Monday, September 24, 2007

School's in!

College classes started today in Oregon, and today I started my 'career' as a college teacher. Well, actually, I taught a summer class for PSU a couple of months ago, but I was technically still (according to PSU) a GA when I started, so I'm not counting that.

Today, I dressed up all teacherly and loaded my briefcase and drove to the Clackamas Community College campus and parked and found my way to my new office, which I share with a couple of other adjunct teachers. I taught one class (WR 121-- college composition) at 8 am and a second section of the same class at 11:30: 27 and 26 students, respectively.

After class I went by Fred Meyer and bought a couple of new sweaters and two new pairs of shoes. (Have to have real teacher clothes now.) Then I came home, checked my email, and fell asleep on the couch for two hours!

I'll be teaching at CCC M-W-F mornings, and teaching at PSU on T & Th afternoons. I also am teaching an online class at PSU. It'll be a reasonably sane schedule.

Stretching ahead is an evening of lesson plans and student diagnostic essays. It's a good feeling to be back at it.... and really cool to be teaching at CCC, which is where I started taking classes when I returned to college in the fall of 2007. The English faculty at CCC is wonderful and welcoming. I just know this is going to be great!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the Cusp of the Equinox....

It’s been a busy few weeks!

First of all, most of you probably know that I’ve taken the plunge into digital broadband cable for my computer access. Can I afford it? We’ll find out—I was able to get one of those really cheap for six months deals. Along with that comes six months of cheep channel-zilla digital television for the same six-month period. I don’t really have a lot of time to watch TV, but it’ll be nice to have the channels over the holiday period. So far, I haven’t watched much, because by the time I scroll through the channels to see what’s on, I’m out of time! I will confess to some fondness for BBC-America. Fun to watch those potty-mouth Brits, it is.

I also broke down and bought a cell phone. I got a really cheap plan, so don’t send me photos or text messages, as I am unwilling to pay extra to read them. I am still trying to bond with my phone. I think it’s name is Arthur. Why did I get a phone? Now that I’m teaching for two colleges, as a “real” teacher (rather than as a grad student), I need to be able to get messages, call them if I’m stuck in traffic, etc. So, there you go. Will I ever use my phone while driving? Absolutely not. Too dangerous. Not unless it’s a drop dead emergency. Otherwise, we’ll be leaving the phone off when in the car.

Shocker of the week: Skippers (the seafood chain) has gone out of business. I have many fond memories of dinners there with the kids when they were little, including the one memorable night when a teen-aged Scotty ate 11 fish filets and all the trimmings.

I’ve been busy this week getting ready for the start of fall term on Sept. 24 (i.e., in 2 days!). I’m teaching four classes: two at Portland State and two at Clackamas Community College. At PSU, I’m teaching a section of research paper writing and a special critical reading prep class for students taking graduate exams, like the GRE and MCAT. At CCC I’m teaching two sections of freshman composition. Since the most classes I’ve ever taught at one time before is one, the jump to four is a little scary—especially since I’ve had to write all four classes from scratch. This past week I’ve gotten all of my syllabi copied and my lesson plans ready for week one. One of the classes—the test prep class—is online, so I’ve also had to not only create the materials but build the class. They give you an html format, but you have to arrange and edit everything, etc. Kind of scary but I think it’s all working now.

On the 17th, Bill and I drove over to Redmond for the day. Mom is settled into her apartment and doing well. She seems remarkably cheery about it, which makes me wonder if she at least feels a little more secure being in a place that’s easy to navigate and filled with people who can help her get around. Joe’s been hard at work decorating her digs, and it all looks nice.

Mom is still thin, but she looks better than last time I visited. She even posed for the picture below!

Joe's looking much better, too-- it's amazing what getting sleep will do for you! He's busy getting the house ready to be put on the market.

I will soon be busy selling some of the extra furniture, and her VW Touareg. If anyone is interested in a nearly-new 2005 Touareg for $26 K, let me know! *winks*

Oh—one other big piece of news. I paid off my mortgage! Now that I say that, I don’t even remember what day it was, but it was early this month. Or maybe late last month. For such a big moment, it was surprisingly anticlimactic. It’s great timing though, because I have to begin paying back my students loans, so this will be a big help. Especially since I’m a low paid, part-time, adjunct teacher who has to buy her own medical and dental insurance. But, I’m not complaining. The teaching thing is wonderful, and it’s working out even better than I’d hoped. All is good!

Tomorrow is the fall equinox. For us Pagan people, it’s a time of balance, a time to consider what one has harvested in the past year and what one may need to let go of. Important thoughts to ponder as we face the dark sleep and introspection of winter…. Many blessings, everyone! (And don't forget to balance a couple of eggs....)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mount Rainier Trip; Sept. 14-16, 2007

This past three-day weekend turned into a lovely getaway to Mount Rainier National Park!

Day 1. We left Portland in the morning and reached the park in mid-afternoon. We stayed at the Gateway Inn, a collection of cabins just outside the Longmire entrance to the Park. JUST outside. Literally. Maybe 50 yards or so away.

In this picture--taken on Day 2-- you can see that the cabins were rustic and very clean. Shiny, even.

The decor was a bit... eclectic. See below image in which, if you're careful, you'll find at least 9 different prints, patterns, or styles of decor. We liked it, though-- it added to the charm, and the price was right.

After we got settled, we did some exploring. Here's a gorgeous waterfall just off the road above Longmire. Note the turquoise color of the water, caused by glacial dust and sediment from the glaciers only a mile or two up the mountain:

We headed up to Paradise, hoping for some incredible views of the mountain. It wasn't long before we go our wish! Some people took this photo of us, just below the Paradise road.

The weather was interesting-- down at our cabins, everything was socked in with fog. But as we drove up the mountain, the fog faded and suddenly Mount Ranier loomed before us, lit up with full sun. Very cool.

Here are some views from our first hike, a 1.6 mile, late afternoon climb to a gorgeous waterfall in the upper meadows, just below the snowfields. Thanks to a long, cool spring and a late summer, many wildflowers were still in bloom. That, combined with the autumn colors of huckleberry, maple, and alder made for gorgeousness at every turn:

Right around the time we reached the terminus of our hike, the fog started rolling up the mountain (figure that one out!) and so we started down. Here I am, with the fog in the background and a series of glaciated peaks and arettes that Bill called 'Mordor.'

Here's a view of the trees through the ascending fog....

On our way off the mountain (I was driving), I screeched to a halt when Bill started yelling about maybe spotting a wolverine. What he saw was even cooler: a fox, splendid in black and grey. The little canine sat and watched us for a moment before taking off. It turns out that this was a red fox, showing a startling variation in color. It's the first fox I've ever seen in the wild-- a wonderful moment!

We had dinner at the really funky diner in Elbe, Washington. The diner is located inside a train dining car, with the bar in an adjacent club car. A string of nearby cabooses are a hotel (called the "Hobo Inn.")

Day Two. We drove toward the east side of the park, stopping to see the mountain's reflection in Reflection Lake. Clever name.

We stopped at several falls and streams. In the image below, you can see that this water appears a milky beige; this is because of glacial "flour" in the water.

We drove all the way east to the Ohanapekosh campground, hoping then to head east and drive up to Sunrise, the northweastern visitor center and the highest drivable place in the park. Alas, the torrential rains and flooding from the fall of 2006 had washed out multiple places in the road-- including one 60-foot stretch that fell away to form an 80-foot deep canyon. Needless to say, we had to turn around. Above you can see Xena (Warrior Car) reentering the park through the southeast gate near Ohanapekosh.

After touring around, we stopped at an amazing hairpin turnout that we'd stopped at several years ago when we visited. Bill brewed up a pot of coffee and got out our camping chairs and I laid out a picnic....

... and we enjoyed lunch from what we believe to be the best view of Mount Ranier in the park! Seriously, there's a sheer mountain on one side, a thousand-foot or so drop into Stevens Canyon on the other, and Mt. Rainier filling the sky. What could be better?

Here's a view, looking at the road on the other side of the canyon, and showing two of the major landslides from the winter before:

(And yes, we drove along that road.... Scary....)

After lunch, we drove back up to Paradise-- once again driving into heavy, wet fog, and then breaking through into sunshine. Bill wanted to do some hard hiking (my knee still isn't 100%), so he took off for a quick sprint up the Glacier Vista Trail, while I walked up Alta Vista about 1/2 mile and took some photos:

As I waited for Bill to return from his hike, the fog once again rolled in.

Below is a shot of the Sun, obscured by waves of fog. (Note: never look through a camera lens at the Sun, or for that matter, straight at the Sun! This was safe only because of the dense fog.)

We splurged on dinner at the Longmire National Park Lodge. It was a wonderful meal.

Day 3. We went back to the Longmire Lodge for a small breakfast, that drove up the old Westside Road-- mostly closed by the floods. I was hoping to see a bear. We didn't find any, but we did see a spotted owl, which is considered an "uncommon to rare" bird sighting in the park. So that was cool. (It happened too fast to get a photo.)

We also stopped to take a couple of pictures of the devastation from the 2006 floods. Much of the park's road system and one entire campground were destroyed. Only the work of dedicated crews and a phenomenal outpouring of volunteer effort has seen the park largely rebuilt.

We left before lunch on Sunday and were home by mid-afternoon. A whirlwind trip, and a good one!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Day in the Gorge

Today-- Sept. 9-- Bill, Erin, Scott, Rebecca, and I headed off the the Columbia River Gorge for some sightseeing. The kids were in town for the weekend. It was a sunny, mild day-- perfect for a gorge trip. Although, as we all agreed, there's no such thing as a bad day in the gorge!

Here are the Pookies (with moose) at Women's Forum State Park:

The view from Crown Point. It was very windy-- 30 mph+ winds with higher gusts. Hard to hang onto hats, sunglasses, etc. This picture shows the view looking east down the Columbia River-- the paleness in the river bed is a sand bar. I have never seen the river this low, with so much sandy river bottom exposed.

Latourell Falls:

Erin and Scott wave from the Shepherd's Dell overlook:

Multnomah Falls, the second-highest continuously-flowing waterfalls in the U.S.:

A final stop at Oneonta Gorge, to check the latest work on the reopening of the Oneonta Tunnel blasted through the rock. Once home to automobiles, it's scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2008 as a hiker-biker path.

Last but not least, check this wildlife video:

Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's alive!

I have been meaning to update this blog for a long, long time. My daughter, Erin, is visiting, and today she said that she looked at my blog every day, and was sad to see it not updated.

The guilt trip worked. Here I am! I'm going to give a quick update, and hopefully then get back on track with keeping the blog up and running.

So, on July 21, I spent the entire day reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It arrived via USPS that morning; I read through the day, taking breaks now and then, and finished aorund 11:00 pm. As best I can recall, this is the only time in my life I've ever read a book start-to-finish in a single day. And a 759 page book at that!

As you may recall, the reason I did this was that I was one of the winners of the Portland Oregonian's HP #7 review contest. I had to turn in my review on Wednesday morning, so wanted to get the reading done as fast as I could. It was a great book, and a good experience. Go here to read my review. (Note: the reviews were limited to 300 words, and we weren't allowed to give any key plot points or spoilers. Note also that in its on-line format, the intro and reviews take 8 pages; mine is the last one, and you might want to read the book editor's into on page 1, as well as the other reviews. Fun stuff!)

I taught a summer class from the middle of July to the middle of August-- one of those 4-week kamikaze college composition courses that runs Monday through Thursday for 3 hours each day. Class started at 8 am! We all slogged through, and had a pretty good time in the end. Check the class blog if you're interested; our theme was "travel," and the students posted some pretty interesting images.

On August 2-5, Aaran (Grey School) and I drove up to Lewis and Clark State Park (Washington, near Mt. St. Helens) for the Grey School's Washington Conclave. The weather was lovely and we had a fine time with our wizardly friends! High points included a session on the magick of chocolate, by Kalla, and some incredible energy sessions with Flamekeeper.

Camping among old-growth cedar:

Magick trees....


Lunaris and a BIG tree:

Campfire magick....

the group:

Last year I planted a container "fire garden" on my deck-- one of the requirements for a Grey School class on elemental gardening. This year it resurrected itself! Every plant-- even the annuals-- came back, having overwintered successfully. (Global warming, anyone?) See below:

As if one Conclave wasn't enough, Aaran and I also took in the California Conclave in mid-August. Held at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, this event also featured our very own GSW Headmaster, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. Once again we lucked out with the weather, and camping amongst the ancient trees was incredible.

Below: the Pacific Ocean, just north of Crescent City, CA.

The redwoods!

Making runes (Aaran, Treeotter, and Oberon):

A hike through the "Founders Grove." A dozen of us were inside of a hollow tree, with room for more!

Preparing for ritual:

Oberon directs the campfire (and the fire itself!):

Oberon and I:

The group:

August 23: I officially began my Practicum in Wortcunning in the Grey School. Check my Wortwritings blog to follow my progress. This is my final step in earning a Journeyman's certificate from the GSW. It should take me 2-4 months.

On August 25, we visited Mom at her new digs, Cougar Springs Assisted Living in Redmond, OR. Here are a couple pictures of Mom's new apartment and of her caregiver, Maria.

August 28: A total lunar eclipse, visible start-to-finish on the west coast. I got up at 2 am to watch and stayed up the rest of the night. It was spectacular!

Here's the moon entering totality:

During totality-- blood red!

Emerging from Earth's shadow....

That's it for now, but I'll write more soon. I promise to be a better blogger!