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Saturday, January 7, 2023

Sheep On My Mind and Crooks

 “Some of the old shepherds or men in the villages carve ornate sheep or sheepdog heads…to decorate their crooks, thought the best of these are never used for work, but are simply for show. I will wave my crook to get the tup’s attention in the sale ring, and tickle it gently under its nose to get it to raise its head to look prouder and full of character.

A crook is as essential now on our farm as it ever was. My crook is an extension of my arm, letting me catch the sheep. Sheep are faster than a man, but will let you within a distance they feel safe at. The crook is used to take advantage of that and snag them round the neck. I use a crook almost every day in winter and dozens of times a day in the spring when we are lambing and need to catch ewes at regular intervals.”

James Rebanks The Shepherd’s Life

Thumper, the Slope County Silbernagel ewe

Friday, January 6, 2023

My Grief Journey: Epiphany, Again My Mother Comes to Me in a Dream

My Grief Journey: Epiphany, Again My Mother Comes to Me in a Dream

Again my Mother comes to me in a dream: My hair is long, down to my waist long. I wake up and my hair is long, but not down to my waist. Which it has never, ever been. Which is silly. 

Hers as a young girl was.  When I was a little girl mine was thin and my older sister's hair was thick and curly, like our mother's, like our father's. My mother, who would spend a long time combing and braiding my older sister's hair, had a finite time to deal with hair, so my brothers were buzz cut shaved at home by my father, and mine was cut into the (then) popular Pixie. Which I more or less wore until the pandemic. Hair. Why do we spend so much time fussing about hair? Why? Why? Why?

That's me, in my mother's lap. Awaiting the birth of my brother.

Of course, I don't know this for certain, but at a very young age, I grasped what the word Epiphany meant. I can only surmise it is because my mother explained it to me and I came to know it in the Lutheran teachings. Certainly I listened in church. In later years, I saw it in the context of an English major. But always, it was my mother's birthday. As it ever shall be. 

The Journey of the Magi
T.S. Eliot

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Wanderlust: Return to Hawaii, California, and New Mexico with Thirty-two New Life Birds

Wanderlust: Return to Hawaii, California, and New Mexico with Thirty-two New Life Birds

It took me almost sixty years to return to Hawaii, but I finally can say I have. Home from a 31-day trip to Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Arizona, we've spent the better part of two days unpacking and catching up on mail. After four states, ten flights, four rental cars, and a whole bunch of hotel rooms, I don't even want to look at my suitcases for a while. One of the most difficult things about making the trip was thinking about my late mother and how she loved to travel and how it was she who taught me to pack a suitcase. 

My first trip to Hawaii was on the USS Mitchell, a troop transport ship from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor to Yokahoma to Okinawa, with my brave young mother and her (then) four young children in tow. Mother told a hundred stories of this journey, stories to be saved for another day. I remember when the ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, and I remember when it pulled into Pearl Harbor, and I remember Mother engaging a cab to take us to see a volcano. 

This was our passport photo taken after the US Army had "filled us up" with vaccinations. That's me on the bottom left. 

This is a photo my father took of the ship as it arrived in Okinawa, on Father's Day 1964. 

Back to the present day, Jim has been to Hawaii a number of times, but only as an adult and most of those visits were courtesy of the US Navy. This time, we were in Hawaii to join up with his siblings, for his late brother Jay's memorial services. I took hundreds of photos, saw a whole bunch of new life birds, ate a great deal of wonderful food, and rode in the ambulance with Jim from Pearl Harbor to Tripler Army Hospital on December 7th, of all days -- yup, you read that right. I had to summon 911 for Jim and he was stuck with two of his Oahu days in the hospital. I also took my first surfing lesson and was upright four times before I threw in the towel on that. We saw the glow of Mauna Lau from our Maui balcony, went swimming at a black sand beach, visited almost every national park site on the islands, saw a lot of lava, spent two nights at Volcano House (where Mark Twain slept), visited the state capital grounds, and enjoyed the colorful language, flora and fauna, and music of Hawaii, especially vibrant during the Christmas holidays. 

The Fuglie clan started their journies home, but Jim and I flew to San Francisco, where he had a date with destiny, arriving at the St. Francis Hotel exactly 51 years since he left the USS Oriskany and spent a night at that very same hotel. San Francisco was beyond bedlam with the approaching holidays. The California highlights for me were when we escaped the maddening crowds and visited Muir Woods and Point Reyes National Seashore and the drive to Pinnacles National Park as well as drives of Highway 1 and 101. We followed some literary trails which included stops in Carmel, Monterey, and Pacific Grove, and our last day in California included a tour of the Hearst Castle. 

My mother had a lifelong fascination with lighthouses, so naturally I had to visit at least one lighthouse. Point Pinos was a beauty. 

After a very long day of flying (we could have driven from Santa Barbara to Albuquerque faster), our last leg of the trip found us in New Mexico. My favorite state flag has always been New Mexico's and whoever coined "Land of Enchantment" is a freaking genius. We weren't long for NM, because we were bound for Arizona and our last western national park, Petrified Forest National Park. Christmas Eve and Day we luxuriated at La Posada, one of the few original Harvey Hotels in operation. This was my first Christmas without my mother and the only Christmas I've not been in North Dakota since I was ten as well as a rare Christmas not with my daughters (who I missed powerfully). After the obligatory stops on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, we drove more backroads and visited six new-to-us national monuments. Hubbell Trading Post and Montezuma Well were big highlights. After some laughter and quarrels along Route 66, which is dotted with some sad and some funny abandoned buildings, we raced to Durango for the icing on the cake. Jim had not been to Flagstaff or Durango. While it was fun to visit in winter, the winter driving was not, and we woke up to snow in Farmington, New Mexico, and the question of whether our flights would be disrupted. Fortunately, it was smooth sailing, and our daughter picked us up at the airport, to the cold and deep snow, but -- HOME. After one last night in a historic Durango hotel, the Strater. Alas, while I had booked the Louis L'Amour room, 222, it was not to be and we got bumped to the fourth floor. Durango was filled with holiday cheer and the sound of the Durango Silverton Railway, a narrow-guage train I remember riding once as a child in the late 60s. 

I posted some videos from the trip on my YouTube, including one Jim shot of my surfing lesson, complete with the Fuglie cheering squad on the beach. I swear that's me on the screen for a nanosecond. 

I stood around in the cold for 45 minutes to shoot video of the Durango train. I'm sure I was just as excited as the little kids. 

My mother got me started as a birder. Here are my new life birds from this trip, with a nod to my friend, Valerie, who shared with me her Hawaii birding guides and tips:
Common Myna
Black Noddy
White Tern
Pacific Golden-Plover
Hawaiian Duck
Hawaiin Stilt
'Io (Hawaiian Hawk)
Erckel's Francolin
Red Junglefowl
Kalij Pheasant
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Red-vented Bulbul
Japanese White-eye
Chesnut Munia
Yellow-fronted Canary
Red-crested Cardinal
Yellow-billed Cardinal
Emperor Goose
Fulvous Whistling Duck
Black Scoter
Black Oystercatcher
Sabine's Gull
Juniper Titmouse

That's 32 new life birds! 
Home to deep snow and feeders abandoned by the birds, I filled the feeders and this afternoon a Northern Flicker dined on the suet. 

And golly does the Hawaiian language have lots of vowels. 

apologies for the lack of photo captions