Morning Has Broken ~

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.” **Abraham Lincoln

In the Arizona backyard, 5:30 am, still dark, I’m writing by my phone flashlight. I contemplated turning on the patio lights, but I really want to see the morning break. The skyline is silhouettes of palm trees and cactus. There is a hint of pink just above the rooflines and the stars are beginning to fade. I love to imagine the bunnies that live in a cozy burrow beneath the lantana bush are still a-snooze and the quail are roosting or nesting, whichever it may be. In an hour or so, when the sun trades places with the half moon, but before the heat of the day, I will enjoy a wild life show.

“No clouds are in the morning sky, The vapors hug the stream, who says that life and love can die in all this northern gleam? At every turn the maples burn, The quail is whistling free, the partridge whirs, and the frosted burs are dropping for you and me. Ho! Hillyho! Heigh O! Hillyho! In the clear October morning.” **Edmund Stedman

There is a block of birdseed in the yard and daybreak will bring the covey. The quail circle and peck and talk, as a family around the breakfast table. Soon a pair of flickers flit down from the palm tree they’ve been tat-tatting on, which must serve as an invitation to the bunnies who venture out and warily hop on the scene. The hummingbirds aren’t seed eaters, but they zoom in and around before zipping off to the bright yellow and orange blooms that nod in the light breeze. Bless the beasts.

I always kind of chuckle and think of how I really was conditioned by Walt Disney every Sunday night. From his desk, he’d welcome us into a wonderful world as we welcomed him into our living rooms. Lonesome cougars, mischievous racoons and playful otters. Not to mention the forest friends; squirrels, mice, birds, who all worked together to make sure Cinderella made an impression at the ball.

Is my view tinted rose? 2020 has been quite a year and we’ve a quarter of it to go. It’s hard not to get caught up in the despair that pours out daily as if the floodgates have been opened. There is a real struggle to balance ‘being informed’ with ‘argghhh’, not only by all of the current events, but the pall lingering from loss on so many levels.

This morning as the sky lightens (Ha! I can turn off my flashlight!) there is a whole new flock of birds at the seed block. Something between a quail and a dove. The bunnies have slipped from their cover and they nibble as the birds peck and they share sustenance in the light of dawn. I wish I could sketch. I could pull the shades of gray away from the tumbled stone in a way my camera cannot. I’d love to draw the flash of white when they spread their wings, and the soft gold of their downy breast. Instead, I will tuck these images into my heart and view them in my minds eye through my rose colored glasses, while humming an old Cat Stevens tune…

Have a Wonderful Day

Peace. Love. Amen.

Stairway to…

“However steep or ramshackle they may be, don’t ever despise the stairs which take you up to higher levels.” **Mehmet Murat Ildan

Stairs. Ever since I was a little kid I have been intrigued by stairs. Where do they lead? What’s up there (or down there?) It is the mystery of the unknown that piques my curiosity. On our recent trip to Fort Casey, we discovered a part of the fort separate from the state park. Overgrown and abandoned, it was as close I will ever come to finding a lost civilization.

Moss grows thick to carpet the gray concrete

I love to walk up the wide steps and think about the people who built this place. Fort Casey was constructed in the late 1800’s to defend the entrance to Puget Sound in case of enemy invasion. Now we know the fort was never called into action, and it ended up being used as a training facility for the armed forces. I close my eyes and picture fresh faced young men, enlisted and ready to fight for their country, running up and down these concrete steps. Did they practice their drills and wonder if they would have to man the giant guns aimed out to sea? I can only imagine.

Another thing I think of as I run my hand across the moss and weathered concrete is Mother Nature. The blackberry and wild rose vines reach across the expanse of man made materials making it clear that she will reclaim her own, given time. We humans aren’t always as mindful as we should be of her many gifts, and I find comfort in the brambles. Even as they tug on my coat sleeve as I pass, they remind me that our beautiful Earth will endure.

Peace. Love. Amen.

Cousins ~

The cousins, siblings and me at Grandma Goodie’s House

Cousins are our first best friends. The instant playmates from birth through childhood, and beyond, if we are lucky. I remember so many good times shared with my cousins when we were young. Meeting up at Grandma’s farm, we built go-carts from apple boxes and made tunnels of hay in the barn. We rode our bikes like maniacs along the river road and luckily survived without ever toppling into the current. How Grandma wrangled the six of us without losing her sanity is a testament to her Norwegian fortitude for sure. No matter our escapade, she’d chuckle and send us back outside to play. Dirt was good, added to our immunities, she said, and hay dust, though it made us sneeze, caused no lasting damage to our developing lungs. She loaded us all in her big boat of a car and drove us into town to shop at the five and dime and fed us burgers and fries at King Charlie’s on the way back home. Siblings and cousins forever!

“Time passes and we may be apart, but cousins always stay close at heart.”

My dad and his brother grew up with a big, rambling group of cousins, all meeting, yes, you guessed it… at their grandma’s house. He lights up when he talks about Sunday afternoon baseball games in the field beyond the house and potluck meals spread on tables made of wide boards cut at the small sawmill they operated on Meadow Lake. There is a picture of all the black sedans parked in the driveway. I can almost hear the ring of the horseshoe clanging on the iron stake as the men hoisted them in the air. In winter, when the lake froze over, they strapped on skates from the wooden box under the stairs and raced each other from shore to shore. Dad said his grandpa fashioned skis from a couple of planks and the cousins took turns skiing through the orchard. I have enjoyed those stories so much, they have become my own and I am lonesome for the times gathered in that cozy kitchen around the warmth of the old cookstove. My great-grandma’s place was next to the stove, beside the window. She had hair to her waist that was always braided and wrapped around her head or in a bun at the back of her neck. She was short and round and always wore an apron. (Sounds a little like someone else I know!) I have her chair in my house now, I love having that connection to her and to those good old days.

“God made us cousins because He knew our mothers could not handle us as siblings.”

Time has that crazy way of marching on and now my kids have kids, which winds us back around to cousins!

and Quinn makes 6!

Six busy kids making their own memories together as they grow up. Will they remember dragging my collection of bottles and jars out to the picnic table to make potions? I can’t forget Jamie Todd running in the house for some necessary supply, I asked what they were doing, he answered, “Searching for the antidote!” Pumpkinfest and Cooky Day, extra holidays they enjoy every year, I hope storing up good times in their hearts to draw on down the road. Part of the job description when I signed on as ‘Grammie’, was to provide a place to just be, whether it was to build a fort under the table or play cards around it. Now the older five are teens or close to it. They hang out on the tire swing or sit around the picnic table, talking about life and friends and school (or the lack there of) but there they are, together. I love it.

“In my cousin, I find a second self.” **Isabel Norton

As kids, the years that separated my cousin Lisa and I kept us from being playmates, but there’s another funny thing about time~ it’s a great equalizer. Now it’s almost like we are the same age and the stories she heard from her mom match those my dad has told me and we are connected, heart to heart. We might not have enjoyed a shared childhood, but we make up for it as adults. We look through the old photo albums, connecting the dots that create a picture of our sprawling, extended family. We have the same Norwegian immigrant great-grandparents, and the same love of the old home place. Kindred cousins for sure.

Dedicated to my dear cousin Don Mayhew ~ July 20, 1948-August 31, 2020

“There is one thing that is right and true in this world, Family. To watch where we’re going, To know where we’ve been, and to be with us in the end, for comfort and to carry on.” *LRVW

Peace. Love. Amen.

Happy Birthday, Big Mike!

Gayle, Mike & Me in Sunny AZ

“Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.” **Sam Levenson

Oh man, that quote says it all!! It cracks me up as I read it. Nobody can make me laugh like my siblings. We call them ‘Laugh Attacks’. Those crazy fits that truly bust a gut, that when I try to tell someone how funny such and such was, they look at me like….”Okay… yeah… that sounds hilarious…” as they roll their eyes. I remember sitting around the dinner table as kids and having to divert our eyes from each other. Getting tickled by something only we could see, a ‘laugh attack’ with the accompanied snort and possibly milk coming out of our noses was frowned upon by our parents.

Jill, Mike & Me… 1961

There were four of us, growing up on twenty acres at the bottom of Bunk Foss Road. Once in awhile a cousin would come to play, or some of our parents friends who had kids our age would come to visit, but mostly it was us four Campbell Kids. Together we blazed trails through the woods and built forts beneath the canopy of towering evergreens. Up on the hill behind our house, there was an old chicken coop. I don’t think we ever raised hens or gathered eggs, but sometimes we would get ambitious and sweep it out for a make-do clubhouse. A Transparent apple tree grew beside it and in August when the apples started to ripen and fall, the deer would come, feast on the windfalls and rest in the shade. One time we (Mike) came up with the brilliant idea to capture one of the deer for a pet. I’m not sure how we lured the poor creature into the coop, but when that door closed, and she was locked in, the term ‘wild animal’ was defined for us. Lurching and rearing and searching for an escape, it’s a miracle none of us were trampled before we got that door opened and the deer bounded away.

As teenagers, we moved from the country into a house in town. With a rec room in the basement and a pool in the backyard, our house was the gathering spot. I think we moved in mid winter, but on the first sort of nice day in March, Mike was the first one in the pool. I’m pretty sure there’s an eight millimeter movie somewhere of the fastest jump, splash, exit in history.

Mike wrestled and played football for the Panthers. Friday nights found our house full of friends and family of all ages, eating snacks around our big dining room table and rehashing the game. Glory days for sure!

A couple of years ago when we were all in Arizona, Mike invited me on a road trip. “Hey, do you want to take a drive on the Apache Trail? Everyone says it’s beautiful!” How could I resist? He picked me up early and away we went. It’s not often as adults that we get undivided time with a sibling, but there I was. We were on the road for about ten hours, exploring historic spots and stopping at every scenic viewpoint. Reminiscing our shared times, and listening to him replay some of his shenanigans was an experience I will never forget!

Today I celebrate my baby brother and wish him a happy birthday. Growing up with built in best friends was great fun, growing old with them is even better! Love you baby bro!

My Baby Brother

Peace. Love. Amen.

Serenity Now ~

Twilight Moonrise

in the midst of the craziness that seems to encompass 2020, the beauty of our world perseveres. A broken tree, bends low to welcome the night, as the crescent moon casts a mellow glow across the lake. I’m reminded of the classic children’s book, ‘Goodnight Moon’. I’m in the great green room, and the wind is whispering, ‘hush…’

Someone once said if the only prayer you pray is ‘Thank You’, that is enough. Soooo….

Thank you ~

Peace. Love. Amen.

Skylark ~

“Who will give me back those days when life had wings and flew just like a skylark in the sky” **Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Who will give me back those days? Those days when life had wings… I see a field of tall grass, waving in a warm breeze. The skylark catching the current as she skims along. I have had those days. They are tucked in my heart and I draw on them often. I remind myself, those days are not all gone, they are ahead of me, too. Days of skylarks and eagles. Days of swallows and bluebirds. I need to take those days. I need to make those days my own. I need the rhythm of our natural world. Night into day, winter into spring. The easy and unconscious way I take in air.

Sometimes I let the ways of the outside world get me down. My shoulders ache with the weight of it. That is when I hear the whisper of God, “Come here my child.” He beckons. “Climb up in my lap and let me have your load.” I settle into the peace of His arms. I am the grassy field where the skylark soars. I am the warm sun, the light breeze. The rhythm of the day is beating in time with my heart. The world is new again and the possibilities are endless. The simplicity is overwhelming. The journey continues.

I fly like a skylark in the sky.

Peace. Love. Amen.

Someone’s in the Kitchen…

Helen and me at my bridal shower ~ 1977

I’m in my kitchen this morning, bustling around, preparing food for an afternoon picnic to celebrate the August birthdays in our family. A granddaughter, a brother, a daughter-in-law and two nieces have dates circled on the calendar this month. And there is one more birthday to remember. My mother-in-law. Helen would have been eighty-eight years old today, had that blasted aneurysm not wrenched her from her beloved Gold Bar home and us over twenty years ago. My kids and I talk so often of how much she would have loved to meet and enjoy her great-grandchildren. She was the grandma who always had a full cookie jar and a pitcher of Kool Aid on a hot summer day. The tire swing, the barn, May Creek cutting through her pasture… So many wonderful memories! It’s no wonder she is on my mind on this warm August morning. I open my cookbook, and she is there, favorite recipes shared with me around her table in her cozy kitchen when I was just a young bride. Her mom’s hot cross buns, her own favorite yeast bread, not to mention Maple Bars… (Oh my yummm), so I find myself taking a break from my task to spend a little time with her.

Helen’s climbing rose from Nugget Ranch in Gold Bar

She grew up in the tiny mountain town of Index, on the banks of the Skykomish River, the youngest of four kids. She loved her hometown so much, and I loved to listen to her stories of going to the Bush House and school picnics at Garland Hot Springs. Her mom, affectionately called, River Grandma, lived almost her entire life in the family home. On the Fourth of July everyone gathered there for potato salad and fried chicken, while we watched the best small town parade march along the street in front of her house.

Homemade Ice Cream~

Easter was celebrated at Helen’s Nugget Ranch. She prayed for sunny weather, planned for rain and expected her whole big extended family to join her for reunion, renewal and the welcoming of Spring. What a pot luck, smorgasbord feast was laid out, everyone contributing their favorite dishes and Helen arranging it on every level surface.

It’s hard to imagine a generation that won’t recognize the name Robert Redford, but in our family, thanks to Helen, he is always with us!

A woman’s kitchen will tell her life story if you take the time to listen; and no kitchen was more anxious to share than my mother-in-law’s. Coming in from the back porch, you were met with strong, black coffee perked on the stove and a cheery, “Hello there!” Sitting at the table she filled you with fresh cookies and news of the valley, and while the conversation buzzed, the kitchen quietly reminded us of family. Pictures of grandkids held on the fridge with ‘I love grandma’ magnates. A teenaged Doug in basketball action framed on the wall. The cookie jar Nancy hand painted for her mom on the counter, and of course pictures of Index pinned around the door jamb. Keeping these memories tucked in my heart, knowing I am adding my own that my kids and grands will one day cherish, brings a smile to my face. I celebrate the past and the lessons learned, and I feel sweet anticipation for the days to come. Today, no longer a young bride, but a grandma, (now older than Helen was when we lost her), I feel her presence with me. I thank her for the lovely visit as I get back to the job at hand, my contribution to the August birthday picnic. Oven fried chicken… coming up!

The view from River Grandma’s Backyard where Helen grew up ~
“There is one thing that is right and true in this world, Family. To watch where we’re going, to know where we’ve been, and to be with us in the end, for comfort and to carry on.” **Lynda Rae Van Wyk

Peace. Love. Amen.

Gold Digger ~

“Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food, for wisdom and guidance, for all these are good, but don’t forget the potatoes.” **John Tyler Pettee

We plant a vegetable garden in the spring, hopeful for a harvest of some sort, depending, of course on the weather and how hard we work towards that goal. This year we moved things around the big square plot, “crop rotation” is the official title. The old farmers say the soil is depleted by planting the same seeds in the same row year after year, so the potatoes moved next to the zinnias and pushed the corn rows to the edge of the garden along side the pumpkins and squash. My seed potatoes were the withered remnants of last years haul. Once I had my row hollowed out, I cut them into chunks, careful to be sure they each had at least one ‘eye’ (the better to see you, my dear…), and laid them along, before heaping on a mound of sun warmed dirt, tucking them in so they could get on with the business of growing up.

Yukon Gold

Fast forward to a midsummer afternoon. The lush green vines are fading and flopping over, a signal to me to grab my gloves and get to work. In a bigger operation, I know potato forks and shovels do the trick, but for my small row, I prefer to use my hands. Grabbing a handful of vines and tugging upwards, the beautiful gold is revealed. Carefully, I shake off the dirt and work my fingers deep into the loosened soil. The yellow skin is tender to the first breath of air and I don’t want to scrape or bruise my treasure trove.

Sparky the Wonder Dog/Potato Digger

There is something about growing what we eat, a satisfaction and pleasure in the accomplishment. Over the years I have tried a few different varieties of spuds (as my grandma called them). Russets, Reds and for a couple of years a variety with a royal purple flesh, but I always come back to Yukon Gold. Russets seem too common, reds got scabby and the purple, for all their brilliance, faded in the cooking pan, leaving tasty but homely heap of gray mashed potatoes. Yukon Gold on the other hand never disappoint. I especially love to pierce them (gently, kindly) rub them with olive oil and cracked pepper and bake them. They are so rich and buttery, they don’t need any additions when they come out of the oven, but I must admit, a pat of butter doesn’t hurt.

The Cosmos volunteer to keep watch…

One year my granddaughter requested, for her special birthday dinner, a baked potato bar. Oh my yummm!! Roasted Gold with an array of toppings with a nice tossed salad was a perfect celebration feast.

The Shadow of her Smile

Once my potatoes are dug, I spread them in the shade for a few days, it seems to toughen up their skins a bit before I put them away. I’d love to say I’m storing them in the old stone root cellar, but really, that sounds pretty spidery and I don’t have one anyway, so I tuck them in the coolest corner of the garage to be enjoyed long past the warmth of this summer day. I doubt if a true gold miner in the vast Yukon territory felt as good as I feel when I am done with this chore. I find myself humming old Neil Young tunes, Harvest, Heart of Gold, Old Man.. as I take off my gloves and dust off my jeans.

“I’ve been a miner for a heart (or a potato) of gold…”

Peace. Love. Amen.

Happy Birthday, Mom ~

Everybody has a mother, maybe a sister, possibly a brother. Grandmas and grandpas and dads in there too, but our family is family thanks to you! You’ve always been with us to laugh or to cry, and sometimes (I’m sure) to think, “Why, oh why??” To this family you made, you’ve given your all, how can we say thank you, the words seem so small! But now it’s your birthday, and we cannot wait, to gather, to honor and to celebrate ~ Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandma, now; A Campbell, Patty, Patricia Zoe Dow! Our magnificent matriarch, and I hope that you know, You’re a treasure to us, our hearts overflow, With admiration and love for all you’ve achieved, We’re blessed to be fruit of your family tree! **Love, Lynda

Today we celebrate my mom on her 83rd birthday. It’s funny how women hesitate to share how old they are, until at a certain age, each trip around the sun turns into a badge of honor. I often thank her for being a young mom. I’m sure it wasn’t always a picnic wrangling four kids in such rapid, stair step succession as she did. Of course we were perfect and always well behaved (just ask her!) but still, she had me at 18, Gayle at 22, and Mike and Jill in the middle. She was a busy mama! Still she had time to lead my Bluebird group and Mike’s Cub Scouts and go to all the little league games. We always had everything we needed and most of the things we wanted, without being spoiled.

Lynda, Mike, Jill & Gayle

Mom and dad raised us Campbell Kids on twenty mostly wooded acres, with a big, grassy backyard. We played baseball, (mom was a real slugger!) and learned to ride our bikes on a narrow sidewalk behind our house. One afternoon as we kids sat around our big dining room table eating lunch, there was a knock on the door. Not seeing a car in the driveway, mom was a little hesitant, who could it be? When she opened the door, there stood a tall woman, with short, crazy hair, all dressed in black holding a machete. Mom laughed later relating the scary thoughts that raced through her mind in those moments, but all was well. It was Betty Moe, who owned the forty acres adjoining ours. She hacked a trail through the woods so we might explore nature and maybe play with her boys sometime. As we got to know her, we discovered she played a mean ragtime piano and even gave Jill lessons for awhile.

Lavender Lady

Imagine school clothes shopping with four kids! Not even taking into consideration the budget constraints of such a big family, but the logistics of keeping track of us. Colby Avenue in downtown Everett was where it was at. All the stores were there. JC Penney, The Bon Marche, Sears, not to mention Kress, Newberry’s, Woolworths and various independent shops that catered to young fashionistas. I remember being mid block and mom saying, “Come on, the light’s green, we can make it!” And away we went like the tale of a kite, our mom being the kite, flying towards the intersection. I know a few times she must have panicked when a couple of us hid silently in the clothes rack, such a perfect place for playing hide and seek. Back then, the only shopping mall was at Northgate, and it was open air. She would load us all in the car and away we’d go from our little hometown of Snohomish off the the big city of Seattle. The coolest stores were there and then we’d get to go to Farrell’s for lunch before heading home.

~ Great Grandma, Great Grandpa & baby Quinn ~

Time has a way of rolling along, we kids grew up and had families of our own, making our mom not only a grandma, but a great grandma. So many great times, strung like pearls on a necklace lovingly made, as well as so many lessons learned along the way. Today we celebrate our grande ~ dame, Happy Birthday, Mom, we love you!

Peace. Love. Amen.

Just Add Wonder ~

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” **Rachel Carson

Walking in the woods with kids is not to be confused with taking a hike. The world that exists under the canopy of an old growth forest is akin to a magical fairy land when you take the time to meander. I took the youngest grand ones on a nature walk last week, on a trail that skimmed the edge of the Lake Roesiger, wove through the trees, and crossed a couple of rustic bridges. Watching them explore, and teaching them the names of native growth, reminded me of my own youth spent exploring the twenty acres I grew up on. It also reminded me that a person doesn’t automatically know a fern is a fern or a horsetail is a horsetail… somebody has to teach the names. It was such a pleasure to point out my favorites, such as salmon berries, (yummm), and to be on the look out for stinging nettles, (ouch!)

The Babies…

Even coming across some trash left behind was an adventure. “Oh no! Look what the litterbuggers left! Clean up, clean up!!” And we all gathered the litter and continued on our way, making a mental note to bring a bag with us next time. There is a sense of wonder as we check out different shapes of fungus clinging to the trunk of a cedar tree. Thick moss on a log becomes a velvet cushion and a black and yellow centipede becomes the pied piper as we follow him for a bit, amazed by his many legs.

Lime Kiln Walk in the Woods

Lime Kiln trail was a beautiful walk in nature. Being partly on the old Monte Cristo Railroad grade, there were remnants of industry long since discarded and the shreds of history left behind. No hurries, no worries, not only was there time to ponder the men who made a living here more than one hundred years ago, but also to see how Mother Nature reclaims her own if we leave her to it. If it wasn’t for faded pictures at the trailhead, you wouldn’t believe a railroad once chugged along the bank of Stillaguamish River.

Three of a Kind, plus a puppy… checking out the array of moss clothing the low branches.

Not having children of her own, Rachel Carson borrowed her nephew to share in the joys of discovery. “…to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it…” Reading and knowing these words are true, I borrow my grandchildren for companionship and to take a peek through their eyes. When I do, I rediscover the mysteries of the wildness and remember the days that I so enjoyed as a kid in the woods at the bottom of Bunk Foss Road. To spend time with them and pass on my love of nature to the next generation is a gift to all of us.

Peace. Love. Amen.