This Just In

Tawny & Daphne await the Great Pumpkin

News Item No. 1: Americans will collectively spend $480 million on Halloween costumes for their pets this year. That’s more than twice what was spent on pet costumes in 2010. The increase is attributed to people sending photos of costumed dogs and cats on social media.

No, Daphne. No, Tawny. I will not be spending one thin dime on canine costumes for either of you. Yes, I know Daphne was, in her youth, selected to be the Christmas portrait poster pooch for a Tacoma pet store. It was the beseeching look in her eyes underneath her fake reindeer antlers that won it for her. And I promised myself never again to pretend that my dogs are anything other than dogs—which is more than enough for them to be.

But what the heck. Yeah, I’ll post their photos on social media. Without costumes. They’re just going to have to look furry, not funny.

News Item No. 2: Americans now consider the official age for being “old” is 74, which just happens to be my age. Nine years ago, Americans thought “old” began at age 68. You might call that creeping ageism. We’ve gained six years in a little less than a decade. No wonder I haven’t been feeling old, until, maybe now.

A few years ago I bought Roger Rosenblatt’s small book, “Rules for Aging.” In his introduction he explains the book is a guide “intended for people who wish to age successfully, or at all.” Then he cautions: “Growing older is as much an art as it is a science, and it requires fewer things to do than not to do.” Which may be why I haven’t got around to reading the rest of the book yet. I will when I’m six years older—a decade or so from now.

News Item No. 3: The New York Times reported that Jared Kushner paid almost no federal income taxes during at least five of the past eight years despite his net worth of nearly $324 million. All of this nonpayment by the President’s son-in-law was perfectly legal, the newspaper acknowledged. For example: in 2015 Kushner reported $1.7 million in income and investment gains but $8.3 million in losses, based on depreciating value of his buildings.

Kushner reportedly has interests in lots of real estate. So do I. With property tax payments due on Halloween, I was thinking about the various kinds of real estate I have a share in: schools, lovely parks, a dandy library within walking distance, paved streets. I don’t blame people for paying no more taxes than the law requires. I qualify for the senior citizen discount on my property taxes, and you’d better believe I take it. Mr. Kushner can have his depreciating buildings. Schools, parks and libraries that my fellow citizens and I invest in have a value that only increases.

(Note: All of the above items were reported in the news magazine “The Week” Oct. 26, 2018. No fake news here.)


Poets of the Okanogan

“I’m not rooted to this place.”

It’s the first line of a poem I wrote a while back. I rarely face up to the challenge of writing poetry, but every year the Okanogan Land Trust nudges me to give it a try. The Trust, through the efforts of Walter Henze and Grant Jones, invites residents to share poetry and songs about the Okanogan at an annual potluck.

In a kind of mission statement, the men explain: the poems “celebrate the

nature of the American Okanogan, giving a voice to its scenic landscapes seen through the eyes of poets that inhabit or regularly explore the hidden valleys of this sequestered region.” A few poets from the Canadian Okanagan (note spelling) have filtered into the collection from time to time.

This year, Okanogan poets are getting special attention. A half-dozen who read at the potluck last January will be featured next week during the “poetry moment” on Spokane Public Radio’s KPBX FM station at nine a.m. (right after the weather). Doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can listen. Over the air, KPBX is at 91.9 in the south Okanogan Valley, 88.5 in the mid-valley, 90.9 in the north valley, and 91.1 in the Methow Valley. You can also stream it at If the time’s not convenient or you miss any of the days, wait about a week and you’ll be able to hear the poems on the station’s podcast page.

Thanks to our local broadcasters—Becki, Chris, and Joe at Okanogan Country Radio—for recording the poets at their studio. And, of course, thanks to the poets: Carey Hunter on Monday; Grant Jones, Tuesday; myself, Wednesday; Victoria Jones, Thursday, and Walter Henze, Friday. The readings began this morning (Oct. 12) with Bob Goodwin, Omak, reading “The Land Does Not Care.” If you missed it, do wait for the podcast. It’s worth the wait.

This spirit of community throughout the Okanogan is what helps me grow my roots a little deeper every year.


I’m not rooted to this place.

Born amidst Minnesota’s ten thousand lakes,

My soul demands water.

Uprooted, I found my bliss at last on a coastal island.

Then I met a man who smelled of inland sagebrush and pine.

I could never live there, I told him.

The Okanogan is like an island, he told me.

Distant, detached, land of the disaffected.

He planted my thirsty soul by the river,

Where I found not bliss but blessings.

Years later, I planted his ashes in the earth

That nurtures sagebrush and pine.

I wandered, seeking a place to plant myself.

Still rootless, I returned to live among people

Whose roots are millennia deep.

Roots deep enough to withstand theft of their land.

Deep enough to reconcile my rootlessness.

Some day my ashes will mingle with his

In earth that nurtures sagebrush and pine,

Where my roots will grow eternally deep.


The Season of Largesse

My kitchen cornucopia–all locally produced

The Okanogan Valley, where I live, is an over-achiever at this time of year, producing an embarrassment of riches. My kitchen teems with pears and apples, squash and onions, peppers and potatoes, corn and chard, even a purple kohlrabi. More food than I can eat, freeze, or dry. As for canning? I can’t. Still, I revel in the guilty pleasure of abundant harvest.

When I first moved here nearly forty years ago, I was a frustrated locavore before the word was even invented. The Okanogan was about as close as you could come to a monoculture. Orchardists raised just two varieties of one crop: Golden and Red Delicious apples. Yeah, there was the occasional stand of cherries, peaches or pears. But the Red Delicious, perched on its distinctive, four-pronged pedestal, was Queen. (Until it wasn’t.)

I was living in a rural, agricultural community but had to buy food that came from everywhere else. Farmer and venerated writer Wendell Berry speaks for me: “I like to eat vegetables and fruits that I know have lived happily and healthily in good soil, not the products of the huge, bechemicaled factory-fields.” If you’re Wendell Berry, you get to make up words like bechemicaled.

Eventually, like a welcome rain on a dusty landscape, the farmers’ market phenomenon reached the Okanogan. Most of the farmers were backyard gardeners, selling their overabundance. Gradually full-time farmers emerged, offering a variety of crops and even CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) packages.

Then came farm stands. My car is hard-wired to pull in.

“This is probably the last time I’ll stop before you close up for winter,” I told Gene as I emerged from her stand last week carrying two bulging sacks of produce, including her sweet corn, famous countywide.

“I don’t want to hear that,” she answered. “You gotta come back for your pumpkin.”

I’ll have to add it to the two already decorating my front step. The day after stopping at Gene’s, I’d joined a gathering of women at a friend’s house. Before we even made it to the front door, one opened her tailgate, enticing the rest of us like a shady character luring children with candy. She offered pumpkins, plums, melons, squash and tomatoes. I demurred at the tomatoes, then watched longingly as another woman carried them away. I had more than enough tomatoes already but oh, gosh, it’s the last of the season and we won’t get fresh, local tomatoes again until next year—only those bechemicaled, plastic-like imitations in the grocery stores.

I accepted a pumpkin. She handed me a second. Aggressively. She’d had so much fun planting pumpkin seeds with her toddler granddaughter last spring, she got carried away. One hundred fifty pumpkins and counting. Most, she says, will go to the food bank.

I grow only one cherry tomato plant (because I love the scent) and a variety of herbs. The rest of my garden is flowers. For eating, I know I can count on the largesse of Mother Nature and her local gardening kin.