Monday, June 30, 2008

The wettest June

This June, the weatherman said, has been the wettest on record for our area. And I believe it. Everything around me is soaked and humid and muddy. Ugh.

According to the newscast, it's rained for 18 days this June, and so far this year has dumped more than 28 inches of water on us. Of course, we have nothing to complain about compared to all those other areas here in Ohio and beyond where there has been severe and tragic flooding. But both my husband and I are rather tired of this gringo version of Macondo.

In our house in the tiny city, the rain has meant a lot of corre corre to prevent a leak that we can't seem to plug up in the basement. It's not a major problem except when the rains become tropical storm-like (which has been the case with the recent storms that have passed by), and then we have a small catarata.

I called a basement water-proofing service and they said they don't deal with those kinds of leaks and that the only thing we could do was caulk the hell out of it and, if that didn't work, pour a new set of concrete stairs outside the house (from where the leak originates). That was helpful (can you hear the sarcasm dripping?).

Here at the little apartment in the woods at my small college on the hill, wetness means more creepy creatures trying to make their home inside my home. Tonight I evicted the fifth or sixth "house centipede," a tiny monster whose looks are pretty awful but which (thankfully) doesn't fly.

Still, I keep my Buddhist pledge, and despite being the bug psycho that I am, I manage to get them into my insect-eviction jar and out of the apartment as soon as I catch them. Recently, I also evicted an insect that looked like a cross between a wasp and a fly, which appeared to be carrying something in its jaws. When I got it into the trusty jar, it dropped its baggage and I saw that it was a dead spider. I felt bad about depriving it of its hard-won meal but it shouldn't have thought about making a life here in my apartment in the first place.

So far I haven't had to kill anything but that doesn't mean I won't. There was a huge (about an inch and a half big) mosquito-looking thing (except it was brown, not black) flying around a few nights ago and I chased it with the escoba until I lost it. I found it a few days later cowering on one of the legs of the kitchen table and, deciding to spare it, got it into my trusty jar and out of the apartment.

It's been hard keeping to my Buddhist creed, especially when every morning some type of spider falls on my head when I open the back or the front doors. The feeling of having something alive and multi-limbed scrambling around in my curly hair is pretty disgusting so you can imagine my alarm each and every morning this happens. I'm guessing the spiders (mostly "Daddy Longlegs") are seeking refuge from the wetness and are going to the top of the door frames for warmth.

I'm sure hoping this wet spell ends soon and we get some real summer, except I hesitate to wish for that since in Ohio that means we'll go from floods to drought in a matter of minutes. Like Toni Morrison says, seasons in Ohio are "theatrical." Each one is decidedly a prima donna.

This is the last week of the summer program and the weatherman is forecasting rain again for the weekend. I hope July doesn't become a carbon copy of June, and that summer finally decides to grace us with its presence.

(Tonight I have the heat on -- yes, the heat -- because the temperature is expected to plummet to the low 50s).

Sigh. That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


The Ruster Buster is doing fine, gracias a Dios, sans his bolitas bolitas. The surgery went well earlier this week and on Tuesday my husband brought the two old mutts to rejoin me in the little apartment in the woods at the small college on the hill. It's been getting back to business as usual since then.

Rusty wasn't very enthusiastic about his walks yesterday but he took to them with a little bit of his usual glee today, tail wagging high in the air, a grin on his old, graying face, and a bit of a bounce on his step. He seems somewhat mellower and a little less cranky than he was before being neutered, but that may still be that he's recovering from having been completely doped up before and during the surgery.

Still, a friend was telling me today how her dog completely changed after he was snipped. That he became more affectionate and lost all his aggressiveness. I'm going to feel real stupid if this dog becomes more normal after he's been neutered since we could've (and should've) done this more than a decade ago. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I'm nearing the end of the second week of my blitzkrieg not-a-second-to-spare summer program and, while I'm having a lot of fun with the students and my team teacher (who turned a very young 40 yesterday), I'm always playing catch-up. I didn't much enjoy that part of it last year, and it's been no different this time around since it means that almost every minute of my day, from the moment I awake at 6:20 a.m. to the time the dogs and I retire around 11 p.m. is taken up with something that must get done. Don't get me wrong, there are lulls here and there (like right now), and in the end, the experience is totally worth it, of course. And I'm even a little ashamed of whining since that's the way many people (especially those with children) live their lives.

But I'm totally looking forward, after next week is over, to the break that July will bring. Then there will be not only no dissertation, but also no teaching and no doing much of anything important or relevant, except spending time with my husband, my kitties and my old mutts. And finally starting on the new translation of War and Peace! Time will stretch ahead of me, open and pliable, like it hasn't been since we moved here seven years ago.

Shortly before I left my office today, after another full day of teaching and office hours and planning and grading, I was told that a letter on college letterhead is on its way, confirming me as Assistant Professor of English. I almost feel like pinching myself because I worked so long and so hard for this, and when it's finally here it somehow doesn't feel real. Oh, but it is. And that's the funnest part of it all.

As this day comes to a close, the Ruster Buster is snoozing placidly on the living room rug, while Geni snores loudly in the kitchen. A storm has just moved through and the rumbles of thunder are distant and quiet enough that they don't disturb the dogs or me. The pat-pat-pat of the rain outside is soothing. All is tranquilo with my loved ones, human and furry ones alike, gracias a Dios. All is tranquilo in my little world tonight, thanks be to God.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rains and storms

Today I watched a squirrel use its tail as an umbrella. The driving rain from an incoming storm was pelting it so hard that it squinted its onyx beads of eyes, but it didn't stop eating.

The winds whipped and disheveled it, but it didn't stop eating. This was one purposeful squirrel and I spent a few minutes sitting in our dining room, watching it relish the seed I'd put out on the deck after I noticed that it seemed to be frantically searching for food, even between the floorboards.

Last night, the dogs and I came up to our house in the little city after a long day first of teaching and then of attending the Festival Latino with the students and program colleagues. My husband and I have gone in previous years and I've always enjoyed beelining it to the Puerto Rican kiosk to feed my eternal hunger for alcapurrias, pastelillos, and tostones. I rarely eat those even when I'm in Puerto Rico, so the festival provides a once-a-year reason to break my otherwise strict dietary rules.

This year, however, to the dismay and opposition of Latin@ leaders in Ohio, organizers decided to downsize the festival and charge $1 for admission. The 20 or so booths of food, which used to include Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Salvadorean and even Spanish fare (there used to be these fabulous churros), were drastically pared down to only four. When we finally made it into the reduced area allocated to the festival, which was already overflowing with people, the lines in front of the food kiosks were 50-bodies long.

My poor husband, who's a vegetarian, had to content himself with a $5 fruit cup that included half a lime he wasn't sure what to do with and some mango slices that looked quite unripe. I spent almost $20 for my coveted alcapurrias, pastelillos and tostones and for some mango/lemon Italian ice. Not the most balanced of meals, I know, and I'll have to workout hard next week to undo the caloric damage I did in one evening.

When I asked one of the program coordinators today whether she'd enjoyed herself at the festival, she said that by the time they made it through the line to get food from one kiosk, the Health Department shut it down. They apparently told the kiosk owners that they either had to stop preparing one of the items they were serving or shut down and the owners opted for the latter. I guess you don't mess around with the Health Department.

"Which kiosk was that?" I asked, with a premonition.

"You're going to be upset," she said.

"The Puerto Rican kiosk!" I guessed.

I didn't get sick from what I ate (everything seemed to be cooked just right, as it has been in past years at the exact same kiosk) but I was not surprised about what happened since this festival was a total disappointment. Some of the students, who didn't get a chance to buy any food at the festival, had to stop at a fast-food place to get something to eat before returning to the small college on the hill.

What a letdown, indeed. I had talked it all up to the students and to everyone who hadn't been there before, so I ended up feeling rather foolish. Still, almost any excuse to be around a huge crowd of Latin@s in this barren Latin@-less state is a good one in my book, so I'm glad we supported it.

Tomorrow, I go back to the small college on the hill sans the dogs, because Rusty is getting neutered (after 14 years of "intactness"!) on Monday. He's developed a hard-to-cure prostate infection, which might require eventual surgery and rather than taking him repeatedly to the vet, which is traumatic for him each and every time, we opted to do what might ultimately turn out to be the necessary treatment to cure the infection: neutering. We should've done it before, I know, and I hope that even at this late date it will help calm down his anxious-aggressive nature.

Still, I'm worried that because he's such an old dog he might not survive the surgery so I'm going to pray and hope for the best. The old viejolo is my most faithful peludo partner so I'll pray hard that all will go well and that, later that day, I'll be able to come down to get him and Geni, and take them back with me to our little apartment in the woods at the small college on the hill. Once there, I hope they'll each go to their favorite bed and snooze happily away, as they do each and every day we're there.

Like that squirrel I saw today, my plan for Monday is to squint against the driving rain and pretend that the storm isn't raging around me while I do what I have to do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Isn't it ironic?

There is a certain irony, a colleague remarked today, in the fact that while I got a Ph.D. partly so that my teaching schedule wasn't as grueling as when I taught high school, my first teaching job after the doctorate has me teaching, at least for these next three weeks, an exhausting 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule every single weekday (except Fridays, when I don't hold office hours in the afternoon).

Although my team teacher and I end the day con la lengua por fuera, as we say in Puerto Rico, we're both equally pleased because we have a great group of students, and each day has gone by quickly and rewardingly.

While I wasn't too excited about teaching again since I didn't get much of a break after defending, getting the Monster approved, and thereby becoming Dr. G, the moment I walked into the classroom once more, and got my show on the road, I felt como pez en el agua. Teaching is what I was born to do, there's absolutely no doubt about that.

To honor the fact that I've graduated in more ways than one from novice and apprentice to scholar and doctor of letters (well, of philosophy, of which I don't know much, actually), I've decided to wean myself from being such a control-freak this summer and instead of exhausting myself further with prep work for a class I've already taught, and a text (Beloved), which I pretty much know inside and out, I'm making notes on what I think it's important to discuss and letting the energy and the synergy of the classroom (along with what my excellent team teacher contributes) do the trick.

So far, so good. The strategy is working very well and I'm really enjoying the experience, especially since I know that once these three weeks are over I finally get a real break. That's when I'll have more than a month to tackle War and Peace, to watch Oprah and all the movies I've missed, to write a short story that I've been mulling over, and to make plans for fall.

Sometimes ironies are necessary reminders that what we have and what we want are often the very same thing.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Water is a good sign

That's what my wonderful advisor said when I told him that the forecast for the day of the defense called for stormy weather. And while the storms didn't come that day, they did hit yesterday.

In the afternoon, after I'd returned from the university to bask in the realization that I was DONE, all hell broke loose, and I'm hoping it was all a good sign. With winds that seemed to be close to hurricane level, with more than 330 strikes of lighting in less than an hour, the Storm of the Century came our way and it sounded like the sky was going to fall on us.

Thankfully, apart from the rattling of windows every time the thunder thundered and the anxiety of seeing it hail for a few minutes (I have it ingrained in my mind that the synonym for hail is tornado) nothing much happened until there was a sudden sound very much like the Titanic when it sank in the movie. It was like the whale-like whine that an immovable object makes when meeting an irresistible force. And the lights went out.

That was about 7 p.m. and the storm raged on for another hour or so. By the time it was done, my husband walked out and returned to report that the storm had pulled a large tree by its roots in front of a nearby house, and the tree had fallen across the road and on top of someone's parked car. In falling, the tree took down several power lines, and that must've been the sound we heard. Police cars arrived with their red and blue lights blinking, and we were sure that the electric company would follow shortly. But 10:30 p.m. came and there was no sign that we'd have electricity so we went to bed.

Gone were my hopes of spending my first night of DONE parked in front of the TV watching the finale of "Top Chef" and any and every rerun I could find that was mindless.

We awoke around 7 a.m. still without electricity and the electric company trucks didn't arrive until about 10 a.m., by which time we knew that everything in the freezer that was perishable had to be cooked and that most things in the refrigerator were now the same temperature as the inside of the house. When it was all said and done, the electricity came back around noon, just in time for me to rush out to go get my haircut (in honor of my doctorate and of summer, I've had my long hair chopped off short).

When I returned after running a few errands, the electricity was still on but the cable wasn't working. So my hopes of spending the first day after being DONE watching the finale of "Top Chef" and any rerun of anything that looked remotely brainless were also dashed.

Tomorrow, the dogs and I go back to the little apartment in the woods at my small college on the hill for a three-week intensive summer program that I'm co-teaching with a colleague. We meet the students on Sunday so we're getting together tomorrow to finalize the syllabus, etc. The TV at the little apartment in the woods only has basic cable (which means no Bravo) so my hope of catching the "Top Chef" ending will remain only a hope for the foreseeable future.

While I'm looking forward to teaching again, I would've preferred a more mellow two days before going up there. But hopefully the weekend in the woods will be much quieter and more peaceful than these past two days have been here in my little city.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm official!

Well, if I thought the defense was the second hardest part of this process, after writing the Monster, I was wrong. The last two days have seen me sweat the details, but the Monster was finally approved by the graduate school today, so I'm now official, for real.

Of course, doctoral candidates no longer turn in the dissertation as a Word document. No, that would be too darned easy. We have to turn it into a PDF file and then we have to upload it to OhioLink and then we have to wait to have it approved by the graduate school.

Well, out of 349 pages in that dissertation, a grad school official found that I'd spelled out Three, as in, Chapter Three, instead of writing Chapter 3, like the instructions for preparing the document say. Thus, I was told via e-mail this morning that I had to make the correction and resubmit.

That's after having spent about an hour yesterday with my recently PhDed friend, Dr. C, who was kind enough to take time from her packing and getting ready to move, to help me PDF my Monster. And that was after waiting in line for about 20 minutes at the graduate school to turn in the final forms that say I'm official.

But nothing would make me official for real until the Monster received the grad school's stamp of approval, and I had to wait until about 9 this morning to find out that Three was, indeed, the charm.

Thus, I rushed shortly thereafter to the university to work in the department's computer lab to fix the style error and re-PDF the whole darned thing. I only had until tomorrow for the end-of-quarter deadline, and missing that would've meant that I'd have to register and pay about $900-plus to enroll in summer quarter, which is precisely what I'd set out to avoid when I planned the whole dissertation calendar year a year ago. Needless to say, I was a little concerned.

Still, correcting that "mistake" gave me the chance to airbrush it here and there, and make my Monster more presentable, so I got it PDFed again and resubmitted, and after having lunch with my lovely pregnant friend, KG, I checked my Inbox and found an e-mail from the grad school waiting for me with the one word I wanted to see: "Congratulations!"

Now I feel official. Now, like the actual Monster told Victor Frankenstein, I can "Rest, Victor, rest."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The deed is done

Yesterday, my lovely pregnant friend, KG, sent me flowers and so did my wonderful sister-in-law, so I asked my husband to capture them for posterity at the peak of their radiant and loving beauty.

To paraphrase Lady Macbeth, who said it best (though not, in her case, about an auspicious occasion):

"The deed is done, and can't be undone."

I am finally, improbably yet surely, Dr. G.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Path to somewhere

That's the idea that my husband says this photograph, of me looking toward the trail leading into the Redwoods, evokes. And that's exactly the kind of picture I wanted for this post.

So while I like to keep this blog anonymous by purposefully not using names or showing photographs of people, this photo of little me with my back to the camera while the Redwoods loomed ahead and besides me, works surprisingly well.

Tonight, I'm poised, like I was when my husband took that photograph almost a week ago.

Tomorrow, I defend my Monster.

Tomorrow culminates five years of seemingly endless toil toward the Ph.D.

Tomorrow, one trail ends and I immediately set foot on a new one.

Tomorrow is an open threshold, and as such, I have some trepidation about what the process of crossing it will be.

But it will be crossed, like so many others that have come before.

And, si Dios quiere, tomorrow I will finally be Dr. G.

(Well, not officially, since that title isn't bestowed by the university until I graduate in August. But who's keeping score?)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

4th Day - Dateline: Portland

On our last day West we drove all the way from Crescent City, California, to Portland, Oregon. Again, it was a long and tiring drive, but I didn't want to miss Portland, and my husband was keen on taking me to the Multnomah Falls, which are truly spectacular.

If you click on the picture so it fits your screen you can get a sense of the scale of the people in relation to the falls, which are not only impossibly high (although it's only a one-mile walk from the bridge to the top of the falls, which I of course wasn't adventurous enough to embark on) but you might get a sense of the sheer power of the water.

There was a smaller cascade near the bigger one, named Wahkeena Falls, which reminded me of the Wahkeena Nature Preserve right here in Ohio. The website in Ohio explains that Wahkeena is an "Indian" word for "most beautiful," but that's like saying that zafacón is a Latino word for trash can.

While you may know that the word sounds like Spanish, you wouldn't know what group (Puerto Ricans) actually use the word, and which don't (Spaniards, for one, wouldn't immediately recognize what it means since it's reportedly a Puerto Rican-nization of the English words "safety can"). Since not all indigenous groups speak the same language I was left wondering at the linguistic connection between a place so Far Away and my present state of residence.

Before going to the falls, we visited downtown Portland and the famous Powell's Books, where I bought myself I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, which I've been wanting to read forever but hadn't had a chance to, and I bought The Art of Racing in the Rain, which is told from the perspective of a dog, Enzo.

The first book is a retelling by Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials through the voice of Tituba, the black slave who was accused of, and tried for, bewitching the crazy white girls, who claimed the devil walked amongst them.

The second is a totally hokey telling of the life of an aspiring racing-car driver from the perspective of his dog. While the novel is predictable, it is a perfect summer read (made even more perfect after a full year of only dissertation-related readings!) and I found myself weeping at the start and the end of the book not only for the dog, but also because it has the perfect ending (read: happy, celebratory, satisfying, not hard to predict, etc.). While I generally don't sit and read a book cover to cover in one day, the four-hour flight from Oregon to Chicago was the perfect way to read about Enzo's adventures and his insights into human nature y me bebí el libro, so to speak.

Thus, the Oregon-California trip was the perfect punto final to the dissertation fellowship year, and more significantly, to the last five years I've dedicated to this doctorate. The defense is Tuesday and, since returning from the trip last Tuesday I've cleaned up the bibliography (which was in both MLA and Chicago styles!) and fixed some odds and ends (faulty or missing citations) in the final draft. There's no turning back now, the checkered flag is out (to use Enzo's metaphor) and the end of the race is near.

With that end in sight, and to end this last, if rather unfocused, post about Oregon, I wanted to share with you a picture I asked my husband to take, although he wasn't sure why I'd want a photograph of an old piece of driftwood. There were many of these pieces strewn all over the first rocky beach we visited on our very first day in Oregon, and this one in particular captured my imagination.

What if this was the last remaining part of a long-lost ship that sank in the Pacific centuries ago, taking with it not just its cargo and its crew and passengers, but also their stories and their glories and their secrets? What if this is the last witness to so many lives and memories and emotions? A lonely piece of driftwood, perfectly polished by the years of drifting in the tide.

Part of our humanity is almost never knowing what our end will be, when or how it will come. But I think part of our humanity also is learning from those who have come before us, especially those whose stories (like Tituba's and, yes, perhaps even like Enzo's) we either don't have access to, or, worse, have been silenced.

Going to Oregon showed me a little of the many such stories I have yet to know, and for that I'm grateful. Each story that we rescue makes us more human, every piece of driftwood that we give a story to ignites the fires of that collective (if also intimately personal) past that is invariably our present and inevitably our future.

Friday, June 6, 2008

3rd Day - Dateline: California

On the third day of our Due West adventure, we drove in our rented Prius (which was just too darn hard to figure out, if you ask me!), to the Redwood National Forest in Northern California. The drive was long and tiring (about 5 hours), but it was absolutely worth it.

Walking among the Redwoods feels like being in a magical forest, inhabited by sprites and wise old trees. The sheer majestuosidad of these trees, some of which are more than one thousand years old and stand tallest at 300 feet, is almost indescribable. There was a strong sense of sacredness that visited me as I walked among them, as if I was walking among the lost bones of Mastodons.

And while we did not see any magical beings, we did see a very brave chipmunk, who allowed my husband to take this inordinately close shot while he munched away at some yummy piece of something.

Driving very slowly through the forest adds to its enchantment, since sometimes it seems like the space the vehicle must go through is impossibly tight, while the Redwoods look down impassively, towering above the car on either side.

After being left breathless by the Redwoods, we drove up the coast to Crescent City, where we spent the night. After checking in to our very peculiarly decorated inn (there's a statue of one of the Blues Brothers in the foyer, and large statues of dolphins, and ships, and lighthouses, and doll houses all over the lobby), we drove some more and my husband caught this image.

That is the Klamath River, where the Yurok Tribe has preserved the way of fishing for salmon that their ancestors developed generations ago. The Yurok are currently struggling to restore the river, and to protect and rescue the salmon, which are negatively affected by irrigation interests and dams.

In learning a little more about the Yurok, I found out that they believe that the Redwoods are sacred living beings, who stand guard over their sacred places.

This was one of our last views of this beautiful coast. While I'm not much for traveling (I actually hate traveling, although I do like being in new places), I have to say that my memories of our trip to Oregon are as incandescent as the photographs themselves.

It is glorious country, and while it still feels too Far Away, I'm glad my husband proposed that we include the Redwoods and the Northern California coast in our Oregon trip. Tomorrow, our last day in Oregon with a visit to the breathtaking (and very wet) Multnomah Falls.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

2nd Day - Dateline: Oregon

Our second day in Oregon was another full day, thanks to our wonderful hosts. After visiting a Farmer's Market, full of organic fare and interesting sights, including a small group of very hippie-looking people, who danced and sang about the wonders of the Farmer's Market, we went to the Cascades Raptor Center, where one of our hosts works as a volunteer.

There we met Taka, above, a gorgeous Swainson's hawk, who was illegally shot and who, because of a damaged wing, can't live in the wild anymore. Taka, however, is comfortable enough among strangers that he participates in educational programs, and obligingly looked straight into my husband's camera for this great shot.

Curiously, Taka turned around so he could devour his meal (a euthanized mouse) with a little privacy. That's unlike Puck, below (in his cage, before he was brought out), an American Kestrel. Puck, who joined Taka for the educational program, had no qualms about showing us how a raptor eats its prey.

The place is a definite must-see for those of us who love raptors and the people who rescue them. Showing how the Power of One is alive and well, the center was created by one woman who has seen her dream become a major rescue operation in Oregon.

While our kind host would be able to tell which of the three Bald Eagles the center has in residence this would be, I'm not sure if it's the male or one of the two females. Still, regardless of gender (although how cool that in eagles the female is the bigger and badder one!), the eagle is a glorious sight (too bad it's the symbol of U.S. imperialism, of course).

After spending some quality time among the raptors, who are the absolute coolest of birds, we left so we could have lunch at a winery. But this time we went to a wine estate, aptly called King Estate, which looks like something out of a Tuscan landscape.

Not only is the place lovely, but the food was delicious and the wines were exquisite (this was one wine tasting I truly enjoyed because every wine was better than the first). My favorite is their perfect Pinot Gris, and our hosts generously gifted us with a divine Craftman Series Muscat Vine Glacé (a dessert wine) for toasting after my defense (not immediately after, of course, but later that evening).

After the winery, our hosts took us to the University of Oregon for a walk through the lovely campus, and then later that night they hosted a small get-together so we could meet some of their Oregon friends. A fun time was had by all, and I especially enjoyed it when the Latinas there started trading stories about our too-close encounters with bugs. I'm not alone, after all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

1st Day - Dateline: Oregon

During this, my first view from the Oregon coast of the Pacific, as this endless stretch of sea was called by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan (the first European to gaze upon and name it), the ocean lived up to its reputation and was, well, very pacífico-looking.

Our first full day in Oregon (on Friday, May 30) was nothing but pacífico, though. We spent the day with our wonderful hosts who took us to the coast for a day-long trip that included very exciting hiking (well, very exciting for not-your-run-of-the-mill-hiker me) to see tidal pools, rocky beaches, and impressive blow holes. At the tidal pools, we discovered all kinds of living things, like these two cuddly sea stars, creatures I'd never seen before in real life.

Later, on our drive back, we stumbled upon a view point where we could not only see the sea lions and seals basking in the sun (especially with the help of binoculars), but also hear the ruckus they raise with their barks and howls and general merriment. They reminded me of a large family of boricuas out on a picnic.

Also upon our return, our hosts took us to a small winery so we could sample some of the wines Oregon is famous for. I'm a one-wineglass girl, so tasting eight kinds of whites and eight kinds of reds was a little beyond my ability, even if the tasting portions were minimal. But, in true Oregon spirit, I embraced it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and learned a lot about wine in the process.

Another thing Oregon is famous for are its roses, and the winery had some gorgeous rose bushes growing outside its tasting room, including this one, whose most beautiful bloom was just waiting for the sun to peek between the clouds so my husband could snap this flattering picture.

After the winery, we drove by the Umpqua Valley and spotted a few elk, who happen to be related to deer but who have white hindquarters instead of white tails, and are much, much larger. The cutest view was that of three elk, which were lying down in the tall grass. We couldn't get a picture of them so you'll just have to use your imagination for that one. (Later I'll post an earlier photo of elk my husband took during his first trip to Oregon a few years ago...)

Our second day in Oregon was spent with our hosts at a raptor rehabilitation center and at another winery that looks like a Tuscan villa. I'm not exaggerating. You'll see tomorrow. BTW, the awesome photos are my husband's, of course.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Return from Bear Country

I have crossed the continent and lived to tell about it.

I've been in bear and mountain lion country and lived to tell about it, too.

(Truth be told, I didn't see any of those, tG!).

Tonight ends a long, long day of non-stop traveling from Oregon back home to Ohio, and my husband and I are exhausted. But we have wonderful memories and great photos to share.

Going to Oregon, and being there, felt like I was definitely Far Away.

"Far away from what?" my travel-enthusiast husband asked.

"Far from Puerto Rico!" I answered.

"But you don't live in Puerto Rico anymore..." he pointed out.

Still, my measure of what's far is very much still based on my small Caribbean island, which while not my current physical residence is the permanent residence of my soul.

Thus, Oregon felt Far Away, and not necessarily in a bad way, but in an "I'm in the other side of the continent!" way.

More on all that tomorrow and the next day and the next. There's much catching up to be done.

P.S. The Monster was delivered. The defense is June 10.