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.