Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, SkyWatch Friday

Sunrise Walk in Stillwater: Skywatch Friday

So, a month or so ago, I got a new phone (well, actually, a reconditioned Samsung Galaxy S5, which is plenty new enough for me). Not only does it take gorgeous pictures, but it has a very comprehensive fitness tracking sytem with programs to try – and so, rather spontaneously, I decided I was going to do the Baby Steps to 5K program.

Which is how I ended up on our quiet rural road with my fifteen-year-old son, catching up a workout missed somewhere in waves of rain, watching the sun come up and do lovely things to a sky decorated with fluffy clouds…

So, how about you?
Like what you see here?

Enjoy watching the sky?
Why not join Skywatch Friday?

It’s easy as a passing cloud. Just click here to see the rules, and sign up with your own Skywatch post. Or just browse for more lovely views of the #BigBlueRoom to get you in a more leisurely frame of mind for the weekend.

And may each new sunrise bring you more wonder than the one before!

Posted in Blogfest Entries, First Friday Photo, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling, Writing in Freedom

Decorated With a Found Feather: First Friday Photo

Hi there! You’re a bit surprised to see me pop up with a Friday post, right? I mean, I haven’t done a regular, non-challenge Friday post for….well, I’m not interested in looking up the last time, but it’s been a while.

Today, though, I’m trying something new, in part to support my lifelong friend Eden Mabee as she relaunches a feature that’s been away for a while, and also to play a bit and share a little…

You can read Eden’s introduction to First Friday Photo here. 

Decorated With Found Treasure. Photo of Annalise S. Burton by Shan Jeniah Burton., February 2015. Editing with PicMonkey. Click Image to enter Flickr stream.

I took this picture of my daughter, Annalise, age 10.5, on February 23 (the Flickr tag says the 22nd, but don’t believe it – it’s lying. I know it was the 23rd, because we went to the Oregon Coast on the Monday after my Accomplice’s birthday on the 20th, and that was the preceding Friday…).

We were on vacation in my Accomplice’s neck of the continental woods, from our home in mine (upstate New York). For anyone not in the Northeast corner of North America last winter….it was a rough one. What an amazing thing, to be somewhere beautiful and green, when we had left feet – no, I am not exaggerating! – of snow in our own yard.

One of the things we wanted to show the kids were the sand dunes along the Pacific Coast. So, after getting up extra early and stopping at our very favorite coffee kiosk, we drove out to our favorite coastal town from our pre-child days – Florence, Oregon. We’d wanted to have breakfast at The Blue Hen Cafe, but it’s been closed. One of the waitresses there now had her own place, though – The Little Brown Hen, and we had a lovely meal there, where everyone had just what they wanted.

And then it was time to drive out to the South Jetty, and make our way out to the ocean via trails over the dunes….

Just a little way up the trail, we found all that remained of a seagull – some dessicated bones, and feathers. Annalise fell in love with the feathers, and, after studying the remains, decorated herself with a flight feather before continuing on up the trail…

Annalise, as she was….with feather and best friend, Sheet. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

Our kids are homeschooled, so we don’t have year after year of school portraits. Truth is, I tend to like this type of picture better, anyway…she just turned and posed for me, not as one kid among many, with props and a schedule that were predetermined, and maybe had little or nothing to do with her or her life. She posed because she wanted to, and as she pleased…because she likes being, as she puts it, ‘blog famous’.

What we have here is Annalise, at not quite 11, being Annalise as she spends her last few minutes before the glory and wonder of the Pacific was hers to explore…

And a captured image, stolen from time, of a “medium girl” (her term), on vacation, on a Monday when she might have been sitting in a classroom, but wasn’t…

Instead, she was here….

The Pacific Coast, South Jetty Beach, Florence, Oregon, February 23, 2015. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.


Where’s the coolest place you’ve been lately? Where would you like to go? Have any favorite location-specific photos?

Why not share an image? Click the little linky guy and add yours today!

Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Challenges and Contests, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Travel

Zzzzzzzz….: #atozchallenge, Day 30

So, can you believe that this is it?!

We’ve traveled our way through the alphabet, on a grand loop of adventure – I’ll admit that I’m more than a little surprised at some of the places this trip has taken me – into my memories, into new ideas and connections, into new stories and goals…

This foray into a time that so easily gets swept away in a fog of the everyday life I live today – a life filled with home and husband and children and pets and and and – has been a time of renewal and re-energizing for me…

At the same time, as I write this last post from the guest bedroom of my dear friend who lives only one state and a 5 hour drive away, I’m tired. Ready to pause in pulling forth the pearls from our traveling years and examining them…ready to move on to other projects, and absorb what this month and this project has brought me.

But before I do that – one more time, for an even 26.

I mentioned way back during S that I had a couple of funny stories about sleeping under the stars. I promised I’d get back to these for my Z post – and now it’s time to deliver on that promise.

I enjoy an Arizonan desert campfire with Gus the Wonder-Truck, fall 2000. Photo by James B. Burton.

Both of these stories happened in Arizona, or maybe the far southern edge of the Utah desert, and both happened at night.

We traveled one weekend to the town of Wickenburg, and then, on the way home, stopped in the former mining boom town of Crown King, which is isolated on the top of a mountain. When night approached, we found one of those many fire rings scattered throughout the west, and made camp there.

We were bedded down and asleep when we were awakened by a sudden noise that didn’t fit. In wild places, people tend to react more instinctively, and we were sitting up with flashlights aimed into the scrub brush around us in a matter of seconds, preparing to defend ourselves against whatever threat presented itself.

The threat turned out to be real – a javelina  – a small but potentially aggressive little tusked beast. This one was alone, and staring right at us!

We shone lights in its eyes, and made “Move along; nothing to see here” noises. Thankfully, the nocturnal visitor left without any altercation (of course, from the javelina’s point of view, we were likely the unwanted guests!).

Crown King General Store, Crown King, Arizona…1997. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

But the funniest sleeping under the stars story – the one I still giggle about nearly 18 years later – happened before we were even married, on the night before our visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We’d ridden the motorcycle a good part of the day, and found a place in the nearby desert to sleep for a few hours, until it was light enough to explore.

We were laying there, side by side, when all of a sudden, my Accomplice (who, by the way, looks more than a little like Henry VIII, and is built like a linebacker) jerked away from me and made a sound that can only be described as girlish.

“There’s a tarantula on me! There’s a tarantula on me!”

This is a Texan tarantula, not an Arizona one – but still…you get the idea, right? Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

My response? Laughter!

He subsided, and stared at me angrily. “Why would you laugh when I said there was a tarantula?”

I was laughing so hard at this point that I couldn’t explain in words. I tried another tactic –

There really is a tarantula on me!”

Finally, I was able to explain – no tarantula, just a feisty fiancee who thought a flirty tickle in the ribs might lead in other directions than arachnophobic ones (especially since it was rather cold and dark for tarantulas to be out and about). I don’t think I truly understood how much my Accomplice dislikes spiders, or how differently our minds work, until then…but I still laugh at how that innocent little tickle became a dangerous threat, and how he must have felt when I laughed at his terrifying predicament!

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more zany or not-so-zany “Z” posts, click the banner.

And there we have it…an entire journey through scattered, geographically far flung bits and pieces of my wandering life…yes, we’ve slept outside in many places, including beside lava tubes, amongst Joshua trees, on mountains…in tents, and under the stars, in a bed my Accomplice made for us, and at friends’ and families’ homes, in hotels and motels, and in the bed of old Gus…and now, from a bed 230 miles from the one my Accomplice is in, I bid you all good night, to the tune of one of my all time favorite lullabies!

Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting, Travel, Writing in Freedom

Yellowstone and the Shape of Our Lives: #atozchallenge, Day 29

Has your life, or that of your family, been shaped by specific places?

As we near the end of the alphabet, I look back and see a long list of places and events that have sculpted not only my life, but also that of my family – even before our children were born, the lives my Accomplice and I lived as a couple built the foundation and structure of the life we live as a family…

In a very real sense, traveling has given us that family.

We were living at the Rocky Mountain Campground in Montana, just outside the famed North Gate of Yellowstone National Park, in 2000, a little over three years into married life, when we knew we were ready to seriously consider expanding our family beyond the array of furry companions we harbored (at the time, three cats and one large shaggy dog). We were both working in Mammoth Hot Springs, where my Accomplice oversaw training and operations of the nine Employee Dining Rooms throughout the park, and where I was a waitress at the restaurant, often with trainees of my own.
Roosevelt Arch , Gardiner, Montana. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy of YellowstoneNPS, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

All of my early appointments to deal with prenatal health and preparation were at the medical facilities there.

It was while visiting my family in New York, two days before we returned to Yellowstone, that we learned that we were going to have a baby.

Part of our agreement for working the winter season was that my Accomplice would return to his position to work the summer season, as well – and our baby was due August 13 – which meant that we’d become parents in close proximity to Yellowstone.

It was nearly an 80 mile (126 kilometer) to our midwife’s, through Craig’s Pass. In June, our appointment was canceled because there was a blizzard, and the pass was, well, impassable.
Uh, yeah. No midwife today. Craig’s Pass and the Continental Divide, snowbound. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy YellowstoneNPS, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

It was a hot, dry summer, and we lived at 6000 feet above sea level. I was so uncomfortable, and, because we hoped for a homebirth, nervous that the baby wouldn’t wait till 36 weeks to be born – the legal point for midwife attended homebirth in Montana. There was no cause for the worry – my due date came and went, as I sweated and lugged my increasingly massive belly around with me, everywhere I went. I jokingly told my Accomplice that the weather would break the day we had the baby.

Throughout the pregnancy, we took pictures of my growing middle by Kepler Cascades.

Pregnant by Kepler Cascades, summer 2001.

Finally, we tried to naturally induce the baby – this was done at a cabin that welcomed homebirths, where there was live music, someone building a straw bale house, and a wildfire just a couple of mountains away. Our baby – stubborn, even before birth. Our child wouldn’t be coaxed out until good and ready, thanks all the same!

Finally, on September 2, Jeremiah finally made his appearance – by C-section, at a hospital. The best laid plans…

We brought him home on the 5th. He crossed his first state line that day, too, on his first day in a car, when we took him five miles up the mountain into Wyoming to meet the folks at his Daddy’s office, who had been eagerly awaiting his long-delayed arrival. It was so hot that day, we had him in just a diaper, once we got home. By the next morning, he was in fleece from head to toe- I had been right about the weather changing!

He toured Yellowstone’s Grand Loop at the ripe age of two weeks, because we had friends throughout the park to introduce him to, and because we knew that would be our last season. He nursed in the restaurants at Mammoth Hot Springs, the posh Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and our former home, the Old Faithful Inn.
Detail of the Theodore Roosevelt quote, Rooosevelt Arch, North Entrance, Gardiner, Montana. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy of YellowstoneNPS via Flickr.


We arrived at Yellowstone as newlyweds – and left as new parents. There will always be a special warmth in my heart for the place that saw us through that transition, and, even though our Montana boy, now 13.5 and taller than me, with an emerging man’s voice, hasn’t been there since he was five weeks old, he will always, in my mind, be tied to the place that was his first home. And someday, hopefully within the next couple of years, we will offer him the chance to reunite with the place of his birth.

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more Y yarns, click the banner.

Yellowstone embraced us during our transition to parenthood. Is there a place that did the same for you? Are you still there? If not, have you been back? Would you like to?



Posted in Blogging From A-Z 2015, Challenges and Contests, Just for Fun!, Life Writing

San Francisco, Sequoia, and Stars: #atozchallenge, Day 22

So, do you have a favorite city? Perhaps one you live in, or that was once a home to you? A local city that you frequent as often as you can? Or maybe it’s somewhere distant, someplace you’ve visited once or twice, or just dreamed of getting to see and explore?

For me, Saratoga Springs will always be a favorite. For two years, I lived on Caroline Street, within easy walking distance to both the shops and events on Broadway, and the historic Saratoga Race Course.

There’s another city that speaks to me, too – one way out on the Left Coast. It’s a city that I’ve only been to for one day out of my whole life…but which has stayed with me, ever since…San Francisco.

During our ‘second honeymoon’, after the Moqui Lodge season ended, my accomplice and I visited San Francisco for one whirlwind day that included seafood, oysters and pearls, Fisherman’s Wharf (a little Alcatraz museum, the San Francisco Aquarium, “Why Lie? It’s for Beer!”, which was the best panhandling sign I’ve ever seen; seafood, the Ghiradelli shop of deliciousness), a trolley ride, (Union Square, Mr. Goldman, FAO Schwarz), and a trip to Haight-Ashbury (where very young people who called my 33 year old Accomplice “Pops” tried to bum change or offered to sell us “green bud” from the side of their mouths, while, around the corner, police officers feigned ignorance of these goings-on, in a state of orchestrated coexistence).

There’s no way I couldn’t love a city with that much texture, so much ocean, so many hills, and that one-of-a-kind vibe….

And thinking of California always reminds me of sequoias those mighty and magnificent giant trees I first read about in The Wide Horizons Reader when I was seven. Our California explorations included visits to Sequoia/Kings Canyon and Redwoods National Parks – and also to Yosemite, where I wanted to see ‘my tree’, Wawona – yes, the very tree that was the silent protagonist in that old story – “Big Tree”. Sadly, the weather was rainy and unpleasantly raw even at the base of the mountain, and, just before we were scheduled to take a tram ride to the Mariposa Grove where we could find  the star of my girlhood fantasies, it was canceled due to snowy conditions up above. We did get to witness a controlled burn, marveled at the  cones the trees produce, stood inside a massive living tree, and were rejuvenated by the sight of a field full of tiny little brand-new sequoias that gave no hint of their future colossal selves…

During that trip, we also stopped at a gift shop created in the cleft of a living redwood trunk, and attempted (and failed to) drive through one left over from the days when people didn’t understand the risk to the tree’s structural integrity such acts created. Gus the Wonder-Truck, outfitted with his camper and a cargo shell, was too tall to fit.


The sequoias are the superstars of the tree world…but they aren’t the only stars I love. I didn’t see many stars during out time in Yosemite; as I mentioned, the weather was uncooperative, and didn’t allow for stargazing.

That’s a little sad, because I love just staring up into them. And no place is better for that than the desert. When we lived at the Grand Canyon, I loved the combination of the vast deeps, felt but not seen in the darkness, and the wonder of the stars above – an endlessly rich tapestry that can’t be seen in places where people congregate all their light-clutter…

There was something deeply magical in the combination – the immensity of the Canyon below, the infinity of the depths of space above – and me, a tinier than tiny speck on a little ball of dustmotes and water droplets, suspended between them…the stars there are so vivid, so visible, that it hosts  a Star Party each summer, to watch the skies and offer others the chance to do the same.

We’ve camped on the Arizona desert many times, sleeping beneath that glorious firmament filled with stars, but my favorite was the North Rim trip, where my Accomplice thought I was a tarantula…and then there was that time with the javelina hog…but you’ll need to wait for my “Z” post to learn more about those…

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. Find more superlative, spectacular, or spartan “S” posts by clicking the banner.

How about you? Are you a fan of the stars? Gobsmackingly enormous trees? A particular city that stole your heart, and won’t release you? You know what to do, right? Just drop your dust motes and water droplets – errr, memories, observations, and comments! – in the box down there!


Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Challenges and Contests, Just for Fun!, Life Writing

A Quiet Quarry: #atozchallenge, Day 20

Have you ever been someplace where the sounds of man fade away, and all that remains is nature?

During the years we worked and lived in Yellowstone National Park, we often talked about going to visit some of the caves in the more easterly part of Montana. The problem was that we tended to keep our travel more local – day hikes and Grand Loop travels in the park, and trips to nearby (relatively speaking, in Big Sky Country terms, where we lived 80 miles from Bozeman, the nearest city of significant size) – like Jackson Hole and Cody, Wyoming, or the Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone

And when our season ended, and we were off for several weeks – the caves were already closed for the season, as well.

Finally, we decided to use a long weekend to our advantage. The Lewis and Clark Caverns were on the way to Missoula, where I wanted to see the handmade carousel. So we packed up old Gus and the young Bunko-dog, planning to find a place along the way to camp.

An intriguing hole in a rocky wall…the quarry near Lewis and Clark Caverns, eastern Montana, c. 2000. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

We were nearing the caverns, late into the afternoon, when we spotted a large cave on the side of an outcropping. It was too late to explore it that day, since it was a good way from the parking area – but we found several fire rings, a sure sign that camping was acceptable, and that’s where we made our beds that night.

In the morning, while my Accomplice and the dog saw to breakfast (the perks of marrying a chef!), I took a notebook and pen and walked out along a trail a ways to write. I was struck by the absence of human sounds – and just sat there for a while, listening to a world that existed as though humans weren’t a part of it. I became intimately aware of how much noise-clutter we seem to add to everything around us with all of our busyness…

Somewhere, I still have the notebook, and the entry, for that morning….

Inside-Out viewpoint…Old Quarry near Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana, c. 2000. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

I returned, and we explored what turned out to be an abandoned quarry. We had the place all to ourselves; we’d left the Bunko-dog bedded down in the back of the truck. We scrambled and perched on trails that made me more than a bit nervous, as you can probably see by my rather forced. let’s-just-get-this-over-with-okay? expression…

Way past the edge of my comfort zone. Outside the Quiet Quarry, Eastern Montana, c.2000. Photo by James Bedford Burton (My Accomplice).

We did make it to the caverns, that day, and joined a group of other tourists on a guided tour. Then we went on to Missoula, and had fun playing on the carousel, and exploring the exhibits from the woodworking shop where horses were made and repaired.

Stalagmite Skyscrapers in Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana. Photo by Shan jeniah Burton, c.2000.

But, for me, the part of the trip that stands out the most was a quiet quarry and the sound of silence….

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. For more quiet, querulous, quixotic posts, click the banner.

And now it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite quiet memory? Does silence make you feel like I did, up on that ledge? Have you ever taken a trip where the thing you remember most wasn’t even part of the plan? Leave a quiet (or not so quiet) comment, and tell us about it!


Posted in Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging From A-Z 2015, Challenges and Contests, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling, Writing in Freedom

Old Faithful and Oregon: #atozchallenge, Day 17

Today, I’m going to do something a little different. Rather than a lot of stories, I thought I’d instead share some images and impressions of two places I dearly love – The Old Faithful Inn, and Oregon, which is my Accomplice’s home state, seen again after fourteen years.

So, are you ready? I’m Shan, and I’ll be your server tonight…

Waitressing at the Old Faithful Inn isn’t for just anyone. At the time I served there, this 300+ seat dining room with the cavernous ceiling was, at the height of its season, the fifth busiest restaurant in the world. It is a huge dining room, and the back of the New House – the section added in  1922, behind the massive fireplace, was a considerable hike away from the kitchen. Carrying a loaded tray on my shoulder up the main aisle was risky – it was directly aligned with the balcony above, from which guests would take flash shots at random intervals. That was always more interesting when there was a tour – many guests taking flash shots, one after another…blind waittressing is not a sport for the faint-hearted!
Original OFI dining room. Frank J. Haynes postcard #166; no date. Photo by Yellowstone National Park, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

The Bear Pit Bar is adjacent to the Old House (the original dining room, circa 1903-4) separated by the most amazing etched glass panels I’ve ever seen. They’re based on woodburned panels that originally hung in the restaurant, but were moved to the Pony Express, the little fast food shop that used to be around the corner in the Inn (or OFI, in local parlance). And thinking of the panels reminds me of the day a gentleman came after closing time, and I directed him to the Pony Express to grab a sandwich, and only when he was gone did a coworker tell me that he was a very well-known Hollywood actor who shall not be named here, since he was traveling alone and clearly preferred to remain as anonymous as he could.

Remember those cavernous ceilings I mentioned? The OFI was often host to guests of the flying or scurrying variety – I still remember the day I heard a busser who seemed to lack a volume control boom out across the dining room, “Actually, ma’am, that’s a bat!” Not really the kind of thing you want to hear at dinner….
OFI dining room, July 2013. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy Yellowstone National Park, via Flickr. Creative Commons license.

And now, let’s hop from the northwest corner of Wyoming, over Idaho, and over to the Coastal and Willamette Valley areas of Central Oregon. Our favorite places changed, and remained the same, in the fourteen years we were away. The woods at my father-in-law’s house were lusher, but we got our coffee at the same kiosk we did back then, -and were even recognized! Hello, Espresso 58 of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, hometown of author Ken Kesey!

The people we love have grown older, and those who were children then have children of their own, now – and we took our own children to some of the places we loved – the covered bridge in Lowell, the tree I posed by au naturel, the sand dunes where we once made love while hummingbirds darted like flying gemtones in the trees above (we didn’t tell them that story; it would be gross to them!), and the ocean roared in the distance; and the jetties at Florence, and the coast road all the way up to Newport (or was it Waldport?) We took the kids to Elijah Bristow State Park, and coffee shops and diners, pizza places and trampoline parks, to OMSI and the Oregon Zoo, to the Dexter Market and the Fifth Street Market and to play laser tag. We visited old friends and made new – Gwen and Jenna, and your lovely families, I’m looking at you, cross country…

The Coast, near Florence. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton.

And we reached a decision. We all need more, much more, of that in our lives. We need green places, and access to the ocean, and, in the winter, snow. We need things blooming in February and knee high ferns and enormous trees, and driftwood forts. We need family and friends and that indefinably mellower vibe of the western states.

So – we’re moving. Four out of four human Burtons are gradually gearing up to become transcontinental transplants, to uproot our New York life, and take it to the Left Coast. We’re hoping to do this within two years, which means we can start slowly, doing things like decluttering, so that we take only what we need, love, and usel home repairs and beautification; dreaming; brainstorming; and planning.

It’s a big and scary step…but also exciting, and energizing.

This post is part of the #atozchallenge. If you’d like more optimistic or opinionated “O” posts, open the link by clicking the banner.

How about you? Have you visited the OFI? Contemplated any major change of venue? Have you ever moved a great distance from home? With others, or alone? I’ll be looking for ideas, input, insight, and general moral support over the next phases of the process. Feel free to pass on your nuggets of wisdom in the box below… I’ll be deeply grateful for any memories, help, handholding, or whatever. =)

The Jetty offers a new angle! Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, South Jetty, Florence, Oregon.