CELEBRATING APRIL’S SEND-A-CARD MONTH

April is designated by the US Postal Service as national send a card or write a letter month. When I read about it, I decided it would give me a creative outlet and an opportunity to reach out to friends. I only sent out cards that I made. Some were my dried leaf cards and others were newer creations designed for specific persons.

I hand wrote personal messages in each card knowing it was a special way to let my friends know I was thinking about them during the COVID quarantine. I have discovered that one of the most difficult things about the quarantine for me is missing my friends, touching, and hugging.

This card went to a friend who celebrated her 65th birthday on April 27th. I came across the pen & ink sketch when I was cleaning out my craft supplies. The frame was salvaged from another card I’d received many years ago and decided to repurpose.

This card was designed specifically for a husband and wife. He is a writer and knows how to facilitate change and get people involved. His call for action is always a type of revolution. And she is a an artist who incorporates the figures of goddesses into her work. She messaged me and said how much they loved this card. I knew it was perfect for the two of them!

This card was designed for a childhood friend and her husband. The three of us all have a warped sense of humor. We certainly are prime examples of disorderly, vigorous, and disreputable senior citizens.

When I found this horse picture, I knew right away it would make a great card and who would get it. As I started working with the image it made me think of a carousel horse, so I used strips of craft paper and washi tape to create a linear effect. I almost kept it for myself!

Many of my friends got one-of-a-kind leaf cards which I’ve been making for several years. I’ve accumulated quite an inventory, and I love choosing which card goes to an individual. These leaf cards are very time consuming to make, and many recipients opt to frame them. I enjoy sharing my creative efforts as much as I enjoy receiving cards and letters myself.

I got so absorbed in the project, the days in April just flew by; it certainly helped cope with the challenges of the non-routine quarantine. Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph most of the cards I made before I sealed them in an envelope and mailed them.

And I, too, received cards and letters from friends during the month of April along with text messages and emails commenting on and thanking me for the cards I’d sent.

Everyone said the same thing, “It’s such a treat to get personal mail delivered!”

PROSECUTING THE THIEF

Preface:  Around the age of 5 months, a puppy’s canine teeth start to come in, and the developmental teen stage starts. It will last until the dog is about eighteen months of age. During this time a puppy’s immature brain is changing and developing, and it’s often a challenging period. An adolescent dog can be rowdier, mouthier, jumpier, and more obnoxious than at any other time in its life. They tend to test their humans and even downright ignore them when given the opportunity.

Deb: Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, Miss Leia is growing up. Now 5 ½ months of age, I am starting to observe those little nuances of the onset of “teen” behavior.  She has become a thief!

Leia: Hello Jury. I am present to defend myself against the accusation of thievery!

D: Miss Drama Teen . . . < rolls eyes>

L: Deb says I am now a teen. Isn’t that good news?!

D: Unfortunately, the “teens” last until puppies are about 18 months of age. This is a very challenging time.

L: Challenging? You keep saying I am a sweetheart and that we are bonding.

D: True, true, but . . . you have tendencies towards kleptomania.

L: Huh?  Me? Noooooo waaaay!

D: I think you are going to have a tough time establishing your defense.

L:  I have good arguments!

D: OK, explain stealing the newspaper and dog catalogs off my table.

L: Well, newspaper is easy – you’ve heard all about fake news. If it’s fake, it needs to be edited – ripping it to shreds is the best way.  As for catalogs, I like that IN THE COMPANY OF DOGS catalog – lots of cool things I want to order. I need a crate pad. . . <hint, hint>

D:  And then there’s the time you stole my date book!

L: I was just looking to see when we were going for our next walk . . .

D: And why do you steal dish towels and take them down to your crate?

L: They’re perfect puppy napkins!

D: OK, OK, but stealing my craft stamps is totally unacceptable. 

L: Perfect chewing combination, rubber and wood.  Besides, I really liked the alphabet stamps.  I even spelled my name!

D:  Good girl, a teen should be able to spell her name, but stealing my craft supplies is a misdemeanor. You could be incarcerated.

L: What’s incarcerated?

D: Being put into jail!  And then there was the time you stole my grocery bag.

L:  I was just trying to help you carry them!!

D: Yeah, good thing the toothpaste and box of band-aids trail helped me track you down.

L: <sighs> I can’t do anything right.  <hangs head>

D:  Miss Drama Teen. <throws hands up in air>

L: <hang-dog look>

D: You know, Leia, if you look that way the jury will know you are guilty for sure!

L: I. am. NOT. a. THIEF!

D: Well, what about the time you stole the TV remote?

L: I only wanted to watch Animal Planet!  Puppy Bowl was on! GO Retrievers!!

D: But when it comes to my fleece jacket and shoes, that’s the ultimate NO-NO!

L:  You’re always saying NO! Do you ever say yes? Besides I like the smell of you on your jacket and shoes.  You’re my favorite person after all.

D: Flattery will get you nowhere.

L: Flattery?! That’s the dog-gone truth!

D:  So tell the jury about the toilet paper. . .

L: <whispers, “That was fun!” – puppy snickers, hehehe>

D: You unraveled the entire roll through the family room! <chuckles behind hand: I only wish I’d had the video running on my phone for proof>

L: Don’t you know there’s a serious toilet paper shortage? I was just bringing the roll to you!

D:  OK, Leia, I think the jury is ready for your closing remarks.

L: Sires and Bitches of the jury. With all due respect, I know I do not have to defend true puppy valor and devotion to my dearest companion, Deb. I am a Labrador Retriever, and it is in our DNA to retrieve, not steal. We love to carry things in our mouths, and we love to have a job.  <wags tail for emphasis>  

Judge: Thank you Leia. Deborah, are you ready to give your closing remarks?

D: I rest my case.

Judge: Jury, have you reached your verdict?

Foreman of the Jury: We have your honor.  In view of all evidence presented, it is predominantly hearsay, so we find the defendant, Leia, NOT GUILTY of thievery.

COVID CLEANING

Like so many others, I have been using my quarantine days to clean, de-clutter, organize, and trash things I no longer need.

I eventually progressed to my laundry room, and I tore the place apart! It had been SO LONG since it had a deep cleaning, and it was full of “stuff.”

I removed everything from the shelves and cabinets, dusted, and reorganized. I put aside things I no longer wanted or needed and will either put out on the curb or donate to a thrift store. 

I pulled out the washer and dryer, vacuumed the pile of accumulated fuzzies and dog hair, and then washed the floor before returning both to their position. 

I went through the “rag” bag and threw out about half the contents.

I scrubbed the laundry tub and finished by washing the tile floor and consolidating cleaning supplies.

I stood back and admired my handiwork. It looked like an entirely new room!

Monday morning I put in a load of wash in my freshly cleaned laundry room. 

I went about other chores and allowed Leia some time out of the crate while I could keep an eye on her.

Eventually she went to the back door which is in the laundry room.  I followed her knowing that she needed to go out. 

I was met by a puddle right in front of the door.

“Oh no!” I thought, but in that instant, I realized that Leia would not be romping and splashing in her pee. It was a flood!

“Damn,” I said – rather, I really said, “Oh $$IT!”

I figured that maybe one of the hoses to the washer had loosened in my aggressive cleaning efforts.  But as soon as I started to pull the washer forward, I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten to replace the output hose over the edge of the laundry tub! It was spurting water all over the floor since the washer was in spin cycle. 

I grabbed the hose and positioned it properly, but by then the cycle was nearly finished. 

Leia thought she had an indoor pool! She was pouncing with her big paws and splashing water everywhere.

I managed to convince her and Heidi to go out into the yard while I mopped up the flood. I had to pull both the washer and dryer out again to soak up the water and pick up everything from the floor that was now wet. 

Finally, I got everything dry and back in place.

My floor is REALLY clean now!

THE TAO OF RIVER AND MOUNTAIN

Author’s Note: The photographs are not mine.

“Enlightenment is not a matter of imagining figures of light, but of making the darkness conscious.” C.G. Jung

July 22, 2005: Tao is a Chinese term that represents the basic concept of Taoism. Hilary J. Barrett in her article “The I Ching and the Tao” writes, “The Tao is the way. To move with it is to be in harmony with the nature of the time, fitting with it as smoothly as flowing water. ” Hence, today’s title suggests the way of river and mountain.

The greatest impact of this wonderful, spiritually renewing journey to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana was through my experiences on the rivers and in the mountains. The mountains invite stillness through their solid immobility, yet are alive through eons of sculpturing. The rivers, often originating in these mountains, serve as a constant reminder that water flows through the channels of least resistance.

Flathead Lake

On Sunday, July 17, I drove to Somers, Montana on the northeast corner of Flathead Lake to visit my childhood friend, Katy Bollinger Meyers, and her husband Terry. Katy and I have been friends since we were second graders in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. When we parted ways after graduating from high school, we stayed in touch by letters and Christmas cards, and eventually just at Christmas. With the advent of email, Katy and I renewed our correspondence, but had not visited in about 34 years. When she learned that I was making a trip out west, she and Terry graciously invited me to visit.

When I arrived, Katy was working in her garden, and the connection was reignited instantaneously. We had a marvelous visit reminiscing, catching up on 34 years, and enjoying each other’s personas molded by our experiences over these many years.

Katy and Terry generously gave two days of their time to take me to Glacier National Park and on a raft trip. Monday we spent the day driving the “Going-to-the-Sun” highway in Glacier National Park. At the summit we sat by a tiny stream and enjoyed a delicious organic lunch Katy had prepared. The waterfalls, lakes, and wildlife of Glacier were spectacular.

Stunningly beautiful St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana

Tuesday, we spent the day rafting the North Fork of the Flathead River. Katy and Terry had won the excursion, and they kindly made arrangements with the guide, Steve, for me to join them. Steve was a passionate environmentalist and had a head full of dreadlocks. This river was much more placid than the Snake in Wyoming. We drifted slowly and paddled through some tame white water. We stopped several times to relax on small rocky outcrops. Both Terry and I fished, relatively unsuccessfully, but the rhythm of casting to the foam lines and riffles was the ultimate in zen. Eagles honored us with their presence. Imagine three of these magnificent birds circling overhead in the depths of wilderness on a river of green.

North Fork of the Flathead River

And so my final two days were spent in the mountains and on the river. If your soul is open, you “will” hear, see, and understand the tao of river and mountain. It is my wish for you, the reader, that you may someday enjoy a rebirth similar to what I experienced on my journey westward this summer.

Tetons at Jackson Hole, Wyoming

THE “TAIL” OF LEMON

Lemon the mouse with Pumpkin Two

July 2005: Lemon is a bright yellow crocheted mouse who has been traveling across Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana with me. He is in the midst of a custody battle between me and my friend Loretta who lives in Kentucky.

But maybe I should start from the beginning . . .

Two years ago Loretta came to Pennsylvania for a visit. When we pulled open the sofa bed for her first night’s stay in my home, to our dismay there was a dead mouse which had been decomposing under the sofa. Most likely one of my cats had caught and injured it seriously enough so that it crawled under the sofa and died. Loretta hates mice with a passion, so all that night she had “mice-mares;” she also swore that she could smell the decay regardless of my efforts to disinfect and deodorize the area.

When I flew to Kentucky to visit Loretta later that year, this little yellow mouse was hiding in my bed! When I arrived home, I found the mouse tucked away in a deep corner of my suitcase. Ever since then, Lemon has been traveling back and forth between Pennsylvania and Kentucky — sometimes by car, sometimes by air, sometimes by UPS, and sometimes by good old fashioned US Mail. He spends part of his time with Loretta, and part of his time with me, although recently he has been living more in Pennsylvania than Kentucky.

In June he arrived back in Pennsylvania after spending several months in Kentucky. He came by car when Loretta drove up for a visit. The morning she was to leave, I secretly tucked Lemon into one of her bags. Two days later, Lemon surfaced in my pocketbook where he had been hiding since Loretta’s departure.

Because he was quite indignant about being left behind, I managed to placate him by promising to take him along on my trip west. He flew Northwest Airlines in the safe confines of my riding helmet with his buddy Pumpkin Two, a little orange stuffed cat who lives with me full time. Since arriving in Jackson Hole, Lemon has gone driftboat fishing, trail riding, and in the Targhee Resort chair lift 10,000 feet to the summit of Fred’s Mountain. He has toured Yellowstone and traveled into Montana in the confines of my Vera Bradley backpack. The hotel managements allowed Lemon to stay regardless of their “no pets” policy.

After our return home, Lemon decided to stay permanently in Pennsylvania and took on a job as a library mouse at Hillcrest Elementary where I was an elementary school librarian. He sat on my desk and also helped me read to the children. One little first grade girl named Laura fell in love with Lemon. He was very real to her, and she always wanted one on one visit time with him when she came to the library. When I retired two years later, I found and bought another yellow crocheted mouse and gave it to Laura. I told her that Lemon was retiring with me, but that his cousin, Lemon II, wanted to go home and live with her. Laura would now be a college graduate, and I’ve lost touch with her and her family, but I often wonder if she still has Lemon II.

The original Lemon still lives with me.

SAGEBRUSH, TIMBERLINE, AND THE QUALITY OF TOUCH

timberline

NOTE: The photographs are not mine.

July 14, 2005: Today was a day of leisure to rest and prepare for my journey onward to Yellowstone. I enjoyed a massage at Grand Targhee Spa in Alta, Wyoming. My massage therapist’s technique and variety of strokes were excellent. However, as I find with so many body-workers, the quality of touch is often lacking. To me, as a trained massage therapist, massage does not just address the physical body; it is critical that the therapist be attuned to the spiritual and emotional aspects connected to the body. A bodyworker must be centered and grounded. It is the rare individual who is able to “touch” the spirit, the soul, and the physical body equally.

During my drives up the mountains and through the Teton Pass, as well as on my trail ride, I became aware of varied types of timberlines. At 10,000 feet, not many plants or trees are able to survive. At the higher altitudes I observed that most trees seemed to be of the evergreen family. When I searched for Indian Paintbrush to pick and dry press, I noticed that it did not seem to be as abundant at the lower altitudes. On our trail ride, there was a defined timberline where the aspens stopped growing. Aspens exist at lower altitudes, as does sagebrush.

aspens

Sagebrush grows abundantly here in the west, on plateaus, in the valleys, and lower altitudes of the mountains and passes. I stopped in the Targhee National Forest on my way to the spa to pick some sagebrush for smudge bundles.

sage smudge bundle

It is popular as a smudge herb. For those of you who may not be familiar with smudge, Native American shamans will light tightly bundled dried herbs and use the ensuing smoke in spiritual ceremonies. It is also used to cleanse negative energy from physical areas like a room as well as from auras. Sage is one of the more commonly used herbs for this purpose.

sagebrush

Do you think, as humans, we have our own timberlines — the timberline being the point in our lives when we cease being puppets manipulated by our warped society and begin to define who and what we are? When we cross that personal timberline, we acquire a sense of wholeness which affects our perceptions of people and situations around us.

RIVER

The Snake River in Wyoming

“I’ve known rivers; Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” (Langston Hughes)

July 13, 2005: Today, after traveling almost eight hours and eleven miles on the Snake River in Wyoming, I began to understand how one can form an affinity for a river. The character of the Snake was vastly different than the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho. I almost formed a love-hate relationship with the water. The beauty was spectacular — fast water, wild, varied shades of green, and a sandy beige found along the banks and shoals. However, the current was wicked, playing havoc with my casts and fly. At times the river was gentle, allowing me to be more successful in my presentation and in length of drift. Then sudden reversals forced me to be more aggressive in my attempts to place my fly in the feeding channels.

The Snake was not about to yield any sizeable trout. The fast water made it extremely challenging to see my fly and recognize strikes. All the trout I caught today were small cutthroat. I did catch one white fish about 16 inches long fishing a great riffle in the morning, but that was a generous as the river was going to be today.

I admired and appreciated Leslie’s adept handling of the drift boat as she navigated the water. Not only is Leslie a “reel” woman, she was also a good teacher. Leslie’s patience extended to replacing broken leaders, tippets, and lost flies as well as helping me to wade in rocky areas. I was so grateful to her for making this experience such an exciting and rewarding one.

As I sit and reflect upon the day, my semi-circular canals are telling me I am still on the river. It’s a sense of perpetual motion — gentle swaying from side to side and up and down while moving forward. The only way to maintain one’s balance is to “go with the flow.”