Clean Dirt


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. 


I spent all but five of my growing-up years in southern Minnesota. The other five were in western Oregon. In both those places, the soil was rich, dark, and fertile.

Even though several years were spent in Minneapolis, it wasn’t a very long drive to get out of the city and into farm country. Most of Minnesota is flat, which of course makes for easier plowing than hilly terrain does.  I have clear memories of the smell of the earth as it was freshly turned in preparation for planting.

It’s a good, clean smell.  Clean dirt?  Yes, for these purposes. The soil was rich and black. It supported wheat, soybeans, peas, beans, and corn that was definitely knee-high by the Fourth of July.  It was also wonderful soil for the many backyard gardens that were cultivated with lots of TLC.  There’s nothing quite like a juicy, fat beefsteak tomato fresh from the garden. Wonderful.

In Oregon, there were also many farms, as well as home gardens.  I think what I especially loved were the berries.  All kinds of berries. Blackberries, red raspberries, blueberries–lots more. They were huge.  Some grew wild; others were cultivated to sell.  Nothing tasted any better than a fat blackberry, still warm from the sun, picked off the bushes we passed on our way to and from the municipal swimming pool.  Sometimes we picked berries for pay. It never took very long to fill a bucket or a box.

My favorite thing in Oregon, though?  Roses!  Roses were everywhere, in every yard, in parks, along the median of some streets–just everywhere.  And then there were the Rose Gardens, where you could wander all day enjoying the sweet aroma, the vibrant colors, and the fat bumblebees that blimped from one blossom to another. They were too lazy to sting.  No need to be afraid.

If you love roses as much as I do, you could die happy wandering the acres of glorious blooms. They came in just about every color you can imagine, and I don’t think we ever  came to the end of these luscious gardens.  Seemed to me they had no end.

Well, I guess I’m finished for today.  It always surprises me just a bit when one word, like soil, can trigger so many happy memories.

Tillamook Burn


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.


Today’s prompt has triggered a memory that goes back  57 years.  I was 12, in the seventh grade. Our class was going to the coast (we lived in Portland, OR) to participate in a massive replanting project.

We were heading to Tillamook County. A series of four major fires over a period of years (1933-1951) had destroyed 350,000 acres of forest on the sides of the northern Oregon Coast Range.  These were terrible fires. The destruction, when I first remember seeing it in 1957, was heartbreaking.  This is an aerial view, taken in 1933. Terrifying.


And when the flames finally died, this is what was left: (taken in 1941)


You can read a more complete history of the reforestation program here.

I’m glad I got to be a very, very small part of it.

The bus ride was joyous–it was a full day out of class, after all, with a bunch of junior high kids who were excited about our destination and the work we would do.  There were hundreds of others who were coming from other schools, and when we got to our designated location, we were greeted by forest rangers who handed out dozens and dozens of little seedling trees.  Our job was to take a clearly marked area and plant these babies. The rangers gave us little spades, showed us how deep, how wide, how to handle the plants, and how far apart (not very!) to space them.

This could have been a picture of kids from my class, but I don’t think it is:


It was extremely well-organized, but it wasn’t a walk in the park! We worked hard that day, and it got pretty hot as the sun rose high in the sky. We were thankful for a breeze that cooled us as we worked.

We broke for lunch.  All of us had a sack lunch, quite common back then for school kids, and the boys were especially hungry.  I remember many of them trying to con us girls out of our sandwiches.

We worked until three.  I have no idea how many trees got planted that day, but I do remember the sense of satisfaction we all had. Also, I remember how quiet it was on the bus  on the way back home. We were worn out.

And here’s a picture of the area today:


I understand that forest fires are one of nature’s ways of creating renewal. Still, it was a privilege to be a part of that renewal process.  So thanks, Wordy, for the memory this morning.

Luck? Or a Guardian Angel?

Day 13 Lucky 13

June 13, 1944. Prompted by the successful Allied Landing in Europe, Germany launched a V1 Flying Bomb attack on England. Luckily, only four of the bombs hit their targets. 

Tell us about a time you were lucky. Or unlucky.


I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but a quick search didn’t turn it up.

I was about 12.  We lived in Portland, Oregon, about two hours from Mt Hood. A landmark in Oregon, Mt. Hood is an extinct volcano. Like most volcanoes, it has fumaroles here and there–holes like tunnels down the side of the mountain that let steam escape in an active volcano.

It was late winter, and the youth group from our church had scheduled an outing to Mt. Hood. We would go sledding, tobogganning, and whatever else we could find to do.  The weather was perfect, and I could hardly wait. Once we got to the lodge, we all rented out gear and headed for the designated slopes.

What great fun we had!  It wasn’t terribly cold, and the snow had just the right amount of water to make it nice and slippery. We flew down, trudged back up, over and over.

I had traded my sled for a short toboggan, and was enjoying lying flat on my stomach as I zoomed down the hillside.

Suddenly, the toboggan stopped. There didn’t seem to be any reason for it, and I peered over the side only to see. . . . .

Nothing.  Nothing but blackness. And I was suddenly terrified.  I screamed bloody murder!

Within moments, there were guys yelling at me, “Don’t move!  Hold still!”  Believe me, I had no desire to move!  I was having visions of falling into that hole forever and ever. The back end of my toboggan seemed stable, but the snow under the front end was crumbling. I’ve never been so scared!

The rest is kind of a blur.  I remember the ski patrol guys lying flat, and inching me sideway off that hole.  I don’t remember if they rigged up any ropes or  other equipment. I do remember that once they had me a good distance from the hole, they  blocked it off and cleared that slope.

 Was I lucky that day?  Some would call it luck, but I knew it was God.  PS2.tif



Vanilla, chocolate, or something else entirely?


(Here’s a P.S on this post. I’ve had some interesting responses to the chocolate bit, so I did some research.  Chocolate lovers, Unite!  There IS a reason we ladies love our chocolate! And smart men know that the way to a woman’s heart is through her chocolate gene 🙂

Chocolate is a food group, you know.  However, since I’ve written about chocolate before, I’m going in a different direction today.  Sorry, chocolate.  You’ll always be my first love, but you have to admit that variety is important.

When I was 10, in 1957, my family moved to Oregon. For the first year, we lived in Milwaukee, which was a delightful suburb of Portland.  I’ll always remember that summer.  It was truly idyllic.

Sometimes, in the evening when things were beginning to cool down, Dad would pile us into the car and drive out to another suburb. I can’t remember the name, but it was another little town that I would have enjoyed living in. He would drive to an ice cream shop that advertised 24 flavors.  That was a remarkable variety way back then!

He always ordered butter brickle.  It was the only ice cream he ever liked, and he enjoyed it for many years.

I don’t remember what Mom liked.  Seems to me she would change it up now and then.  And I don’t remember my sister’s favorite, either.  Maybe she’ll remind me if she reads this.

Me?  I loved lemon custard.  Nothing was so refreshing as the sweet-tart, rich custardy flavor of that ice cream; and I’ve never found anything just like it again. It was so good that I made it last as long as I could, savoring each little lick as if I’d never have another.  Of course, I had to take care of drips, but I could make that cone last most of the way home.

I still love lemon.  My daughter makes the best lemon curd cheesecake.  In fact, it reminds me of my lemon custard ice cream cone. Whenever she asks me what I’d like for a dessert, she knows that’s going to be one of my top choices.

Lemon.  First God created woman; then, to make her deleriously happy He created chocolate.  And finally, to round her out (in every sense of the word 🙂 )  He created lemon custard ice cream.

It’s a wonderful thing.

We’re Moving

(Writing 101, Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You
You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it. For your twist, read your piece aloud, multiple times. Hone that voice of yours!)

I knew in my heart that it was coming, but hope was still alive that somehow that little church in southern Minnesota would vote not to call my dad to be their new pastor. I felt bad about hoping so, because I knew he wanted it. And Mom wanted nothing more than to go back to Minnesota where there were close friends and even some family members.

I had been only 10 when we moved from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon.  We hadn’t lived in any one house long enough for me to become attached, and I was very excited to be living near both the mountains and the ocean. For this midwestern flatlander, that  was a dream come true.

Now I was fifteen. I’d nearly finished my freshman year of high school at one of the biggest schools in the city. I loved it there. I’d made friends and was looking forward to being a sophomore.  I dreamed of being in the choir, and in the drama program. I loved my Spanish class, and wasn’t sure at all that there would be such a class in the little farm town where my folks wanted to take us.

There were other things I loved.  Above all, I loved being near the ocean. It has still never lost its magical appeal for me.  I’ve never gotten over my wonder at the size of these immense bodies of water that circle and nourish our land masses. I loved the rare ocassions when we could watch a storm over the ocean from the safety of a high cliff.

I loved Mt. Hood. Every day, it stood sentinel over the city of Portland and treated us to the majestic view of its snowcapped shoulders and peak.

I loved the roses.  I’d never seen so many roses in one place.  Every spring, the city chose a Rose Princess from among its dozen or so high schools. The lovely winner in that contest got to ride on the official Rose Parade float, along with her court of princesses. It was a major event, and one I would never see again.

The Rose Gardens were wonderful. I never got bored with strolling through the vines, bushes, and trellises overflowing with roses of every imaginable color and size. Such an abundance of beauty and perfume. And I would very likely never see it again.

Jantzen Beach was an amusement park that we enjoyed in the summer.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t as big as it is in my memory. It was a great place for a youth activity or a casual date.  I don’t even know if it’s still there.

The Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet in Portland. We had friends who had a boat, and they took us out on the river often enough that I became almost as entranced by the water there as I was by the ocean. Almost.  River water doesn’t always smell too good near the city.

And, of course, there was my boyfriend.  My first real crush.  I know, I know. I was only 15 (almost) and what did I know about real love?  I knew as much as any 15-year-old could know.  I loved him as much as my age, personality, and experience allowed me to love, and I was heartbroken over leaving him.  I can’t even tell you how awful it was to say goodbye. I was sure there would never be anyone else, and I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life.

So.  The packing up process, one I was very familiar with, began. Lots of stuff got thrown away or given away, and as we pared down our household I said goodbye to some things I knew I would never miss. Still, it was hard. Those years between 10 and 15 include the whole process of emerging from “little girl” to “young woman,”  There were mementos that I struggled with emotionally, things I wanted to keep but knew I would never even look at again, in reality.

And finally, the day came. The church my dad pastored had given us a farewell, lots of hugs and tears and “promise me you’ll write.” I’d said goodbye to my friends at school. We still had six weeks of the school year, and I was dreading having to do it in a new place where friendships were already established, and the other kids had known each other all their lives. But time goes on, and soon we were on the road, heading to a new life and leaving everything I loved behind us.

I thought I would never be happy again.

I was wrong.

The Little House on the Corner

(Writing 101, Day Eleven: Size Matters
Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.)

When I was twelve, I was in seventh grade. That would have been during the two years that we lived in a rented house on Killingsworth Avenue in Portland, Oregon. I remember it as having a brick facade, with a pretty red brick chimney that had darker bricks making the pattern of a huge X about halfway up. I had a crush on a boy in my class who liked to tell me, “X marks the spot!” in describing where I lived.

The house was located in a pleasant residential neighborhood, within walking distance of the school where I attended 7th and 8th grades. It was also within walking distance of the library, so it had two of the most important features for me!  There was a park nearby as well, and grocery shopping was around the corner and down the street about three blocks. In fact, I remember that grocery store being robbed  while I was getting the milk and bread my mom had sent me to purchase, but that’s another story.

This is not a picture of the neighborhood we lived in, but it is from a street nearby. It brings back the feeling of the neighborhood for me.

There was a nice yard. The house was on a corner, and in my memory the front yard was small. The back, however, was big enough to set up a croquet game, and to enjoy the clear air and warm sunshine of a Portland summer day. I think there was a garage, although I’m not completely clear on that.

I remember the interior layout of the house very well. What I don’t remember is how it was painted or papered. I have a vague memory of the furniture, because it followed us from house to house. We moved a lot back then, My mom never complained, that I remember, about the frequent moves, but it must have become tedious. I was happy for her when she finally was able to settle into a house she and Dad lived in for over 20 years.

Back to the inside of our little rented house in Portland.

As you walked in through the front door, you entered the living room. Most of the room was to your right.  I remember windows and priscilla curtains, and the old hide-a-bed sofa that had traveled with us from Minneapolis.  It was showing its age by then, and it seems to me it got a reupholstery job somewhere during that period.

If you turned right  inside the front door, you were in the kitchen.  I liked that kitchen. I remember white octagonal tiles, little ones, for the counter tops. I’d never seen anything quite like that before.  I remember that the kitchen was large enough to accommodate more than one cook, which was a good thing while my sister and I were both learning our way around a stove and refrigerator during those years.  Lots of baking happened in that kitchen, and some really good meals as well.

There was an eating area at one side of the kitchen that looked out onto the street and part of the front yard. I remember a built-in buffet that had a mirror that ran the length of it. At one point, my mom had a parakeet name Mac. He was so much fun. He used to like to entertain himself by strutting up and down the length of that mirror, chirping and showing off the whole way.

As you walked through the kitchen to the sink, which was under a window that looked out over the back yard, you turned right from the sink and went to the basement steps. I remember moving down to the basement during the summer because it was cooler down there; also, it was the only time I didn’t have to share a room with my sister.  It wasn’t really a room, but I seem to remember blankets or curtains strung on wire that sectioned off a large corner of the basement.

Now, going back to the living room, if you walked straight across the room from the front door you would enter the hallway that separated my parents’ room, the bathroom, and Dad’s study from the rest of the house. Memory dims here.  I don’t remember much at all about those rooms.

Just before you would get to the hallway, there was a door on the left, near the piano, that went up to the big bedroom my sister and I shared. It ran the length of the house, probably one of the largest rooms we’d ever had. Seems to me it wasn’t quite finished when we moved in–I have a vague memory of linoleum flooring being laid either just before or just after we got there. We had twin beds, and there was plenty of room for each of us to have our own area far enough from the other that we could enjoy what almost seemed like privacy. We did share a dresser and the closet. I don’t remember if there was a desk, but I do remember sitting on my bed to do homework so maybe there was no desk.

I loved Portland. We lived there for five years, between the years when I was 10 and 15.  I loved the climate. It snowed now and then in the winter, but nothing like the Minnesota winters I was used to. It rained a lot, but we learned to use umbrellas and galoshes. The summers were gorgeous. There could be a rain shower in the morning, but usually the skies were clear and friendly after that. I don’t remember mosquitos. I do remember berry-picking, long lazy summer days, walks in the nearby park with a friend or two from school. It was a different era, one in which we never gave much thought to whether or not a young girl was safe walking back and forth alone the mile or so it took to get to the library.

Those were good years, and that little house on the corner is an important part of the memories I have of my junior high years.