Birthday Boy

June 19-July 3rd, 2022

            This year we couldn’t take the Bus to see Dad for his birthday, so I flew up to spend some time in  Ashland with Dad and Paula and Tucker the Wonderful Dog. It was cold and just past rainy when I arrived, and thunderstorms the night before I left, but in between it was hot, but thankfully we had the air set up and the cooling willow tree in the backyard. Ashland was Ashland, the same faded velvet hillsides, the same mountains looming with faint bands of green, but there was less purple vetch this year, which was ironic because we had a bumper crop in Mom’s Garden in South Pasadena before I turned the water off. But there were the smells and the wild pink sweet peas and the marshy creek beds. Still, looking up at the hills ringing the town I could see the orange on the trees even after the rain, and the small amount of snow visible on Mount Ashland as I drove up Oak Street was gone by the time I left.

            Paula went to see her daughter, Bree, and I stayed with Dad and we had fun, watching geology videos, talking old times, and me collecting family history. Tucker got many walks and was not-so-wonderful when he decided to stay up all night chasing critters, but all in all it was a restful and interesting time.

            Ashland is Ashland, a sort of a time warp town for me, where I see people that look like people I knew and then realize they couldn’t be that young, so perhaps they are the children of the people I knew. I walked Tucker out to Oak Street, pausing to think about the archaeological dig I participated in where the Christian Compound abuts the creek, and wrapping past the community gardens and park and creek to visit the horses pastured by Hellman School. One day we saw chickens, cows, and horses on the walk, but Tucker was only interested in the chickens!

            It was wonderful to see Paula and to bask in her love and joy. I have known many people in my life, and while my father’s choice in women has sometimes confounded me, I am so very thankful he has a Paula!

            Trish, a family friend, did me a great favor by bringing me to her meet her horse out on the way to Emigrant Lake. While Trish worked doing a healing, I spent time by the creek there and meditated. I saw two blue dragon flies kiss, and watched the water strider spiders, and listened to the gurgle of the stream. In the horse barn I gave the horses treats, causing Caspar to lick my t-shirt and Sen (that lady’s man) to nuzzle my neck. I even got to scoop some manure!

Horse Lily

            Then came Dad’s birthday, with cake and pomp and circumstance and, of course, ribs. I know Dad would have preferred a fruit cake, but we got him a cake with fruit on top. 91 years! 91 is a long time to live, and when I was collecting family history from Dad and hearing his stories ( “when I heard a backfire from a car sometime early in my life, during WWII, I asked Mom Ford if it was the Germans, and she told me God would never let them attack here”), when I was thinking about all of this I realized how much everything has changed. I used to wonder about people who knew the rise of Churchill and the Beatles (nod to Philip Larkin and “Annus Mirabilis”), but my father has seen just such a span, from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” through the concerts of the 60’s my mother dragged him to in San Francisco, from FDR to Carter to Reagan to Trump. I can’t even imagine.

            I had a great last day taking Dad to the Northwest Nature Shop to buy gifts for the Kiwis (NZ dwellers for those not in the know), and seeing the wonderful Scherri (Thank you so much, Scherri—you are awesome), and seeing Dad start to read his  birthday book by Louise Wagenknecht from  the Northwest Nature Shop.

            Now I am home and I am actually reading the books by Louise and thinking about my weird and impossible childhood growing up with a man who drove the Bus, who drove Forest Service almost mint-green pickups, who taught me that a no trespassing sign meant we were on “Forest Service business,” echoing Woody Guthrie’s little known but important exhortation in  “This Land is Your Land”:

As I went walking I saw a sign there,
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.

And for this trip, and all these lessons, I thank my father, the original man who drives the Bus.

And love to all who helped on this trip: Robert, Sophy, Paula, Bree, Trish, Scherri, Jordan, and of course the man who made it all possible: B.G. Hicks, Engineering Geologist,

For the pets and animals: Thank you to: Tucker, Lucy, Poppy, Kylo, and the horses(all the horses but especially Lily and Casper and the pasture folks) . No thanks to the critters in the yard or the guy who told me “Ma’am, you have something on your face!” when he saw me put on a mask, nor to the giant mosquitos of Ashland whose attentions still leave their marks.

Cool Links:

Louise Wagenknecht:

Northwest Nature Shop:

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lollie Ragana says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Good to hear from you and that you were able to wish your father happy birthday in person! Sounds like you also got to spend good time with some lovely animals! XO


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