Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Vacation

One of the joys of being a student or a teacher is Spring Break.  It is designed for recovery: to put the ‘spring’ back in one’s step.  In Oregon, it serves partially to give people a chance to get away from the incessant Winter rains, and partly to see how many people can fit in at the seaside motels.

We headed to California on a driving trip.  My husband had taken the week off to match my vacation schedule after years of working while watching the kids and me play during Spring Break.  Our kids are grown now and gone, but our Vietnamese student and her friend “needed” to see more of the West Coast.  [This is the way my grandfather, who loved ice cream, would say it: “The children would like some ice cream”.  So it is now a family joke, “The children would like to…go to California”, in this case, said I to my long-suffering husband.  “They need to see some other points of interest”.]

We drove to San Francisco leaving at 4 AM Sunday morning and heading toward sunrise in Crescent City on the California border at the Pacific Ocean. 

 Crescent City Lighthouse


There are three ways to get to the San Francisco Bay area: one is I-5, straight through central California and nondescript; there is Highway 1, a high and curvy 2 lane road along the beautiful coastline, and there is Highway 101 between the two, through the Giant Redwoods.  This last was our route, touching at times the ocean and the forests.


California Coastline


A Pretty Fence in the woods


A Giant Redwood Tree and a woodland elf


Along the Eel River


The stately redwoods have been embarrassed by commercial enterprises such as “Trees of Mystery”, “House in a Log” and the “Drive Thru Tree”.  But we did pay $6.00 so our girls could have the experience of driving through a hole cut in a tree.  They took many pictures.


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Another sight I loved was the moss covered trees, not the redwoods but deciduous, outlined in bright green velvet where the sun shone.  We had to stop several times because “the children wanted to take a picture”.  The sun came and went quixotically so some of the pictures are missing the glory that we saw…




We came out of the  woods into fields of vineyards, passing the vines planted in geometric precision.  I am always fascinated by how the rows shift, converge, and redistribute as you drive past their lines.  




We arrived at our accommodation in Windsor (about an hour north of San Francisco) at about 5:30 PM, replete with the sights of the day.  After settling in, unpacking the food boxes, I made supper and we made plans for the next day, which I will show you tomorrow!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

An Irish Story Teller: Maeve Binchy

I just finished reading a great tale last night, Heart and Soul, by one of my favorite story tellers, Maeve Binchy. It continued her habit of delighting me.  Several years ago I finished all of her novels and kept them to reread and share with friends.  I have not seen her name on an unfamiliar book jacket for a couple years, so you can imagine my delight when I was on a potato chip emergency run to the grocery store the other day and saw this new-to-me paperback on the bookshelf.  (I know, I get to the chips by a circuitous route).

It was copyrighted in London in 2008 but in New York in 2009, so I am not as behind as I first feared.  Honestly, I have been afraid that she was in failing health or had passed on, and here she is, alive and well and writing! 

Several generalities are: The stories take place in Ireland, whether small village life whose heart she seems to understand, or the life in Dublin where those villagers gather into neighborhoods and people come and go driven for success and meaning.  The tales are character-driven: her stories are always about the people, and the plots are created by whatever choices and meanderings the individuals take.  The coordination of her cast of characters meeting each other and influencing the path each other takes, whether for good or ill, is where the real story lies, and sometimes it takes your breath away, the way it seems to fall together.  A wonderful joy in her stories is that, after you have come to love someone in a novel, their name may show up in another totally separate work, somehow connected to friends by a letter or visit, and you are so glad to know that they are going on with their lives, that they have grown and changed but are essentially still here in the world with us.  Lastly, she always dedicates her books to her husband “my dearest Gordon, with all my love” which I find personally charming.

Some of my favorites are:

Evening Class  My all-time favorite

Scarlet Feather    in which we meet friends from Heart and Soul again       

The glass Lake  a haunting tale of growing up in an Irish Catholic village


Tara Road

Circle of Friends  so different than the movie version which badly mangled its intent

Silver Wedding   

The Lilac Bus

Firefly Summer

Quentin’s    a dream come to fruition from her other works

The Copper Beech

Nights of Rain and Stars   sheer magic

Heart and Soul

Yesterday I had a day off of school and went with daughter Amanda and her visiting friend Hannah (from Florida; friendship from Tennessee) on an outing to the hot springs I wrote about here. The girls soaked and wrapped while I read in front of the stone fireplace.  I told you I wanted to go back there and read a good book: well, I did.  It was wonderful.

Here is the fireplace:


Here is Hannah:10-03-12-15-37-38HHere we all sat , pulled up to the fire: 


from the 3rd floor balcony:


Long live Maeve Binchy!

Long live the magic of Ireland!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Green, green growing things

We have observed that most people cease learning by the age of forty. By that we mean they no longer actively pursue knowledge, understanding, and experience that will enhance their capacity to grow and contribute to others. Most simply rest on what they already know. But those who finish well maintain a positive learning attitude all their lives. Bobby Clinton, Finishing Well

Last weekend we attended a leadership retreat. I had the pleasure of decorating the tables for the opening dinner. I went with the gardening theme of “Sowing and Reaping”. The children’s boots on the table were new, unused, and small. I was happy to find great fabric as underlayment.



The rest of the retreat was held at Eagle Fern Camp, our old stomping grounds since childhood. These “green” pictures are from there.10-03-06-13-09-36H10-03-06-13-07-51H





Happy St. Paddy’s Day, and KEEP GROWING

Foto Friday Challenge