Reflecting on 2022

Several people have sourly said, “Good riddance to 2022.” This day, swaddled in dense fog that muffles sound and limits sight, I’m reflecting on 2022.  As we noted in the Gratitude jar on the shelf, the year before, “Good things DID happen (in 2021).” Below are some generalizations of Gratitudes gleaned from the scraps of notes stuffed in the pickle jar on the counter.

Any number of times I noted “sublime day.” Perhaps the air and sun were in perfect balance.  We completed errands smoothly. Or our energy simply flowed easily. Sitting on the deck with the bunny stretched out we were at ease.

Our few camping experiences gave respite to the “busyness” of the days. Quiet. No cell phones. Close to nature. Tall tulips in PA on our way to Falling Water. Weird geological formations in Nebraska’s Toadstool. The hoot of an owl in Iowa’s Yellow River.

Getaways and Friends

Other getaways offered contrasts. Floating the Niobrara River on a calm, mild spring day followed by driving through a blinding snowstorm the next day. The renovated, upscale Belvoir Winery & Inn in Missouri is surrounded by decrepit buildings of the long-abandoned Odd Fellows rest home. Reliving a dusty Kansas cattle drive in old Abilene at 109 degrees and stepping into the modern coolness of the Eisenhower and Truman Presidential Museums.

Interactions with friends and family. Reflecting on neighbor interactions, to book clubs, to yoga, to Firepit Friday gatherings, to coffee in the cabin and coffee shops, to the Veriditas and The Labyrinth Society colleagues. And, the bunny, Oreo, who was a wonderful Pandemic friend. She is still with us in memories and evidence of chewed cords and door frames. She was a character and a good friend.

Family connections over the miles on Facetime, ZOOM, in person, calls, photos, emails, and letters/cards. A way to be engaged with each other.

Engaging activities keep us active, healthy, and connected: Hoover Hatchery monthly blogs and Facebook Lives, writing for magazines and The Gazette, our Winding Pathways blogs, guiding labyrinth walks in person and virtually with Veriditas, walking and bicycling – on trails and (walking) inside as needed, playtime and projects with neighbor kids, monitoring students’ online course progress through Kirkwood Community College, watching Great Courses, helping with Faith Formation at church. And, appreciating the creative spirit and functionality of the Director of Faith Formation. The centering and balancing work with cancer patients and staff at the Nassif Community Cancer Center.


Reflecting on Deferred Gratification

Reflecting on the benefits of “deferred gratification” by having been careful with resources over the years and repairing/nurturing the land.  Thanking the derecho trees for providing heat in the winter’s woodstove. Planting, tending and harvesting garden produce. Appreciating the chickens and giving them treats and a warm, safe place to live.

Thinking ahead: checking the air conditioner in April before the hot weather.  Similarly, servicing the furnace and hot water heater in August. Maintaining the vehicles for optimal mileage and comfort – Rotate tires, change oil, fill windshield cleaner, change the blades, wash the outside, and detail the inside of the vehicles. Knowing steps to be prepared for outages, to stay home in inclement weather, and simply be at ease with what is.

Supporting educational to non-profit organizations locally and across the country.



Releasing memories to the ethers.

Although we can be sour about the downs of 2022, and there were a number of them, we can also appreciate the positives. That slight shift in reflecting helps ease the path for ourselves and others as we journey into 2023. Now, with gratitude for reflecting on 2022, I respectfully add these gratitudes to the woodstove that keeps us warm. The memory of these reflections keeps my heart warm.

Do You Know a 99-Year-Old Teacher?

Henry is still a teacher.

Henry's school photo

Henry taught middle schoolers more than shop.

Our feature today is different. It’s about an amazing teacher. Winding Pathways blogs are normally about yards, backyard chickens, labyrinths, and occasional touches of home care and energy efficiency.   It’s about a 99-year-old who retired from his formal education career in 1996. Yet he continues to be a teacher for the fortunate people he encounters.

Henry Patterson, Rich’s father, was a teacher in the Florham Park, NJ, public schools for many years before retiring to his home in nearby Denville to spend senior years with his wife, Claire. Age caught up with them and they moved to a senior community, The Oaks of Denville, in 2018. Claire died the following year. Despite the grief, Henry has nurtured his sunny disposition as he has approached being a centurion.

“Look On the Sunny Side of Life”

He’s adored by the staff and residents at The Oaks as well as his family and friends in Denville. Everyone’s happy to see him, chat for a while, and enjoy his smile. Many help with daily functions that increasingly challenge a man who has lost most of his vision and some mobility. Regularly, former “shop” students dropped by the house and still visit at The Oaks.

As many people age, they become bitter, frustrated, and angry.  Think mosquito repellent. We put it on to keep the pesky bugs at bay. It works but isn’t confined to chemicals in a jar.  Abrasive behavior repels people trying to render kindness and assistance.

Crafting Beyond “Shop”

Henry has refined the opposite model.  He’s appreciative, thankful, understanding, kind, and always pleasant to everyone at The Oaks. From the high school students who work in food service to medical professionals who help him, and fellow residents Henry has a smile and a joke. His sense of humor shines so warmly that it takes him a while to walk down the corridor. This is not because 99 years of age slows his pace but because everyone he encounters he pauses for a kind word and usually caps the brief visit with a joke.

Henry taught thousands of middle school students how to craft amazing creations in his school industrial arts shop, but education didn’t stop on retirement day. He continues to teach everyone in his orbit that a warm personality and expressions of thanks and appreciation are rewarding and life-enhancing.

Sharing a Serendipity

Carousel in Fairfield

People enjoyed the carousel rides at Fairfield, Iowa.

We invite you to share a serendipity you have experienced. A recent overnight to Fairfield, Iowa, delighted us with unexpected bliss, a sense of connection, and enchantment. On recalling other times when we found ourselves in wonderous situations and with engaging people we decided to ask readers to share their times of serendipity.  When all aligned and you were left feeling happy and blessed. So, we would like to hear from you.  Send a short remembrance and photo if you have one to us by December 10, 2022. Later we will combine your remembrances and ours, and post as a blog on Serendipities.

Sockeye Salmon – an Amazing Fish

Remembering Sockeye Work

Rich Patterson and Kammi Matson of the Popsie Fish Company

In early July we enjoyed an amazing natural phenomenon at the Campbell Creek Science Center in Anchorage, AK.  We walked with our daughter to the small stream that gives the Center its name and spotted splotches of red in quieter stretches of the Creek.

Sockeye Salmon were resting there after wriggling up rushing riffles and rapids. Seeing the fish brought back Rich’s 50-year memory of the scientific work he did on this fish species a half-century before.

Man with salmon

Red salmon spawning color and kype.

In 1972 he was stationed at the Ugashik Tower on a remote river about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage. The task of his crew was to count Red Salmon migrating upstream and to report numbers to the head biologist in the town of King Salmon. Counting was done by perching in a riverbank tower made of aluminum scaffolding, peering into the water, and counting fish swimming by.


At first, work was boring. No salmon were in the river. Then a miraculous change happened. Rich glanced downstream to view a river of red plowing upstream against the strong current. For two weeks, night and day, salmon passed the tower on their way upstream.

Salmon Species

Five species of salmon are native to North America while a sixth only lives in Asia.  All are anadromous, meaning that they hatch in freshwater but spend much of their life in the sea before returning to their natal stream to spawn. While other Pacific salmon like the King, Chum, Silver, and Pink, feed on chunky animals, mostly small fish, Sockeyes, or Reds as they are called in Alaska, prefer different food.

What is Unique About Sockeye?

Most Sockeyes spawn in the gravel of small tributary streams that feed Alaska’s vast lakes of Iliamna, Becherof, Naknek, Ugashik, and others. Tiny fish descend the stream and usually spend two years swimming around the lake straining plankton from the water until they reach roughly sardine size. Then, on a few April nights, millions of salmon, called smolts, descend the big rivers to Bristol Bay. For the next two years, they circle the vast Pacific once or twice, eating zooplankton, small fish, and squid. They swim with their mouths open so their filter-like gills can strain tiny animals from the water.

When a smolt enters the Bay at two years old it weighs under an ounce. Think of that! When it returns from the nutrient-rich ocean two years later it weighs between six and 12 pounds!

For most of their lives, Red Salmon are not red. They’re silvery. When entering freshwater their skin quickly turns bright red and their heads green. Males grow a formidable-looking hooked snout. On their journey, they cross a  lake and mate in small feeder streams beyond.

Sockeye are probably the most delicious of all fish, eagerly caught by commercial fishers based in Bristol Bay to be canned, flash frozen, or shipped fresh to consumers around the world. The best-tasting fish are caught before their skin reddens, but their rich flesh is always bright red.

How Do We Avoid Overfishing?

Processing salmon

Processing salmon

Most people realize that overfishing devastated the once vast schools of  Atlantic Cod off New England and Canada. So, how can science work with commercial and sport fishers to ensure that Alaska’s red salmon remain abundant while providing a generous harvest of delicious food?

In theory, it’s simple. Let enough fish “escape” nets and hooks to spawn a new generation and add the fertility of their dead bodies into the water to nourish the plankton that feed youthful salmon. In practice, it’s more complex.

Biologists rely on electronics and human eyes to make sure enough salmon ascend rivers to keep numbers high and sustainable. Fishers are allowed to catch the surplus. It works. Vast numbers of Red Salmon, perhaps as many as 50 million, were caught and shipped in 2022 while plenty of escapees spawned. Anyone can enjoy eating a salmon filet knowing it’s not sending Red Salmon the way of the  Atlantic Cod.

How Can You Get the BEST Sockeye in Iowa?

We love eating Sockeye Salmon and prefer grilling it over a gentle wood fire. The trouble is we live in Iowa. No salmon here, but a few years ago we were able to buy Egegik River fish from a local meat market that has since gone out of business. We now order from the Popsie Fish Company, which sends ten pounds of frozen filets to our home.

Popsie caught these fish near Alaska’s second largest lake, Becharof. That’s close to where Rich worked years ago at Ugashik. The Egegik River flows from Lake Becharof to Bristol Bay.

To order fish go to Popsie’s website. To see Sockeye in their red-colored glory without the need to fly to the distant Alaska Peninsula visit the Campbell Creek Science Center in mid-July in Anchorage and walk along a pleasant trail to the Creek. Its salmon run is modest in size but easily accessed.


Losing Oreo: the Death of a Pet Leaves Sadness

We’re not normally pet people. Never had a dog or cat. When our children were growing up, we had bunnies. After they grew up and left home years ago, we cared for the bunnies left over from their youth and adopted a couple from Kirkwood Community College in the early 2010s. When the last bunny died in 2015, we were petless and had no intention of adopting an animal.

Oreo Comes to Our House

Then, a call came just as the pandemic gained strength in early 2020. A family was moving out of state and couldn’t bring Oreo, their pet rabbit, along. Would we take her in?  It looked like we’d be confined to home to stay disease safe, so we said, “Yes”.

Oreo was an indoor bunny and came complete with the hutch, food, and supplies. Soon she settled into her comfortable hutch in our den near where Marion does office work. She did more. We quickly learned she’s smart, funny, clean, inquisitive, and a good friend.


She learned to go “Into the hutch” with some treats inside. Sometimes she led us on a merry chase around the den before she hopped in.  Under the table, into her habitat, under the desk, under the heater, behind the trash bin, and back under the table.  All along we said quietly, “Into the hutch.”

We tried to encourage her to chew on wood in the hutch (not furniture and doors!) by rubbing yogurt treats on the wood. Well, she learned to lick off the flavor instead of chewing the wood we gave her.

We often sat on the back deck in mild weather and even on nice winter days.  To keep bugs out we hung a temporary screen at the back door that closed with magnets.  Oreo quickly learned to nose under the screening to go in or out at will when we sat outside.

Clean Office Assistant

She’d roar out of her hutch in the morning and park by the computer grooming herself. She spent much of the day resting on the floor by the desk when Marion typed, and we soon called her our able office assistant. Every so often she’d stretch and want attention. She’d nudge Marion’s pant leg with her nose for a scratch behind the ears and rub under the chin. If that didn’t work, she’d scratch the pant leg.  If THAT didn’t work, she’d thump. That usually got the attention she wanted.


She’d romp around the deck while we were reading the morning paper and gleefully dig in a sandbox that we created for her.  Rich would dangle his arm low and she’d come over for a rub.  He’d switch hands to the other side of the chair and Oreo was right there for continued love. Each evening was “treat” time. A Russell’s Rabbit orange or green “cookie.” Rich broke it into pieces and Oreo would grab a piece and hope two feet away and nibble on it, then return for more pieces. We learned, don’t even think about patting her while she was eating!

Did You Know Rabbits Vocalize?

She vocalized with a growl if annoyed and when nervous or upset she squeaked.

Loyal Friend

This past year, when we left for a few days and neighbors watched her they reported that she stood up on her hind legs, looked around, and seemed to wonder, “Where are they?” Because she could see us go up and down the stairs evenings and mornings from her hutch, she learned we disappeared up there. So when we were gone, she even went to the foot of the stairs and looked up wondering, “Are they there?”

During the pandemic, she gave us laughs and companionship. She was a fun companion. So, fun that perhaps we didn’t recognize how much a part of our lives she’d become.

Saying Goodbye

Although only about five years old, one morning we found much blood in her hutch that came from urine and, perhaps, her intestines. Concerned, we took her to Bright Eyes and Busy Tails in Iowa City.

Their staff were kind and knowledgeable and confirmed that the blood was caused by an unknown internal problem. They could do tests and maybe take action. Surgery perhaps.  “What did we want to do?” they asked.   We talked it over and rejected intensive testing and possible resulting, expensive, and uncomfortable techniques. Actions that would ultimately result in the same ending. Sadly, we requested euthanasia for our friendly Oreo. It was done peacefully and painlessly while we held her and sang her special “Oreo Song” that Marion sang to her several times a day while scratching behind her ears and rubbing under her chin.

Part of the Prairie

That afternoon we buried Oreo beneath the wildflowers of our prairie, along with the other bunnies. But, sadness lingers. We miss her. We talk with her in the spot where her hutch once was.  We visit her grave.

We know the sadness will fade over time and we’ll glance at her photos occasionally.  Mostly we feel gratitude for the time she shared her life with us. And all the bunnies our family has had as friends. We posted a Salute to Bunnies on YouTube.

The Oreo Song

“Oreo the bunny, you’re so funny. Oreo the bunny 1, 2, 3.
Oreo the bunny, the black and white bunny, You came to live with Rich and me.
You have two black ears and two black eyes and black spots down your back.
You have a black and white nose and four white paws that go clickity clack
On the deck or on the dining room floor when you go to explore.
Oftener than not, you stretch right out by the threshold door.
You’re a good little friend. You came to our house. You came to live with us.
You run around. You “binky”. Sometimes you thump. Then, you’re quiet as a mouse.”

Be well, Spirit of Oreo, and all loved pets everywhere.


Pandemic Year 2.0 Busier than Busy!

Coming up to a year from the last post on the features we wrote for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, here is an updated list for the second half of 2021 and the first half (almost) of 2022. These features are in addition to our regular work with Hoover’s Hatchery blogs and FB Live and our own blogs for Winding Pathways.

May 8, 2022. Splish Splash! Whitewater Kayaking in Iowa. (No link to date)

April 22, 2022. Finding America On Roadways East.

April 13, 2022. Muscle Over motor When Boating.

March 21, 2022. Rockhounding.

January 30, 2022. Backpacking Bonus. (8B of GZ. No link to date) Available Green Gazette.

January 24, 2022. Distinctive Religious Structures.

January 16, 2022. Hiking Wild Areas. (no link to date) Available Green Gazette.

December, 2021. Country Schools. (no link to date) Available Green Gazette

November 15, 2021. Making a (Mini) Pitch for Soccer.

October 6, 2021. A visit with Midwest’s Pioneering Authors.

September 8, 2021. Taking a Slow Boat to Cassville.

September 6, 2021. Camping in Iowa’s Trout Country & Decorah’s Celebrities.

August 4, 2021. Parking While Headed East. And Solar Panels at Peoples.