Headline: I still have two feet

A horse stepped on me this weekend.  I’m fine (really fine – I ran this morning), but I was a little anxious for a couple of hours on Saturday.  I spent the day at a horse show just south of Portland.  Wendy was there with Tigger, Olive, Dobby (Tigger’s co-dependent pony friend), and Ava (the horse who stepped on me) because two of her 14-year-old students were riding in it.  Their events were first thing Saturday, so I got up early and drove up to watch them.

That part, the whole day really, minus the part where I got stepped on, was pretty cool.  I got to see my lesson horses compete and do more than I’ve asked them to do, and I got to watch a whole lot of really good riders on really big horses do really cool things.  The weather was beautiful (not a cloud in sight), and it was really neat to just hang out and watch all the riding and jumping.

The stepped on part: Wendy needed to clean out stalls, so Elaine (my friend who wrote the romance novel) and I volunteered to take Olive and Ava for a walk to give Wendy time.  Ava was anxious, even right next to Olive, and I couldn’t calm her down, so we headed back to the stalls.  We got separated (too many people), and Ava basically freaked out.  Then someone zipped by on a scooter, and a golf cart passed us, Ava spun around, and while I was trying to turn her the right direction to go home, she stepped on my right foot.  Like, STEPPED on with her full weight because she was walking.  It was…painful, and I may have yelled some things in front of some children, and then she stepped off and we made our way back over to Wendy.  Wendy wasn’t done with her stall, though, so I still had to deal with a giant* nervous horse.  I was letting her eat grass, but we were near a food truck and there was an extension cord, and she didn’t like me trying to move her away from the extension cord to keep her from eating it and she was still high-strung even being closer to her herdmates, whirling around every time a car went by, and I wasn’t super calm since my foot hurt and she was making me nervous and I’m sure I wasn’t successfully radiating serenity even though I was trying to, and it was a whole not-fun thing.  I was relieved to put her back in her stall.

*I’m not kidding about giant.  I mean, there are bigger horses, but she’s the biggest one I’ve had to do anything about.  She’s half thoroughbred and half shire (workhorse along the lines of a Clydesdale), and she’s 16.2 hands at her withers (top of her shoulder, a tad higher than the top of the base of her neck), which puts her withers at the top of my head (because if I did the math right, 16.2 hands is 66 inches – the .2 refers to two inches, not two-tenths of a hand – which is my height).  That’s big.

I was wearing my chucks that day, not boots, so basically no protection, and I spent the next several hours wiggling my toes and flexing my foot to make sure I still could.  The pain faded to an ache, and then that faded, too, and by the time I drove home, I was totally fine.  I have a fun bruise I keep poking at, but no lasting damage.  Until one day the front half of my foot falls off because it turns out I have a hairline fracture or something and I didn’t rest or treat it because it didn’t hurt, but eh – why borrow trouble?

I love summer

You want to know what I’m doing right now?  Right this very second?  Well, I’m typing on my laptop (obvs), sitting in a chair in my backyard, with corn on the grill (John says it’s a barbecue because it’s charcoal not gas, but I don’t think that distinction has anything to do with reality), soon to be joined by steak (the corn, not me – the steak will not be joining me until I eat it, and then we two will become one), listening to John strum his banjo.  The only thing that would make this better, right this very second, is if I were drinking wine instead of water, but I’m doing the smart thing and avoiding those empty calories tonight because I did not avoid the empty calories of buttered banana bread at lunchtime.  Gotta make choices, and I choose banana bread and corn and steak.  The wine will still be there next week.  Or when the banana bread is gone, whichever comes first.  Willpower!

I want

When we were in California, Erik took us and the kids to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.  Cool museum, lots of stuff to play with, good for kids, but I’m mentioning it mostly because I tried a virtual reality painting program and OH MY GOD I WANT IT SO MUCH.  Why I want it has NOTHING to do with the painting part – I am as bad a virtual artist as I am in the real world – although that part was pretty fun.  You can paint AROUND you, like you’re standing in the middle of the room and painting on the air, and then you can move through it or change your perspective and see if from a completely different angle without moving yourself.  Very cool.  I’m not sure of the point of it the 3D aspect of it once it’s finished, though.  It’s not really 3D unless you have a floor or ceiling projector, and there’s no way it looks as cool in 2D.  Anyway, again, the art part is not what I got excited about.

You can choose from a variety of built-in backgrounds or landscapes or environments or whatever.  The one I spent the majority of my time in was the default one, sort of a reddish flat area with mountains in the distance, dark and dusky.  The girl running the demo suggested I try the space environment and how I wish I’d done that sooner.  As soon as I switched over, it was like I was standing on a clear platform in space, stars and blackness above and below and all around me.  I think there was a planet – I can’t tell you for sure now.  I can tell you that I didn’t want to leave it.  It was incredible.  Like, emotionally incredible and I’m getting a little choked up remembering it.  I have no idea if it was remotely realistic, but now I have something I want.  Not necessarily the painting program, although I’ll take it.  I want space.  I want space in virtual reality.  I don’t need the zero gravity part (although I think it would be cool).  I want to sit on the floor and be able to look in any direction and see stars and planets and galaxies and comets and asteroid belts.  I want to be immersed in it, in the comfort of my own home.

In real terms, I can have it.  VR gear is between $600 and $800.  Not easy, but attainable if I really want it.  (I don’t need a new laptop for a while, right?)  That paint program?  $20.  But the gear is necessary.  I googled a bit to see what space VR programs might be out there already, realistic ones, and I found SpaceVR, a company that is about to launch 360-degree cameras into orbit around earth to provide real images of space to anyone who subscribes to their feed.  The subscription is reasonable, but again, you need the gear.

Here’s my quandary: is it good enough now?  Is it too early in the VR technology cycle to be worth it?  I’ve never been an early adopter.  I’m happy to let other people iron out the kinks before I spend a lot of money on something.  VR has been around for a long time, and it used to really suck.  I’m sure it sucks less now, but how much less?  I don’t say “I must have this” about things very often, so this feels odd.  Comforting that I still feel as strongly about it three weeks later, but three weeks isn’t that long.  I’ll probably wait.

But I really want this.

Also, it’s dirty

I saw a snake today on the trail during my run.  I managed not to freak out (out loud), but I did give it a wide berth as it slithered off into the weeds.  It was…little, I guess, but snakes are snakes, and I don’t like them.  This is the problem I have with the outdoors.  I like being outside right up until I’m reminded of all the things that live outside.  Which reminds me: one afternoon a few weeks ago, right after work, I took my book and a bottle of water, and I hiked up to the top of Spencer Butte to read.

I sat there pretty comfortably for nearly two hours, reading my book, ignoring the chatter of the other people on the summit (it was a busy day for hikers), shifting occasionally because sitting on rocks is not that comfortable, and then out of nowhere I heard the a loud buzzing sound.  Like, LOTS of buzzing.  Like the sound of a beehive buzzing, a sound I’ve only heard in the movies and in cartoons.  I glanced to my left and there were a whole bunch of bees flying in a clump, hovering by a rock not one foot away from me.  I suppose that’s what swarming looks like.  I hope I never know for sure.  I got away (duh), and frankly, I’m a little amazed at how quickly and smoothly I moved.  I grabbed my stuff and was 20 feet away, looking over my shoulder the whole time.  I’m super glad they didn’t chase me because there were no lakes in sight.  Seriously, everything I know about swarms of bees comes from cartoons.  And My Girl.

Anyway, that was the end of my pleasant afternoon on a mountain top.  I hiked back down, and before I got in the car, I checked out the map on the information board.  The information board helpfully informed me that the indigenous rattlesnake population was rebounding and they can be found on and under the rocks, so hikers should be careful and definitely not reach under rocks.  Also, mountain lions hang out on the butte.  Well, hell.  I just spent two hours sitting on and among the rocks.  It’s amazing I survived the day.

So yeah – outside is pretty and all, but things that want to kill me live out there, and that’s not even counting spiders and UGH mosquitoes, so maybe I should just stay inside.

Must start earlier

It’s night #2 of not feeling the blog thing, and I think I can safely say that waiting until after dinner to write is not a great strategy.  Whatever energy I had during the day is gone, completely, and all I want to do is read and go to bed.

This is the summer of binge-watching, so after we watched the entire season of The Crown (loved), we watched the entire season of The OA (disappointing), then all of Doctor Who season 9 (yay), and now we’ve moved on to Iron Fist, the next Netflix Marvel Comics show.  It’s…okay.  The main character is annoying in his naivete, and overall, it’s definitely the weakest of the Netflix Marvel shows.  Still entertaining, though.  I like how all of the shows are connected.

Oh, hey, we saw Wonder Woman last weekend.  The movie wasn’t great (although it’s the most I’ve ever liked Chris Pine in anything, and it was miles better than the other DC movies), but I felt this visceral enjoyment seeing Wonder Woman kick ass during the fight scenes.  I’d watch it again.

Hey, look, even tired I can babble about TV and movies.  Good for me.  Bed for me.  See ya.

My perception may be skewed

We went to the Oregon Country Fair on Saturday, and we had a great time, but this was one of those events that had been over-hyped to us.

You HAVE to go.

You’ve never see ANYthing like it.

It’s where all the weird in Oregon goes to let their freak flags fly.

It’s SO WEIRD.

You have to see it to understand.

Yeah, not so much.  I mean, it’s a little weird, but it’s barely weirder than a renaissance festival, and that’s basically what it is, minus the renaissance trappings.  More hippie than history.  It’s a giant arts/music/crafts festival out in a permanent location in the woods.  I mean GIANT – this place was enormous and easy to get lost in.  There’s a ton of handmade stuff, lots of fair food, music everywhere, and people dressed as anything you can imagine: themselves (like us), fairy-type stuff (lots of headbands with horns, flower crowns, masks, face-painting), people on stilts (we saw a group dressed up as characters from the Wizard of Oz all on stilts), a couple of hippie marching bands (tie-dye shirts and flowers), and a few topless women and men wearing barely anything, which I suppose is what people were trying to tell us when they kept saying how weird it is.

It wasn’t that weird, and it’s an alcohol- and drug-free zone, so it wasn’t likely to get crazy, either.

I liked it very much – I don’t mean to sound like it wasn’t a really good time or that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy all the people watching, but it makes me wonder about everyone else’s definition of weird.  Or maybe it’s my own definition I should worry about.

Ups and downs

Tuesday night (4th of July) we were up past eleven, watching fireworks from a footbridge over the Willamette River a couple of blocks from our house.  Sounds great, right?  Like one of those experiences we’re all supposed to savor.  Eh.  The fireworks were totally not worth it – uninspired, no music, blocked by trees, washed out by the lights on the bridge and in the park.  Sorry, Eugene, but your fireworks game is weak.

Tonight, two days later, I’m ready to climb into bed at 10 after 8.  The sun hasn’t set yet, and it’s a beautiful night, but I’m so. crazy. tired.  I bet Margaret and Erik will be able to hear me snoring all the way in California.

Life with me is a real roller coaster ride, people.  Better hang on.

Feels like a dream

Let me tell you the story of our hike last Saturday.  “Story”, since it’s not like anything eventful happened.  Mostly I want an excuse to show you pictures.  Oh, that reminds me – I want to preface all these pictures with something.  Every picture and video posted here was taken by me on my phone’s camera.  I have the resolution cranked all the way up, and for the still photos, I have HDR turned on.  I don’t edit my photos, and I don’t use filters.  (This is not a vanity or ego thing – I don’t have the patience or desire to spend that much time on my pictures.)

Anyway, I wanted a hike with waterfalls, but I didn’t want to drive all the way across the state to see the famous ones, like Multnomah Falls (two and a half hours away) or Klamath Falls (three hours away).  Luckily for us, the Mackenzie River has a trail called the Waterfalls Loop Trail, and it starts less than 90 away from us.

We started at the Carmen Reservoir.  The day was perfect.

The river was so clear it looked it looked chlorinated, and the water was so cold that the air on the banks felt like air conditioning.  Everything smelled fresh and clean and clear and that reminds me of something I forgot to mention about our redwoods hike.  That national park smelled SO GOOD.  Margaret, wonder that she is, explained that the park has a lot of bay trees, and surprise surprise, they smell like bay leaves, and it was so freakin’ pleasant (and I am so glad we had Margaret to tell us that because otherwise I would not have been able to explain why it smelled so good).  This forest did not smell like bay leaves, but it smelled like fresh, clean air, and it was so nice.

The path was clear and well-maintained (and by the waterfalls, it had big log railings that reminded John of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg), and the forest was beautiful.

And then we rounded the corner and saw the first of two waterfalls.  (I think it was Koosah Falls.)

It was loud, of course, but I could have watched it for hours.

Speaking of well-maintained trails, I’m always tickled to find stairs in the woods.  These were on the way up the river, past the first waterfall to the second (and the top of the loop).

So then we came to the second waterfall.  Look at all that green!  I can’t get over how nearly neon it was.

Then of course we asked someone to take our picture.  Not great, but whatever.

So we climbed to the top of that waterfall and kept following the trail, but when it was time loop back, we weren’t ready.  There was another path that was supposed to lead to Clear Lake (never heard of it, but it sounded promising), so we figured we’d follow that for a little bit.

It led us here.  We weren’t impressed.

We were going to turn back, but another hiker came by and pointed out that the trail continued on the other side of the road.  That was awfully nice of her because that’s how we found the Lake of Shining Waters Clear Lake.

It had a cool bridge going across the river.

We walked a little and turned around pretty quickly, but when we got back to the bridge, it had been overrun by tweens from sleepaway camp.  There were at least 20 of them, daring each other to jump off the bridge, their camp counselors egging them on.  I got video.

After that, we headed back to the waterfalls loop to go down the other side.  We found where the trolls live.

And then as we got to the top of that upper waterfall, we climbed down from the actual trail to get closer to the water and I found my new favorite spot in the whole world.

That’s where the water plunges down, that horizontal line of frothy water with trees above it (beyond it).  My toes were an inch from the waterline on the bank.

I crouched down under a tree to get the water rushing over rocks inches away.

Shifting my focus upstream, look at how clear it is and then how cold it looks.

And then there was this spot, where I could sit up against a tree with the water rushing by below and the dropoff 30 feet ahead.

We stopped here for a while.

And, well, John was hot, so he tested the temperature.

We did eventually head back down the trail, and we found ALL the rainbows at the first waterfall.

This next picture is why I mentioned all that stuff about not editing and not using filters.  I have done nothing to this picture to make it look like this.

It’s my favorite.  Occasionally I get lucky.  And that day, I was very happy to be on that trail.

Holiday randomosity

On my bike ride today, I passed a guy going the other direction.  He was on roller blades.  He was wearing tiny speedo-like shorts with an American flag pattern, no shirt, suspenders, and a bow tie.  And a helmet because safety is important.

Happy 4th of July from Eugene!

Also, have some roses from our garden, just because.

Distraction

Rainbows, shmainbows.  Turkeys!  Baby turkeys!

So, before you ask, no, I don’t think that’s the turkey who spent the winter sleeping (and pooping) on our front porch.  I mean, what do I know from turkeys, but I know we had more than one adult turkey hanging around, and I don’t think this is the one who chose us.

They seem to spend most of their time in the neighbor’s yard behind us.  As we were walking by the other day, two of the neighbors were out trying to herd one of the baby turkeys back towards the house.  The mama turkey and the rest of the babies were on the roof of their house, and the last baby was cheeping and scurrying around their yard because it couldn’t fly quite high enough.

It was cute.  Baby turkeys are cute.

But tomorrow, I’ll have rainbows

My laptop is downstairs. I am upstairs. I am in bed, and I’m so comfortable, and I’m so tired, and the AC is on, and the lights are dim, and my eyes are closing, and all of this unnecessary detail means that you don’t get the post about our perfect hike on Saturday or the Seattle crab legs saga I keep forgetting to tell you about or the muddled and confused rant about the Netflix series Anne With An E that I’ve been trying to articulate.

Instead, you get choppy thoughts and one long rambling sentence that is meant to be an apology for…not telling you anything interesting. I’m sorry? Yes. I’m sorry.

I think they live in paradise

California is a lovely place, with lovely weather, and lovely friends, and GIANT TREES.

It’s kind of funny – we visited Erik and Margaret (and their two adorable, smart, and funny children) for a little more than three days, but the only pictures I have are from the day we went to see the redwoods.

We followed the creek and found a nice picnic spot, and then the kids (and Margaret) played in the creek.  It was all so wholesome and fun, and I mean that – no sarcasm here.

I made this last one big ’cause otherwise you can barely see us.

It was so good to see them again, and it was such a relaxing weekend.  They did a good job of making California seem like the place we want to be.  It’s not, not long-term, but they did such a good job of showing us all the good parts that we temporarily forgot that, and it was really hard to leave.

We go on separate adventures at the same time

I had a really good riding lesson today.  This was my fourth lesson on Olive, an actual horse-sized horse, and I’m getting much more comfortable on her.  A woman I hadn’t met yet, who was sitting and watching with Wendy, complimented my release after a set of jumps.

I don’t know what that is, and I didn’t stop to ask just then, and I don’t want to look it up now.  If it’s something I’m doing well naturally, I’m afraid that if I look it up, I’ll start thinking about it and do it badly.  There’s so much to think about that if I can delay thinking about something, that can only be good.  Except that now I have guesses about what it is, and I’ll probably overthink it, so maybe I’m better off if I look it up.

Okay, I googled it (and my guesses were wrong).  It has to do with not pulling on the reins (and then the bit) as you go over the jump.  Wendy taught me to move my hands forward on the neck and hold the horse’s mane to avoid pulling the reins accidentally.  Apparently that’s called a crest release (long or short depending on how far up the mane you hold) – she left that part out.  So okay, I’m already doing it and thinking about it and it’s all good.

John took the plane out this afternoon at the same time (I dropped him off at the airfield, drove to the farm, and then picked him up when I was done), and he found me and flew circles around the farm while I rode.  He said he could see someone on a horse jumping, and he assumed it was me (it was).  We saw the plane and waved madly with no idea if he could see us.  Turns out he could, and he tried to make the plane wave back.  I thought I saw a wobble, but it wasn’t as dramatic-looking as it felt to him.

Anyway, it was cool, and it made for a good afternoon.

Whew

Big sigh of relief: Beauchamp Besieged was pretty good!  I don’t think I’ve ever read a Harlequin romance before, but I’m happy to say this one exceeded my expectations.  And there I go, outing myself as a snob.  I guess everyone’s snobby about something, right?  I’m just happy I can honestly tell my friend I enjoyed her book.

White lies are fine, but it’s so much easier to be honest.

Huh.  I don’t know if I actually believe that.  Sometimes honesty is harder, and often it’s unkind.  It depends.  Everything depends.  We live in a morally gray world.  I do, anyway.

From romance to philosophy: it’s a roller coaster around here!

She is mostly dead to me

I just decided not to read another book, but it’s for a good reason!  think it’s a good reason, anyway.  I read (and enjoyed) Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris about eight years ago, so I happily picked up another book by her last week.  I started to read it last night, thought it sounded awfully familiar, and then realized it’s the sequel.  It’s probably not exactly the same story as Gentlemen and Players (as John pointed out, it is called Different Class), but it’s set at the same school in the year right after that book ends, and the main character is the same and you know?  I don’t want to.  It’s another thriller with another mystery about some former student who has it in for the same teacher and while I’m sure it’s good – it’s probably good – I’m out.  Back to the library this book will go.  Instead, I will read one of the cheap paperbacks I have picked up since we got here so I can discard it before we move.  I will be practical, and I will be done with Joanne Harris. Since this will be the second Joanne Harris book I have put down in a row (I gave up on The Gospel of Loki a year ago April), she gets no more chances from me.  Except that I will almost certainly read Chocolat at some point.  I love the movie.  I’d like to read the book.

Contemplation

Some more thoughts on The Gate to Women’s Country, all entirely non-spoilery.  Or maybe less about this book in particular and more about, well, let me get to that.

I have read a large number of books that left me wanting more when they were over.  More books in a series, more information about the world that was created, more information about the characters or their families or their earlier adventures.  Sometimes I have questions, maybe a mystery was left unsolved, or maybe something mysterious happened in the past that drove a character to do something, but that mysterious thing was never explained.  I usually consider this a good thing, even if it’s mildly (at best) frustrating.  It meant I was fully engaged.  I want to know more.  The author did something right, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get those answers in later books.  I’m not always so lucky.  Robin McKinley is a good example.  Off the top of my head, I can name three books of hers, all stand-alone novels, set in three distinct worlds.  All three books were complete on their own*, but the worlds in those books had histories, the families had problems, and the books were about one event, one adventure, just one snippet of those worlds.  I want to know more about those worlds and those characters.  What was the cataclysmic event that happened to the world in Shadows before the story that was written began?  How did a world that was basically our own turn into that world?  In Sunshine, what is up with the main character’s family?  It’s clearly important to her character, but wasn’t necessary information for the story itself so it’s only hinted at, not included.  I don’t remember having a lot of questions after I read Dragonhaven, but I want more family history AND more dragons, please.

The Gate to Women’s Country falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Everything is explained at the end, even a few things that the very smart main character should have already figured out.  Some of it is explained to the main character, some of it is explained to someone else, but all of it is explained, and I find it very satisfying.  No loose ends.  No open questions (except the reader’s own questions about the future of this civilization, which are totally acceptable).  There’s clarity at the end, the kind that makes you go back and re-read the first few pages now that you’ve been enlightened.  Sheri S. Tepper tends to do that, to lay everything out for the reader at the end, to spell out the things you’ve suspected or point out the things you missed.

I don’t know which approach I prefer.  I like it when things are wrapped up neatly.  I like knowing everything there is to know about a fictional universe.  (There’s a reason I own two companion guides each to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.)  On the other hand, hinting at the richness of another world leaves so much scope for the imagination.  I find it harder to let those books go and move into something else, and I can’t think that’s a bad thing.

*I’m not talking about books without resolutions, like one by an author I really like that is billed as a mystery and that moves like a mystery and HAS a mystery in it but is really just a cover for character development so it ends WITHOUT SOLVING THE MYSTERY.

Freedom and a lighter bag

I have decided to travel light this weekend.  John and I are in one suitcase, and neither of us is bringing a laptop.  My carry-on is my Paris tote, and John will be walking on to the plane with only his Kindle in his hand.  I’d be able to go lighter if I didn’t have to carry prescription meds everywhere I go.

I always think I’ll use my laptop on trips more than I actually do.  In Seattle, the wi-fi in the hotel was terrible, and I don’t plan to have much free time for laptopping this trip.  I expect we’ll only head to our hotel late at night, tired and ready for sleep.  That is okay with me, so I am bowing to reality and leaving my laptop at home.

You’ll barely know I’m gone.