Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fishing on the 4th of July

I have a confession to make. I spend nearly every holiday wondering if I'm a freak. I intently watch others celebrating a holiday, reflect on how I'm celebrating the holiday, and wonder why I don't want or enjoy the same thing.

Yesterday, after knocking around the house all day, my husband and I decided to shake off the cobwebs--to get out of the house for a bit.  But rather than staking out a spot to watch the fireworks, we decided to go fishing.

Technically, HE decided to go flyfishing, which I don't do, but I was more than content to go to a spot where I could walk around the lake with Zeke.

We drove to Medical Lake. Everyone in the town seemed to be at the mansions lining the lake. I could hear children squealing. I could hear adults laughing. There was the constant sound of firecrackers and bottle rockets. I imagined the scent of gunpowder and hot dogs.

And then I felt it--that same feeling I often get. Is it jealousy? Do I want to be at a party? I don't think any of my friends were having such lavish parties--and if they did, we weren't invited. I'm kind of an introvert who struggles to be extroverted even at the smaller, more intimate get togethers our friends have. Am I jealous of the kids writing their names in the air with sparklers?

I'm not even really a fan of fireworks.


I grew up on a farm. We raised wheat, barley, peas, and garbanzos. I remember the 4th as a time to fear. My grandmother's small house was ensconced by fields which by the 4th were tinderbox dry. Farmers feared fires caused by errant sparks or hot tailpipes. So the thought of shooting a Roman candle high into the sky seemed ridiculously risky.

I grew up on a ridge seemingly populated by old grumps. And I was one of few children who grew up in that rural neighborhood. I can recall my grandmother and I driving into Moscow or Lewiston--towns an hour away--to sit in a mall parking lot to watch city fireworks.  I can also recall her allowing me "safe" fireworks at home. I wasn't really impressed by sparklers, which seemed like painful aerobics. It was all fun and games, and you could write in the sky...until the punk burned down to the point where you grasped it.  It seems like all safe fireworks were anticlimactic. Put a match to what looks like a coal pill...and it will grow into a sizzling snakelike pile of ashes. Light the top of a teepee shaped firework, and it will erupt in a 30-second volcanic spark display.

It seems like the only thing that really got my blood going were the renegades--the fireworks that went wrong or the ones that couldn't be predicted. Case in  point: Ground Blooming Flowers. Had my grandmother known what they really did, she would never have allowed them. And thus I loved them. Ground Blooming Flowers remind me of a terrible toy. Do you remember it? It's a ball attached to a string, and that string is attached to your ankle. And the object was to play a sort of half-assed jump rope by fit and spasm until the ball makes circular trip. When it gets to the spot your other foot occupies, you jump.

Light the wick on the Ground Blooming Flower, and it whizzes around with no decipherable pattern. Jump out of the way when it gets close to kissing your ankle. But there were only so many Ground Blooming Flowers, and you can imagine it was a lonely proposition to be the sole child lighting safe fireworks on a faded grass landscape.

When I was a teenager, life on the ridge changed when a hippie couple moved in to the farmhouse a couple miles away. I don't think the farmers knew what to think of them. People reported regularly to my grandmother on their activities. If they didn't see those activities with their very own eyes, they speculated. And so when that couple invited the whole ridge over for a 4th of July celebration, I think every last resident went, if only to finally get to up close and personal to the couple they'd thus far mythologized.

I will never forget that 4th. I never saw so many pies in one place. I never saw so many men looking like boys. Those old grumps were taking turns choosing from fireworks spread on a table like gluttonous pyrotechnic buffet. They'd lumber out to the open spot in the driveway, hunker down, and light a wick. All the while, the other men would razz the one doing the lighting for not doing it right. I'm not sure I had ever seen those farmers move so fast or smile as much.

The McMahon's were perfect hosts. Betty had a pile of crazy quilts she handed out. I still remember the comforting weight of that quilt against my bare legs. I remember never feeling so close to my neighbors as that moment.  I remember feeling a bit sad when the buffet table was cleared and there was nothing more to light. Nothing in my adult experience ever felt quite like that.


I am 39 years old and apparently a party pooper. I have no inclination to go to crowded places. And if all of the trappings I see on this day are part of being patriotic, then I am decidedly not.

However, I am grateful for:

  • bright clumps of sweet pea growing everywhere. 

  • "tough" boys who ride by on their tiny BMX bikes--boys who soften when they see my dog and ask, "What's your puppy's name? Can I pet him?"

  • the ability to study my husband from afar. How often am I side by side with him on some riverbank bait fishing for trout? And yet how different he looks now, alone, cracking the whip that is his line. Deft. Aware. He casts and recasts. He opens the silver box studies the flies with the same reverence some give a particular book with thin pages. This is knowledge too. At one point he, I, and a deer are sharing the same riverbank. I am frozen and so very alive.

  • eye contact with a deer frazzled from the constant gunshot sounds littering the air. She pants. She eyes my dog. I found myself saying to her, as if we shared the same language, "It's okay."

  • quiet time in which to really notice things. Someone has built birdhouses and placed them where birds are fully capable of making their own houses. A bug on the water produces a different circle than a fish. A beaver's teeth are the color of an orange. One person's weed is another person's flower.
This lake is therapeutic. They must have known that when they built Eastern State Hospital behind it. Many times my husband and I have joked insensitively that this would be a perfect setup for a horror movie. What could be scarier than two oblivious lovers being killed by an escaped mental patient?

I find myself wondering if those patients have access to the beautiful view--not because I fear some deranged killer but because I think in the John Muir sense that everyone can benefit from fresh air, bird song, and legs moving simply because they can.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Staged, Photographed, and Boxed

I'll admit I'm kind of a control freak. If I could, I'd set up each and every component of the wedding. However, I know eventually I'll have to hand decorating duties over to other people. I figure I'll try to have it as organized as possible. I'll try to have it labeled and even have a photo attached to boxes, so people know my mindset.
 Reception: Couple's table.
 Close-up of couple's table components
Reception: Guest tables
Guestbook table components
 Close-up of guestbook table left side. I still cannot find my grandmother's wedding photo. I was planning to put it in the frame.
 Close-up of guestbook table right side. One of my favorite elements is the sea shells I saved from Puerto Rico. There's even a tiny crab claw in there...and the tiniest bit of sand. That book on the stand has been painted with chalkboard paint, and I'll write a little note there.

I'm not sure if these will be the plants I keep here, but they were closest...

Labeling for the candy bar

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Down to the Wire...

I imagine there must be some brides who have nothing to do but kick back and wait for their wedding day. Perhaps they have event planners. Perhaps they're wise and buy their decorations. They don't bother with the DIY nonsense. Not me.  Nope. 
 This is the display I made today for behind the candy bar. I still have to sew the ribbons that will hang down from this in curtain form. You'll see these paper fans in another place as well.
 This is Linden's flower girl basket.
 These are the baskets for Shanda's girls. The colors aren't true in this photo.
 And here's a close-up of the fabric flowers I made. The baskets themselves were 60 cents at a thrift store. I spray painted them and added the ribbon and homemade flowers.
 I also made this sign for the front of the building.
And finally, I worked on the logistics of the candy bar. I figured out which candy would fit into which glassware. This is somewhat what it will look like, minus the mess behind it. And there are specific tablecloths for the table. I might also experiment with placing some items on risers, so there's variety in height.

Oh, and I also planted the houseplants this morning. They'll go on the reception tables.  I began working at 6 a.m. and I think I might be finished for the day. I'm feeling kind of wiped out. However, I'm also excited that things are getting organized and that there's now somewhat of a plan for the thrifted and crafted items I've been making and finding for the last year.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

13 Days...

I'll be married in 13 days. The house looks like a hurricane hit. And I've been a bit frenetic. I haven't been sleeping much, and I've been working a little bit on a lot of projects. I need to focus, but my to-do list is longer than it should be. 

 I painted some blocks to say "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry," intending to put them on the buffet table. I came home to find that my roommate had moved the blocks around to create a different (and naughty) message. It made me laugh. Laughing is a good thing right now.

 I've also been gathering plants, as it's my intention to have only living plants at my wedding. I'm hoping to plant them at our house after the big day. I feel blessed that my friends and family have thrown me three separate bridal showers. In lieu of the typical household items one normally registers for, I asked for guests to bring potting soil or pots or flowers. They're a beautiful lot, don't you think? I was also given gift certificates to Home Depot and Northwest Seed and Pet. Last night, Tobe and I went shopping and bought some plants at Home Depot. Today I plan to go to Northwest Seed and Pet. It's been a lovely experience, and I derive a great amount of joy getting up early in the morning and watering them. It's my "me" time.

Notice the cart? It was my grandma's. It used to reside downstairs, in her washing area. I repainted it. It makes me smile to know there will be little nods to her everywhere. It will be a little comfort on a day I wish so much she could witness.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cake Topper

I spent this morning working on tying ribbon around a heart-shaped metal I'd found at a thrift store. I inserted the heart into a thin slit I'd cut on the surface of a gift box. The gift box was originally kraft/cardboard colored. I spray painted it white and then hot glued some red and aqua ribbon.

These vintage long-lashed cuties will sit atop the cake topper I made.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Do-It-Yourself RSVP

In an effort to encourage participation in our big day, I asked those invited to our wedding to decorate the outside of their RSVP before sending it back to us.  The RSVP is due June 30, and so far, we've received 20 (out of about 132 invitations sent out).

Strangely, I think the creative challenge put the fear of Dog in people. Even though I encouraged people not to over think it, I think it has created a roadblock in the RSVP process, which is already fraught with the tendency to procrastinate. 

I've spoken to brides who have tried to circumvent the procrastination problem by eliminating paper invitations and moving to a web-based process, and they have still had troubles getting timely responses. I notice the same phenomenon with friends who use Facebook as a way to set up events like BBQs. It seems like a slick process, but it's still not a fail-proof means of figuring out how many warm bodies to expect or how much food to make.

Our process has been filled with highs and lows. On one hand, Tobe and I look forward to mail time more than we ever have before. We feel elated that our mentors--my division chair, Okey Goode, and Tobe's art mentor, Marc Boone--are attending.  

It's also sweet to see how our parents responded. My mom went the nostalgic route, including a baby and toddler photo of me.  Tobe's parents went the humor route. They addressed the first trip Tobe and I made to Billings, in which we painted their house. 

A tiny envelope in our mailbox is somehow monumental. It's there among the daily monotony--the bills and glossy mass marketing--and it says, "Yes, this very important day is ACTUALLY happening."

We're bummed out when people can't, for whatever reason, attend. However, even the "no" RSVPs usually come with lovely thoughts and images, as evidenced by the McCullough's sunset image, complete with a tire swing and "congrats" roots.

And then there's the confusion of the blank RSVP. It's strange. It perplexes us. Truth be told, it hurts our feelings. Is the task simply too scary? Or is it passive-aggressive, as in the case of one of Tobe's friends, who not only did not decorate the inside but who didn't even place a check mark in the yes or no boxes? Is it just absent-minded? Too busy? Surely, given a 24-hour day, that individual could take a fraction of one minute to check a box.

Those "no" and blank RSVPs temporarily take the wind out of our sails, but then the wind brings us these treasures: 
* sweet Salome's watercolor
*my friend, Kathy, offered a colored pencil dove
*Sean and Jonquil's abundance of hearts
*Jack and Michelle's dolphins
*Denise's walk down memory lane

I look forward what the next 19 days will bring.