Saturday, December 29, 2012

Changing the World

In mid-December, after Clackamas, after Sandy Hook, I started clipping Opinion page columns and letters to the editor about gun control. I wanted to present a solution in such perfect logic and phrasing that everyone would agree.

I sent letters to both Oregon Senators and to my congressman, urging them to act on the gun control problem. I enclosed copies of what at the time seemed the most cogent arguments for banning assault weapons and rapid-fire ammunition clips.

A few days later I saw that the solution and words are out there and have been for a long time. I could add nothing new. And I was reminded that what we focus on expands. For me to stew on the issue would help no one. I dropped my project.

I also considered dropping my subscription to the paper, but I’m a writer. I’m a writer who is addicted to puzzles, including the Cryptoquote. I’ve clipped many and stored them in an envelope, always intending to type them into a document for easier retrieval.

And so, on Christmas Day, home alone because of an ear infection, I busied myself at the computer. Here are some of the quotes that helped me have a really wonderful day.

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.—E. B. White

(And when I think about changing the world before I’m up, getting up can seem impossible!)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. –Margaret Mead

(I certainly hope the members of that small group find each other soon!)

The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us. –Voltaire

(This verified my decision to avoid action that could escalate the gun control debate and swirl me into negativity.)

And finally, this:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. –Theodore Roosevelt

And I do. I write letters. I donate to Food for Lane County at the checkout counter at Market of Choice. I pick up litter on my walks. I contribute to Greenhill and S.A.R.A.’s. I give clothes to the Mission, unneeded household goods to St. Vinnie’s. I write this blog!

Does that make me a world changer in a small way, right where I am? I hope so.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear

In my last post, I claimed my blocked ear had begun to clear. Not so. I won’t bore you with details, but since October 29th I have taken Amoxicillin, prednisone, Sudafed (yes, prescribed), and lots of Tylenol. In addition, I had my ear lanced and drained. When the puncture healed, my ear filled up again. Ten days ago, my primary physician prescribed Flonase to treat swollen sinuses and help with drainage.

Each treatment produced initial improvement but failed to end my cotton-in-the-ear syndrome.

It’s not that I felt sick. I continued most of my normal activities, occasionally chanting “All I want for Christmas is my ear to clear, my ear to clear.”

Then last Friday, December 21 – the day the light begins to creep back – I was able to hear pretty well. Yay! I’m on the mend! I skipped breakfast in order to do my fasting blood test. I met some friends at noon. I shopped. I went to dinner with other friends. I dropped!

Over the weekend, cotton-in-the-ear changed to ache-in-the-ear. That side of my head felt heavy again. Darn!

Still, I persisted with normal activities. Today, Monday, Christmas Eve, my friend and I walked our usual six miles by 8a.m.

But the ear nagged. I called the doctor’s office at 9:15. She had an opening at 9:30. I grabbed it even though I hadn’t showered. I threw on some semi-clean clothes and hustled out the door.

I didn’t want to hear – pun intended – that my ear is actually worse than ten days ago (dang!).

She prescribed a stronger antibiotic in hopes of avoiding a visit to a specialist to drain my ear again. She suggested adding Robitussin to my arsenal of medical weapons. I now take two horse-size pills, squirt stuff up my nose, and drink weird tasting liquid – all at different times during the day. Whew!

The good news? My blood tests were back. Everything was A-OK. She even said she'd be really happy if her cholesterol numbers and ratios were like mine!

Although I could go to a couple of events tomorrow, I’ll stay home, listening to the ringing in my ear instead of jingle bells.

Gives new meaning to 'I'll be home for Christmas'!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Grateful for the sh**!

Today, Tuesday, November 13, 2012 was my first opportunity in what seems weeks to sleep in. I know that’s not true, but it seems so.

It all began in mid-October.

The rains began on Friday, Columbus Day, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Big Blow, ending a record dry spell.

I left Eugene on Monday under cloudy skies. Rain swirled at the crests of what I call the Four Bumps before Medford – Canyon Creek, Smith Hill, Stage Road and Sexton.

I spent the first night in Medford in a cozy bed at the best bed-and-dinner in town, lulled to sleep by the patter of rain on the roof. Best price, too! (Thanks, Jerry and Ben.)

Next morning, immersed in thick moisture, I skittered past ghostly semis and slipped over the Siskiyou Summit. The clouds parted. Welcome to California!

Rounding a bend near Yreka, I burst into song. “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain . . . ”

I chortled at the second verse, galloping on in my white, 6-cylinder coach. Drivin’ six whites, indeed!

And then things went downhill. I realized I had a sinus infection and battled it through the next ten days of travel. My intentions to write along the way, waxing poetic about the warm, windless day in San Francisco, evaporated; the sinus infection did not.

Back home on October 25th, I prepared for a critique session the next morning. Once through that, I collapsed.

On Monday, I dragged myself to the doctor, who confirmed my self-diagnosis. I started antibiotic treatment. I expected the sloshing in my right ear to disappear. It didn’t. The next Monday, November 5th, the ear doctor prescribed prednisone to dry up fluid behind the ear drum.

Today, my ear is almost clear.

And today I was ready to begin rewriting my next novel. I’d had a wonderful flash of insight based on the critiques and had written a bare-bones outline that felt right. I plunked myself at the computer and began. My break would be a shower before my noon yoga class.

About an hour before the class, I took a pair of muddy shoes outside to clean them. A squirrel had dug into the dirt in a pot on my patio. As I rushed to sweep the dirt, I nearly slipped in the raw sewage spewing from the cleanout pipe under my deck!

Yeah. My day went to shit!

But I have to say I’m grateful. I’m grateful I didn’t get into the shower. Who knows how much worse the mess could have been? Something, maybe my Virgo-ness, maybe The Force, guided my feet out the back door to the patio.

And I’m grateful to the plumbing company who initially scheduled me for eight o’clock tonight, but got here at two this afternoon and had it done by three. Wahoo!

But most of all, I'm grateful to have perspective. Earlier this month I got a call from a friend whose house had burned down. Not the way she'd planned to downsize, but she and her cat survived. A little shit on my deck? No problem.

The clothes I wore while mopping up are in the washer now. I’ll put them in the dryer and take a bath.

Then, I’ll get back to writing my novel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Radar Weather

In the past week, I’ve cut out two weather pages from the Register-Guard, each showing a row of suns with highs in the 70s and 80s, lows in the high-40s.

I’m saving them to remind me why—six months from now when those pages show rows of clouds dripping rain, highs barely reaching 40—I’m still in Eugene after more than fifty years.

Friday night I didn’t close the windows and didn’t need fans to draw cool air inside. Saturday morning, I threw the front door open well before nine, walked to the market in capris and a light shirt before ten.

Fall. Autumn. My favorite time of year. Brisk mornings, blue sky afternoons, soft breezes until dusk. The leaves have begun to turn (and fall). And this year, with the big oak tree at my front door gone, I’m able to enjoy the full moon as it traverses the sky.

Years ago I wrote the following in a piece published in the Write On! column of the Register-Guard:

In October, as the trees dress themselves in gowns of copper, gold and bronze, I fancy myself a photographer, ready to capture the brilliance of autumn. Yet, somehow, my camera can’t remember to come along. . . . As the trees shimmy out of their finery into November, I’m pleased to be outside. . . . I’m content until mid-November, when the hulking shadow of winter can no longer be ignored, when the approaching holidays weigh heavily on the newspaper and infiltrate the air repetitiously with song.

When I wrote that piece, I had an ‘aha’ moment. Since then, I’ve not pushed myself to participate in holiday madness, accepting the season as one of rest and renewal. Deep in the dark of December, I remind myself that light will return, noticeable by mid-January.

But for now, I will savor every warm and welcoming fall day, grateful that I live in glorious Oregon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do you know where your car is?


(An eavesdropping incident in Bandon, Oregon, May 18, 2012)

He stood by the open door of the pickup a few yards from my favorite photo spot. A bass boat named Striper sat on the trailer behind.

“Do you know where your car is?”

I hadn’t been looking at him, but knew he wasn’t talking to me. Still, I answered under my breath, “Yes, thank you, I do.”

“Yeah,” he continued, “I know they took your license.”

Ooo, drunk driving.

“Well, you’re gonna have to call the Lane County Sheriff and find out where they took it.”

Lane County?! Holy Smoke. I’m from Lane County.

I kept within earshot as long as I could.

“I asked you not to drive,” he said, emphasizing each word.

Oh, oh. Must be the wayward kid.

“You’re gonna lose your license.” He gave an exasperated grunt. “No, don’t drive.”

No, not a good idea. They catch him with no license now and his troubles multiply.

“How bad is the car?”

Oops. Not just a DUII but a wreck, too.

“I’m askin’ you not to drive,” he growled.

I wanted to say “Gimme your phone, dude. I know people who can help this kid.”

Instead, I stopped listening, snapped a few photos and left. Maybe the kid isn’t an alcoholic. But if he is, I hope he finds A.A. before he kills himself or someone else.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Avoidance

I’m doing it again.

I’ve spent the week avoiding, procrastinating, evading, and dodging what I ought to be doing.

I’ve cleaned off the patio, tucked the rain/sun fly away, moved a couple of plants, and run to the dump and Lane Forest with recycling that could have waited.

I’ve worked on every one of the daily Sudokus, Jumbles, crosswords and Cryptoquotes, solving most.

I’ve spent hours playing Free Cell and Spider Solitare. Just one more game, I tell myself. Then I’ll . . . exercise, shower, eat, water, shop.

Today, I rearranged furniture and raced to Fred Meyer looking for the perfect table to replace the one by the window. (Mission accomplished – it’s even on sale!).

But what, you ask, should I be doing?

Writing! Getting past chapter eight, into chapter nine, finishing the story.

Oh, I’ve written a few paragraphs. And I scribbled a few notes while lunching at the Twin Dragon, but I spent most of that time engaged with one of the owners and his toddler daughter.

And now I’m going away for the weekend, to a camp near Sisters. The Pole Creek fire may change that plan, but I’ll probably find some other distraction. Re-painting the wall in the living room, sorting through my poems, organizing my desk. Important stuff, you know.

Yet I can’t chastise myself too harshly. A week ago today, I learned that a friend had died, a man not quite a year younger than I am. He had been ill, but was expected to recover. Death was not part of the plan.

I emailed the information to others who knew him and allowed myself time to process my feelings. I spent more time than normal seeking out mutual friends.

His service took up most of Tuesday: getting ready, preparing something for after the service and the service itself. Not wasted time, especially connecting afterward with his wife and with others I don’t see often.

But I just celebrated another loop around the sun. This coming year is the last of my seventh decade, the last year my age will begin with the number six. Today I noticed that six of the eight people listed in the Deaths column were my age or younger. Yikes! What an incentive! I’ll get busy on that chapter—just as soon as I . . .

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Think of Danny

I think of Danny every time I scoop grapefruit sections with a spoon.

In the early 70s, Danny and his very pregnant wife visited me and my husband, Danny’s brother. At breakfast one morning, my husband mentioned that the best part of the grapefruit, health-wise, is the white part between the rind and the sections.

Danny had finished spooning the fruit. He picked the up the empty shell and after a pause, took a huge bite, sending us into gales of laughter. If I remember, he managed to swallow it, too.

It was during that visit that Danny confessed to having gone AWOL from the army.

We were dismayed. We had warned him before he enlisted that the promise of assignment to Germany was unlikely. The war in Vietnam was in full swing.

He told us that after basic training, assignments were posted for all to see. His assignment: Vietnam. Another new recruit studied the list. He, too, was bound for Vietnam. “Let’s get the *&%! out of here,” the guy said. And they did.

Danny went home to Coquille. He wasn’t hiding exactly. He told everyone he was on leave before shipping out. But somehow, his ‘leave’ kept getting extended.

Then the county sheriff stopped for a chat with Danny’s dad.

“Daniel B., that your boy, Dan?”

Dan nodded.

“He’s on the AWOL list. Be best if he gets back on his own. It’ll go easier on him.”

And so Danny returned to the army, visiting us along the way.

Somehow, he never went to Vietnam and was soon out on a hardship discharge to help his mom and dad with the farm and to raise his newborn son.

I’ve just come into possession of a photo from that time—Danny’s wife, his mother, another sister-in-law and me—washing dishes in the old farmhouse kitchen. Our smiles are genuine, happy. I think it was the night Cindy confessed to being pregnant with their second child.

We all believed his life charmed. We never imagined he would die, his vehicle pushed into the path of a log truck, before his second son was born.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The View

For five years, the view from the south-facing windows in my living room and den has been of a vacant lot and up a tree-lined road. Green and open, a pleasant view, even when the dandelions grew thigh-high.

A month ago, a new manufactured home was placed on the lot. A new, single-wide, nearly window-less manufactured home. It is too large and long for the corner lot. A different unit might have made that spot a showcase for the park.

But it’s one of sixteen identical units moved onto vacant lots in the park where I live. The management will rent rather than sell them.

My view is now a blank beige wall punctuated by a smallish double window.

Residents I don’t even know have paused, heads shaking. “That is so ugly!” they say. Or, simply, “I’m sorry.”

“Yes,” I respond. “It’s the wrong shape and size for this lot.”

I moved a trellis to a position in front of the living room window to break the blandness. I painted the living room wall a darker color to gain some contrast. Still, it felt intrusive, though no one had moved in.

Then the other day, a couple began moving boxes into the unit.

I hesitated to greet them. Did I really want to welcome them?

On their second foray, I stepped next door and knocked.

“Hello,” I called. They came to the door. We chatted a bit. They invited me in.

With only six windows, two in one bedroom, one in another, a double in the living area and a miniscule kitchen window, it felt tiny. And that was with no furniture.

We moved outside. They mentioned seeing, Jack, the black and white cat my backdoor neighbor feeds. Though he has a home outside the park, he beats a path along our lot lines to her door.

“We have two cats,” my new neighbors said.

“Oh. Well, we’re supposed to keep them inside or contained.”

They demurred. Yes, they let them out.

“But they run back inside and always use their litter box.”

I groaned internally, but chirped something about being careful to spread my bark-o-mulch really thin.

I showed them the ‘catio’ I’ve created for my own Simone. It’s made of dog kennel fencing that confines her to the patio.

“She’s not a jumper,” I said. “And she’s old and fat; she doesn’t escape.”

Simone sat on the patio, at a careful distance, looking regal.

“Well, if our cats bother you, be sure to let us know,” the woman said.

“I’ll send her over to collect the cat-poop,” her husband added with a laugh.

My brain ran away with the idea of two more cats added to Jack and his buddy, Beeker, the white cat from across the street. Those two hang out at the edge of my yard, either staying cool under the arbor vitae or sunning themselves next to it. What will happen with two more cats? Cats are as territorial as dogs. Just ask Simone. She keeps track of everything, especially Jack and Beeker, monitoring their every move.

I tear myself out of futurizing and look at my own space again, my windows with no view.

With actual people coming in and out a mere ten feet from my house, I had to have something to break the blank beige-ness.

Today, I added some wall art to my windows, a row of delicate flower images that blend with my interior d├ęcor. Not really a view, but it helps.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Silence: Golden or Deadly?

I live in a small, 55 and over community. Since July, 2011, I have been involved with the social organization, serving as president.

When new board members were elected in June, I took the opportunity to pass the office on. The treasurer position was open and I volunteered to do that for the remainder of my two-year term.

The new president called a meeting of the board for July 2nd. Due to a previous commitment, I was unable to attend.

Notes from that meeting were distributed online. I read and saved them to my computer.

A few days later, an email surprised me. A release of funds was expected for an upcoming event. Not a few days before the event but an entire month before. Since this wasn’t mentioned in the notes, and previous policy had been reimbursement, I questioned it.

A flurry of emails circulated, none of which fully explained the change.

On Friday evening, I opened my email account, planning to send just one personal note.

Two emails to the entire board greeted me. One, addressed to me by name, berated me for not attending the first meeting and for not reading the minutes for that meeting, though I had. It accused me of casting doubt on the trustworthiness of the person designated to receive the funds, though I had stated that was not the reason for my discomfort with the new policy. The last sentence hit hard: I wish you had been as concerned last year about money and this organization.

My stomach clenched. I opened the next one, titled ‘we are a team.’ It listed the changes made in the first week, the words – our first seven days – in bold.

Like God, I thought, only he rested on day seven. I smiled. But my smile faded when I reached the end.

The last two sentences dismissed my concerns as bullshit and compared me to a monkey in a circus act.

My heart pounded in my ears. If my blood pressure had been taken, I would have been hospitalized.

I stewed all night, writing and re-writing responses on paper as well as in my head. I deleted them all, unsent.

But my body had paid attention. I spent Saturday morning in and out of the bathroom as my body tried to flush the poison. I made phone calls and left messages for friends.

Over the next two days, with the help of trusted friends and a practice I’ve followed for nearly 25 years, it became clear how to handle the situation. A valued friend assisted with composition of my letter of resignation. It was acknowledged Sunday evening.

Done. Or so I thought.

On Monday afternoon while helping a neighbor clean up her yard, my phone rang. I was greeted by the new president’s barely contained fury, demanding that I produce a form documenting the non-profit status of the association. She couldn’t find it and claimed the state couldn't either. I protested that it was among the items I had given her. Her attack continued, berating me for screwing up the entire organization.

I felt like a rabbit, caught in the open with nowhere to run. As her rant continued, my desire to help evaporated. I punched ‘end’ on my phone.

A few minutes later, heart pounding, I called back. Her partner answered. He said she wasn’t there. I suggested that she not scream at me again.

But now I’m trapped. Their house can be seen from my living room window. I drive by on my way in and out of the complex. She’s often outside. Residents stop and chat. Up to now, I didn’t pay much attention, though I could hear bits and pieces of conversation when my windows were open.

I had already spent Saturday and Sunday—prior to sending my resignation—afraid to open my email. By Monday I had relaxed my grip on the issue.

Now, I wonder what is being spread about me. Only one board member objected to the tone of the initial emails; the other seven have remained silent.

I'm sure the former treasurer and I submitted the form and check. It may have been lost. If so, I would be to blame for not realizing that.

Though this is a small matter and a small community, I understand how deadly silence can be. It eats at your core, because you can’t respond to what has not been said. You hesitate to greet a neighbor, in case a formerly friendly person now regards you with distaste. You wait for the next shot to be fired, the next bomb to explode, spooked by silence.

My experience has been but a tiny taste of what Jews, African-Americans and other minorities must deal with on a daily basis. Yet, on this miniature scale, I’m feeling the kind of conspiracy of silence that whirled Germany into the Holocaust. It is physically as well as emotionally debilitating.

I’ve re-read The Four Agreements, focusing on not taking any of this personally, not absorbing the poison that has been sent my way.

I didn't attend the next general meeting, but a few days afterward the new president stopped me as I passed her place.

"I need to apologize," she said.

I nodded and said I hoped she would never do that to anyone again. "It was very painful."

That same afternoon, the form to renew the association's non-profit status arrived in my mailbox. I love the timing! I smiled all the way to her house and back.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Run, Jump, Throw

Getting to the Olympic Trials on Thursday was an easy process. I scooted to Autzen Stadium around 4 p.m. for free parking.

I tried one spot, but didn’t fit because one car was cattywampus, taking more than one space. I moved to the next aisle and looked around. I don’t like parking next to big vehicles, but pulled into the space next to a white Ford 150 King Cab anyway.

The truck’s lights were on. I saw no one near, but figured the lights would go off on their own. I put my hand on the truck grille. Still warm. I waited several minutes. The lights stayed on.

Finally, I wrote the license plate on a piece of paper. At the shuttle pickup, I gave the bus driver my note. He got on the mike and announced license and description. Nothing.

Disappointed, I headed to Hayward Field on foot, planning to pass the information to an official. I breezed through security and wondered whether I’d arrived too soon.

This is track and field, I reminded myself. There’s always something going on. Besides, it gave me time to gobble down a scoop of espresso ice cream, buy a bottle of water and find a good spot to hang in the Festival area. All thoughts of the pickup vanished.

The Festival area is free, and big screens provide fantastic shots of the action, both as it happens and then on instant replay.

What a day. What amazing athletes. And they do it no matter the weather. A light drizzle and swirly breezes must have affected pole vaulters, high jumpers and even hurdlers. Yet no one complained. Before each race, each jump, each throw, we witnessed—through the camera lens—the deep concentration necessary to reach Olympic levels. We saw the thrill of victory and the disappointment of defeat.

We applauded when Lance Brooks, on his last throw, heaved the discus beyond the Olympic qualifying mark to earn his place on the team.

We roared at Kim Conley’s lean at the finish to edge Julia Lucas in the 5000.

We cheered for Evan Jager, winning and grinning down the stretch in his fourth-ever steeplechase.

We exploded when Galen Rupp sprinted the stretch to catch and pass Bernard Lagat in the 5000, breaking Pre’s long-standing meet record in the process!

And then it was over. Energized, I made my way back to Autzen on foot.

About halfway back, I remembered the pickup. As I came to my car, the pickup door closed. I hurried around the truck and called to the man walking back toward the stadium.

“Your truck,” I said. “Is it dead?”

The guy turned. “Yeah. I left the lights on.”

“I know. I had the shuttle driver announce it, but I guess you weren’t on the shuttle.”

“No, I wanted some exercise, so I walked.”

We chatted a bit about track and field. All the while, I knew I had jumper cables in my car, but I’ve never used them myself. He didn’t seem upset about his situation. Still, it was getting dark. The parking lot was rapidly emptying.

I asked if he had Triple A. He didn’t; this was a company vehicle. He would have to call someone in Corvallis. It could be two hours before he’d be home. I hesitated. He started toward the stadium again.

“Wait,” I said. “I have jumper cables, if you know how to use them.”

From the look on his face, he might have hugged me. Instead, we turned my car around and hooked up the cables.

Run, jump, start!

“Have a nice evening,” I said with a wave and watched in my rear-view mirror as his lights came on and the truck moved toward the exit.

The space next to him had been my second choice of parking spots. It was the right choice.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day

I received an email the other day, forwarded to me and many others in the sender’s contact list.

This one was about veterans and Memorial Day, illustrated with poignant pictures.

The idea presented was that (military) veterans have GIVEN us our freedoms. What annoys me is not the idea of honoring those who’ve defended and protected our country, often with huge personal sacrifice. What annoys me is the wording.

I’m going to take each assertion and try to rephrase it.

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

Rewording: it is the Veteran who has protected and defended our freedom to worship, a freedom guaranteed under Amendment I to our Constitution (the first of our Bill of Rights).

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

Rewording: Amendment I to our Constitution guarantees the right to assemble peacefully. The campus organizer keeps fresh our appreciation of that right. The veteran has protected and defended the Constitution.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

Rewording: Amendment VI to our Constitution grants us the right to a ‘speedy and public trial.’ Our veterans have protected and defended the Constitution.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

Rewording: Our Constitution initially awarded this right only to non-slave and non-Native males. We engaged in a bloody civil war before all men were ‘allowed’ to vote (Amendments XIII, XIV and XV). Acceptance and enforcement of those amendments evolved slowly.

And, hey, I’m a woman. My foremothers fought in the political/legal arena for that right (Amendent XIX) and I thank them every time I sign my ballot.

It is the VETERAN who salutes the Flag.

Rewording: All citizens may salute the flag our veterans have protected and defended. When I place my hand over my heart, it is a salute.

It is the VETERAN who serves under the Flag.

Yes. And many others, also. So, thank you, veterans for protecting and defending the rights and responsibilities our Constitution bestows on all citizens. And we can all honor the amazing Statesmen who gave birth to our nation with their words as well as their actions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Tour

I’m back from my book tour. Well, not ‘Book Tour’ with capital letters. More of a Library Donation Excursion.

On May 17th, with a four-day space in my calendar, I threw some clothes in a bag, slipped into a pair of shoes and headed to the Southern Oregon Coast. My mission? Deliver copies of my novel, Just Out of Reach, to libraries in the area.

I took Oregon Highway 38. It runs through Drain and Elkton and meanders along the Umpqua River to Reedsport. Along the way, lambs and cattle grazed on new-growth-green grass or lazed in spring sunshine. An elk herd hung out at the east end of their reservation, out of sight from the viewing area. I know the route well, yet am always enchanted.

I cruised to the Coos Bay library where Ellen accepted two of my books, promising to send one to the North Bend branch. We chatted as she looked over my information and discovered we are both UO graduates. She asked if I would be interested in doing a talk at the library sometime in the fall.

“Sure,” I said, “I’d be honored.”

I had given a presentation at the Eugene Library in January and it was well-received. I’m over the jitters about such things. And I know the subject—both book and author!

Feeling elated, I trundled on down the road to Bandon, the scene of the crime as it were. There, too, the book was accepted with enthusiasm.

Then I stopped at the bookstore in Old Town. Last fall the owner bought one copy of my book. I wondered whether it had sold. No, still on the shelf.

Disappointed, I booked a room for the night at the Bandon Inn above Old Town, the inspiration for much of my story.

Since I planned to continue south for the afternoon, I called my friend Stan who lives near Gold Beach. He was home; I would get to meet his new wife.

I hustled the thirty miles to Port Orford. In the library parking lot, I grabbed a book from the back seat and stepped around a sign pointing to bike parking. Inside, the volunteer readily agreed to pass my book to the acquisitions desk.

As I returned to my car, I nearly tripped over the bike sign. Not just bike parking, but Bike and Dog Parking!

Giggling at the image of parking spaces for dogs, I exchanged my regular glasses for sunglasses and drove off in search of a quick lunch. Not finding an obvious spot, I turned back to Ray’s Market next to the library. That’s when I realized my regular glasses were missing. Panicked, I ran over to the bike/dog sign, thinking I had dropped them there. Nope. I raced into the library. No, I hadn’t left them there either.

Frustrated—and unnerved at my forgetfulness—I marched back to my car, opened the passenger side and tossed my sweater inside. Out fell the glasses, protected by the case I’d put them in. I looked up and shook my finger at the sky. “Not funny,” I said, looking around to be sure nobody heard.

Stan and Lynda live on a straight stretch of coastline, their house above the highway with a clear view of the ocean. I lolled in the sun on their deck, feet stretched out while Lynda explained the circuitous path she’d followed getting to Gold Beach. I took a couple of photos of the two of them, to show to mutual friends later.

It wasn’t until I was back in Bandon walking up the steps to the motel, that I looked at my feet. Not only had I thought my glasses lost, but also, in my rush to leave Eugene that morning, I had grabbed a pair of shoes from the rack. But not a pair: One blue shoe, one brown.

“This getting old stuff is getting really old,” I muttered aloud with a snort.

“At least they were on the right feet. And my socks match,” I chortled, changing into the beach shoes I keep in the car.

I remembered a small photo album my mother carried in her purse. It had SOG with PIP printed on the front. Silly Old Grandmother with Pictures In Purse.

Guess that makes me a Silly Old Woman with UnMatched Feet! SOW with UMF. Hmm. Doesn’t sound so bad. I can always use some UMF.

The next morning, in the warmth of sun filtered through a thin veil of clouds, I made my last stop at the library in Coquille. I gave the librarian my book with the promo and review information. The librarian’s daughter, no older than seven, piped up. “I like your earrings,” she said.

“Thank you. They’re my favorites,” I replied. I pointed to the ring on my left hand. “And I had to go all the way to Spain to get this ring,” I told her. “It’s very special.”

She nodded, wide-eyed, and repeated, “I like your earrings.”

Her mother and I exchanged amused smiles, ending my Book Tour on a happy note. I stopped for ice cream at Rice Hill to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Call Me Crazy

Many of my small everyday tasks have been modified by observing or listening to others. I think of my former sister-in-law every time I grind coffee and brush the grinder clean. I think of Nancy while cooking my oatmeal in milk rather than water. I think of Linda every morning as I do ‘the plank’ during my stretch-and-strength routine. I think of Mary Sue every time I vacuum, imagining a line of ants marching out the door. I think of the man in the laundry at a Denver apartment who showed me how to fold sheets without dragging them on the floor.

When these thoughts jump to mind, vivid and clear, I believe they send positive energy from me to each person, like The Force, only more subtle.

Call me crazy, but today, as I ironed the top sheet for my bed, I heard my friend Ruth’s laughter. Not in the room. Ruth lives across town. In the past twenty-eight years, we’ve seen each other two or three times.

Still, I can hear her tell the story again, of her puzzlement over how the housekeeper was able to iron a king-sized sheet. Then she discovered a missing sock inside a neatly pressed and folded sheet. I can hear her musical laugh at uncovering the mystery – and at herself for not guessing the process.

But today, rather than rely on The Force to deliver my thoughts, I decided to deliver them myself.

Without thinking, I tapped out the pattern of her home phone, hoping like crazy that I had the correct sequence. I did. Her husband answered. No, Ruth was at work. I told him why I’d called, expecting him to question my sanity. He didn’t. We chatted a few minutes, easy and unstrained as though we’d seen each other yesterday.

He promised to give the message to Ruth, to have her return my call.

I told him it should be her choice, whether to call back.

Because, call me crazy, but I believe the energy sparked by my memory has already rippled out, spread wide, then washed back over me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lost and Found

At a writing workshop a couple weeks ago, we were asked to write about something we’d lost and what that loss had meant in our lives. I wrote about the ring.

My sister gave it to me, a unique silver ring from Mexico. I adored it, curved and sleek, snaking around my middle finger from knuckle to first joint, perfect for my thick, square hands. People admired it, sometimes taking my hand to look closer. I felt acknowledged, accepted, if only for the ring.

Then, sometime in September, 1993, I slipped it off and laid it on the kitchen counter. At least, that’s what I remember.

And it vanished. Poof! Gone!

Had I really left it there? I retraced my steps, swept floors, searched cabinets and drawers. I looped through the house every day for months.

I asked at work. Had anyone seen it? Yes, they remembered it. No, not on a table or desk. On my hand. I searched for a replacement, a futile effort, since I wanted that ring, not a copy.

Eventually, I accepted that it had disappeared for good.

Years went by. Then, on a cruise from Barcelona to Dover in 2006, we stopped in Vigo, Spain. My friend and I spent the day ashore. We took a local bus tour and found a unique spot for lunch. Then we shopped. That’s when I found it. Not the same ring, but one that spoke to me, one that said, ‘this is you.’ I asked to see it, a fat band of silver woven around bits of blue and green and purple and amber.

I slipped it onto the middle finger of my left hand. Oh, bliss! A perfect fit.

I wear a ring on my right hand, too—a large diamond set at the bottom of a tear-drop shaped opening in a thick gold band. The diamond, nearly half a carat, came from my Grandmother’s engagement ring. Impressive. Pretty.

But when I hear what a pretty ring I know the comment will be directed at the Spanish ring. Just like the one my sister gave me, the one that said ‘this is you’ . . . and it’s O.K. to be noticed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Memorial Service

He was one of the first of the Baby Boomers, born in 1946—three years and a generation behind me. The sexual revolution, the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Liberation and the Vietnam War made it so.

He left us by his own choice, under a cloud of depression and with a brain fogged by alcohol. I was angry. And I was apprehensive about attending his memorial service.

But I wanted to support the family, and so I went.

The service began on time—a good sign. But I squirmed as the minister started off on what sounded like a sermon. After only a few remarks, he stopped. The family wanted to begin the service with two songs, he said, favorites of the man we were honoring.

The first song began. After a few notes, subdued laughter trickled around the room. I didn’t recognize the tune until the vocals began. Running on Empty. I relaxed.

The second song surprised me: Sinatra’s version of Fly Me to the Moon. My eyes filled with tears at the last phrase, “in other words, I . . . love . . . you!” It was a message to all of us who had filled the room.

And the room had overflowed. I worried the service would go on and on, with everyone wanting to share a special story.

My friend’s son soon dispelled my concern. He invited two friends to speak briefly, then completed the service with a story about his dad. It seems the son had purchased a house that needed major updating. He attempted a couple improvement projects with disastrous results. Without judgment, his dad offered suggestions and pointed his son toward others who could assist.

“So, please, reach out when you can help,” the son said. “Volunteer, do service work, contribute to your favorite charity. And accept help when it’s offered. My dad would like that very much.”

The service lasted less than an hour, yet was complete. I left—no longer angry—and remembered that, as long as anyone is alive who remembers this man, his spirit lives.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Balmy

Balmy? I snorted. The article called our recent rainless period balmy! I looked up the word. Balmy: pleasantly mild. In my view, days with highs of 40 degrees don’t qualify. Maybe the writer was a bit balmy, crazed by the rain and wind, and by trees that toppled across the state last Wednesday.

Of the folks interviewed about this hurricane-force storm, none had been in Oregon more than 15 years. They probably missed the floods of 1996 and may not have heard of the Columbus Day Storm.

I remember Friday, October 12, 1962 and the winds that ripped off barn roofs and sailed them across pastures. I was in my sophomore year at the University. My housemates and I watched the giant oak in the front yard sway and strain in the wind. The tree held, much to our relief. Later, as my date and I walked through campus, climbing over fallen trees, I snagged my nylons on some branches. Yes, we wore nylons then, held up by garter belts or girdles! I don’t think I owned a pair of blue jeans, and probably wouldn’t have worn them if I had.

But stormy weather energizes me. I inhale the fresh air deep, breathe free and chase cobwebs from my brain. In cold weather, I struggle to force myself to jog; give me a sprinkle of rain and mild temperatures and I bounce out the door. Wet? I’m drenched by my sweat anyway!

Thurday’s truly balmy winter weather—breeze from the south, thermometer creeping past 50, rain diminished to light drizzle—is the kind that inspired my poem, Light Rain.

LIGHT RAIN

Light rain whispers on the walk.
A damp quilt seeps through my window,
hugs me deeper into sleep.

Tires sizzle and swish,
wash into my dreams,
splash me awake.

I sigh, swim up through the sodden air,
slip into tights and tennies.

Drenched by essence of Oregon,
I jog into memories of

Light Rain in Portland
by the Joffrey Ballet:
supple bodies in blue and gray
leap and sway,
shimmer across the stage,
amaze, enchant
with stormy grace.

I turn my face to the sky
And shout “Bravo! Bravo!”

I’ve printed the poem with a ballet dancer shadowed behind, a reminder of the joy I get from my dances with the rain. Balmy? I guess I am.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Not My Kind of Holiday

Monday, January 16, 2012. MLK Day. I was talking with a friend outside the mailroom of the manufactured home park where I live.

A man drove up, climbed out of his SUV and trudged, head down, toward the mailroom door.

“No mail today,” my friend and I said in unison.

“Oh?” He turned toward us.

“It’s a holiday,” I chirped.

He scowled, and turned back to his car. “Not my kind of holiday,” he muttered as he got behind the wheel.

I’ve learned to let that kind of comment pass. I don’t really want to know what he meant. Instead, I counted all the reasons Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is my kind of holiday.

King could never have been elected to the US Presidency when he was alive. But his accomplishments exceed those of most presidents. FDR may be the exception, but he had more than twelve years in office. And for FDR, with the depression and WWII, the country was united in a way it hasn’t been since.

Many believe King’s Freedom Marches divided us. I believe they opened the door to unite us in a special way. Not black with black and white with white, but black with white and all colors in between.

As articles in the paper noted, King was a fierce critic of America—and it’s most ardent believer. He sought economic justice for all, not just for blacks. He opposed the war in Vietnam not only because of the disproportionate number of blacks drafted to fight it, but also because wars “draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

Ah. Wasn’t he eloquent? And human. He smoked, but didn’t we all, back then? He drank and swore. He did all the things a man can do.

And his words moved millions. He led millions in simple-but-not-easy acts of non-violence.

Tears trickle down my cheeks when I watch films of the marches, listen to recordings of his speeches. I remember. I watched as they marched. I listened as he spoke. I cringed at the violence used against them.

My heart spills over with gratitude that the world is a better place because of him. And I sigh, knowing how far we have yet to go.

So what could I say to the man who grumbled about the holiday?

“Peace, brother.”

Because, as Dr. King said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice and brotherhood.”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Last Year

No, not the year just past, but the last year. The Mayan calendar stopped with 2012. Some say the world as we know it will end, that this will be the last year.

For me, at least, it wouldn’t be terrible if that were true. Then I won’t have to start my next novel.

My first novel, Just Out of Reach, has had some success. People seem to enjoy it. They ask if I’ll write a sequel.

I’ve begun to say yes with some reluctance. I got clarity on my doubts during a conversation with my sister. She’s a visual artist. Her Christmas present to me is a watercolor of the L.A. Arboretum before the recent wind storms. I called to thank her.

“Do you really like it?” she asked. I heard uncertainty in her question.

“Of course,” I replied. “It’s very good. I’m going to frame it.”

“Still, I tell people they’re free to put my paintings in garage sales or give them away.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Well, I did a painting of one of Shelley’s dogs. It came out quite good. Everyone recognizes it immediately. Shelley wants me to do one of her other pup.”

“And?”

“And I don’t know exactly how I did that one. I’m afraid the next won’t be as good.”

“Ah. Like me and my next book. I’m having trouble starting for the same reason – what if it’s not as good.”

We laugh, knowing we’ll each wrestle with our fears and tackle those projects.

Soon, I promise. After Christmas. Christmas came and went. No progress. I revise my promise. I’ll begin in January. But my critique group meets the second week of January. We’ve agreed to exchange our work via email a week in advance. OMG! that’s this Tuesday, January 3, 2012!

And still I busy myself with every task but writing. I’ve redone my bedroom—bought a new bedspread and repainted a wall to show it off. The wall is a work of art, in a way. And it’s a way to avoid sitting my butt in the chair and writing.

I’ve watched movies, both in the theater and at home. I’ve gone for long walks to clear my head, intending to write as soon as I get home.

Instead, I play with the cat or find some minor task that must be done. Today, after cruising the mall for an hour, I painted a portion of two walls in my living room.

Now, finally, I’ve started. My characters are clearing their throats, making suggestions, giving advice. I’ve got three versions of the first few pages to send to the critique group. Life is good.

The last year? I hope not.