Indian Paintbrush

There are about 200 different species of Indian Paintbrush or Castilleja. Some of these plants, mostly the flowers, have been used over time for medicinal purposes in the manner in which we use garlic – to boost the immune system – and also yes, for painting. The plants can be a bit toxic however depending upon the amount of use and upon the soil content of where the plants are growing. They tend to store up toxic levels of Selenium. I am not certain which species this flower in the photo might be. Aly caught a very lovely shot of one growing in the short grasses along the coast. This paintbrush was living on the edge of a cliff – about as close to the ocean as you can get, and still be a Paintbrush and not a seabrush.

Chrissy the Great

~~The title to this post is a joke in our family regarding an old wooden ruler which I kept from my elementary school days. On the back, in my massive, eight year old hand I had written in red marker: “Chrissy the great.” I’ll confess I never received good marks for my handwriting and I had trouble with penmanship all through school. Talk about red marker! I saw a lot of it in third grade from the teacher during penmanship exercises. Circles I did well, but the M’s and W’s? Oh and those pesky P’s and B’s. When I entered High School I finally dumped the idea that I must persist with cursive and took up printing which gave way to my own, interestingly unique style – mostly an improved, legible script. I come by this deficiency naturally however, and I guess this is one minor attraction which I had to my mate – his hand-writing pretty much mirrors mine. He just spends more time on it. No, actually his is prettier. Both our boys were blessed with these genetics too, so much so, we bought our oldest an Alpha Smart in middle school to spare his teachers from pulling out their hair – hair which they really could not spare anyway. Alasdair has fairly good penmanship which is remarkable as he is a lefty growing up with right-handed parents.

The above is a lengthy prologue to a story which has nothing to do with handwriting except that I lived through the experience and I am here to tell the tale.

I have not mentioned much about our sailing adventures. We have been so occupied with visiting family and my Mom’s shoulder surgery that we’ve only had Seashell out once this month. However, about two weeks ago we launched the sailboat up at Lake Mary Ronan. This lake is usually quite calm but during our efforts to raise the sail offshore, the wind started gusting in a frightful way. We were carried out to starboard immediately heading for the opposite side of the Lake, with the keel cable humming – meaning we were moving at a fairly good clip. The rising gusts of wind became disconcerting, to say the least, and we decided perhaps we’d better turn and head back to the dock. Now that proved to be easier said than done.

After about four attempts at tacking to the opposite shore, (you remember that oh so distant shore where the dock is?) I suddenly became aware that Aly was down in the cabin with his head in his hands looking very green and disturbed. We had been thrown around for the last hour, quite violently by the wind and the waves, and our attempt to turn the boat without tipping too far over was not getting us anywhere. He was nervous about the way our expedition was progressing, and besides the whole ordeal was making him queasy. I distinctly heard him mutter: “I don’t want to go like this.” I coaxed Alasdair to stand up and face towards the bow. That seemed to help him a lot. The wind was certainly fresh enough.

Then I sat down at the tiller, wrested it from my poor husband’s sweaty grasp and took over. I commanded him: “Don’t you dare touch the tiller; just keep the lines secure.” He couldn’t manage everything in conditions like this; I had to do something definitive and I had to do it now. The wind gusts were terrific but I quickly learned that if I filled the sail for a bit headed toward leeward, then I could redirect Seashell back the other way and still keep up our momentum. In short, I was using the gusty conditions to our advantage without getting blown off course. Shortly we were opposite the dock but still a fer piece out on the water. Our valiant journey ended with a final, violent gust of wind from the side which sent us spinning and tipping madly. With our sheets flapping in the wind I held onto the downed sail and we made it back safely with Matthew oaring with all his might towards the dock. We couldn’t get out onto that dock fast enough. Our little boat kept us safe; we made it!

Later that day we heard on the news that the gusts had peaked at around 55 mph. Not only were we out in dangerous conditions but it was almost one of the most difficult sailing situations for anyone, not just beginners, because the wind was blowing us too fast toward a lee shore. After we hauled the boat out of the water and our hearts stopped wildly beating within our seafaring breasts, Alasdair paid me the biggest compliment I’ve ever had as a Mom. “Mom, you are a natural! You got us back! Good job.”

Lessons Learned:

1. Check the weather forecast. Especially the parts labeled “wind”.
2. It’s quite possible to get “3 sheets to the wind” without drinking.
3. There’s a reason sailors are known for their cussing. Probably several reasons.

Wow. Avast, me hearties. Just wow.

(Thanks to Matthew for editing my sea-faring jargon.)

To Cedar Island at 3.6 mph

The Lake was unusually placid yesterday as we headed out from West Shore boat ramp. There was no wind, the water was flat and the sky to the south was hazy with smoke from the fires in California. The haze drifted northward along the Mission and Swan ranges as the day progressed, but for us it was the perfect day to be on the water. We leisurely cut across to Douglas Island and then headed for the Pictographs National Historic Site 3 miles away. Our GPS said we were paddling up to 4.9 mph sometimes but mostly we meandered along the shoreline where tall rock walls towered above us. The blue-green lake washed noisily in and out of deep, narrow crevices; the type of fissures really which only time, wind, water and ice can create.

When we reached the Indian Pictographs we gazed up at the ancient images, 15 feet above our heads and wondered at the artists who drew these and how they came to this place which felt so rough, steep and isolated; positioned in such a lonely part of the world. The rock walls, which were their artistic canvas, face away from the sun and the red, painted images look out on Flathead Lake and the mountains in the distance. How did these ancient travelers refer to this lake? Were they here to hunt buffalo? Where did they come from? Not too much is known. (I posted some photos last July of the Painted Rocks and had some email correspondence with a couple people about the site; there were varying opinions on the age of the drawings. If you read the comments you might glean some information.)

After marveling in our kayaks for a time, we headed for a Fish, Wildlife and Parks site called Cedar Island. There we found a quiet cove occupied only by two calm and watchful bald eagles perched in a snag down the beach from us. We swam, ate a picnic, and watched the sailboats motoring along, as there still was no wind to speak of. There are many times when a paddle does wonders and will get you to your destination, even if it’s only at 3.6 mph.

Summer's Rest (OSI)

Upon a star we depend
calling silently on its worn path
following her beacon
on the edge of a million other stars
never named by our lonely world.

This galactic road, rutted in eons,
dotted with eternity,
is carefully marked by a light
too bright to perceive –

only thousands of us
far away,
in the cosmic somewhere else
will see it as a sunset

giving birth to the eve of a summer’s day
and therein will we rest.


See poetry of the rest at One Single Impression.

So far, all is well

It will be twelve weeks of healing / recovery time but my Mom is here with us and is resting quietly for a few days. It’s a painful operation to undergo but I hope that she’ll see some improvement soon. The surgeon had to reconnect quite a bad tendon tear and re-attach another major injury on her shoulder but he feels she’ll get some motion back with physical therapy starting in a month. We’re not asking her to play soft ball or anything… Mom didn’t seem to have any trouble with the surgery itself which worried us since she just had the heart attack in April. Thank you all so much for your messages of concern and encouragement! I can’t tell you how much that meant.