Archive for November, 2007

Being Sylvan

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 17:07

To satisfy your curiosity, this is what Sylvan’s been up to.

Wrestling with Aunt Jenny. She forgivingly took a few elbows in the ear.

Snuggling with and stepping on Aunt Jenny

Raking leaves:

“Raking” leaves

Well, Mommy didn’t carve it, so I had to do something with it:

Painting a pumpkin

“Can I be of any help?” (memories of John L. Jones, 1921-2007)

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 1:03

A Birthday

Today would have been John L. Jones’s 86th birthday. He was my grandfather. He died on August 24.

Grandpa taught me many things. I took some of those things to heart, and I learned to do them so well that I don’t even know I’m doing them. Others, I learned to avoid. Still others, I continue to strive to incorporate into my life.

How to Take a Shower

Grandpa taught me how to take a shower. First, you turn on the water just long enough to get yourself wet. Then you turn off the water and soap up, cleaning yourself thoroughly. When you put shampoo in your hair, close your eyes gently — if you squeeze them shut tightly, the shampoo will sting your eyes. When you’re all soaped up, turn on the water just long enough to rinse yourself. Before you get out of the shower, wipe down the walls with a squeegee.

Only much later in life did I learn that this type of shower is called a “Navy shower.” You see, the way Grandpa explained it, this was not some unusual way to take a shower. It was the only way to take a shower. Clever marketing.

I tried it, Grandpa, I really did. I just can’t do it. Taking a shower like that is miserable. I have managed to figure out how to wash my hair without getting soap in my eyes, but that’s about it. I just can’t bring myself to spend less than ten minutes under that hot, relaxing, soothing stream of (did I mention hot?) water. I do think of you every single time I’m standing there, though. So if that’s immortality, grab it. It might be the best kind.

How to Tell a Story

Grandpa passed on to me, through my father, a propensity to tell the long version of any story. As far as we’re concerned, there is no short version. Or worse, we’re telling the short version. I think of him any time I stop myself from telling the extra long version that I really want to tell and preface the shortest possible version I can think of with “OK, here’s the short version.” The short version is always two or three times longer than it needs to be, and I’ve got a relatively mild case of it.

The root of the problem is that we want you to know all of the background information so that you can appreciate the story in all of its fullness. The symptom of the problem is that you appreciate the story less after we’ve made you sit through all of the preambles, prefaces, and prologues. We do it because we love you; does that make it any more tolerable?

The women in our family (Hi, Mom! Stop rolling your eyes, Julie!) have gotten used to it, in the same way that you get used to a sharp rock in your shoe when you’re carrying two heavy bags of groceries down a set of slippery stairs in the dark.

How to Handle Jehovah’s Witnesses

This is the audio from Grandpa’s memorial service: John L. Jones Memorial. It’s a downloadable (42 MB) MP3 file that you can play on your computer or iPod. (You might need to right-click or ctrl-click and choose Save Link As to save the file on your computer.) The story starts at 22:55.

Those of you who did not know Grandpa and might not want to hear the whole service should at least download and listen to his grandson (my cousin) Andrew Allport’s wonderful rendition of a Greg Brown song called Further In. How he made it all the way through, I will never know. It starts at 8:50 in the above file, or you can download the song by itself here. I’ve been playing it again and again. It always surprises Julie to see me cry.

four jonesey, November 2006

Four Joneses (John, Tom, Chris, and Sylvan). November 2006.

Happy Birthday: 26 Months

Posted by julie on Monday, 12 November 2007, 22:06

Dear Sylvan,

Sylvan got some stickers!“Aunt Jenny has a shoe on her head,” you told me when you woke up. After her four-day visit, Aunt Jenny had already flown away on the plane, but your dreams kept her right here, hatted with a Croc or a Spiderman sneaker. You took quickly to your auntie, even though you hadn’t seen her since March, pushing me away as you asked for Aunt Jenny to take you upstairs for bedtime stories. The night before she left, we took Aunt Jenny out for a Eugene night on the town, to a benefit concert, an evening of music performed by students from the music school the concert supported. You were a fantastic audience member, setting up a baseball game between some knights from a chess set during the piano and flute pieces, then sitting, absolutely rapt, during the west African drumming and dancing.

You need a beer balanced on that belly, Dude.You have started to tell rather outrageous stories, a chip right off the old Jones block. “What does the mixer truck do, Sylvan?” “It sprays mud in the air, Mom.” And your ridiculous response sets off your giggles; it’s good to appreciate your own stories, because you can never be assured of an amused audience.

A few weeks ago, you told me that the parentheses on my keyboard were “happy birthday moons.” In the language department, you’re very excited about rhymes these days: “Daddy-waddy,” substituting “Daisy” for “Maisy,” exchanging the words of songs for all sorts of nonsense words.

I figured out your chain of thought regarding woolly mammoths, by the way. When I point out sheep, you tell me that sheep are sheep, but little sheep, or lambs, are woolly “lamb-eths.” Given that sheep and lambs do have wool, I see how you’d connect woolly mammoths and lambs. Clever.

In a fantastic feat of deduction, you told us that fire trucks go and get the fire, put it in the truck, and take it back to the station. So that‘s how they put out the flames.

Although we had a cute, plush hand-me-down frog costume waiting in the wings, you kept asking to be either a butterfly or a dragon for Halloween. Craigslist Sylvan in a boxcame to the rescue again, offering a used dragon costume for $10. Without telling you, I picked it up before your school’s harvest party, and, when you awoke, grumpily, from your nap that day, I asked if you wanted to put on a dragon costume. Ah, as the grump turns. Daddy dressed you in the dragon costume, and you responded, “I’m a soft dragon.” You also picked a name: Smoky, or “Moky.” Appropriate, since not only are dragons sometimes smokin’, but your great-grandfather Julius’s nickname was Smoky.

I’m grateful that we made you a CD for your birthday — a CD packed with songs Sylvan and friends, ready for a hayridethat we like by Bruce Springsteen, Bill Staines, and John Denver, and not the toddler wrangler Raffi — because you have entered the slightly obsessive-compulsive stage of music listening: “Kitters pace in wire (All God’s critters got a place in the choir) again!” Really? For the thirteenth time? Confession: I must have listened to my Born Free record non-stop for three or four weeks when I was a tot.

We sent you to school this morning in big boy underwear decorated with boats and planes and cars. Super-exciting! When you’re at home and naked — and, let’s be honest, your bare butt is quite a common sight around here — you regularly use the potty. Your teacher suggested that you might do well in underwear at school. I brought you home from school today with three wet pairs of big boy undies and a wet sock. You wouldn’t sit on the potty until I got there. When I asked if you’d like to sit, you said, “Yeah!” We sat for twenty minutes, you getting used to the little potty — and dipping your foot in the bowl. Voila, wet sock! Your Dad, who was made to be a parent, made up a very silly, very effective “peed in the potty” dance. I promised him I wouldn’t post a video on youtube.



Misuse of Tools

Posted by julie on Thursday, 8 November 2007, 17:35

Standing on one’s roof, aiming a leafblower at the tree above, still bright with yellow leaves.

Grand Canyon for the Weekend

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 17:55

Wide canyon view from near South RimAs Sylvan and I biked to the library this morning, I considered my appreciation and awe of this amazing time-travel thing we do when we fly in airplanes. Yesterday, at precisely the time I was biking to the library this morning in Eugene, 9:45 a.m., I had climbed 1500 feet toward the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I’d started at a campsite on Horseshoe Mesa, and, in another 1000 feet, I’d reach the rim.

Blooming yucca and Vishnu PointTwo and a half weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to take a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course in the Grand Canyon. Although already an LNT Master (not to be confused with my position as the Master of Science), I’d like to instruct these courses, which are typically five days long, plus a couple of contract days before and after for planning and wrapping up — an ideal length for a Mom. In order to instruct these courses, NOLS instructors typically take one in order to see how it’s run. A position opened up on this course a couple of weeks ago, and I got a chance to see the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon surprised me with its narrow Did you know agave looked this cool close-up?width. I’d envisioned a web of canyons, but the Grand Canyon is, of course, simply the Colorado River’s valley with some impressively eroded side channels running up to the rims. It’s only 12 miles across from the North to the South Rim. That doesn’t make it any less impressive when you come upon it and peer in, but it does make it a little more manageable. I felt like I could have easily made it down to the river and back in two days. I like how walking gives me that feeling of power, that I’d be able to walk down to the mythical Colorado River in just a day.

If you’ve hiked in the Grand Canyon, you’re familiar with trails in improbable locations, like hanging from the side of cliffs. The Park actually has a Trails Historian who, among other things, makes sure that trail maintenance is performed with materials and in a manner similar to those used during the trail’s construction — or at least during its maintenance in the past 200 years. Some Grand Canyon trails may have their origins thousands of years ago, when hunter-gathering cultures lived in the area that’s now Grand Canyon National Park.

“Cradles” constructed as a platform for the trail

Hiking down to Page Springs

We did some minor spelunking in the Cave of the Domes, in the Redwall limestone layer underneath Horseshoe Mesa. I took this photo looking toward the bright sunlight from within the cave’s lobby. Just minutes before, Air Force One had flown over; I don’t know any other aircraft with such an entourage.

Entrance to the Cave of the Domes

The Grand Canyon’s human history extends back 10,000 years, and there’s plenty of evidence of the humans who have lived and worked there for the past 500 years. This cave dwelling is down in Cottonwood Canyon, on the west side of Horseshoe Mesa.


Cave in Cottonwood Canyon

Horseshoe Mesa was a copper-mining hotbed in the late 1800s, at least until the realization was reached that getting ore, even remarkably high-grade ore, out of the Grand Canyon and then to any sort of population center was not cost-effective. Following are photographs of the remnants of that copper industry.

Stone cabin on Horseshoe Mesa, with Horseshoe Mesa Butte behind. The miner Pete Berry’s cabin?

Cabin on Horseshoe Mesa

Copper ore. Maybe azurite (blue) and malachite (green). What am I, a geologist?

Copper ore on Horseshoe Mesa

Wheelbarrow left to stay until it rusts away, near Page Spring.

Wheelbarrow with Vishnu Point behind

And, if you were wondering, yes, I could quite possibly have the best husband around, one who not only understands what makes his wife tick (getting away to hike) but works hard to keep her ticking merrily away. This was my last view of the boys when they dropped me off at the airport last week.

My happy boys