Horse Camp

I learned to trot and cantor on dusty trails under hot skies. A camp tradition exposed that I was the youngest camper at the sleep-away horse camp. In the evening the camp kiosk would open, vending sweets to hungry campers. There was a rule to queue by age, youngest first. Someone asked me my age.

“I’m six years old,” I said.

No one believed me, since you had to be seven to attend camp. Nonetheless, I was grudgingly pushed to the enviable position at the front of the line. The older campers hated me for my first crack at the candy and snacks. The offerings were bright and colorful. Michael Jackson was on the Pepsi cans. The choices were too many, or maybe I just didn’t want candy before bed… I was a budding naturopathic doctor after all. In the end I froze and let everyone down by buying nothing. I peeled off, heading back to the dormitory. We slept on bunk beds over bare concrete. I fell out of my top bunk onto the floor. The counselor heard a thud and, noting I was still sleeping, put me back in bed. I knew nothing of in the morning.

I was there with my older brother. Older, but not by much. He was eight. His horse’s name was Flip. Flip didn’t take a shine to my brother.

“He didn’t like me putting his bridal on,” said my brother.

Anyway, it was an adventure. Our grandmother was at the root of it. She had a duty toward our horse education. She said,

“We had a horse one summer when we were small out here [at Point Petite]. We built a barn up in the back by the parking lot. All that I can remember is that one time the horse lay down when I was on it and rolled over, so I was never very gung ho for it. Then when our children were young, we had a horse that we kept over in Mr. Hancox’s meadow. But neither of them was very enthusiastic about the horse so those two times were our attempts at having horses.”

So by the time 1984 rolled around, I guess she figured horse camp would fill the bill without so much hassle and commitment as boarding a horse at Newman Lake or building a barn on the hillside. We got our horse experience, singular and memorable. I remember loving the trails. Until the cantering. I think we were a bit too young at the time. I still don’t know how she smuggled me in, underage. to horse camp. What a hoot! And here I am now, giving Lady Kitty her horse experience, right up under this horse’s nose. She’s perhaps a bit young, but who knows. These are the perfect days. I’m glad I spent them with you…

Bybee Farms 2020

Language Nutrition

Just as it’s fun to eat your fruits and veggies when they’re really fresh and there’s not a lot of junk food distracting your palate, words are so fun to learn and play with. We delight in developing of Lake’s palate with a diet of diverse words, and relish the words he retains, and phrases he creates. His sentence structure and idioms reveal something of how he processes, organizes and stores new information. “Language nutrition” is the regular diet of different words children are exposed. It plays into the depth and breadth of their language acquisition and correlates with future successes. It’s shocking how much disparity emerges among children of different socioeconomic households. The word gap by age 3 approaches greater than a million words (Hart and Risley. 1995. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children). This is sadly due to factors out of the children’s (and also largely per societies’ construct, the parents’) control, such as: how much they’re read to; what types of conversations they hear; and how much discussion they’re exposed to. It has made a strong case for early childhood education.

Lake breathes words. He trades in words like commodities. Lake’s learning of language is charming. He’s had a flair for the stuff from an early age. He started out bilingual, and then slowly took a preference to only speaking “Englisch” while retaining his German comprehension. Some degree of bilingual education creates an additional plethora of vocabulary words, as well as gaining awareness of another perspective on life. Being multilingual cultivates perception and an innate knowing that there’s more than one way of doing things.

We were contemplating childcare options after Lake was born when we spoke with my friends who had been hosting au pairs. In describing his family’s positive experience, he cited a study. Kids that learn more than one language knew there was a triangle behind a shield, even when they couldn’t see it directly from where they were sitting, if they had seen it first from a different chair; whereas, kids who knew only one language could only assert the presence of the triangle if they could see it from where they were sitting at the time.

Lake has loads of perspicacity, especially for his age. Here’s some of the fun vocabulary and quirky things Lake says that I’m delighted to be able to share with you :





Fravorite (I’m careful not to correct his enunciation to “favorite” as it remains dear to me.)


Sweet conversations:

Mama: We’re beautiful all the way from the inside out.

Lake: You’re beautiful from the outside in to your lungs.

Mama smiles.

Lake: I’m amazing! I’m clever. I’m smart.

Mama: Who told you that?

Lake: I’m clever.

Mama: You know what mama cares about? You’re a hard worker. You’re kind. You’ve got a good attitude.

Lake: Yes, I’m all those things.

Lake: I’m a Duck!

Mama chuckles.

Lake: I love you all the way to your lungs.

Mama smiles.

Lake, the clever jokester

Mama: Honey, you can’t put the mohair blanket on the floor.

Lake skips a beat.

Lake: What’s a mo?


Lake: If you ever see me doing something don’t put my clothes over my head.

Mama: Ok, I’ll be more respectful. Can you put your clothes on Lake?

Lake: No!

Mama dives the second shirt over Lake’s head.

Mama: That’s why I just dive it over your head and you put it on by reflex!

Lake: Reflex!

Lake: That’s the funniest thing you ever said. Reflex! What about some reflex?! Tsss

Lake Idioms

“I was surprised Baba wasn’t up yet. There was just loads and loads of sun riding in through my window.”

Holding up a pipe cleaner creation: “It’s a decoration. Is there any board where there’s some air between? To hang it? Like the swing.”

“I’ll be coming out of an unseeable notch for the entrance to my Nutcracker Sweet show.”

“I’m a home cat,” Lake says with a meow. (He likes play acting different animals)

“I have a joke* for you…

Q: What kind of cat likes to sail?

A: A catamaran!

See how skillful I am at jokes?!”

*joke credit goes to Nana (Lynn Thompson Murphy

Upon arriving home to Seattle Lake has a new bunk bed, and a new challenge to sleep in the top bunk. Michael thus prepared him for a successful bedtime before heading off to the airport to pick up Madeline, our new au pair… Lake reportedly said, “I can handle it all.”

You’re doing a swell job, Lake. Keep up the levity, and the good work eating your fruits and vegetables and digesting the languages you hear. These are perfect days to be alive. I’m glad I’m spending them with you!

My Walden

6 o’clock in the morning — late Summer
7 o’clock in the evening — late Summer

Day after day the skyline paints itself anew. The contours of the forested ridges are the unchanging backdrop for fresh coats of color, moods, and weather. It is my own Walden. Mt. Spokane watches over us to the north, flanked by Granite Peak, and buttressed by Ragged Ridge. Idaho cradles us to the east, and our peninsula weaves the backbone of the shore where I breathe.

Within this pond of stillness I’m able to really listen to the birds. When an eagle flies by, I hear the beat of the wings like the sound of Lady Kitty’s hyperventilating laughter. I look up to take in the magnificence. Out in the kayak a gaggle of Canada geese fly overhead, low, looping back for a second pass. Their combined noisy flight mechanics suggest they could use a can of WD40. Landing nearby they skid to stop on the water like a fleet of float planes… Kssssshhhhhhh!

Surrounded by mixed conifer forest, juncos hide in plain view providing musical accompaniment with nuthatches on backup. A Northern harrier skims the marsh, flashing it’s white banded tail feathers, fishing.

Lady Kitty, Lake and I regularly surprise deer while walking through the woods. I’m becoming familiar with the locals and I cherish opportunities to hold their gaze. When the cougar was being sighted on our peninsula, the sight of a freshly knawed bone stilled me. Thinking it a deer tibia, I worried for the fawn and her mother until we next crossed paths.

Tonight the moon rises steadily over the eastern hilltop: full and round, cool and bright. It casts a brightness to the night, beckoning skinny dippers, and inspiring coyotes’ peals of yips and howls, like church bells ringing to creschendo.

The night sky blankets me in comfort. Stars double the rewards of their exertion by reflecting their light on the dark waters. The experience transports me to Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirror.

Summer hands the baton to Autumn, and Autumn is running hard. Winter prepares to anchor. My Walden tirelessly shows up for every race, irrelevant the outcome. In nature, it all belongs.

7 o’clock in the morning—Autumn
Half past 9 o’clock in the morning—Autumn
2 o’clock in the afternoon — Autumn
7 o’clock in the evening—Autumn

A perfect 77 days, I’m glad I spent them here with you.