Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Highland Games

Our Scottish Dance club performed at the local Highland Games last weekend. As predicted, the weather was cold and rainy. What was not predicted was the rain starting first thing in the morning. I'd hoped we'd have most of the afternoon at least partly sunny, with the rain coming later. Oh well.

Hubby and I arrived well before 9am, as asked, and were told at the gate that we were late, and should have been there before 8:30 if we wanted to take our car in. But, after brief negotiations, they let us drive onto the fairgrounds so we could unload. Since we had a heavy folding table, card table, shade canopy, blankets, folding chairs, costumes, etc, that was a good thing.

We unloaded the car and hubby drove off. Meanwhile, I started unpacking things. We got the booth set up and settled in for a long day. I was very glad I'd brought a blanket. There was a light rain off and on for most of the day. Fortunately, it didn't seem to dampen attendance. Maybe folks liked the fact that the weather was being Scottish too :-).

The stage we danced on is two large flat surfaces, about six pieces of plywood together on each side. These sides are each bolted to a metal framework. Attached to the frames are four small trailer tires. There are also leveling legs that can be put down to support the surface above. The two sides are set next to each other. It's plenty large enough for what we do. The only bad thing about it is, as groups of people essentially jump up and down on it for minutes at a time, the two sides gradually separate, leaving a gap of two inches, or more. So performers have to be very conscious of the gap while using the stage. Thank goodness the Games organizers were able to shove the two sides back together before we did the afternoon demo. With all the groups that had been using it, those two sides were at least six inches apart by lunchtime.

Our first demonstration was late morning, in a light but steady rain. The grass was wet, and the stage was wet, and our shoes got soaked. We did have one dancer slip during the dancing, but she got right back up and kept going. And we had plenty of people get up for the audience participation dance. So it went tolerably well! By the afternoon, it hadn't rained much for a few hours, and the stage was nearly dry. That demo was even better.

Aside from Scottish Country dance, there was a Highland dance competition, Irish dance demonstrations, pipe band competitions, Scottish athletics competitions, Celtic music groups performing at two other stages, a dog agility competition, and Clan booths. Your typical Games, but in miniature. We showed up somewhat grumpy at having to be there allllll day, but it turned out to be fun.

Since then the weather has become decidedly colder. We're supposed to get down to 45F tonight. There was even patchy frost in our area a few nights ago, though I didn't see any. We are still hoping to go camping one more time in mid October. I hope it's not downright freezing and there's lots of fall color by then. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Camping in the SNRA

We went camping over last weekend at Alturas Lake near Stanley, ID. Alturas is the southern-most in a chain of lakes that runs along the Salmon River valley, at the edge of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It tends to be the quietest, probably because it's the farthest away from Stanley. The best campsites are nestled into the trees along the lakeshore.

We got there around noon and set up our tent. We brought the large canvas vertical-sided tent because my husband wanted to be able to use the heater in the morning. Good thing too, as it got down into the upper 20's F overnight. With the tent set up, we decided to go for a short hike. We drove to the end of the lake access road to the Alpine Creek Trailhead. The hike led us up along Alpine Creek to the meadows at its head. Only about 400-ish feet of altitude gain. Very pretty scenery, with the steak-knife jagged Sawtooths looming over us to the north, big white clouds snagging on their peaks, and some leaves already turning yellow, orange and dark purply-red.

We puttered around in the meadows awhile, taking pictures and admiring the creek, looking for fish. About 4pm it looked like rain, so we headed back down.

That night we used the double air mattress, with a wool blanket spread over it, our sleeping bags, and two blankets spread over us. I wrapped the dog's crate in a blanket as well, hoping that would help. It got pretty cold, but we slept well. I woke up a few times when I heard noises outside. At least twice I heard the yips and howls of what I thought might be coyotes, but they could have been wolves. It was a group, so more likely wolves. I've always had the impression that coyotes are more solitary. The first time seemed distant, but the second time sounded pretty close - within a mile of us. Although that could have been a trick of the geography. Another time I heard an animal walking past the tent, probably down to the water. Could have been a deer or elk. I really wished I could see outside to see if my guesses were correct or not. But you forget just how dark it can get when you're nowhere near any source of artificial light!

The next morning my husband brought the heater into the tent - such a difference! It was very cold, but not frosty outside. To warm up we sat in the sun on a log next to the lake, drinking our coffee. Alturas is beautiful in the early morning; mirror-smooth, steam rising from the water in swirling patterns or hovering on the surface like ground fog. We'd forgotten to bring eggs, so we had bacon, tomato and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Then we packed up, and drove to Petit Lake for another hike.

This one was from the Tin Cup Trailhead, at the end of the Petit Lake access road. We headed towards Alice Lake, but only went about two miles, as far as the Petit Lake Creek waterfalls, which are very pretty. Took lots of pictures, hoping to get one nice enough to enter in the local paper's "Wild Idaho" contest.

I do want to get up to Alice Lake sometime. Maybe we'll be up for it next time. We want to go camping again in October. It really is wonderful without all the crowds of summer. More like my memories of camping when I was a child.

This coming weekend is the local Boise Highland Games at the State Fairgrounds. Our Scottish Country Dance group will be doing two demonstrations. We'll perform two dances, Napier's Index and Da Rain Dancin', and try to get folks up for an audience participation dance, January Welcome.

This means my husband and I have to be there before 9am to unload our group's booth stuff and drive off the site. It's a 40-minute trip from our house, so we'll be there most of the day. For the past few years the weather has been relatively nice. September is iffy here. You never know if you'll have pleasant 80F days, or pouring rain. My first year, 2003, it was cold and rainy. And I had to hang around all day in a white satin dress and fleece jacket. Brrrr! This year they're predicting rain by late afternoon. Our last demo time is 3:45pm, so we'll see how it goes. If it's raining too hard we won't want to be running the sound system or dancing on the somewhat-wobbly elevated stage. You can bet I'll be more prepared with warm clothing after the '03 experience!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering

I've been home all day typing, for work, and listening to NPR news radio. Most of the coverage has been, of course, about 9/11/01, and the testimonies happening in Wash. DC this week.

I interview a lot of soldiers in the course of my job. Some of them have been, or are due to be, deployed overseas, and quite often they're between 18 - 25. Some have been admittedly scared, not knowing what it was going to be like. Some were stoic, saying they understood they could be deployed when they signed up. Some have already been to Iraq or Afghanistan two or three times. If that's had any effect on them, they hide it fairly well face-to-face. There are often other indicators of trouble that we come across.

I still remember one individual who met me at a coffee shop on his way to the airport, the day he was flying out. His spouse was with him. Both of them were understandably preoccupied, but still managed to be cheerful, even friendly and chatty, with me. Every once in a while I meet people through work and think, if it weren't for the circumstances of our meeting, we could be friends. He and his wife were among those. I didn't hear about him after that. I hope he made it home.

I never hear the results of a background investigation I do. Occasionally I run into someone on a military base whose case I worked, so I know they made it through, but usually those are the officers. There have been so many names in the past 3 1/2 years, I can't remember most of them. But I still find myself looking through the lists of casualties published in the local newspaper. So far I haven't recognized anyone. I hope it stays that way.

However one feels about the politics, our service members are out there, doing their best at the dangerous work they've been given. I hope people remember that when they come home and need our help to return to civilian life. Never be too shy to thank a military veteran for their service. It's a small thing, but it's really appreciated.

Now, for a complete change of subject...
I've been reading some good books lately. I'm now on the last volume of a great series by Lian Hearn, "Tales of the Otori". It's a blend of fictionalized Japanese history, and Ninja fantasy. Basically it's Hearn's version of what it would be like to be a member of a ninja clan (although the work ninja is never used) in feudal Japan. Sounds corny, but she's done a lot of research as far as the cultural and historical aspects go. Nice detail about various martial arts, battle scenes, and relations between men and women of that period. There may be folks who know more about early Japan who disagree, but it seems fairly accurate to me. Technically Hearn is not writing about the actual country of Japan at all, she's just borrowed the environment, culture, and broad historical background for the story. I'm looking forward to the last volume, "The Harsh Cry of the Heron".

The other book is "Becoming Jane Austen", by Jon Spence. He's done a lot of research about the Austen family and extended family, especially Austen's early life and it's influence on her writing. One of the main topics he covers is a romance Austen had with a young man when she was about 18. She never married, and did not appear to have many suitors. This was a young man she really fell for, but it didn't work out. Probably because she did not have much of a dowry, but no one is really sure. The details of their relationship and why it failed have always been something of a mystery because Austen never wrote a lot about it in her letters to family.

The book is particularly interesting to me because I lived in an area of Hampshire near Steventon, where Austen lived, and have visited the house. Also, just outside our town are two family estates that Austen visited, and in the town itself is an assembly room where she was known to go to balls and dances.

There is a movie out now, based on this book. I think it's called "Becoming Jane". I'd like to see it, even though I've read it's mostly about the romance part, rather than the entire book. Realistically, if you're not already very interested in Jane Austen's life and how it affected her work, you might not like the book. I'm enjoying it, but I'm also alternating reading it with two other books, depending on my mood.

Back to work...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fall is Coming

Summer days in SW Idaho get hotter and hotter until 5 or 6pm. But for the past few weeks we've really seen a difference in the length of days. With the shorter days the air starts cooling off by 4pm. Makes it much nicer to do things outside in the afternoons. In July and August I don't want to go outside after work - so no walking or weeding the garden. The heat hits you like an iron frying pan when you walk out the door, and keeps weighing you down until you can barely think. I can just about stand to water the plant pots if they're drooping, then escape back inside. Sounds pretty wimpy, I know, but I did not grow up with 100+ temperatures every summer. I don't care if it's dry or humid, two or three weeks in a row of 98-105 temps, day after day, is not fun.

But that's all over for the year. It's nearly Fall. Cooler nights when you actually *need* the covers, fields full of ground mist in the mornings when we go walking, late summer flowers finally in bloom, my scarlet runner beans *finally* producing beans, huge thunderstorms, noisy V's of geese flying over, Boise's annual Art in the Park festival, not having to wear sunscreen every day...This is my favorite season. Except for Spring and Winter, of course ;-).

We're going camping next weekend up near Stanley. I'm hoping we can find a campsite at Alturas Lake. That's where my sister and I were camping in Sept. 2001 when it snowed on us. I got some beautiful pictures that morning. Fresh, untrampled snow piled on everything, steam rising from the lake, broken clouds wreathing the trees and mountains. You just can't substitute being in the right place at the right time in photography.

It'll be cold in the mountains. That area has already got down to 29F on some nights. But what a great time to go hiking in Idaho. The weather is usually clear, it's cooler, the bugs are dying off, and it's far less crowded. You can't go whitewater rafting anymore, but there's plenty of good walking. We'll probably bring the canoe and paddle around on Lake Alturas, too. It's one of the few in that area that doesn't allow motorized boating, so it stays relatively quiet in the mornings.

Weeded in the garden this morning, and planted 10 new iris. I only ordered two different kinds, but she sent a bunch of others as free bonuses. With all the different names, I made a map of where I planted each kind. Hopefully next year I'll be able to figure out what they're all called.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day weekend

I had minor surgery on my forearms on Friday. There were five lipoma that were bothering me when I rested my forearms on a hard surface - like when I'm typing. So those have been removed. The incisions aren't very big, but of course they hurt with pressure - like when I'm typing! :-) At least once they've healed that will be the end of it.

They actually put me out for the surgery. I was hoping for just local anaesthetic, but with two arms that would have put me too near the dosage limit. It made the time pass quickly anyways! It was as if they wheeled me out of the prep area and into the recovery area! Of course I was sleepy for the rest of the day. Felt pretty much normal by today.

10 minutes after we got home from the surgery, a big thunderstorm blew through. Only lasted about 30 minutes, but in that short time it managed to dump lots of rain, tear the outer layer of roof off our carport, knock over my pole beans and the hops, and scatter debris all over the yard.

These storms are typical for the time of year, but that doesn't make it any easier to prepare for them. We just had the carport roof re-felted and sealed earlier this year. Now we'll have to get it done all over again.

The beans have mostly survived. Only one of the seven plants was actually pulled out of the ground. Good thing, as they've only just started producing!

This morning, Labor Day, we drove out to the Sunny Slope area, along the Snake river. They grow lots of grapes and tree fruit there. We visited Williamson Orchards, which seems to have the best selection. Bought pears, two kinds of nectarines, peaches, and corn. Many people were obviously buying enough fruit for canning. One of those things I think would be good to do, but have never gotten around to it. Lately I'm happy if I can get out to pull weeds in the garden on the weekends!

Otherwise, we took it easy. It gets hot here in the afternoons. I can't pull weeds this particular weekend, but I did go out to pick beans and raspberries, take care of the ducks, and pick the latest zucchini.