Sun Valley to Missoula

What I love about a road trip: the heart, already full from a place just discovered, quickens in anticipation of another place, new, just up the highway a bit.

We downed our morning coffee and headed north out of Sun Valley with a crystalline blue sky above and the Sawtooths to our left. At Challis we joined up with the Salmon River, which would be our companion, hanging convivially just to our right or our left all the way into Salmon, Idaho.

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I can see how, for climbers, the only way to conquer a peak is to claim it, step by step. But being fainter of heart and broken in body, I have to be satisfied with snapping photos from my shotgun seat in a car. In this country, even that is exhilarating!

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Salmon was our halfway point, and a welcome one after nearly three hours on the road. I’d picked out a place for lunch, highly lauded by online reviewers. We easily found a parking spot right on Main Street; Salmon, population 3,050, does not fit the definition of a tourist town. As we tumbled creakily out of the car, we encountered a local and asked about the restaurant.

“Just came from there,” he said, a bit grumpily.

“Was it good?” I asked.

“Not in my opinion,” he harrumphed. Something about his stance and the cowboy hat square on his head told me his opinion was to be respected, so I asked him if there was a place he could recommend. He pointed down to the next block to Bertram’s Brewery, which was packed with cheerful locals enjoying a burger and some Mt. Borah Brown Ale. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

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Thus sustained, we continued north on U.S. 93, crossing into Montana, trading out the Salmon River for the Bitterroot and then crossing paths somewhere around Sulah with the ghosts of Lewis and Clark’s 1805 expedition. In September of that year, they camped somewhere northwest of Sulah and recorded:

“…we set out at 2 oClock at the same time all the Indians Set out on ther way to meet the Snake Indians at the 3 forks of the Missouri.  nothing to eate but berries, our flour out, and but little corn, the hunters killed 2 pheasents only. ” 

We’d eaten far better than Lewis & Clark, and our road was easier, too. But it was comforting to know that some of the scenery we were seeing remains mostly unchanged from their days.

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All told, it was about six hours and some change from Sun Valley until we pulled into our hotel parking lot in Missoula. Some of the most beautiful country we’ve ever seen and a new pin in the travel map, besides. We were hardly as enterprising as Meriweather Lewis but I have a new appreciation for these words from his journal:

“Entertaining as I do the most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life.”

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Friends in high places: Sun Valley

I don’t know if it was the altitude or the company or something in the water. Whatever it was, I’ll have more, please: our week in Sun Valley positively glowed.

Maybe it was all the flowers. Everywhere we looked! Or perhaps the ghost of Hemingway

Or the iconic Sun Valley Lodge.

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Had the Gary Cooper suite. Katherine, this one is for you (should we call it a Cooper’s Hawk?)

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Let it be known that we did not starve in the wilds of Idaho.  There was the signature Poitrine de Poulet Aux Morilles (that’s chicken breast with morels for us philistines) at Michel’s; one lovely lunch at The Vintage, another with the stunning views up the hill at The Roundhouse and a perfect evening on the deck at the Ketchum Grill. I know, I know, the list is not complete without the Pioneer Saloon which we’ll have to save until the next visit, but we did have dinner at Enoteca one evening with Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest seated nearby.

Mark and Jean were consummate tour guides, treating us to highlights like the gondola run up Mt. Baldy (I know there’s a joke re baldies atop Mt. Baldy but I just can’t come up with it…)

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They took us to a rousing performance by Irish rock band Swagger in Ketchum Park and to a not-to-be-missed Dockdogs competition:

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Best of all, we were there for the 4th of July Sun Valley On Ice performance. Mark, being that in-the-know guy, made sure we were at the rink for the noon rehearsal, where we saw all the performers, including Olympic bronze winners Alex and Maia Shibutani rehearse for the evening performance.

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That night, they put on a terrific show, and of course, fireworks after!

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We checked out some art galleries and found a favorite theme:

And then suddenly it was time to move on down the road. Many many thanks to Mark and Jean for a fabulous week!

Pencil us in for a return visit!

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Paying respects.

I haven’t read every word Ernest Hemingway wrote, but I’ve read enough to know that he was the real deal. A king among knaves, on the page at least.

In my flippant teens and twenties, I fatuously waved him aside as Fitzgerald’s lesser rival. But I was an idiot. I reconsidered after revisiting his work in advance of our visit to Hemingway House in Key West  and again when we tracked him down to his boyhood haunt of Petoskey, Michigan. There, we peered longingly into the windows of the Hemingway museum which, unfortunately, was shuttered on a Sunday afternoon.

He was what some called “complex”. Or maybe he was just brutish, pompous, boorish, narcissistic…pick one or all of the above.

But the writing!

One of my favorite Hemingway quotes: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. And this he did, over and over again. If, like me, you’re not enamored of A Farewell to Arms, move on to The Sun Also Rises or discover To Have and Have Not. Still unimpressed? Listen to Donald Sutherland  reading The Old Man and the SeaAnd, should you remain unmoved by that, go directly to For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is, unquestionably, a masterpiece of American literature.

Perhaps he bled too much at that typewriter. Or had one too many concussions (CTE?) along with far too much booze and oh so many personal demons. After 1960 he found he could no longer write, and in July of 1961, he blew his brains out with a shotgun.

I wasn’t sure I felt his presence in Key West, or in Petoskey, but I felt it this week in Sun Valley where we visited his memorial next to Trail Creek. As literary pilgrimages go, this one is an A+.

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Looks like many others have celebrated communion with Papa at his Ketchum Cemetery gravesite:

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When we arrived at the Hemingway Memorial we encountered one other pilgrim, a young man lost in thought in this lovely, silent place. I asked him if he was a fan and he nodded, affirmatively. “What’s your favorite?”, I asked. He didn’t miss a beat. “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Definitely the right answer.

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Not exactly a spring chicken.

I’ll be honest. Every morning I go out to open up the coop and half hold my breath wondering if she’ll still be there. She looks a little weary around the eyes these days and she’s slower to come down from her sleeping shelf, preferring to doze a bit while the others fuss and cackle come the morning light.

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But then, perky as ever, she fluffs her mille-fleur feathers and struts out into the pen with her snowshoe feet and finds a choice spot from which to preside over another day. In all the trauma of recent milestones, we completely forgot to mark Pippa’s SEVENTH birthday. Today I will honor her, not with cake and ice cream, but with her idea of a perfect celebration: shredded cheese and dried mealworms.

“How long do chickens live?” I am frequently asked. The conventional answer is 5-7 years but many flock keepers demur at that, having seen far too many hens perish at just under or just over a year old. I had one die suddenly just after point-of-lay, and a few at eighteen months to two years – these were most likely related to egg-binding/internal laying issues, which are a rampant problem in hens.

Pippa hasn’t laid an egg in years, which may be the key to her longevity. “Matilda”, a hen that lived to be sixteen years of age and was once certified as the World’s Oldest Chicken by Guinness World Records, was thought to owe her ripe old age to the fact that she never produced eggs. The current title for oldest living chicken, according to the Guinness site, is held by “Muffy”, who died in 2011 at age twenty-two. Matilda and Muffy may have been older, but I think Pippa is prettier.

Pippa has had a full life, including motherhood when she went stubbornly broody and we indulged her with three baby chicks. She is a bantam and her babies were standard-size, so things got interesting as they grew. Especially when they were the same size as her and still trying to burrow beneath her to sleep at night!

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Pippa leads chicks august 2014

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As the designated old lady of the flock, Pippa is accorded extra treats here there and everywhere and she is allowed the odd peck at June, the youngest hen and the only one Pippa dares to bully. Her advanced age also entitles her to afternoon naps tucked into the CE’s jacket.

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Not a bad life! I hope she has many more years ahead of her. Happy birthday, Pippa, and please don’t kick the bucket!

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When the soul needs a balloon.

There are old souls and stolid souls and gentle souls. And then there are feeble souls like panicles of dandelion fluff that take a nosedive in a sudden down draft.

Twitter, that hell hole where people routinely spend their days biting off one another’s heads in 280 characters or less, oddly provided a soul-lifting balloon the other day when a well-known pundit shared his pick for “the most spiritual piece of music ever written”. Commenters briefly halted their usual locked-in-political-combat mode and chimed in with their own favorites.

It began with Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which you might recognize from the film “Master and Commander”:

Several people responded with another Vaughan Williams favorite, The Lark Ascending and others with Tallis’ Spem in Alium and with Samuel Barber’s lush Adagio for Strings. There was a shout-out for Schubert’s Ave Maria, and someone else recommended  this swoon-worthy clip from Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini:

Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 Lento e Largo “Sorrowful Songs” were new to me, as was the lovely Tchaikovsky Hymn of the Cherubim

Someone suggested Massenet’s familiar “Thais” Meditation to which I’ll counter that I find Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas “Dido’s Lament more compelling:

But each to his or her own. Other submissions included “anything by Beyoncé”, anything by Palestrina, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night” Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio” and Buckethead’s “Soothsayer”. Anton Bruckner’s 8th and 9th symphonies were heartily recommended, as was Elgar’s lovely Enigma Variations. Anything by Bach should probably be appended to the list, just because.

Someone mentioned Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, from which the Cantique de Jean Racine is one of my all-time favorites:

And I’ll add one more that wasn’t mentioned but which I think belongs right up there with all the rest: Tomás Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor. You might remember it as the theme song from the film Gallipoli. It sends a feeble spirit soaring:

Yes, listening to sad music can actually make you happier. Enjoy,  and please send me any other suggestions to add to my “soul-soothing” playlist…

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Just one last pat on the head.

She’s been gone almost two weeks, but still, I inexplicably expect her to amble down the hall and thrust that magnificent golden head and mane in my face, looking to comfort me and oh, maybe get a nice little scratch in return, that spot on top of the head where only human paws can reach. How we miss her!

And so do others. She’s had so many tributes – cards, flowers, memorials on social media. Chloe touched a lot of lives, all of them with grace and joy. Many thanks to everyone for their thoughtfulness.

For right now, there’s way too much noise – every room is filled with the crashing sound of her absence. I don’t have words yet, but here are some that a kind neighbor brought us:

Dogs in Our Lives

“We aren’t house proud. If we were, we wouldn’t abide the scratches on the door frame, the holes in the screen, the darkened shine of worn spots on the chair. We would wince at the mottled carpet and fret at the hair clinging to our clothes.

We don’t. If anything, we loves of dogs are a tolerant lot, finding greater value in the unabashed affection of our friends than in immaculate sofas. Shoes can be replaced, but heroic retrievers are timeless.

Without dogs, our houses are cold receptacles for things. Dogs make a fire warmer with their curled presence. They wake us, greet us, protect us, and ultimately carve a place in our hearts and our history. On reflection, our lives are often referenced in parts defined by the all-too-short lives of our dogs.”

                                                                                           — Paul Fersen

 

A sweet portrait of her by artist Hannah Stevens Allen:

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I’ll turn the page next week, I promise…

“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. ”  –Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

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Chloe.

Yes, she was the family dog. Chloe’s family just happened to include anyone she ever met.

Of course, she was loyal first and foremost to her clan.

But she loved and was loved by so many others. Friends, friends of friends, neighbors and whomever she met on the street that day. Chloe radiated calm and peace and acceptance and joy. So much joy.

 

She was unfailingly gentle with smaller creatures.

She looooooved her toys.

 

She loved her siblings of every species.

Especially the Tart. Soho is lost without her.

We are lost without her, too. She was always on the kitchen step. Always next to our bed. Always in the back seat of the car. Always right next to us. Always.

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The CE called her his wingman. No walk will ever be the same without her.

 

So much sadness. So many tears. She tried, up to the last moment, to be there for us. So much heart. Such a good, good, girl. She will be loved and missed forever.

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“In one of the stars I shall be living

In one of them I shall be laughing

And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing

when you look

at the sky all night”

The Little prince

Antoine de Saint Exupery

 

 

 

 

 

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