The lovely north Cascades

Veeka at the Lake Diablo lookout on the North Cascades highway

Veeka at the Lake Diablo lookout off the North Cascades highway in northwest Washington state.

We’ve been home almost a week now and our last kitty, Serenity, hasn’t eaten in three days. I thought we’d have to say goodbye to her, but the vet says she just has a urinary tract infection, so has at least one of her nine lives left. We shall see. She turned 21 last month. She began as a stray kitten that one of my fellow seminarians asked me to take on back in 1992. She was found in October and the temps were going down to freezing that night, I was told, so would I be able to give her a warm place to stay? I was not planning on taking on another kitty but I felt so bad for this little critter who seemed too weak to take more than a few steps. On a hunch, I took her to the vet in Sewickley and they told me she had a hole in her diaphragm so would need surgery. The person who had found her kindly paid the vet bill and so the kitten came back a few days later bouncing around and able to breathe. I knew no one would take a kitten who had a post-surgery shaved tummy, so I decided to keep her until her hair grew back – and that was the fall of 1992. She’s still with me. The vet said he rarely sees cats this old.
The second half of our tour took us to a place in eastern Washington I visit every few years: The home of Pam and Dick Ewing in Winthrop. I think they moved there maybe 30 years ago and built a magnificent log cabin where I stay. I so love the slant of the early evening sun on the fields

Veeka at Blue Lake

Veeka at Blue Lake

surrounding their home and the early morning light and the hot air balloons that float about. First, the drive there is spectacular. Just seeing the Picket Range, for starters. At the Diablo Lake overlook, it was 79 degrees at about 6 pm and you’re talking a good 5,000 feet up at that point. So, it was balmy at high altitudes. When I was in the region in 2006, Dick and I hiked up the Early Winter Spires, a very steep hike that led to an awesome precipice overlooking Washington Pass. Next to us was a huge block of stone known as the Liberty Bell. On the way to the Spires is the glacier-fed Blue Lake, so Dick and I and Veeka went on a 4 1/2 mile hike up to that lake. It was truly lovely albeit rather cold to swim in. I so loved being among the trees and up so high and among tall mountains with their high green valleys. Other than complaining non-stop about bugs, Veeka did pretty well, although one-quarter of the way down, she insisted on hitchhiking on Dick’s back which he swore was not a burden at all. I was a bit cross with her as we were headed down at that point. In all, it was wonderful to be there and see old friends who I don’t get to see that often and to let Veeka run around in the fields without worrying where she’s end up. Eventually we had to leave, so we drove back past Lake Chelan (of course we took a short swim), stopped at the Aplets and Cotlets factory in Cashmere and drove through Leavenworth, where Veeka snagged a free nutcracker doll from the Nutcracker Museum. She was beyond entranced.
Eventually we got back to Oma and Opa’s where we did things like visit the Seattle Aquarium (overpriced, we thought), drop by some restaurants on Capitol Hill and go raspberry picking. For years, I’ve never been in Washington state at the same time the raspberries are out, so it was

Oma picking raspberries with Veeka.

Oma picking raspberries with Veeka.

wonderful to wander through the patch and snack to my heart’s content. But all good things must end and back we flew, mainly for Veeka’s school which began today (Aug. 2). She’s happy to be in second grade, but hasn’t been too impressed with her class so far. And the bus system is beyond dysfunctional. Kids in our neighborhood are the first to be picked up (before 7 a.m.) and the last to be dropped off (past 4 p.m.) so it’s a long day if you take the bus coming and going. Which is why I drive her to school, as she needs that extra hour of sleep. One calls the bus garage and does not get calls returned and no one ever seems to know where my daughter’s bus actually goes. Eventually she gets delivered to me, but the times vary widely. However, I don’t feel like sitting in the car pick-up line after school, so the afternoon bus will be our cross to bear.

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