I’m back in Canada – still a long way from my home in Ontario, but at least in my homeland. Before moving on to things Canadian though, I wanted to share a few pics and memories from my final weeks in the US, spent with my sister Maggie, her husband Tom and my “nieces” Sadie the dog and Miss Milly the cat.
The day we drove north from Oregon brought me into the familiar territory of the Columbia River. Many many times over the years, I’ve crossed this wide flowing body that has been altered by dams all along its course. I love the dry, often craggy hillsides that flank it, the tumbleweed that rolls on by it, and the blue skies that always seem to hover above it. In the past we’ve camped on its banks and boated, fished and frolicked in its waters. It marks the border between Oregon and the beautiful state of Washington.
Maggie and Tom live about half an hour west of Wenatchee, a small city developed around the plateaus of fruit orchards which are irrigated from the great river. After experiencing all that rain since northern California, I found myself in a snowstorm as we went over Blewett Pass heading into the Wenatchee River valley. That was the first snow I had seen in 15 months and I loved it!
They live “up the Chumstick” in one of the many valleys that radiate out of the Leavenworth area. They both work in Der Town, which is the Bavarian-inspired community of Leavenworth. It is a mecca for shopping tourists from Seattle as well as a center for rock climbers, rafters, and hikers. The town took on its Alpen look back in the 70s when local people decided they needed a schtick to attract visitors, and the scheme worked.
Now the town is painted, pretty, and planted with pots of petunias. Ringed by the Enchantment range of the Cascade Mountains, growing up around the convergence of the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers, it is the epitome of picturesque. My sister worked for years at the well-known Katzenjammers Steakhouse but now works at the smaller Alley Café.
The Alley Cafe is one of the best restaurants in town – I remember having my birthday dinner there years ago – it was, and still is, excellent food and service (best wait staff in town!). An old friend, Andy Cuevas and his friend Mike accompany dinner at the Alley with their guitars and fiddle on Sundays, playing some very sweet covers of a wide variety of music. Andy’s son, Sergio, is also a fine guitarist who joins singer/songwriter Stephen Sharpe in sets of rootsy rap with a world rhythm at other local restaurants – I guess they are also known as the Chumstick Liberation Front. It is so nice to go into communities and hear original local music from folks with a lot of talent having a lot of fun. Stephen’s music has a real Manu Chao kinda sound, very Euro, very cool. Loved them – told Stephen he should come to Costa Rica – he could get gigs and they’d love him too.
I did two book events while in Leavenworth – one was a “book buzz”, selling and signing books at the local independent book store A Book for All Seasons, where I shared pens with another author, Gina Ochsner. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon talking to readers and selling a few books – and so nice to work with independent booksellers. I also did a presentation at the Alley Café one evening and sold some more. Happy to leave copies of Walking with Wolf behind in Der Town.
I also had the great pleasure of going into Seattle to the University Friends Meeting there and presenting the book to a nice group of folks. I have really enjoyed meeting Friends in my travels, sharing Wolf’s story and connecting with other Monteverde-lovers and perhaps influencing a few more to make the trek up the green mountain. Thanks to Pablo Stanfield who put that all together for me.
Maggie and I – both seals in our former lives – from the amount of raw fish and seaweed we like to eat, that’s the only conclusion we can draw – visited an interesting sushi restaurant while in Seattle. The chefs fill plates with portions and the plates move around the restaurant on a conveyor belt. Perhaps this is common in Japan or elsewhere, but we had never eaten at a place like this. We learned that it is better to go there at the beginning of their open hours as the chefs will be making more food – we arrived not too long before they closed for the afternoon, so the chefs stopped putting new food out. It isn’t my favourite way of having sushi, but it was fun for the experience – we felt like Lucille Ball making chocolates as we tried to get the plates off the train without creating chaos. We ate much better sushi in East Wenatchee at Wasabi Sushi – highly recommend their jalapeno roll.
Most of my time in Leavenworth area was spent with my foodie sister and brother-in-law, eating way too much really good food, playing scrabble, and hunting for morels as often as possible (see last post).
Over the years I’ve done some serious landscaping at Maggie’s – I’ve moved a lot of rocks to create gardens, a fish pond and the last project was a stone terrace. The year I built that I had to leave the day after it was done and so this was the first time I had a chance to sit out in the sunshine and enjoy it. We got an old brass bed frame to use as railing and trellis – and it has worked beautifully. The weather was too cold and wet to get into gardening so this was one of the first times I haven’t got into an outdoor project with Maggie.
The snow was still in the high mountains, the rivers were still on the rise as the days warmed very slowly, lots of rain (& snow in the high mountains) fell, and bit by bit that snow melted and made its way down to swell the mountain streams which then fill up the Columbia River and head out to the sea. Since my time in super-dry southern California, I continue to be thankful for the falling rain on this desperately needy planet.
After about three weeks I had to say goodbye to Maggie, Tom and the furry kiddies. I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to return – maybe they’ll come to Costa Rica next year. It is hard having just one sister and she lives far away – thank goodness we have the means to get together every couple of years. I think of families that get separated and don’t have that possibility of visiting each other over great distances. The privilege of my life. I am thankful for that, and for a wonderful sister. Miss you Mag (okay, and Tomas as well….)