Drippy January

Veeka on one of the wooden boats on South Lake Union on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s truly a drippy January here, but one thing brightening up my week was my piece for Religion News Service (that just came out) about a new opera premiering at Kennedy Center this weekend on serpent handling. You heard that right. The composer and librettist were searching for something authentically American, so they hit upon that. Naturally I, as one of the experts on the custom as it’s being practiced in the 21st century, got to write on it.

My only other recently published story, out Dec. 10, was also with RNS, ) was about the Lummi (Indian) tribe and their relationship with the region’s iconic orca whales. It took several interviews and a trip to Bellingham to research my story but I learned a lot of local history through it plus lots of trivia about orcas. I had no idea their existence was so endangered.

Veeka with her American Girl doll

We’ve had a quiet few months here. There’s a place in the South Lake Union area (near Amazon’s headquarters) called the Center for Wooden Boats that offers free rides on Lake Union on Sundays. During the summer, there’s lines out the door and you have to be there at 8 a.m. to get a spot. Not so in the fall. It was a gorgeous November afternoon with no wind and on a whim, I took Veeka there after church. We got a spot on one of the boats. Actually the lack of wind was problematic as we hardly went anywhere but at least Veeka got to see what it was like.

I appeared at several craft fairs this fall selling books and potholders plus I’ve been substitute teaching for two local school districts. One thing that hasn’t worked out is travel writing. I went to a travel writer’s conference in April and put lots of energy pitching articles in 2018 to various publications. Things have definitely changed since I got four articles in the Washington Post in 2016. Actually WaPo did approve one article for me to research this summer but we could not agree on a price. An editor at another outlet made me do a lot of research on a pitch, then rejected it on a pretext. I kept on running into publications that only paid a few hundred dollars per piece (while I was having to shell out way more than that for lodging and gas) or they wanted a really unusual angle that was impossible for me to do. Or someone would respond to a pitch and I’d email them back with specifics and then … nothing. Also, the conference featured three editors affiliated with the National Geographic Traveler, the San Francisco Chronicle, etc., who indicated they would respond to my pitches post-conference. They didn’t. I probably won’t be putting my future energies into that sort of writing when travel writers are treated like used Kleenex. Christmas was a quiet affair at my mom’s with Veeka and my sister-in-law Susan. Veeka got lots of lovely gifts. One friend gave her an American Girl doll, which was so kind, as there’s no way I’d afford such a thing. Everyone else gave her pretty things too. She’s growing so fast, she needs new sets of clothes each year.

Susan, Veeka, Oma and me on Christmas Day

After Christmas, we decided to get out of town for a few days, so Veeka and I went to Portland first to see old friends and drop by Multnomah Falls, which Veeka had never been to except as a 3-year-old. It was pouring while we were there, but we hiked up to the first bridge, then met some old Lewis & Clark friends in the parking lot on our way back. Veeka had never driven through the Columbia River gorge, so it was fun to show her that. We were headed for a town north of Walla Walla called Dayton. There was a place called the Weinhard Hotel; a lovely place decked out in Victorian décor, where we stayed. I’d dropped by there several years ago and was impressed by its low prices and attractive setting in a small burg in the middle of the Palouse highlands.

Our first night there, we had dinner at Chief Springs Fire & Iron Brew Pub on the town’s main street. It was set up like a sports bar with 2 screens going and a sign stating “It’s been 13 days since Kate broke a glass” posted above the bar. There were firefighter helmets hung high on a brick wall and knickknacks (trucks, signs, toys) on shelves near us. The place was being run by a retired fire chief. We had chili and calzones. There were Christmas decorations still up in town and the stars were out. Their beer was pretty good and I learned that Dayton has the oldest (1887) working courthouse in the state.

The interior of the Weinhard Hotel

Also, Lewis & Clark came through the area on May 2, 1806 on their way home via the Nez Pierce Trail. The next morning, we dropped by the place where they set up camp some 2 miles outside of town. There was the cleverest display of copper figurines all over a field showing people cooking, tending the livestock, cleaning guns, etc. Then we set off 21 miles to the southeast to go skiing at Bluewood, a homey ski area I’d always wanted to visit but never had the time to go out of my way to see.

The setting was pretty, especially atop the main chairlift, and it was sunny that day. But the runs were barely – or not – marked, meaning I got lost twice, which is tough to do at such a small area. The chairs were wooden – had that 70s feel – and the backs covered with ice, making the rides up chilly. Fortunately, there was no wind. The two trails on both far sides of the mountain – Tamarack and Country Road – were snow tracks, sometimes with steep drop-offs. Such tracks aren’t for beginners and I felt sorry for the newbies on those trails. Still, it was a pleasant place to spend a few hours and there was quite a bit of very nice snow. The lodge was the kind of place where you could leave your stuff and it wouldn’t get stolen, which is how things used to be when I started skiing as a teenager. I like that part of Washington; it’s not crowded and the mountains aren’t as high.

Back in Dayton, we dined at My Dad’s Place, a pizza place with some Italian dishes. We tried pasta and then ‘desert pizza’ and my lemon selection was pretty good, but Veeka hated her chocolate/peanut butter choice. Can’t say I’d ever had sweet pizza before. It was New Year’s Eve at that point and we simply went back to the hotel, as there was nothing going on in town except the following at a local theater: A “New York New Year’s Eve,” described thus: Our annual New Year’s Eve Bash features the wildly entertaining 1973 film, “The Sting” starring Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Robert Shaw. A flute of champagne and fun eats are included in the ticket price. After the movie we’ll ring in the New Year in sync with the New York ball drop (9:00 pm PST) and still be in bed and a decent hour!

On New Year’s Day, we drove through Walla Walla (the only place open in town was the Starbucks) and spent a few hours with one of my college friends. So that was our big adventure in the eastern part of the state. We’re back more to a routine now and we just took Oma with us to see the new Mary Poppins movie in Redmond. All it does here is rain in the lower elevations and snow in the mountains, so I’m glad I got at least one skiing day in so far.

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