Happy Birthday, Big Mike!

Gayle, Mike & Me in Sunny AZ

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

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

Jill, Mike & Me… 1961

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

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

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

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

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

My Baby Brother

Peace. Love. Amen.

Serenity Now ~

Twilight Moonrise

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

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

Thank you ~

Peace. Love. Amen.

Skylark ~

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

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

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

I fly like a skylark in the sky.

Peace. Love. Amen.

Someone’s in the Kitchen…

Helen and me at my bridal shower ~ 1977

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

Helen’s climbing rose from Nugget Ranch in Gold Bar

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

Homemade Ice Cream~

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

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

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

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

Peace. Love. Amen.

Gold Digger ~

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

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

Yukon Gold

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

Sparky the Wonder Dog/Potato Digger

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

The Cosmos volunteer to keep watch…

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

The Shadow of her Smile

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

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

Peace. Love. Amen.

Happy Birthday, Mom ~

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

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

Lynda, Mike, Jill & Gayle

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

Lavender Lady

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

~ Great Grandma, Great Grandpa & baby Quinn ~

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

Peace. Love. Amen.

Just Add Wonder ~

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

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

The Babies…

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

Lime Kiln Walk in the Woods

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

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

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

Peace. Love. Amen.

Farm Fresh Memories ~

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” **Thomas Moore

Sheets on the line, snapping in the warm breeze, are one of my very favorite things. It’s barely noon, but I picture myself cozy in my bed tonight, fresh scents of summer, lulling me to sleep. Is there anything as humble as a clothesline? It can be as simple as a length of twine tied between two trees (like we do when we are camping) or as fancy as a collapsible umbrella that you can take in and out according to the weather. I even have one made for apartment dwellers, that fastens to the wall to be attached across a room, then rolls itself back in when not in use.

My grandma had the best clothesline. It was a pulley system from her back porch, a mile (it seemed!) out to an ancient maple tree in the pasture. I can still see her laundry stretched above the yard and across the garden. It truly danced on the wind that whipped up from the river. Helping grandma pull it in the late afternoon never seemed to be a chore. Even as a little kid, I felt the sacredness of those times spent on her farm. Summer days filled with endless hours making trails in tall grass and searching for kittens in the dark interior of the big old barn. My brother and sisters and I couldn’t think of any place we would rather be. We grew up sitting around her round picnic table in the yard, her old transistor radio turned to KWYZ while we played cards or shucked corn or snapped beans.

Upstairs at grandma’s house was a huge bedroom. Even with the low, slanted ceilings, there were enough beds for each of us, including grandma. She tucked us under quilts made from five inch squares cut out of old wool coats and and sewn together with feather stitches in contrasting thread. Beneath their weight we had little choice but to lay still as grandma told stories in the darkened room. I loved how she spun the Mother Goose tales into a long and winding adventure where Little Bo Peep bumped into Little Boy Blue and they worked together to round up their restless flocks. Sometimes they ran into Mary and her lamb, sometimes the Billy Goats Gruff tripped along, telling of the wicked troll that lived under the bridge. We’d drift off the sleep to the soft sound of grandma’s voice and the lonesome whistle as the train lumbered on tracks on the other side of the river. In the morning we would tip toe down the bare wooden stair treads and venture into the kitchen where grandma already had a fire in the trash burner and corn meal mush cooling in the pan.

Isn’t it interesting, how our memories are stirred and pop up as fresh as if it happened yesterday when we allow ourselves the time to ‘just be’? Here I am having quiet afternoon, thinking I am alone in my backyard, when in fact I am sharing the space with my younger self, my siblings, my grandma, not to mention, long gone barn cats. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.” I picture underground springs of memories, that bubble up when the surface is scratched. It’s funny how it works. Here I am, the grandma now, sixty four and counting, but when I think of these old days I am six, or eight, or ten… and for a bit, immersed in the good old days, in my heart I am a child again!

My brother loves to say, ‘those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…’ (or maybe that was Judy Collins), in any case, it is certainly true! We’re busy living and growing up, and then all of a sudden here we are, looking back across the years, wondering where in the world the time went. Today, close your eyes for just a few minutes. Let your mind wander, open the door to the dusty closet where those old times were stuffed so long ago. Pull out a good time and sink into it for a while. I’ve got to go take my clothes off the line…

Peace. Love. Amen.

Empty Nest ~

“I meant to do my work today ~ but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and a butterfly flitted across the field, and all the leaves were calling me. And the wind went sighing over the land, Tossing grasses to and fro, And a rainbow held out it’s shining hand ~ So what could I do but laugh and go?” ** Richard LeGallienne

I meant to do my work today, but the baby swallows called me to the porch. They poke their downy heads out of the round door of their cozy house and chirp loudly as they wait for their mama to swoop in with tasty morsel.

Waiting for lunch…

The babies aren’t bothered by my nosy watch and I keep my distance so I don’t upset the parents. This house has been hanging on my shed for over twenty years, empty of any inhabitants until last year when a swallow family claimed it. The paint has faded and chipped, but they don’t care about that. Is this the same family returned, as the swallows do to San Juan Capistrano? I don’t know and I guess it doesn’t matter, does it? I have enjoyed watching the adults glide across my backyard and zoom into the small opening. Look at the swallow as she swoops and soars. She’s like a tiny orca of the sky. Shiny black back that glistens violet blue in the sun and a smooth white belly… tiny orca! I love hearing the first faint peep, peeps, knowing there are small, featherless hatchlings growing inside. Now, as they are about to fledge, I just can’t leave my porch. In a day or two I will have an empty nest, a quiet house.

Coming soon, room for rent…

That’s the way it goes, isn’t it? We have our young, nourish them and keep them safe until it’s time for them to spread their wings and soar. My kids left their cozy nest for nests of their own and are raising their own fledglings now. I like to think we are connected by a thread as thin and tough as a spiders silk so they can always find their way home. The circle of life is infinite even though our lives are finite. We live and learn and grow as time keeps ticking away. It makes me think of an old Mary Engelbreit card that read, “You’re always the same age inside.” The view is the back of a chubby grandma looking in a mirror reflecting a pretty young woman. I love that image, while I laugh to realize that’s me to a “T”!

I will enjoy these summer visitors and the memories of the warm, breeze will cheer me on cold winter days. The one certainty in this crazy world is that summer will turn to fall, will turn to winter, will turn to spring, and I will watch for new residents as I add another ring to the tree of my life…

Peace. Love. Amen.

Good Times ~

“The return to good times is not wholly a matter of money. There is a prosperity of living which is quite as important as prosperity of the pocketbook. It is not enough to make the best of things as they are. Resignation will get us nowhere. We must build what amounts to a new country. We must revive the ideals of the founders. We must learn the new values of money. It is a time for pioneering ~ to create new security for home and family… We are becoming specialists at living.” *excerpt from Ladies Home Journal/October 1932

As we continue to stay close to home to stay healthy, a few good, old words to ponder…

Peace. Love. Amen.