Sunday, November 22, 2015

Falling Water

It was below freezing when we started our hike, but a weak sun encouraged an outing and so we went.  Hikes in the Columbia gorge are almost boring to contemplate because it is the closest to access wildland, zipped there on I84, and full of other weekend enthusiasts.  But the waterfalls and views are always worth the work and so we went up the trail at Waukeena Falls and across to Angels Rest, along a connecting trail I had never done before.

We saw frost instead of flowers and practiced the art of slowing down the speed of water in the camera lens.

I am here back at this place to keep up with life in my own words.

Water finds its way between the stones
We follow a path through the days
One dissolves the other

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Sunshine Act

I spent the weekend at the coast, which was blinding with sunshine, disinfecting the mind of every blackspot of sadness, every mold of regret, removing the entire past and replacing it with  the full spectrum of light.  (This is an obvious quote of that amazing movie title “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”) But after many hours on the beach, I went to see the new life that Deb has made in the undergrowth of the coast, where she has wrested a house and a studio out of a swarm of laurel and ivy.

Deb is an artist,  who has developed from medium to medium, from photography to pastels, to painting.  Meeting in college, over the years, I caught her at art shows, and signed up for her email list, but in those quick contacts, mostly we reminisced, about those couple of years where we suffered the shock of the freedom of choice that strikes young adults, let go of their parents.  But through the years she has been important to me, representing what happens if you choose your path, rather than just follow a trail.

Recently married to a fellow artist, Deb and Carl have conquered so many obstacles of house husbandry, and they would be forgiven if actual creation of art was subsumed by pouring of concrete, diversion of streams, and slaying of holly.  But no, taming of the land is entwined with pictures of green growth and lives of people within the land. Yet, amidst the success of love and land and art, is the recognition that life is always hard.  As long as we live, we must let go, of friends and family and places we held dear.
I drove back to the city on an unfamiliar road, one bordered by recent clearcuts, a wholesale destruction by chainsaw and bulldozer.   Although every Oregonian is inured to these sights, propagandized by the claim that prosperity depends on the transmogrification of landscape from life to commodity, I stopped at the sight of a stump so big it needed the step cut in the trunk to allow the faller to get high enough to make a good cut.  These were commonplace in the historical stumps still visible throughout the state on the old growth giants felled before my tenure here.  Hating to think about that big one being taken even now,  I scrambled into the overturned geography without trees, their branches scraped into piles for later burning.  The air was sweet with pitch.  I noticed the tender understory, still freshly green, soon to die without shading fir branches.  I dug under a fern, with new bright green fronds, and untangled its roots, deciding to save at least one orphan from the slaughter.

We all make choices as individuals and as societies.  We almost always think we have made the right choice.  And yet, many of us are not happy, the atmosphere is filling with unbreatheable gases, and we kill off other species and our own for very little gain.  I thought that it is not enough to acknowledge suffering is part of life.   We must struggle to conserve what has been created and in the face of destruction, create anew.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

This No-Writing Life

I stopped writing when I stopped sleeping all night.  Up until menopause I was the perfect sleeper, as soon as my head hit the pillow, unconscious until dawn or longer.  I assumed this was my great luck, just like my perfect health.  With the onset of this female condition that no one ever talks about, even when there are multiple aging women fanning themselves in the same meeting, I now wake up several times a night to flap my bed coverings, and unstick my sweaty body from where it was glued into the bed.  Over the years, these symptoms have diminished (though not ended), but my brain has given up sleeping for eight hours in a row and I have entered the long twilight of insomniacs. 

Then I lost my job and worry became a new excuse for sleeplessness.  At the end of each fruitless day I  detail all the things I had not done to better my situation and all the things I would surely do better the next day, and after hours of lists, I fall unconscious in disgust.  Then I get a job which entails an early and late commute that I begrudge so much I never get to bed when I should, and when I do, there are still the thrice nightly time checks that I seemingly must do, just to prove the night is both terribly long and short.  After awhile, I get used to living tired.   Which leaves no room for inspiration. Or dictation of inspiration. 

But I’m always trying to do better.  Recently, I sought writing therapy with a workshop with Kim Stafford.  There were two days of effortless words.  Then nothing.

 So this is me, writing about doing better.  Right before I go to bed early, to try and break the chain.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Rain Came

Finally, after several months without a drop of rain, we get a whole day, and more promised.  The air is tangible again.  The sunflowers, that yesterday, seemed broken with age, are standing up straight.  We are always glad for one more day of sun in the Northwest, where fall and winter become a single memory of cold feet, the flapping of windshield wipers, and hidden dangers of footfalls into puddles or the squelch of mud.  Unlike other climates,here, there is the rainy season and the solid sun of summer and little in between. 

Mid October and my new early morning routine is darkness.  I cannot stop myself from waking earlier and earlier, my head roaring with questions.  The inquiry is all details of work, which defy interest for anyone else, but have become symbolic of everything else.  It does not matter what this job is about, only that I find a way to wrestle it into meaning.  I realize now that whatever we do, it is simply an expression of  ourselves and what we believe we are. 

Inevitably, concentration on one thing neglects others.  I have always had a hard time choosing what to let go.  Even now, I can't tell you anything I would willingly give up in my panoply of interests.  But the trivial tasks of cooking and cleaning and trying to perfect home economics take a back seat to the long commute of work.  I do not suffer from lack of nutrition; indeed, vegetables are the only craving that cannot be satisfied wherever I happen to be. So I chop and saute and consume strange combinations of leafy crunchy things and call it dinner. 

I hate how life rushes by, and I am barely able to find a high point to look back upon it.  But I love that headlong, headfull hunger to fill up on everything around me, to consume the moment, even if it shoves me faster toward the full stop.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back to Work

I have worked seven days at my new job.  I miss my leisure but not the uncertain future of being unemployed.   Now the days are a blur of commuting, trying to figure out the requirements of the job and remembering names of people I have met more than once.

Each day I make a hundred mile round trip.  I have time during lunch to wander around the state capital where there are notable buildings, statues and plaques galore.  In my office, everything is state agency gray.  There are procedures for everything.  It would be daunting, if it wasn't so amusing.    I happen to have arrived just as heavy talks were beginning about "dress guidelines."   Tomorrow I will go to Goodwill and stock up on shirts that can't be mistaken for t-shirts, and tasteful skirts.  If I wasn't so advanced in years, I might care, but I don't.  

My biggest problem is getting enough sleep.  I have not convinced myself to sleep enough hours to be perky at 6:00 AM.  But I knew that any new schedule was going to be difficult after the luxury of the 9-5 of Legal Aid. 

I am trying to learn how to fit my other activities into the time available.  It will happen.  But dinner time preparations are suffering mightily.  I'm going to have to shop and cook for the the week on the weekend.  A new regime to learn. 

Today I continued the tree inventory of our neighborhood.  I love the reality of identifying trees.  If I had a life to do over again, I would throw my lot with the biology of our planet, rather than with words and laws.  But I am here now, and I will get what I can out of it. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Getting Old

106 days since my last day of work.  In the first few weeks, I was purposeful , making appointments and lists of things to accomplish, and then actually doing some of them.  I aggressively applied for jobs, kept in touch with former colleagues and told whomever would listen of my state of unemployment.

But as the weather improved I turned more to gardening and sitting outside and exercising.  I am exploring all the different sightlines of the backyard, where I can look up from my book and see the rose's pink explosions, and where my neighbor's catalpa tree with its enormous droopy leaves can be enjoyed.  In the old working days the garden was just an outdoor list of tasks and an unobtainable vision of Edenlike splendor I imagined moving toward.  Now, in this lucky summer of excellent weather, I really have nothing better to do than enjoy the squirrels running their avenues of fenceline, and the zooming hummingbirds zipping between neighbors' feeders.  I don't think I have felt this simplicity since childhood.

I have a theory that the world of work is a cleverly designed illusion where we are convinced to willingly perform arduous tasks that fill nearly all our time, in exchange for treasure that we can trade for other treasure.  The truth is that the system only works because the treasure we get is worth less that the time we give to obtain it.  No matter how much we earn, the desire for treasure ratchets up so that we keep working for more.  Maybe it is all a very sensible plot by social engineers to keep us out of trouble, but go off the tracks like I have and you begin to see behind the curtain.  Pardon the now banal comparison, but the movie, the Matrix is much on my mind.

Although I know that eventually new money will be required and somehow I must locate a job, I still regret my best decades were devoted to a job that now seems besides the point.  Alternatively, my next best decade is now and I am determined to enjoy it properly.   There are plants to water, words to string together, and colors to be dabbled in.  Time does not wait.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our House, Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Ever since I stopped going to work, I have become aware of what goes on while most of us are out of the neighborhood, making money.  Our houses are visited throughout the day by an army of workers.  They lavish these boxes with attention; cleaning their interiors, trimming the vegetation that surrounds them, painting and altering the superstructure, adjusting and replacing bits of the circulatory systems that bring in electricity and heat and water and take away the waste products, bringing in new appliances and taking out old, catching animals who dare to invade, and these are just some of the reasons we let people into the house while we are gone.  If I didn't know better, I might surmise that human beings exist to tend these structures.  Certainly much of the money earned in middle class America goes toward the glory of the boxes we live in.

Surely, if we were efficient creatures, we would have invented a one size fits all habitation that needs no special tools or experience to maintain.   Something like the $300 House, designed for the poor.  But we actually expect our houses to express our innermost feelings, through an inexplicable assortment of design and equipment attributes.  Our inability to convey our desires through woodwork, may be the reason why the craftsmen are constantly arriving to try once again.

In my house, it comes down to the kitchen.  The enamelled sink is shedding its enamel and rusting.  The vinyl floor was white when it began, but can't be turned white with any amount of scrubbing.  These are good reasons to get replacements.  But how big should we go?  As any householder knows, one thing leads to another and another.  If we replace the sink, we should really get new countertops.  If we do that, maybe it is time to build the cabinets and counters on the other wall that would make a lot more room, but then that begs the question of whether we should get all new cabinets.  And of course we need a new floor and isn't it time to change all the appliances?  I just find it very hard to go down that long slippery path.    Each choice seems to mean something and demand careful thought.  And at the end we will need to invite at least several workers into our home. 

I know the home building industry creates a lot of jobs, but if we didn't have these terribly complicated structures, wouldn't we need a lot less money?