ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Home Planet

Posts tagged: spring

Spokane: A raging river is no place to play

    Like so many others in Spokane, in the spring I go down to pay my respects to the river. Fed by snowmelt and rain, the Spokane River swells and grows and becomes, seemingly overnight, a powerful monster roaring through the canyon it has chewed through solid basalt. 

 

    This dramatic sight draws people of all ages and the spectacle takes your breath away. Water spills over the falls, churns, boils and foams sending curtains of fine mist, droplets of water that ride the wind, coating the bridges, paths and spectators before it rushes on, making its way to fill the aquifer that quenches this thirsty land.

 

    This year, with so much snow and rain falling so late in the season, the river is at its wildest, just under flood stage. We were there on Saturday afternoon and we walked along the path to the viewing platform at the base of the Monroe Street Bridge. That is one of my favorite places to see the falls and feel the incredible power. The land drops away at the edge of the rail, the ground vibrates and the sound makes conversation difficult. We stood for a few minutes admiring the view and taking photos before we strolled up another block to the Post Street Bridge. 

 

    From there I noticed a group of boys on bicycles ride down to the place we’d just been. Gathering at the rail, they were roughhousing as boys of that age do, pushing, punching, shadowboxing as they peered down at the water. Suddenly, one of the boys climbed up and dropped over the rail in one fluid motion, landing on the deceptively thin layer of spongy soil covering the slick rocks abutting the concrete arch of the big bridge. He moved to the edge of the steep slope that plunges down to the raging water. 

 

    My heart slammed against my ribs and I heard myself make an instinctive, involuntary, sound like a frightened animal. I was terrified he would slip at any minute. The ground was still soaked from days of rain and there was nothing to reach out and grab if he lost his footing. And the river, always dangerous, is completely unforgiving at this stage. Whatever falls into it is quickly gone forever. 

 

    I looked for my husband but he was out of sight. I raised my phone to call 911, sure that if I took my eyes off the boy he would be gone when I looked up, but at that moment one of his friends must have called him back because he turned and just as quickly hopped back to safety.

 

    “Oh, you stupid boy.” I whispered. “You stupid, lucky, boy.”  

 

    The group stayed another few minutes—long enough for me to snap a photo—and then hopped back on their bicycles and moved on, off to swagger and impress one another in other ways, I suppose. 

 

    I finally walked away but I was still trembling.

 

    I keep replaying the scene in my mind, thinking how one wrong step could have changed everything, but I doubt the boy has given it a second thought. 

 

    I know this is nothing new. 

 

    When my children were that age they laughed at my constant worry. They thought I was simply overprotective, but the truth is, I was unhinged. They had no idea how many dangers there were outside our door and I suppose I believed if I could think of it and warn them against it (whatever it was) I could somehow protect them. New fears would hit me in the middle of the night. What if… What if… What if…

 

    At that age—adolescence and early adulthood—we are vulnerable because we have not yet developed an awareness of just how fragile we truly are. Age, experience, and exposure to the shocking misfortune of others gradually brings on the understanding that at any given moment any of us is fair game to tragedy. Terrible things can happen when we least expect it.  

   

    Eventually, wisdom—and with it a greater chance of survival—comes with the understanding that the reckless make themselves better targets. So most of us grow cautious, careful. Some of us become worried mothers and fathers, nagging our children to take care.

 

    Perhaps one day, when he is a man and he’s watching a teenage son drive away, the same lucky boy will remember the day the river didn’t get him and he’ll call out,  “Hey, don’t do anything stupid!”

 

    But his boy will not look back, and the words will roll off his back like the clean, cool, spray from a waterfall. 

    

     Note: The group of boys mentioned in this column appears in the photo above.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Memorial Day: White Crosses at Flanders Field

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

    In a quiet corner of Belgium, tucked into what is now a residential area, behind a low brick wall and evergreen hedge and just beyond an avenue of stately Linden trees, 368 American soldiers are buried at the Flanders Field American Cemetery.


    One of 24 cemeteries outside the United States maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Flanders Field American Cemetery is the only American cemetery in Belgium. It was established on the site of the battlefield where almost 94 years ago, from October 30 to November 11, 1918, the 91st Division fought to liberate Belgium.


    I was there on a raw spring day in April and a cold rain fell on my umbrella as I walked between the rows of white marble crosses. The weather only added to the solemnity of the moment. Coming from Spokane, I took special note of Northwest names: Bernard Meyers and Edward Condon from Washington State, Frank Osborn from Montana. There were others from Idaho and Wyoming, and I wondered if the descendants of any of these men might be my neighbors.


    Sadly, the War to End All Wars was hardly that. Almost a century later we are still in conflict, still living under the threat of war and terror. Men and women continue to die on foreign soil. Supreme sacrifices continue to be made.


    In the elaborate marble chapel at the Flanders Field cemetery I stooped to read the messages on the wreaths of paper Poppies—the symbol of Flanders Fields and the almost unimaginable losses there—and other memorial flowers. One stood out. The card attached to the ring of red paper flowers was printed with the words, “From an American who remembers.”


    There was no name, no way to tell to whom the wreath had been dedicated. But thinking about the names on the simple white crosses, the generations altered and impacted by the cruelties of war and the men and women who are coming home now to a society grown so accustomed to conflict we forget to thank and acknowledge those who deliberately step into harm’s way , it crossed my mind I should pull out my pen and add the words, “From all of us.”

You can see more photos of the Flanders Field American Cemetery on my CAMera: Travel and Photo blog.
  

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


  

We have asparagus season. Germany has Spargelzeit.

   (Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

 

   Just after the morning’s first cup of coffee, I pedaled my bicycle to the organic market near my house. I’d been drawn by the sign advertising fresh local asparagus and I came home with bundles of the tender green vegetable in the wicker basket on the front of my bike.  That night, grilled in butter and olive oil, sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, it was as delicious as I’d expected. The quintessential taste of spring.

   Halfway around the world, in Germany, I know another woman was probably doing the same thing. Only her bicycle basket would be filled with the pale, white asparagus. It would be more delicately flavored, grown in tall mounds of earth, sheltered from the sun until harvest.

   From April to late June, Germans are mad for asparagus. Eaten only in season, the tender, pale, stalks set off a frenzy of dining and celebrating. We have asparagus season. They have Spargelzeit. Once the delicacy of kings, and regarded as a medicinal luxury in the Middle Ages, the “edible Ivory” stalks are brought out like treasure. Harvested, displayed and consumed with adoration.

   Weekly markets—usually held in the historic squares of the old cities—are sprinkled with stalls featuring rows of  white asparagus bundles paired with other early fruits and vegetables like radishes or strawberries. The effect is as colorful and appealing as any still-life composed by an artist.

   Restaurants create special menus dedicated to asparagus, each trying to outdo the other. It is blended into cocktails, pickled, chopped into salads, draped across main courses and even sweetened and turned into dessert.  One might have it in the morning’s omelet, lunchtime salad and again at the evening meal. With a glass of German wine, of course. There is no moderation.

   Like the country’s exuberant Christmas decorations, Asparagus is the star of spring. There are asparagus festivals, complete with Kings and Queens and districts organize asparagus trails and tours similar to the well-traveled wine routes that meander through the Rhine valley.  The Lower Saxony region produces a fifth of all the asparagus Germany consumes each season and in the Baden fields devotees, eager for the freshest bites, can pitch in and join the harvest.

   Here, in my part of the world, the sign is back. A new harvest of local Northwest asparagus is on display at the market so I’ll hop back on my bike and fill the basket again. I’ll serve it up and savor each bite. But I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. Sure, we have asparagus season. But Germany? Well, they get Spargelzeit.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

One Yellow Bell

 photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap   


     Undressing, I slipped my hand into the pocket of my skirt and pulled out one single small flower. A forsythia bloom. A tiny yellow bell.

      I’d forgotten it was there.

      I have a habit of dropping things into my pocket, like an overgrown child, and often find odds and ends like buttons and stones and flowers there at the end of the day. Sometimes I hear something rattling in the washer or dryer, or discover the crumpled remains in a suitcase and remember too late.

       Today, one of those gray and chilly early March days that belie the coming spring, I was hurrying headlong from one meeting to another and I almost walked by the flowering shrub without noticing it. But the bright yellow blooms stood out against the gray of the building and the dry winter soil and caught my eye. I stopped.

     

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here