Thursday, August 28, 2014

{Some River}

About every other year we pack our van to the gills and head south. As we meander through the Mount Hood forests and eventually emerge in the vast desert lands dotted with pine trees, my breaths deepen and my spirit soars. Time slows here. Family gathers -- sometimes quite a crew, sometimes just the six of us -- but no matter who happens to be there, vacationing in Sunriver feels like coming home.

It was my nephew Evan who first called it "Some River" several years ago. He just figured that the family was headed toward some river and he -- as always -- went with the flow. He was thrilled when he learned that not only was "Some River" a specific place, but it was a place where we could stay. Overnight.

This year my cousin suggested a family reunion, and the Sunriver tradition joyfully expanded to include extended family members. The Italian numbers were substantial, so we knew the food would be good. My mom and aunt treated us all to an amazing culinary experience called Bagna Caulda (or cauda -- there's some disagreement as to the correct term -- but I won't even go there). Vats of simmering oil and garlic await our skewers of bread, meat, cheese, and vegetables, and we just hover and go for it while the wine glasses are replenished. Did I mention Bagna Caulda is amazing? Delizioso!

Of course we must bike for miles and miles to work off those calories, but it's worth it. And Sunriver is definitely the place to bike. One afternoon I joined my parents for a ride, and boy can they pack in those miles.

The kids get in lots of rides, too. I always love it when we have a whole crew lined up -- sometimes as many as fourteen of us -- winding our way "over the river and through the woods."

Dancing is also a good way to work off vacation food. My sister and I resurrected our circa 1990 routine to Five Hundred Miles and taught the intricate choreography to Mom and Auntie Cher. ("Intricate" as in there are Three Whole Moves.) It wasn't long before the kids peeked around the corner to see what on earth was going on. It was likely my sister's frequent, emphatic reminder to "Pivot!!!" that grabbed their attention. They couldn't resist, and soon a full-on dance party was under way. (Alas, I have no pictures. You'll just have to take my word for it.)

This year's trip also landed close to Avery's birthday, so we decided to celebrate early. She chose hot dogs for dinner and Goody's ice cream in the Sunriver Village for dessert, followed by a spin on the bumper cars. It was a lovely final evening.

We woke up early on our last day in order to sneak in a ride to the stables. My friend Lisa had recommended that we try to arrange to see the horses when they're led from pasture to the corral. The morning air was crisp, laced with that bittersweet tang of fall which hints at a dying summer. I wished for another layer of clothing and a tissue or two as we pedaled toward the fields. The kids were drowsy and hushed, rosy cheeks with drippy noses. Pedal, pedal, sniff, sniff. My dad timed the ride perfectly for us. There they were.

The horses grazed quietly in the distance, ears perked for the call of the wrangler.

We lined the barbed wire fence and waited . . . and then the subtle thunder of hooves, dust rising to meet the sky.

A new day had begun.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


A couple of weeks ago I was driving around a delightful small town near our home when Aidan shouted out from the back seat, "Mom! The sheep dog trials!" I whipped my head in the direction of his pointed finger, and there it was. The border collie skipping across the banner, announcing the upcoming Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trials.

When we lived in Camas, we tried to make it an annual event. In fact one year we even had our picture added to the website. It's still there. I want to hold and squeeze that little toddler in the hat. She's almost nine now:

Sometimes we went with extended family and sometimes it was just a few of us. It was especially fun to top off the weekend with a family movie night featuring Babe, the amiable pig who has a knack for herding sheep.

Seeing the sign once again and hearing Aidan's enthusiasm inspired me to suggest that we head out again this year. It ended up that only a few of us were available, but I figured that half of a family was better than none.

The day was perfectly blue and warm. Avery was eager because, well, "We get to sit on hay bales and pet border collies!" (We have a thing for border collies since our doggles -- we think -- is part corgi, part border collie.)

The crowd was bigger this year than any I've seen in the past. It was fun to sit with such a varied group of spectators. Some sat with binoculars, shaking their heads at the scores. Others balanced paper boats filled with hamburgers or fish-n-chips, and many had whistles around their necks and dogs at their sides. We perched atop the highest hay bale (of course) and the unmistakable aromas of golden hay mixed with the dairy cows at the host farm made me long for cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. (Instead I flipped off my sandals and sunned my legs for a bit.)

It was easier to watch this year since the kids are older. It's the kind of place where one tries not to frolic and yell, lest one disturb the dogs at work. The dogs have eleven minutes to bring the five sheep through the course, which includes a couple of gates, a shedding ring and the final pen. The handler uses a series of mysterious whistles and commands to guide the dog through the course. "Away to me!" "Come-bye!" "Get Back!" I always like it when they shout, "Lie down!" because the dogs get all hunchy-sneaky and just creep toward those sheep. It's rather difficult to herd the wayward sheep into the final pen, so it's very satisfying when a dog successfully rounds them up and the handler triumphantly swings the gate shut.

On the other hand, it's also somewhat amusing when the dogs who are fairly new to this whole herding-in-front-of-a-crowd gig decide that they'd rather sit in the nearby dog pool to cool off for a bit. Or when the sheep wander dumbly to the corner of the field because they like the corner of the field. (It becomes painfully apparent why we are often called sheep.)

We stayed for a couple of hours, Aidan and Avery eagerly downing forbidden fruit, each of us taking turns thumbing through the program, exclaiming over the clever or sweet names of the dogs: Java, Coal, Floss, Kate, and many others. The sun grew hotter and we finally decided to call it a day. Brushing the hay from each other's backsides, we tumbled down from the bales and said goodbye to the 2014 Lacamas Valley Sheep Dog Trials.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

{Hubs and Spokes}

This summer has been unusually busy, but not so much for me. (I suppose that's just what it's like with two teenagers in the home.) I've felt rather like the hub of a wheel, with my husband and children representing the spokes, shooting out from time to time toward this camp or that adventure or another speaking engagement and then coming back to me, only for someone to head out again a few days later. It's been good and fun, just different.

Yesterday I got to step away from the hub and become a spoke. When I looked at this week's calendar, I realized that both Drew and Bethie would be gone for a few overlapping days. I quickly did the math and accurately noted that this would leave two children at home. I figured it would be pretty easy to find another home for them for 24 hours, giving Jamie and me a chance to finally celebrate our June anniversary. My parents were eager to help out, and by Sunday afternoon the house was eerily quiet. Even the dog sat hushed in the corner, wondering what had happened to the usual hum of activity.

I tend to get that spinning-of-wheels sensation when I suddenly have free time stretching temptingly before me. Wanting to make the most of my time, I agonize over how to best spend it, which can be counter-productive. But this time I knew exactly what I wanted to do as soon as Jamie suggested dinner and a walk. After we spent some time quietly reading (reading is an obvious choice when it comes to free time; I'm currently absorbed in Swallows and Amazons, a delightful summer read), I hopped online and did a quick bit of research.

I've enjoyed following a blog called Posie Gets Cozy for a few years now, and the author -- who lives in Portland -- often has great ideas for exploring the city. A number of times she's mentioned various restaurants and trails, and I always tuck the information away for a rainy day. Well, actually for a sunny day. A sunny day during which my husband and I can venture from the hub and become spokes.

So early in the evening we ventured. We had dinner first, enjoying fabulous Tex-Mex dining at Casa del Matador. We had never been there, so we knew it was a bit of a gamble, but it ended up being delicious and fun. (Not quiet and romantic, but fun.) Large windows in the restaurant open wide so that even though we were sitting at an indoor booth, it felt like we were dining on the patio. It was lovely and leisurely and it allowed us to visit and catch up on conversations that had been half started throughout the summer.

Following dinner we headed just a few miles west toward the Lower McCleay trail, which is part of the Willamette Heights to Balch Creek Canyon Loop. The moment we stepped into the old growth forests, my spirit quieted and I felt like I was being filled with life. The towering Douglas firs dripping with moss, the creek gurgling over the rocks, and the intoxicating smells of earth and leaves and cool, damp air blanketed me with peace. God knew just what this little spoke needed.

Romantic visitors have dubbed this former restroom "The Witch's House."

We hiked for about an hour and then headed home by way of Dairy Queen. Because we figured that Blizzards would be a perfect end to a perfect day. (We were right.)

Oh, and the kids? They had a wonderful time with Papa and Noni.

I never know what kinds of stories they'll come home with, but this afternoon when they walked through the door with freshly picked blueberries and new mushroom hats . . . .

From Elsa Beskow's "The Little Elves of Elf Nook"

I knew it was time well spent. For all of the Lawson spokes. 

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