I’m turning into my mother-in-law

2012-09-08 - Apple Cobbler Insides - 0015

Some women have a worry of turning into their mother, especially during stressful times. I have found through a quirk of fate that I think I’m turning into my mother-in-law instead!

She was a simple, though intelligent woman who died many years ago, a traditional homemaker who raised a large family in the 40s and 50s and never worked outside the home.

But as I review my current, semi-retired lifestyle, I find it remarkably similar to hers. For example: She rarely went out, except to the grocery store, the hairdresser and the bank. (Hand raised. Just got back from all three.) She had one good friend. (Hand raised).

She loved to cook Southern style, what we’d call today, whole foods, slow cooked: Home-made biscuits, fried chicken, apple cobbler, all made from scratch. Because I am mostly vegetarian and gluten sensitive, my style is different, but the same.

Right now I am cooking applesauce with apples from the frig, and I make my own almond milk, because many of the store-bought brands list sugar as the first ingredient! But I experiment–cooking beans in a slow cooker is the only way to go, and I have a chayote squash waiting for tomorrow’s supper. I notice I have shared her joy of discovery of a new recipe, the pleasure in the process and the pride in the final product. A nice feeling!

She was intensely interested in both her neighborhood and nature around her. She usually had a small vegetable garden and grew roses, even in the shortened growing season in Flagstaff. For me it’s the new covey of baby quail living under the Russian sage, and the pecans I harvested and shelled from our tree out back.

The fire that blackened Mt. Elden north of town was right at the top of her street. She felt the horror at that destruction much as I am living through the aftermath of the Slide Fire.

She loved afternoon TV and could quote you chapter and verse of the Phil Donohue show. For me it is books–I’ve currently embarked on an round-the-world cruise. Right now I am “in” Canada, and loving it!

But most of all, when I went to visit her, I loved the predictability. When I was in my thirties and forties, a full-time working woman, I’d rush to her house and let out a sigh of relief at her rhythm of life. The pineapple crocheted doily was always on the kitchen table, the same picture always hung over the couch, and the coffee (always Folgers) was brewing in the old Pyrex percolator that she’d had for decades.

I used to wonder, back then, what on earth she did with her day.

Now I know.

 

 

 

 

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West Fork, Oak Creek Canyon, R.I.P.

orchard vista

 

west fork reflections

 

rock wall

 

view from bridge

 

mushrooms

 

high cliffs water

 

cottonwood tree

 

cliffs with clouds

 

gravel beach

 

lichen

 

shadow rock reflections

 

bent trees

Rest in peace, West Fork, Oak Creek Canyon

Slide Fire Arizona Smog

Sky crane water drop

Sky crane water drop

Charles Dickens in his novels of Victorian England used to speak of thick, foul miasma of air that stung the nose and burned the eyes.

We had that here yesterday as an inversion layer crowded the smoke to the earth, grounding the air support helicopters and spotter planes.

I attended a community meeting in Sedona that seemed to be a platform for showcasing the dozens of support agencies working to control the fire.

The nasty little secret they don’t tell you is that to ‘control the fire’ they actually burn more. I was surprised to hear that the fire which had consumed Oak Creek Canyon would now be deliberately increased to three times its original size by firefighting units to create a buffer of safety.

What they mean by this is that the priority is to save people and structures, period. The pristine slot canyon that was West Fork is no more. What wasn’t burned by the original flash fire is now being systematically bombed with napalm-like fire starters to burn out the little that is left.

On the canyon floor, fire rings has been set around all of the structures, to ‘pull down’ the fire from the slopes of the canyon to the floor to save the buildings. What this means is that there will be a narrow fringe of green around the buildings, surrounded by char.

Who would want to live in such a place? Who would want to visit it?

Perhaps my initial shock and disbelief has now turned to the anger stage of mourning. I hold two images in my mind: one of the canyon that I knew and loved in all its serene beauty, and the other, the blackened destruction created by the firefighters who actually at this stage are fire starters. It is difficult to find gratitude for that.

The road through the canyon will not be open for a number of weeks, if then.

I do not know when I will be able return, or even if I want to.

I want to keep the memories I have.

Slide Rock Arizona Fire Loss

 

Arizona Daily Sun Slide Fire photo

Arizona Daily Sun Slide Fire photo

I’ve lived in Arizona for over 50 years, and for most of that time Oak Creek Canyon has been my haven.

I rode down the switchbacks in my girlfriend’s boyfriend’s ’57 Thunderbird, when it was brand new and we were, too. I had my Senior High ditch day at Slide Rock. I swam naked in the creek with one boyfriend and was proposed to by another, sunbathing on the red rocks near the creek.

Oak Creek fed my soul. When my first marriage was disintegrating I’d come down to the creek and stick my feet in the water and just cry until my toes were numb, and then dry my eyes and my feet and pick up the pieces of a challenging life.

This pristine beauty has been a sanctuary and an anchor for me, and I thought it would be always be there. Now it is not.

Larson_Newspapers_aerial slide fire cropped

Larson Newspapers Slide Fire aerial

In just 24 hours, with 40 mile per hour winds and 10% humidity, the fire started north of Slide Rock and raced through the entire canyon. What had been a lush, green oasis in the desert, visited by something like 4 million people a year, is now a blackened crater.

I should be grateful. Thus far no structures have been damaged or people hurt. Part of the canyon, the lower part, they say is still at present intact, untouched by the fire.

Yet I mourn what has passed from my life and never will return.

I can never again experience the healing green, the murmur of the creek, the perspective from the top that said, “It will be OK. This, too, shall pass.”

For it has passed, and this will never be OK.

A walk on the wild side

This past Sunday I took an early morning hike looping around Courthouse Butte.

Courthouse Butte, Sedona, Arizona

Do you know why it is a butte and not a mesa? Because it is taller than it is wide. Here is another, Capitol Butte, shaped roughly like our nation’s capitol:

capitol butte

Here in Sedona, we like to name rocks. This is muffin top:

muffin top

And of course, what else could this be but rabbit ears:

rabbit ears

The wind was blowing, so the birds were keeping low, hidden in the bushes. They don’t like wind, for when everything moves, they can’t see predators. But a Western scrub jay was out. They signal intruders like me with a harsh caw like a crow:

scrub jay

A gray vireo was also out. Their song is a series of chu-weets, lyrical and sweet:

gray vireo

It’s easy to stay on the trail, for the forest service has constructed these ingenious cairns made out of red rock in wire cages. (That’s half of Twin Buttes in the background).

trail cairn

 

The bikers don’t like this trail, though, because the middle of it runs through Wilderness area–makes it nice and secluded for us hikers!bicycle sign

 

The wildflowers are in the middle of their spring bloom. Here is a feathered dahlia. The white-magenta flowers smell like a combination of rose and jasmine and make a lovely tea.feathered dahlia

The strawberry hedgehog has a fruit that according to my plant book taste just like strawberries!

magenta hedgehog

You wouldn’t want to eat the yellow berries of this plant, though. This is the silverleaf nightshade. It is an invasive species, often found where there is overgrazing. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem here, but this area’s original name was Big Park, and there were large herds of cattle grazed here.nightshade flowers

 

Here are the berries. Poisonous, but used by native peoples to tan hides and curdle milk into cheese. All sorts of uses for plants.

nightshade berries

 

This little flower is called the Slender Gaillardia, also called the reddome blanket flower. The Hopis used this as a diuretic:gaillardia

 

We’ve had a very dry year. Some say we are starting a drought cycle. For that reason, water is precious to the wild animals. Even a small bit like this will draw deer for miles:

water hole no 2

 

As I rounded the bend, I caught a glimpse of our most famous rock formation, Cathedral Rock:

cathedral rock

People who say the desert is barren haven’t been to Sedona!

What am I reading right now?

Bookshelves

Bookshelves (Photo credit: gadl)

I’m a reader, always have been. I used to feel guilty ‘stealing’ minutes away from the necessary and vital things on my To Do list to read. I don’t, anymore. A friend has called me a scanner–that I read quickly, skimming for meaning. Perhaps I am that.

But a favorite quote of mine perhaps sums it up best:

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott

So what’s in the stack of books by my reading chair today?

The Short Guide of a Long life by David B. Agus. I checked it out to check him out. He doesn’t say anything I haven’t heard before: exercise, eat right, be social–but it is always nice to be reminded.

Fooling with words by Bill Moyers. I like poetry; I like the intelligence of Bill Moyers.

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. She was featured on the cover of Time magazine not too long ago. I wanted to find out why. I wasn’t disappointed. A marvelous writer that makes sense of the spiritual quest.

The Healthy Headonist Holidays by Myra Kornfeld. She’s a flexitarian cook–fruit and vegetables always, fish once in a while. Her combinations are unusual and colorful. Fun to experiment!

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin. I recently discovered this Scottish mystery writer and have been working through some of his work. He understands people and how they interact with each other. I like that.

Bauble-Fest Fractal

The fractal geometry of nature by Benoit Mandelbrot. This is the French scientist who discovered fractals; those beautiful patterns that repeat inside themselves and expand infinitely. Wonderful illustrations and clear explanations by a writer so diverse in his interests he reminds me of da Vinci.

And on my Kindle I have:

Authors in a digital age by Kristen Lamb, which is The Best book I’ve ever read on social media and building platforms. This gal knows her stuff!

As David Thoreau once said, “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

I have a lot of ‘popcorn’ reading in my stack, too. We need both kinds. But when only the very best will do, I reach for a good book!