Filleted Trout

August 9, 2020,

Back from Family Camp, this time higher than our usual Trial Lake, at Washington Lake, a little smaller, but with a roomy campground. We had people coming and going–the product of having everyone of driving age. Mike Frame brought his two sons Michael and Matthew and three friends. Eric and Becky brought Addison, Clara, and Jamison as well as Josh and Ammon. Jeremy and Elizabeth came overnight. the mixture kept changing daily. Becky had to work a couple of days, so she left us with taco salad to make the night she was gone

So, as usual, we ate and ate—so much that we had to make a few grocery runs. Always we needed more ice. And Eric fished and fished. He filleted most of them so that when we breaded and fried them, they were nearly boneless. There were various varieties of trout, a few with almost red flesh.

Eric and Becky, to add to our comfort, had erected a large tent with room in it for two large cots topped by foam mattresses. In the daytime, the weather was warm, but at night it cooled enough for us to enjoy our down sleeping bags.  The grandparents were spoiled and we loved it.

It was just camping, but how wonderful it was. Others pitched in, putting up canopies, erecting camping stoves, food storage shelves, carting giant coolers. How casual and carefree—except for Eric and Becky’s constant efforts to provide our food. Addie and I helped. Providing for a lot of people is Eric and Becky’s project and service. They enjoy it. They plan and invite people in our family to come. They do it all openheartedly. Then at the end of the day, Ammon built the fire and Matthew and others played guitar as we sat around splendid campfires.

Our son and his wife are generous and eager to provide a yearly event for the family. In the picture around the table, you will see people you don’t know. Last year’s camping event some different people. The campground hosts are friends and are invited to eat dinner with us. They were given some of the Dutch oven upside-down cake Addie made. They are part of the family after a few years. In fact, when my mother and her three daughters went camping, we didn’t have a large number of people join us, but we always made friends with the camp workers. Later, when Gary and I took our four camping (plus a friend for Eric, at times), it was natural to include others. Our son and his wife have just multiplied the experience (They have 8 children and friends, plus, Eric has always been involved with Scouting, which means he provided himself with equipment to cook for a crowd). It’s a big production.

It looked like a small city. However, on the day we left, with everyone’s help, the tent trailers, canopies, tents, hammock, chairs, coolers galore, and everything else somehow got packed before the eleven o’clock leave time. It’s over for another year. Gary and I have spent a couple of days coming out of high altitude fatigue. What a good time we had. If we had a young helper, we’d try to go out again this year in fall just to see that heartbreaking beauty at the season’s change. But then, although we do have a stove and camping things, I give credit to our son and his wife.  The comfort and wonderful food came from them, and we couldn’t do it without them. We’re looking forward to next year. PMA

Washington Lake 2020

Comfort

July 26, 2020

Six feet away helps prevent our transmitting diseases. Distance is also, according to, experts, adding to our stress. We have been taught to shake hands. We hug people we feel affection for even if they are not related. We enjoy being in crowded places for dances, sports event s, entertainment, religious communion. We have learned to bump elbows to deal with people at risk. We are not meeting each other with face-to-face ceremonies of various types anymore. Now we put masks on to avoid spreading/breathing germs.

However, people suffer from lack of human touch. An infamous experiment reportedly conducted by King Frederick had infants gathered into a place where they received food and diapering enough to keep them from disease. But the caregivers were not allowed to rub, hug, speak, smile, or interact with them. Frederick wanted to know what language children would speak if they were taught none. All of them died. Such experiments have been done since: Rhesus monkey infants were fed by devices that provided formula side by side with another device that was resilient and soft. They used the wire feeder only for food. They always chose to nestle with the soft device even though it put forth nothing.

Babies need physical care to develop.  But adults need physical sensations of care just about as much. In fact, Gary read a few months ago that a hug, to do any real good, must be engaged in for eight seconds. Now we kind of joke, at times, counting out the seconds, but we have felt the comfort in hugs that allow the nerves to register the process.

It worries me when I think of single people, those isolated by the virus.  My son and daughter-in-law took us to dinner at a restaurant we entered masked. We were seated six feet from other customers. We removed our masks to eat. We enjoyed getting out of the home. We enjoyed having our family members near in a social situation. At the end of the evening, we went home masked in the car and Eric gave me a quick sideways hug before we went into out house. That was the best part! 

Mindy showed me how to give a masked hug by putting our masked heads facing away from each other and giving arm hugs. That felt good too. Well, I’m going to go downstairs and get an 8-second hug from Gary.  It will be therapeutic and nice. It will help me feel less lonely. I long for hugs from other dear ones. Can hardly wait until all this distancing stuff is over. PMA

Sauce

July 19, 2020

We are benefitting from Eric’s garden. He has permission with two other neighbors to use an acre now utilized only for a large storage garage. He has to pick often because after several years of putting grass clippings as a mulch between rows and plowing it all under each year, the soil is now black, with great tilth. So that means it really produces well. He’s growing green beans, several kinds of summer and winter squash, melons (are cucumbers squash?), several kinds of peppers, same of tomatoes, sweet basil, beets, and probably a couple of other things.  He puts excess out on his front porch for neighbors to select what they’d like.

This year he is growing many tomatoes for salsa, tomato soup, and spaghetti sauce. We have gone to help make the tomato soup the last couple of years. It is liquid gold, absolutely delicious. He grows other fruit and grapes on his home property.

So for dinner tonight, we ate zucchini bread, crookneck squash baked in white sauce, real garden tomatoes (I’m pretty sure they refrigerate grocery store tomatoes, which cuts down on flavor a lot), and salad. Anne eats with us on Sundays, so she complimented me on my bechamel sauce. Yeah, my white sauce: Butter melted on medium heat with flour, allowing the flour to develop flavor, in this case, by becoming golden brown, then adding milk (almond milk for us vegans). I baked the thinly sliced squash and some chopped onion in the sauce with a sprinkling of crumbs. Salt and pepper too. Delicious.

Anne studied at a cooking school, so being complimented by her really made me glow with pleasure. But, honestly, I’ve been making sauces since I cooked for the family by just over age nine when my widowed mother worked to support our family. I don’t even use a recipe. Sometimes I make hard sauce with lemon, sugar, butter and corn starch. Easy as bechamel sauce.

My kids used to take peanut butter sandwiches on homemade whole wheat bread for their lunch at school. Other kids had school lunch or white bread sandwiches. I think mine wished for something else until my single sister Beth brought her four kids to visit. Those kids were in awe at homemade bread. They felt deprived of what our family took for granted.

Most women at that time in our neighborhood cooked and cleaned and reared children. I knew it was a privilege to stay home to work while my husband earned our living. But I didn’t laze out my days. Besides baking all our whole wheat bread, I was the one who gardened and told the kids, “Pull ten weeds apiece to earn your dinner.” I sewed and was a PTA president. I just did the best I could to rear healthy, smart, and good kids, contributing my labor to our family.

All those years, I was making white sauce and thought nothing of it until today Anne raised its status to bechamel sauce. PMA

Travel

July 12, 2020

I got pinched on a bridge in Paris on Bastille Day. I don’t mean arrested, but I was age 21 and pinchable, so in a crowd, I felt that pinch on my bottom. Because we were going to a parade, I hadn’t brought my black umbrella with the four-inch steel tip with me. I never got pinched when I had that with me. That was many years ago. Do strangers still pinch girls in Paris?

I was on a five-week study program to learn French at the Sorbonne. A group of girls from BYU and I stayed at La Fondation des Etats Unis in one part of Paris and took the Metro out to a school building near Fontainebleau for our classes.

Oh the experiences during those five weeks. You may have heard how rude Parisians are, but when I would explain in my imperfect French that I was here in Paris to learn their beautiful language, I had nothing but smiles and help from everyone I met. I went faithfully to class, but the rest of the day was ours when class was out. What an adventure to see opera, ballet and even the Follies Bergère.

How many miles I walked. I wandered the Louvre for hours three times. We found out when the bakery had fresh loaves and bought some to take home. Without butter, those loaves were so delicious, not much was left by the time we arrived.

So much was different. It was long ago, of course, so one of the things I remember was that the public toilets’ paper was, essentially, thin cardboard. In each restroom was a lady who kept it clean. She held out her hand for a tip. This was before euros. The streets were rough cobblestones. The taxis drove without lights on, just parking lights because Paris is “The City of Light.”

undefinedI loved it all. I wanted to see everything I had read about in many books. I walked up the Champs Elysees from the Louvre to the other end beyond the Arc de Triumph. In Pere-Lechaise, the cemetery nearby our housing, I saw Chopin’s grave, the body without the heart which was sent to his homeland, Poland, Warsaw, in a bottle of cognac. How romantic. I adored many churches and museums, usually alone because the other girls wanted to shop and flirt. I thought I’d be in Paris once in my life, so I covered the sites and saw the sights.

Actually, I was in Paris again, with Gary, when we took advantage of a bargain trip at the last minute. We left our kids with other families and went off to tour for nine days without a tour group in France, Switzerland, flying back from England. We had thought that was our last and only foreign travel, but went to China in 2004 and 05 to teach English for a year at a Chinese University. 

Who would have thought that we’d be world travelers? Who would have imagined that a young woman with a widowed mother and in very modest circumstances would have had a bargain European tour available because she’d taken high school French? Who would have thought Gary and I would have to get passports in two weeks for a flight that dropped into our laps? Who could have predicted that we would live in China for a year and spend the holidays touring with other BYU teachers all over China? Somehow, we turned out to be world travelers. Oh, in a modest way, certainly, compared with those with larger incomes. But adventures came to us! And, since travel is supposed to be different, I admit I didn’t really mind being pinched in Paris. PMA

Enough

June 28, 2020,

My new National Geographic came with Mt. Everest as its feature. Clear up there at the top of the world, the glaciers are melting, creating floods and havoc below. Then comes the question, what do we do when the glaciers are melted? The water on the earth stays here, but it quickly runs to the seas where it becomes salt water.

Fortunately, means to desalinate water are at hand. The first method is to boil the water to evaporate minerals out. This is very expensive in many ways because boiling involves heat, most commonly from burning. Yes, solar energy can do this and is doing it. Another method is reverse osmosis, involving membranes that block minerals and impurities, releasing fresh water. Again, expensive. Other means are being tested all over the world because global warming is affecting our fresh water supplies.

Israel is the world’s leader of desalination. About 40% of its drinking water comes from technology that uses the Mediterranean Sea. As with everything, there are drawbacks. What do they do with the brine they extract? Whereas brine produces salt and many other minerals that can be useful, when we think of essentially manufacturing fresh water for the whole world, as atomic power leaves spent poison, there could be astounding mountains of toxic waste.

Why would I be writing about something so far off, so far from present problems? Because the water problem is right now. What is the first step in protection from corona-virus?  Hand washing. Many villages in third-world countries do not have piped or even clean water. Yes, many organizations are providing wells and other clean water access, but right now, some people can’t wash away the germs from their hands, which means diseases of all kinds. I imagine everyone has seen films of little children with sores and infected eyes crawling with flies and other children dying of preventable maladies partially because there is no way to keep people clean.

Although I believe the earth will become a paradise in the Millennium, I also hope that we will soon solve many of earth’s problems through science and through the changes in living that we make. Here in my own town where we have the best of everything and plenty of it, there are still people who will not wear masks in a store. I see people who will parade against police brutality without masking to protect their fellow protesters. I see the President of the USA bunching up with others, and even he’s not wearing a mask.

Today I have carefully turned off the tap to smush soap all over my hands. I have washed them frequently because I can and should. I don’t have covid-19—or, at least, I don’t think so. I’ve been careful with where I go and with whom. To protect Gary and me, I mask when we’re out. That’s also for anyone who might come near me. I’m tired of staying home so much, although we do drive out at times.

Today it’s raining! Water is beautiful and necessary. If there is any point at all in this essay, it is that I am grateful that we have water for toilets, in our pipes, and to grow with. We haven’t means to stop the glacier melt, but can hope technology will be able to provide enough water, enough to share. PMA

Charmers

June 21, 2020

Both Gary and I are orphans. Gary’s discovered his birth parents’ details, but the parents I know are Meda and Bill Allen who adopted him at 3 days old. When Gary speaks of his birth-giver as “mom,” I feel wrong about it. She made a mistake in producing a child she could not, in those days, hope to give a good future to. She gave the baby away, then made her life into something really noteworthy. When she died, she had been quite successful in business and was well respected. But she wasn’t Gary’s mother.

Gary’s birth father was, as far as we know, a charming taxi driver who did not gain much respect in his lifetime. But Gary’s adoptive father was an accomplished pianist, a member of the BPO Elks, a successful businessman, well-liked neighbor, and respected man. When we speak of the birth-father, I prefer the term, “sperm-donor.” When we speak of “Dad,” it’s Bill, the man I knew who always treated me very well.

My father died of a heart weakened by childhood disease. Father of three girls, he was a respected man in business and superb friend. I was eight when he died and I didn’t know a father-figure in my life until my mother met the man, Ferdi, whom she married when her girls were raised. He was honest and very respected. He influenced every aspect of my life over the many years he acted as a father to me.

And my husband Gary became father to our four children. He is respected, well-behaved, and, especially, fun. I have laughed at least once every day I have lived with him, which now is becoming 57 years. Because he charmed me and provided for his family, I got to be a full-time mother until our children were all in school and only part-time after that.

I’m grateful for all of those men. Because Gary must have inherited some of his charm from his sperm-donor, I was a pushover to Gary, the charmer. As was my mother when my father asked her to marry him.  She told me later, “I married him because he made me laugh.”  For both of us, that sense of humor attracted us to a husband, and laughing often through the years is a healthy, pleasant way to live.

Fathers. I have been fortunate in the men who have been in my family life. I am also fortunate in our son Eric who does so much for us. By the way, he also is funny.

Sons-in-law and grandsons-in-law are also blessings. Good men, respected, strong and talented in many ways. These men surely are gifts to me. And the men in my sisters’ lives have also had good qualities. Let’s be honest: Men bring fulfillment, although not always bringing easy times with marriage.

From a female point of view, since I grew up with a mother and three sisters, men have been difficult to understand, not always what we’d want them to be, but we all have lived without penury and we all are mothers. Two of my sisters are widows. One of the best blessings of my life is that my husband Gary still makes me laugh every day, still tells me he loves me, still charms me. Happy Father’s Day to the men I love. They have blessed me. PMA

Turkeys

June 14, 2020

I recently read the letter that was rumored to propose the turkey be the national bird.  What it actually does is compare the turkey to the bald eagle to the eagle’s disparagement.  In those colonial days, turkeys were wild, all dark meat and stringy. Especially in the fall when they had fed on lots of insects and even small creatures, the taste was very strong. Difficult to catch because their dark colors melded with vegetation, they roosted high up in trees at night, and they were smart.

Now we have domesticated turkeys. They have been programmed to be as much white meat as possible, so their breasts are so fat that they can’t fly after they leave adolescence. They are all white so that the pin-feathers that may still exist don’t show on the plucked fowls ready for the oven—or many, many other dishes that now give excellent nutrition as well as mild taste to every nation’s cuisine. What’s more, they are so stupid that they don’t know enough to go to shelter from the rain—if they are raised to encounter anything like grass and natural sunlight. The eggs come from artificially inseminated hens. Hatched under lights and heat, the poults then go into lighted and heated shelters until they are large enough for meat

I haven’t baked a turkey for Thanksgiving for years. Before I stopped, I did it at least once a year, even going so far, one year, as to remove the main bones from underneath an intact skin, then bake it with limbs and wings in place, the breast and abdomen sliced through with a knife. That was a wonder to behold.

But I don’t have Thanksgiving at my house anymore, thanks, mostly, to having Eric and Becky Allen to cook for us—maybe we’ll be able to meet this Thanksgiving without wearing masks. And I’ve chosen to write about turkeys because there is a point to make: It’s not just that, for the ordinary city-dweller, our tables are as far as possible from the living creatures we eat to the point that the plastic-wrapped frozen turkey doesn’t even resemble a bird. In addition, for instance, our corn is all sweet. It used to be said that if humans were going to eat the corn, we should start the kettle boiling before we picked the ears, shuck them immediately, and cook them before the starches made them almost tasteless. Well, I shop in supermarkets. I buy tomatoes in winter, but they can’t taste like real, just-picked ones because they refrigerate tomatoes for shipping, ruining the flavor.

I don’t want to go back to killing, gutting, scalding, and plucking my fowls for eating, but old-timers used to be able to tell you just how good that meat was. We always seem to give something up when we adjust Mother Nature, even though we are now able to feed the world more nutritious, more abundant, more available, more preservable food of all kinds. My aunt used to raise free-range chickens. The yolks were almost red. Now eggs have shells that are harder so there’s less waste in transportation. They even come with trade-mark stickers on them, though how they get hens to do that I can’t figure out.

“It used to be” kind of stuff is easy to remember and, in some cases, to feel something’s left out. Yet with so many of us packed into such large apartment units with such small amounts of earth to use, life has to be industrialized, chemically adjusted, scientifically changed and harvested to feed us all. So we come back to the stupid, yet nutritious turkeys that are packed in freezers to be thawed and baked. We live in a populating world, one where we are thinking seriously about our food, its sources and the future. One choice, ours, is to mostly go for plant-based meals. Science can do wonderful things to augment our available food sources. Yet, smarter than today’s turkeys, we can figure out how to cope with the rain. PMA

If Only . . . .

June 7, 2020

We were warned. Gary has an app that tells when thunderstorms are coming, so besides the weather forecasts, we got a rude e-mail interruption of the closing notes of the Tabernacle Choir. I hurried into my office, looking out my second-story window so I could see this all occur. First, huge splats of bullet-sized drops on the concrete, then thunder, and then, as Gary’s mother used to put it, “All hell broke loose.”

“I ought to cover my green plastic grow boxes,” I thought.  I knew I should protect the very small garden of herbs, tarragon, rosemary, sweet basil and a few vegetables, Armenian cucumbers, tomatoes, greens. But I didn’t. I thought I’d trust to its being June, after all, and unlikely to hail.

I listened as the rain came down, thinking I could still run out with towels if I needed to, but by the time I heard the sleet and it got louder, by the time it bounced on the garage roof, it was too late. I have some ragged roses and holey petunias, not too bad. Out back, when I looked, there were small drifts of sleet in the grow boxes. Nothing was killed back to the ground, really, but there are tiny holes, large tears, and bruises. It didn’t have to be golf-ball-sized hail as some people got. Sleet was enough to sadden my plants and set them back.

If I had only . . . . That’s the refrain I’ve sung to myself throughout my life. I didn’t act on a hunch or soon enough or I didn’t know better. Or whatever. I was too late to avoid sorrow over something, be it children I should have taken better care of or a pet who got lost or money that was misspent or a movie or book I was sorry I had allowed into my mind. It’s hard to undo mistakes.

I know: It’s experience. But I’m not happy about everything I’ve learned the hard way! I am sorry I wasn’t wiser before I learned my lesson. Fortunately, I know that because I have indeed learned, I don’t have to suffer again for it. I don’t have to hate myself because I was young and didn’t yet know. I don’t have to beat my sins out of my soul when I remember what I did wrong. It’s called repentance and it works. It’s called forgiveness and it heals. It’s called grace and it offers hope.

So, my little plants will grow new leaves and put out new flowers, and, in some ways, because they’ve been lightly “pruned,” they will flourish with beauty and goodness. We’ll use the sweet basil to make marvelous pesto. We’ll have giant red sweet peppers, and the tomatoes will give more than we can eat so we’ll give some away.

That’s the way it works: “The things that don’t kill you make you stronger.”  I’ve always wished I could start out stronger and avoid the misery. I hate to be wrong. I don’t want to make mistakes. But I know a lot more since all the trimming and bruising I’ve brought upon myself or that just happened. And knowing is almost always better than ignorance, isn’t it? PMA

Deep Roots

May 31, 2020

Despite staying home so much, the days are passing quickly. Lately we have had unusually hot weather, and all my flowers bloomed at once. It’s as if the plants were turned on, shot their flowers out, and that’s all for a while. In these days of being at

home, my yard is very important to me.  I go out and visit my plants each morning, sticking my finger into the soil to make sure they are getting enough water. Some have come from the nursery such a little while ago that they haven’t yet developed deep roots.

Deep roots are what we all need. We have TV reminders not to water lawns too frequently so that their roots will grow deeper and be less subject to wilt in the heat. Since we live in a desert and rely on the snow in the mountains to be dammed up for us to use in the summer, we have to be careful of our use. I saw a TV commercial about running the dishwasher every day. With a family of two or three, that is not a good idea in Utah. I am still working on getting my hands wet, turning off the faucet, washing with soap, then rinsing with the faucet turned on. With almost record low rainfall in April and May of this year, we all need to use less water.

A friend in California used to put the water he ran to heat it into a bucket and take it out to his garden. There are lots of ways to be careful. It’s one of those little things that show our responsible citizenship.  Picking up after one’s dog, using less of our resources, not rushing the yellow light and stopping before the light goes red, being careful to use the groceries we buy instead of letting them rot so we have to throw them away, smiling at people, thoughtfully sharing the world and its resources, being quick to forgive annoyances that occur—all of these things demonstrate consideration we wish everyone would show.

Nothing is terribly difficult, but these rather simple yet thoughtful ways of living in a civilized way smooth the way for all of us. It’s been difficult, however, to wear a face mask and smile. Maybe we sense the smile behind the mask as the eyes crinkle, although our supermarket has one-way aisles, to avoid meeting face-to-face.

I have nothing profound to say, but write this essay is a record of a historical event, the Pandemic of 2020. So strange to see almost everyone in the store in a mask. And the question I don’t accost the non-mask-wearers with, “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” So strange to have so little traffic, to not be able to go to movie or dine in a restaurant. Unsettling to talk with my doctor on-line, to see our lovely temple on the hill empty, for the most part. To not give or receive hugs as usual. To have gatherings cancelled. To cope with so much, it’s good to have deep roots. PMA