Cascade Observations: Sweetness of Winter

It must be February. The candy aisles are turning pink and red, enticing us to purchase sweets for our sweeties. It’s the month when we compose our own statements of affection or ask Hallmark for help in expressing our amorous feelings.

I’ve said “I love you” to the same man for 35 years, and hope to be able to say that for at least 30 more. His affectionate notes are always clever — he’s given me cards made out of Formica and written humorous parodies of popular music. He entertains me, admires me, and supports me. He’s a keeper.

That said, this February I’m also celebrating the brief, sometimes random, encounters with people, events and things that make my life sweeter. Thank you, Valentines!

The folks at Rosauer’s: The whole staff is friendly, but a few folks stand out. Sheila tells me jokes, Gregg always greets me with a big hello, Carlos sings, Carmen shares stories about her kids, and Randy has taught me the difference between a male and a female eggplant. Bet you didn’t know eggplants have gender.

Third grade spelling: I worked as a substitute in Parkdale recently. When asked to answer the question, “Who is the leader of your school?” one girl wrote “The Princeable.” Yes, I have to agree with her. They are able, and they work harder than any royal family member I’ve studied.

Groomed snow shoe trails: How nice to encounter beautifully groomed trails, offered up for free to those of us who strap on snow shoes and head out into Mt. Hood’s majestic woods.

Winter garden carrots: They may be big and a bit hairy, but the carrots nestled in the wet winter garden soil are sublime — sweet and crunchy, and chock full of carotene. Cleaning them is a muddy mess, but worth it.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: In the midst of the media frenzy in Burns, Ore., OPB radio has consistently offered thoughtful, fair and in-depth coverage of the protests. Their reporters interviewed all sides of the issues, and actually listened.

Mints in the ASPIRE office at Hood River Valley High School: Thank goodness for Lisa Robert’s stash of breath mints. Interactions with the students we mentor are much more pleasant and productive — old lady stinky breath does not a relationship make.

Hood River Big Art sculptures: Morning walks to the river are made all that much better by a visit to “The Thinker,” Ralph Trethewey’s whimsical sculpture of a frog, with clever nods to Auguste Rodin and Dobie Gillis. Check out all the wonderful three-dimensional art on view around town.

SMART friends: My friends are intelligent, but these special acquaintances gather with me each week at Mid Valley to read books to young children. Olga is one of the n SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) volunteers. She helps me with my Spanish, and I help her with her English.

Alpenglow: Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are white with snow, but at sunrise and sunset their pink-kissed faces make me swoon.

Baby Frances: I’m not normally a “baby” person; the little ones make me a bit nervous. But Baby Frances has won me over. Her mom and I visit every few weeks. Much of our focus is on the seven-month old, but her focus is on everything, from putting my scarf in her mouth to watching her own feet kick. She’s adorable.

Gorge Magazine: I’ve enjoyed this magazine since its first issue was published. It’s attractive, interesting, and celebrates the place I call home. I shamelessly begged to write for it when I retired from my previous job. Editor Janet Cook is giving me a shot. Complimentary copies of the magazine may be found at businesses around the Gorge.

Little Free Library: I love the miniature house perched on the trunk of a birch tree near May Street School. It’s full of books for sharing. The motto — “Take a book, return a book.”

I’ve been in love with libraries of all sizes since I first became a reader, and the Hood River Library has held a truly special place in my heart for 37 years. In April, they will bring back their inspired event “Hood River Reads.” This year’s book selection (free copies will be available beginning April 17 at the event kick-off) is also the subject of the winning “Compelling Book” short essay contest that I launched last month. Here’s winner Pennie Burns’ essay:

“I didn’t just enjoy ‘Martin Marten’ by Brian Doyle! I savored it, learned from it, reflected on it, and was so sorry when it ended! This is a coming-of-age story, but so very much more. It’s really about love, and love in almost every form that can be imagined. From the youngest of humans and animals, to the elderly humans and animals. And the beauty part is it all takes place on Mt. Hood, or Wy’east, as Doyle correctly calls it.

“Martin is a marten ... when we meet him he is a newborn, being taught the many lessons of survival by his mother. I learned more about martens than I ever thought I would. And elk, fox, birds of all kinds, rivers, meadows, trees, and humans.

“Brian Doyle writes long, Dickensian sentences, but there is nothing artificial about what he says and what his characters do. Everything serves the story well. “

Thanks to all who participated in my contest.

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