Montana Wolf

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Sea-Change Shuffle

Baker Lake, a favorite kayak spot

A gnawed-on pork rib bone and a cold cup of espresso bookend my laptop. I've procrastinated all I can today. What one part of me proclaims to be a well-deserved rest from the written word, another calls an excuse for the whip. As if taking six weeks off from writing is the genesis of original sin. A seasoned editor at several publishing houses recently shared she is going to retire this year. She saw me through two book publications and told me that of all the authors she has worked with over the years I am the most tenacious; her compliment, a blessing and curse.

I arrived the Pacific Northwest on winter solstice to write the sequel to Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey. The universe, with the help of travel aficionado Rick Steves, had other plans, as I jumped tracks to exhume the out-of-print words from the "Land of Enchantment." New Mexico's Sanctuaries, Retreats and Sacred Places 2014 joined the digital and print worlds with 133 color photographs. The most arduous editing task of my life left me exhausted on summer's doorstep.

David and Hope
Hope's Graduation Day
My daughter Hope graduated from a master's program at the University of Oregon in June. I travelled to Eugene, whereupon her dad/my Ex, David, and I joined Hope for the special event. It had been twenty-two years since we had sat together. It was a deeply moving evening of memories, laughter and loving tears. I returned to Washington State and back-to-back visits by friends. Then I embarked on three weeks of R&R, kayaking Puget Sound, exploring thrift stores, hiking and dancing at the Edison Inn, a historic bar up the road where the local folks, from twenty to eighty, gather in the name of fun. Live music begins at 5:30 on Sundays. Perfect.

I also completed an interior makeover of  LaPerla, my travel trailer, adding new space savers like a maple magnetic knife holder. I've spruced up the colors with blue-green kitchen cupboard pull handles, purple window coverings and turquoise cushions. I upholstered a bit. All this as the nagging voice in my head kept asking if I was ever going to write again. You'd think after all of these years I could catch a break.

Gull with Clam
It is not a question of if I will write but how, as my spirit accustoms itself to this lush landscape. It is a time of dramatic evolution, from thirty-plus years in the arid southwest to the northwest's Salish Sea.  I have no answers, except to watch my hand, one click away from the sequel's computer file, my index finger poised to push. The move will not come lightly. I know what the the open folder means -- the possession that my will ensue in the commitment to words and cadence. I know the second Rick Steves interview, this time on Drive Me Wild, will air August 16th. I feel the liquid chrysalis state taking form.

Soon enough I'll toss the bone to Teak, swill the cold espresso and give that mouse a hearty click, intent to mingle play and work amidst the summer's sea change. Just one more kayak, please. And a few high-country hikes.

Kayaking island to island in the San Juans

Day's Gracious End on the Skagit River


Thanks for stopping by and giving your precious minutes to my words. Visit for more. Join me on Facebook at
And at this especially troubling hostile time around the world, be peace.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Destroying the Angel in the House

I was searching old computer files for a copy of a novel I wrote in the 1990's on the Ludlow Massacre. Old? Downright floppy disk-ancient! I haven't found that manuscript, but I did find this letter Virginia Woolf wrote in 1931, as she prepared to address a group of women who sought to enter professions barred to them. Her words are as powerful then as now. Perhaps more so, for Woolf's "angel in the house" still exists. In our heads, in the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. There is no hierarchy of freedoms.  Christina

Her words:
While I was writing this review I discovered that if I were going to review
books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom.  And the phantom
was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the
heroine of the famous poem, "The Angel in the House."  It was she who used
to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews.  It was she who
bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed

You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her-
--you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House.  I will describe
her as shortly as I can.  She was intensely sympathetic.  She was immensely
charming...she sacrificed herself daily...she never had a mind or wish of
her own. 

In those days, the last of Queen Victoria---every house had its Angel.  And
when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words.  The
shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in
the room.  Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review
that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered, "My dear,
you are a young woman.  You are writing about a book that has been written
by a man.  Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts
and wiles of our sex.  Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your
own.  Above all, be pure."  And she made as if to guide my pen. 

I turned on her and caught her by the throat.  I did my best to kill
her.  My excuse, if I were to be had up on a court of law, would be that I
acted in self-defense.  Had I not killed her she would have killed me.  She
would have plucked the heart out of my writing...Thus, whenever I felt the
shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the
inkpot and flung it at her.  She died hard.  Her fictitious nature was of
great assistance to her.  IT IS FAR HARDER TO KILL A PHANTOM THAN A
REALITY.  She was always creeping back when I thought I had dispatched her. 
Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was
severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning

Greek grammar or roaming the world in search of adventures.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Betwixt and Between: North Cascades to the Salish Sea (Pt. One)

Kulshan and Her Lake this winter.
The PNW (Pacific Northwest) has taken the act of kayaking to magical levels. This gloomy, temperate winter I donned my long underwear and began on small lakes close to home; solo trips on safe bodies of water so as not to pay attention to troublesome tides and ocean currents. It was me and "Sunny" the Equinox kayak getting to know one another.

Past an old growth stump on Baker Lake

Passing canoe on Baker Lake - the only other boat
As the weather warmed I expanded horizons to lakes in the N. Cascade mountains, within forty miles of the house. The largest of these was Baker Lake, a large body of water to the south of her namesake active volcanic mountain, Mt. Baker. Kulshan to the Native Peoples of this area. Most recently I have ventured into Puget Sound, the native-named Salish Sea. These excursions have been with my friend Linda, an experienced "Sound" kayaker, knowledgeable of tides and currents as I begin my straight-up ocean kayak learning curve. Enjoy the gifts of the Salish Sea --


Linda takes the lead - that distant island was our picnic spot

Salish spy - cute and curious

Calliope Hummer - not supposed to be in this area but she had the island to herself - until we got there

Pigeon Guillemots - members of the Alcid family, they only go to land to nest

The rock shore where we lunched. Stunning colors and textures.

The movement of kelp.

Lingcod kayaker - I'd caught them years past off the islands of SE Alaska. They're out of this world delicious. 

Me n Sunny at the entrance to the infamous Deception Pass

Father and son. The scene touched me deeply.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Orcas Island Photo Blog

The San Juan Islands includes Orcas 

Orca image upon arrival
Silly me. I would have bet the house (if I had one) that Orcas Island was named for the toothy, stunning black and white dolphins that live around her shores. Turns out that the Orcas "Killer Whales" are more closely tied to Orca, God of the Underworld. "Orcas" Island, on the other hand, is shortened form of Horcasitas, or Juan Vicente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, the Viceroy of Mexico who sent an exploration expedition to the Pacific Northwest in 1791. (There's another island nearby that is called Guemes.)

What follows are images of my magical day on Orcas Island, a 59-mile chunk of land shaped like a pair of saddlebags, a short ferry ride from Anacortes, WA. I sought the backtrails and back stories of the island on this special day. Didn't spend much time in the more populated Eastsound. Wouldn't have gone there at all had I not been jones'n for ice cream. Glad it happened. It's a cool little berg and the ginger and deep-dark chocolate cone was the perfect conclusion.

Ferry Arrival to Orcas Island
Orcas Village Store w/phenomenal deli at ferry landing

Typical residence on the island. That driveway was colored glass.

Doe Bay - coming back for sure. Thursday night is open mic at the cafe and the
musicians from the island gather for a great night of music.

Yurt at Doe Bay Resort - my kind of place

Hot Pools at Doe Bay. Clothing optional.

Dock at Olga. Walked down to the end and had an enchanting coversation with an old sailor who had packed up his CA life and moved to Olga 35 years earlier. He told me that Olga was named for the wife of the first postmaster.
Dungeness crabs under the water off the Olga dock. Huge. I was thinking "dinner" except it wasn't crab season.

Starfish orgy off Olga Dock. 

Docked off Olga

From the shores I entered Moran State Park to hike. I chose the waterfall hike.

Meditation spot. It was hard to leave. But ferries don't wait.

Winter Wren along the trail

Mt. Baker from the top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To Touch a Stranger

The gray-haired stranger wiped tears from her face as she approached me on the oceanside trail. The quick gesture to her red eyes took me by surprise as she passed in the opposite direction. Her pain lingered as I continued with Teak to the dock, strode out to the end and turned around. I noticed her off trail, sitting on a log, gazing at the ocean. Her tears continued to fall. In a response usually reserved for children in distress or those in physical need, I overcame the stranger-factor and approached her. I placed my hand gently on her back and asked if she was okay ... was there anything I could do?

O, I'm alright, she said. A woman's typical knee-jerk response. Especially to a stranger.
Then she caught herself, and our humanity joined:

My Mother just died, she said.
Her words filled the universe.

I pressed harder on her back and slowly rocked her back and forth. Several minutes passed. The silent comfort of two women born of mothers; strangers but not strangers at all.

I came here to be with her, she said, tears flowing.

You're in the perfect place, I said, with all the love I could garner.

A few more moments passed. I lifted my hand from her back and slowly rose.

Thank you, she said. She reached out and squeezed my hand as her eyes turned from me to the sea.

It would have been so easy to keep walking. To give in to the myriad reasons not to stop -- mind your own business, don't talk to strangers, don't interfere, you'll startle her, who do you think you are?

I took a risk that sunny morning, and followed an instinctual response to be the Mother I was put here to be. To touch a stranger with my heart.

In a world where malevolence rains, it was time. I could have handled her rejection. I couldn't, however, pass her by.

Blessed Mother's Day.