Sunday, July 27, 2014

Badass People

Yesterday I wrote about the exhilaration of a physical challenge.  As I was writing, my son-in-law was achieving one of his own goals - completion of the 24 mile Crow Pass Crossing.  This was the 30th annual running of this ultimate marathon.  My son-in-law went willingly, eagerly to the starting line.  He has run this race before.  The race is a rugged up and down through a pass in Alaska's Chugach Mountains.  Runners reach the pass after an ascent of 3,888 feet in the first 3.5 miles.  The trail then moves across fields of sharp scree, patches of snow, through a swift glacial river.  It is not for the faint hearted.  There is a registration fee which 150 people pay for the opportunity to climb, scramble, crawl and wade through stunning country.  And there are bears there.  Watch this short video shot yesterday to get an armchair glimpse.  According to my son-in-law the weather was perfect.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Do You Have a Goal?

Last week I talked with a friend about her goal.  As have I, she has passed the time in life that is generally associated with the kind of ambition that requires physical fitness and exertion.  Nevertheless, she recently achieved her goal which was to ride (successfully) a first class horse over big jumps.  I have a goal to earn my black belt in Taekwondo.  My friend and I agreed that pursuing such goals is consuming and that as you approach success each effort is electrifying.  The pounding heart, adrenalin surge, fear and release of a physical challenge are hard to beat for sheer joy.  This is surely the reason why President Bush the elder still jumps out of airplanes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sheep Camp - again

Last summer I wrote about sheep camp.  Here is what I said:

Actually, sheep, cattle and duck camp.  Perhaps more accurately, stock herding camp.  There are 35 campers.  I am one.  All adults. We all have at least one dog.  Some have 5 or 6.  One woman brought along six four week old puppies with their mother since they could not be left at home alone.  There are about 140 dogs at the sheep farm where camp is underway.  They are the herding breeds: Heelers, Australian Shepherds, Corgis, Kelpies, Bearded Collies, Shelties, and, in large majority, Border Collies.  The dogs work stock with passion and intensity.  Work is their reward.  Toys and treats play no part in their training.  When it is not their turn, the dogs watch others work.  During the lunch break the dogs sleep in crates and small portable pens.  The humans wear name tags. I am glad that camping is no longer exclusively for the young.  As with children away at summer camp, we are the essence of indulgence.    We may not be cannon-balling off a dock, but when our dog goes out wide around the sheep and fetches them back to us, we are getting the same thrill.

I am back again, with two dogs this year.  We had our kick-off briefing with wine and cheese this evening.  Very much like similar orientations except it took place in a barn.  Again, over 150 dogs waited outside, mostly quiet, some dozing, all focused on the sheep grazing in nearby pastures.  Tomorrow we will divide up by skill and inclination.  We will hear advice, take our turn and despair at our limitations.  Our dogs will be eager, happy and ready to go again.  The sheep will assure that the diagrams we see on white erase boards are mere suggestions of the path forward.  They think for themselves, unlike a golf ball.  They stop to graze, to pee, to turn around and look at the dog.  They turn and run flat out towards the gate to the barn.

We try to anticipate, react, stay calm.  The dogs are in it for the work.  What looks like an escaped-sheep disaster to us is just another long fetch to them.  We humans need to remember that the dogs are not scoring our effort or our results.  They are just looking for another chance to herd sheep.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Driving Miss Daisy

Last week my husband and I drove to Athena, OR, home of the annual Caldonian Games.  Here is what the organizers say about themselves and their event:

The purpose of the Caledonian Games Association is "to preserve and perpetuate Scottish social manners and customs" as sited in the 1899 Constitution of the Caledonian Society of Umatilla County; and to illuminate the city of Athena and its heritage. Our shared vision is to sponsor the Caledonian Games, a Scottish Heritage Festival with games, events, entertainment, music, food and dancing that are founded in the Scottish tradition."

Put a visit to Athena on your calendar for July 2015. Visit their website.These Games have it all: Gathering of the Scottish Clans, Massed Bands, Sheepdog Trials, Celtic World Music Concerts, Heavyweight Scottish Athletics, Highland Dance Competition, Solo Piping & Drumming, & Scottish Harp. And, strawberry shortcake, sausage rolls and shepherd's pie. The athletic events are not for sissies. For the men, a 16 pound hammer throw, a 56 pound weight toss for best height, a caber toss, and the traditional Braemar Stone (a standing put of a 26 pound stone.) The women compete in the same events, but with lighter objects.

My dog and I competed in the sheepdog trial.  It was 100 degrees.  Unlike those in the Heavyweight Scottish Athletics, I did not have to wear a woolen kilt.  My dog was awesome (as were the others).  Their job was to move sheep and they did it well.  Their reward, a long dip in a water trough.  The games went on in the suffocating heat.  We actually had a very good time.

After our fun in Athena we drove to Idaho to pick up a new dog for my husband.  She was bred on a cattle ranch from working Border Collie stock.  She is one year old.  Her name is Daisy.  We drove home, 700 miles, smiling all the way.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Contribute to Research Right Here at Home

My husband and I have seen an unusual squirrel in our neighborhood.  The squirrel has a white tail, white feet and white on her (or "his" if you prefer) face.  We each have seen her several times within a few blocks of our house.  We live in a retirement community that covers about 250 wooded, landscaped and built up acres.  This morning I saw the white tailed squirrel on the other side of our campus in a small park that was formerly part of a golf course.  As the crow flies this is about 1/2 mile from our house.  I wondered if squirrels usually roam that far afield.  I went on line to learn more about our squirrel.  There I met Rob Nelson, principle investigator of the White and Albino Squirrel Research Initiative.  I recommend that you meet Rob, too.  He offers a video of unusual squirrel sitings and lots of easy to read commentary.  Here's where to find him.  He runs a video production company called "Untamed Science".  He seems to live an untamed life.  I learned that the squirrel in our neighborhood is a Pibald White - neither traditionally colored, nor pure white.  There is a picture of a similar squirrel on his web site.  I was able to submit a summary of my sighting which will add to his research.  His sightings have been predominately in the Eastern United States.  He shows no sightings at all from Washington State where I live.  So.  Look sharp, neighbors.  You might see a Pibald squirrel too.  If you do, send your report to Rob.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Gingko Next Door

In our community someone has planted a Ginkgo tree.   It is very new, a small thin trunk with the crown standing no more than six feet high.  It is glorious.  The Gingko is native to China.  It is a unique species.  It is unchanged over millennia and is easily recognized in fossils dating back 270 million years.  The leaves are a lovely fan shape.  There is no other plant with similar leaves.  They are vibrant green in summer and a beautiful gold in autumn.  Gingkos come in separate sexes.  The females develop seeds after pollination which are soft and fleshy.  The seeds look lovely but smell rancid when they fall.  Gingkos grow to 100 feet or more.  The house that I grew up in had a stand of Gingkos along a wall beside the garage.  My mother loved them and had a gold pin made in the shape of a Gingko leaf.  I have that pin.  Gingkos grow very slowly.  Another generation, or two will live in our community before this tree reaches its full height.  I'm glad I will have time to watch its beginning.  My thanks to whoever is planning so far ahead! What a gesture of faith in the future.

General Motors and Me

It turns out that I drove a car for five years that had the potentially fatal ignition-switch defect.  Today, nine years after I purchased that car, I read that it is included in the models recalled on Monday.  I read, and reread the article in today's paper. I felt alarmed and angry.   I drove a five year crap shoot.  I will not receive a notice because I traded that car for a newer model 18 months ago.  My new GM car has been recalled twice for safety issues.  First, a warning light in the side view mirror failed.  Then, just this month,  acceleration was subject to possible delays of several seconds.  I don't know how many people have been injured or died because of these safety issues.  I am not one.  But I could have been.  I have been loyal to GM in my recent car buys.  I may not be again.