Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Loss of an arm -- though temporary -- prompts grateful thanks and tribute to amputees, paralysis victims

Normally Cookie's playing piano at Montana Jack's this time
of year, but no more  playing until the sling's off and muscles repaired.

Fixing the hair -- a two-handed job -- requires help from Keller now.

Wounded warrior arms herself for battle with the fates; she offers this appreciation for those whose loss is permanent

Sailing is only a dream, with the chance of bumping the sling.
Dancing isn't possible for now,
with a sling on a sprained arm.

ANYONE WHO has lost a limb to disease, injury or accident may find this confessional trite and cliched. I apologize to all of you, if this intended tribute sounds naive or self-pitying.
But after 11 days with my left arm in a sling -- result of a painful and severe sprain -- I have utter respect for all who have lost an arm or leg and have no hope of recov.
I will never view an amputee or quadriplegic, or anyone whose  limb has been rendered permanently useless in the same clueless light.
My impediment is, to borrow from "Monty Python," a mere flesh wound.f

Walking Nick and Nora was fun.  Now it's difficult
and painful with only one arm.
THIS ESSAY  is about arms, not legs, except as I involved them to make up for the temporarily lost limb. I actually used the pruners yesterday with my "good" right arm, and my left leg and knee, even involving my toes.
I'm sure a wounded warrior or car accident survivor could write a parallel for legs.
ALMOST EVERYTHING we do in the course of a day -- from our mundane toiletries and ablutions to cooking, gardening, walking, reading, cleaning, cuddling -- requires both arms fully functioning.
I started a list of the tasks I have had difficulty performing -- routine daily chores, and rituals particular to my life. With only one arm, everything is more complicated. In morning, I struggle with:
* BRUSHING my teeth.  No longer is one hand on the brush and the other on the toothpaste. I can put not even the slightest pressure on a tube.
There are one-handed piano players, but a
saxophone really requires both arms.
Try holding a baby with one arm.
* Putting on my bra. That's a two-hander! Keller to the rescue, although he claims he is far more adept at removing bras!
* Taking a decent shower, washing hair.
* Putting on a pair of earrings, zipping my pants. fixing my hair.
* Stirring oatmeal, holding the breakfast toast to butter it. Unscrewing a new jar of jam.
* Cutting a peach.
* Opening a can of dog food.
* Filling the bird feeders. Using the weed whacker. No dice.
Maneuvering the weed whacker was easy earlier in summer. It's hard now. 
* Watering the flowers and planting petunias -- it's hard to pull apart the roots of six-pack plants without both hands. I used my good arm and my teeth! (Sorry, dear dentist.)
THAT'S JUST to get me to mid-day. Afternoon chores and writing have been radically altered. With one arm, I have trouble with:
* Typing -- I was 160 words a minute with no mistakes. Now I'm hunting and pecking with my right hand like my old time newspaper editors.
* Threading a needle to do some mending. I finally put the needle between my toes to steady it.
Gambling is possible with a single hand, but easier with two!
* Collapsing a step ladder that was in my way.  I held it in place with my hip to fold it up.
* Turning the pages of a book or magazine.
* Changing a light bulb.
* Opening a bottle of wine. (Corkscrew flipped out of my good hand and broke a glass.)
Packing the trunk for an adventure used to be a pleasure! Now, cumbersome. 
* Driving a car, riding a bike, pushing a wheel barrow, playing piano, tuning up my saxophone, folding laundry. Walking the Yorkies.
* Mixing, baking and serving cookies.
* Hoisting a sail as Cap'n Keller gives orders.
* CHANGING the hoses and screwing in the sprinkler, holding a baby or changing her diaper -- difficult if not impossible at this early stage of my "handicap."
*  With my Irish up, I determined to hang a picture and finally did it, pounding in the hook, then straightening the small painting with my nose and shoulder.
I've improvised to my best ability, as all handicapped people learn to do.  Again, humble kudos.
TO EVERY brave soul who has lost the use of a limb, then struggled to regain a "normal life," my fondest salute and admiration. In no way do I compare myself to you.  But next  time I see you crossing an intersection, maneuvering through a grocery store, or queuing up for a movie, I will ask if I can be helpful or provide even small service.
Hats off to all the wounded, injured, recovering.  My lesson is one of thanks that my arm is mending.  I am richer for these weeks of repair and reflection.  My attitude is one of gratitude.

Lisbon's ode to the explorers is a huge marble sculpture paying tribute
to Portugal's discoveries.  It is located in the attractive Belem area.
COMING SOON:  Let us lead you to the wonders of Lisbon, a city we love and think you will, too. Nautical lore and a beautiful port, fashion, food, music, museums and friendly people are part of the appeal.  Come to Portugal with us and remember to keep your sense of fun as you explore, learn and live. We post Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, July 25, 2014

Big Sky bounty: At home on the range in northern Rockies summer


This handsome fellow came across the yard at High Chaparral north of Nye, then scooted across the meadow.

This bear has visited three years in a row.  He has a distinctive ear marking.

THE BEAR came again last night.  I was tidying up the kitchen, enjoying the hummingbird tweets and twitters, when he brushed against the kitchen window.  He pushed on the screen, growled, and I growled back.
Keller prowls the mountains in all seasons for photos.
Then with trembling hands (and one arm in a sling) I closed the glass windows and watched him circle the house, trying each window, trying every opening for a chance to come inside.
Sunflowers are favorites of the birdies and of Cookie, here at High Chaparral.
A friend down the road here in the rural West Fork of the Stillwater River kept a "spill-over" freezer on her closed-in porch for years.  One day she came home and found a bear eating ice cream and cookies.  He'd pawed open the top-fill freezer and helped himself to dessert for 12.
I KNEW why the bear came calling.
The night before, we'd left the garage door open -- accidentally of course -- and he sensibly came in, lured no doubt by the fragrant smells of barbecue on our discarded paper plates.
He tore open the plastic garbage bag, ate a few fragments of paper, then ripped into 40 pounds of grain-free Natural Balance dog food -- the most expensive money can buy. (Nothing's too good for the Yorkies -- or their guests!)
BECAUSE I was the only human in the house, I didn't want to risk the bear's possible intrusion.
"He wouldn't have actually come in the house," my partner chastised later. "Oh, yeah?"
Here in the hinterlands, we have lots of bear stories.  Bears in the kitchen, bears in the bedroom, bears in the basement, bears on the roof. Lions and tigers and, yes, bears! Someone's been sleeping in my bed....
THIS MAMA bear and her yearling feasted, then crept up on the earthen wine cellar and onto the roof, scampering up to our artesian well then into the mountain brush to wherever bears go.
Ranches offer a welcome with this traditional Montana arch.
We've seen lots of other wonderful critters and gorgeous landscapes during our Beartooth times here at High Chaparral.  Family and friends from Ireland and Israel, Norway, California, Georgia, New York and Oregon, treasure their "critter sightings" and cherish the flora and gorgeous scenery. Come enjoy the bounty under the Big Sky, where the deer and the antelope play.
Polish up your whistling or singing style, or hum along to this old family favorite, a beloved cowboy and campfire song.



Cookie, Nick and Nora play where the skies are not cloudy.
Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,
where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

(Chorus after each verse:)
Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Where the air is so pure, and the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home on the range,
For all of the cities so bright.

Twilight and the evening skies are a big attraction in Big Sky country.
How often at night when the heavens are bright,
With the light from the glittering stars,
Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed,
If their glory exceeds that of ours.

Oh, I love these wild flowers in this dear land of ours,
The curlew I love to hear cry,
And I love the white rocks and the antelope flocks,
That graze on the mountain slopes high.

Oh give me a land where the bright diamond sand,
Flows leisurely down in the stream;
Where the graceful white swan goes gliding along,
Like a maid in a heavenly dream.

Then I would not exchange my home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Cookie's nightclub gigs in Montana and California are
temporarily on hold as her left arm and hand heal.
COMING UP:  While our writer hopes to regain use of her  badly damaged left arm and hand, she reflects on the tens of thousands of people who are permanently disabled. Brave amputees and determined quadriplegics have Cookie's earnest respect as she struggles -- albeit only temporarily -- with the daily challenges such an injury provides. A tribute to those whose limb function has been altered by illness or injury, and who improvise and learn to lead normal lives. Cookie is recording the hundreds of things she does with her limbs, and is giving thanks! She hopes in time to be typing again with both hands, but realizes thousands type with a single limb -- or their feet or mouths. This accident has opened her heart and mind..... a good thing. Then she and Keller share photos from recent trips to Lisbon, and the California coast where they sampled oceanfront hotels, and more.  The couple's credo is: have fun, be adventurous, and remember to explore, learn and live.  Check them out Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fall forces writer to take flight and nurse her injured wing


The Absaroka Range is home to many stunning birds, including eagles and hawks.

Several varieties of hummingbirds frolic in Montana, above, San Diego, left.


INJURY to a writer's left arm makes typing tough, so we depart for a few days from our usual commentary, focusing more on photos. Today's piece features Cookie's poem
and a Keller photo essay reflecting his love of birds, from San Diego and southern California to the wilds of south-central Montana.  Cookie's tumble was while filling bird feeders, a fact for which she in no way blames her feathered friends.  Please enjoy.

These happy ducks were photographed in southern California.
This fella is looking for supper at Oceanside Harbor, Calif.

Felled by a sprain on a warm July night,our writer's one handed, a horrible plightfor one driven by nature, and music and words.So our Cookie's decided to share with you birds -- from the photos dear Keller has taken on trips,observing the wonders of flight, nests and flips.(Did we mention that Cookie has singed her hair, too?Now she's burned on the top, with an arm black and blue!)Scorched her mop burning weeds: bad ones that rankle.  An earlier fall meant she sprained her left ankle.

Now these accidents numbering one, two and three, should mean summer's remainder is incident free.Meanwhile, typing's a challenge with only one arm, so we serve up these photos while Cooks avoids harm.  

Songbirds serenade in both our states.  this one chirps, dips and chows down at High Chaparral, Montana.


Bighorn sheep court near Stillwater Mine above Nye, Montana.

COMING SOON:  Now that we've shared a few of our splendid Montana and California birds, we will offer a few critters spotted in or near our yard in Stillwater County.  We try to share our love of nature and our sense of adventure and fun.  Posts are Wednesdays and weekends.  Remember to enjoy, learn and live! Please spread the word about: www.whereiscookie.com

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sacramento's Old Town offers fun, frolic, history, horses, railroad, food


Candy by the barrels awaits sampling in Sacramento's Candy Heaven, with hundreds of varieties and flavors.

Tourists board a horse drawn carriage to tour Sacramento's Old Town.

THE BRIDGE with its golden mustard arches gets your attention.
Painted the color of Dorothy's yellow brick road, it evokes a sense of fun and exploration.
And that's what awaits you in Sacramento's Old Town.
The historic area of California's capital dates back to the gold rush days of 1848 when prospectors, entrepreneurs and gamblers headed for fortune if not fame.
The last stop on the Pony Express, Sacramento was also the terminus of the transcontinental railroad and -- like most gold rush towns -- Sacramento boasted a handsome array of saloons and bordellos.

Kristen and Zach clown
in Sacramento's Old Town.

The stately Capitol Building in Sacramento. 
TODAY'S OLD Sacramento pays homage to the local color that keeps the city in the eye of tourists and locals alike. Music and film festivals are booked months in advance. Our fun begins with the 1935 bridge, painted a playful gold in 2002 to honor California's "Golden State" moniker.
Just over 28 acres, Old Town houses 53 historic buildings ranging from hotels to candy shops, jewelry and clothing venues and specialty shops with gifts unique to Sacramento.  Old Town brings out one's sense of fun.
WE STROLLED and enjoyed for five hours with Keller's daughter and her boyfriend, Kristen and Zach.
The four of us strolled Front Street, dipping in a leather store, a throw-back to a hippie head shop with beads, oils and incense.  Then we checked out the delightful Old Sacramento Excursion Train Ride, a 40-minute round trip along the levees of the Sacramento River.
The Tower Bridge in Sacramento connects Yolo and Sacramento counties.
Horse and carriage rides are also  offered and there were takers for these as we enjoyed the art and antique shops -- "Penny Farthing" caught our eye.  Toy and kite shops and a fascinating emporium, G Willikers, were doing booming business.
WE SATISFIED our sweet teeth at Candy Heaven on Front Street, where young hawkers pass out coupons for free samples of salt water taffy -- including my favorite licorice, Keller's chocolate and a mint and jalapeno the kids discovered.  It has an interesting zingy aftertaste!
For lunch, we happened upon the small and wonderful place Happy Pita Cafe. Terrific lamb wraps, Greek style, complete with both tasty mint and yogurt sauce and spicy hot sauce.
A view of Sacramento and the lovely delta in earlier days.
Mountain men, and a variety of Spanish, English and Portuguese explorers visited the area, and the usual complement of Catholic priests seeking converts to the faith.
Sacramento is, proudly, California's capital. The State Capitol also has a Museum.  The complex houses past, present and future elements of the state, serving both as a museum and a working seat of government. It's a popular day trip for students and tourists alike, where one can watch history in the making.
SACRAMENTO'S recorded history begins in the decade of 1839-1848 with an embarcadero, constructed at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers.  But long before Europeans and Mexican-based adventurers such as Samuel Brannan and John Augustus Sutter Sr. and Jr., the Native American Maidu inhabited the fertile valley.
Humpbacks, including a mother and calf, Delta
and Dawn, swam into Sacramento's Delta.
Whales have also ventured to Sacramento, swimming 90 nautical miles up the Sacramento River, attracting international attention.
Finally, a nod to the aforementioned golden bridge. The handsome Tower Bridge is a vertical lift bridge across the Sacramento River, linking West Sacramento in Yolo County to the west, with the capital of California, Sacramento, in Sacramento County to the east.

This fledgling entertained travelers Keller and Cookie, in their Nye yard.

COMING SOON: California's coast offers some of the most delightful rooms you'll ever check into -- for spectacular views. Then off to Lisbon for a look at the lively arts and culture of this proud Portuguese city. And Montana's bird life is burgeoning with baby birdies.  We visit some fledlings and mature woodpeckers, eagles and more. Join us for travel off the beaten path, with a sense of fun, and an eye for nature and humor. Weekends and Wednesdays at: www.whereiscookie.com  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rafting reinvented: Cookie gets "back on the boat" after two times "bucked" into the waters

The cliffs leading up to the beautiful Beehive Canyon are enjoyed on the river with Absaroka River Adventures.


A family suits up at the Absarokee gathering with life preservers\. 

CALL ME a coward.  Water scared. Battle scarred. A sissy. Pansy. It's true. It WAS true.
But now I'm a recovering rafter.
Two rafting accidents decades ago prevented me from "getting back on the horse" -- or hosting myself back on the raft -- until last weekend.
I've been twice "bucked outta the boat" -- once in Mystic Lake as it fed into the raging West Rosebud, and once on Oregon's Rogue River as we tried to transit five-star rapids.
My "rafting chutzpah" was way low.
Rafting the river with young, athletic rowers is a plus, and Absaroka
River Adventures carefully selects each raft's occupants for balance.
SUNDAY however, Absaroka River Adventures restored my faith in the river raft adventure and in  my ability to transit a spirited river.
THE CONTEMPLATIVE Matt Holtz, manager and owner of the enterprise, assured me that I would be safe with him and the crew. We brought along our San Diego friend, Tom Giamonco, and we all felt comforted and protected from the beginning.
Families may bring children at their discretion.-
Thrills, no spills, plus scenery mark
 the trip down the Stillwater.
After a 25-mile ride from Absarokee, we put in near Nye, Montana, a small town on the Stillwater River. We would take the Stillwater half way back toward Absarokee, via the "Upper Half Day" tour.  It was thrilling, because normally the "upper" Stillwater doesn't have enough water to buoy the rafts. LOTS OF snow melt and spring rains boded well for us.
We paddled through Class III rapids and floated the beautiful Beehive Canyon, spending time observing blue heron and eagles, enjoying the moments of calm before Matt gave us orders, "okay, we need to paddle."
As the afternoon ends, rafters amble up to land again.
We were six, plus Matt, in our raft, and five other rafts took off in this gorgeous stretch of river, long the domain of kayakers and offering beauty at every turn.
At the helm:  each raft has a
leader, a skilled captain.
We gathered in Absarokee, at the Absaroka River Adventures headquarters, and received our life jackets and encouragement.  Brent listened to my "raft accident stories" and encouraged me that this
Splashing and a few wet moment in the raft are part of the thrill! 
would be spirited, fun but safe.
SEEING BLUE heron and red-winged blackbirds thrilled our rafters, but the three high school athletes were mostly thrilled by the splashes and "wet" parts.
Cookie and Tom safe, out of the raft! 
Kudos to Matt, who described each turn of the river, pointing out rock formations and historic landmarks.  Also delightful are his right-hand man, Tim Hedin, Julie our congenial  driver, Brent, who gave me (the "Cowardly Lion,") ample courage and the whole Absaroka River Adventures crew of a dozen plus. There's a tour to fit your itinerary and needs, from half-day to full-day, gentle and spirited, family reunions and more.
We'll be back! We met rafters from Iowa, Alaska and New Jersey, all enjoying Montana's splendor.  Europeans and Asians also love the Absaroka River Adventures' offerings. sI'm riding the rapids again. Call 1 800-334-RAFT, 1 800-334-7238 to book a
Boats, beauty and water life mark the California hotel tour.
raft tour. If you're coming to this part of Montana, you won't go wrong.
COMING SOON: Favorite hotels along the California coast and why we picked them. Plus Old Town Sacramento. Remember to explore, learn and live, as we travel with a sense of fun and adventure. Visit us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hearst Castle shows off one man's dream -- his eclectic artistic vision

Grecian and Roman sculpture adorn the entryway and paths to San Simeon's Hearst Castle on the central California coast.

Hearst's youthful travels inspired his
lavish creation of San Simeon.

WHEN WILLIAM Randolph Hearst was a little boy his mother took him on a grand tour of Europe.  There the tyke admired ancient statues, castles and frescoes, learned about the art of the Renaissance and dreamed of having his own artful place when he grew up.
That fantasy became reality, a modern day Shangri-la, when the newspaper baron created San Simeon.
Visitors pause outside the main mansion, by the outdoor pool.
Hearst and his trusted architect, Julia
Morgan, on site in 1926.
We joined tourists from all over the world to admire the excesses of a true eccentric.
Hearst traveled to Europe many times collecting the art that would become his legacy and placing it in his carefully designed mansion.
His enterprising female architect Julia Morgan was with him every step of the way.
INVITATIONS to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s.
One of the many details is the ornate front door through which movie stars and others entered.
Hollywood royalty and the politically elite visited, usually flying into the estate's airfield or taking a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Jimmy Stewart and presidents Calvin Coolidge and FDR visited.  Winston Churchill spent time with Hearst and his wife in New York City, then with Hearst and his mistress  at San Simeon, remarking that he found both Hearst partners delightful.
The beautiful,.peaceful Neptune Pool, a favorite hiding place of Patty Hearst.
WHILE GUESTS were expected to attend the formal dinners each evening, they were left to their own devices during the day while Hearst directed his business affairs. Since "the Ranch" had many facilities, guests could play tennis, hike, ask the kitchen to make a picnic, or simply wander about, read, enjoy the exotic wildlife and rejuvenate.
ALCOHOL was not forbidden, but was served in moderation and could not be brought in. Those who abused protocol were not invited back! The theater was available for viewings and Hearst often screened films after dinner, choosing from productions of his own film studio, Cosmopolitan Productions.
The newspaper baron's many trips to Europe inspired the 
compound known by millions as San Simeon.
 HEARST CASTLE was the inspiration for "Xanadu,"  the mansion of the 1941 Orson Welles classic film, "Citizen Kane," a fictionalization of William Randolph Hearst's career. However, the castle was not used for the film, which was shot at Oheka Castle in New York. Commercial filming is rare at Hearst Castle and most requests are denied.  Only two projects have been allowed to film on the premises: director Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," which used the castle as Crassus' villa; and a Lady Gaga music video.
PATTY HEARST, granddaughter of the mogul, remembers playing in the Neptune Pool and hiding behind its gorgeous statues.  She conducted a Travel Channel tour a few years back, recalling the place with affection.
Hearst maintained his own fire truck on the premises -- just in case.
Hearst Castle is both a national and California historical landmark, designed by Hearst's friend, Ms. Morgan, during their long collaboration -- 1919 to 1947. Hearst was still enhancing his creation when illness forced him to abandon the project in the late 1940s and he did not return to his beloved San Simeon before his 1951 death.
THE CALIFORNIA Park Commission voted to include the castle in its State Park System in 1954, with a proposed admission charge of $1 and 50 cents for the bus ride up. Today's tourists pay $25 per tour (cottages and kitchens, grand rooms, upstairs suites, the main castle and an evening tour). Packages are available including hotels and a delightful holiday tour is featured with evening lights.  (We loved the Best Western Plus Cavalier where we had a splendid ocean view room. More about that in our coastal hotels piece.)  
Just a few miles from the Hearst Castle is San Simeon's Best Western Cavalier.
This is the beautiful ocean view from our delightful room.
THE HEARST FAMILY keeps a villa on the grounds for its private use, separated from the parts tourists see.  The mansion and its grand collection of art and antiques includes Hearst's flashy red fire truck.  The complex is near a small unincorporated town, San Simeon, and the village of Cambria. Millions of travelers visit each year.
When Hearst approached American architect Morgan with ideas for a new project in April 1915, his idea was to fashion a comfortable bungalow.
"I'd like to build something upon the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I'm getting too old for that. I'd like something a little more comfortable," he said.
A candy emporium and much more await you in Old Town Sacramento, 
Hearst formally named the estate "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill"), but usually called it "the ranch." Hearst Castle and grounds are sometimes referred to as "San Simeon" as is the surrounding area and its lovely hotels. Phone 1-800-695-2269 for tickets or information or go to www.hearstcastle.org.  

COMING SOON: California dreaming means fun hotels and rooms with views....... then we're dreaming of a snake-free summer under the Big Sky, where seldom is heard a discouraging word. Plus Old Town Sacramento with terrific Greek food, live music, a candy emporium with dozens of salt water taffy tastes. And more, at www.whereiscookie.com