Friday, December 19, 2014

Tiny Fascinations


The dark days of winter are made a little easier, for me, by other peoples Christmas lights. The people in my neighborhood appear to be particularly insane in this respect, which I love. We are bounded on one side by the super-Christian college campus with its enormous illuminated cross that can be seen from halfway across town and the uber-rich estates that have a seemingly decades-long rivalry to see who can put up the most extravagant display. In the middle though, where the common people live, is a hidden street of mainstream American Christmas gone totally wrong. Think National Lampoons, but with moving, mechanical, inflatables. House after house on this particular street has its yard filled with billowing snowmen and light-up nutcrackers. Gone too, are the simple strings of lights outlining the roof, these people re-side their homes and encase their shrubbery dense nets of mismatched lights. It is American consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses and missing the point all rolled into one.

And I love it.

Head for the side streets and back roads before the season ends, it does wonders for the holiday spirit. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Something To Watch


I will admit to being far outside the mainstream in terms of media. I rarely see movies in the theaters, play no video games, take no interest in online videos, viral or not, and have not owned a television in years. But it's not like I live in a cave. There is still Netflix and Redbox, what should be plenty of choices for anyone. But one night this week while searching for a movie to watch, The Guy, who loves a good thriller and anything involving a sociopath announced that he was giving up.

"There's plenty to watch, but it's all getting to be a bit much, isn't it?'

And he's right. It is a bit much. Too much violence, too many serial killers, battle scenes, rampant viruses, and ways to end life as we know it. It isn't so much that we object to it based on moral values or because we think its warping young people (though those are probably great reasons too) its just, boring. We've seen so much violence and sex and conflict as entertainment that its far less than shocking, its normal. Which it shouldn't be. 

Violence should be shocking. 

So this season, we are taking a step back, filling our minds and idle time with music and books and movies that rely on story, rather than shock value, for entertainment. We are going to back classics and old favorites and going to bed early without staring into a screen first. We are letting our season fill with joy.  Its a good thing.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Tell It Slant


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to read some of my work at an event called Tell It Slant in Portland. What made this event special was that I got read alongside my mother, who in her 7th decade has gracefully, and successfully, become a poetess.

The theme for the evening was 'Bloodlines', and both of us brought work concerning ourselves, and our mothers. We had a wonderful time, and were truly surprised by the positive response we received, not just about our writing, but about us, the way we were with one another, and the way we write about each other. It was validating, and a good reminder of the value of family.

Do not stop being astonished by your parents, they may surprise you yet.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gear Guide III- Home On The Range


The last installment of my gear guide, just in time for the holidays. Happy hunting!

Part 3: Odds and Ends

Water Purifying- 21st Century-Style
Oh my goodness I have spent a lot of time crouched at the edge of a stream pumping water through a filter. Hours. Maybe even days. Really, a lot of time. I have also drank more than my fair share of iodized water, often only sort of improved by the addition of vitamin C or powdered sports drink and patiently boiled water each evening for use the following day. I have too, foolishly, and not since my youth, drank directly from all kinds of streams. Clean drinking water can be a pain in the butt, regardless of how important it may be. That's just how it is, a chore's a chore.

Unless, like me, you have been out of the loop for a while. I have grown so used to filtering when touring that it never occurred to me to look for an alternative. Apparently, I haven't checked for about 15 years. And twelve years ago, a product called Steripen hit the market. It uses ultra violet light to sterilize water. It's small, lightweight, and incredibly fast and easy. Press the button, stick in water, wait briefly. Amazing. I really wish that this had been around for field work in Mexico.

The irony of a product like this is that there's no real way to prove how well it works other than by the evidence of your own body. So far, so good. But Steripen has a good reputation among long-distance tourers and thru hikers and has been around long enough to prove that it works, its really pretty great. I have heard from some that they can be fragile and need to be packed carefully in a side or top pocket to avoid being broken, but beyond that, its a great alternative to other forms of water purification.

Don't throw out your filter though. Steripens may make the water safe to drink in terms of critters, but it doesn't remove particles like clay and silt. Use your hand filter in deserts and other areas with cloudy water in addition to any chemical treatment.

The Kit
It has been a long time since I have owned a formal first aid kit. I have pretty much always made-do with plastic bags filled with supplies that I would periodically replace or refill. Whenever I have owned a first aid kit they have been purchased from the local drug store and largely geared towards household bumps, scrapes, and burns, rather than emergency wilderness care. The older I get, the more important that difference becomes. So this year I checked out the options and discovered that weren't actually very many. A lot of what is out there is a little bit of overkill for anyone doing less than a week in the back country. What I was interested in was something that was comprehensive enough for a week of car camping or a short backpacking trip and still small enough to throw into a day pack.

I ended up trying out the ultralight travel kit from Adventure Medical Ultralight and Watertight .5

It's, you know, a first aid kit. And a really good one. That it comes in a bright yellow pouch is a plus, especially if someone besides you is looking for it in your pack. The real cool thing about it is how customizable their kits are in general, there are tons of different versions and it's nice to know that a health professional has gone over the list. You still have to clean it out and refill it every so often, but if you are one of those people walking around with little more than a grubby band aid floating around in your pack, pony up and buy a kit, for peace of mind if nothing else.

The Tent Hammock
By far the coolest thing I have seen by way of new, or at least new to me, gear is the Hennessy Tent Hammock. Hennessy isn't the only company out there making tent hammocks, or camping hammocks in general, but they are doing it better than just about anybody. I had vaguely heard about such things in the past, but it wasn't until a friend and Appalachian Trail thru hiker mentioned to me that she had given up her traditional tent entirely for a tent hammock halfway through the trip that I began to take them seriously.

They are really wicked cool. And hammocks come with a bunch of advantages. You will never again sleep on uneven ground or with tree roots digging into your back, they are warmer in winter, and cooler in summer, lighter than regular tents, and don't come with awkward and heavy poles and stakes and they can be used as comfortable seating. Mostly, they are insanely comfortable, which is pretty much the most important thing.

But. There are a couple of things. First, I had to watch not one but four videos to figure out how to really use the thing, rain fly and all, and I'm pretty sure there are things I'm still not doing properly. And, there is the tree problem. You know, the part where you have to be camping someplace with trees of an appropriate size and distance to one another to make it feasible to pitch your hammock. Not such a big deal really, unless you are in the desert, or maybe grasslands. I haven't had mine for very long, but I am still trying to find the balance between separation distance, tree diameter, and how much cord I have to hang it, it feels like a bit much, but so can setting up any new tent. I am hoping it sets up faster as I get used to it.

They do seem to be every bit as sturdy and water tight as any other kid of tent, even more so when you eliminate ground seep and flooding problems and Hennessy has lots of options for bells and whistles from ultra lite models to full fledged tents with thick insulation pads. Again, pretty much too cool. Check back in another six months to hear how it makes through the winter camping season.

And that's it! Now go update your gear.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gear Guide II- A Decent Cup Of Joe


A continuation of my adventures in new gear. For the background to this series read this:

Part 2: The Kitchen Gadgets

The only thing I really need in order to be happy outside, at least in terms of food and drink, is a hot, strong cup of coffee in the morning. For years (like 15) I have used a camp french press in the style of old plastic travel mugs made by Big Sky Brewing. I have wandered in my affection during that time, sure, trying single-cup drips and small Italian-style espresso pots, but I pretty much always come back to the french press. This year, I went in search of an update for both my brewing system, and my travel mug, which was of the cheap, whatever you find at whatever store you happen to be in variety. Meaning that it leaks, falls apart, and keeps my coffee warm for about two seconds. I like to set a low bar.

The Brew
I tried all manner of outside coffee makers, including making single serve 'coffee bags' by tying up coffee filters filled with grounds with kitchen string, every portable drip system I could find, and even a plastic french press or two. But I kept going back to my Big Sky Bistro original. Eventually though, the nice people from Planetary Design sent me an alternative.

Planetary Design makes coffee and tea presses and travel mugs in addition to kitchen storage containers. While they make larger presses, they sent me the travel mug double shot version. It was a little smaller than the Big Sky version, but it was made of stainless steel, and a much nicer design, especially in the deep green that I have. The press works well, though I would prefer a larger cup, especially if I need to use it to make coffee for two or three on the trail. But for just myself, it made a pretty good cup of coffee. Better than the press feature though, is the cup itself. It actually comes with a warning label about how hot the contents are kept, and they mean it. There's no heat being lost through that mug. I've never seen anything like it. There is no doubt that you can keep your cup of coffee hot for a long time even while snow camping with their gear. Though for your average summer weather, it does seem like a bit of dangerous overkill. The other odd feature of the press/mug is that the bottom has a hidden compartment that screws off, presumably to hold an extra dose of grounds or packets of creamer and sugar, but given how much of the total volume of the mug it takes up, and hot hot the contents are kept, it seems like an unnecessary feature. Also, it doesn't apply very well to the outdoors,what's the point of having extra grounds at hand if you still have to unpack and set up your stove to boil water? Most of the people I show it to mention that it looks like a great place to keep your stash.

I also received the Commuter French Press/Mug from GSI Outdoors. I actually had to watch this Youtube video to understand how to work this product, but once I did, it was pretty easy to use. Instead of the traditional plunger, this mug is nested, with the removable inner cup acting as the press. It's a clever design and a nicely balanced, large travel mug that 's a good cup of coffee. It doesn't lend itself to sharing as it doesn't pour well, but that's not its real intention. What's great about it is that it keeps your coffee ground free, but I found that the pieces can be difficult to separate, especially if you like your coffee strong and use a lot of grounds. The biggest selling point is that it is leak-free, I was able to pack it in a pack and ride my bike with it safely stowed and completely filled.

In the end, I decided that for brewing at camp and with more than one person, Big Sky is still the best bet. But Planetary Designs is making some great mugs, and their features seem to be of more benefit to tea drinkers and GSI is great for single-person use. All o f them make a stronger, hotter cup of camp coffee that other techniques.

In another coffee-related development, the folks over at GSI started offering a camp-kitchen coffee mill last spring, and it's really pretty great. It's small, sturdy, hand powered and a great addition to any car camping kitchen. It's heavy, so I wouldn't recommend in for touring, even it it is super compact and you are a devoted coffee aficionado. Hang onto the instructions when you first unpack it, it's not as self explanatory as it seems, it took me three or four tries before I really remembered how to use it, but it isn't complicated either. What I love best about this product is that it lets me store whole beans in my camp bin and grind them fresh in the morning instead of relying on stale grounds that are prone to absorbing moisture. It is far from a necessity, and really edging towards glamping, but it is the best stocking stuffer idea for outdoors people that I've seen in a long time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gear Guide I- What's The Expiration Date On That?


There is nothing like writing a book about camping to force you to take a good look at your own gear. First and foremost, I love my gear. Every piece I have is functional, multi-season, and well tested. A lot of it is also more than ten years old. Wow. I have no idea how that happened. It seems like only a few years ago that I was making fun of my Dad for still using a 30 year old set of fishing poles and a similarly ancient Coleman camp stove. As I recall, his response was along the lines of, who cares? It still works doesn't it?

Which happens to be true. Really good outdoor gear shouldn't have to be replaced but every so often, when your needs change, something tragic and destructive happens, or it just gets so dirty and worn out that you can't handle it anymore. I will be the first to admit that this year, upon inspection, most of my gear is functional, but also well past ratty. There are day packs crusted with fifteen years of dust, sleeping pads with slow leaks, down jackets with broken zippers and unidentifiable stains, and a coffee press I think I have been using since undergrad. I had also heard that there had been some improvements in the ten or so years that I was out of the loop. So I figured that what with the book and all, it was time to spend some time and money testing out some new gear.

Between birthday gifts, a sizable investment in my own updating, and some very generous donations from outdoor companies looking for real-person reviews I finished the summer season with an abundance of shiny new outdoor toys, and a lot of ten year old gear that proved it still has it where it counts.

The very best of what I found has landed in the book, along with interviews with the designers and innovators that created them. You'll have to wait a bit for those, but there were a lot of great products that I didn't have space to highlight in the book but still deserve to be mentioned before everyone starts buying for the holidays.

Part 1: The Clothing

Thirteen years ago I bought my first vest, a rust-red Patagonia fleece with a pink collar and zippered pockets. And I loved it. Today it is still my go-to for all kinds of cold weather, but after years of washing (or not) it has started to lose it's shape and take on dirt that just doesn't come out. It is also an inch or two shorter than it was, which is likely due to my sticking it in the dryer, but still. Maybe time for a replacement. While looking for outerwear I also decided that my puffy coat, a raspberry pink down jacket by REI, while only three years old, was looking a little thin and had picked up some stains as well, and since I wear it all the time, three years seemed like a good time for an update. And lastly, my Helly Hanson rain gear, which I have had since 2007 and love more than any other piece of gear, finally started to deteriorate on me entirely, forming cracks and fissures in the water proofing.

So I went and tried on every fleece vest, puffy coat, and set of rain jackets and pants I could find, including the no-name brands they sell in places like Bi-Mart. Here's what I ended up with (notice I didn't manage to stick to just jackets).

The Vest
My fleece vest got replaced with one from Columbia Sportswear, its a little thinner than what I had, but comes farther down my back while still fitting comfortably around my hips. I the thinner fleece makes it layer a little easier, and I choose a basic black, which can be a hard color to find in outdoor gear, so that I can wear it around town with whatever I have on. It's pockets still zip, it comes with great Columbia manufacturing, and it was about 30% cheaper than other outdoor brands.

The Puffy Coat
Honestly, as long as you are comparing down (or synthetic down) jackets of a similar thickness/heat rating, there really isn't very much difference, even the colors are the same from one company to another. Except in fit, which if you are only planning on wearing it under a snow jacket or rain coat, doesn't really matter. But my problem, and the problem of all the other women I saw trying on these jackets, is that they are universally too tight across the hips, especially if you are wanting to layer. The best fit at the right price, turned out to also be from Columbia,go figure. The other thing I love about their jackets is that they come with thumb hooks and are made out a a fabric that is slightly more water resistant, extra important in the rainy northwest.

The Rain Gear
Honestly, I'm still looking. I have ordered two different versions from Helly Hanson, but neither of them seems to be the deliciously soft fabric that my old gear was. I am beginning to suspect that I am going to have to drop some serious cash (like more than $300) on a set of rain gear, which makes me sad. And wet.

The Socks
So, the last time I remember spending money on actual outdoor socks was sometime in graduate school. Like ten years ago. In their (and my) defense, they are still around and kicking. I bought a few pairs of a couple of kinds of synthetic hiking socks that picked up every piece of dust and hair on every floor I walked across and a few pairs of truly heavy-duty all-wool socks that made my feet itch and break out into a rash. Both kinds kept my feet warm when wet, which was the ultimate goal, and both were generally ill-fitting, sagging at the heels and stretching out after a couple of hours of hiking. I lost a couple of pairs to shrinking as well, because who has the time or energy to sort your socks? I have done a lot of my hiking in sandals the past few years.

So when the really friendly people at Point 6 were kind enough to send me some samples of their products, I was skeptical. I had decided over the years that hiking socks, generally priced well above $10 a pair, were something of a scam. But then the really nice sock people called me, and talked to me about their socks. And dang it, they were pretty convincing. Point 6 uses merino wool blended nylon and a small amount of spandex in those parts of the foot that need a little more stratch, which means that while still keeping your feet warm when wet, they also hold their fit better and stretch right back into shape when you pull them out of the dryer. And really, they are so very very comfortable.

I actually couldn't believe it. Socks were perhaps the last thing I would have expected to see significant improvements over time, but there was an actual notable difference in the comfort of my feet, especially when I first made the transition from hiking sandals to closed-toe shoes, the period in which I am most likely to get hot spots and blisters. The medium weight is a great general socks, though perhaps a little too warm for anything over about 60 degrees and the heavy weight boot socks are thick and warm enough to be worn by themselves inside rain boots and still keep your feet warm in below freezing temperatures. They are not, in general, what I would call “fashion socks”. But of all the gear that I have tested this year, the socks are the only thing I would say are a new essential, especially the Point 6 brand, which are more affordable than most, usually between $8 and 12 dollars a pair.

The Headband(s)
I have super long hair, so you would think that a head band might be overkill, but on windy days outside, nothing can drive you mad faster than the wispy ends of your hair ending up poking you in the eye or getting in your mouth every few minutes. The seemingly simple solution? Wear a headband. Here's the deal though, it is really hard to find a headband that actually stays on your head if you are doing anything more intense than needle point. Or that doesn't look like it's designed for a six year old.

I have tried everything from drug store headbands (Scunci wins there) to sports headbands from brands like Nike and Adidas, to the super wide outdoor headbands and head covers that have become popular over the last few years, I think because of shows like Survivor? The one headband that I found that prevents slipping without using a super tight rubber band that can pull and break hair is Sweaty Bands. They aren't made specifically for the outdoors, but they do have a line that is designed especially for sports. And they work really well. The band at the base of your skull still slips a bit, but that can be fixed with a clip or wearing a low pony or braid. And, they come in tons and tons of designs, so if you're picky, it's a good brand to go to. You can get them online or pretty much anyplace that sells women's clothing, from Target to Nordstrom's for $15.

The Anti-Chafe Solution
Here's a thing that no one ever talks about. Chafing. You hear about it every so often when someone runs a marathon or something, and I have had a couple of run ins with it in very hot and humid environments, but other than that, I never really thought much about it. Then I started talking to other women, and it turns out it can be a real, and constant, problem. And it doesn't just happen to women that are overweight. I've talked to plenty of skinny chicks with sensitive skin or a little extra at the upper thigh that suffer from it as well. So I did a little digging and found this awesome blog post that discusses the topic in detail and reviews every possible solution

Some of the solutions are pretty scary, like non-stick cooking spray and powders that gum up kind of scary. But I suppose it depends on how big of a problem it is for you, for me, it's not something I regularly worry about, so anything chemical was something of a turn off.

Two new products that I did try were Bandelettes and Undersummers. Both of these companies design physical barriers to chafing, really the best solution of all those I encountered. Undersummers are basically slip shorts. They are made of a light weight, breathable slip fabric and are thin enough to wear as shorts under pretty much anything. They were not as comfortable as wearing nothing under my summer dresses, but they were certainly more comfortable than chafing. They also come in a variety of colors and styles, so there might be versions that were more comfortable than what I tried. They did a pretty good job of staying place, not riding or rolling up from the base, but the waist band was a little snugger than I would have liked, but again, that might be personal preference.

Bandelettes are a little different. They are basically the top portion of a pair of thigh-high stockings, snug bands that fit around the widest part of your thigh. They are actually kind of ingenious. And pretty. As long as they fit. I tried a couple of different styles, one of which is unisex, and preferred the lacy version designed for women, but had a couple of friends try them as well with varying degrees of success. Again, I think it has more to do with the balance between the discomfort of chafing and the discomfort of having something around your thighs and for that, either of these products is a simple and easy solution.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Little House


Occasionally I return to a book, or a series of books that impacted me in the past. For the last few weeks it has been the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. It had been more than 20 years since I had read the 'Little House' series and what I discovered is that more than being sweet stories of an idyllic and forgotten age, they are acute recountings of daily life, survival, and ecology from an era all but erased by the industrial and technological revolutions.

The books describe an alien world in which hard work is inevitable, and the nature of that work is largely determined by season and weather. In winter there is the harvesting of ice, large blocks cut by hand from the lake and hauled home to be stored, packed tight with straw in an outside shed til summer. With the thaw comes sugaring as the sap begins to flow into the trees. In spring and summer, there is plowing and planting and the early harvest. In fall, there is the hunt.

I wonder what it means that we have given up the connection between the rhythm of our daily lives and the rhythm of the world around us, that we no longer take responsibility for providing for our own sustenance in any kind of tangible way. How and why, in less than 150 years, have we changed so much of how we live? Is it servicing us? Or has it just blinded us from our ability to be content and have gratitude for hard earned pleasures?

A fiddle, a rag doll, an evening by the fire. It could be so simple.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What's The Score?


Last week, nothing went as planned. It was a week of mishaps, things forgotten, cancellations, and miscommunications. Also at least one ruined pair of jeans in a laundry catastrophe, a broken but seemingly unnecessary car part, and the accidental flooding of a room of the house. Sigh. Not what I planned. Not how it was to go. 

I may have chosen to sink into a foul mood, to shake my fist at the sky, take it out on those around me, or generally grump and moan. But it wouldn't have done any good. Regardless of our hopes and best-laid plans, life follows no rule books or direct paths. It hands us what it has to hand us,regardless of our agendas or how inconvenient it may be. It forces us to improvise based on a score to which we may not be privy. 

So this week, instead of forcing my own intentions and will upon the world, I choose to listen, look, and ask. What is the score? What is life handing me? What are the turning points and opportunities? What is the tempo of this week? How might I play along?

There is only one dance to be danced at a time. Do it well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Simple Solutions


Being one-third of the way through my 36th year has my thoughts turned to symmetry and divisibility, synthesis and divestment. I am interested in the shedding of excesses, the rounding of the edges of my life. I am aware of being a sum of my own parts, a collection of experiences, patterns, and multiplying events that have guided me on and derailed me from my path. 

More than ever, I am aware of my own operational agency. Truths, remainders and inequalities are the result of my manipulations. 

Today, I choose to subtract and simplify. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Soggy-Footed and Full-Bellied


This is the time of year I love the most. I love the leaves, the arrival of the rains, pumpkins, and the excuse to drink hot tea all day long. But mostly, I love the mushrooms. I like the secrecy of mushroom hunting, that it gives me an excuse to go out by myself, at odd times of day, and in the middle of the week. I love the excitement of finding a blooming cluster, knowing that my hiking hasn't been in vain. I love the necessary days of cooking, mushroom tacos, soups, and delicate sauces, the small of drying fungi permeating the kitchen. This part of the season appeals to the child in me, the little girl that likes surprises, scavenger hunts, and still believes in the magic of the forest. Each year I take the arrival of the mushrooms as proof that simple pleasures, small rewards, and things beyond my understanding and control are still alive and well in the world. 

You've gotta get it somewhere.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Stillness Of The Morning


I love the safety of an early morning. Morning moves slowly. In early hours there is time for contemplation, for listening, for the sorting of ones life into manageable tasks. In the morning I am not yet behind, not racing or juggling or fighting traffic and customer service or negotiating relationships. In the morning each thing is presented singularly, in its own time. Now coffee, now dishes, now the sound of the men collecting trash, now the blue jays knocking at the window. There is is time, and hope, and possibility inside the blue light of a morning, a gathering of will. 

There is comfort in a morning. As a child, I was always the first to rise. A good girl, I would quietly crawl from the covers to roam the house, feed the cat, and bring in my fathers paper. When he got up, half-lidded, sniffing for his coffee, interested in the news of the day, gearing up for a long day of work, he would take me by the hand and we would stand together at the picture window to watch the sunrise. From our perch on the hill, looking east, it was as if the whole world was bathed in soft pink sheets of promised light. My fathers hand was warm and soft.

This morning, I watched the sky take on the light from my own little perch on a hill, facing west. I closed my eyes, and felt my hand slip into my fathers. For a moment, my world was simple, love, gratitude, memory. And then, with a breath and a smile, I opened my eyes.

Start the day. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Simple Things


Fall brings with it such a hustling and bustling that the simple things in life can slip right through our fingers. Why should we stop to smell the newly rain-scrubbed air or savor the warming of our hands wrapped around a cup of tea when there are football games, little leagues, school projects and the impending doom of holiday shopping, decorating and entertaining to attend to? 

This week, I reject both hustle and bustle, regardless of deadlines and obligations. Instead, I choose to whittle out space to savor the season, the changing of the leaves, the sound of rain against the roof, and early night fall. Most of this time is carved from the earliest parts of mornings. Some simple morning gratitudes:

Piano practice.
Soggy mushroom hunts.
Pumpkins roasting in the oven.
Leaf prints, stained into the sidewalk.
The filling of the root cellar.
Coffee by the fire.
Garden beds, neatly turned for winter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Someone's Got to Dig it.


Last year the deer ate every flower and hopeful bud in the garden. This year, I scoured books and garden centers for every deer resistant flower I could find and planted them, as bulbs, in hopeful anticipation of the spring bloom. Yesterday, I came home to find that the squirrels, eager for a lightening of their fall work load, had emptied every hole, cast aside my precious bulbs, and replaced them with hazelnuts. I suppose someone has to dig the hole.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Am Not A Mother,


I am not a mother but,

I am a teacher, mentor, caretaker and friend.

I am the babysitter, nanny, and perpetual auntie.

I am a helper to mothers. 

I have walked the floor with them until you get home, helped them with their homework, gone to their soccer games, and put them to bed when they were young.

When they grew up, I took them to coffee, reminded them to have dinner with you, and help them put you into context.

I am not a mother, but,

I have dedicated a life to the raising of other peoples children.

I am not a mother, but,

I am one of the first believers in your child.

I will be among the first to challenge them; a person for whom they will rise to any bar they set.

I will help them to shine on their own.

I am not a mother but,

before you speak,


There is a role in this world for the helper of mothers, the caretakers of children, 

and forces beyond our control. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Geology Confidential I


You can tell a lot about a person, or a geologist anyway, by the rocks they keep. You can find them, usually cluttering shelves and porches, collecting dust and spider webs, or used as book ends, garden bed borders and paperweights throughout the house. There is, no doubt, more of them in boxes, drawers and closets, tucked away, and carried from house to house. They serve as true a record of the person, the ground that they have walked over, their work and passions, as they do of orogenies, ancient sea floors and catastrophic eruptions. A sample:

Thousands of bags of pumice, weighed, wrapped in wax, labeled in green permanent marker.

A volcanic bomb, fourteen pounds, hiked out of the Arizona volcanic field cradled in my arms.

Iron-rich basalt, encased in calcite and weathered to a bright pink. Hauled home from Costa Rica by a friend.

Sandwich bag, filled with black primordial ooze, gifted from a friend visiting the tar pits.

Small bottle of ash from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Geodes, 22, gifted from a student's grandfather's collection after he passed away.

Salt block, hounded in Nevada, evaporated to less than half it's original size in the Oregon humidity.

Obsidian, with flow lines, from the Newberry flows.

Fossiliferous limestone, collected in Montana, that has graced the front porch of every house I've lived in since 2001.

Hardened clay, formed into a cube during a long day of drilling.

Dust, from a thousand day hikes and field areas, caked into the seams of a too-old day pack. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where Does She Find The Time?


One of the things I am most frequently asked is how do you find the time? The trick, I think, is to find what you love and go after it, without roadblocking or discouraging yourself. Some things I do to help myself along my path.

I make lists.
I keep a clean house.
I group tasks and errands.
I ignore the phone and the internet.
I set limits on how much time I will give to a task.
I triage.
I do things that I love and work most days.
I don't work at all some days.
I make choices.
I have a clear vision of my goals and obligations.
I allow my vision to shift with necessity.
I break tasks into component parts.
I start early.
I plan ahead.
I expect the unexpected.
I hustle.

How do you find the time? Share your answers in the comments.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Last Tomato


Fall has descended seemingly all at once. The air is cold and thick with early rains, the trees are drawing straws to see who will change color first, and the nuthatches have eaten half a feeder of seed in the last three days. But the last of the tomatoes are still clinging to the vine, and managing to ripen, without the aid of sun or extra watering. I have not abandoned them, just left them to their their task. I enjoy the fortitude of the late tomato, the pressing forward of goals, desires, and obligations. The fall is the time for the completion of tasks, a period of preparation for coming hardships. In fall, we have to face the put-off things of life or surely suffer consequences in the dark days of winter. And so I strive to be an end of season tomato, focused, sure, and proceeding, making one last stand in my pot with what is left of my resources.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sun City


I never grow tired of the desert, even though I am a daughter of the rain. I do not crave the heat, or love to lay out in the sun, but there is something about the desert calls out to me. Perhaps it is the contrast, that no trees obscure the view, no sinking into mud with every step, no dense clutches of vegetation or low-hanging clouds. Instead, there are coyote, saguaro, and scrappy stands of tiny trees that though smaller in stature are no less impressively old than even the tallest of Northwest Douglas firs. I enjoy the resilience of desert life, the necessary lengthening of timescales. In the desert, water will not come to you daily, or even by the month, best to savor thirst, celebrate it, and turn your mind from longing. The desert reminds me to accept the life I have been given, to make do. It illuminates the struggle of ordinary things and the value of simple things. There is great joy and beauty in the procurement of the necessities of life. It is, after all, a wonder. Try not to take it for granted.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Get 'er Done


A list of items encountered, tasks completed, and things remaining to be done in the twelfth of fourteen weeks spent on the road. In no particular order.

Car registration, two months old, still in receiving envelope. Found in pile of crumpled tax receipts.

Odor, unknown, coming from the empty bottom drawer of the refrigerator.

Emptying, of every waste basket in the house.

Professional registered geologist survey, completed, but not returned.

Bird feeder, empty, giant blue jays, angry.

Towels, 15, cleaned, folded, and stacked at foot of bed, presumably in case of towel emergency.

Litter box, cleaned, emptied, refilled, still stinking, so tossed out entirely.

Birthday cards, two weeks past and mostly of owls, scattered on every available surface.

23 voice mails, waiting.

Boarding passes, printed in duplicate.

3 empty bottles of sunscreen, two broken pairs of sunglasses, and one, still wet, swimsuit, in beach bag.

Tomatoes, 2, the last of the season.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City


Yesterday, after weeks of dusty trails, dense forests, quiet lake swims, and hot springs, I hit the city.  Not just any city, mind you, but a real, honest to goodness tall buildings, stand-still traffic, sidewalks that smell like pee, big city. And after all that time in the wilderness, it made me break out into a white-knuckled sweat. I couldn't think fast enough to make decisions in traffic, I balked at prices, and I nervously yanked at my now-uncomfortable city clothes. I wandered like a refugee, a displaced person of some kind, dropped into an alien world where the women are all ten feet tall, the men are always speaking into a cell phone, and all the surfaces are reflective. I felt like an outsider, a yokel, a gawker, and a little sick to my stomach. This panicked anxiety surprised me. I hadn't realized how drastically my context had shifted from the urban jungle to the, well, jungle jungle. It made me acutely aware of just how much I thrive on the calm and quiet of the outdoors, the ability to hear myself think, and the lack of over-stimulation. I wonder about living in these places, how people find time to themselves, where their quiet moments happen, and how they ground themselves. I wonder what it means to 'get used to it', if you lose the longing for the wild after a time, or if the call of it is simply drowned out by the urban din. I was glad for the trip, for the afternoon of playing tourist, and the necessary business that got done. But I was also glad to head back out, to smaller buildings, empty streets, tall trees, and the great outside.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Out of Towner


It's been a long summer. The trees are browning, the ferns are fading from the thirst, and everything, everything, is covered in dust. My long ago tomato starts and I have faithfully stood in our pots, and even produced some fruit. But mostly, I have been away. Of the last twelve weeks, I have spent most of ten of them adventuring, visiting friends, working away, and on the road. This week, I arrived half an hour before turning around and heading to work, and will leave again today as soon as I get off. My cat is pissed at me. My luggage is never unpacked. I have not see 'that' YouTube video. I have not seen anything you, or anyone else has posted on Facebook. People greet me like a long-lost friend. There is something to be said for stepping away, trusting that the things you need the most will be there when you return, and the things that fade were going to anyway. Being gone does a lot of good for sorting your priorities, forcing you to make choices, and teaching you to let things slide. 

 Where are you going?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dry Days



California is evaporating. Continued drought combined with collective denial have spurred the loss of 63 trillion gallons of the states reserve waters. You can see for yourself what this looks like in satellite images from NASA here. Hetch Hetchy, the reservoir famously protected by John Muir that provides the majority of water to San Fransisco, is at 63 percent its normal level. The loss of this massive volume of water has been large enough to initiate a rebound effect in the Earths crust; California is also rising, to the tune of more than half an inch in less than a decade.

According to the State of California, close to half of many residents water use is for outdoor urban areas.

Drain the pools. Turn off the misters. Let the lawns go brown. Get it together people.
photograph courtesy of Science@NASA

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Great Wide Open V- Tunnel Vision


Lava tubes are one of my favorite things. Formed as a result of cooling during an active flow, lave tunnels are a testament to the inherent lazy nature of the world. Even lava, if given a chance with take the easiest route, sometimes not even bothering to craft a new tunnel, instead flowing through a tunnel formed by a previous flow, using it as a means of easy travel and transport. When cooled, these caves become underground conduits that lead directly into the belly of the volcano. Cool.

Literally. Basalt is an amazingly efficient insulator and most caves stay close to freezing all year long, even in the desert. In eastern Oregon these caves were the first source of refrigeration for settlers eager to beat the heat. Early entrepreneurs made good money harvesting the ice from these caves and hauling it back to town in blocks for sale. Now, the caves are overrun with tourists, largely unprepared for the experience. Although it may seem to go without saying, these caves, like an others, are really dark, really cold, and offer questionable footing. Most people forget these things and find themselves shivering along in the dark with frozen toes. But it's worth it, even if it's just for the Lord of the Rings style ambiance. 

There's a whole world down there... 

Friday, August 22, 2014

It Doesn't Have to Be a Circus


We've all seen it. The family outdoor adventure gone terribly wrong. Exhausted, crabby parents dragging kids, sometimes in complete meltdown mode, down trails, coaxing them, in vain, to come out of tents, or generally having to pander to them to get them to go outside at all. I know a lot of parents that fear these scenarios, a lot that have lived through them, and a couple that pretty much have no idea what I'm talking about. Michael Lanza and his wife Penny fall into the latter category.

Ask the elder Lanza's about hiking or backpacking with kids, even with infants, and they pretty much shrug and say, "Yeah, what's the big deal?" Talk to them about taking their kids backpacking in some of the most spectacular parts of the National Parks, and rather than recount mishaps, tantrums, and parenting fails, they talk about how proud they are of their kids, how they are always exceeding expectations. Michael even wrote a book about it, using his year of backpacking with his kids in the National Parks to highlight climate change and the urgent need to show our children the best of these wild lands before they disappear.  

Along the way he does a pretty great job of demonstrating that kids can be treated just like anyone else outside, as long as you are willing to accommodate them. Kids need more sleep and more stimulation than us. They can't carry as much and they aren't as good at catching dehydration or hunger before it takes a turn towards grumpy. But they are game, resilient, and have a lot to teach us about ourselves and the world around us.

It IS possible to get outside with your kids, minus the meltdowns. And it's important that you do if we want them to be stewards in the future. So be brave, plan well, keep a positive attitude, load up the clown car, and get yourselves outside.

To read some of Michael's blog or buy his book:

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Great Wide Open IV- Some Like it Wet


It doesn't matter how many people tell you about it, or how emphatic or dramatic their telling of it may be, until you witness half an inch of rain in less than an hour in what is usually a dry-as-bone desert, you can't really believe it.

There are more low areas on a seemingly flat property than one may think. 
The low areas can hold more than four inches of standing water.
This is important as the door starts at 4.5 inches.
Metal roofs make lightning more exciting.
Continuous lightning and thunder really do mean the storm is centered above you.
The neighbors house is the same color as rain, or close enough to disappear into it.
Frogs, like humans, think the carport is a great place to stay dry. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Thru Hiker


In case you have been away from media in the past year or so, Cheryl Strayed wrote a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The short version is that she goes out unprepared, with no previous experience, in part to detox from a heroin habit and in part to get over a breakup and find herself. She eventually triumphs, after facing cold weather, blisters, and the consequences of her lack of preparation. And there's a lot of men, nice guys that repack her pack for her, pass along tips and gear, and generally make things go more smoothly for her. And love interests. They're making it into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. 

Wild is a great story about personal transformation. It's well written and compelling. But it's a terrible example for anyone considering taking on a thru hike. It makes the PCT seem pretty scary and inaccessible. It also makes it seem like maybe men are better suited to such thing or that maybe women can't do it without the help of men. But there are plenty of hiking memoirs and guides that are good examples while still being compelling stories. And some of them are written by women. The one I am reading these days is “The Appalachian Trail Girl’s Guide: Part Memoir, Part Manifesto”.  

What's great about the Girl's Guide is that she keeps it real and practical. You get an easy read with some great stories from her more than six month long hike of the Appalachian trail but you also get a ton of great advice from what kind of tent to use to how (and when) to swap out your winter clothes. And if you are thinking of taking on the AT, she lists some of the prettiest places and best section hikes of the trail to get you started. Books like these are great escapes and good fuel for our creative wanderlust. Check it out. 

To Read Megan's Blog, Appalachian Trail Girl:

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Burning Of the West


It is easy, I think, to forget that the west is burning. It has been for some time now. California never closed last years fire season and Washington has lost more houses and seen more fire, still early in the typical season, than it ever has. Oregon too, is burning. 

But there are barbecues and fireworks and concerts and long lazy days swimming in the now warm waters of our abundant lakes and rivers. It is easy to pay no mind to the helicopters practicing their low passes over the lakes, readying to bring water if the fires get too close. And the sunsets are lovely.

For the first few days, it is easy to relish those sunsets, take pictures, and share a glass of wine with friends. But then the days turn hazy, a false layer of clouds holds the heat into the valley. It is smoke, we are reminded. The cost of those sunsets is the burning of the west.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Great Wide Open III - Hot Stuff


Some days go as planned, others, not so much. On this day, we decided to take the scenic route from our campsite in the foothills of the Jefferson Wilderness to the high lava lands east of the Cascades. The mission was to scout hikes for an upcoming field trip, most of which I had already seen. The only new hike looked and sounded from the description pretty easy. No big deal we thought. Yeah.

First, we decided to make an extra stop at an old-growth grove, which turned out to be neither a .25 mile loop nor particularly packed with old growth. A couple of miles later we emerge scratching our heads, wondering how such a nice trail got put in such a strange and remote place.

Two hours and one delicious roadside lunch later, we reach our real destination, get out, and start to hike. Uphill. Like really, really uphill. It's one of the few downsides to studying volcanoes, the hikes are almost always brutal climbs. So up we go to the beautiful viewpoint, planning to continue down and around the lake. But we miss the trail marker and an hour of hard hiking later, land right back at the car. 

Take two. We skip the cinder cone the second time instead walking through one of the largest and longest campgrounds either of us have ever seen. Eventually, we reach the juncture we should have been at almost two hours ago. We hike on past, towards the promise of an obsidian flow and hot springs. The sign at the trail head states that the hot springs will be about 1.25 miles past the flow, on a WELL MARKED spur trail (their emphasis, not mine). We find the flow. It is, in fact, obsidian. We hike on. And on. And on. We turn back at the halfway point, obviously having gone miles too far. Less than a mile beyond the flow, there is a side trail, entirely unlabeled, that leads to the hot springs.

Oh joy, oh rapture, hot springs! We are tired, dusty, and about four miles past what we were prepared to hike. We are ready for a soak. But. But the springs, being natural as they are, are blazing-lava hot. And also about five inches deep. Apparently, the winter snows and high lake levels are what locals use to fill the dug out tubs and cool the water. In midsummer, the best you can hope for is some dangerously hot splashing in muddy puddles. Which we do. For about four minutes. And then we start the long hike back.

Finally, after an accidental eight mile day, we load up and out, finding a cool place with a view to drink a somewhat cold beer dug from the bottom of our cooler. 

And so it goes.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fair Thee Well


Nothing is more exhausting and rewarding than the week-long extravaganza of music, light, love, art, and general mayhem that we call the Oregon Country Fair. Its a party, an arts and music festival, and a gathering of happy people looking for a few days to be and do entirely as they please. The fair is one of the few places I know of in which people wear their inner children on the outside, where strangers smile and hug, and generosity rules the day. It is a throwback for sure, to simpler times when food was cooked by scratch, goods were made by hand, and music was made by real people playing actual instruments. But it's a good throwback. While there has been much debate this year about the direction of the fair, its rules on amplification (very little), late night partying (do it, but keep in acoustic) and environmental impact (can you say site archaeologist?), the reality is that there is something important about preserving the old-school mentality. There are plenty of festivals for electronica and all night parties. It is, in fact, the direction in which things, hip, important-type things are going, its just not the Country Fair thing. It's nice to hear world music and see bands and other acts be given the chance to perform to a wide and diverse audience they normally wouldn't get exposure to. Someday, when the novelty of our electronics wears off, we might be glad we preserved a place to celebrate the crafts, arts, and traditions of a pre 21st century time. Love is free and analog, spread it around.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Great Wide Open I - Hole In The Ground


It has been at least five years since I have been to Crater Lake, and on that occasion I was so out of season that I was the only person at the one open lookout and didn't get to see the lake because of the dense clouds. Not so this weekend. This time, I took the opposite approach and joined the crowds on the park's busiest weekend of the year,the 4th of July. Used to the crush of the more than ten million visitors the Grand Canyon gets annually, I was bracing myself for long lines, tube socks, and RV's trying to see four parks in one week. 

But that wasn't the case. It turns out that due to its remote location Crater Lake only receives about 500,000 visitors a year so even their busiest weekends are mellow in comparison to many of the other National Parks. Sure, the lodge was busy with the usual assortment of tourists, mostly from West Indian,a fact for which I have no explanation, the trails and view points were fairly mellow. 

The odd thing about visiting Crater Lake is how inaccessible the lake itself actually is. The only access to the lake itself is via the Cleetwood trail, which loses more than 700 feet in elevation in just over a mile of trail. It's steep, packed, and on this weekend, stupid hot as well. But the best parts of the park, away from the spectacular blue of the lake, are in side canyons cut through great stacks of volcanic airfall where hoo doos stand as sentries and clear lake water runs its course out to the Klamath Basin. In these parts of the park there is solitude, spectacular views of Oregon country, and a true sense being squarely set in the middle of no where. It is a wonderful reminder of just how big the world really is. So, if you haven't made it out to Crater Lake in a while or ever, put it back on your list.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flock of Birds


Last year a flock of wild turkeys moved into the neighborhood. For a while, they were an oddity, a kind of over-stuffed and mean version of the peacock. Then they took to blocking traffic, slowly crossing roadways like great herds of bison, in no particular hurry and not at all concerned about the schedules of humans. And this too, was fine, as I harbored no resentment towards the deer, even though they also stop traffic. The turkeys though, do lack a certain soulful look in their eyes, and tend towards aggressive squawking and charging.  All gods creatures and whatnot.

Then, two weeks ago, their first batch of babies appeared. And they were cute, kind of. For a couple of days they looked like a great flock of somewhat ugly quail. But now, they don't. They look like the Skeksis from the Dark Crystal, only with the behavior of adolescents. And there are dozens of them. They feed outside the window in the early morning hours, climbing down from their roosts high in the old firs that surround the house. They are loud, and bully the other birds from the feeder. And they will only get bigger.

I want to resent them. For stealing my sleep, being loud and aggressive, driving away the baby chickadees, also just emerging into the world, for fighting and pooping everywhere. For being so very very turkey. But I can't. They are right, this is a lovely corner of the world in which to live and more than likely, they are also likely serving some kind of purpose, filling some niche of which I am unaware. Or, this time next year, we will have a turkey farm. Could go either way.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

In The News


In a rush of much important stuff and things and deadlines and events it is easy to lose sight of the larger picture. It is easy, to stay focused in our own worlds and tiny tanks, feeling every ounce of our own import, the bigness of our fish selves. But there is a larger world out there, one that we play a de facto role in shaping. And so I emerge, and take in these things:

Alaska had wildfires in May.

There were tornadoes in Glasgow.

The starfish are dying.

The White House has a program to help the bees.

Americans, apparently, have finally decided they like soccer. And gay marriage. And marijuana.

Win some, lose some.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Notes On A Recital


From a list of things to do pinned to my dance bag:

cut hair ribbons (46)
iron skirts (24)
move buttons
playlist (with notes)
bloomers and booty shorts
1 blue boa
schedule extra rehearsal
dolls finale
prep dance camp
staff list
get sets from storage
find other shoe
take aspirin
eat food

Thursday, June 12, 2014

It's A Jungle Out There


This year the the Wilderness Act turns fifty years old. Created in 1964 by Congress the act established massive tracts of wild areas across the country as protected lands. The Wilderness act was designed to preserve the nations wild areas for recreation and habitat, rather than for resource extraction, an important distinction between public lands today.  Across the country more than 100 million acres of land are protected under the act. In Oregon, less than four percent of our roadless areas are included in this protection. In fact, Oregon ranks behind both Washington and Idaho in the designation of wilderness lands, a fact that stands in stark contrast to our "green" image and con only bring trouble for a state betting it's economy on a newly minted ecotourism industry. 

Now, in the good weather, as we all step outside, is as good a time as any to reevaluate our commitment to the conscious preservation of wild areas. What is your favorite unprotected wilderness area? Why should it be a part of the wilderness act?

Photograph of the Eagle Cap wilderness area, Oregon courtesy of the National Forest Service 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

West of Most Things- Part 2


Things I learned from Jonathon Evison at last weeks Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest workshop. In no particular order, and with the caveat, from Jonathon himself, that he holds no claims of being a writing instructor, nor of being particularly cogent. Still,

Write everyday.
Expect rejection.
Deleting can be just as useful as writing.
Change perspective, yours, and the narrator's.
Find your own voice.
Never forget your reader, never leave them behind, never stop think about their experience.
Beer is good.

Jonathon Evison's website:

Monday, June 2, 2014

West of Most Things -Part 1


Last week I attended the annual Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest reading and writers workshop with Jonathon Evison, author of the award winning novels About Lulu and West of Here. Oregon Quarterly, the alumni magazine for the University of Oregon hosts this annual event and this is my second year in attendance. The reading is always held in an old and opulent lounge on campus with dark wood paneling and massive portraits of University luminaries. The winners read their essays, which are often sad, and always well written. It is a lovely event.

However, much to the dismay of this years judge, because it is on campus, it is also alcohol free. If you know anything at all about Jonathon Evison, it's probably that the man likes beer. Most of his branding is beer related, so much so that it is rare for him to attend an event without beer already set out. And here he was, in Oregon, land of the microbrew and Eugene, home of Ninkasi. And we wouldn't serve the guy a beer. He managed the event anyway, and did a gracious job of introducing the essays. It was wonderful to meet him and hear him talk about his craft, but after being trapped in a hot room with all of us for three hours, you could tell he was ready for a more relaxed scene. 

You can read the winning essays from this and previous years here:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rains Come. Slopes Fail.


Over Memorial Day weekend a massive, miles-long landslide occurred in a remote area of back country wilderness in Colorado. Three people are missing. The slide came down with enough force to overrun several hills before coming to a stop and the resulting deposit of debris is estimated to be more than 200 feet deep in places. The slide left behind a near-vertical escarpment, a cliff of exposed and saturated soil and rock. There is a high likelihood of another slide. Three people are missing.

The media is interested in this story because of the human element, not because of the spectacular magnitude of the event itself or what we might learn from it. I suppose that it is fair enough. Still, all of the decisions moving forward, whether or not to send in search crews and when, how many resources to put into such a thing, how much further risk of human life to take, are informed and tempered by our understanding of the phenomenon itself. How and where and when will all be answered by what we think we know of hills and slopes and water. Perhaps we should tend to our understanding of such things.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bite Sized Memoir 4- Sports Day


It didn't matter what sport it was, there was always that one kid. Sure, there were lots of the other kids too, the ones who trained and had dads that yelled from the sidelines and moms that brought cupcakes to every game, but it really didn't matter who else showed up as long as there was still that kid. That kid. The one that got to play the whole time, usually as something that ultimately turned out the be important like goalie or pitcher. The kid that no one like not because they were unlikable, but because they had neither aptitude nor interest. They were the coaches kid, or that guy that went to state when he was a kid's kid. They made daisy chains during the game, ate too much of the pizza afterwards, and generally didn't mind losing.

I wonder where those kids are now. Are they all in middle management? Car sales? Have they remained disaffected and bored? Did they ever find anything they cared about?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Notes On A Memorial Day


Every Memorial Day weekend I retreat to the woods, for better or for worse, and mostly in the rain. It is the beginning of the summer camping season, the mark of long days and warm nights. It is my first chance to reflect on the winter, and the hopes of spring. But mostly, I observe. A list:

A bald eagle circling the river's bend
Star-shaped marshmallows in red, white and blue
Sausages on sticks
Tiny pink butterflies
Wooden foot bridges
Rose gardens
Three red strawberries

Perhaps there is something there, within all that, but for now, I take them all, just as a they are.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Of Standing In One's Pot


There is no amount of pushing, cajoling, denial, or even hard work that can release us from life's inevitable periods of waiting. Regardless of our drives, passions, ambitions or even needs, the world seems bent upon a period of patience. Gratification, recognition, success, healing, justice, always require a pregnant pause in their unfurling. The stuff of life seems to me not so different from my tomatoes. It would be easy for me to discount them, point out how little sun they get, how small they still seem even this early in the season, how one leans dangerously to one side in spite of its staking. I could declare, already, their foreseeable failure.

But I would be wrong. In spite of my insistence on their stationary stature, they are undeniably on the move. There is no ignoring their new stems or the sudden appearance of flowers, a sure sign of fruit to come. It is my impatience that sees their flaws. I want to make it happen sooner. I want to conjure tomato. But it is no longer in my hands. In the beginning, I had influence. I placed them carefully in their pots, fed them, and staked them up as they began to droop under heavy spring rains. Now though, I have, for a period, done all I can do. It is up to me now to stand in my pot, and wait.