Tag: Oregon

The Price to Pay is Emotional Fallout

I’ve been writing maudlin posts and deleting them.  I’ve been up late talking out my great failings as a person and working through emotional pain I’m ashamed to feel.  I’ve been thinking about the emotional fallout attendant with naming your pain out loud and telling stories no one wants you to tell.  Turning the rocks in the ravine up to an unaccustomed light.  I’ve been asking myself what kind of person I want to be and comparing it to what kind of person I am.  I have read my previous post over and over to look for reasons to feel regret and shame and a way back to silence.  I have found none.  We’re all responsible for what we say to other people and how we interact with them and if we don’t want to be misunderstood it is incumbent upon us to evaluate how we can communicate more clearly.

One of the people highlighted in my burn pile posted something about truth on facebook.  Something I’ve heard before.

“There’s my truth, and there’s you’re truth, and somewhere between the two is the actual truth”

I disagree.  I think it’s a cop out.  It’s a way of saying “I don’t have to listen to your truth because it is wrong and will never be correct because neither of our truths are the real truth” when the person saying it really means “Except that my truth is the real truth and I can know this while deflecting any responsibility for yours with this handy little saying”  I have no idea if this posting was in response to what I wrote or not.  If it’s not then it’s profoundly interesting and if it is it’s profoundly snaky.

It’s been days since I wrote that post and I think the fallout is over now.  I was so emotional and sad and hurt for days after releasing that.  I had a good cry over it and now I think I’ve pretty much processed the shit out of my feelings and it’s time for the next chapter.  The debriefing period is nearly over.

So much good is happening and I want to say that I’ve been shaking uncomfortably all day in a state of strange anxiety mixed with absolute complete excitement.

Philip was offered a job with Panamax/Furman Sound today.  This job search has been grueling for him.  He’s worked so crazy fucking hard and we had to keep our plans somewhat quiet for 3 months and if you’ve had to look for work recently you know it will peel you RAW.  I am beyond proud of him for all the work he’s done on his resume and portfolio and keeping going when he just wanted to fall in a heap.  He’s so excited to work for this company and it pays 20K more than he’s earning now and has BENEFITS.  I think I’m in a state of shock that the search is over, the hiring contract papers are signed and he’s back home with us to finish up some freelance projects and start helping us pack.

So now the reality of the move is before me and cleaning out and weeding through my things will become more intense.  But I’m happy.  Really happy.  I’m also starting to turn my attention to my upcoming work on the Post Apocalyptic Cookbook (which, if we end up going to war with Iran, will be more useful than ever) and I’m also going to get back on track with my health goals.  I can’t concentrate on such things very much when I’m just trying to get through today and tomorrow and everything is in a state of suspense.  Having such a huge hurtle reached and knowing I’m going back to a community I fit into I won’t have to be on guard all the time and I can now turn to other things.

So here we are at Sunday.  I’m working and then I’m going to help Max with a school project.  Then I’m just going to relax.  If I can remember how to do that.

The Dark Side of McMinnvillains

Living in McMinnville has made me feel like I’m stuck in an alternate universe where people don’t behave the way you expect them to, especially the adults.  Hippies aren’t hippies here (peace loving liberal people) they have M16s and 40 children and live on compounds so that they don’t have to be part of the rest of us.  Don’t be fooled by beardiness or hippie-style clothes.  Having tattoos doesn’t mean you’re a rebel soul up here.  In fact, having tattoos says exactly nothing up here except that you were bored and had enough money to get another tattoo.  Everyone has tattoos here!  Libertarians in California are all for smaller government and their approach isn’t particularly extreme but here in Oregon the Libertarians are a scary group of paranoid people who I’m pretty sure are all in need of anti-psychotic meds but would never get them because medication is part of the government complex BRINGING US ALL DOWN and besides,  seeing regular western doctors leaves a paper trail.

Finding people I understand and can really be myself around has been a huge challenge.  Then there’s the townspeople in general.  Shopping at Winco is like getting my weekly circus entertainment.  Everywhere I go I am reminded that the greatest danger of living in a small community is to let it make you smaller in the head and heart.

I am going to list some of the things people have said and/or done to me and things I have observed that I need to place on one big pyre of outrage to be burnt and my hope is that when I’m gone the stars of these stories* will learn to stop being so small in the heart and head.

Stories and anecdotes for the burn pile:

  • I was chatting with a bank teller and mentioned that I’d gone to San Diego last year for a conference.  She said wistfully that she’d never traveled but would like to some day.  I mentioned that my favorite recent trip had been to New York.  She told me she’d be scared to go to New York.  I asked her why.  She said “Because of all the diversity.”
  • I was working at a holiday fair a few years ago and naturally got into conversation with the people there.  One lady asked me about my relationship with Jesus so I told her I wasn’t religious because I was raised by wolves.  The next morning she comes up to me with a very concerned look on her face and says she’s been thinking about my comment that I was raised by wolves and hoped I didn’t mind her asking if I was Native American.  Erm-uh-????**  Once I disclosed that by “wolves” I really meant “hippies”*** she decided I wasn’t exempt from her proselytizing and proceeded to pound me over the head with her club full of Jesus.
  • I was getting my hair cut the other day and mentioned that one of the things I’m going to miss about this area are the u-pick farms because Sonoma County doesn’t have any.  She said “You’d think with all those Mexicans in the fields down there that there would be plenty of them.”
  • I was told this story by a man who knows I send my child to public school “When my kids and I would drive by the public school I would tell them that that’s where all the children go whose parents don’t love them.”  I wanted to punch him for that one but he could snap my neck like a twig so I stuffed my feelings as far down into my body as I could and will probably get stomach cancer because of it.
  • Remember the time I had a yelling match WITH A REAL LIVE YOUNG CHAUVINIST?  It was when we discovered that we were going to go bankrupt and we told our tenants that the house they were living in was going to be foreclosed on and they could stay as long as they wanted, rent free, until the bank actually took it.  And remember how the tenant was someone I considered a friend and her boyfriend called me up and asked to talk to the man of the house?  Cause I will never forget that horrible phone call.  That young man refused to talk with me, a woman, about my own business because I’m a woman and he didn’t feel comfortable talking business with a woman.  I lost my shit with him big time and my “friend” completely defended his behavior calling him “old fashioned”.  We ceased to be friends that day.  Maybe that’s rash of me but if being friends with someone means having to be exposed to such ass-holery then I won’t do it.  She married him and lived happily ever after and I’m happy for her because she’s a good person.  You know what’s stupid though?  That house took two years to foreclose.  Those two people could have lived in a nice house for two years without paying any rent.  Too bad they were too angry with us for being financially ruined and making them move to realize we were trying to give them something to make things easier for them.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
  • So recently I heard a young person mention an incident involving the night and a black person being stupid for doing something at night because his skin is so dark.  Apparently only white people can get away with doing stupid stuff at night.  Racism in young people is alive and well!
  • Here, just like on Fox News, being a democrat is the same as being a socialist.  I was called a socialist by a Libertarian welder.  While he was not complimenting me, I thank him for helping me to realize that the form of democracy I believe in really IS socialism.  The Nordic Model, as I’ve mentioned before.  And I DO take it as a compliment.
  • One time I lost “something”**** that belonged to a friend.  That friend called me up and yelled at me and was pretty much freaking the fuck out as though I’d actually stolen said “thing” and sold it to the pawn shop for a dollar.  I apologized harder than I’ve ever apologized before and explained that I didn’t mean to “lose” this “thing” of hers and pretty much didn’t even realize it was in my possession to lose in the first place.  She was having none of it.  She said “If  _______ doesn’t turn up I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at your face again!”  Said thing did turn up again but we happily demoted each other from “friend” to “acquaintance” status from that day forward.  I admit that I’m still hurt at her reaction to something that was a genuine mistake that righted itself.  It was, however, very revealing of her character.
  • But that just reminds me of the other friendship I lost because I was tired of having my choice to send my child to public school be bashed.  Yeah, this is a different home schooler than the one mentioned above.  This one called my son cruel for making one of her girls cry and even her husband said she was way off the mark by calling him “cruel” and admitted he’d made a lot of girls cry when he was a kid and it’s called “being a boy”.  That’s what he said to me though I doubt he said that to his own wife.  This is the home schooling friend who said that sending kids to public school is abusing them, and she also believes being gay is a sin because of the bible.  The writing was on the wall very early on but I was lonely and she liked homesteading activities like I do.
  • The fallout from the above story is that another mutual friend unfriended me in solidarity.  We have since remained chilly acquaintances.  That wasn’t exactly surprising and honestly I was going to unfriend her if she didn’t do it first because I had had enough of seeing her and other mutual acquaintances exclude me from their circles out loud and in my face.  I felt much better when it was clear that we were really definitely NOT friends.  Pretending takes way too much effort.
  • Then there was the quietly religious acquaintance who cheated on her husband and then, I guess because he forgave her, she became obnoxiously loudly religious peppering every conversation with “hallelujah”s and “Thank you Jesus”s and Jesus this and Jesus that and the lord does this and that and the other thing until you’re so fucking blue in the face you know you’re going to die and Jesus isn’t going to save you because he’s too busy trying to get people to stop thanking him every two fucking seconds for shit he didn’t do.  Amen.
  • Max had a friend for a little while whose mom was really his young grandma who had all her teeth removed and fake ones put in because I suppose it was easier than getting the rot fixed.  She is one of those leathery women who have lived and partied hard and looks it.  So one day she tells me her daughter (a drug addict who keeps sending her children to their grandma to raise) is in surgery and I told her I hoped the surgery would go well.  She says “Well, I trust in the lord because he’s the real surgeon.”  ????
  • So the owner of Third Street books doesn’t like me and said shit to a mutual friend about me.  Shit that makes no sense.  I’ve never done anything but support her bookstore and what she said makes it sound like I’m a very untrustworthy person.  What the hell did I ever do to her?  I knew she didn’t like me but until I heard that I didn’t realize she actually saw me as a bad person.  I have tried hard not to buy anything from her store since but there have been a couple of gift emergencies.
  • At the downtown grocery store (often referred to as the “health food store” for lack of a more appropriate title) I met a person who didn’t know what eggplants are.  I also met a person who didn’t recognize basil when she saw it.  The eggplants I can maybe understand if I really really tried to imagine a world where people never learn what an eggplant looks like but to not recognize basil is unimaginable.  It is one of the most ubiquitous herbs in use in the United States.
  • Got stuck in a scary rickety van once for over a half and hour listening to two very conservative republicans tell me all about how much they LOVE Rush Limbaugh and even wrote a limerick to him about how he needs to stop dating that liberal chick he was dating and apparently they managed to get Rush to read it on his show.  I’ve never been tempted to jump out of a moving vehicle in my life until that moment.  Instead I interrupted them to announce that I’m a liberal democrat because it seems they mistook me for one of their own.  The older one broke out in laughter and said “Oh yeah, we’ve got a couple of liberals in our family.”  Like we’re lepers or clowns or something.
  • It still amazes me that my own kid got bullied in grade school by Christian kids because he doesn’t believe in God.  Know how to convert an atheist to the ways of God?  I don’t know but I know you can’t do it by BULLYING.  And haven’t you heard of that guy named Jesus who was totally against violence and mean behaviors?
  • I was hanging out in the lobby of the Kung Fu school I went to for two years and had to listen to a conversation between my Kung Fu teacher and the mom of some kid attending the school.  She was talking about all those people out there with “depression” who are popping pills because they’re too lazy to get off their asses and get a little exercise and eat better food.  My kung fu teacher could not have agreed with her more and they went on to say how people don’t really have “depression” and dissed everyone taking pills.  He knows I am a mentally ill person who takes medication.  How are people here so thoughtless of those around them and so fucking self righteous and ignorant?  I eventually quit the school because I was tired of paying more money than I could afford to be continually insulted and bludgeoned over the head about my choice to send my kid to public school, the fact that I take medications so I WON’T KILL MYSELF, and hearing Obama and all of government accused of unremitting EVIL.  It was so unhealthy for me to be exposed to so much hate and bashing and I took Max out of the school too because he was having huge anxiety issues every day that he had to go to Kung Fu class.  The severity of those problems cleared up almost immediately when he stopped going.
  • One time I was riding my bicycle and some teens shouted “Sexy” derisively from their car.  I know I’m fat and pretty ugly these days but that was just mean.
  • I’d like to say the yelling has been from teens only and only once but the truth is that I have been yelled at from passing cars in this town whether I’m walking, riding my bicycle, or riding my scooter more times than I can count on my two hands and it has been from adults more than from teens.  WTFF?!  I guess you can’t teach your teens manners if you don’t have any yourself.  I haven’t been yelled at from passing cars since I was a death rocker teen.

What I want to know is how I can meet so many people in one small town who have so little respect for the feelings and beliefs of other people around them?  I disagree with so many people’s beliefs that I’ve met here but I have endeavored not to shit on their choices, to listen to what they have to say and consider it.  Even if you know you’re not going to change your mind – don’t other people deserve a little space to make their own choices about things and to disagree with you?  Yes, it can be hard to do, but never more so when that respect and space is not mutual.  Not everyone in McMinnville is this way, not everyone here has guns or is conservative or religious.  Not everyone here is mean or ignorant or racist.  But unfortunately I was not welcomed into the inner circles of the more liberal crowd.  I just didn’t fit in with anyone but the recluses and the outsiders and most of them moved away because THEY HATED IT HERE.

The few who have let me into their lives and LIKED me and wish I wasn’t moving are the only reason I stayed as long as I did and hoped endlessly to see the lighter side of McMinnvillains.  And to those few good friends I am deeply thankful because they made it possible for me to deal with all the above stories without going postal.  Those good friends here gave me a safe haven where I could be myself and not be bashed for it.

Now I have collected all the stories in one place that have been burning holes in my heart and head – let them burn to the ground and become something better.  I don’t know if I brought anything good to this town but I know that  living here in an environment that is so hostile to my beliefs has made me a better person in ways I didn’t know I needed to improve.  I was shown my own darker side and have been forced to address it.

How weak my religious tolerance was before I moved here!  It’s so easy to be open minded when your mind isn’t challenged to remain open by people who believe differently than you and are loud about it.  Now every time I am chafed by some religious person’s fervor and want to scream I remind myself how many religious people there are out there who are open minded enough to not care that I’m an atheist.

For every home schooling parent out there who thinks sending my child to public school is proof that I don’t love him enough there’s a home schooling parent who respects that our kids are all different and no educational choice is right for everyone.

I used to say I wasn’t much of a feminist.  I mean, I have never seen the world from the man-versus-woman perspective.  We’re in it together and I have been lucky enough to know mostly awesome men who see the women in their lives as equals and, where appropriate, partners.  Before I moved here I thought most chauvinism was only in the 50 year old and older crowd.  Encountering my first ever young chauvinist and being in a situation where I was refused as an equal I discovered, to my surprise, that I’m a raging feminist.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually had a screaming match with another adult.   I don’t scream at adults when I’m angry.  Unless they are refusing to discuss my own business with me because I’m a woman, apparently that wakes the beast.  I’m not proud that I screamed at this man but it did show me that I am as much of a feminist as I need to be depending on how I’m being treated.  And now that a whole set of politicians and their fans are attacking women’s rights all over again – I’ve never been more ready to fight this stupid shit.

Time to light a match to this pyre full of ugly.  Excuse me while I go look for some matches.

*If you recognize yourself in any of these stories and become flaming mad – I can’t help that.  I can’t undo your behaviors or change our interactions.  I can only go forward and to do that I have to let go and to let go I have to express my own anger and hurt.  If you need to “unfriend” me on facebook (if you haven’t already) I won’t mind at all.  That’s your dealio.  If you decide to retaliate by saying more mean and disrespectful shit about me to other people you will only be dirtying yourself.  Whatever you do, don’t bother talking to me personally about any of this because the time for that is past.  If I was mutually hurtful in our exchanges (as I definitely was in two instances for which I was genuinely ashamed of myself) I have already apologized to you for my unnecessary meanness.  Ask yourself this: have you apologized to me?  (Here’s a hint: the answer is NO.)  The end.

**Seriously?  I couldn’t look more white even if I wanted to.  Someone maybe needs stronger glasses?

***The real kind, not the fake Oregon kind.

****The details are being smudged in hopes that I don’t start a war with this story.  But it really hurt me and bothered me so much I had to put it on the fire with the rest of these stories.

10 Things I Love About Yamhill County

Poor Max.  He can’t take his parents anywhere without them taking pictures of things like the ground.  Easter afternoon, Grand Island.

I’m feeling charitable this morning in spite of not having had any alcohol in six days and not sleeping much.  I would like to take this moment to list the things I have actually loved about living in Yamhill County.  These are the things that have actually gotten me through all the dark times here in McMinnville.

  1. The weather.  Yes!  I love the cooler wet climate here.  It is my number one favorite thing about Yamhill County and all of Oregon.  It’s not good for me in that it keeps me from getting outside as much as I need to for exercise (I loathe squishy wet shoes) but it’s very good for me emotionally.  4 out of 6 summers here were almost comfortable-ish.  I love that it does sometimes snow and I love the frequent long string of drizzly days.
  2. The sound of snow tires on the road.  A symbol of the possibility of snow.  It also amuses me because people here apparently don’t know about tire chains.  They trust in snow tires and then when it really does snow they still go sliding and crawling down the road like frightened kittens trying to get across a frozen lake.  Such a happy distinctive sound they make.
  3. The u-pick farms.  They are such a boon to canners.  Sonoma County doesn’t have many/any.  There are many n Yamhill County and the Willamette Valley and I’m not the only one who picks at them.  I absolutely love that so many people do tons of preserving and that they use the local farms as their main resource.  I also love that the u-pick prices are so affordable.  Picking food at farms and canning has been one of my favorite Oregon adventures.
  4. The peonies.  Peonies do not reliably come back every year in California.  But in northern Oregon they are reliable, huge, and breathtaking!  I have three favorites: Festiva Maxima, Sarah Bernhardt, and that deep fuscia one we had at our first house whose name I never discovered.
  5. The berries.  Especially the blueberries.  I’ve never had such delicious and cheap blueberries in my life!  The strawberries are amazing too (yes, better than Californian ones) and I love how much easier they are to grow (for me).  The blackberries!  All the berries that grow in the Willamette Valley deserve exclamation points.
  6. The foraging.  Elderberries and nettles are abundant in the woods and I don’t know where to find them in CA.  That will be a fresh adventure.  The Oregon woods are so beautiful and smell amazing.  Foraging is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it.
  7. Lilacs.  Lilacs don’t do as well in CA but they thrive here and are widely planted and make a huge show of themselves in early spring.  It’s wonderful to smell them in the air on sunny spring days and they brighten up the landscape on grey ones.  I love them all.  As long as they have fragrance, I love them.
  8. The frogs in my yard!!  I am going to miss that wonderful loud society of frogs that have settled and multiplied in my tiny creepy pond and who are so funny and charming and drown out human voices with their volume.  Pacific tree frogs.
  9. Piontek bread.  Best sandwich bread I’ve ever had in my life.  Even better than I’ve ever been able to make myself.  (Sandwich bread is, for me, kind of tricky)  All other bread is inferior to home made but this one.  No preservatives.  No crap.  It’s the only bread Max likes.  Whole wheat.  Perfect size.  Perfect texture.  Perfect sandwich bread.
  10. Cauliflowers and cabbages the size of my head.

Now that I look at the list I can see that most of what I like about Yamhill County is the weather, the flora, and the fauna.

What I keep wanting to say is that the best thing about Yamhill County is Portland.*

*Not in Yamhill County.

The Neptune Society Really Wants Your Business

I think modern medicine, which can now keep people alive pretty much indefinitely, has caused a serious decline in the cremation business.  I suspect this because my mom got a post card in the mail from them and decided to find out how much it would cost to get herself cremated.  However, she gave them my phone number by accident, so they called me.

Sadly, they actually got Max on the phone.  Max does not have polite phone manners.  (Not for lack of efforts on my part to improve them)  So Max, having gotten a stranger on the phone, grilled the guy and rudely told him he’d got the wrong number.  So I grabbed the phone from the kid and tried to sort things out.  Which wasn’t easy, actually.  First of all, I thought the guy must be calling from Santa Rosa which is the only place I’ve seen the Neptune Society before.  I didn’t realize all crematoriums are called The Neptune Society.  Naturally I was suspicious of the pink crematorium in Santa Rosa calling my mother.  Had someone died that I wasn’t aware of?  All the guy wanted was to talk to my mom.  I told him he had the wrong number but that she lives downstairs and I would give her a message that he called and give him her actual phone number.

All squared.  You’d think.  My mother, apparently, though curious to find out how much we’ll be set back when it comes time to burn her, wasn’t curious enough to want to actually talk to them.  So when he called her, she just let him leave messages.  Apparently, he’s been trying to get hold of her for over a week and was tired of getting the grand brush-off.

Cause this morning he showed up at my door with no appointment or invitation.  If you’ve been to my house or seen pictures of our curious set-up, you’d know that to get to our front door you have to enter the metal ghetto gate behind which there lives a dog with serious teeth.  Most sane people who don’t know us or our dog hear Chick’s crazed barking and see her gnashing large teeth dripping with eager saliva and they will not enter the ghetto gate unless I come and get them and escort them in.  A person who is invited through the gate is an instant object of love and fascination for Chick but a person who is uninvited and unknown is lunch-meat.  What kind of person ignores the scary black angry dog and just stands there at a door with no doorbell at a house they weren’t invited to and whose residents haven’t answered his calls for a week?  A dumb-ass.

I got Chick into the house because even as I stumbled onto the porch in my gorgeous pyjamas she made a lunge for the Neptune guy’s leg.  It is very fortunate for us and possible future legal issues that she did not actually bite him.  I turned to the guy and I said it was not very smart to enter a gate to a house where a dog is showing clear signs of wanting to attack you.  He defended this assitude by explaining that there didn’t seem to be any other way to get in.  I confirmed this.  I told him that people who aren’t invited to our house never come in the gate.  I realize this was a surly way to treat him but after staying up late last night and trying to sleep in I was not happy to be woken at 9:30 in the morning by a man who just couldn’t wait to tell my mom how much it will cost to get herself cremated.

It actually took me a minute to sort out who he was and why he was there on my porch not noticing the attack dog lunging at him.  He was there to see my mom.  I asked him if he had an appointment with her.  He said no, because he’s been calling and calling and she never returns his calls so he came to talk to her in person.  Most people who try to call other people and never get a response take it as a sign that the person they’re trying to reach isn’t all that into being reached and will give up.  What business sends a henchman to make home calls when potential customers decide not to return your calls?

The Neptune Society does.

My mom, who was also sleeping (she is often sleeping at that time because she wakes up at ungodly hours of the morning unable to go back to sleep, sleep issues run family-wide here) and she told me to tell him to go away.  So I had the happy job of telling the idiot that next time he should not make house calls without appointments.  He kept waving a piece of paper at me in explanation and saying “but she wouldn’t answer my calls”.  Take a hint, dude, take a big hint and run with it.  No one wants uninvited house calls from the crematorium.  No one wants to know what it’s going to cost to be crisped THAT URGENTLY.  Just assume that if a potential customer doesn’t return your calls, they aren’t motivated to give you any business.  It’s a big clue.

If, or rather – when, we need to cremate someone, you can be sure we’ll follow through with our calls.  Now I’m wondering if there are any crematoriums other than the Neptune Society?  I’m not keen to be toasted by dumb-asses.

Today’s major task: buy a “beware of dog” sign for the ghetto gate.

So that’s my morning, how’s yours?

Ballad of the Long Straight Road

I know why people take to the open road.  I know why they grab their keys, their manhood, and schisms to bolt through congested traffic until they hit the long stretch where the cars thin out and the road turns quiet like butter under the wheels.  They do it to create a buffer between themselves and everything static.  They do it to think in the moment where everything is raw but moving with the landscape.

I do it because it’s like flying.  Every summer I take the Vespa out to Bernards Farm.  I pack up  a collection of nasty bags and boxes and anything I can load produce into and it almost doesn’t matter what it is I’m going to pick – I’d go out there to pick the chamomile dotting the tomato fields if there were no tomatoes left just to go.  Just to break loose, to race down Old Sheridan Road with insects hitting me like tiny rockets, the drifts of changing scents; warm wild dusky charlatan blackberries grown over-ripe in the heat of August, hot dry sage browning in the fringe of the scythed fields reminding me of origin – a fine cross between the sweat of summer and the antiseptic that cleans it before fall, barnyard where the cattle come to watch me speeding by, interrupting their milky sweet ruminations.

I am the insect bomb in their quiet and it makes me want to laugh into the wind that sucks up my voice and gives loft to my spirit instead.  I cut the cricket calls in half as I pick up speed on the straight and narrow flat stretches between ripe apples on the air and the pervasive scent of empty hay-fields still reaching for lost seed.  Cut down, they glow sharply all around me, acres of rough gold fringed with the wild grasses of no interest to anyone but me who salutes them with my unpeeled elation.  They respond with prehistoric whispers that just barely brush my wheels.  Slowing down to turn down onto Oldsville road where a body was found in an old oil drum, I smell the rich manure, and it’s as it should be.  As it always is.  Every summer.  Continuity in flight creates a safe canvass for color.

Passing an old apple tree grown rusticated with neglect I can smell the small dropped smashed fruit fermenting in the hot air before I actually see them scattered into the road under my wheels and as I pass the tree I hear it calling out, making wishes on the loose straw carried on my back draft and mourning so much more than I am.  I toss a handful of my own wishes behind me hoping the tree knows what’s in my heart even if it can’t follow.

I could shout now.  I could shout here.  I want to yell into the wind.  Instead I prepare my mind for meditation.  I do this by doing nothing at all.  Nothing.  When I reach Highway 18 I have to stop, shake out my right hand to dispel the numbness which insidiously takes over whenever it is least convenient.  I pull my helmet buckle on tighter because I’m about to go even faster and everything must be battened down for speed.  It’s only a quarter of a mile to the farm from here.  Nothing much.  But the Vespa has a lot to prove among the arrogant vehicles already thrumming with noisy hunger down the highway, eating miles like candy.  It is my secret joy that the Vespa goes as fast as they are allowed to, it pulls out and in seconds it is pulling at the road like a racehorse.

It exhilarates me.  I like speed.  I like the road.  I – who am terrified of cars and could not ride in them at all today if I wasn’t medicated – I love the feel of the asphalt reeling out behind me.  It makes little sense and I don’t bother trying to sort it out because I don’t have time to dig for inconsequential answers like that when there’s this great ride to enjoy.

When I’m on that stretch of highway all thought disappear.  I am aware only of the cars behind me, ahead of me, and to the side of me.  I perceive nothing beyond the impact of back drafts and speed and distance.  My mind completely empties of anything extraneous.  It’s a gorgeous meditation.  All my focus is on the pressing and urgent need to know exactly where I am in the universe right now.  There is no other point in my life that will be this simple.  This is how death is when you strip it of all the things you think you’re supposed to feel and do.  This is how being born is when you strip it of the weight of being, and of the expectations that await you as a human being.  You can’t get simplicity like this with a candle or a mantra or a bottle of beer or a self help book or a life coach or even an epiphany.

It’s so simple there’s nothing outside of it.

It’s so simple.  You’re either alive, or you’re dead.

Sometimes it takes the open road to notice.

There is no choice to make.

You either are, or you aren’t.

Today I’m alive.


Chasing Snow

(It said “no tobogganing”, but everyone figured that since the sign was down it didn’t count)

The last several days have been quite full.  So full that I feel a little dizzy with it all.  I’m going to share the highlights in bullet points:

  • What do the Williamsons do when the weather gets warm and sunny and everyone in town is kissing the ground with tears of joy?  We head for the snow!  We drove up to Mt. Hood so the kid and Philip could do some tobogganing, which is prohibited, supposedly, but tons of other poor jerks in need of a cool down were there tobogganing too.  We unabashedly LOVE snow.
  • At the bottom of the mountain it was 75° and up at Timberline Lodge it was 46°, which was perfect t-shirt weather for us.  The snow was dirty and a bit wet-ish but provided entertainment for my strange child.  I filmed the tobogganing and realized the dismal truth that I have zero talent as a sports commentator.  It was a blow to my ego for certain, but I recovered in about 6 minutes.
  • We enjoyed a very expensive sub-par lunch at the Timberline Lodge.  Maybe that’s a little harsh.  It wasn’t sub-par but the menu for day visitors is not extensive (there is a different dining experience reserved for actual hotel guests) and it’s mostly $16 sandwiches not intended for vegetarians and $20 plates of meat not meant for vegetarians.  However, I did score a bowl of vegetarian chili that was okay.  Someone in the kitchen has an obscene love for chipotle.  Max had the best cup of hot chocolate of his life.  I believe his glowing report because he drank the entire cup of it.  Generally he only drinks 2/3 of a cup.  He gets tired of hot chocolate pretty fast.  Mostly we just enjoyed each other’s company and the lodge-y atmosphere.
  • Epic bloody nose.  The bloody noses had abated quite a bit.  Max hasn’t been having very many in general, compared to how he used to have them sometimes up to three times in a day.  The one he got when we got to the bottom of the mountain started out mildly enough but I should have known that my oversight in not bringing an entire box of tissues in the car doomed us.  It quickly became a matter of enormous stress for everyone requiring that we stop at a small “grocery” store to get tissues and dispose of the pile of revolting saturated ones that made it look like we butchered a pig for apres-ski amusement.  The kid was covered in blood.  I do mean COVERED.  This was a double sided one.  If you’ve never experienced a gusher so enthusiastic that it comes out of both nostrils while also pouring down your throat then you’ve really missed out.
  • Our neighbors got a puppy a couple of weeks ago.  How can that possibly be bullet point worthy?  Our neighbors are clueless eejits who leave their new puppy outside by himself for hours and while they can’t hear the poor baby yelping, howling, moaning in despair, and barking without cease the entire time he’s out there- we can.  It has been a torturous experience.  I get to be heart broken right along with the poor puppy who clearly thinks he’s been abandoned every time it happens.  We didn’t complain even though I couldn’t work without headphones on.  We didn’t complain until the night of the awesome thunder and lightening show for which the puppy was tied to a tree in the middle of the neighbors yard with no way to get to shelter.  My grown dog is terrified of thunder.  Imagine how a puppy feels out in the open under the drumming sky all alone?  When it started pouring buckets on the baby we were livid that the neighbors didn’t bring him in.  I marched over to their house and pounded on their door.  They arrived while I was deciding what torture I would visit on them for their pet crimes.  They claimed they didn’t know it was going to rain.  What lame asses tie a puppy up without access to a roof of some kind in the Pacific Northwest?  The situation has progressed to the point of calling ordinance control on them (for the incessant puppy distress noise that goes on for hours).  I’m sorry we had to do it.  We would take the puppy away from them and find him a more responsible home if we could.  We can’t.
  • In a breathtaking example of idiocy I managed to think Max’s school year ended on Memorial weekend so he got a whole week of summer vacation before having to go back to school because his mother’s powers of inquiry took a really big break.  He was (understandably) really pissed off at me.  School doesn’t really end until this Friday.  What’s completely unbelievable is that no one at the school seemed to have noticed he was missing.  No one called to find out why he wasn’t there for a whole week.  At the old school we’d get a call if he was an hour late getting to school.  Apparently the attendance rate of pupils at a school made up predominantly of special needs kids is pretty poor on average and so they don’t fuss about absences.  Duly noted.
  • We now have a pet snake named Pete.  Max caught him on the school grounds on Monday, making his return to drudgery pretty cheerful.  Pete is a baby garter snake.  Philip is not a fan of snakes.  When I say he’s not a fan of snakes I mean he really doesn’t like them.  When I say he really doesn’t like them I mean they occupy the space in his head reserved for nightmares.  So it’s pretty noteworthy how awesome he’s been about the fact that his son is now a snake owner.  We don’t know anything about keeping snakes as pets but we’re learning fast.  While I purposely planned on never owning a snake in my life, I have to say that Pete is adorable.  Never in my life did I imagine I would use that word for a snake, but it’s true.  And the excitement Max feels about him is also adorable.

And now it’s time for more coffee and a little work on the 3rd draft before starting my other work.

Take Your Blessings with Your Salt

When I was growing up I knew Portland as the city that swallowed runaway teens up whole and spat them out on the streets as heroin addicts.

I also knew it as a city of lights and snaking twisting raised freeways that was gorgeous as you drove up to it from the south at night.

I knew it as a place of brick and mortar and the place my mother took us for a book signing for her cookbook that my dad and she printed themselves.  She dressed beautifully and I have a very small photo of her from that trip that I cherish.

I looked out over roof-tops and thought it a place of vast possibility and vast decay.

When you’re an adult you don’t hear about the runaway teens so much.  They don’t tell you things.  They don’t reach into your sleep.  There’s still heroin and runaways but it’s less personal now.  It isn’t myth and mist.

Now I see signs like this and I live in a different world where parents are trying to make a living to support children and the economy is smashed to bits in every personal kitchen except Donald Trump’s and who cares about men so clueless they insist on the ridiculous comb-over twenty years past its prime?

I almost cried when I saw this sign because it doesn’t matter if it’s a gimmick, it doesn’t matter if the dry cleaning company has a line to throw, I’ve been there.  I’ve been the person with the ratty clothes and no proper laundry soap but a harsh bar in the bathroom sink and that is so much more than many had or have now.  I didn’t have the polish needed to convince anyone but Wendy’s to hire me.

There are moments in a person’s life when an offer for free dry cleaning for your best outfit for job interviews is like winning the lottery.  I will never  be so jaded that I don’t applaud a business for an act of kindness so simple and so important.

I took Friday off from all work and personal responsibility.  I took the whole day off to see friends, to walk the city streets, to get out of bible town, to remember I belong to a larger community, to meet new friends and visit with old friends.  I centered my entire afternoon around Powell’s Books, my Mecca, my place of prayer, my imperfect yet magical place of peace.

Portland is San Francisco twenty years ago; rough, refurbishing, developing strong identity and conscience, rising, shouting out loud!

Except that Portland is full of lush trees and a lot less trash.

There is no perfect city.  There is no perfect place.  There’s only the place that calls to you the most loudly.  You listen if you’re smart.  Portland is my place right now.

I visited the public library in the Pearl for the first time.  It reminded me of a smaller gentler San Francisco library.  The old one, not the new one.  It was filled with marble stairs and columns, rose covered short pile carpets, and beautiful multi-light windows with rounded tops that let in the bright afternoon sun, muted like it should always be.

The best thing about it was a life-sized cast of a tree in the children’s section.  The metal tree trunk hides all kinds of things like birds and spiggots and everything at childrens’ level is shiny from the polishing of little touching hands.

There is a part of me that knows if I lived there I would cease to be lost, fat, and lonely.

Part of me knows that’s just its siren song.

I spent many hours touching books, inhaling them, coveting, perusing, filing them away for future dreams and in the end, after an entire day in Portland revolving around Powell’s I sat down in the cafe there with my flimsy two purchases and watched the sun sink slowly outside the window with my book propped against my bags, my feet tired, and my brain drifting from the pages I tried to read.  A young red headed girl sat two chairs down from me.  She was everything sweet, young, pretty, and stylish.  I enjoyed her beauty with detachment.

Except that I couldn’t not notice that she seemed really forlorn.  She reminded me of someone.  She stared out the same window I stared out of except that I felt a sharp contrast between us because while I stared out the window distractedly wondering what the passersby thought of the fat woman in the window who isn’t ugly but who is not an ideal person this young girl was staring out the same window with a dreadful weight, not of body but of spirit.  I realized that while I imagined passersby criticizing my fat distorted body I really am happy with most of my life.  Sure, there’s a lot of stress and a lot up in the air but I sat there anticipating the meet up between me and the two loves of my life who might wish me to be a healthier weight but who love me love me love me.

This young girl was looking out the same window like a person heartbroken and alone.  She was truly lovely.  The kind of girl I must think it impossible isn’t coveted and loved sincerely by at least five men (or maybe women- who cares?).   Loved she must be!

She turned her blue eyes to me and asked me if I liked boys or girls.

I asked her if she meant as friends or romantically.  She said “to go out with”.

I told her I preferred boys in that way.

She asked me if we should depend on anyone for our happiness?  Should we expect someone to make us happy and be dependable.  She was very grave and very calm the way heartbroken beautiful young women can be and the smallest tears escaped her careful watch though there wasn’t the least quiver in her voice to betray her agony.

She asked if I thought it important for everyone to have someone, to be paired up, or is it possible to be happy alone.

She wanted to know if I thought it was normal, or possible, to live a good life alone?

I told her that if she was really unhappy being alone then it’s okay if she doesn’t want to be but that if she feels better being alone that’s okay too.

She looked at me doubtfully, not quite the answer she was looking for.

My heart went out to her.  I saw myself in her though I doubt I ever had her delicate beauty to begin with.  How is not half of Portland in love with this lovely girl already?  I answered her.  I didn’t hesitate.  I told her that when I was a lot younger, around her age most likely, I dated a number of men who forced me to ask why I bothered pairing up with anyone at all.  I told her how I scoured myself for answers to my loneliness and I found it.

I decided that the thing to do was to not go out with anyone at all.  My plan was to be single for the rest of my life.  I told her how I realized that I could have plenty of fun by myself and that I set about learning to enjoy my own company more than anyone else’s and that it was really fantastic and for a few years it was great and then I got knocked in the heart by someone who broke through.

That’s how it goes.

I told her that if she’s hurt and sad right now she should spend time taking care of herself.  I told her that it’s natural to want to be paired up but that each of us has to be responsible for our own happiness.

She smiled weakly and looked out the window for a minute before thanking me gravely.

Like a reflection of myself.  She was even writing in a journal.

I wouldn’t give anything for such youth.

I would have hugged her if I didn’t have a lot of natural reticence about hugging complete strangers.

These are dark times.

It’s important to be good to ourselves.

It’s important to be good to those around us.

I felt momentarily guilty when a few minutes after this conversation with the lonely girl my son jumped out of our car exactly in front of me in the street and I was filled with complete joy at seeing his bright face.  Me, the fat middle aged lady, has so much happiness and so much love in her life that I feel flooded with it and I can choose to seek solitude all day but at the end of it is the very best company I could ask for in my husband, son, and at home my own mother.  I felt guilty to be filled with such happiness and to feel so loved when such a gorgeous young creature was obviously grappling with terribly heartbreak next to me.

It’s an unfair world.

So take your blessings with your salt and never count anything.