Florida on the 21st of April for any given year?

The answer: You drive off the interstate to an unmanned service station with 1 pump to get gas. After filling the gas tank, you decide to wash your windshield. You pull the squeegee out and it emerges from its bin of water encased in a sheet of ice!

This is a true story. I do not know enough about cold weather to make it up!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

My grandson Alex (20 months) loves hats. He goes through each day replacing the one he is currently wearing with another. He stands up in his crib in the morning asking for a hat.

When I was in Boone, NC (named after Daniel Boone, of course) I found a coonskin hat in one of the shops. I debated endlessly over buying it. I was figuring Alex would either really like it or he would be horrified over a hat with a tail and would reject it completely. My friends with me kept encouraging me "Oh, he'll love it!" until finally Liz Merchant (on her way to Ferry Beach, Maine, by the way) put the matter to rest by barking, "Buy the hat!" So I did.

Alex LOVES the hat...he wears it a lot...he gives it kisses...he rubs the fur...he tickles his face with the tail...he talks to it...HE THINKS IT IS A CAT!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Travel Tip for the Solo Driver

Never eat a lunch of Cheetoes!

The begining of such consumption should provide sufficient warning as to how the experiment is going to end.

The middle part should indicate to you that you have gone too far to turn back.

The end will provide ample evidence that the catastrophe is complete.

And remember, there is no one there with you to:

* Find a tissue.
* Pull out a "Wet One."
* Tell you when you have finally rid yourslf of your orange mustache.

(The unnatural orange coloration will disappear from your fingertips in approximately 24 hours. The re-sale value on your car will be lessened by several hundred dollars because of all the orange stains on surfaces of its interior.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

In addition to having to worry about the proper clothing to wear during a wilderness winter, now I have been forewarned about the possibilities of a phenomenon called (when you are in the wilderness) "post holing." I read my friend Gail's blog yesterday and she provided the following definition which I quote by means of copy-and-paste. (FYI: Gail is a Texan who has been at Holden for 2 years, so I would have to assume that she knows what she is talking about...perhaps she learned it from experience! Who knows?)

OK. Enough. Here is the quote:

"For you southerners--"post holing" is when you are walking on top of the snow and suddenly your foot sinks into the snow up to your shin... or knee.... or thigh. It is sometimes a challenge to pull yourself out only to sink again with the next step. It happens when the snow starts to melt and softens up."

Well, isn't this special!!?? It is the "up to your thigh" part that scares in perhaps you could not extricate yourself immediately and all the Under Armor in the world would not prevent you from freezing to death in a post hole! (With Under Armor, I am throwing around a term I learned just yesterday in the Gander Mountain outlet (has nothing to do with a is a large sporting goods box-store at sea level along the infamous I-95 corridor (for want of a better deathtrap) on the front of which store is a large sign featuring the outline of a mountain and the silhouette of a goose-in-flight...thus, Gander Mountain...completely out of artistic perspective, I might add, just to demonstrate I know something about something....but I digress...

To my knowledge, Holden Village has no cranes to lift a body out of a "post hole" but those mavericks can really do a number with a shovel...and it has always been an unfulfilled dream of mine to be dug out of a post hole by a maverick with a shovel!

Next thing I know, I am going to learn there is another term for the same activity for a person of my size. It would be called "cratering"!

I will close with a question my son-in-law asked me in Gander Mountain (we were taking a winter gloves, real winter gloves, gloves that, if they get wet, will WICK the moisture away from your skin!). He called from several aisles over "What is the per cent of Thinsulate in the lining of that last glove you looked at?" My son-in-law is a hunter. He knows about these things. And he loves me. He wants the per cent of Thinsulate in his mother-in-law's- gloves to be the right per cent of might think I am exaggerating here, but I am not.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Mast General Store: Purveyors of Winter Woolen Wear That Wicks

Rules for dressing comfortably in "The Southern Style" are fairly simple: 100% cotton, open weave, light colors (preferably white), loose-fitting garments. On a hot August day...or actually, on most any day from June through September...put on a black, polyester/cotton, fitted tee and a favorite pair of black jeans and like the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of Oz," you will hear yourself crying out, "I'm melting! I'm melting!"

As is often the case, when I most need information, not to mention experience, I am just as often at a loss. Such is my current situation with my decision to go to Holden Village and the clothes I willl need to get me through the winter. I generally know that such winter clothes as those I have on hand, winter wear purchased in Florida to be worn in Florida, will prove to be insufficient for the long, snowy winter in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area of Washington State...perhaps the word insufficient is, in and of itself, insufficient to adequately describe the inadequacy of that part of my current wardrobe that has, heretofore, served so nobly to protect me from the vicissitudes of a Florida winter.

Enter (drum roll here) The Mast General Store in Boone, NC! Enter a fit 30-something skier/outdoors-woman/salesclerk/guide for the uninitiated through the travails of shopping for woolen necessities. Enter the word wicking into my vocabulary.

I was in Boone (named after guess-who...a clue...I bought my grandson Alex a coonskin hat!) to visit with Dan and Sue Lindgren, who live there, and to meet up with Liz Merchant of Phoenix. All were at Holden last summer, Dan and Sue for a 3-week volunteer position in housekeeping, and Liz for a 5-month position as assistant to the registrar. In their efforts to show us the highlights of the area, Dan and Sue took us to The Mast General Store.

We spent the first part of our time there in the part of the store where they sell candy...I mean that you cannot believe how much candy is in that store...300 kinds (the sign said). You pick up a basket and load up. And most of it is candy straight from your childhood...if your childhood happened to peak in the '40's! Candy you had long since forgotten and candy you thought you would never see again even if you did happen to think about it. We spent quite a long time exclaiming and reminiscing over the candy but bought not a piece. No one mentioned it, but I will be so bold to suggest the reason we failed to follow through had something to do with the fact that we all have old fillings, crowns, and caps that would possibly have been dislodged while biting into a Sugar Daddy.

We wandered out of the candy side of the store and into the "outfitters" section of that store and the other one (an annex) just down the road where we met up with Wonder Woman and Wool Wear. Noticing, I suppose, my helplessness, she had soon pried my story out of me and began her elucidation on my behalf. First, there was a lecture on socks...the importance of socks and the necessity of having most excellent socks...i.e. Smartwool socks...i.e. expensive socks. And I believe I heard the term wicking for the first of many times. I selected 3 pairs.

Then I thought I would check out the winter boots to go with the winter socks I had selected. This part lasted only a short few moments. I looked at the price tags and felt it necessary to move immediately to more mundane items.

Since I have been told many times that I would need a really good (I assume by now that I can substitute the word expensive) set of long underwear, I find a table of what looks to be suitable (and it is expensive) underwear. Sue helped me to determine that (thankfully) I would need to buy only the large size as opposed to the extra-large size and we had just found a top and a matching bottom in my large size when Wonder Woman popped in to use the w-word again and to let me know that the long underwear currently under consideration was equivalent to Cuddl Duds (which I already had) and would do little to keep me warm for any length of time outside. I needed some long underwear apparently so special they did not even sell it...outfitters though they were.

Before checking out with my socks, I passed a sales basket with some stellar wool gloves...big honkers with a leather "paw" on the hand side, lined with flannel. Wonder Woman took one look and with great disdain informed me that that particular pair of gloves would serve only to keep my hands warm while walking from one building to another. For most other outdoor activities, they would only serve to get wet and that was a bad thing.

I wanted to ask her if that kind of getting wet would be termed "wicking"...perhaps in reverse...from outside the glove to the inside...but by then I had had enough. I paid for my socks and left. Lived to search another day for underwear and gloves. Wonder Woman said that the most important items of winter wear are those that lie next to your skin. I will keep that in mind.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Recalling the Past Over Chicken and Dumplings and Sweet Tea

As planned, I met Neal Ellis at a Cracker Barrel restaurant off the interstate near Birmingham. Neal has been a friend of the family for many years, for almost as many years as I have been on this earth. We moved into the Fairview section of Birmingham when I was 2 years old and he was (I am guessing here) in his teens. We lived on the same street. We attended the same church. His parents and my parents were good friends. My parents maintained the friendship, especially with Neal, even after we had moved away from Birmingham. While I was just a little girl growing up to be a bigger little girl (we moved from Birmingham when I was 7), Neal was a young man making the transition from being a youth into being a young man going off to college.

The years passed. Life careers began and ended. Children were born. Parents died. Marriages began and ended. In short, life moved on, but even though we had not seen each other in many years, we kept alive the tradition of sending Christmas cards and what news was fit to share. To my knowledge, he is one of the only two people on earth who are still aliving and who were friends of my parents. I will see the other person when I turn up in the Raleigh area and visit Virginia Green, who lives in an assisted living facility there near my sister.

During our conversation over lunch, Neal and I got around to discussing Birmingham and all the changes that have taken place in the city since I lived there. In short... many years, many changes. It is a different city from the one I remember.

I told him how I recall having such a great childhood there and remember running footloose all over the neighborhood. I recalled my blue and white Schwinn bicycle (a present from my grandparents) and riding that bicycle seemingly anywhere I wanted. And there were my Union clamp-on skates and endless sidewalks and streets for skate key on a shoestring and carried around my neck. The street games lasted well into a summer evening...'kick the can," "red rover," hide-and-go-seek," jump rope and hopscotch...we recalled the local monument works where my father would periodically take me for the selection of a scrap piece of highly polished marble or granite. They were the best sliding stones for a competitive game of hopscotch. And there was the best birthday present ever on the occasion of my 5th birthday...a yellow tent, not just an ordinary tent....a wigwam!

We recalled the ice cream vendor who would show up on a hot summer afternoon with his horse-drawn ice cream cart (dry ice is the answer to your question as to how the banana popsicles stayed frozen) and Tony, the vegetable man also coming through the neighborhood with his horse drawn cart calling out, "A-fresha vegetables! Fresh-a spinach! Fresh-a carrots! Fresh-a too-mott-oes!" And always we tried to be curbside when Mr. Attaway came by with his ice truck. He would whip out his ice pick and shave off a sliver of ice that, for whatever reason, seemed especially good.

And then Neal began to tell me about the neighborhood as it is today...describing houses abandoned and boarded up, of houses that had burned and the ruins are still in place, of the airplane that had crashed into two of the houses and the remains still there. The sidewalks are broken and heaved up. Junked cars sit in the street. The elementary school (Imperial Palace to my first and second grade teachers...Mrs. Clyatt and Miss Champion) has been torn down. Sparks Store, where I was sent for a loaf of bread or a can of pineapple, is long gone.

It was strange that all of what either of us remembered from those heady days of youth has vanished. All that is left, really, are some fading black and white photographs, retrievable from various shoe boxes, but long forgotten. And there is this tenuous human connection that has somehow survived all the years that have served to obliterate the rest of what constitutes the substance of our combined memories.

But one other thing remains...the Kodak 616 camera my father used to take the picture of me standing in front of my yellow wigwam...the camera I stood grinning into on that July day so long ago is on my book shelf.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Signing Up for an Absentee Ballot

Signing up for an absentee ballot was cause for celebration. It meant that I would be out-of-state for the next year! So, consulting one of my running lists of "Things-to-Do-Before-I-Leave" I was reminded to do that. The way I figure it is that I owe it to my rather run-of-the-mill idea of good citizenship to vote. I figure what Florida owes me in return is to see that my vote is counted...correctly counted. Given Florida's recent history, the odds of that happening are slim-to-none. There is good cause to wonder whether absentee ballots are counted more correctly than regular ballots. Never mind! I will be marking my ballot in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area of Washington State, and that makes all the difference.

The suitcases are packed. The car is filled with the gas. The itinerary is in place. All systems are on "GO!" Tomorrow morning I put the key in the ignition and head mile at a time...and thousands of them.

As usual, the cats are freaking out. As soon as the suitcases came out of hiding, they seemed to be...different. It is like, "Oh, NO! Here she goes again." They mew, they follow me around from room to room, their behavior is a bit odd (interpretation: they curl up together on top of one of the suitcases to sleep). If they knew that this time the trip will last over a year, then I don't know what they might come up with to impede my progress.

First stop tomorrow is an Exit off I-59 north of Birmingham. I am meeting a friend (of my parents!!) for lunch at a Cracker Barrel. If you do not know what a Cracker Barrel is, then you are not "southern". It also means that you have never even traveled through the South...they are regularly situated at interstate exits, never anywhere else,,, and are usually about 50-60 miles apart. And furthermore it means that you haven't a clue what is meant by the term "sweet tea"! I know that you are thinking that the term "sweet tea" is not so difficult a concept, but as I said before, you haven't a clue. At a Cracker Barrel, if you order iced tea, the waitress/waiter's immediate response is, "Sweet or unsweet?" If you are in doubt, order "unsweet" and sweeten it yourself.

At Holden Village when villagers or staff members depart, there is a Prayer of Farewell that goes with them. All Holdenites know the payer so well that they could repeat it in their sleep, but for those of you who have never heard it, I will share it with you here. As I leave on this long trip, it serves me well to keep its words ever before me.

Prayer of Farewell

Lord God,
You have called you servants to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord

Enough said.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Self-Taught Dog's Newest Trick

This is, admittedly, an experiment. On the third day hence, I leave for the Northwest to be in residence at Holden Village for a year. I have been convinced by my next-door-neighbor, Susan Beasley, to forego the vicarious pleasures of writing so very many letters and instead to become a part of the with-it generation and set up my own blog. The idea is that anyone who is interested in keeping up with my goings on can do so whenever they get the urge to check in on me to see what is going on and where I am...whatever from wherever.

SO! I have made it through the step-by-step set-up process and it is time to check it out and see if this thing will manifest itself on the designated website.