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A stimulating gathering

"Ron, see if you can arrange for Kurt and Chizuru to come up for lunch," Melanie emails. Melanie lives in Glenbrook, the Shangri-La of Lake Tahoe. Kurt and Chizuru respond favorably, and our adventure begins.

When we arrive, a fire is snap, crackle and popping in the fireplace. We don't know if the sun will be shining, or snow falling.

The dining room table is laid out with artist-designed plates, crystal glassware, pretzels and cookies. After hugs all around, we assemble in Melanie's cozy kitchen. Melanie centers an oversize salad bowl on the counter, and marinated chicken, jicama bits, small chunks of cantaloupe, and a container of Asian greens are mixed vigorously as Melanie adds a tangy salad dressing. "What'll we have to drink?" she asks, and taking our cue from the weather, a pot of coffee is soon brewing. Orllyene chooses a canister of Italian lemonade. After a delightful lunch, we drift into the living room.

Pine trees, aspen and a sea of meadow grass appear outside the wall of windows. How can we resist such an alpine paradise? It's practically in our laps.

"Do you have bears up here?" Kurt asks.

"Do you see that banged up bird feeder on the deck? A bear did that. Now I don't know what I'll do." Melanie answers.

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Kurt, engineer that he is, comes to the rescue, and between the two of them, they design a pully/rope-line solution, so now the bears won't have a chance.

Melanie's turn; a real fruitcake (my word, not hers, because I don't recall her exact word) diverted the stream in the meadow, and now beavers are building dams. She and goes on to explain how the meadow is being ruined — "A government expert is going to give the homeowners association a proposal in August," she says with slight exasperation in her voice.

Softspoken Kurt tells us a little about his work. He has designed a machine that allows blood to be extracted and analyzed without being touched by human hands.

Melanie's turn. She is concerned about a friend who is not as cogent as she should be. Then both Kurt, Chizuru and Melanie dig into their memory banks. They were all in Japan in the 50s.

"Did you know that parts for the Japanese Zero, during WWII, were delivered by ox cart to the factory?" Kurt asks, and that leads to a discussion of Romania, and so on.

We take a walk to the lake. A snow squall obliterates the other side of the lake. Whitecaps are roughing up the lake, and our borrowed jackets are much appreciated.

In our final moments before the fire, Kurt and Chizuru tell us about their home in a narrow, rural valley in Japan. They are remodeling it. The house is 300 years old.

Kurt and Chizuru's newly found love has catapulted them into a new beginning. Melanie finds happiness in the simplest of pleasures, and yet is not adverse to taking a cruise down the Rhine. What extraordinary people. As we're leaving, I notice we've been here almost five hours! Who would have thought?

Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at walkover@smithnv.com.