It feels weird to be writing this from Washington state. I'm staying with a friend during the coronavirus crisis. We're collaborating on my second book project. My first book is scheduled to be sent to the printer next month. I'll keep you posted on it.
I'm on a farm in a very large valley where the vista goes for miles. I miss my mountains, the Wallowa Mountains which I called home for six years.
I've been like a tumbleweed for about two years, since a clumsy fall led to a brain injury. By the Grace of God I am healed up now- able to see, to walk and talk, and especially, to write.
Life is good. And I am grateful!
It's cool when a local takes a visitor into the back country, and they get to see something like this herd of mountain sheep. My brother came for a two month visit from a big city back east. He found the wild places here amazing. When we rounded the curve on the road along Imnaha River, these animals were crossing the road. I've been to a lot of places in The County, sharing thrills like this with only my dog. Which is great, of course. But to share it with my brother, and for him to finally understand why Big Sis calls this home now, that is priceless.
Have you ever been so sick, you didn't realize how ill you were, until you were restored to health and you feel so good you look back and go, "Wow! I didn't realize how bad it was!"
That would describe my recent weeks. I am feeling so happy. My memory has greatly improved, as well as my vision and mobility. I'm enjoying things I used to do.
I'm waking up to where I was two years ago before I fell. But things have changed, and so have I.
I feel like Rip Van Winkle, sans testosterone, waking up after a long sleep, cleaning up the messes created by problematic thoughts from an injured brain, and appreciating some of the messes I avoided by being unavailable. So call me "Rip Van Winkletta."
Some might ask, "isn't that more of a Sleeping Beauty story?"
Not really. Her story doesn't seem as rough as mine.
For one thing, I was not awakened by the kiss of a prince. Well, maybe I was. He went through a lot with me. Some days, when I wanted to give up, he gave me a reason to keep trying. Every gal should have a guy like him in her life.
Just a quick post regarding the photo in the previous post...
I was sitting at the table with friends who were commenting about my being on the front of the Wallowa County Visitor Guide.
One quipped, "She's one of the 7 Wonders!" (see lower left side of cover.)
I laughed at the idea. "Yeah. That's because my friends are always wondering about me...
'Katherine, where are you now?'
'Katherine, what's your next project?'
'Katherine!' Knock, knock. 'Katherine, are you there?'"
This brought some smiles and many nods.
My poor friends. I'm not sure if they stick around because of the entertainment value or what.
There's no doubt about one thing, though. They love me. As I do them:)
Since May 2018, I had been looking for a rental I could afford. The growing interest in Wallowa County had limited housing opportunities, meaning there were enough, and the ones available were out of my price range.
By the grace of God, I had a little motorhome, named Stella, that I had repaired during the 2017-2018 winter. She was ready to go, and the roads were clear for Petey and me to try a new, but temporary (I hoped) housing adventure. Stella would be our home.
Petey didn't like how loud she was, but I laughed in delight every time I started her. SHE ROARED! A real powerhouse.
Guys ask me, "What size motor does she have?"
All I know she is a 1975 Dodge and I love her.
We lived in her one year- I'll relate that journey in other posts. During that time I read the Chieftain diligently, put the word out among friends, looked on online for a Wallowa County rental. I expanded my search to Union County and then Baker County, wondering if my relationship with Wallowa County was over.
I did not want that at all. But living in Stella was not a long term solution.
Should I move back to the Deep South to be close to my children and grandchildren? My health had been restored while living here, yet my family missed me. That's a hard place when a person has to choose between health or your children.
My brain injury had certainly put me in a position where I needed help. Friends in Wallowa and Union counties had certainly stepped up and helped me. But that could not be a long term solution either.
I prayed, "God please show me what I'm supposed to do. Give me a sign, or something!"
Being stuck in uncertainty can be frightening.
Early in 2019, the editor of the Chieftain, Ellen Morris Bishop, had asked permission to use this photo for the cover of this year's Visitor Guide.
"Sure, if that will help the County," I agreed from the home of a friend who lives in La Grande.
Ellen had taken the picture during a photo shoot the year before for the cover of a book I am publishing. I have tremendous respect for her skill in capturing both the light and essence of her subject matter. (Check out ellenmorrisbishop.com for more of her work.)
The staff chose this, not knowing it was me. When I first saw the Visitor Guide, I was so pleased and have since had other women in Wallowa County say they do the same thing, sit at the lake for quiet time.
When I laid eyes upon this magazine during my perplexing time, I had my answer.
"It's time to go home." How I welcomed that. My heart smiled.
This sign hangs in Grande Ronde Physical Therapy clinic where I received concussion rehab treatment. I wanted to give up so often, but this reminded me to keep trying. No matter how slow my progress, keep moving forward.
I am home now. "Home" being Wallowa County. I wondered, as I gazed across Grande Ronde Valley toward the western side of the Wallowas during the past four months, would I ever make it back? I wasn't so sure, even seeking rentals in Union and Baker Counties. Repeatedly, I was told, "It's been rented." I felt frustrated and confused, not knowing what to do, regretting my brain injury, just wanting to be back in Wallowa County.
Random thoughts are a way of life in early recovery of a brain injury. Being aware of that and not trusting my judgment is a scary place to be. But my friends in WC are so good, saying "Yes" when I need help.
I've needed a lot of help and I'm so grateful to be back where people and places are familiar. I'm more functional now, able to do some things on my own. I even get to help others, making sure we all know I have limitations now.
I'm having to relearn some things, such as names and where to shop for certain items. But that's ok, because there aren't too many places to look! LOL.
A huge "Thank You" to those who have assisted me this past year. It's good to be home.
On March 5, 2018, three days after my previous post, I face planted in the snow and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. It was around 9 p.m. I don't believe I lost consciousness, yet I was so dazed. I realized my neighbors were all in for the night and I was alone behind my house. My first words, said out loud, were, "This is not good."
Contrary to local opinion, I did not slip on ice. The fall began when I tripped over something as I was unloading my car which was parked under a canopy. My descent seemed to last 30 minutes- I kept bouncing off of things and thought I would never make impact. When I did, my chin landed on a metal bar lying on the ground.
Somehow I made myself get up and walked around the house to my front door, deliberating each step with, "I've got to get inside. I've got to get inside..."
So much has happened since then as I've recovered. In the mix was a second fall on June 12, 2018 where my feet got tangled up under me and I slid on the bathroom floor, smacking the back of my head.
This brief explanation is to say why I haven't posted on my blog. Up until now, my vision was so affected the Doc said, "No screen time." I'm still limited in how long I can spend on here. but I am so happy to make this post and reconnect with A Wallowa Gal blog.
Today I read an article that described a concussion as "an insult to the brain." Now THAT makes me laugh, and laughter is good medicine:)
I've been thinking about prayer lately and the part is has and has not played in my life. In a few hours I am participating in the World Day of Prayer for the simple reason that to me, this World needs prayer.
Things are falling apart, as far as I'm concerned. I can't stop it and wonder how to live with it. "How do I have the peace that passes understanding?" when fear engulfs me regarding what is to come.
My relationship to prayer has been tumultuous. In my first 16 years, I prayed for the violence in my home to cease. It only got worse. I wondered, "Who was I praying to that would do such?" Then I examine the gods and discover the one my parents taught me was all about robbing, destruction and death.
As an adult, I left what I knew of that, and changed to another god, the god of a church that eventually kicked me out. So where did that leave me? Angry, bitter and done with the god idea.
Yet there have been times when things were so desperate that all I could do was pray, "God, help me!" and things worked out. Who was that?
My biggest struggle is believing people who put God in a box. I truly admire those who know where to be on Sunday morning, who know the words to songs, who know what to expect from God, who have organized doctrine that makes sense to them.
I cannot do that. I have tried.
The God I think I believe in bears no resemblance to what others around me follow. He and She is the Infinite God Is Everything. I can put no limits on that. For just as I do, He is bigger than I can imagine. Infinite God Is Everything is deeper than Snake River Canyon. Infinite God Is Everything is taller that Sacagawea Mountain. Infinite God Is Everything is longer than the Milky Way I gaze upon at night. Infinite God Is Everything is wider than the horizons from my viewpoint on Zumwalt Prairie.
Infinite God Is Everything is the song of a canyon wren at Freezeout. He is the majesty of a bull elk commanding the herd. He is the flow of the many winding waters that tumble from the mountains, and the purity of the snow that rests upon us now.
Infinite God Is Everything is all that I need for peace and rest and love. And that I cannot put in a box.
My finite human self cannot comprehend it all, but I have experienced that when I pray to the Infinite God Is Everything, good things happen. Maybe not exactly what I want, but good just the same.
And I can live with that. So today, on World Day of Prayer, I ask the Infinite God Is Everything for peace on earth: within and without, above and below, in front and behind.
Peace on earth and goodwill among men.
What is a BFF? It's Best Friend Forever, I learned. And today one of mine is celebrating a birthday! She'll remain unidentified on this post, but she knows who she is. I gave her this card...
In some form of context, the above describes us. We call ourselves "The Two Grandmas." With both of us having experience in theater, we discuss the script of each adventure as we go along. Not really. But maybe.
We wonder about our paths crossing and the similarities. Both husbands Vietnam veterans, both buried at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland (within shouting distance of each other! We were surprised to learn that.)
We share stories of living with these guys: the depth of love and friendship, the unique circumstances they present that required us to develop creative navigation. We burst out in laughter at the remarks our guys made to us- unique to combat veterans.
As time passes we find more fun things to get into that we don't want our grown children to know. A fear of many women our age is that if we have too much fun, or laugh too hard, or create some kind of family disturbance which is all in merriment, that we'll be shut up in a nursing home. "Mom on a shelf" I call it.
We don't do anything illegal, but since we don't fit in a box of adult children's expectations, we travel down the road and agree, "Our kids don't need to know this..."
Or we take photos of each other that don't reveal our location. This is to assure our kids "I'm not alone," and yet not disclose our fun places.
We laugh. Oh, we laugh. Here we are with over 130 years experience of life and our kids don't ask us for advice. We can't say anything to our daughters-in-law. Bottled wisdom stored in the basement of our hearts, and we say, "Oh, well."
And find more adventures to enjoy, because we're healthy, we have few responsibilities in this time of our lives, and there's more living to live.
When you have a friend like that, it is surely a gift!
So Happy Birthday, BFF! Hey, I have an idea...
Last Sunday, Jan. 14, we had a bluebird sky. The air was crisp. Most of the snow in the valley was melted. Petey and I needed an adventure.
I guess you could call me an outdoors writer. Not that I write about outdoor living or outdoor sports, but that I love to write when I'm outdoors. I'm more relaxed and in the quietness of some of my favorite spots, I can hear my story voices.
Petey and I headed for canyon country, but I decided I wanted to take one particular road that would take us "on top." A wary glance acknowledged the snow on top, but the conditions were such I was sure the snow would be melted enough for us to travel safely. With 4WD we wiggled up a shadowed canyon road, but when we reached the top, this was the view.
A rock pile beckoned, and we hiked the short distance. I settled down into the radiating warmth of the rocks while Petey played in the snow. Cocooned in silence, my words spilled onto the page. I was in bliss. After a time the squeal of a hawk made me look up for Petey. He could easily be hawk-bait.
Whenever I sit still, Petey takes his post as The Watcher, my guard. Whether I'm at home, or driving, or anywhere else, I am his job and he watches over me. Two factors must be in place for this to happen: 1. I must be sitting still and 2. No squirrels should be in a 1 mile radius. If there's a squirrel around, I'm on my own.
I sat in quiet and enjoyed the wispy rainbow of a sun dog caught in the perfect light of afternoon sun and ice crystal air.
I picked up my pen again and wrote until the chilling angle of the dropping sun sent a shiver over me. It was time to go, before the road iced over.
A 50-something woman comes home to a place she's never been before.