Saturday, January 21, 2012


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 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 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.