Friday, January 7, 2011


It was a long semester and I turned in my grades and heaved a sigh of relief. I had taught my five sections in a row, done the commute and passed my general exams, all with a smile on my face. Sometimes genuine, sometimes professionally pasted. I needed a break. I'd been torn between the need for rest and renewal and the driving urge to just finish what I had started in the busiest semester I'd ever had. For Christmas, I drove up to Washington from Oklahoma to see my family and also to have a little fun. It was a two-week trip and except for a few harrowing days here and there, I enjoyed myself. I love to drive and I love scenery and the beautiful and wild Western United States. New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon (Southern Idaho is ugly as a four day binge hangover), and Washington just make me want to drive and drive and not stop until I see an ocean, so that's pretty much what I did. Beats flying anyway, but it's more expensive than flying and renting a car for a week.

The highlights read like a Burl Ives greeting card: I enjoyed a leisurely drive and spent a night in Evanston, Wyoming. I saw several people plugging their cars in to extension cords so that the engines would not freeze overnight. The next morning the temperature wasn't just cold, it was -2 Fahrenheit. That's not even a real temperature. My nose hairs froze as I stepped out to warm up my little SUV. I loved it, even if that sounds a little weird. We don't get long winters in Oklahoma and still have not seen snow this year. It's January and if it doesn't happen by February, it probably won't. So I relished the cold on the trip; there was no wind and the sun shone and the universe smiled on my Northern sojourn.

I made it to Dayton, Washington with no real troubles other than being overly caffeinated. Even I shouldn't hazard that much coffee. Even though it was 8:30 (10:30 my time) at night, I didn't stop anywhere but went immediately to see my grandma. She's in a nursing home and I miss her terribly. I write her letters and keep her updated on my life and ask about hers. She's declined in the last year, since my Grandpa's death. Incidentally, as I write this, today would have been his 95th birthday (Happy Birthday, Grandpa. I miss you). But I kissed Grandma and told her I love her. I could have gone back home after that and been h
appy with the whole trip. I sort of wanted to. Instead, I went to my sister's house and flopped down, absolutely dead.

I stayed in Dayton for a few days, attending church and enjoying the scenery. It's hard for me to visit the town where I grew up. Beautiful and nestled in the foothills of the Blue mountains, a ski resort lives only 20 miles north and the Touchet River winds its lazy way through the town. Lewis and Clark camped only a mile from my grandpa
rent's home out the Patit, and the Marll family (My Grandpa's name was Delbert Marll) has lived in Dayton since the early 1890's. My uncle Steve lives there now, in the same home were he was raised. There's something about Dayton that both pulls and repels me, so I visit and then go on my way.

I headed over the mountain for some fun in Seattle. Snoqualmie Pass was gorgeous, as it always is in winter. The roads once again were bare and a little damp, so traveling was easy as heck. I have a few favorite things to do in Seattle, such as bumming around Pike Place Market, where I had my picture taken at the first Starbucks and en
joyed entertainment from the many buskers. One fellow brings his piano and plays; another, named Emory, hula hoops while balancing a guitar on his chin, turning around and playing a second guitar. He's pretty talented and makes the crowd laugh. Few of the buskers suck, and for a long time on the second level there was a group of pipe flute players from Peru.

I love the Seattle Museum of Art. Well, most of it. In the lobby there are 1990's models of cars suspended from the ceiling on cables with some stupid lights sticking out of them. Pretty sure that's not art. But the Museum also has the traveling Picasso installment right now so I took time to go check it out. I usually thought of only ro
se and blue periods and painting and cubism when I thought of him, but he did so much more, including sculptures and a beautiful painting of his son, Paulo.
I know that Paulo was the apple of Picasso's eye. This is evident from the beautiful rendering of him in the harlequin outfit. It's the boy's expression that pulls emotion from me. He seems to know that he has to hold still and sit for his father, but he wants to be other places, exploring the world and playing games in street with his friends. The solemn look on Paulo's face shows depth and wisdom beyond his years. Was this a hi-fidelity portrait or a comment? I don't know, but I got lost there, staring at Paulo who is frozen in a museum. Eternally youthful and also trapped.

After the museum? Yeah, the Nutcracker. It was Christmas after all. And the Pacific Northwest Ballet has something nobody else has: Maurice Sendak sets. That's right, the creator and illustrator of "Where the Wild Things Are" did the beautiful and surreal sets for the ballet. Holy shit, it was great. I sat there in awe, having not seen ballet in several years, riveted through more than two hours of performance in high high heels and nosebleed seats. It mattered not one bit. They used almost 100 children in the production. The sets, the graceful movements, the flow and costuming- absolutely gorgeous.

Then there was the dirt biking. Hey man, you can't have Picasso without a little redneck fun to balance it out. Let me revise that; perhaps you may have Picasso sans redneck, but I don't wanna live without it.

I stayed in Quilcene with my sister and her family. It rained most of the time, ranging from light drizzle to steady downpour. And the light doesn't come until at least 7 and it's gone by 4. In addition to living in a town you have never heard of, they live close to the end of a very long road, 11 miles off the grid in the overgrown, lush, rainy patch of earth on Coyle road. You can't find it on Google maps. Too far "out there". They got their son, age 10, a dirt bike for Christmas and he texted me a picture of it at 4:00 Christmas morning. He didn't get to open presents until everyone was up. So at 5 a.m., I sat smiling with a cup of coffee and a warm blanket (everyone in this part of the country has wood heat) and enjoyed a bit of consumerism. My nephew was up on that bike most of the day. My sister said she would make him a reservation at the emergency room. They know him there, apparently. Pretty gung-ho kiddo. I played Wii games with him until my arms grew tired. During my brief visit to Quilcene, we cooked and ate all of the food in the entire world. Christmas eve dinner had a table full of hors d'oeuvres, a five gallon bouillabaisse with local seafood, an entire prime rib, a few hams and a plateful of something called "Angels on Horseback" which is really just some oysters wrapped in bacon and put under the broiler to scare away salmonella. Pretty sure everything was smeared with cream cheese and there must've been 30 people at my sister's in-laws house. I love those people. Our contribution was sugar cookies, dipped cookies, fudge and other delights. Pretty sure I ate my weight in those heavenly sumptuous frosted sugar cookies. It's the way my sister makes them and it's the only time I really go for sweets. I even had them for breakfast one morning. And lunch. Don't judge me. If I could cut them into a line snort them, I would've. Now you know why sweets don't live at my house.

In all, I headed home very full and ready for a new semester. I've got a full load this semester, what with the pesky dissertation writing thing I have to do. I'm commuting again, 72 miles one way, five days a week. Like Paulo, Picasso's son, I sit patiently for my cause, knowing that playing with my friends will come later and that my attention and energy are best spent staying in place. I just hope it isn't forever.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you got to spend time with your grandma and the rest of your family. Had I known you were in the neighborhood, it would have been nice to see you. Hassie would still like to meet you.