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Whittling down the excess holiday baggage

Days have a nasty habit of scurrying by unnoticed. A couple of weeks pass without a walk if I’m not careful. It happened when our weather — the big whiteout of Christmas 2021 — made a prisoner of me inside Aunt Sophie’s warm and inviting walls (my house).

With the first fluttering flake-fall to our valley floor, shop owners and restaurateurs bolt the doors and go home to play cribbage and eat tamales. I don’t blame them. I prefer viewing the spectacle from my fireside.

Though my daughter and her boyfriend made it down for a visit, we were holed up. Instead of our usual trek to Jacksonville, watching movies and stuffing our faces proved activities of choice.

Emily is a fine cook and loves proving it. She brought along her pasta maker and rolled out fresh fettuccine before our very eyes for shrimp scampi. Oh, my.

We watched deer graze in the yard amid snowfall. That was special. Deer appear even more deer-like and serene in the snow, don’t you think? Even though they rival turkeys in abundance. Speaking of which, those turkey birds sure know when to hide, eh? Not a wattle to be found during the holidays.

Anyway, yesterday I emerged victorious over the familiar pathway, but with each step, I felt as if I was shaking hands with familiar companions of recent weeks. Butter cookies met me, and coffee cake, snowballs of sugary makeup, and pasta. I plodded forward. I only thought I had work to do because of COVID. Pile the holidays on top of a virus and we have a strata of self-indulgent mayhem. Nevertheless, breathing fresh air, cattle leavings, or something besides dried pine needles and burned-on syrup I spilled in the oven felt downright therapeutic.

Life, after the whirlwind we call holidays, finds its ease. Now I must feign uncompromising devotion to chicken, fish and vegetables. I signed up for one of those wild-caught fish delivery services. Every six weeks I receive a box of delicious mixed salmon and white fish. But it doesn’t help the cause to learn that an experienced baker of precious sourdough loaves moved into the neighborhood. Lynn has been carting over supple, round, soft, warm hills of fresh sourdough bread, and I am undone. I mean, how in the wide world of wild yeast is a person supposed to avoid carbs with a mousetrap like that just down the street?

In other news, I checked out our Jackson County library’s “Windows in Time” lunchtime lecture series available via Zoom. If you want to stay out of the rain and sleet, these talks happen the first Wednesday of each month at noon, lasting anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour, and cover various interesting topics of local history. This week’s presentation came courtesy of Sue Waldron of the Rogue Valley Genealogical Library.

Sue tied the coming of the railroad to commemorative train quilts fashioned by the Jacksonville Museum Quilters. The quilters have sewn a variety of lovely quilts representing milestones of Southern Oregon history. They’ve come up with some real doozies, like those that represent local Native American tribes.

Two detailed train quilts — one finished in 1985 for the Medford Train Centennial and one in 1987 for the Ashland Train Centennial — are on display through January at the Genealogical Library from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Before the trains, there was nothing but ground squirrels living it up in Medford. Some business types with land decided where the station would go — smack in the middle of their properties. After getting hung up in Roseburg for lack of funds, the Oregon and California Railroad finally arrived in Medford in January of 1884. Three months later, there were 36 buildings in town.

Visit YouTube and search on JCLS Beyond, then Windows in Time. There, you’ll find the rest of the story and a whole raft of former talks. Register on the library website and join them live for future topics and to ask questions. The next offering is Feb. 2 and covers the Army Corps of Engineers building on the Rim Road at Crater Lake — 1910-20.

Happy history nerding.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author itching for another adventure. Reach her at peggydover@gmail.com.