I had been at the counter a handful of moments when the postmistress popped around the corner exclaiming, “You’re a fast walker! I thought I’d get to the counter just as you did.” She had seen me coming in along the back way to the Post Office.

My ability to walk fast came from my mother, Anita. She had a long, effortless mile eating stride. As a youngster walking to the store, in the pasture or along the country road, she’d encourage me to take bigger steps, to swing my legs forward so I could keep up with her. None of the small mincing, hip-swaying steps for her. (Though her mother saw to it that she developed into a lady! During  college she was crowned the May Queen – the highest honor coveted by most of the female students.)  She laughed at her ability to walk quickly.

My mother loved walking. Growing up she and her younger brother, Roy, raced the four blocks to the neighborhood tennis courts in Berkley Park to play a few sets before breakfast. Their dad often drove the family into the Colorado Rocky Mountains  in pursuit of  mining and logging towns, hidden lakes, and mountain summits. He’d travel long distances, camera slung over his shoulder in search of  great photos while she and her brothers roamed along with him.

If she had her choice between domestic activities or yard work, she’d chose the yard work in a flash preferring to be outside whether working in the yard, playing tennis, swimming and diving in Berkley Lake or exploring the mountains with the family. As the second daughter, and second to the oldest child she felt overshadowed by her older sister. Bernice seemed to have natural talent for whatever she put her hand to whether it was painting, poetry, photography, sewing, gardening, cooking, teaching or raising a large family.  Anita had a more reserved nature and preferred quiet talks, long rambles, swimming and tennis, playing the violin and writing. Occasionally she’d confess that she often felt inadequate compared to her accomplished sister. Her words would wring my heart for she was a woman who didn’t show affection easily but loved deeply and with great commitment. She was one of the most selfless people I have ever known. Even when she was ill she’d be out helping the shut-in people, taking them groceries and meals or driving them to doctor’s appointments or simply sitting and listening to people who came to her for counsel, prayer and wisdom.

Her lungs had been flooded with gasoline when she was in too big of a hurry and impatient at the slowness of getting the gas to start flowing when she needed to fill her car tank. For some odd reason the tank that was provided where she was a missionary on the Hopi reservation in the late 40’s didn’t have a regular pump and nozzle but she or the other missionary woman always had to siphon it to get it going. She inhaled sharp and long and suddenly was gasping for her life, her lungs drenched in gasoline. They rushed her the long, rough dirt roads to Winslow where she was in critical condition for many days before her strong lungs and body began to heal. Her lungs were scarred for the rest of her life but she didn’t let that stop her from being active and walking. One of my earliest memories is of her standing outside on the back porch early every morning drawing in slow, deep lungfuls of air through her nose then even more slowly expelling it through her pursed mouth exercising her lungs making them stretch, expand and become flexible for the day ahead.

When she was sixty-five she had the opportunity to hike down into Havasupai to spend a week as part of the outreach program at the college where she was a Bible and English teacher. Excited at this incredible opportunity to hike in the remote, jaw-dropping beautiful place at the lower end of the Grand Canyon, but rather daunted at such an undertaking she began a daily walking regime that would put many a younger person to shame. By the time she stood at the top of the rim looking down into the canyon with its steep, switchback descent she was ready to tackle the trail.

She lived towards the south end of Silverton during her last years. Even as the scar tissue in her lungs slowly squeezed off her air capacity she continued to walked the mile into town to buy a few groceries, go to the bank or post office. Her limited lung capacity (about a quarter of normal!) forced her to slow down with age but she still managed to walk faster than many people her age.

Today would have been her 96th birthday. Tears well up and my heart constricts when I think of how much she would have loved her great-grandchildren. She was so gentle, yet firm with little ones – they always felt safe with her.

When we lived on the Navajo reservation she tried to keep ingredients on hand for her delicious stand-by cake recipe for when people would drop in unexpectedly or she’d hear of a need for some food. It’s not scratch but it’s delicious! In honor of her birthday here’s the recipe for

Fast Fixin’ Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease or lay parchment paper in bottom (my favorite method) 9 x 13″ pan.

1 – Box Devil’s Food Cake (or any dark chocolate cake mix)
1 – Box Instant Chocolate Pudding
2 – eggs
1/2 C Vegetable Oil (I use coconut oil or melted butter)
1 1/4 C Water
1 C Chocolate Chips (I often use more)
Caramel Ice cream topping (my addition)

Beat eggs, add the water and oil, mixing well.
Dump in the Cake mix and Pudding mix, gently mix until blended.
Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into greased, or parchment paper lined pan.

Drizzle the caramel topping back and forth across the top.*

Bake about 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

*Mom didn’t use a topping or icing on her cake, instead, when the cake cooled she dusted the top with powdered sugar which made a pretty presentation.
This cake is always a hit at potlucks, birthdays, and the community dinner. Especially with the caramel topping!

And now for a photo of wee Violet whom my mother would have adored with her whole heart.

Winter is refusing to graciously give way to Spring. It has snowed more days since the Spring equinox than almost all winter.   This morning as I walked down Grand View what had been a hardly noticeable mist suddenly to snow! Small wet flakes filled the air. Quickly stashing my spindle in the walking pouch I grabbed my camera.

Looking at swollen creek from the bridge.

Walking Grand View after a long break away is beginning to restore my flagging energy, sorely drained by what seems like a long winter. Walking down to the school and back with Ed was easy. Even out to cemetery hill isn’t much of a challenge but Grand View is a good workout, in both directions.  For two weeks now I’ve been walking up Grand View at least every other day, slowly going farther each time.

The brief snow flurry this morning reminded me of pictures I wanted to share from my walk two weeks ago on March 23rd, two days after the heavy snow storm. These views are from above our small village where Grand View levels out between a Christmas tree farm and grass fields. (I zoomed in for a good picture of each of the mountains. The picture at the bottom will give a better idea of the true perspective without a zoom feature.)

Looking to the East and a bit North is Mt Hood which is in Oregon.

Swinging my gaze northward along the Cascades I’m delighted to see Mt Adams.

Mt Adams is a grand mountain that does not get the respect it deserves. It lies just north of the Columbia River on the backside (East) of the Washington Cascades so it’s not readily seen in the Willamette Valley except from certain locations.

Looking due North, Mt St Helens squats broad and flat-topped. If it were a clear day we could see Mt Rainier in the

distance beyond St Helens’ eastward shoulder. For a number of years, when I was young, we lived in a place where we could see all three mountains. I’d whisper their names over and over almost as a litany while gazing at them.

Turning back to the Cascades directly across from me I zoomed the camera in to see the snow fields in the vast clear-cut areas and am astonished to realize I can see what I assumed at first was the old look-out tower. Looking at it on the computer makes me wonder if it’s a cell tower or something of that nature. It seems too tall and narrow to be the lookout tower. Son will know, he’s been up there many times with his four-wheeler.

And here’s the normal view of this same section of the Cascades.

The days are very busy: tying up the loose ends of bookkeeping and tax filing,  preparing for the spinning workshop I’ll be giving at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival in two weeks, along with regular business responsibilities, practicing the violin for the Resurrection Sunrise service at the Scout Ranch, and best of all, a wee baby to visit and hold whenever possible!
Starting the mornings off with a spindle in hand and a long hill to climb recharges my energy, clears my head and provides a quiet time of connecting with the Creator who provided this wondrous world.

For the past year I’ve been following the blog and silently cheering the efforts of a woman as she’s planned and prepared for a long journey.

For the next couple of days Ellie and her husband are driving across several states to reach the trail-head beginning. Ellie has spent the year conditioning her body and mind for this walk, as well as stash yarn food. She has cooked, then dried mountains of beans and rice. Did you know that dried beans which are cooked and re-dried will rehydrate and cook within minutes? No long soaking and simmering. When you’re tired, wet and chilly, you don’t want to wait for a couple hours for dinner to simmer.

There were days and weeks when she had two dehydrators going at a time drying quantities of meat, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomato paste… to be sealed into individual meal pouches, labeled and stored into marker containers to be delivered at strategic points along the trail. It takes a great deal of food to fuel a hiker through several months of walking.

Her minimalist gear – whew, Ellie knows how to pare down to the bare bones of hiking/camping clothes and gear. And yet, she understands the value of taking along an Irish whistle to bring some comfort and cheer in the evenings. And I’m betting that it’ll bring good camaraderie too. Music is wonderful for unifying strangers. Especially simple folk tunes that most people can relate to. I can scarcely imagine going a few days without some small instrument accompanying me. As some of you may recall, I like to take my fiddle camping. A penny whistle is a much more practical choice. Ellie is an accomplished pianist, guitar player and fiddler, I have no doubt fellow camp-sharers will enjoy her music.

Until last year she used to run marathons so she knows about arduous, physical commitments. Closing in on 58 years, Ellie has been single minded in achieving this venture. Nor is she undertaking it haphazardly. As she’s prepared she’s also done much praying. In the past two months she’s had some soul-lifting, heart-filling affirmations that God will walk with her.  Afterall, how many women are given earplugs during a church service? Just the thing for those nights a snorer might be sharing an Adirondack cabin? Or what about the hymn that had been going through her mind for the past several weeks and without saying a word to anyone (after noting it was not in the hymnbook), on her very last Sunday before heading out, the words are in the bulletin and the song is sung. The sermon about God lighting the way on the trail ahead.  Benedictions.

I wish I could be there when she steps onto the trail head bright and early April 1st, and accompany her the entire journey. In my heart I will, as will many other friends who will be cheering her on. In one hand will be her stout walking stick carved with names of friends who will be supporting and praying for her.  Her husband will keep things going while she’s walking and sending her supplies as needed. This Wednesday Ellie will begin traversing the mountainous length of the  Appalachian Trail, walking solo from Georgia all the way to Maine! Godspeed, Ellie!     Ellie’s Journeys

Across the hills

Across the hills
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