Snow in November Snow in March

Home in Rocky Point Oregon: current temperature 36 Degrees F  high 43 low 25 partly sunny

snow flurries on Klamath Lake Winter is long in this part of Oregon.  The snows start in earnest in November, with a few skiffs sometimes showing up in October.  The snow can be deep, and while we can get down to zero F for a week or so, the winters aren’t nearly as bad as places like Minnesota or the Dakotas.  Still, they are long. I love winter at Christmas time.  I love winter in January when I can enjoy it and then take off for California.  I love winter in February least of all, and ever since I moved from California to snow country in Northern Idaho back in the early 70’s I have done everything possible to get out of winter in February. 

But winter in March is different.  Even though it is cold and the snow is really tiresome by now, it feels different.  The days are getting longer, just a bit, but it isn’t dark any more at 4:30 in the afternoon.  When it snows, it is usually a bit wetter, and there are patches of blue amid the fluff of snowy clouds. The air feels different.  And the birds are back.  snowgees

Early in the morning I can hear them down by the lake, but they are out on the water in places we can’t get to yet with the snow and ice all around.  Still, we walked down there this morning to get the mail.  Gingerly picking our way through the re-frozen slush in the driveway and hoping our boots didn’t crash through the crusty snow banks down by the water.  When I went in to town yesterday, in the midst of a blustery snow storm, I saw open water along the edges of the lake, and saw that the swans had returned.  I only had the iPad with me, and there was traffic and snow, so it was a quick photo, but it still made me really feel the difference between the deepening winter feeling of December and the promise of winter eventually ending.  Maybe not in March, but still eventually it will end.

There is an aerial survey of the birds in Klamath Basin that is updated regularly, and even back on January 30, we had almost 44,000 tundra swans in the refuge complex.  I love the swans especially, and the snow geese, they look like flapping sheets in the wind when they fly in unison and rise and fall over the landscape.

Horse Fever horses in Ocala will always bring back great memories of sharing this with BelI  am still having a bit of trouble writing about Florida.  My friend Bel, in my life for 19 years, passed away while I was there.  I was with her when she passed, probably the hardest thing I have ever done, and yet a gift I will always be grateful for. If you read my blog in the past, you know about Bel and my visits to her, my worries over her access to health care, some of her life difficulties.  This is our happy fun travel blog, how in the world do I talk about this here?  I guess I just can’t.  Up close family, up close friends, real words coming out of real mouths with sound, seem to be the only appropriate way for the moment.  I didn’t plan to say anything at all when I started this blog, and yet some of you are those real friends with real words who were there for me on the phone and on Facebook, of all places, as I was going through it.  So I needed to acknowledge that somehow after all and thank you.  Enough for now.

visiting Deb in San Antonio (15)On the way home from Florida I was so happy to have almost three full days in San Antonio with my daughter Deborah.  She took off work on Thursday and Friday and we spent our time together driving around to places she loved in her new home, seeing where she worked, eating great Texas food that her sweetie prepared for us.  I ate ribs and cole slaw and Texas beans and cheese bread and brisket and omigosh…the heartburn!  I am not used to eating like that, but it sure was fun to let go for a few days in spite of the heartburn.

IMG_3481 We checked out some quilt shops and picked out fabrics for the quilt I will make for her someday, we wandered off to Palmetto State Park and Lyndon B Johnson State Park, and spent a night in lovely Fredericksburg.  It was cool and breezy while I was there, but the sun was brilliant and gorgeous.  South Texas is a great place this time of year, even though the blue bonnets have yet to burst.  The grasses are greening up, and did I mention that sunshine?  Ahhhh.  It was so healing to be with Deborah, who knew and loved Bel, to have her to talk with about it.  I was blessed by two daughters on this trip actually, with Deanna re-routing a Tampa load to go through Ocala, where she met me for a long breakfast full of big hugs. Daughter Melody stayed with me on the phone a lot and son John called a few times as well, and of course Mo and Maryruth and my long time friend Laura from Coeur d Alene, a respiratory RN.  It was wonderful to have so much support and understanding.

It was good to get back home.  I did a deep clean on the house before I left, and Mo was away at her brother’s while I was gone, so we came home to a cozy, clean, wonderful home.  Mo beat me home by a day, so when I returned the house was still sparkly but was WARM with a nice big fire going.  Snow still on the ground, but sunshine and blue skies were wonderful.  And silence.  The nights are so dark and starry under the hot tub and the silence is just so SILENT!  No street lights, no traffic, no trains, all the stuff of towns and cities are absent here in the forest. 

We are settling in, enjoying home a bit before we decide just when to wander off to the cottage in Grants Pass and maybe get some beach time. Here at home I have a big quilt to finish binding, and fabric to play with, soil survey work waiting and all sorts of “retirement” projects that I still have yet to get to after three years as a retiree.  I am never, never bored.  Ever.

St Paddy's around home-002

Women and Dirt

to Eustis_162A dozen years ago, a great soil survey project leader and I had a joke.  If a woman collected rocks at 3, refused to come inside out of the rain, and loved mud pies, she had the makings of a soil scientist.  When I first traveled into the world of soil survey in the 70’s, women soil scientists were rare. Times have changed, and more than half of the young soil scientists in the field are now women.

AlisonI had the pleasure of working with one of these dirt loving young women when I managed my last project in the foothills of California.  Of course, we insiders know that “dirt” and “soil” are two very different things, but sometimes insiders lovingly refer to our particular specialty as dirty.  AKA, the bumper sticker that says “Do It In The Dirt” and other such silliness.

scoopy 2008Alison came to me by way of Chicago, detailing to California to map soils when we were bringing people in from all over the country to help complete soil survey in areas as yet unmapped.  Most of the eastern and central parts of the country have existing soil maps, but out west there are many areas with no certified soil information available.  Alison came with enthusiasm and energy and brought a great work ethic to Sonora.  Her nickname was “Scoopy”, since not one of us could dig a hole as fast as Alison, guys included!  Of course, the fact that she has run 10 marathons (including the Boston Marathon twice) probably helps. 

walking the sinkhole with AlisonWhy am I talking about Alison on the travel blog? Because visiting in Florida gives me a chance to spend a day hanging with a fellow soil scientist who has also become a good friend.  Alison left Chicago and took a well deserved promotion to Florida and loves it. With a project office in Tavares, a beautiful new home in Eustis, near the charming town of Mt Dora, and a life filled with year round running routes, Alison is happy.  Her husband Matt has settled in as well, teaching marimba and music from their home, although he does mourn the loss of easy access to university culture.

more roads with no carsWith 8 days available for Bel I didn’t feel badly about taking a day on my own to drive south for a visit.  Once again the open space of the roads around Ocala amazed me.  Traveling east on 40 and then turning south on 19 led me through the Ocala National Forest and miles of traffic free highway.  I passed Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs, remembering stories from Karen and Al’s blog about their camping sites in this part of Florida and day dreaming once again of the time when I will be here with Mo and the MoHo and the kayaks.

along the highway to Mt DoraIt was wonderful seeing Alison, laughing about some of our shared soil survey stories, catching up on good inside gossip about fellow crew members and work in general  as we walked around her favorite little sinkhole close to her home. The area has been fenced and protected and has a great trail around the ravine through some lovely habitats. Why we were walking enjoying the warm breezes, Alison came up with a line that I loved.  “People say we don’t have mountains in Florida, but we do…they are just up in the sky.”  She said that watching the huge cumulus clouds build in the afternoons always gives her the chance to look up and appreciate the scenery.

to Eustis_151Matt joined us for a drive to Mt Dora for lunch at the little French restaurant with a lovely patio and live music.  Mt Dora is a storybook town, with surprising hills surrounding several lovely lakes lined with beautiful homes.  Just down the road from the main part of town is the lakefront and boardwalk giving us another wonderful walk through the woods with views of the water. I still am trying to take photos of “velvet air” to no avail.  I think a real photo challenge is getting a picture that evokes that feeling.  Still haven’t managed it, but I keep trying.

to Eustis_129Mt Dora was quite busy on this Sunday afternoon, with many people shopping the cute shops and stores.  The Christmas music was piped outside with strains of “White Christmas” serenading the 80 degree balmy weather.  Floridians really get into the Christmas thing, and the decorations are everywhere.  Must to Eustis_184be all those retired New Englander’s missing their homeland, but not enough to actually go back and weather the awful winters. I found a perfect Christmas flag that has eluded me, a sturdy applique two sided flag with good colors.  Even an internet search didn’t yield anything I wanted.  I will hang it in the snow at Rocky Point and remember this warm, delightful afternoon in Mt Dora.

Around the neighborhood-15Bel is doing well, medications are current, her health has improved a bit with the help of “Heart of Florida” in Ocala, and I had a chance to meet her neighbors and exchange contact information. Bel’s laptop is running well and she is getting used to using the mouse and Windows 7.  She now knows how to get online, either in her back yard with a local internet from an agreeable neighbor, or a couple of miles away at Wendy’s.

to Eustis_170By the way, Wendy’s is a really great connection spot, none of that interface stuff that happens at McDonalds, and a really fast connection. I have learned to search out a Wendy’s when I need to get online and don’t want any hassles.  Wish I had a connection that fast at home!

I talk to Mo every day, and home has been uneventful.  The night temps are in the teens with daytime highs in the low 40’s at best.  I have enjoyed the break, the warmth, the sunshine, but I am ready to get back home to my real life.  Time to haul wood, hug the dog and the cat, hang the flag, have cable TV and an internet connection again, and work in my home office in my pajamas. 

Florida Velvet

Dwntown Ocala_115Florida Velvet Air, at least that is how it feels to me.  This morning I somehow slept in until 8:30 and when I woke the breezes were billowing puffy whites around a blue bird sky and the air felt like velvet on my skin.  The prediction for today is in the 70’s. Bel and I ambled (yes I amble a lot with Bel) downtown to visit the Ocala Farmers Market in the historic town square.  Just last night, we visited the same square to walk around the downtown streets for the First Friday Art Walk of Ocala.

Dwntown Ocala_103So much seems to have changed around here in the last ten years or so that I have been visiting, but so much also remains the same. Fort King Street is still beautiful, lined with stately old Southern homes embraced by gnarled oak arms that cover entire city lots.

It's Aggie, short for Agate, downtown on the square in OcalaThe square this morning was vibrant with color and happy people enjoying the sunlight and fresh food. I love seeing the painted horses from the Horse Fever event a few years ago.  I think one of them actually auctioned for 80,000 bucks that went to the art council here.

Dwntown Ocala_113Yesterday afternoon we slipped to the west side of town searching for a rib truck. Fabulous sweet sticky ribs, dripping with juice, served with yellow rice and green beans full of bacon fat. We sat on the picnic table in the parking lot and slurped up the amazing stuff watching lots of local folks dropping in to pick up supper in huge to-go bags.

I didn’t have the camera with me, sadly, because as we left the parking lot and tried to keep off the main route, I managed to slide into a part of Ocala people don’t talk about much.

Dwntown Ocala_102In spite of all the years that have intervened, in spite of the fact that Ocala used to have a black mayor, this part of town could have come directly from the pre-sixties.  My time warp again. Women on porches looking worn and sad, young men looking angry and sullen,  tiny black ladies the color of ink walking slowly with carts and old sweaters. I know we have segregated neighborhoods out west, I have traveled in them in most cities, but there is something very different in the south, something residual, and it was disturbing. Poverty is disturbing wherever you find it, I guess.

Dwntown Ocala_074After the market, this morning we dropped into a couple of downtown shops, Ocala Traditions, with gorgeous displays of fine china, sterling, and crystal set up on beautiful tables,  and the Paddock, a large, wonderful store dedicated entirely to horses, hounds, racing, and fox hunting.  Ocala is still the horse capital of the world (they insist it rivals Kentucky) and this shop catered directly to the genteel owners of the beautiful horse farms that surround the area.  Those at least that haven’t been converted to gated communities with million dollar homes.  After all, John Travolta hangs out here and lives just north in Anthony in a community that lets him land his jumbolair jet.  I guess the difference between all this genteel southern stuff and that neighborhood we were in yesterday is still in the back of my mind.

As the afternoon slides by, the sun is still warm, I have downloaded all the photos and will eventually get down to Wendy’s to catch up on email and blogs and such. The time warp is definitely back again…I have no idea what time it actually is right now…maybe I’ll go for a walk.