The Road Trip

All it may take is a road trip to find joy again.

The brain wakes up. It remembers how to drive on a busy freeway or on big city streets witnessing more traffic than expected during this pandemic.

You drive slower in the country, always alert for a deer to jump out of the brush, so driving within a crush of rushing city folks is a challenge especially if buildings look taller, wider, newer, different.

The brain remembers Spokane, the city on hillsides, valleys, and places like five mile and seven-mile prairies that wind up and around scenic places unbelievably beautiful. Spokane, the river town, where Mr. Dickey has open another Ruby Hotel, this one smack dab on the Spokane River with a beautiful trail just outside the doors.

Returning back to the country, all acclimated to driving in a big city, following a brain with an interior map and not needing a GPS, the joy of the countryside brought the breezes of sweet fragrant hay ripening, a few choice scents of manure passing a farm, and gorgeous mountains looming in the distance above lightning greenery in the fields.

The only barrier to joy is it initially took a bit of courage to leave the country. It takes a little longer until I realize the real courage is IN the country. The challenges here are far larger than those in a city.

Looking for Lost Spanish Gold

A strange thing happened in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

The sun was hot as I trudged through the canyon and soon began hiking up the mountain to our new mining site in the Superstition Mountains.

“You coming?” I waved him to go on. We’d just finished a quick lunch over a little campfire. I was sitting in a little hammock hung from a mesquite tree branch enjoying the muted colors studded by cactus and small greenery below in the canyon and wanted to enjoy the solitude of the desert.

The time passed slowly as I waited for him to finish digging in the hillside below. Suddenly, I thought I saw two figures climbing the mountain across the valley. A feeling came over me. Was something terrible going to happen to the man and the woman in the distance?

The thought about writing a story about that couple and the treasure they found became real; I began to research people who go treasure hunting in these mountains. There was more to this hobby than I had realized. Treasure clubs exist up and down the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and it has become a hobby for so many.

A story came to be: Cries in the Desert. It begins in l703 when the King of Spain sends a Jesuit priest with a band of Spanish soldiers to begin what was called a Vista for the Pima Indians. After getting it established, the soldiers leave and take with them two women as their slaves. The Apaches attack. They take back to their village the Pima girl who has fought like a warrior.

After a book tour up and down the Pacific Coast, the book continues to be available in area gift shops and at the Superstition Mountain Museum. As one fan said, “It was just the kind of book I needed.”

Top Resource – A Writer’s Trunk

Moms write on calendars to capture the cute sayings of their children. Gardeners write on theirs: Weather terrible. Worried the rain will drown the carrots.

What do writers do? They tell stories about people and themselves in journals and stories.

It’s a fantastic thing to discover yourself by reading from past these journals and stories.

During a vast cleanup and organizational project here at my little ranch, it was a blast from the past to read stories I’d forgotten I’d written. They were the beginnings for my novels.

I was first intrigued by their titles:

The Fifth Season

By a Red Thread

Traveler in Wales

Utah White Water Rapids

Sun Over the Yucatan Ruins

Joy is a Warm Puppy

I’ll be sharing a tidbit from these in the coming months. I hope you’ll get a kick of reading them, too.

For example, in Ordinary People, a story about garbage men, I have them singing a ditty at the end of each chapter. Here’s one example:

Younger than Postmen are we

Stronger than Firemen are we

Strong are the arms we give thee

Toting your garbage for you

Loving the messes – we do

So You Want To Be a Writer

“When i write, I suddenly discover things and feel a sense of excitement, and I don;t know where it comes from.” George Friedman, author of 2020 The Calm Before the Storm.

Being a writer is one of life’s great adventures. It requires not only a curiosity about the world but the feeling or an urge to put words on a page by hand.

That delicious feeling brings sparkle. There is a passion for what is called “the work” or “the project” sensed hiding from you off in a misty future.

Patience is required. Time is possible no matter what the circumstances. Be kind to yourself. Continuing to write gives a sense of purpose. There will come a “knowing” in your heart for your ability to keep writing no matter what your circumstances

If you find you have nothing to say, this blockage can be overcome by writing “I can’t do this. I don’t feel up to writing. I don’t know what I want to say.”

This is where courage steps in, wobbly like a toddler. The door opens slowly as creativity blazes in to lead the way.

No one has asked you to write, or, when a project has been completed, to read your work either.

If you write from the heart, a reader will feel the passion behind the pen and be grateful that you did.

Another Surprising Thing

Spring shows her lovely colors. This writer shows how she found an unusual color . It’s not something you’d suspect.

Surprised, yes, I was. It’s was a color I thought had no value. It usually felt off-putting, dangerous, and downright ugly.

But one day I saw that color on a simple sweatshirt. It sent my spirts soaring.

For several years we wintered in San Miguel de’Allende, Mexico. Vibrant colors were everywhere the eye could see. They climbed walls of buildings, decked themselves out in vendors booths at market places, appeared beckoning next to a little child sitting with her mother tucked beside a building selling flowers.

When we returned every year from that internationally historic city one hundred or so miles north of Mexico City, I felt the urge to paint something around the ranch a vivid color, one that would do well surrounded by a forest of green.

Instead of painting an object this year, two little dwarf Japanese maple trees were planted yesterday. One is on a hillside and visible from the kitchen sink. The other is beside two little fir trees in the planter that holds the courgar statue.

Their rich and deep burgandy red of their leaves is subtle now. But, when fall ., their colors will rejoice, shout out as if to say, Hey, we’re here.

Which leads me to describe the color I once thought dull, uninteresting, or, drab.

That was until my eyes caught a sweatshirt in Florida. Big black bold letters on the front read: Need Caffine, on the bright orangish bronze garment.

“That’s not your color,” came the warning. “You’re really not going to buy that, are you?” I considered the advice for a minute or two, considering a garment that wasn’t blue or green.

You have to have a bit of courage to wear a shirt like this. However, it seemed to be the piece of life’s puzzle that I’d been missing. I wore it on the plane returning to Washington State. Several female passengers said that they liked the shirt indicating a chance for a converation with a stranger or two.

Once you jump into something new, you’re bound to add another one, too. The color jumped out again in a plaid shirt in the same blazing orangish shade.

Now when I wear either one of these shirts, I feel as if I’m someone who might be at a poker game, a cowgirl in Texas or Colorado, or out logging in the forest.

This Feels Like a Pilgramage

Now that I’ve returned from spending three months at a little condo on a Florida beach, I keep thinking about a book I just happened to toss in the suitcase at the last minute.

It was a favorite; a paperback, small and light weight both in heft and reading material. Somehow the journey of the main character in it feels relevant to the world today and we can learn something from Harold Fry.

He’s the main character. He didn’t plan to make such a trip. It wouldn’t have been like him at all. He moved slowly, did few interesting things. But, just like us, he found himself unexpectedly, with no plan whatsoever, heading down the road to walk 500 miles across England to the bedside of a friend who wrote him that she was dying of cancer.

“Wait for me,” writes Harold on a postcard. “I’m coming.” He takes off, unprepared as we were for this virus. He’s tall, bent over, a recently retired man who is wearing the worst sort of shoes, has no cell phone or compass, but just knows he must keep walking to save her life.

“The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry,” by Rachel Joyce makes us laugh and cry during his rough, but often times uplifting walk. He takes every day as it comes, puts “plasters” on his blistering feet. No matter what the weather, he plods on, rejoicing in the wonders of early dawns, evolving as he goes, reviewing his life and vowing to be a better father and husband. Midway, he finds he IS stronger. He places a call to the hospice and discovers so is she.

Meanwhile, in my world, there is an Italian author by the name of Francesca Melandri, who wrote a letter fellow Europeans explaining for it is to be housebound for three weeks in Rome and what they might expect in their future. The message is: we, too, will find food to be a special pleasure, some will get fat, others will forgive and forget past transgressions, we will sing, enjoy listening to music, will produce more children, get divorces, and especially those who have a garden will be appreciate then even more.

It is a surreal time. I feel just like Harold. I’m also on a pilgramage of sorts, not knowing what the world will be like when this is over. Along my path now, I am learning to Zoom and LifeSize, find new recipes for baking bread, declutter clothing and useless objects for the landfill, walk every day, appreciate the people along the way whether they come by mail, phone, or in person,

I want to be strong, to be the best I can be in these worst of times. For example, when the young Fed Ex lad came to the house without envelopes, in as pleasant way as I could muster, I put my tiny envelope in the big Fed Ex box. A friend from years ago phoned. “Are you still there? I’m updating my address contacts.” Inwardly I chuckled.

Every day I hear of folks who are social distancing in exciting ways. My niece in California sent eight of her closest friends children’s coloring books in which they are to do one page a day. “At the end of a week, there will be a contest for the best page.” Sherryl in Spokane tells of a group of her friends who do bridge by video.

I wonder if casinos will figure out how to video conference their table games or slot machines. Last night I dreamed about one guy who had just $100. I put a quarter in a machine (an obsolete thing) and won $22. Another four quarters were in my hand ready to play but the dream ended so I’ll never know.

Possible moral behind this virus: We must all play the hands we’ve been dealt the best we can.

Things I Didn’t Know This Week that I Needed to Know

From this mighty fine place to live I write this blog today.

What’s under the skirt of a Scotsman wearing a kilt? Fact: Vince sent a link to a man singing a charming ditty about a man wearing one. He is sleeping under a tree and two young lasses walk by, one who is brave enough to peek under his skirt. He sings, “Hi Diddy Diddy,” or words that rhyme and we learn in the next verse that, “He’s a wearing what nature give him.” The last verse not given here does something every good writer should do – show unstead of tell.

This week I learned that on-line renewal of a Washington State licsense plate is easy on line. Fact: That is, once you can come up with a username that’s not already taken. Tried several: engineer, geotech, consultant, but all had been taken. Finally, the site accepted soilsengineer. This little story is something like what happened to my neice Laura Rinard who wanted a vanity California plate with the name: Packey (my maiden name, too). Already taken, and there are so few who have this name.

I found that cleaning a dishwasher is cheaper if you do it with household items rather than paying a big price for one designated just for that chore. Fact: This week the dishwasher sparkles like new again and so will the dishes and glass ware. Put one cup of vinegar in the top tray and run on the hotest cycle. Dump out the water. Sprinkle half a package of baking soda in the bottom of the unit and run the dishwasher through another go-round.

Netflix and even banks offer real life surreal changes, too, just as our little Wal Mart has done changing from being open 24 hours to much fewer ones. Fact: This week I tried to pay an insurance bill with a debit card which kept being declined even after four tries between the insurance lady and the bank at-home wherever they were folks. Patience is golden but mine was turning green. Maybe Monday, the last guy at the bank pressed the right not-on-vacation button.

Returning home after a five month winter vacation in Florida, it’s taken a week to sort through two tubs of mail to produce three tubs of recycle materials. Fact: With new eyes I see the beauty of this place and take special delight feeling with certanty that THIS IS truly HOME.

A Perfect Pen?

Seeking a smooth writing, pen, I found the Montblanc Meisterstruck.
Is this the pen for me? Does its white top, meaning white mountain, beckon like the mountain forest in which I live?

Characters in my WWII drama use Montblanc pens. As part of my WWII collection of physical objects, I own a silver cigarette cash from the l930’s , using the case to carry credit and business cards. Maybe I should have this pen, too.

A writing utensil has significant meaning for a writer. We love them or hate them, lose them, use them faithfully or don’t.

A pen can say so much. I was in a store in a Florida beach town and asked the man in a yellow vest inside the store if they carried them. He laughed. “This is Wal Mart. No, we don’t but I know all about the Montblanc pen. They feel so good in your hand. In my former life as an executive for a hotel chain, I had to have my suits custom made.”

Then, I just had to ask, “Custom made shoes, too?”

On the hunt after that encounter, I phoned the Montblanc company. Discovered that not only did they have ballpoint refills and leather sleeve covers, but she explained how simple it would be to just screw the point of the pen clock wise to change the ink cartridge.

If I buy from the company, engraving is free. Pens range in price from the $225 Miesterstruck to upwards of thousands of dollars. I’ll also know for certain the pen is the real deal and not a knock off.

The firm selling these luxury pens began a century or so ago. It brought out the Meisterstruck fountain pen in l926 just in time for Major Hurst and Herr Doctor at the Lebensborn Home to use.

“How to you keep from losing them?” She laughed. “Now that can be a problem. I keep mine on my desk. It’s on a stand that a friend made for me.

“You never loan it to anyone because you probably wouldn’t get it back. You wouldn’t take it with you if you’re signing any sort of papers because you may forget it. Maybe choose one in a bright color like cobolt blue, yellow or burgandy.”

I have a concern. Once I have one, will I feel the need to travel to Italy to purchase shoes and handbag?