Friday, June 28, 2013

The Bird Woman

The Bird Woman
By Mona Rains

Not long after I returned from my trip, Min (el Viejo) went out to get some new fish for our pond. I was still rolling around the la la land of the long drive recoup, recovery and recon with Min and was only vaguely aware that he was off with his bucket to buy some fish.

He returned with twelve fish bright eyed and excited. Not a normal condition for Mr. Unflappable Min. He went on and on about this really neat woman, and described her as the “bird woman” complete with a bright bird tattooed on her face…

He said, excitedly,   “You just HAVE to meet her!”

My inner woman reared and as I pondered this new Min attitude.

“Is she pretty? Are you attracted to her” I asked calmly, but interested.

His face took on a look of mild exasperation as he closed his eyes. Even this much information was too much information for Min.

“Nooo.. it is not like that. You just have to meet her,” He answered.

I felt my own exasperation at his lack of words as I pressed on.

“You have to tell me SOMETHING more than THAT”, I pressed.

“She’s just this interesting, hippie chick and has these birds that I think you might want.”

“Birds? What kind of birds. You know I hate caged birds” I responded.

“They are not caged. Well they are, but she has this huge cage that is really beautiful and interesting and she opens the doors and they fly around and then come back. She has a white dove and three others, I can’t remember what kind.” He said.

A lot of information but not enough, just enough to make me ask more questions.

He described her as “Becky with a smile” which was both shocking and interesting to me -  to get this much information from Min, about anyone, and including one of my oldest and dearest best friends.. I did not know he saw Becky like that, but for Min to be excited about anyone was just plain weird. He hates everyone, and has no use for most people, so for him to be so animated and interested in this woman was very, VERY unusual.

Min was interested in both the birds and the cage, but as usual passed it off to someone else, as in,   “Mona may be interested in the birds” he had told her.

Min and I had decided to move back to the old place with the swimming pool and the large yard where there was more room to garden even though the place was way too big for us.

AND Min had decided that we should start a hippie commune, or an “intentional community” and he was sure that this woman would be a perfect candidate, and set up a time for us to “meet”, which was at her place.

It was so strange to hear this coming from the mouth of el Viejo, my husband, Min, the quiet man with the brilliant mind, who I had said many times in the past couple years,

“I am seriously worried about Min. I think he may be mentally ill”.

Mostly I said this to myself and maybe my closest girlfriends.  But since he actually seemed excited about this, a new project, and agreed to move back to the old place where my swimming pool missed me, and just possibly I may manage to live in the desert.

I embraced this woman totally with eyes wide shut, purely on Min’s reaction to her.

When we went there to meet the birds and we sat down and I stupidly began talking about this idea of community and that we wanted her to see the place, etc, not knowing anything about her.

The first thing she asked was,

“Do you have an open marriage?”

We looked at each other and both said, “no” at the same time. Julie is 53 and a large woman, with bulging arms, chins, baggy front and back, and very much a hippie, with the bright bird tattooed on her left cheek. Not a person that either of us would have dreamed of bringing into our marriage. Not that we would bring anyone in, and Min laughed and said, later,

“yeah, Me, in an open marriage, I don’t think so”.

Min is a shy person and doesn’t get close to people. I must be special.. or something.

Julie lived in a rented shack, with a tent and a bed which the giant bird cage sat beside in a very small yard, and two small but smelly dogs, and she was moving somewhere. Now, because of me, or let’s say MIN, she was potentially moving in with us.
She showed us inside her small house as she extrapolated on about her “last gallery” in “Patagonia” (south of Tucson) and how she had fallen off a scaffolding and broke her foot, thus having to move HERE.

Her house was a treasure of metaphysical and buddistic stuff, with Indian prints and lovely hippie retinue, much like stepping back into the early 1970’s. The art was interesting and I asked her,

“Is this your’s?”  to which she replied, “NO no, THAT is and artist that is quite lovely and her work is extraordinary, she is a raven goddess who incorporates the very essence of everything into her work. See how the swirls of life revolve to the cosmic pull of the moon?”

Each and every piece was like that, none of which were her art. This is always interesting to me and I began to realize that I really should have taken some time to get to know her before inviting her into our “homestead” or “planned community”. She can talk circles around everything and anything, explaining everything away with perfect brush strokes of linguistic nature, never really saying anything.

One of her rambles was about raw food, to which I could see Min visibly wilt.

She had her yard sale going on, and I did buy a rather cool dummy, which I would come to recognize as myself, later, after I left her to her diatribe, a couple weeks later.

As we left she grabbed a DVD video for us to “borrow” called GARBAGE WARRIERS, which Min and I had seen before, but we took anyway, which would lead one day to the unraveling of this nightmare.

I did plan on picking her up several days hence and driving her to the old house and back. Both of her cars were in the process of being given away and I had the audacity to ask her why, upon whence she launched into.

“I am here to set an example by walking. This neighborhood is so materialistic and so dull that they cannot even see the impact they are making on this earth. The garbage they throw away, OMG I cannot even believe that they would NOT recycle or EVEN take the perfectly good stuff they throw away and donate to the needy because they are TOO lazy”.

As I worked a word in edgewise and asked her what state the cars were in, after she told me in 800 words about placing an ad in Craig’s list to just “give them away” for the sake of the planet, whereby she was bombarded with Mexican’s calling her and she had quit answering the phone, the very reason that Min had such a hard time reaching her about the fish, which were BTW in a four foot kiddy swimming pool of water when he rescued them for $30.

“Well, the van is shot, it has no a/c and the Geo only needs a battery and licensing”

To which I replied,

“Then I think you need to keep the Geo and give the van away. How can you live without a car?”

To which she replied,
“THAT is why I CHOSE to live close the bus line, and WHY I chose to set an example to these pathetic people who HATE me”..


We drove to our big house, which was empty at the time and listed for sale on the market by Coldwell Bankers, on a day that sported 106 temps. She was dressed in a long flowing skirt, and a long flowing shirt, cosmetic clothing to cover her bulging body, long grey hair pinned atop her head with the bottom and sides shaved.

She also brought a rock for Min, a piece of lava, that she insisted on carrying to the fish pond, even with her broken foot and excessive baggage and clothes in the heat of the day wanting to place it into the fish pond. I asked her to leave that to Min as it was his creation, that pond.

It is a 20 minute drive during which time she talked non-stop, making me increasingly more anxious. Her evaluation of our place, which most people love, was that it was a “fixer upper” and “a lot of work”, and she smelled a packrat in the closet of the guest room. I pulled all my rolled up rugs that were leaning against the wall and laid them out, with no signs of packrat. She witnessed this, ready to pounce, only saying,

“That is ODD that there is NO evidence or droppings.”

The house WAS musty after a summer of three months with triple digit desert heat and a/c turned off. I had been gone for 33 days on my road trip and el Viejo had not been diligent about opening up the windows, or even watering much for that matter as he was busy completing the landscaping here at the new house, which was finished by the time I returned, thus prompting him to want to move back to the old place.

It was so hot that I took off my clothes and jumped in the pool, which I do in front of nearly everyone that I am sure not to offend. There was really no time for the prettiness of bathing wear. She opted to remain in her huge get up and just soak her feet, her horrible damaged foot, which had happened almost three years ago. It occurred to me that was an awful long time to heal, but I guess if you have to walk everywhere, as opposed to driving, to set an example, well, then.. it is still a long time to heal anything.

By this time I was worn out and had decided not to bring her up to our newer house to show her all my cool stuff.

I asked her how long she had lived in her present location.

“two and a half years”, she replied and continued her never ending rhetoric about the state of the world, that particular community, blah blah blah… while I contemplated her energy and felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

She smiled slyly as she told me how much she approved of open marriage and how her last lover this and her last lover that as I shut my mind off and pondered how fast I could wrap this up.

I drove her home and SHE suggested that we ALL get together this Thursday, and meet for happy hour at a place “in our neck of the woods” purely because they have organic wine. I agreed. I would have agreed to just about anything by that time. I was feeling stunned. Stunned like I felt when I agreed to tango dancing with Peter after coming off a long road trip. Only worse. There is power over and power within, one of my favorite things to say and that I understand at a molecular level. Power within is much better than power over and I do not like people who yield power over me. I usually don’t let it happen, and I am rarely leveled to “stunned”. I am also polite and do not like to hurt people’s feelings, and do not like confrontation. I will keep my opinions to myself rather than fight. I will walk away. I had to ask myself, “how did I get here?”

I was hopelessly lost when I left her house and only had the urge to buy beer and cigarettes, return to the old house with pool, drink a couple beers and smoke a couple cigarettes. I think I told her I like to smoke in some kind of hidden agenda way, which I am not a fan of, to distance myself from her. Having a strong personality myself I have learned to lighten up, let other people talk, listen to them, hear what they have to say, and not be right about everything. I can’t think of a single person that could drive me to such distraction, with the exception of Peter and his tango dancing, which was not nearly as beguiling begrudging or bewildering.

I was also a bit pissed, peeved and perturbed at Min, his thrusting this woman on me. When I finally came home to the new house, he was home from golf and asked me,

“How did it go?”

I proceeded to unravel her positions, posturing and platitudes along with how she made me feel, what I did afterward, honestly, I had to. As much as he hates smoking he hates more people that make me want to smoke.

There were also the birds. She had picked out the spot she wanted to put them behind the orange trees as the cages needed to be washed twice a day. She was scared to death of the “wash” (drainage ditch in AZ for monsoon rain) and the hawks, YIKES! AND she wanted to move in the end of September on a trial basis for three months, to the best room in the house where she could “keep an eye on the birds” to which I asked,

“for FREE?” trying not to sound too alarmed.

“Oh no, for $500 per month” she replied. Sigh!

There were still several days until Thursday and we still had triple digit heat. I settled into my desert routine, going to the other house to swim, water, open windows and do general upkeep. About this time my adopted daughter came through, screaming out of Mexico with her truck and trailer and two adorable daughters, on their way to northern California.

This was a sudden and unforeseen piece of business, which was wonderful for me. I set up in the old house with the swimming pool where we passed two nights and two days in a wonderful reunion, to reconvene, and a reprieve for me from the bird woman blues.

As the days rolled on Min and I rolled this problem around and around and came up with nothing. Thursday arrived and nothing. He felt that she should call us, since she was taking the bus, after all, and it was 105 degrees still. She did not call, but every time the phone rang we flinched. Thankfully she did not have MY cell number.

A week or so later he got a letter from her. Her email address is I found out later. Julie had never married nor had children, so she was also one of THOSE!

The following email exchange between Min and Julie transpired:

Creating working relationships can be a threatening experience.
After meeting for a few hours with Mona, you perhaps felt that we should step back a bit and evaluate before continuing. So you did not make contact on Thursday for the planned “happy hour”.
We thought of calling you, but there are some differences of philosophy that I sensed from Mona’s recap of your conversations that pushed us back a bit as well.
 You seem to be very rigid in the abandonment of materialistic detritus. We do not understand the ability to function without the means to travel. Tucson is not NYC. Or Frisco. When I first met you in gathering the fish, you spoke of your reason for simplifying as to get ready for travel to the Northeast. Something does not gibe with the abandonment of all your vehicles.
 I believe in omnivourousness to the extreme. What does not kill me makes me stronger. Mona is a bit less flexible, but we both learned on the streets of Mexico, eating vendor food, that after the first few food poisoning incidents we could be out there with eclectic abandon. The raw food, organic wine, etc…. is not a practical lifestyle for us, however pure it may seem.
When you told Mona that the bird cages needed to be cleaned twice a day,  that was a deal breaker for me. One of the reasons I like fish is that the proper ecosystem cleans itself. I clean the filters in the pond system maybe once every two months, and never add any chemicals. Aside from the pleasure people get from feeding them, the fish do not need to eat either. The birds appear to require a much more dedicated owner then I could be.
I guess the type of shared space that we envision is a bit like the pond environment, where there is independence with synergy.
Let me know your thoughts.

Dear Min,

I was hoping to get together for an organic happy hour or not. Philosophy is a large landscape and in our brief meetings I mostly felt a degree of compatibility and meeting Pi cheered me immensely. You have quite a work in progress on your homestead. I bring a lot to the table and have put together a folder of information for your perusal to allay your fears and allow what seems threatening to a more novel experiment. My vehicle situation has everything to do with being near the bus line while having a home base and being able to do my small bit in boycotting the war for oil. At this point in my life I prefer to be home in the garden. This is different from folks that run a travel agency. I venture out into the racy world twice a week. Does Mona still want to convert the Geo to an electric car? Depending on the variables I may tow the Geo behind a motorhome or a small U-Haul for my upcoming changes. I am extremely considerate and not at all rigid. Differences can lead to insight and understanding. AS for the deal breaker, the bird cage gets a quick spray down once or twice a day using 2 gallons of water per time which runs into adjacent flora providing them with a nurtrient rich watering. You have a lot on your plate and the birds would just be one more thing and they deserve to continue to be treasured. Either they will stay with me or some other St. Francis will text and all will be well. Thank you again for adding my fish to your school. As Meher Baba said, “don’t worry, be happy” love, Julie. Ps what did you make of the poems?

As you can imagine Min and I briefed the letter, which seemed to sink in on itself from joining us to moving somewhere else, and we still had her DVD and her poems.

And this email.

Hi, I hope all is well in your whirl. I'm hosting a yard sale this sat. thru mon. 8a-11a. This might be a good time for you to return my DVD Garbage Warrior. I have 2 Blue Globe Buddha Lights that change electric pulse patterns when touched. Mona might like them for her collection. Hope to see you here. Did you like the hunk of Lava? I'm  meeting a fellow next week that is excited about the pigeons. Hallelujah!  Julie

Min was relieved as he never had to talk to her again, so the next morning I did my best to do my morning dog walking and get over there by 8am. This was further complicated by the fact that I had finally made an appointment to give blood that same morning at 9:15.. which I also felt gave me a good excuse to not stay long. It is hard for me to keep appointments with my non-organized life, and I was determined not to let down the Red Cross.

By the time I got there she had everything out for sale. I returned her DVD and poetry which she had put prettily in a folder with mystical symbols on the front, picked especially for us I am sure, to show her worth as a poet.

“How did you like the poems’, she asked.

“Ah good, even though I don’t understand them really. That’s how poetry can be and I have written quite a lot of poetry also, it can be very subjective”, I replied grimly.

Which only set her off… OMG blah blah blah to the blah blah blah squared!

I wanted to talk to her, calmly, but I already had the idea that she was bona fide crazy, nutzo, cuckoo, at the very least, but I also pulled out my hidden agenda.. I wanted to find out how she survived to go on like this, condemning everything, everyone, everywhere, not realizing that she alienated, abdicated, abjured even the bravest among us that could listen to her, without ever having input. I secretly felt that she must have an “inheritance” a “stipend” or a “trust fund” of some kind. The only people that I have ever met that were as delusional, deluded, or demented did HAVE some kind of something somehow, somewhere putting money in the bank for them.

About this time the gate opens and in comes this beautiful Indian, with long black hair down to his waist and big pearly white teeth that were his own. I can tell. He appeared to be about my age, middle 50’s to early 60’s, and was with the very skinny, very plain, very white woman, who very obviously “with him” as she picked out treasures and they discussed money. I stood by, interested, but also gazing around at the treasure trove of trapclap in the small yard around me.

The two Buddha lights were set aside, and she had not given me the price. She had also set out a game that was oriented around marijuana that she said was for me, as well as a blue tie-dyed dress that you would buy in Mexico or Bali, that she said was just my size. I began to accumulate things and had my eye on another lamp that was in the shape of a brain. I thought of my friend Alice who was forever buying us brain cactus that promptly died. Julie was going on and on about how “interactive lights” create energy and when you touch them they change. The Indian emoted a fine energy that I felt inclined to touch and he was obviously a shaman. He spotted the Buddha lights and we began to talk

“I collect Buddhas”, he said.

“So do I”, I replied.

“I have one from Korea”, he said.

“I have a traveling Buddha, deep red with a knapsack, big smile, you rub his head before you go out the door, from China”, I smiled to compare teeth.

I did not mention that I had bought it at a Dollar Store for $69, not in China.

I asked him if wanted one of the Buddha interactive lights. They were plastic and looked like they came from Walmart, and she wanted $10 each for them. I wasn’t sure about them and wanted the brain light for Alice, and she also had a cool storm light. And so the bargaining began. I like this kind of stuff! But Julie had lost control and began babbling about how the Buddha lights really needed to be a pair as it raised the energy, blah..

Then he asked her if she would take $8.00 for the brain light instead of $10. I piped up

“I will give you $10 for it”  and then.. “but you can buy it, you wanted it first and I am not trying to buy it out from under you, just saying that if you don’t want it I will buy it for $10.” And Julie gave me a dirty look.

“I’ll flip you for it” he smiled his perfect white teeth.

“OK”, I grinned.

He took a quarter out of his pocket with his beautiful hands and showed me both sides but all I could see were those long, beautiful shaman fingers and then the palm.

“Just so you know it is not a trick”, he said. I looked at him astonished. I did not care, I just wanted to touch him. He was magnetic. And the woman he was with was such a drag, with her tiny little glasses hiding eyes behind a terrible hat with short hair poking out the sides ignoring us completely but I was feeling her cold shoulder.

Then he said to Julie, “here, you flip it” and she took it.

I said to him, “you call” and he closed his shaman eyes and called “tails”

And she flipped it and it came up tails. I could not tell if he was happy or sad, not sure if it was about the money or the light, and then he said,

“Maybe I will trade it for the storm light, is it the same price?”..

I could see Julie’s brain going full on, $$$$ dinging in her eyes as she sprung to it,

“NO, that one is MORE, it is $15.”

Egads, what had I started! Once again I offered the Buddha lights to the shaman who once again politely refused and took the brain light as he and his plain white woman counted their money and laid it across Julie’s hand.

I had to go! the Red Cross was waiting to mine my blood. I assessed my pile and asked her how much and would she take a check?

“No, just CASH” as she pointed her finger into my chest. I hate that! Is that the first time she did it? Did I only just notice it? The energy has shifted and from that point forward everything she said to anyone she was pointing her finger at their chest. EGAGS to the power of ten.

Julie popped into her shack to get paper and pencil so she could make a list of my shit. People began to arrive and I had to leave. She said she would store it inside for my return.. eeek EEEK I had to come back?

“How much money do you have for a deposit?” she asked.

A deposit, she wasn’t kidding. I opened my wallet.

“Twenty dollars” I said, saving a five and a one, in case of emergency, like I always do so I am not flat broke.

“Stop by Trader Joe’s and get a box to move the Buddha’s”, she ordered.

“I will stop at the other house and get a tote” I said, as the control shifted more.

Darkness began to gather over her head, just a little, as the control slipped and the finger came out. Every time she did that finger pointing I thought to myself that thing about three fingers pointing back at you, but did not bother saying it. Especially after things got hotter, literally and figuratively on my return, when it became even harder to get a word in edgewise and she became more frantic in her bumbling bogus blabber.

I left feeling shaky and confused but energized by the shaman and knowing that I was keeping my appointment with the blood bank. I was still not so rattled that I could not handle this, plus I had to go to the cash machine, and I still wanted to see if I could get her to tell me if she was the Oscar Myer heiress, Queen of Rope, or Post-it note Diva?

All went well with the blood bank, however archaic and futuristic it is, my blood is of the valuable type and I feel my civic duty to give, since I can.

On the way back and by the bank I gave a dollar to the man on the hot street corner selling newspapers. There are a lot of homeless people and more and more guys on the streets that I don’t recognize selling newspapers in the triple digit heat. I have given them money, jackets, food, beer and cigarettes. Why not share? And why be judgmental?

Arriving back at her house around noon, she was a sweaty, stinking mess and had a long list of shit for me to buy, picked out by her mostly. I had a growing fear that a lot of stuff had been pulled from the dumpsters, but honestly, I just wanted to go home, but first.. the problem of my curiosity.

I came in the gate with my tote and she was talking to this man, pointing her finger at his chest, and I could not help but hear her as she talked at him..

“It is JUST like when Clinton was in office, and he had this PROBLEM with Monica.. what’s her name.. and well, they country needed SO much then but instead they CHOSE to focus on THAT’..

They? Is she not part of this country? I wondered silently.

I could see the poor guy look down, just wanting to get away from her and then he said,

“I hope the next person that moves in here we don’t have the so many problems with”.

Ah Ha! Ah Hem.. maybe there was a reason she smelled so toxic.

The area where she lives in this little shack is right next to the dumpsters is in a community called “casitas”, a common housing for southern Arizona snowbirds that wants something cheap for their extended stay retreat from dread winter climates somewhere else.

“I know these people ONLY by their garbage” she tells me, again with the finger.

“I believe we create our own reality” I say, desperate to finish my thought as she pipes up

“YES, THAT IS TRUE”, she say angry.

“If that is the case how do explain this” I said, sweeping my hand around the area of the community?

“Two and a half years here and there is not ONE person you have anything good to say about?” I asked her nicely.. Quietly, gently..

“If you alienate people it is hard to teach them anything or even set an example, and.. ah..  You have a powerful personality and I just want to say this to you because I have one too, and well, other people have pointed this out to me and as an evolving person it is part of the process don’t you think?” I asked happy to have completed one thought.


I am going to wrap this up here but I do want to list a couple of other things that she said that further convinced me that she is a raving lunatic.

1)      she NEVER gives money to beggars, when I mentioned I had given the guy a dollar when I went to pay her the $90 she racked me up for shit I did not want, and could not find my fiver, thinking I may have given him that by mistake.

“FOR  example” she said, matter of factly, “WHEN I was PACKING water bottles AND fruit for the food bank AND had my arms full this pan handler did not EVEN bother to hold the door for me OR tell me a joke, but wanted money” she explained after saying,

“I am WAY too intimidated to EVEN stop or roll down my window when I see those guys”… WTF?? I thought she was a humanitarian?

2)      We HAD to get the snakes out of our house. Packrats attract snakes and she was scared to death of them. AND she would NEVER live that far out there alone, next to the wash with no other houses around. WE live in the city, folks and anyone that has ever been to that house can tell you it is NOT farmland where we live, and it is not that isolated.

3)      She is really bothered by “moneyed people that do not buy organic” meaning US. I mentioned that Min had a doctorate in BioPhysics and he does not buy into the whole organic thing.. to which she replied, finger pointed at me,

“I KNOW!”, she screamed and launched into a whole thing about supporting the planet, the farmers, the earth, the markets.

4)      She extrapolated at length every time I saw her, a total of four times, about “kindness” and how important it was, how we are a war minded nation and everyone just wants to fight, filled with malevolence, as those three fingers pointed back loudly into her heart.

5)      I got a whole load of information about carpet and how bad it was and that the guy that invented it is now speaking out about the dirty business he created. Not totally, because of the money, which led me to believe she was the carpet heiress.

When I finally asked her how she made a living, somewhere in the mess, she said,

 “well, for ONE thing I do NOT worry about money” to which I replied,

“you must have an inheritance” which stopped her cold.

 She looked at me sideways from her yellow eyes, as if I was privy to private information about her, before she launched into a whole other diatribe about the working class cretins, to which I replied,

“well, somebody has to work” and now she was really riled up.

 “NO THEY DON’T”, she screamed.

6)      her attitude about “privileged slaves, which IS an oxymoron” is further proof to me that she is a privileged mental case, supported by who knows what, but we thankfully dodged a bullet with her in our “intentional community” which we have decided is to scrap.

Did I mention that my reason to her, for us deciding against the intentional community  was because we ourselves did not know what we were going to do, and that it was too hot to think?

And on that note as I left her I told her that Min and I were splitting up and that she was free to pursue him as her next lover, just to pay him back for all this nonsense.

And when I left with my box of junk minus ninety dollar, which I did not try and dicker on, she said, “see ya around the block”. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pinchi Lake

Pinchi Lake
by Rosemary Rains-Crawford

I marked my eighth birthday by our arrival in Prince George, British Columbia after my family’s tortuous trip over bad roads in an old truck packed with all our belongings.  My father’s dream of nirvana had begun with a rather rocky journey, but we were officially “landed immigrants”.  During the next eight months, we moved from shack to shack, often living in the truck for days at a time.  Finally, we settled into a cabin on Pinchi Lake, at the end of the road out of Fort St. James, about 60 miles from the nearest town.

A fair sized town sat on the lake fairly close to our cabin, but it had been abandoned when the mercury mine closed.  After WW II ended and the demand for mercury slowed, the government closed the mine and the town buildings had been gradually giving way as nature reclaimed the area. 

It was like a treasure hunt for my sister and me as we prowled around Pinchi town whenever we got the chance.  Over 1000 people, housed there by the Canadian government during the war had left the detritus of their lives littering the houses and streets.  Molly, who was 10, and I took up the daily treasure hunt through the town as soon as we finished our schoolwork.  Since there were no schools within many miles of Pinchi Lake, we took correspondence courses provided by the British Columbian government.  We worked mostly on our own, quickly reading the instructions and doing the lessons while Mama tended the smaller children, cooked, cleaned and tried to make a home of our leaky cabin.  We did our lessons and helped with housework, but Mama happily released us to explore when she caught a quick nap in the afternoon.

We all longed for a boat to explore the lake.  As we fished from the shore, we could only imagine how much bigger fish we could catch if we could get out on the lake.  We could barely see the other side, and it stretch out as far as we could see to both the north and south of where our cabin sat on the east side of the lake.  An old Indian man came by periodically in his dugout canoe that fascinated us.  He had hollowed out a whole cottonwood tree then carved a prow and burned out the center until it formed a canoe.  The first time he came by, it was a big event for us as we rarely saw anyone outside the family.  We watched anxiously as he made his way up the hill from where he beached the canoe next to our fishing area. 

“Do you want to buy a whitefish?” He asked Mama, holding up two beautiful big fish.  Mama really wanted the fish, but sadly had to say, “I don’t have any money at all to buy a fish”.  

“Will you give me a cup of flour for the fish?”  She didn’t have any flour to spare, but she really could use the fish.  “Okay” she finally said, and went inside to get the flour while he waited patiently and we peeked at him from behind the door.

“Will you trade another fish for a cup of sugar?”  He asked as he gave her one of the fish.

“I guess so.”  Sugar was in scarce supply, but a fish was more useful than the sugar so she gave him a cup of sugar.

“What do you want for another cup of sugar?”  

“I really can’t spare any more sugar.”

“How about jam or jelly or anything like that?” 

She had to send him away with just one cup of sugar and one cup of flour.  Mrs. Bjornstad, the owner of the resort on the lake and the only other resident on the 90-mile lake told Mama later that the Indian was looking for ingredients to make wine.

In scavenging around the town with Daddy, we came across a pile of ship-lap lumber. It had laps on each side where about a half-inch groove from one side of the board fit into the half-inch slot on the other side. Finally, our dream of a boat could come true.  Daddy put us to work hauling the boards one at a time to the cabin.  We never doubted that Daddy could build a boat.  We thought he could do anything, so we became his willing accomplices in both the lumber theft and the boat-building project.   He had even brought some caulking rope and a gallon of tar to Canada with his mill stuff.  He sat down and drew up a plan for a boat.  With his all girl crew, he built a 16’ long and 5’ wide boat to go with one of the few possessions he had brought from the States - a five-horse power outboard motor. 

For the next 3 weeks, we forgot our school lessons and worked on the boat.  Every board had to be caulked to the next one so that it wouldn’t leak. We painted tar over each seam after we finished caulking.  When we found a gallon of bright blue paint in one of the houses we knew it was destined for our boat.  We called the boat “Old Glory”.

When we finished the boat,  we spent every evening on the lake.  When Daddy got home from his job scouting lumber we had dinner prepared and in a basket.  We all climbed into Old Glory and went out fishing. The Canadian summer evenings lasted until nearly midnight.  When the sun started to set it lit up the entire sky and we enjoyed the majestic beauty of the Canadian sunset over the lake for most of our fishing trip.

The five-horse motor gave us a long range and allowed us to explore many miles of the nooks and crannies and small streams on the huge lake.  One day Mr. Bjornstad stopped by. 

“We have a fisherman missing and need to go up lake to look for him”  “Do you think I could exchange motors with you for a couple of days?” he asked.  Motors were extremely rare on that lake in those days and the resort only had three two-horse motors for their clients.

“I can probably spare my five horse for a couple of days,” Daddy said reluctantly, as he really did want to help find the fisherman.  Even though prospects of finding him alive were pretty slim, they needed to make their best effort to find him quickly. 

The next day Mama stayed home with the two babies as the sky to the north had darkened.  Even though we still had sun, the clouds looked threatening. 

“We won’t stay out too long,” Daddy promised as he and Molly, and my five-year old sister, Bonny, and I headed out fishing.

We fished quietly, with the boat rocking gently and all of us absorbed in our thoughts.  We only noticed the weather change when we suddenly got cold.  A fierce wind seemed to come out of nowhere to hit us hard.  We could no longer see our side of the lake as white-capped waves battered us and the gray sky descended all the way to the water line.  Daddy had already turned the boat toward home, but we were many miles away and we could barely move against the wind.  The small motor stuttered as the propeller bounced in and out of the water as the boat lifted with the waves. Still several hundred yards out from the shore, the motor quit entirely. Fortunately, we had reached the long shallow area on our side of the lake.  Daddy jumped from the boat, initially holding on and paddling as hard as he could.  He finally reached a spot where he could touch the bottom, and soon, Molly and I got out and helped push to shore, leaving Bonny in the boat.  We reached shore just when we thought we couldn’t go another step.

Since the lost fisherman was presumed drowned, we worried each time we went out in the boat that we would find his body.  The resort people found the body the next week, which relieved that fear, but the water that we drank from the lake and that we swam in remained a bit suspect for the rest of the time we lived on Pinchi Lake.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Marijuana and Me

Starting today, I'll be posting a short story or essay every week.  I've written a bunch of them myself, but would love to feature stories by others as well.  So until I get stories submitted, I guess I'm stuck with my own.  This one is an essay about my quest for natural pain relief from my arthritic knee and wrist.

Marijuana and Me
by Rosemary Rains-Crawford
            When I was in high school, we spoke in hushed whispers about drug usage.  While most of our parents drank alcohol, and some quite a lot of it, they never considered using marijuana or any other illegal drug.  They didn't even think warning us about it necessary, as it was so unimaginable.  So I managed to pass through my entire childhood, teenage years, and most of my adult life without too much exposure to “weed”.  Ten years after I graduated high school, my younger siblings had a different experience, as by then marijuana was as much a part of their exposure as alcohol was to mine.
            As the years passed, of course I became more aware of marijuana, but I remained firmly opposed to any drug use.  I assumed the term “medical marijuana” was a euphemism used to legitimize marijuana use in people who used it for the head rush it provided.  Even if it did provide medical solutions, smoking something for medical purposes seemed a bit medieval to me.  Alcohol makes me dizzy, an extremely uncomfortable feeling for me, so I have always avoided getting high on anything.
            Fast forward 50 years – my aging body is protesting.  Sometimes pain in my right wrist and my left knee keeps me awake at night.  I control the pain in my wrist most of the time with one or two aspirin, but if I have been doing heavy weeding in my garden, I suffer.  When I mentioned this to my sister, she assured me that marijuana was the safest and most effective medicine for pain.
            “But I can’t bear the thought of smoking anything!”
            “There are lots of ways to take it without smoking it.”
            This was news to me.  I had heard of brownies, but that didn’t exactly sound like a medication so it hadn’t even occurred to me.  “You mean brownies?” I asked incredulously.
            “Not just brownies – they have capsules, topical creams, and all kinds of food you can bake it into.”
            “I like the sound of topical creams if they work.  Maybe it would be worth a try.”
When I made my first doctor appointment in 15 years for my “Welcome to Medicare” physical shortly thereafter, the doctor I chose assured me that that physical is “kind of a joke”.  WHAT?  No doctor visit to me is “kind of a joke”.  I spent my first few years out of high school working in an Army hospital, so I insisted on blood tests, agreed to the mammogram that he suggested, and while I was at it, had him xray the wrist that had been troubling me a lot that week.  Bottom line, I ended up taking 10 mg a day of Lisiniprol for my newly found high blood pressure, and knowing that my suspicions were correct:  I had arthritis in my wrist.  While he was willing to prescribe any pain medication I might have seen on a TV commercial, he refused outright to prescribe cannabis even though it is legal for medical purposes in the State of Washington. 
“I would prefer a natural remedy to a chemical compound.”
“There is no difference between natural and chemical.  There is nothing magical about being natural, and marijuana is a class 2 drug – meaning it has no medical uses.”
“My sister swears by it and I would like to try it.”
“I won’t prescribe it because it is illegal.”
“But it isn’t illegal if you prescribe it to me.”
“I can’t do that.”
So ended my “welcome to Medicare” physical and my interest in revisiting any doctor.  Still my pain persisted, and sometimes even four aspirin didn’t dull it enough for me to sleep.  Worried about stomach bleeding from aspirin usage, I decided to pursue the cannabis solution a bit more.  I had no idea how to proceed.  I had seen ads in the “Little Nickel” newspaper for “guaranteed license for medical marijuana”.  They sounded so sleazy and addict-oriented that I couldn’t visualize myself calling.  Falling into the hands of a medical marijuana quack seemed as bad as falling into the hands of any other medical person.
“Do you still have contact with your ex-husband?” I asked my sister.  Her ex was a very interesting guy.  One of the last old hippies, his background as a horticulturist had always given us things to discuss as I love plants and always have a large garden.  I had known for many years that his one goal in life was to produce the best bud from the best plants ever cultivated.  I had lost touch with him over the years when he and my sister divorced.  “I would like to see if he can get me a marijuana plant.”
“Yeah, he still lives near you. I am sure he can help you. I think this is his number.”  She gave me a phone number.
When I called, I got a standard message delivered by a monotone female voice:
“The party you called is not currently available.  Please leave a message.”
Not sure what to say as I wasn’t sure if it was the right number or of all the legalities of “legal marijuana”,  “Hi, you may not remember me, but I’m Luna’s sister, and I have a horticulture question for you.”  And left him my number.
A couple of days later, Don returned my call.  “Hi, Rosie, of course I remember you.  What can I help you with?”
“I want to get a marijuana plant.” I blurted out.
“I don’t want to talk about it on the phone, but I may be able to help you.” He said quickly.  But he gave me directions to his farm in northwest Washington and we agreed to meet the next week.
My husband has a Honda Goldwing motorcycle that we ride often in the summer, so we decided a visit to see Don would make a nice ride.  With a minimum of backtracking, we were able to find Don’s farm where he sat in the sun in a rocking chair on his large front porch waiting for us.
“Hi, Don, long time no see.”
“Yeah, good to see you.”
We sat in the other chairs on the porch and proceeded to go through updates on my entire family, his entire family, the weather, politics, etc. for about an hour before I finally asked.  “Can you get us a plant?”
“Well, maybe, but not right away.  I have some cannabis here if you want a smoke.”
WHAT?  First of all, we were riding a motorcycle. We had no interest in getting high, especially when we had a 150-mile trip ahead of us on a motorcycle!
“Gosh, Don, we really don’t smoke at all.” I said gently.  “Our interest in a plant is so we can experiment with making salves and ointments that might help with my arthritic wrist and knee.  How soon can you know if you can get a plant for us?”
“Well, I can call Mickie – he might have a plant.”
He left us sitting on the porch while he went inside and made a few phone calls.
“Well, he doesn’t have a plant, but he can sell you some dried for now and get you a plant later.”
I was ready to abandon the whole project, but Ron knew how much I needed some pain relief at times, so he said, “We can do that.”
“Let me go make another call.”  Don left us again sitting on the porch.
“It is getting kind of late – we are a couple of hours from home and we don’t want to be on the freeway in the dark.” I said worriedly.
“Well, it is better than waiting for a possible plant next month or next year, so let’s just do this for now.”
“Okay.” I said, but began fidgeting while we waited another 15 minutes for Don.
Finally, he came outside and told us, “Mickie only sells in one ounce increments – is that okay?”
My experience with measurements is that an ounce is about a tablespoonful, maybe a little bit more, but it sounded about right, so I quickly said, “That is fine if we can get it pretty soon.  We don’t want to be in rush hour traffic through Bellingham or on the road after dark.”
“No problem – but it is kind of expensive.”
“How expensive?” Ron asked.
“It will be $300.”
Three hundred dollars?!?!?!  I was appalled but before I could protest, Ron said, “That will be fine.” And immediately pulled out his money clip and peeled off three one hundred dollar bills that he gave Don.
“I can meet him right away, but he doesn’t want you to come to his house, so maybe you can follow me and wait somewhere while I meet him?”
“But I do need to make a quick stop on the way and get some hay for the horses – is that okay?”
“Sure.  We will just follow you.”
So we set off in caravan – Don in his big old carryall and Ron and I on the bike.  After a confusing series of turns, Don suddenly pulled into a driveway along a white plastic fence bordering a large pasture with a few horses grazing along the edge.  We followed him until he came to a series of barns.  When he suddenly drove straight into one of the barns, we pulled over in the parking lot of one of the other barns and waited, even though we could no longer see his vehicle.
“Can I help you?”  An angry looking woman in a blue Jeep drove up alongside the bike and looked at us suspiciously.
“We just followed my brother-in-law here so he could pick up a load of hay.  We are taking him out to dinner later, and….” I realized then that I was babbling so I shut up.
“Well, fine, but he should have let us know!”
We waited uncomfortably for another 15 or 20 minutes until Don’s vehicle came out the other side of the barn and approached the road.  We fell in behind him and followed him to his next stop – a gas station in Bellingham, where he pulled up to the pump and began filling his rig. 
“Do you want us to just wait here?” I asked as he finished filling up.
“That would be fine.”
So we sat for about a half hour before we realized that we were a bit conspicuous on our bike just sitting there as people came and went looking at us skeptically.
“Let’s just move to that parking lot,” Ron suggested, pointing to a large vacant warehouse looking building about a half block away.  “We can park behind those trees but still watch for Don to come back.”
After nearly an hour, we were both getting nervous.  “Shouldn’t he be back by now?” I asked tentatively.
“Boy, you would sure think so!”
“It is nearly 5 p.m.  We will be riding in the dark for sure.  Maybe we should just go home and forget this.  By then I was feeling like the biggest drug addict on the face of the earth.
“He already has my $300 and has put most of it into that big land boat of his.” Ron answered reasonably.  Still after another 20 minutes, even he was ready to just head for home, when our phone rang.
“Hey, its me – I am over at the Shop and Save – do you know where that is?”
“It is just around the corner – take a left at the corner by the gas station and just go straight and you will see it as you approach the freeway.”
So at least we were moving toward home, which made both of us happier.  Sure enough, in the parking lot, we spotted Don standing outside his vehicle.  As we rode up, he handed us a grocery bag.  We put it in the trunk of the motorcycle, said goodbye quickly, and headed home.
To our dismay, when we got home and looked in the bag, we found a whole quart zip-lock bag full of marijuana buds.  “Good grief! That has to be a life-time supply, and we are probably well into felony mode!” I observed.
“Well, honey, you can start your experiment now!” Ron said happily.
I froze the bag and started my research. I found that to make brownies, which seemed the easiest for a beginner, I first needed to melt a pound of butter in the crockpot, add a quantity (how much?) of buds, and cook slowly for 24 hours.  Then discard the plant matter and use the butter to replace the oil called out in the brownie recipe.  I tentatively added five buds to the butter.  For the next 24 hours, we anxiously watched the driveway, worrying that anyone might visit, as our entire house smelled of marijuana.
The next day I used the Costco brownie mix to make a batch of brownies, using a third of a cup of my new butter.  Even though my wrist wasn’t bothering me that evening around 5 p.m. when the brownies came out of the oven, I ate at least a full brownie as I cut them into squares and ate the crumbs left in the pan. 
By about 7 p.m., the TV picture seemed to be fading in and out and I felt almost dizzy.  Not entirely like being dizzy – more like being in a trance or something.  I went to bed early, had strange dreams all night, but slept through the night and woke up refreshed.  I was encouraged to continue experimenting when I woke with a feeling of well-being.
That was three years ago.  I have come a long way since with my knowledge of cannabis and its effects on my body and mind.  In the interest of keeping this a short story and not a novel, I will tell of my quest to grow a plant, make salves and ointments, and become legal in the state of Washington in future stories.