Holy Smoke

Priests’ Point enshrouded in wildfire smoke on Saturday

All is calm. All is bright. No fish are jumping. No stars are shining. Only the Canada geese are honking loudly and sqabbling over quickly vacated docks by day. The coyotes yip and sing mournfully by night. The cottages and the beaches from all the bays are empty; even the fishermen are hunkered down. Everyone went back into town, or packed up early cutting their holidays short. No wind blows; It’s eerily still. The eagles keep watch; I know where to find them quietly observing. Even the water is suddenly clear; the algae sifted to the sandy lake bottom.

We are on our third day socked in here with wildfire smoke which has an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 475, and a frontcountry holiday weekend campground smell that just won’t lift. If it weren’t for the acrid taint to my nostrils, it’s more reminiscent of fog. We know there are many places suffering thicker skies right now–several 999 values blinked out at me from the California coastline–and many urban settings around the world that regularly endure similar pollution at baseline. We’re keeping a healthy perspective and finding joy in the small discoveries all around us, like a tiny turtle we rescued from between our docks!

We’re attempting to keep Lady Kitty’s little lungs as clear as possible. Nana brought Lady Kitty’s swing inside and hung it from the kitchen beam, to her sheer delight. Swinging and dangling and toddling in place, she’s happily oblivious to the smokey whiteout. When we do duck outside for a dip in the foggy soup, she appears similarly content. Freshness or quality aside, sometimes we simply need a nature bath and a drink of air.

Sunday’s bright white smokey skies

As the smoke drifts off in thankful dispersal, I’ll recall the somberness of the Holy Smoke days of 2020: a memorial to the more than 3.5 million acres of forests that burned. A strange and oddly perfect three days emerged like a phoenix from the ash. I’m glad I spent them with you.

Make way for the ducks: welcome to Autumn at Newman Lake

This evening during happy hour two bald eagles carried on a lively conversation of trills in the tree above me. We may now wear white shoes and white jeans past Labor Day, but few still wear bikinis and wake boards. As Summer melts into Autumn, the recreational boat traffic on our lake begins to recede. Into their place slip the staid year-round residents. Looking up, I am often surprised and rewarded by the quiet prehistoric presence of a Great Blue Heron. Waterfowl are seen more frequently and ducks gad about boldly. A tribe of three wild turkeys strut up and down the lanes with quite a wide range, looking for all the world like a band of marauders until you see them scuttle into the shrubs, bobbing and weaving off through the underbrush. Cloven deer tracks begin to outnumber boot foot prints on the beachfront and forest paths, and we know just where we can find a family of deer at 5pm weekdays. These deer splash regularly through the lakeshore at night en route to the wind fall apples from the tree next door. Daily and tirelessly they bound out of view as I come upon them in their wood, their fluffy white tails flagging their leaps.

Nights are crisp, punctuated with stars and Mars. Days are nature-filled, mellow and perfect. I’m glad we’re here, spending them with you at the lake as Autumn emerges.

Lynn and Lake—Quite a Pair

Lake spews charming expressions, as a four year old ought to. He makes me laugh, and he makes me pause when he bubbles over with Nana’s idioms. It’s comical, and confirms that he’s been palling around with Nana.

He said, “I caught my hat, ‘In the nick of time.’

Then, as they got ready to set out from the cabin for their next adventure “‘We’ll see where our little feetsies are going to take us…'”

Our feetsies took us to Heylman’s wood.

Other real Family Circus style quotes from Lake over the past ten days include:

“Was his birthday canceled?!”

“Now with the peanut butter so thick on the toast, it feels heavy on my arms.”

“A puzzle for me?” Lake asked. Then noticing the 3+ on the box, he said, “It’s for three year olds? Dang! I’m too old for it.”

“No book at bedtime? ‘I’m in disgust'”

“You naughty little imp! You know what she was doing?[regarding Lady Kitty]. She was stealing my bookmark!”

“You’re carrying so many heavy things in one hand–an arm, a head, two legs, 2 arms, a tummy and a back!” he said to me as I held Lady Kitty.

Tonight he stabbed a raw mushroom and was dancing it around in the air at dinner. “Well, that wasn’t a very good idea,” he said after his fork clattered to the floor.

“Lady Kitty is playing with her food,” he said, as indeed Lady Kitty was staring at my breast in a pre-bedtime daze and grabbing at my nipple.

“See you later, Alligator,” says our neighbor Susan to Lake.

“After a while, Crocodile”, he answers as she has taught him to answer.

Then, later, Nana asked, “wasn’t it nice to see Susan?”

“Her name is Crocodile!” Lake said.

Seattle days

Lynn and Lake just counted up the days since we arrived… FIFTY! Practically a lifetime ago we said “goodbye” to Vivien and drove across the state. We’re so grateful to be spending this time together. Another perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you!

Beach Babes

Happy as can be with her Daddy!

Lady Kitty loves the water. Though she’s barely able to stand, she’s thrilled to try out stand up paddle boarding! With a week of hot weather expected, we truly appreciate the cooling presence of the lake.

A fire 200 miles away, near Yakima, blew smoke to us suddenly yesterday. Thankfully it doid not seem to bother the kids at all, though I had trouble breathing. It harkened back to 2017 when the air was thick with wildfires. Oddly, the smoke did not bother me then. Looking back, it was notably smoky.

Historical photo: Newman Lake 5 September 2017

We count our good fortune the air cleared today. Lady Kitty and I went for a hike and then took a refreshing swim. Our hearts go out to all those still battling the wildfires and the ensuing smoke.

A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you at the beach.

Let’s do this!

Lady Kitty reaching out, says, “Let’s do this!”

Lady Kitty surprised us with her first wave of hello and goodbye today. She has a very royal wave indeed. Too funny! Yesterday she experienced a swing and could hold her smile big enough or long enough; she was beside herself with delight!

Children really light up the world. Lake was entertaining us with such joy at the dinner table last night. Nana shared with us, and then we were all acting it out and laughing so hard about an old neighbor dog of NanaBaba that would yap in the night, and the owner who would bellow Kiki. The neighbor and his dog Kiki had a nightly act of call and response. Then Lake howled with delight to see Nana act out how he had been reclining on the kayak with her earlier in the day, being lazy, letting Nana do all the paddling.

Lake alert, setting out

We went out in the canoe and kayak this evening to sit on the water with the bats. I like watching them darting along the water eating bugs while the light bleeds out of the sky. Dusk on the water is so peaceful and refreshing. If feeling world weary, be lightened by a moment in nature.

Be rejuvenated by the joy of children. Such trust. Such exuberance. Such pure hearted courage and curiosity. But don’t lose focus on the big picture of global climate and much needed social justice; if anything redouble your efforts in the name of the children. It’s their world —they’re inheriting it from us—its problems and its beauty. We’re all tasked as caretakers. We’re all in this together. Lady Kitty smiles and waves and exudes encouragement. Let’s do this, she seems say, urging us on toward unity and the greater good.

Funny Papers

Hägar the Horrible, Lake’s fravorite!

Lake is discovering comics. He studies them fervently, then brings over his selection: “Hey! do you want to read this one?” Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The next day: “Will you read it [Hägar the horrible] again? This fight one is my fra-vorite!”

The day after: “I’m too happy looking at these comics.”

He’s perceptive and constantly alert, constantly learning. The other day I said, “Honey, you can’t put the mohair blanket on the floor.” He skipped a beat, then asked, “What’s a mo?”

Colluding in Lake’s development in this way is delightful.

I have fond memories of my grandpa reading us the “funnies” when my brother and I were about Lake’s age. There’s something a little daring in reading the comics. Some cater to adult humor, and Lake soaks it all in. He applies his newly aquired language fearlessly, although he is not always fully grasping the meaning. He makes declarations with an amused glint in his eye, guaging his audience for a response–a true comic.

“I love that darn sweet tooth arm”, he says while pulling on Lady Kitty’s arm. I can’t stop laughing. I mean, if there’s an endearment “sweetheart”, why can’t there be “sweet tooth”? And darn sweet tooth, with surely a hint of the illicit, is even better. We laugh hard together. We are both having a good laugh over sharing the “funny papers.”

A perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you laughing at the lake!

Strawberry Tallcake

Happy Half-Birthday, Lady Kitty!

From siesta to fiesta… After her epic nap yesterday, Lady Kitty was so done with sleeping; she was ready to party. We celebrated her half-birthday with a big hike and a showstopper two tier watermelon cake with strawberry accents. I’m calling it a Strawberry Tallcake, because I loved the character Strawberry Shortcake when I was about four and five years old. Lake loved the color of the Strawberry Tallcake, he said, and was generally very complimentary. It’s gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, vegan, raw, no-bake, low calorie, and infinitely refreshing. The directions are simple; I dreamed them up on the hike. 1. Carve watermelon from rind in thick wide rounds. 2. Stack in layers. 3. Array cut strawberries attractively. 4. Chill and Enjoy!

This fiesta day served up Lady Kitty the best day of her life. It wasn’t when I was making her half-birthday cake. She would have preferred being held, or playing in the lake. I think she could tell she wasn’t going to profit from this tower of juicy watermelon. Her mama is dragging her feet on the baby-lead-weaning, so she’s surviving her six month milestone remaining a breast-milk bébé. It was later, during the party games, that she really lit up. Lake was playing ball with her and she was having the time of her life. She was sitting on my lap on the shore, where we had been intermittently dipping our toes in the lake. Suddenly Lake threw his new blue wet beach ball straight at us. I smacked it away with my free hand into the waves. Lady Kitty laughed uproariously as the water droplets showered all over us. Lake retrieved the ball, and threw it at us again. Smack! Shower! Giggle! Laugh! Again and again and again. Baby Beach Volleyball?

A perfect fiesta with the siblings: sweet and uncomplicated, just like Lady Kitty herself.

Siesta

Beating the heat involves a long afternoon nap in many parts of the world. After six months of resisting daytime sleep, the 34oC weather this week is helping Lady Kitty to find her siesta groove.

Peeking in through the screen door

From virtually no naps, or maybe a 15 minute nap at most, to 2 hours napping… what a change. I’ll take it! But I had to peek in to check her breathing!

Doe, a Deer

More tracks on the sand this tranquil morning. We’re sharing the beach and the surrounding forests and fields with a few small groups of long tailed deer. When they’re startled their white fluffy tails spring straight up as they bound off to camouflage in the understory. Lake scampered like a wild animal unfettered by clothes for a bit this morning, knowing it was going to get very hot and very sunny later. He happily played on the beach and in the water humming Doe a Deer to himself before the lake woke up.

Contemplating the night’s deer tracks in the brightness of the early morning sun
Long early morning shadows

Then we ended up visiting the rest of the day. It’s such a lovely feature of this lake community. People are so nice and all our great-grandparents knew each other, and on down through the generations. It’s easy to visit all day by simply walking along the beach in our bay. Visiting and playing through the eyes of my son reminded me of when I was a child. As a child I craved the midsummer weekends when all the folks and kids would be out to play with. Quiet felt lonely. Now quiet feels peaceful. Now I long for the coming of the quiet mid-week days and the fall season after sport boaters have forgotten us. But today I was basking in the camaraderie of the Friendly Folksy festival atmosphere of a mid-August heat wave. A perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with the bay!

Red Canoe Farms

Steve and Lisa Pointer own this tidy u-pick blueberry farm in Kootenai County, Idaho. They are extremely nice and have a minimum-spray practice (copper, boron, organic insecticide if needed, and never on the berries themselves). We’ve been a couple of times so far this summer, and we always come away happy, with full buckets and stomachs; promising to get an earlier start next time to beat the heat. Today was no exception despite our best efforts.

Nana is a motivated picker. She was training Lake to be her expert picking aid while I tended Lady Kitty and periodically contributed handfuls.

Concentrated pickers
Spotted crouched between the rows eating from the bucket in the shade
All things considered we picked 8.3 pounds in 1 hour
Lady Kitty was along for the adventure

Check out their farm’s website Red Canoe Farms to plan your own excursion. They’ll be open through the end of August and they keep their website updated with picking hours.