Fire Season

Fire season …

Unfortunately, it’s a thing around here.

No one in the Pacific Northwest is ever truly immune. Forest, deserts, harvest season on acres and acres of dusty, dried wheat fields … it’s all tinder waiting for the slightest spark.

We’ve all been holding our breath because 2020 has been such a wicked year already. But … sadly … we’re not getting a pass on this one.

Washington (my state), Oregon, California, and even my very close neighbor, Idaho … we’re all on fire.

As I sit in my “creator’s space” on this unusually warm September evening with my window open and type … all I can smell is “campfire”. Only, this would be the eeriest of campfires as I’m sure no one around me would dare to light a fire pit or sneak in one more fire for the season. We’ve been shaken too hard in the last 72 hours … the Malden/Pine City fire (if you’ve missed the news, they’re the never-heard-of-before rural towns that lost over 95 homes in just a few short hours on Labor Day) are only 30 minutes from us.

This photo of Pine City (part of the Malden fire) was posted by one of our local fire fighters on the Tekoa Fire_Whitman County Fire #1 Facebook page.

Our volunteer fire department and local farmers dropped everything and rushed to battle the blazes. As news got out, volunteers delivered water, coffee, pizzas, and other food. Posts flew across Facebook announcing that people had trucks and trailers ready to haul livestock and personal items if needed. Farmers emptied fertilizer trucks and loaded up with water. Churches in a near by town immediately opened up to provide shelter. Another town, which battled blazes of its own and lost four homes earlier that same day, gathered up water, sleeping bags, personal hygiene items and more to be delivered as night was falling.

Even as the smoke clears, it’s still hard to breath … not because of the air quality … but because of the realizations that are setting in. Friends … family … co-workers … they have nothing … in an instant they’re starting over.

That could be any of us.

And it still could be.

I had people coming to one of the tiny libraries I manage to recharge computers and use the internet. “Could I refill my water bottles?” one sweet gentleman politely asked.

He and his wife are two of several in the area out of power because the fire wiped out power poles. One person said 40 poles were down … another person responded and said, “Oh no … it’s more like 400.”

Whatever it is, several of our rural neighbors are sitting ducks of sorts … surrounded by the stubble of freshly harvested fields … continuing hot temperatures … no electricity and NO WELLS. They’re kind of helpless. Even those with generators, aren’t fully operational. The power company hopes to have power restored by Friday but there are no guarantees. Temps are climbing … we’re back in the 80’s with 90 degrees predicted by Sunday before finally cooling off next week.

I drove to Colfax yesterday – our county seat and one of the other towns hit hard with fire on Labor day – to drop off books and materials to our “mothership library” and to mourn with other staff over the complete loss of our Malden library as well as the town’s city hall, community center, fire department, and post office. Worse, our librarian there lost her home … and yet, she was already busy, finding ways to help her neighbors.

This is the post office in Malden. Photo came from a friend’s FB post, but I’ve also seen it on a news site. Sorry, I don’t know the original source.

Along the drive, I couldn’t help but notice how many farms had sprinklers going full force in the middle of the day, trying to create a wide berth of green, moist ground around their homes and out buildings. (These folks, thankfully, are on a different power grid and didn’t lose their pumps.)

Out-of-control fires are yet burning to the north and west of us … likely why the air reeks like a giant campfire. Reports are coming in of more and more homes lost. And now there is news of two children in different situations who succumbed.

So … so … heart breaking.

Just before I started writing tonight, the town fire siren went off. Those who are not part of the volunteer force stepped into their yards … crossed the streets to neighbors. Where were the trucks headed? Did anyone see smoke? Is anyone saying anything on FB? Is it Malden again?

Turned out to be a tractor that caught on fire … it was quickly put out and all were safe. A local farmer told me earlier in the week that nearly every farmer he knew had problems with tractors and combines starting fires in the fields this year. “We didn’t get our August rains. That usually settles dust and chaff mid-harvest. It’s been really bad out there without that rain.”

The heart break is widespread … friends on the west side of the Cascades have had to evacuate. Densely populated areas are up in flames … even in the south end of Tacoma. Flames near the mall threatened the school where I formerly taught and where our kids attended. Last I heard, the fire was not out, but under control and the threat pass. With unusual 90 degree temps there yesterday and light winds, concerns rode high.

And then there’s Oregon … several towns wipe out … beyond devastating. Confirmation is coming that some of those fires had natural causes, but that others were set by arsonists. Suspicions of arson are circulating in Washington too. Let’s pray not. What heartless, idiot …

I won’t go there …

Back to my original thoughts …

The number of fires are crazy to fathom, but huge fires are nothing new here. I remember my father, a member of our local, volunteer fire department, being called out many times. One memory especially sticks out of him being gone for several days to a fire “over the hill” in Idaho … in the forests surrounding Potlatch.

Two or three days into it, Mom and our friend piled five kids into the car and drove to deliver sandwiches, coffee, and cold cokes to the crew.

I picture still, my dad, leaning heavily on a shovel beside our car, hardly recognizable from the soot on his face … sweat caked to his sideburns … black silver dollars under his eyes.

Few people remember that fire or talk of it any more. There have been more since … worse ones … they’re talked of for awhile … then tucked behind as we sojourn on to the next set of life’s challenges.

“We survive these kinds of things,” I remember my grandmother saying. “That’s what country people … what farmers do. They plant another crop … build another house … dream another dream.” Maybe grandma wasn’t quite that poetic or Pollyanna-ish but she said something very close to that when I asked what people do after fires and storms take everything.

In the case of Malden … that probably exactly what they’ll do.

City of Malden viewed from a drone. Picture is from a friend’s FB post.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly


Garden Confessions

I have a confession to make.

I do not like gardening.

But I like gardens.

It’s complicated.

I like planting things … watching them grow … anticipating color and edible results … taking credit for beautiful flowers and crunchy vegetables.

It’s the weeding, watering, battling bugs part and then wondering what to do with all this green stuff My Guy won’t eat … that’s where the complications come in. I’m also not a fan of being in the garden on windy or wet days … a must do around here if you plan to get anything started in the Spring. Guess that makes me one of those fair-weather variety of gardeners.


In a Covid-stained world, a garden … something alive and bright … feels more important to me than my discomfort, so I battled the “Ugh’s” and set to it. Another motivation has been the bareness of our yard. When we moved in, all that broke up the monotony of yellowish green lawn (Can you call it a lawn when it’s made up largely of weeds?) was a smattering of daffodils and orange tulips along the front porch that our landlord kindly planted prior to our arrival. Oh, and two stubborn hollyhocks survived the town maintenance crew’s attempt to recover alleyways by spraying down weeds.

So … short on resources and green thumb magic, My Guy and I have set about adding color and texture to the place. The yellowish green weed-lawn still is the most prolific thing that grows, but you could say that we’re coming along.

Pause button.

There’s one more confession needed here before I share more pictures. Living in a rural community, I am surrounded by amazing gardens and gardeners. Some of them have been kind enough to let me photograph their gardens. I won’t post those pictures this time, because the confession is that these amazing gardens have brought out the competitive side in me.

Maybe it’s a little nicer to myself to say that they have inspired me. The point is, I could never compete with these master gardeners or the settings in which their gardens grow. So, to not distract from our meager accomplishments, I’m not going to post those pictures this time. Yes … this means that my efforts are pitiful next to there’s so I’m not going to highlight it more than necessary at the moment.

It’s going to take a long, eternity-like, long time to create something as serene and awe-inspiring as these garden whizzes around here. It’s fun though, making it our own.

Three Last Confessions:

Garden gloves are for sissies.

I lied about garden gloves … I don’t use them because I’m too lazy to hunt down where I threw them last … even though I own a Costco-load of gloves.

I will put on gloves if it means plucking slugs off of plants … and full disclosure … I have been known to huck a slug barehanded over the fence a time or two. I was aiming for the alley, but with my aim and the ickiness of a slug against my skin … well, I may or may not have populated the neighbor’s garden with a few extra slugs. (Disclaimer: this was my OLD garden back in the city … we do not have slugs here … thank God!)

This is my compost pile. It only makes it into this post because of all the sunflowers that volunteered. Thanks to the squirrels,
the yard is of full of flowers I did not plant. Of course!

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Creating Space

It’s only taken two years, but I finally have an office space/craft room.

There are no before pictures, but you can take my word that it was a mess. Three moves in three years left me lacking motivation. Plus, there was that nagging thought, “Are we really staying put here?”

That question was settled shortly after our landlords asked us if we wanted to buy the house. Our first response was “no!” Fixing up a very old house seemed daunting … BUT not as daunting as moving AGAIN. So we changed our minds and here we are, making things truly our own. I should clarify, that for the moment, making things our own is not anything like a “Chip & Joanna Makeover”. I’m talking about pulling things out of boxes and using what I have to create a fun, usable space. Chip & Joanna we are not. Nor is this a Pinterest-worthy craft room … I didn’t paint any furniture, build any cabinets or make anything match. Like I said, I just organized what I had.

Two things in particular have inspired me to organize my “creating space” where, next to my garden, I spend most of my time when at home. (Notice that I did not say that most of my time is in the kitchen. My Guy, sadly, will vouch for that.)

The first inspiration? Leftover glass jars from a yard sale last year. We helped a friend sell decades worth of possessions. Among the junk were boxes and boxes of canning jars, but after watching 3 or 4 boxes quickly walk away, we must of hit the saturation point with those who like to can in our community. Suddenly they were the most ignored item at the sale. Feeling bad about the possibility of sending the jars to a thrift store (but not bad enough to start canning myself), I decided that I might just need them after all. So while some would see them well suited for green bean or peaches, I have filled my jars with buttons.

Having them out and organized … well, sort of organized … is meant to inspire me to keep on creating. This is probably weird, but I love to just sit in my desk chair and look at them. Makes me happy for some completely unknown reason.

Second inspiration was a shelf.

The shelf was among Mom’s possessions. We lost Mom to illness this year and have been sorting through her things as she left instructions for us to do so.

I think it was the shelf that used to be under the kitchen window on the back porch of my childhood home, although it looked different somehow. A cheerful spot on the porch, it was sad and cast off in the corner of the dark storage room, weighted down with neglect and dust. Like a whimpering puppy in the pet shop window, it begged me to make it useful, and I’m quite pleased with the results.

The shelf is cheerful again; the keeper of some of my favorite things, like the button-filled-jars. What you see in the pictures is just the tip of the iceberg. I started collecting buttons as a kid. “Everybody needs at least one thing they collect,” Mom always said. My one big jar of buttons was forgotten when I went off to college, but Mom kept collecting for me. The results are rather overwhelming, but have led me to creating button magnets and button pictures … mostly Christmas trees and cows (you can hunt for a partially visible cow in one of the pictures … the trees are out right now). And I’ve tried my hand at something off the cuff like the owl below.

This whole space has become about favorite things; things that inspire me to write or to craft or just to be thankful. It’s a jumble really … but now, a much more organized jumble of things like …

Family photos. There are couple of doozies of My Guy, discovered when our daughter invaded his selfies folder on his phone. It was for a good cause though, as he had taken quite ill and was in a comma for several days. She “threatened” to post one of his goofy selfies each day that he didn’t wake up until he came back to us. Thankfully, I think he heard her! When I get stuck on a project, whether writing or crafting, I push back my chair and look into the faces of people who have shaped my life and find new vigor.

Journals. Journal writing started in 3rd or 4th grade. It has been very sporadic over the years but has resulted in a big box of musings. What will I do with them? I have no I idea … I hardly ever look inside of them. But somehow they made it into “favorite things” category.

Books. Among my favorite authors are Jan Karon, Ray Bradbury, O. Henry, Beverly Clearly (as in Romana the Pest), C.S. Lewis, and books about Abraham Lincoln. That’s an odd assortment, right?

Cookbooks. They should probably be in the kitchen, but that would be for someone who actually cooks. I look. I don’t cook (much). Think that has been well established in this post.

Scrapbook papers. I don’t even keep scrapbooks any more, but it feels neglectful to walk past one of the $5 sales at Michaels and not bring home a new collection of beautiful papers. Part of the magic of this room is having things on hand should inspiration strike.

Stacks of my photos, They represent more and future projects … some of which I hope to frame and several which will become greeting cards. I used to do that in the past and am finally coming around to time with the camera again.

Paints. Kind of falls into the scrap book paper category.

Baskets. Do I need to explain why I love baskets?

My dad’s journals. What a treasure trove they have been.

Old family letters. Old … like my mom and dad’s generation … when people actually wrote to each other … when long distance calling was only for emergencies and texting not even dreamed of.

Paper clips and scissors … must haves in my life. I get huffy when all of my scissors “walk off” and feel panicked when low on paper clips. Like I said, must haves!

My camera.

My laptop.

Lots of light …especially in the morning.

Do you have a “creator’s space?” What do you like best about it? Feel free to post a picture and share what you love about it.

Finally in full disclosure, I did not include the photo of the stack of school supplies and past lessons stacked five crates high and three crates wide behind the door. Oh well … progress is progress, even if there is more work to be done.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my “Thought Blog” at Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

Small Beginnings and Endings

My life is starting to resemble a Big Stuff Oreo Cookie™.

My life is starting to resemble a Big Stuff Oreo Cookie™.

My beginnings were in a small town, and I’m talking small … the population topped out around 100 people before I left home. At 18, I transplanted to a sprawling metropolitan area in order to attend college. From 100 to 3.5 million people (50 thousand on the campus alone!), I lived the urban life. I finished college … worked in the heart of the city … married a fellow college student … did stints in various suburban neighborhoods where we raised our family … enjoyed the luxury of being minutes from shopping malls and numerous restaurants … fought traffic … listened to constant barrages of sirens and gunshots (seriously) … attended theater and concerts and festivals and other big city offerings .

But now I’m back to small town life … just 12 miles from where I started.

And I. LOVE. IT.

For awhile, city life made me feel like Big Stuff … somehow important .. . somehow in a position to change the world … somehow a big deal because I was close to where everything “important” happened. Like that gooey sweet stuff in the middle of the OREO … that stuff for which people yank off the ordinary old outsides and cast them off in order to inhale the sweet cream of the middle.

For me, however, the big stuff has grown stale. I don’t think as much about changing the world … or know that I even want to. All the sweet, enticing stuff in the middle of my life has faded in its glamor.

These days, I just want ordinary, and I’m kinda enamored with it. My big, hairy, audacious life goals have morphed into wanting to leave what’s right in front of me a little better than I found it. AND … I want to do so at an easy, kind-hearted pace.

So here I am (well just not me … My Guy and me) … city folk for nearly four decades, now sporting country duds in a town of about 800 people … this after maneuvering live in a metropolitan area of 3.5 MILLION people.

There are many, many things to appreciate about the last four decades of city and suburban living … but …

But … every day here in small town America feels like a celebration to me.

That’s what this blog is for … to celebrate small town life … small stuff. It’s not meant to rail against or even a be a comparison to city life … well … except maybe when it comes to traffic.

Loved the recent visit with our daughter in the Seattle area, but DID NOT miss this part of city life.

And to be clear … small town life isn’t an escape from human problems … from suffering … or sadness … or disagreeing … or disappointments … or hardships … or anything that comes from living life on  a broken planet.

Small town life is simply a season for me to take on all the hard stuff at a slower pace with a bit more realistic view of who I am and who I am not. 

Today I celebrate simple walks and beautiful drives with My Guy and end with a few shots of a drive just south of us into the Idaho panhandle.

Freeze Church near Potlatch, WA
The Freeze church near Potlatch, ID. This simple little church still has an active congregation and is the perfect example of what I love about small stuff.

These pictures are for real … this is the bathroom situation at the Freeze Church.  Now, I guess we know the reason for its name.  HaHa.  (By the way, it’s pronounced Freez – y … rhymes with Breezy.)

Seriously, though, I know people who have left churches because the music was too loud or the parking lot wasn’t big enough or the children’s department didn’t provide enough entertainment for the kids. 

And then I see something like this church along with the sermon notes and song list inside the building.  Simple … small … and maybe a little outdated (whatever that really means) … but earnest and alluring in a way that only small stuff can be. Give me more of that!

Sunset at end of highway

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is my second blog.  You can read more about my life experiences and the faithfulness of God towards a simple country girl on 

Please note that all photos, unless noted, are mine and permission must be sought to use them.

Wishing you a beautiful day full of the small stuff that makes life wonderful and a big deal.