Going Retro on 2015 by Janine Donoho

Happy New YearAs a singular flow in the space-time continuum, 2015 crested, then mired in unpredictable ways. The year began by launching Intrepid Guy to Japan for another stint just as I published yet another novel, Soundings, Water Elemental—this time through Booktrope. That vast ocean of social media became a marathon swim. Still I virtually encountered booklovers along the way who I’d have gladly met for a delightful cuppa and conversation.Soundings Cover Upgraded 1-23-2015

Then in March, I packed and brushed off my language skills for a month in Japan that ended when I picked Intrepid Guy up at the Penticton airport before driving him to a hospital in Wenatchee. This time his immune system attacked vital organs, requiring six-months of heavy immunosuppression followed by another half year of lighter drug therapy.

Pup & Man Dome

Pup & Man Dome

As a bubble boy, what bothered Intrepid Guy most was the loss of his rafting season, especially one that included another run down the Grand Canyon. To compensate him for his loss, we adopted—wait for it—yes, a whippet puppy, Bodhilicious. Bodhi’s puppy shots coincided with Intrepid Guy’s first drug regime. And yes, we went there and shaved his head. He turns out to have a very nicely shaped dome, but you be the judge.

Home on wheels

Home on wheels

Both burst back into the world during a shakedown voyage for our 16’ Lance travel trailer as we made the rounds from home to Spokane to Wenatchee and back again. The trailer balanced beautifully with our Ram 1500 Eco diesel, so Intrepid Guy did a happy dance. We also began socializing Bodhi and the AKC show in Chelan helped. We met very cool dog people plus gorgeous Bodhi took both Best in Class and Best in Show for puppies. Since this was a beauty contest, it’ll be his last. His big brain really needs a job and with his propensity for running through culverts—gasp!—agility training might do the trick.

Bodhi Wins Big at AKC 2015

Bodhi Wins Big at AKC 2015

Our year of wildfires proved utterly predictable. Canadian fire plumes began in April and our rugged landscapes can be problematic for firefighters. We bugged out during Level 3 evacuations as the 9 Mile Wildfire roared into being. Friends and neighbors lost outbuildings and homes to the inferno even as staunch firefighters stopped the blaze ¼ mile from our home. Air quality remained hazardous throughout summer and into fall. Recovery continues while winter snow and melt cycles cause slides along burn areas.

Valiant firefighters

Valiant firefighters

Soundings at Beach Books

Soundings at Beach Books

Yes, I’m furious with Volkswagen’s intentional lies about our Golf TDI’s environmental impact. Yes, the polluting machinery sits in our garage as we lean into a buyout. Nothing less should be allowed. Still I drove the beast to Oregon this October for our Seaside writers’ retreat and book signing at the hospitable and brilliantly arranged Beach Books. As always, joy prevailed as I embraced the chance to hang with writers and make new friends.

Anj & I at Seaside signing

Anj & I at Seaside signing

Please allow me to wish you all the most joyous of new years. May health and happiness infuse your lives. With our home-on-wheels, who knows? We may find ourselves in your neck of the woods during this coming year.

Happy pack

Travel rig

Hot wheels

Choices We Make before the Fire by Janine Donoho

Harbinger from Canada

Harbinger from Canada

As the western part of the United States enters into desiccated autumn, we’re told that the official fire season has begun. In fact, fire season now begins nearly as soon as our shrunken snowpack melts. Once the native and invasive species of plants dries, we’re vulnerable to lightning strikes. Yet lightning causes only 10-20% of our wildfires. The other 80-90%? Human caused.

Slide Mountain near Washoe Valley

Slide Mountain near Washoe Valley

In the high Sierra Nevada Mountain range, where I spent my formative years, snowpack has declined for decades—more precipitously as we blow past the latest tipping points. That means wildfires in winter and early spring—the new normal. This aspect of climate change affects the western side of our continent from Alaska to Bolivia, excluding only the more tropical regions. For Okanogan County in Washington State, our wildfires began in late May this year with smoke plumes as harbingers.

Wildland wildfire in Nevada

Wildland wildfire in Nevada

Over a decade ago when we first moved here, Intrepid Guy, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, and I committed to fire proofing our home and property. We wanted no soft-bodied firefighter to stand between an inferno and our house. Our house perches where sagebrush steppe meets Ponderosa pine communities, landscapes that normally thrive with periodic fires. However, lowering water tables, beetle infestations, and fire suppression have reduced these communities’ resistance to wildfire damage. Here are the choices we made:

  • Fire-resistant fiber-cement siding (Hardy Board);
  • Metal roofing;
  • Lava rock mulch out 10 feet plus from the foundation;
  • Rock based circular driveway;
  • Islands of native and drought-resistant plantings with rock mulch and drip system hydration;
  • Native grasses and brush cut back at least 40 feet;
  • Lower branches of our Ponderosas and Douglas fir removed;
  • Predominantly metal structures versus wooden within 50 feet of the house; and,
  • Buried 1,750 gallon tank, topped off and better than spitting on a fire.
Firewise living

Firewise living

When the first wildfire threatened our home on July 4th seven years ago, it started within a quarter mile—bordering the steep slope leading to our home. Not good. Fire devours landscape uphill in its quest for oxygen.

Exemplary Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crews along with local volunteer departments aided by water and fire-retardant air drops limited this human caused wildfire to nine acres of non-fireproofed landscape. Trees crowned, wildlife fled or died, and I baked muffins, although not well, while brewing iced tea for the crews. The DNR incident manager designated our home as a safe house for sheltering firefighters. When we were told to evacuate, we did. We pay hefty fire insurance fees, keep important papers in a safe deposit box, and again, don’t choose to have a person stand between us and fire.

Flames through the trees

Flames through the trees

With this season’s injuries and deaths of Forest Service firefighters, the loss of 7 million acres—and counting—in the western United States, we all need to assess our part in these disasters. Beyond addressing human caused climate change, what else can we do to minimize the destructive force of wildfire?

When the fire bear comes over the mountain

When the fire bear comes over the mountain

When wildfire eats toward us, we take what’s most important: the living critters we’re responsible for and each other. The house and landscape? That’s just stuff.

What matters

What matters most

Glorious Nature by Janine Donoho

Mountain lion in snow

Mountain lion in snow

Black bear and cub

Black bear and cub

Where we choose to live speaks volumes about who we are. That’s especially true of the wildlife sanctuary where Intrepid Guy and I live. After more than a decade in this space, we continue to coexist with the natives.

Weasel, eater of eggs

Weasel, lover of eggs

Except for a few aggressive yellow jackets, no critters have been harmed during this sojourn and, by enhancing our landscape, more have benefited. We minimize disruptive interactions and remain courteous. In retrospect, human exchanges prove much more challenging.

Please enjoy this pictorial view of a few striking critters in our ‘hood.

Red-tailed hawk landing

Red-tail hawk landing

Deer in silhouette

Deer in silhouette

Flock of wild toms

Flock of wild toms

Immoderate Blue Grouse Male

Immoderate Blue Grouse Male

Coyote eyes

Coyote eyes

Young Kestrel

Young Kestrel

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

 

Osprey with fish

Osprey with fish

Goshawk

Goshawk

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

Moving toward Grace by Janine Donoho

Bodilicious new pack member.

Bodilicious new pack member.

I suspect we all struggle toward thankfulness when stress and exhaustion overwhelm our intent. During a brief stay on the coast a few weeks ago, a wise friend redirected my tendency—okay, total embrace of the whine—toward appreciation. After restarting my meditation practice a few mornings ago, today I’m advancing toward gratitude.

Shakedown cruise

Shakedown cruise

Last week we combined the shakedown cruise of our new sixteen foot home-on-wheels with expanding our pack by one puppy. Intrepid Guy’s latest labs show great improvement and full remission’s within view. During last night’s microburst of gale force winds, then lightning strikes, we emerged unscathed. Now Department of Natural Resource (DNR) crews are attacking the three wildfires started by strikes.

Lightning flash

Lightning flash

Mind you, this is just the big thanks stuff. My gratefulness goes much deeper and has an infinite horizon. Now I close thinking of my geographically distant friend who embodies grace. She’s also a mentor, albeit a continent away—too far for a cuppa. Oddly enough, or perhaps not, her name’s ‘Grace.’ Here’s to you, my friend.

Viceroy butterfly meets geranium

Viceroy butterfly meets geranium

Celebrating Dads in a Solstice Garden by Janine Donoho

Texture & color at solstice

Texture & color at solstice

A pop of color

A pop of color

Doe browsing through the landscape

Doe browsing through the landscape

With the double joys of summer solstice and remarkable dads getting their due, this post celebrates both. As happens so often, my photos perform word service. My intent? That you’ll feel buoyant and refreshed as you return to your celebrations.

Wildflowers and mature gardens punctuate summer solstice in our northern climes. We plant our garden rooms with both native species and perennials to nourish our spirits and the local wildlife. In due course, our plantings expand into an enhancement of our high desert landscape.

Wild sunflowers

Wild sunflowers

Father’s Day became a day of revelry in the early 20th century, an American original that has spread throughout the world. While nearly any man can father a child, it takes someone exceptional to be a dad. In observance of those singular parents, let us raise a glass and give thanks.

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Baby grouse drinking

Baby grouse drinking

Mountain Bluebird of happiness

Mountain Bluebird of happiness

Young buck browsing

Young buck browsing

Cherry Blossoms Deconstructed by Janine Donoho

The illusive Sakura no Kisetsu

The illusive Sakura no Kisetsu

What 1 month's travel looks likeThroughout March’s billowy gusts and slushy melts, I learned one hundred Japanese words and phrases promised to express 1,000 ideas. Two hour hikes with Nina Sophia filled with practice sessions until she recognized “O-tearai wa loko desu ka?” as an important question, although probably not as “Where’s the bathroom?” By the Ides of March, I knew the names of the snow monkeys inhabiting Jigokudani Park. My 21-inch ultralight suitcase was packed and ready to go for a month of Sakura no Kisetsu—cherry blossom season—in Japan. Except that’s not what happened.Packing light

Instead I picked Intrepid Guy up from the Penticton, B.C. on his way to a hospital stay followed by six to eighteen months of trudging toward remission. Trust me, we’d have preferred Sakura no Kisetsu. I unpacked my luggage in half an hour, and then stashed it on a high shelf where I wouldn’t be confronted daily with wretchedness. Except that’s not what happens.

The packing processAs my sweet guy tackles this autoimmune nightmare with a medieval regime of drugs that fail to address the issue while killing what was once an entirely beneficial immune system, I’ve put my head down to get through it—again. Frankly, this “leaning in” attitude has gone on a decade too long. Instead of cherry blossoms, we’ve changed course. Yes, I serve as Intrepid Guy’s support system, and he keeps his eyes on the prize of reclaimed health. Even so, I’m discovering petite aventures that keep me close enough for the daily toil, yet allow me to plump up my dehydrated spirits. A

Mt. St. Helen's knee

Mt. St. Helen’s knee

trip north to Penticton, British Columbia, went well until a bad cartoon fall left me with a Mt. St. Helen’s hematoma on one knee, a broken nose, and a jaw that’s not quite right. After six weeks, an ergonomic cane suffices for those times when the healing knee buckles. Still I’m back to condensed jaunts elsewhere, which alleviate a graceless tendency to gnaw my own paws. Today I muse over how others deal with setbacks—or worse.

What kinds of setbacks have you experienced? How did you deal?Thinking light

A Change of State by Janine Donoho

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. – Anais Nin

Intrepid Guy hiking the Amalfi Coast

Intrepid Guy hiking the Amalfi Coast

Biglietto to art museumWhen I finally coaxed Intrepid Guy to take a full month to travel with me, we chose a more ambitious route than my BFF trip. Yes, still backpacks, but Italy, Greece, and Turkey via planes, trains, and automobiles.

Capri

Capri

Consider the taxi in Napoli as our driver popped onto and off of active trolley tracks all the while exclaiming, “Is okay, is okay.” Yes, the Naples National Archaeological Museum was worth it. The same can be said when Greek ferry system imploded during a soccer match.

After that, it took us three attempts to cross from Athens to Samos, then on to Selçuk on the Turkish mainland. Along the way, we experienced the plush travel of Turkish buses, 

Gateway to Ephesus' agora

Gateway to Ephesus’ agora

complete with attendants and hot towels, and the disrepair of their 1960’s trains. Visualize a midnight lurch to the bathroom with gaping holes in the floor.

Between worker strikes for trains leaving Italy, taxis in Athens, and ferries running aground, we developed resilience and our senses of humor. As with most pursuits, at some point you consign yourself to whatever passes for a higher power and go with it. Let the joy begin.

Bus to Cappadocia

Bus to Cappadocia

How have you developed hardiness during your travels? What mishaps turned into singular experiences?

Blue Mosque Dome

Blue Mosque Dome

 

 

Ancient kitchen - Pompeii

Ancient kitchen – Pompeii

Mustafa and I - Pamukkale

Mustafa and I – Pamukkale

Passage to the Perseia fountain in Mycenae

Passage to the Perseia fountain in Mycenae

Happy travelers in Pamukkale

Happy travelers in Pamukkale

Rise of the robot writers? by Janine Donoho

Robot meets worldFor the last decade and more, makers of software have tried to lure writers into their electronic grasp. Their products fall far beyond our word processing needs. These programs claim to “unleash your creativity” with “programs to help you plan, structure and write your novel or…”

Your opus in an app or download. A quick search of “writing software” turns up 491,000,000 results—some free, but most? Not so much.

Since a law professor at my most recent alma mater raised a hue and cry for a “Department of Robotics”, I started thinking anew about how this tech has insinuated itself into so many areas of life. Vet robotic surgery, driverless vehicles, and algorithms fall into this general category. As do the aforementioned writing software/apps. Not quite Skynet—yet.

I, RobotDoes the trend explain the ongoing schlock issuing from the bastions of literacy in New York? And what of that oozing from Hollywood? Full disclosure: Intrepid Guy’s mancave hosts its share on our monstrously outsized screen. His love of all things tech issues from his ability to make inorganic electrons flow as he chooses.

Still… What elements imbue your favorite reads? Mine surprise me with reversals, hold characters that remain with me after I finish the story, and elicit true emotion. Yes, the opposite of the churning mill of boom, splat, boom that dominates blockbusters and movie screens. At risk of sounding cranky, I’m biased toward indie publishers, indie films, and indie bookstores.

Yet robotics has taken over the work of lower level accounting, law offices, assembly lines, and supposedly high level trading via algorithms. The results? Mixed. Hello, multiple stock market crashes.

Robotics is moving up our food chain, thus my question. Do algorithms trump the creative spark that makes us writers? Does the “boy meets girl by page 3”, “sexual sparks occur in chapter 3”, and so forth lend itself to this? And will we who write—and who begin that path as voracious readers—be satisfied with the results?Scary robot

Hacking the Writer’s Life by Janine Donoho

Primitive RoadNo one who knows me would accuse me of being a computer hacker. While the scope of digital life offered by computer, GPS, and yes, the Samsung devices beloved of Intrepid Guy, offer benefits, I occasionally need to read manuals. Despite my ongoing lust for cool tech, a smart phone or tablet’s at least a year into my future, mostly given where we live and the coverage we don’t yet enjoy.

Yet living a writer’s life requires hacks, too. For what is hacking other than breaking a code and getting where you are most likely not invited? Allow me to share a few with you.

Life hack #1: Feeding the brain via two universities, three community colleges, and then working as a gasp! woman in male-dominated fields.

Why is any of this pertinent to a writer? You learn to finish what you start, often under less than stellar conditions.

PupsicleLife hack #2: Winter version: Yaktrax, poles, neck gaiter, and ear warmers with the equivalent layering for the Italian greyhound. This gets us moving while preventing the dreaded pupsicle syndrome.

Yes, dear writers, we need to exercise our torpid bodies. Blood flow’s necessary to our hyperactive brains.

Bleh, bleh, bleh. But what does it take to become an author?” you ask.

Cover Collection 2Life hacks #3-12: Write a bodacious novel—or a googolplex of stories—or whatever it takes to learn your craft. Here’s a glimpse of my current oeuvres. Plus there’s the forthcoming launch of Soundings, Water Elemental in February 2015.

It’s a circuitous trail into hacking a writer’s life. No shortcuts here. Luck is involved—along with learning craft, critical thinking, and long hours in the writing chair. Although another hack has been my standing desk…

So while the initial burst of creative juices might trigger that moment of ah-ha along with entire scenes, character sketches, and plot devices, as writers we hack our way to core story, into character, and through process.

And those, my friends, are the subjects of future blogs. I hope you’ll join me for them, too. Until then, I recommend a daily hack attack into your own writer’s life.Tools of my trade

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

Newsletter signup

Join in and receive a FREE short story as my gift to you. Exclusive promos, book deals and contests available only to subscribers.

%d bloggers like this: