On The Page: Green Housekeeping

I hate a dirty house.

I also hate cleaning. There’s so many other things I’d rather be doing than washing windows, scrubbing sinks, and mopping floors. (My skin also hates traditional cleaning products: if I use standard cleaning chemicals my skin starts peeling, it’s gross and painful.)

Walking through the Ridgway Library, I picked up a copy of Ellen Sandbeck’s Organic Housekeeping (released in paperback as Green Housekeeping). While reading about keeping my house clean isn’t my usual deal, the nesting instinct is kicking in a little bit now that we’re “settled” in one spot.

Green Housekeeping

Sandbeck’s tips for cleaning your house start where all books about cleaning should start: organization. Forrest and I did a whole lot of paring down our stuff before we left Idaho so we have a good jump on not having too much stuff laying around. We’re working on eliminating the “horizontal file system” from our house (unfortunately we got rid of our file cabinet!)

Most excitingly for me, she covers how to clean your house without chemicals. Her cleaning tips rely pretty much exclusively on white vinegar, Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap, Murphy’s oil soap, and hydrogen peroxide. I’m still working to use up my bottle of Seventh Generation disinfecting multi-surface cleaner (which doesn’t appear to irritate my skin) but then I’ll switch over to trying Sandbeck’s cleaning methods. The chapter on clothes washing was also really interesting: she discusses natural detergents, best wash cycles, line drying, natural stain removal, and snow washing.

I’m also interested to try to eliminate paper towels as one of my cleaning tools. A transition to rags may have to wait until we have a working washing machine at home but I’m intrigued!

In short, rather than feeling like I’m a miserable excuse for a housekeeper, this book left me really motivated to try new things. I’m looking forward to slowly incorporating her ideas into my routines. (Actually, I’m not just looking forward to it, I’m embarrassingly excited.) If you’re interested in cleaning more efficiently or cleaning more greenly (or both), this book is worth reading. It’s definitely one I’m going to be keeping around for reference.

On The Page: Born To Run

I’m way behind the curve on this one. When it came out in 2011, Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen started showing up on Amazon as a recommended book for me (and on Goodreads and on friends reading queues) but I just ignored it. A month ago, I finally read it.

born+to+run

After reading, I took to Twitter and talked it over with with several running friends. One of them summed it up perfectly: “Do not read that book near the internet or you will sign up for a 50k and order yourself some Vibram Five Fingers while you’re at it.” It’s true. Despite Vado’s insistence that a traditional road marathon isn’t the same community as in the Ultra world, I still latched on to the idea of running a marathon. As we speak, I’m putting together my projected training and race schedule for the next, oh, year. (You know, amid climbing a few 14ers now that I’m a Colorado resident.)

The whole idea of marathoning, or ultra-marathoning aside, Born To Run was great read for anyone interested in running whether you like 50ks or 5ks. Learning about the Tarahumara, natives of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, was really interesting to me especially after hearing Forrest’s stories of traveling in the region. The way Mcdougall approached the subject through his own struggles with running injuries was also fascinating—the book is incredibly hopeful about our abilities to run long distances, that it is part of our humanity:

“That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle—behold, the Running Man.”

As I was running the other day, this passage came back to me. It’s such simple advice about running:

“‘Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one—you get those three, and you’ll be fast.'”

If you decide to read Born To Run and then sign up for a race, give me a shout…perhaps I’ll join you.

Further reading:

Caballo Blanco’s Last Run: The Micah True Story” by Barry Bearak, New York Times; May 20, 2012.

Colorado’s Most Amazing and Punishing (and Magical) Race” by Christopher Mcdougall, 5280, June 2005.

On The Page: A Bolt From The Blue

When I was hiking with Maryanne and Seth, they recommended that I check out A Bolt From The Blue: The Epic True Story of Danger, Daring, and Heroism at 13,000 Feet. What a great recommendation it was!

A Bolt from the Blue

The book tells the story of a 2003 rescue on Grand Teton. Six climbers attempted the mountain and the party was struck by a bolt of lightning. One climber died immediately but the remaining five climbers needed to be evacuated swiftly before darkness. Fortunately, the Jenny Lake climbing rangers were in charge of the rescue.

Woodlief relates the story of a complicated rescue that could have only been pulled off by some of America’s best high country rescue teams. As someone who has been involved in EMS (and hopes to obtain a wilderness EMT upgrade soon), I was fascinated by how the rangers organized the rescue. The story is absolutely riveting—I finished the book within a day.

If you like stories of the outdoors, adventure, and rescue, A Bolt From the Blue is a great read.

On The Page: Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road

Here, There, Elsewhere

In college I subscribed to the “free” listserv used mostly by faculty and staff; it was mostly things I didn’t need but occasionally a stack of books would come up for grabs. In the spring of my senior year, as I tried to imagine what I would be doing in my future, one of the offerings was River Horse by William Least Heat Moon. I crawled in my bed early one evening and began to devour his story of Nikawa traveling up the Missouri headed for points west. I savored the stories of the people he met and wanted badly to be part of such a trip. River Horse lead me to discover Blue Highways, priming the way, I like to think, for my desire to get out and see the country.

Castle Valley

Least Heat Moon had become one of those authors (like Tim Egan) that I hardly needed to know the subject matter before I was committed to buying anything they might release so when the opportunity to preorder Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road for my Kindle popped up under my Amazon suggestions in November I immediately ordered it.

Here, There, Elsewhere is collection of essays that had appeared in various publications between 1983 and 2011. Each essay has a short introduction in which Least Heat Moon gives us some background into the writing of each piece—often noting the ways in which he has revised the essay to remove the influence of an editor’s lack of belief that American readers may have “much capacity or willingness to think critically, just as they believe their audience will not tolerate a vocabulary beyond the basic five or six thousand words in common usage.”

Three Sisters

Essay topics range from the rise of craft beer (“A Glass of Handmade” written in 1985), his youthful attempt to meet William Faulkner (“A Little Tour in Yoknapatawpha County), “Crossing Kansas,” traveling on foot (“With a Good Stick in Hand”), traveling in Scotland (“Just South of Ultima Thule”), to writing (“Writing PrairyErth”). Normally my response to a book I love is to read it through breathlessly, without stopping. In this case, I was drawn to savoring each piece as its own little treat.

Least Heat Moon’s stories of international travel are interesting to me as are the bits about writing, or beer production but his passages about domestic travel—and more specifically, maps—are what have always drawn me to him. Some of my favorite examples of this from Here, There, Elsewhere:

“To me, a road map is the printed lyrics to a siren’s song where highways and rivers are like stanzas, and the little circles indicating towns are notes—some flat, some sharp, a few off-key. To begin a journey is to hunt for its tune, its melody, its harmonics, and to follow along from stanza to stanza is to hum a route from, say, Waxahatchie to Marfa, Shamokin to Altoona.” (“The Here Within There”)

and this:

“But my book of longings was something else, a Rand McNally with its seeming infinitude of highways, country byroads, parkways, and even something new with an old name: a turnpike four-lands wide running through the mountains of Pennsylvania, the home of the most iconic American travel vehicle ever—the Conestoga wagon.” (“Not Far Out of Tullahoma”)

But this tidbit on active travelers really got me. To be a truly active traveler, to get off the beaten track and really absorb the essence of a place—to walk its streets, poke into its dark corners, and really feel it—is what I hope we’re striving to do all the time:

“About then a few Americans, seeing consequences, began trying to turn themselves from passive tourists back into active travelers who explore the genius of a place, searchers for the quiddity of Owyhee Country or Hell Roaring Creek or the Rosebud Reservation, or an alley in Charleston. And as they headed off down some of the abundant and often vacated miles of American two-lane, those travelers started to uncover living fossils: a village still possessed of its mercantile heart, a diner grinding its own coffee beans, a clam shack so good the kid in the backseat stopped thinking of clams as slimy, a neighborhood tavern with a fellow or two who knew why Peculiar Street was so named, a nineteenth-century inn where one could sleep inside history.” (“Not Far Out of Tullahoma”)

Here, There, Elsewhere is another excellent example of Least Heat Moon’s writing—he writes in long sentences often filled with lists and rambling ideas. It is not a single compelling story which can make the verbose lists and long sentences seem slightly tedious, however, as one settles into the cadence of his words, they seem to roll along with the hum of travel.

Mary's Peak

Wedding, Part 20: Leaving Moab

Wednesday morning we were hoping to be able to climb Mt. Peale (the highest peak in the La Sals) but a fresh blanket of snow had fallen on Thursday and the weather wasn’t looking very promising. Instead, Blaze, Ezra, and Jolleen decided to start their trips back home leaving F and I relaxing on the couch with the History Channel’s series on the Presidents.

After a few hours of this though, F got restless and we decided to pack it up and go to Danette and Kirk’s for dinner. We packed up the van, closed up the rental house, and headed for Moab. Although Danette and Robin didn’t get home until late, it was still fun to have one more chance to catch up before we hit the road.

In the morning, F and Sprocket and I decided to head up into the La Sals. There was snow on the peaks and we felt sort of bad that Sprocket had been cooped up so much so we bailed on climbing Mt. Peale and stuck to hiking around with our pup. The colors were absolutely incredible and the crisp mountain air felt great.

Back in town it only took us a few minutes to make final departure preparations. We were a bit concerned about running into traffic in SLC so I browsed Back of Beyond Books while F dropped off our signed marriage license at the courthouse. Soon, it was time to leave for real. We made pretty good time on our way to Salt Lake, stopping in Green River to pick up a melon.

We decided that we deserved a treat so we hit up a little Indian food restaurant in the city. It tasted so delicious (now I want Indian food…). After dinner, we headed to Ogden to spend the night.

Up early in the morning, we headed north. As we drove through Pocatello, we decided we should go home via Highway 93 instead of the interstate. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), we were so busy discussing something that we missed our exit we intended to take and took a “scenic” route through the potato farms. We were pretty sad that EBR-1 was closed for the season but we stopped in Arco to take Sprocket’s picture with the USS-Hawkbill (aka “The Devil Boat,” SSN-666).

An accidental detour. Adventure!

The drive up US-93 was really pretty and it looked like there was LOTS of exploring to be done on both sides of the highway. I’m sure we’ll be back here, jeep in tow, to explore some more (still haven’t climbed Borah Peak!). In Challis, we stopped at the Ranger Station to see how the fires in the area were going. While we waited at the drive-in at the bowling alley (yes, the drive in at the bowing alley) for our burgers, we decided we weren’t in that big of a rush to get home and we were taking the Morgan Creek/Panther Creek road to Shoup. I mean, it was only Friday afternoon, right? We had the whole weekend ahead of us.

Desert Solitare Favorites

All quotations from Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey.

“A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us—like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness—that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.”

“An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches.”


“A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for Godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches—that is the right and privilege of any free American.”

“No wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original is cutting itself off from it’s origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”

“If man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder were not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernatural. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves, and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of ancient dreams.”

“Feet on earth. Knock on wood. Touch stone. Good luck to all.”

The People You Meet

A couple of years ago, I came to Wallace from Missoula for the 1910 Fire Commemoration. I’m not usually one to worry about getting an author’s signature but since I was there I decided to wait in line to have my copy of The Big Burn signed. While waiting in line, I met Ruth. Ruth and her husband have a cabin up the North Fork and were in town for the festivities. She and I talked about the book and how much we’d both enjoyed the talk. I explained that Forrest and I were hoping to move to the valley and we exchanged contact information. About a month later, we were back in Wallace for my birthday and some job hunting and arranged to meet Ruth and Dave in Kellogg for lunch. That turned out to be the day I got my job here and the day we found the cabin.

Ruth and I have checked in with each other off and on since but haven’t manged to meet up again until last night. She and Dave invited us up to their cabin to join them and their friend Chikako (my best stab at spelling) for dinner. We had the most lovely time. It was wonderful to catch up with them and share stories of our time here in Idaho. We told them about renovating our house, about working on the cabin, and about our future plans.

Our first view of the cabin. (September 14, 2010)

As we talked, I just felt this sense of relief to talk to people who seemed to delight in our ideas and plans. Not to mention, I think I grinned like a fool the whole time we talked with them. It’s not often I get to look at what we’ve accomplished and what we have planned from someone elses point of view.

It’s also not often that we’re treated to such wonderful dinner conversation. The conversation ranged from politics to travel to vehicles to F’s “wisdom.” Chikako (born in Japan) gave us her view on what makes America unique and so full of vitality. We continued the conversation over tea and cake. We wrapped up the evening with promises to stay in touch.

Sometimes I forget how good people are and how much fun I have talking to them. Last night, I remembered.

And on the drive we saw a bald eagle, a moose, ~30 elk, and ~20 deer. So much fun!

On The Page: Travels With Charlie

Being one for travel books, I recently consumed Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck. Published in 1962, the book recounts Steinbeck’s  cross-country journey with his poodle Charlie. While Travels with Charley in Search of America did not supplant Blue Highways as my favorite travel book, I was enamored by some of his thoughts on travel and how it becomes a part of your soul.

The very first paragraph of the book drew me in (and was read aloud to Forrest):

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.

Continue reading “On The Page: Travels With Charlie”

Books!

When Ezra was here last week one of the projects he took on was building me some bookshelves. One of the things I love about old houses is the built in storage nooks. We used the area behind the guest bedroom door and instead of it being wasted space, it’s now home to my book collection!

The collection is much pared down from what it used to be but as I unpacked the books last night I remembered that I have a kick ass collection of awesome books. (The books have been packed away since we found out we were leaving Missoula almost a year ago.) And somehow, just having them and seeing them makes me happy. The shelves still need to be painted, along with all the other trim in the house, but they’re there and they’re being quite useful.

APW & Book Club

I am not engaged.

But I found A Practical Wedding. And it’s kinda been an awesome thing for me.

Aside from the Reclaiming Wife posts being freaking awesome for putting marriage in perspective, see, sometimes, I miss just sitting around and talking with a crew of smart women. I was lucky enough to find such a crew in high school (ohhh The Sisterhood) and there was no shortage of such women at Bates. Being able to recreate that feeling after college has been kind of difficult. It’s the type of thing that I know will come, I just have to keep working at it and, even harder, be a little patient.

Note to self: Get on with the hard work already. Note to reader: If you happen to be reading this and happen to be passing through somewhere near where I might be I’d be more than happy to pour you a glass of wine and we can look out at the mountains and gab.

Connecting with Team Practical via the comments section has been fantastic. (And checking in on blogs like Finding A Wife, We Ski Slow, StofnSarah, and more has been absolutely a delight.) Sometimes I don’t agree with exactly what is said (but if I did it would be so boring!) but the spirit is almost always right on.

And it got even more freaking awesome when I found a group of girls in Missoula with whom I could connect in person. (Yeah, it’s 100 miles away…but that’s part of the deal when you live here…) We met up for the “APW Book Club” to discuss Tara Parker Pope’s For Better.  We talked, ate food, and sipped some awesome strawberry lemonade cocktails. For hours. About everything. I drove away in the absolute best mood.