Friday, August 28, 2020

Frontier Justice

In the early 1970s, the Palmer game warden, Fred Smith, occupied the corner office two doors down from where I was stationed as an Alaska Department of Fish and Game game biologist.  Well past retirement age with fleeting eyesight and a receding gray hairline, Fred still made as many cases as the best of them.  

The reason: people identified with this friendly grandfatherly gentleman.  Fred didn't have to sneak through dense willow thickets to pounce on poachers.  Everyday citizens, fed up with seeing someone else steal their moose or salmon dinner, simply reported violations to Fred.  He excelled at being a kind old man telling stories about the good old days.  The public reciprocated with modern day versions.  

My opportunity to assist Fred came the night I registered for a mid-winter watercolor painting class.  Returning home that frigid night on the winding remote (at that time) Matanuska Valley roads, a parked car seemed out-of-place.  Strange, I thought, so slowed to read its license plate number.  The notion that something didn't seem right gnawed at me until back home, I turned around and drove back.

The car had disappeared.  Instead I found blood in the road.  Armed with a flashlight, my boots squeaking in the cold, I followed a trail of crimson flecked snow to a steaming moose gut pile.   Back home I dialed Fred.  

Fred said he would check on the license number.  A few minutes later my phone rang.  It was Fred.  Rumor had it the owner of the car whom I shall call "Robert" was a moose poacher who sold the meat to the poor.  Fred still hadn't been able to make a case against this supposed modern-day Robin Hood.  He said Robert would be at the Pioneer Cafe the next morning.  I should meet him there.

At 7:30 AM, sure enough, I found Fred standing in the Pioneer Cafe parking lot next to the drab weathered sedan I had seen the previous evening.  The key to the trunk remained fixed in place, obviously ready for quick action.  Fred twisted the key.  The trunk popped open to reveal a blood-stained interior and moose hair, not the typical trunk used to transport suitcases to the airport.  Fred directed me to collect a blood sample on a microscope slide and close the lid saying he'd be right back.  I complied then dashed inside not wanting to miss the action.

Inside the Pioneer Cafe Fred found a tall angular man clad in Army surplus "bunny boots" wearing a grease-stained parka right where he knew he'd find him, sitting at a counter stool in front of a plateful of bacon and eggs.  

Fred approached Robert and with a friendly smile, simply said, "When you're done, come on over to my office," and left.  That was all.  That's sure not how they do it on TV, I thought to myself.

Fred and I went back to our respective Fish and Game offices and waited.  It didn't take long before I saw Robert slouch past my door.  I listened intently.

"You never know when your friends are going to rat on you," I heard Fred say.

"Who told you?," a panicked Robert replied.  "Who was it?"

Of course Fred was only making up a story, but that sounded like a confession to me. 

After more unsuccessful pleading from Robert about how Fred knew,  I heard Fred state, "we need to go get the meat, it would be unlawful to leave it where it was."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  "Unlawful."  Since when did that bother Robert?  However, he fell for Fred's bluff and with that the two of them got up and Robert led Fred to the evidence -- the evidence Fred needed to make his case, a case for which Robert spent six months in jail. 

Today I muse at the chances.  My love of art led me down that road.  I had been disappointed that all we did was register for the watercolor painting class, receive our materials list and an announcement the class would begin the following week.  Feeling let down, I drove home hours earlier than expected that evening.  Later, when class would normally have ended, Robert would have vanished and, at best, I might have seen blood on the snow-covered pavement. 

Otherwise, a flock of ravens, maybe a pair of eagles at the top of a cottonwood tree would have alerted us that another moose had been poached.  Why didn't we ever catch these guys?  Chances -- chances and a bit of bluff from a kind old man broke the familiar pattern leading, for once, to frontier justice.

        Dance of the Aspens  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Canvas  Private Collection

Other than a whimsical watercolor card, this is the only painting I have which includes a moose,  Thus, wanting a moose painting for this post, it'll have to do.  I started Dance of the Aspens as a plein air piece in the Yukon.  There I was drawn to the aspens battered by wind and snow to take on every manner of twisted shapes.  I didn't complete the painting that day, so brought it home to finish in my studio.  As for the moose, she's an add on from a photo Karen took in a similar area Fred would have patrolled although, given his poor eyesight, probably never would have seen.  In fact, neither did I.  But, Karen did.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Lead Astray

Summer made it.  At last.  Every weather service on the internet forecasted three days of golden sun-filled or at least sort of sun-filled skies to beam down on southeast Alaska before rain returned.  Obviously a long overdue explore somewhere around our island had to be on the agenda.  

We selected a seldom-traveled loop with the plan only lacking a written description.  But, this is Petersburg on 17-miles long by almost 10 miles-wide (at the point where it looks like it consumed too many of Karen's chocolate chip cookies) Mitkof Island.  Here, getting lost would require dense fog and a blindfolded driver.

So, Karen packed a lunch, laid out 1/8 bag of lime-scented tortilla chips (the few broken survivors from — was it just the day before) and, naturally…..went outside to see if she could entice Ms Squirrel to take peanuts from her lap.  What else does one do when they’re on the verge of setting off on an epic adventure?

Ah well, sun remained in the forecast for two more days and peanut butter and margarine sandwiches would taste delicious whether consumed with a squirrel in your lap or when we’re “lost” in a remote forested part of our island.
                  Step one:  Lure her close to Karen with peanuts 
                             "Oh Hi.  I'm just looking for peanuts."
"Karen, you are really tempting me."  Notice the jealous, but more wary Steller's jay, Gregory Peck, who just couldn't bring himself to take the risk.

Poor Gregory Peck was losing a feather and couldn't bring himself to risk darting onto Karen's lap for a peanut.
                              Meanwhile back in Karen's lap.

                             "Would you take my picture?"
           "Better yet, how about showing me how to use this camera?"
Alas, Karen finally ran out of peanuts and Ms Squirrel realized she was being watched.  Feeling camera shy with no more incentive to remain in Karen's lap, she scampered into the forest.  

Post script:  Alas, we never made our epic drive.  Exciting activities like manicuring our lawn -- I'm mowing around the buttercups in deference to the rights of insects so it (lawn) looks not-just-a-little sketchy, battling the invasion of migrating rogue salmonberry bushes, and attending a birthday party for a friend who lives (and is) 1200 miles away (I wonder who ate his piece of cake?) -- stuff like that kept us grounded in town until....the sun departed in a thunderstorm that made the Washington Mall 4th of July fireworks show pale in comparison.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Getting Squirrelly

It began with a beat up, not-quite antique bread box — yet another one of Karen’s multitude of Salvation Army Thrift Store “eureka discoveries.”  She lugged it home.

“Don, could you convert this into a squirrel feeder?”  

      Karen finds red squirrels, in fact any rodents for that matter, irresistible.

Karen has been feeding birds, and consequently red squirrels, on our deck for years with constant revisions to the theme.  This, she hoped, would be her finest addition even though it lacked one thing -- any semblance of esthetics. 

And so Karen's dream languished for several years until one day a strange phenomenon struck.  My motivation to make it real.  I’m not sure what sparked my action but I’m guessing it was her 147th “suggestion.”  

The wide ledge outside our kitchen nook where we had meals, made the perfect setting — OK, it’s just a board, but the bread box fit on it.  Soon, with it's only semi-attractive feature, the door, removed, so she could push it against the window, I divided the bread box into two floors, drilled holes at each end, spruced it up with a paint job and viola, we had our own version of a National Geographic TV show directly in front of our kitchen table.  

With zero sense of appreciation for all the free handouts, Ms squirrel scolds Karen for daring to intrude on her deck.

The almost daily routine — dump a couple of handfuls of peanuts in the feeder and watch the action.  Often it involved territorial disputes between warring red squirrels or invasions by Steller’s jays and crows who would warily stretch their necks as far as they could into the box to snatch a peanut.

                    Madam squirrel contemplates reorganizing her feeder.

  "Guess it's OK.  Don't mean to complain but it's not a great construction job."

Thus began the spring of 2020.  A sweet lass of a red squirrel, one of the babies from last year (there’s alway a new family every spring) frequented the bread box feeder.  Karen, as she does every spring, filled various containers on our deck with dog hair for nesting squirrels or birds.  Sure enough this squirrel started packing it off — probably enough to make a pair of socks for every Petersburg resident willing to don a pair of socks knitted by a squirrel.  

Karen even baked cookies in exchange for dog hair from willing dog owners.  Note to dog owners who supplied hair but did not receive cookies: Remind Karen she owes you because I always steal some when she’s not looking.  We also noticed prominent nipples on her belly (the squirrel, not Karen), a sure sign she had a family secreted somewhere nearby.

                                "Sure glad they brushed Molly today."

"Cause when Karen runs out of dog hair she has to dig into her yarn collection to find a substitute."

Eventually we spotted two babies (squirrels, not humans) chasing one another around a nearby tree.  As the days wore on mama squirrel seemed to want to get away from her new brood more and more.

        The babies -- about the only time red squirrels tolerate one another.

Then, one day — she did.  Instead of the bread box feeder being empty, it had accumulated more peanuts than Karen put in it.  A lot more.  And grass.  And sunflower seeds from other bird feeders.  And dog hair.  Our feeder had morphed into a squirrel cache.

                        Oh oh, things have changed in the feeder.

                                   At least she's being neat.

Initially Ms squirrel meticulously filled her larder, carefully placing each item, sometimes even rearranging the nuts and often sweeping the floor of the feeder with her feet.  She even separated highly treasured walnuts from the peanuts in a different corner of the feeder — now storage unit.  Eventually she filled the first level completely.  Time to tackle the second floor.

                                    Guess I'll start in this corner.

As the second floor filled tidiness gave way, at least in our eyes, to clutter.  With no room on the floor to sweep, she stopped.  Peanuts overflowed the second floor through a space between the feeder and our kitchen window.  And they now combined with clumps of dog hair, grass, and wet sunflower seeds that looked like — no, I’d better not say.  Suffice to say you won’t see it on the cover of a gourmet cooking magazine.

Karen finds it considerably less than appetizing as we sit down for dinner and desperately wants to clean up mama squirrel’s cache.  Then I remind her that squirrels have a different set of values than she does (not so much her husband) and if we want to see nature in action this winter (do peanuts, dog hair and sunflower seeds count as nature?) — well, we should be patient.

I'm not sure why Karen doesn't want to look at this piece of abstract art while she eats.  Maybe it's because we can't clean the outside window in front of it so she gets a better view?  Yeah, that's it.

It is now impossible for mama squirrel to add more peanuts without the overflowing additions providing morsels for crows and jays.  So Karen constructed a barrier of chunks of bark to block the entrance while providing a hole for mama squirrel to sneak through.  It works — if you don’t factor in the new “alarm clock” Karen created.  You see, every morning at first light (remember we’re at a northern latitude where that’s about 10 minutes after we went to bed) one jay has decided it is going to peck, and peck, and peck (did I mention peck?) down that barrier.  And this entire contraption is right below our bedroom window.  And I’m a light sleeper.  And that peck sounds more like the jay has evolved into a pileated woodpecker drilling a hole into a hollow log.

         Gregory Peck, the Steller's jay who wakes me up at dawns early light.

However, since this is the year where we’re going “nutty” being grounded by the coronavirus, we should be thankful for a squirrel that is providing us with this distraction.  Not so much the jay.  

I sure hope Karen bakes some more of those thank you for the dog hair cookies.

Guess we'd better leave you with an endearing image of a red squirrel instead of a jay or soggy peanuts.  So here's the next generation learning to climb a tree.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Karen's Best Photos of 2019

Listening to the news as 2019 dipped towards the horizon we were inundated with the “best ofs.”  The best songs, the best cat videos, the best political blunders — if someone could think of a category, it had a best list.  If I really want to dive into the subject, I could emerge with a list of best excuses for not keeping up with our blog during the past year.  The problem is, it would get rather repetitious.  That’s the area that reigns at the top of the list where I excel at recycling.

But now it’s our turn to join the parade.  Karen has taken a bunch of thousands of photos Since January 1st, 2019 and only deleted a bunch of hundreds.  Of these, we have many hundreds of favorites.  The challenge for our last blog of the year is Karen’s best photos of 2019 in 10 images.  Now, in reviewing the preliminary selection of 137 photos all deserving top prize, perhaps we should add two words to the description:  Some of.  And we’ve upped the ante to 12 plus added one of my own — of my favorite photographer.

Happy New Year.  Can’t wait to see her photo contributions for 2020.

Karen snapped this image of a pink (humpback) salmon trying to navigate a rapids during extremely low water this past August.  Obviously it was checking for any rocks that might be in the way up ahead.

2019 marked the first year Karen encountered common yellowthroats and then it seemed they seemed to be (as their name suggests) common.

Speaking of common, a seemingly ubiquitous bird, the song sparrow has become one of Karen's favorites with more than 12 images all deserving top honors in her best of list.

Karen also had enough intertidal images to more than fill most photographers best of list, but she picked this one because if you look closely there is a barnacle to the left of the blue mussels that has it's feet out.  I mean, look really closely.  I tended to notice the pattern of the mussels.

Another category with which she could have stuffed the ballot bot is trumpeter swans like these two beauties coming in for a landing in Washington's Skagit River Valley.  Oh, for another week there because...

The swans were in the minority those early November days, where maybe 40 to 50 thousand snow geese kind of captured ones attention, especially when they all took off and flew directly overhead.  Oh my, I just lowered my camera that day and stared in awe.

I primed Karen with verbal images of how much she would enjoy a drive over Lolo Pass as she crossed the border from Montana into Idaho.  So, it rained.  One thing about Karen, she can find a good photo subject under the most unappealing circumstances.

Let's see, have I shown any song sparrow images yet?  

Or snow geese freshly arrived from the Arctic, perhaps Siberia or Alaska.

The reason Karen was where this humpback whale was diving is because she was off to look for rocks on a favorite beach.  That's Alaska for you.

Two probably common merganser chicks -- such simplistic beauty -- unless you're a juvenile salmonid.

What's wrong with this image?  The white-breasted nuthatch photographed in Iowa is right-side up.  They always seem to be upside down, "hopping" down a tree trunk, but, not this time. 

That completes Karen's top 10 list for 2019.  We want to leave you wanting more, not less.

Happy New Year.

Oh, by the way, here are two bonus shots, one of the photographer and one of the editor.

The photographer and a fan club in Viola, Idaho.

The editor being investigated.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas December 2019

To our friends who may not have received our Christmas greetings:

Christmas 2019

                             Spoiling ourselves at a coffee house in LaConner, Washington

Merry Christmas from the House of Corn

Surprise!   It’s me, the reason my great great grand second uncle coined the term squirreling away.  That’s ‘cause I’ve been squirreling away peanuts the gentle lass spreads out for me and the jays and the crows and her illegal deer herd for the past year.  By the way, don’t tell the police, but Bambi still eats apples out of her hand while she tickles him under the chin. 

They started 2019 with the utterly most fantastic non-trip of the century.  After spending hours and hours, day after day after day, the grouch planning the ultimate winter getaway, he glanced up from their Apple computer screen and exclaimed “oh, it’s spring.” 

Besides, once again, after vowing they would never ever under any circumstance paint a large painting on watercolor paper to be cut up into pieces as a fund raiser for WAVE, a non-profit that works against domestic violence, they had a winter commitment.  That’s ‘cause the grouch uttered that forbidden three letter word, “yes.”  So the fair lass, now obligated without any form of consultation had one more “have to.”  Naturally she wisely painted five individual paintings, each surrounded by a white margin, on her mega-sized sheet of paper.  Meanwhile, he painted four very discrete paintings smartly tied together so they looked like one complete piece of art work — cleverly designed so no one could miss his conception.  Brilliant!


Her’s all sold intact — the largest purchased by a note-worthy art collector from Alaska — herself.  Yep, she bought her own painting to save it from being cut up because…..

There was this little girl.

An elementary school art critic.

Her mom gave her an itsy bitsy, I mean tiny, mat board with a cut out hole through which to select a portion of someone’s painting to be excised.  To their mutual horror, this little girl sprinted back and forth trying to decide — cut out one of the lass’s deer or the gnome on the back of a goofy bear the grouch had painted?  Whose work would be the victim?   Oh the agony they each felt as she darted between their paintings.  Back and forth, the lass’s heart sunk, back and forth, the grouch’s heart sunk, back and forth like a natural-born shopper.  Ultimately…… 

The gnome “won.”  

Now many downpours end with a rainbow, and that day proved to prove the tenet.  A man sitting at their table saw the grouch’s anguish as he slumped in his chair realizing hours and hours of labor had just been obliterated.  In an act of valor, he purchased the rest of that section of the big painting at a dollar per square inch as a gift to “the girl,” but in reality…you guessed it.

By the way, that Alaskan art collector I mentioned earlier ended the evening with one additional purchase.  There, on a silent auction table rested a painting the fair lass couldn’t resist — a gem left over from the previous WAVE Art by the Inch fund raiser.  A delightful pair of penguins with a chick had somehow escaped the discerning eyes of other art collectors.  Just why begs understanding, but she bid and now the fair lass’s very own painting from two years ago also hangs in their home.  The grouch believes it would be best if the fair lass refrain from visiting our local art gallery where more of her art is for sale.

Still, the lass’s major enterprise this year came through the viewfinder of two cameras.  If there is a duck, merganser, gull, loon, shorebird or bird from any other flock of the thousands that pass through Petersburg, whose image is not tucked safely in their computer, it’s not because she didn’t try.  It was probably just out-of-focus.  No, wait, if it’s out-of-focus, it’s still there.

And now thanks to the fact that she celebrated another birthday this year, she has a new camera, a Sony DSL RX-10 IV which, if you check out reviews on line, has a manual translated into English by a committee comprised solely of members who do not read or write English.  The name of the camera, RX-10 IV instead of RX-10 4 should be a clue.  Thus, the grouch even bought her a book on how to use the camera so she could get started because this camera will do anything except floss your rear molars — if you can figure out how — except  they couldn’t — figure out how to do most anything with it — the camera that is.

So, it was while standing alongside maybe 40 or 50 thousand snow geese in Washington’s Skagit River Valley with her trusty old Canon that she struck up a conversation with a guy, and this guy showed them some photos of geese and swans that would roll your socks down and back up, and they asked him what kind of camera he had, and hallelujah, it was the same Sony DSL RX-10 IV which she wasn’t even using because — I think you understand about flossing your rear molars.  Anyway, in a 10-second demonstration, he told her how to do what the grouch gave her the camera for.  Of course, she immediately dug the Sony RX-10 IV camera out from under a pile a thrift store treasures and set out among the birds only to find that all three batteries were dead and now it was time to leave the 40 to 50 thousand snow geese and, did I mention, several hundred trumpeter swans?

I’ve deviated chronologically because the Skagit River Valley provided the equivalent of hot fudge ice cream cake being served when you thought you were being sent to bed without supper.  It came while the grouch was grumbling because they were forced to wait a week for a ferry home as the finale of a 50-day trip across half of America and back — a trip that began with a drive down British Columbia to Bellingham, Washington.  There in one of those “no way” coincidences, the grouch’s brother just happened to be visiting from the east coast at the same time.  From there, he made a left turn to drive 2,000 stormy miles in four days lashed by rain, snow, wind and the spray from passing semis to Door County, Wisconsin, while the fair lass flew America’s stuffed skies being served a tiny bag of salty unidentified crunchy stuff along with a plastic cup of her beverage of limited choice over a parallel route.  

Ten days in Door County on the shores of the over-full Lake Michigan with cousin Connie and her husband, Bob, provided the fair lass with hours and hours of rock/fossil collecting, enough to wreck havoc with her back, her knees and displace everything the grouch had carefully packed in their Honda CRV — enough displacement so he couldn’t find much of anything he had brought along for the rest of the trip.  Between the rocks, the seats designed to carry nothing wider than a soda straw on cross-country Delta Airline flights and sagging, thrift store reject beds in the single $ motels the grouch found for their incredible deal lodging — the fair lass claims her spine feels like it has been compressed into the shape of a pretzel.

Of course, true to her Groth genetic heritage, the fair lass made fast friends with everyone she encountered.  On the shores of Lake Michigan she had a conversation with an “ELDERLY” gentleman.  Editors Note:  He was about the SAME AGE as her YOUTHFUL self.  And, as most people do in any conversation, he told the lass about his favorite high school teacher.  Naturally that teacher just happened to be the fair lass’s late uncle, Waldo.  The lass truly believes God has a hand in these “chance happenings.” 

Finally, back in Alaska when they departed the Alaska ferry, the fair damsel had amassed 47 more friends who want to maintain contact as well as order copies of her photo books plus she had bonded with 89 dogs, a dozen alpacas, two turtles and one toad.  Surprised?  As I said, she is a Groth.  The grouch?  I don’t think he lost too many friends and never met the toad.

The grand finale for that 50-day odyssey came when the fair lass found the ultimate rock — a real gold “nugget.”  Well, kind of.  While flossing her teeth she reached into her mouth and pulled out a beautiful gold inlay about the size of pencil eraser.  Of course no dentists were available to see her that Saturday.  Maybe they can use that gold to purchase another one of the lass’s paintings at the next WAVE auction.

I could have reported more, how she befriended the sweetest crow chick by giving it peanuts once, just once, really, only once, and for the next month it awakened the grouch every day at 4:00 AM and spent what seemed like forever mewing and cawing outside their bedroom window pleading, begging, willing to do anything for guess what?   But, I’ve written enough so I won’t — report on it that is.

The rest of their family appears sort of normal.  David no longer delivers pizzas, but instead has begun delivering people via Uber and Lyft in Wasilla and Anchorage.  Tamia continues her traditional feminine role of driving plows and equipment for the City of Anchorage while Mandy got her second bachelor’s degree — this one in nursing — and currently works where they hope you don’t meet her on a professional basis, in Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital. 

That’s about all I dare acknowledge about them for 2019.  Now as a special Christmas gift to their friends the fair lass is offering to loan out rocks as table decorations during 2020 for any special events for which you may want to add a touch of class to the affair.

Oh no.  Someone left the window open and the squirrel got in.  Guess we ran out of peanuts.  Better refill the feeder.   But wait, now we don’t have to write a Christmas letter this year.  All we have to add is what we most wanted to say:

May the blessings the miracle of Christmas fill your heart with the gift of Christ’s Love throughout the season and coming year.

With love, Don and Karen

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Lord, What a Morning

It didn’t really start this morning — more like a month ago.  The phone.  “Karen, would you be willing to read the scriptures at Church one weekend in June?”

Now, at Petersburg Lutheran Church the honor comes with a bonus, you’re also the Communion Assistant, but we’ll get to that later.

Before Church Karen attends Sunday School (held at Colleen’s home next to the church) with a flock of her feminine friends, one of whom, Sally, offered Karen a ride.  Not wanting to delay Sally, Karen stood in front of our house ten minutes early.  Never one famous for her patience, nine minutes later Karen decided she had been forgotten and scuttled off on foot.

Thus, when Sally knocked on our door perhaps a minute or two late Karen had disappeared out of sight.  Off Sally drove figuring she’s pick Karen up along the route.  No Karen.  Fearing she may have fallen into a ditch, a most distressed Sally soon arrived at Sunday School, a distress she conveyed to Karen.  Minutes later with Karen now feeling remorseful and a bit rattled for causing Sally to worry, Susan set her cup of coffee down next to Karen as Karen removed her sweater.  Alas, a law of physics prevailed.  Two objects cannot occupy the same space simultaneously, namely Karen’s fast-moving hand and the coffee cup.  Yes, the coffee ended up all over Karen’s pants and the floor.

With only les femmes present Colleen suggested they had time to wash the pants during the Sunday School lesson.  Off they came and into the laundry room where Karen grabbed stain remover with which she doused her pants.  Editors note:  It might have been best if Karen had not removed her glasses when she took off her sweater.  After spraying the coffee stains she realized the bottle of Shout Out for Clothes was still on the shelf.  For the record, we now know that carpet stain remover can be substituted for clothes stain remover.

Also, for the record, Karen became the first woman in our Church known to participate in a Sunday School lesson pants/dress-free.  The clothes had about dried as the lesson ended and Colleen’s clock read 10:00 — remember she was the scripture reader this morning and that comes very very early in the 10:00 service.

That’s when Karen decided she’d better get her sweater back on.  Of course that’s also when the zipper of the sweater snagged on her blouse.  That’s also when the bells pealed to signal the start of the service.  Now Karen was due on site in minutes as she sat clad in her lingerie with her pants in the dryer and her sweater and blouse badly intertwined while hung up high on her chest.

A breathless wide-eyed Karen dashed into Church barely in time to read the Scriptures, but not before announcing to the entire congregation that they were lucky she had her pants on.  

Still rattled she had to face Communion.  Her job — hold two cups, one filled with wine, the second, grape juice.  Now behind her when she served Communion were just two steps and her final duty was to mount those two steps and put the two vessels back on the altar.  Just two steps.  Only two.  She cleared one.  The grape juice flew onto the rug.  The wine into her face, onto her blouse and into the Baptismal font positioned at the top of the steps.  From my pew seat it looked like Karen was Baptizing herself as she washed wine out of her eyes with water from the font.

Finally Pastor Eric communed Karen.  He handed her a wafer to dip into what little wine remained.  She just ate it.  He tried again.  She just ate it.  Ah well, there will be Communion next week.

At the end of the service I couldn’t help but notice when I turned to the closing hymn, I first alighted on the preceding hymn:  My Lord, What a Morning.  We should have sung that one.  I gave Karen a ride home.

                    Courting Days   18 x 24 inches   Alkyd on Canvas

This is an older painting I did of Karen of another memorable morning, OK maybe it was an afternoon, but it was one of those days that sent my heart racing as I fell in love with this gentle lass.