Saturday, March 28, 2015

do a review!

Have you ever thought how important customer reviews are to other customers? Most of us have been used to the kind of reviews that a business will post where they are all glowing recommendations. The internet has changed that. Now there can be sites  devoted to putting down a product; so when a potential buyer goes looking, they find the pluses and the minuses. 

Reviews recently helped me understand why the last pair of tennis shoes I purchased in a store feel tighter than I expected based on my hurriedly trying them on. Reviews have helped me realize a dress should be purchased a size larger than I normally buy based on it being cut small. Reviews let me decide which food dryer was too expensive for what it was worth.  Reviews of our Tucson vacation home let other renters decide if it's for them-- and I always read reviews before I stay in a hotel or rent a house somewhere. I try to read them all, as one person's negative experience doesn't mean something is wrong for me; but when they go into why it was bad, that helps my decision.

These kind of reviews are ordinary people taking the time to write about something they purchased for the benefit of the next person. I am not talking about people paid to do reviews, but people who take time out of their busy lives. I've both bought products and decided against them based on reading a number of reviews for what other buyers experienced. 

Where it comes to indie writers, reviews of their books are very important. Having a lot of reviews can convince someone else this book is worth buying. This is why writers set up street teams where they give out books before their release in return for reviews. Now, honorable writers do not ask for positive reviews-- in return for a copy-- they just ask for a review. Doing this, is like salting a mine (except not dishonest) as reviews attract reviews.

There are those who buy all their books based on a New York Times or New Yorker book review. Others buy books that are never going to make those elite lists, but the benefit of a quality review from a past reader for a future reader is great.

When Round the Bend came out last Saturday, I had mentioned my trepidation regarding how it would be received. It is an historical romance about the Oregon Trail, but it's a long book (130,000 words puts it in the epic category). It deals with not only the hardships of the Trail, a love story, but also a very difficult family relationship.

The sales came in very well, better than I had expected even. I don't know if they will continue but that depends on how Amazon gets it into its rankings. I was fortunate to have been in a writer/reader group that likes pioneer romances, and I think that helped with early sales. Word of mouth and networking really is critical to getting books seen for any chance of being purchased. Yes, it takes a tribe.

Are writers like ranchers and farmers? It's always a case of-- but what about... And that was what I felt when the sales were good but what about reviews. There weren't any for days. I began to worry that people had bought it but not liked it. Maybe its length turned them off, and on my concerns went.

Then it got a review. Nervously, I looked to see what it said, and I can tell you reading it made my day. Not only did the reviewer like the book, but she got what I had hoped readers would.
"This is my first experience in reading one of Ms. Trueax's books and I wasn't disappointed. The story was exciting and never got boring. Amy and her family were traveling to Oregon along with Matt, his brother Morey, and father. It was a large wagon train so the storyline had many characters. I just loved St. Louis the Wagonmaster. He was the salt of the earth with so much experience in leading and understanding people. St. Louis had healing experience which was invaluable to those who traveled with him. I've never read a book like this with so many avenues that kept me fascinated. Amy and Matt were lifelong friends but he started feeling more than mere friendship. Amy actually began being courted by Adam, the Wagontrain Scout, but found out "the feeling" just wasn't there and soon realized her love for Matt was more than being a friend. Matt's brother, Morey, was disturbing in this book and led to the violence in Matt's life. The father was also part of the lies and deception that led Morey to hate his brother, Matt. I don't want to spoil this story for you so I won't go on. However, if you want an exciting, adventuresome and mysterious book, this historical western genre is for you. There is some violence and sexual content but the author did a great job in making all actions part of the story itself. I loved it!" 
I have had books that literally never got a single review even with sales.  And then this one got a second that made me also feel very good.
 Rain Trueax is at her best from the first sentence. Each phase of the plot and characters are richly developed.
The Oregon Trail experience, physically and mentally grueling, either built character in the hero Matt or caused dangerous psychopathic mental breakdown in Matt's brother Morey. The wagon master St. Louis Jones' experience went beyond previous trips on the Oregon Trail. He had lived with Indians and trappers. He had a depth of understanding of humanity. He was a believable mentor for Matt's amazing growth. Through him Trueax revealed insights to the Indian and emigrants' points of view and their conflicting interests. Obviously Trueax's writing reveals extensive research with exact details of folk and Indian medicine, cooking, weapons, and geography. On fly fishing I thought didn't exist until after the civil war but I was wrong and Trueax was correct to have dry flies and a bamboo rod. I am eager to read more of the series to find out if Loraine finds her true love and the destiny of Scout Adam Stone. Will they eventually get together?
I am not sure what accounts for a reader taking their own precious time to review a book, but I can only say that it means a lot to the writer when they do. Even if the book you read had a New York Times review, taking the time to do one yourself is a gift to other readers-- and yes, the writer. 

They say that reviews are only meant for the reader, but I know from other writers that writers cherish getting them. Even an indie writer, with hundreds of reviews, and I know some who have had that many, each new one is important and valued. Sure, when a review is negative, it's not so much fun, but it can be educational and help a writer to see an aspect they may have missed.

So whatever product you buy, give a thought to adding a review. Amazon lets people review products they did not purchase there. They won't say verified purchase, but the reviewer can tell from where they did make the purchase. A review might not seem like a big deal to you, but the time you take is a big deal to both future purchasers and the person/company behind the product.

When I bought my last pair of tennis shoes from a store, I got almost no info from the sales person. I came home, read Amazon reviews and found out not only what my problem had been (these tennis shoes were cut narrower in the toe than usual) but also that my favorite style of tennis shoe was still out there-- something the store never told me. I ordered them; and when they come, you can bet, if they are as they were last time, I will add my review.

I make a lot more effort now to do reviews, but admit I used to do none. It's not just when we are irked at a product that it's good to take some time but also when we love our experience. It contributes to the pool of knowledge and helps the community. Viva la internet :). 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Whales and mankind

  The Green Man is a symbol of rebirth and of spring. The mythology is part of many ancient cultures but was only called the Green Man in the 20th century. In its various forms, it is a symbol of hope... and some of us need all the help we can get right now.

Pretty much, I assume that most who read this blog are well informed on climate change. They know the Antarctic is melting faster than experts had expected. They know the likelihood of an ocean rise of 10 feet is what most scientists assume will be the result. They also know that sea life is being much impacted by these changes. 

This year, since January, 1100 starving baby seals have been found on the California beaches. Some could be saved but many could not. This starvation is most likely due to their mothers having to leave them to go farther for food because the food supply is not where it always was.

Human climate is seeing changes of greater storms, less rain some places and more others. Colder some places and warmer others. In my part of Oregon, our rainfall hasn't been that much less, but the mountains got virtually no snow, which will impact rivers this summer. Our own farm may not be able to irrigate for long, but it's been because of heavy logging on the hills around us, which means the land holds less water when the rains do come. 

Mankind is responsible for a lot of what happens in nature because of our numbers and habits. Some of that can be changed-- some maybe not. So while humans argue over taking any responsibility, what do you imagine it's like for the intelligent mammals that live in the ocean. I am not so much thinking of the seals now as the dolphins and whales.

Into this mix of change coming, I learned of something that kind of blew me away. One of the writers, who I know through the Internet, was heading for Baja and a whaling experience. The idea is the tourists stay in shacks on the beach of the Sea of Cortez. They ride out to the sea on pangas operated by guides to interact with the whales. 

This place is known as a breeding grounds for whales. Since the 1970s, it's been known for something else-- a place the whales will come up to the humans in the boats and let them touch them.
"highlights of any trip to this "Mexican Galápagos": tickling implausibly friendly grey whales under the chin, listening to humpback whales singing their haunting, unearthly songs, and enjoying unforgettably close encounters with gargantuan blue whales." from Telegraph
When I first heard about this happening, I thought-- this can't be good. Animals should never trust humans that much. Almost every species of animal out there keeps its babies away from humans at any cost. And yet, these whales were not only letting their calves do this but encouraging it. The whales are not forced or chased. They make the decision, and many do just that. So what's up?

After reading the experiences of my writing friend and seeing her videos and photos (definitely spend time with her link above), I was scratching my head. What is going on? Her father's cousin said that this all began with one man in the 1970s, a fisherman who said a whale came up to him and let him touch it. His community did not believe him. He took others out, and they saw for themselves. The whales chose to do this. They still choose to do this. 

What I am about to suggest will sound wacky to practical minded folk-- even though most know whales are the most intelligent in the sea and some think they are smarter than humans (and considering the cockeyed values of a lot of humans, that's not too hard to imagine). Here's what I wonder: what if the whales sense the changes in the oceans, the pollution, the feeding grounds being threatened? What if they understand that humans could help them if they would?

I know-- Bambi complex. Or is it? Do we not give animals enough credit for understanding what is happening? They are being threatened before we are by these abrupt climate changes. Can they sense this? Do we give them credit for realizing it and thinking what can they do about it? I know humans who believe they can communicate with whales and claim they very much can know and reason.

The Sea of Cortez, where the cows nurse their calves until they are strong enough to make the long migration to the Alaskan waters for feeding, provided a safe place. Maybe because of a reef, maybe for other reasons, the orcas, who would eat the babies, don't come into this breeding ground. They do though kill a lot of the young ones on their way north in places like Monterey Bay. If the reef is a factor in their safety here, then having humans supporting them has been a benefit. Many human governments need an economic reason to support any cause. The government of Mexico can see an economic benefit in the people coming down there on tours that aren't cheap. There is however, another benefit for the whales. The humans who do this are interacting with a wild creature in a way that educates the humans and makes them care about these mighty leviathans. 

Does it also give these humans a reason to support efforts to protect them, seeing them as kindred spirits? It will take that kind of love and a strong purpose as human actions are constantly making their lives more dangerous by examples like the one described in the following link. It will spoil more fisheries. It's a Mexican company but a subsidiary of an American one (no surprise that). What will it take to stop it? 

In our modern world, true love is the only thing that I can think of that can be more powerful than dollars! Some humans say we can't fix it all so why try to fix anything. Others say-- one step at a time and we can make a difference. That's my philosophy.

Finally, this is a link to a video made from that trip--  

Definitely check it out as the music, seeing the whales interacting, ends this on an upbeat note. Maybe we can keep it that way! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

spring and new life

We have five coins to spend in life: opportunity, time, talent, money, and energy. 

I don't know who said it, but it's on a post-it above my desk. It seemed a good reminder to go along with lamb pictures. Spring is here. The ewes and lambs are making the most of the sunshine and fresh grass.

This little one was born the smaller of a set of twins. She didn't seem she'd make it, but Farm Boss gave her some milk-replacer to bolster her strength. Then her stronger twin suddenly got diarrhea and seemingly instantly died. Because the stronger twin had been the ewe's favorite, Farm Boss skinned it and tied the hide to the back of this one. After being penned together a couple of days, the ewe accepted the offering, and soon the hide was not needed. This little ewe deserves to grin.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Questions without answers?

My dreams had been a mix. There was of one of my movie dreams. The main character, who was out to pick blackberries, was about to be attacked by a bear. (The dream dictionary said about seeing a bear in a dream-- 'To see a bear in your dream represents independence, strength, death and renewal, and/or resurrection. Bears are symbolic of the cycle of life. You may also be undergoing a period of introspection and thinking.' That fit, since when I woke, I was thinking very philosophically.

I had a friend, at one time, who was oriented to herself and how things impacted her more than anything else. Even with the good deeds she might be doing for others, it was how it made her feel better than others for doing them. Whenever I had a conversation with her, she rarely seemed to hear what I said. Basically, she appeared convinced she was right on everything and on a higher plane of life than more ordinary folk-- like me. I came to see her as selfish.

Selfish. What exactly does that mean? Dictionary says: "concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure."

When I was a little girl, my mother and father told me I was selfish when I wanted something for myself. It was drilled into me that what I did should be for my parents' and the family good. Family mattered more than the individual. If someone did something bad, it would be how did it reflect on the family-- not how did it impact the one doing it. It didn't sound right to me; and when I raised my own children, it was not part of my philosophy.

Except, what is the difference between living a self-centered, self-aware life, where your own good comes first, the philosophy I now want for myself, and being selfish? Waking up the other morning, I wondered if my friend had skipped the steps of struggling, which I have gone through, and went right to it. Was centering first about one's self, and what was good for them, the same as selfish?

We live in a culture where we are told both things are true-- do it all for others-- do it all for ourselves. Even in voting-- should we vote for what we think would do the most for us or that which will do the most for others? 

I am no longer worried if someone calls me selfish. It took me a long time, but I understand more what self-interest means. When I do something for someone else, it's because it's also good for me. I don't fool myself into thinking it was magnanimous. Charity can very much be about doing something for ourselves-- you know that warm glow. Same thing with doing it for the family when it makes us feel good. Was that not also selfish? Same thing with working for the environment or animal causes. Is it noble and self-sacrificing or actually selfish because it makes us feel good?

Even now, I tend to believe that pure selfishness isn't always a good thing because it can be very shallow. It can be doing what we think benefits us but with no clue as to the long run even for ourselves. The self aware/self centered person might do the same things, but the impact on their character would be totally different. I think when we talk to someone for awhile, maybe work with them, it does not take long to know which it is for them. Do we recognize ourselves as easily?

So what I woke up asking-- Is being centered first as to what we need and making our life predominantly about what benefits us a bad thing and selfish? Or is it what life is truly all about: learn what that 'one' thing is that will work for us? And when we know it, we will know how to balance the needs of others with our own. 

Interestingly, when I finished writing this, I opened up our Costco magazine for this month and saw an article on Wild, the film starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed. I had, of course, read about the film, although I have never read the book. Strayed had a quote regarding Witherspoon that puts a kind of coda to what I've been thinking.
"She's going through her late 30s and moving on to her 40s, when women say, 'I'm not going to look for validation from outside. I'm going to define myself on my own terms.'"
I read a lot of books in my 40s, books like Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Those were the years when I was doing clay sculptures (the ones above are mine). I also engaged in some counseling with a psychologist (who said it would take a lifetime to get me to where I wanted to be-- I didn't give him a lifetime just six months) and later, over those years, two professional counselors in various schools of thought. 

These were the years to look at Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs and ask where I was at on the pyramid-- even to question its validity. Like that top one-- lack of any prejudice. Does that mean the inability to judge right from wrong or make assessments on what is proper or does it mean being biased without a reason? Lots of things to question once you start really thinking.

someone at Facebook posted the above from Pinterest. 
During my 50s, I investigated what in my world had been the taboo-- visiting some psychics for readings, exploring astrology, buying and learning to read Tarot decks, and other parts of the metaphysical world. I began to step out in ways I would never have done earlier. Did any of that help me get there then? Not so much. 

At 71, I think, I am still getting there. On the plus side, I feel far less need for approval from others. I am more aware that I won't please everyone in my relationships but especially with my writing. I kind of like that there is more growth ahead and that I don't have all the answers. 

Likely, given my mind, which travels all over the place, I won't have all the answers I might want-- even on the day I die. I think though that it's unlikely I'll be giving up on finding them. The accusation that my parents used to throw at me, that I thought too much, is still there. It just doesn't seem a bad thing anymore :).


Saturday, February 28, 2015

The real world or a distraction?

For the last month, when it gets around to writing this blog, I find myself in the middle of the week with no idea what subject. So much of what's going on in my life is either not interesting, involves my books, or is into political stuff that I haven't really wanted to discuss here. I have liked keeping this blog about life in general and not into the negatives and yet... Sometimes it is all I really am thinking about. So ahead is a little stream of consciousness about what goes through my mind in a typical day-- that is some of it.

Obama vetoed the Keystone XL, even though Democrats wanted it built. Yes, I read that. It was a lie. Most Democrats would have been ready to impeach him had he signed it. Environmentally there are plenty of concerns even if climate change isn't thrown into the mix. Considering it is going over the Ogallala Aquifer, even though it's been rerouted to not directly go over the Sandhills in Nebraska, it will be an issue because that aquifer has a surprisingly high water table. Anybody who says the technology is so good that they don't need to worry about spills, hasn't been listening to anybody but Fox news and right wing pundits.

The fear talk that is being spread by the right is amazing. One woman expressed her belief that gasoline would double for her if it's not built. Well, it should double eventually anyway as currently there is a glut of oil due to fracking. Anybody figure that will last forever? But the main thing with the Keystone XL is that its oil is intended for export. I have read, due to pressure, they were trying to get the companies to keep some of it here. Since we are already shipping our fracking oil overseas from ports along the West Coast, seriously who believes it won't go where they can get the most money for it. Fear talk from Foxies is behind the right who are so enraged Obama got out his pen and said no.

Regarding this pipeline, I read something that really upset me. There were ranchers and farmers who did not want to sell a right-away to TransCanada. The foreign corporation was planning to file eminent domain against them. Imagine this, a foreign company can file to say we need your land because we have a higher use for it than you do. And it's legal????  

If you didn't like that, and a lot of lefties and righties actually would not, try this on for size. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, that is worrying so many of us, the treaty that Obama negotiated and supports, evidently widens this right of foreign companies to use eminent domain when they want land, and they can make more $$$$s from it than you. Eminent domain has seemed unfair to me for a long time even when it was utilized by our government or our corporations (like the people who owned beachfront property and had it taken from them because a resort said it was worth more to them-- i.e. property taxes). That was bad enough, but foreign corporations could do it too? What kind of treaty is that for the good of Americans, and it's not the only problem regarding that treaty.

Is there anybody in the government who is on our side, the side of ordinary Americans? It doesn't appear that way.  

This week Obama did an interesting Town Hall on immigration where many of the questions came from Dreamers (brought to this country as children with no experience in the land from which they came if they were to be deported) or those angry he is not doing enough about saving their family members from deportation. He tried to explain to them that his powers only go so far. 
He made the point-- get out and vote for those who will make an immigration bill a priority. He suggested they ask any candidate who says they don't like what he's doing-- would you deport all 11 million here without papers? If they did, the economies of many regions in the US would collapse. Get realistic. Do something that addresses the reality not pipe dreams. 

I know there are those on the right, who want them all deported, would they really do it when they learn who these people are as individuals? Those angry at Obama don't know what he actually did on immigration, which doesn't remotely grant amnesty, and how he has to walk a narrow line to stay within the Constitution and still deal with a humanitarian issue. 

He was great on the Town Hall by the way. He knows his stuff and he doesn't back down-- on either side. In two years, we'll have a different president. However, if you want to see this resolved, vote next time! In 2014, only 30% of those qualified to vote did... And that is not 30% of all Americans, just those registered to vote. It's a disgrace.

And speaking of 2016. Who should I support? Someone who wants war around the globe but no taxes to support it? Someone who thinks trickle down works? Someone who wants to regulate our bodies but not our financial institutions? What about Net Neutrality? I thought at first it meant one thing, keeping the Internet as it is. Then I began hearing other things.  

Or not. Remember how clean air meant less control on pollution? Don't assume this is any different. Do some research. If you value the Internet as an open forum, take a look at what's going on-- or is it too late?

On that subject, check out CitizenFour, which is on HBO, but I would guess will be on Netflix and probably available as a DVD. I highly recommend it. It is about spying and how much right the government should have to get into our private lives. Yes, it is about Edward Snowden but more than just him-- the issue of invasion of our personal lives-- okay or not?

This has been the week for CPAC. I keep trying to find out how many people actually attend this convention, but so far I've had no luck. It seems less than 10,000, but it permeates our news whether we watch right or left leaning channels. The kinds, of options the right appears to be offering, are making me wonder what went wrong with the Republican party. 

Once again Trump is out there suggesting Obama himself said he was born in Kenya-- a lie but then he doesn't bother to check what he says, does he? That man is all hair, ego and ignorance. 

Or how about Rick Perry and his securing the border which happens to not be true! 

There has been some humor though--like Scott Walker, who some of the right feel is their hope.

Come on, we have to laugh at some of it, don't we? ISIS is not funny, of course, but this guy is if he thinks what he faced in Wisconsin with peaceful protestors relates at all to what the Islamic State is about. Clueless fits.

One thing is making this all better for me. I write. I highly recommend it for anyone who is following any of these issues. Sign petitions, write your Congressmen, but then let it go and write something. Write whatever comes to you, and don't worry if it's good. It will take you out of your world and into someone else's where you have more control.

I spent some time this week making bookmarks that I am giving away to those who want one. If anyone in that category reads this blog, email me with your mailing address (my email is alongside in my profile). 

Making bookmarks is fun for me as they come out of my books or my life philosophy. They are colorful, simple; and when I do them, I go into another space. It's a nice space in which to be! I do have to come back, of course, but I'm in a better mood when I do.

Above are three-- the mind behind the books, the philosophy behind them, and one taken from a cover for the book that is coming out March 21. We took them to Staples to get the pages printed on paper sturdy enough ($1.09 a page, with 5 to the page. That was cheaper than buying paper and doing it at home-- not to mention our difficulty in printing paper that heavy). 

If you have art or other things you'd like to share with others through a bookmark, it's fun, crafty, and definitely a distraction from everything else going on.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

and that's how it is

It was Thursday when it dawned on me that I'd written nothing for here. Worse, I had no idea for something I could write. The problem is I am editing a manuscript I plan to bring out March 21, one that I have to do word-for-word editing. 

Writing excites and takes me out of myself. Editing requires a lot of plodding along. I look for grammar problems. I look for logical connections that didn't connect. I try to get rid of excess words where I am repeating something that already has been said. I also look at the characters to see if they are staying true. Basically editing has many masks, and a writer who does their own, must wear them all.

Because of the work involved, it's not hard to see why the claim is made you should hire someone else to edit your books. It's a great idea for those who have a thousand dollars to spare for a good editor, even several of them each hitting on different aspects of the writing. In depth editing requires more than letting Word say how it should be. A lot goes into it and it is not fun for me. It is, however, absolutely essential.

By the time I had finished on Friday, I knew I'd changed enough bits that I likely will have to go over it one more time before I put it out in March. I want it to be the 21st because it's my brother's birthday and the first full day of spring with the equinox being on the 20th. Perfect time for a coming of age story and the trip to Oregon in 1852.

I am not sure if I told the origin of the story in here. It began with my cousin and I as girls. When the family gathered for any occasion (and there were a lot of them), she and I would go for walks. We enjoyed making up stories, each one taking turns creating the next step in it. Matt and Amy grew from one of those walks.

In my mid 20s on an old Royal upright (which I still have), I typed the manuscript for the first time. I had carried it around in my head a long time by then. I rewrote it now and again through the years as I saw better ways to tell the story. In the 1990s, I worked with a professional consulting writer, who I'd send the typed pages and she'd mail them back with red marks and notations all over them. It cost me about $1500 by the time she'd gone over the whole manuscript. It was like taking a class, and I learned so much, way beyond editing and about writing itself, that I felt it was worth it.

In 2011, before I began bringing out my manuscripts as eBooks and paperbacks, I looked at it again. I didn't have the heart to bring it out. I was not sure if the first, which is a romance but so much more, would get me readers for the second. Even worse was the possibility that the first would be totally ignored. How do you let go of a story that is so dear to your heart? When readers ignore my work, it can be hard; but this one would be hardest of all. It has been part of my life what almost seems like all my life.

You know, sometimes a writer's first book is one they never should bring out. It's the love of their heart, and they just cannot be objective. Sometimes they have thrown everything into it and it just doesn't work as a cohesive story. I do not think this is one of those. I think it is a strong story of growth of people as well as what it took to make the westward trek.

To write this story of the Oregon Trail, I researched journals and history books. Many are still on my shelves. I had to know where they went, what they saw. I've driven parts of the trail and gone as far as the Platte River along pieces of it. Some places the land has changed a lot. Some is still there with the deep ruts to be seen.

The westward expansion, which some call Manifest Destiny, is still controversial given what it required be done with those who already lived in the country. There are some very tragic stories on both sides of it, but free land lay ahead. There was always someone eager to set out, leave behind family, and all they knew and face the risks.

I live on a Donation Land Claim and have two Conestoga wagon wheels, which most likely came west with the previous owners of this land. Part of my own family came to Oregon years later. For health reasons they left South Dakota in the early 1900s. By then they could make the trek to Oregon with cars and not wagons. When I was growing up, my family still regarded South Dakota as their homeland.  They lived around Rapid City and up in the Black Hills which was land promised to the Lakota but taken when gold was found.

Once a year my whole family would gather at a place called Jantzen Beach for the North or South Dakota Day picnics. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and my father met up with their friends from the Dakotas. There were a lot of them back then. My cousins and I liked it for all the delicious food they brought, the carnival rides, fun house, and swimming pool.

Eventually, economics made Jantzen Beach no longer profitable enough to offer a big treed picnic area with those rides and the pool. Today it's a mall. Today my family is mostly gone on to where folks go.

look closely at this one-- there are 3 lamb faces in it...

On another subject, tomorrow, the 22nd, is my day to write something for Smart Girls Read Romances. I am making my case for why an old woman can make a good romance heroine even though it's not the usual case! I use a few pictures of myself when I was in my early 60s and my husband. My argument is that old women can do what they want. Most of us no longer want to be part of a romance ourselves-- even if we enjoy writing/reading them. But old doesn't mean undesirable. See if I made my case tomorrow--  Smart Girls Read Romance

Photos are all from February 20th and this years lambs-- which is more or less winding down. We lost some and saved some. With 36 newborn lambs, mostly they are on the ground and have a mother who wants them. The problems linger for a month or so as mama and baby adjust to their role. It can be chaotic and not at all quiet (counting sheep for me would not be relaxing-- I know too much). They get separated and bawl, often from across a small field where neither baby nor mama is willing to move and would rather cry.

On the other hand, when it's sunshining, as it was the 20th, and the lambs are finding how many ways they can run and play with each other, it really is pure delight. Hard stuff is behind. More hard stuff is ahead, but this day is pure pleasure.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

some of my favorite things

One of the things I like about winter is how it offers time for dreaming and planning. Longer nights help the first and inclement weather is good for the latter. It's cozy inside, a good time for fires in the fireplace-- if the wind is right. If it isn't, the smoke drops down around our house, creeps in through the windows. I am super sensitive to woodsmoke in terms of sinus problems, so that creeping business is not a good thing.

Because it's lambing season and we can't really take off for a long week-end, my mind is wandering to where we've been and where I want to go when the last lambs are born. And because this is a day where love is the topic, I was in the mood to share some of what I love. Take for granted that I love my family. They are at the top of any list and right after family are our cats. But there is something else I love-- nature and place.  

Maybe because I grew up on a farm, land has always been one of my loves-- and that means this farm. I am fortunate enough to live where I love. But I also enjoy getting away for a few days or weeks-- and when I have dreams of doing that, it's always places in the American West. So long as it doesn't go too far east of the Rockies, anywhere can qualify for a satisfying daydream. 

There is a beach house I love at Seal Rock, well just south of it. We had rented the house about once a year-- and then one year it wasn't listed. When it returned to the listing, it had been rebuilt into a luxury home. It is obviously much more expensive but still worth it for the view it offers of a small, private cove-- great wave action and a wonderful place to watch birds of all sorts. 

It's easy to get to the beach down a trail where exploring tidal pools and taking photos is the main activity. It's one of those places that to just be is enough. Just being is one of the best parts of nature.

Another place I can imagine being right now is a cottage in Mitchell, Oregon. In the summer, its garden is full of flowers and gives a delightful sense of seclusion to the house. It's older and attached to another small cottage; so a person can rent both or just the one half. Nearby are the Painted Hills where we have taken tons of photos and I've done some painting.

It has been a few years since we've taken the ferry across from Port Angeles to Victoria, B.C.  We used to go every year. I miss it. I like Victoria and Vancouver Island. On the Pacific side are some of the most gorgeous and wild beaches I've ever seen. Victoria itself is a pleasure to explore with an outstanding museum. I also enjoy the ferry trip that connects us from here to there. I am not sure it's going to be on this summer's agenda, but renting a house there would be great-- especially if we could take the family with us. 

No daydream is complete without imagining a trip to Montana. I was first there in 1990. It was summer, and we were mostly sleeping on pads in the back of our Astro van, which made it very free-wheeling. 

I've seen a few questions where they ask-- if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? My answer was always-- sun on my back, sitting on a big rock on the Madison River while my partner was fly fishing nearby. It would not have to be the Madison River as Montana has many gorgeous places I could imagine being right now and feel a sense of peace coming over me.

This fall, we have reservations at Old Faithful Inn for early October, most years a wonderful time to be in Yellowstone. If we go, we will take the trailer for time in the Lamar Valley where the wolves and grizzlies roam. 

Except... then we began to remember another place we haven't since 1999-- Chaco Canyon and New Mexico. That would require taking the trailer also and meandering down through Utah, wonderful red rock parks and maybe this time getting into Hovenweep, which for some inexplicable reason, we have never done... or would Monument Valley be better? We enjoyed it very much the one time we stayed there, which also was more than a couple of years ago.

So many choices, so many great memories. I love the American West and find myself always with so many places I'd like to be that it's not tempting to go beyond it. I'm glad that everybody does not feel the same. Some of my favorite places to be have very few who feel likewise, which make them even more delightful to spend time.