Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fighting for Love.

Love is a fluid thing; it becomes visible in the vessel it is in.

(This is a paraphrase from The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai, a fantastic read!)

Every time life challenged us, we felt like lost children in the woods, whining, blaming, crying out loud.  We had to remember the other times when similar things happened; we had to find our way out of the woods.

I'm constantly amazed at how much investment we have in our ideas of what love is.  We form those ideas quite early, and mostly uncosciously.  We refine them as we read, experience, watch how love is portrayed in the movie, talk to others.

As our children grew, we heard our words as we counseled them on how to navigate friendships, careers, dating.  We told them that good friends must be cultivated, as we cultivate a plant that is fragile. We told them to treat others with respect, to put other's needs above self, and to walk away from toxic relationships.  Do all you can; but if he/she cannot help himself from being abusive and destructive, and what you do doesn't help, you must move on. Some things cannot be changed.

As we verbalized these beliefs, we strentghened our own resolve.

We added one more thing: Tell the truth about how you feel, and never sulk in silence.

Thank God for cars, because we took many rides, for hours and hours, hashing things out.  At times, we'd be gone half a day, children in the backseat listening to their walkmen, while we discussed things up-front. Yes, they saw us talking; they saw us angry and upset.

We kept painting our picture of Perfect Love.  We kept adding strokes and color, erasing missed marks and sloppy lines, appreciating one thing, detesting another. 

In our earlier years, I thought PL came in with flowers and gifts and sweet nothings whispered unexpectedly.

In my later years, I have seen PL wash the dishes in the middle of the night, adjust the pillows and the temperature to my liking before I go to bed, and remember that I like the fish platter at Wheelhouse on Mondays.

He had to teach me about the venality of sweet nothings; I had to teach him abou the weight of dishes.
These lessons took a lifetime. We hope our children learned them too, and their journey eased as a consequence.

p.s. This post received Post of the Week for Nov. 4th. from Hillary at Smitten Image.
Thank you Hillary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Falling in Love, fighting for love, growing love.

I have earned this fair and square. I'm reminded that this blog is all about scraps that we share from our lives, past and present. Like sand on the ocean, our lives change daily. Sometimes the tides and the waves bring out more than we expect.


In the book of my youth, Love was an amazingly good looking man, athletic, smart, with money and means, dedicated to fighting evil and defend liberties.  He would find me immediately attractive and smart, and would not mind my foreignness, my inability to express my thoughts in English.  He would  see my soul, my honest upbringing, my modest ambitions.  What I wanted in a lover was defined on the silver screen, in the Charlston Heston character of Moses.  Or, the young man that fell in love with Gigi in the movie of the same name. A French Man of class.

I married a boy who had just moved next door, worked at the same place as my room mate, spent hours playing Dylan's records.  I noticed that he didn't try to get my attention; didn't try to impress me or my housemates.  He was a loner, a thinker, a lover of literature.  In few days, we found ourselves talking about this and that, running into each other for some thing or other, commenting about the neighborhood we had moved into, about the places we came from.  We played ping pong on the patio; we shared coffee and donuts at the place down the street; we walked together to the Italian restaurant at the corner.  For four weeks, we knew a lot about each other and we would be receiving that Honest Crap Award above.  ( I do appreciate that,btw.)

Six months later we were married.  I turned in my return ticket to Italy, and used that money for a small reception for the few friends and nuns I knew.  My uncle from Fresno gave me away, and my aunt and her children were the wedding party.  On my husband side, only three people, his father and stepmother, and his teen sister.  At the high mass, it dawned on me that I was marrying a non-Catholic and I asked God to forgive me. 

I knew everything that I needed to know about this man during those first six months before we married.  After that, every situation we encountered tested our appreciation for each other.  We were from two different worlds, literally and figuratively.  He came from a broken home, travelled all his life from one region to another, moved two, three times a year, and never called a place home. I wanted roots and stability; he wanted adventure and movement. I was a devout Catholic; he was an independent spirit.  I believed children needed rules and chores and achievable goals; he believed children needed freedom to explore, boundless access to resources, few rules and lots of passionate hobbies.  I believed in budgeting for tomorrow's unpredictable problems; he believed in living today to the fullest.

Our entire life together has been about compromise, adjustment.  I learned to be more adventurous and free; he has learned to settle down and put down roots.  Our retirement was no different. 

With a couple of exceptions.

(stay tuned....)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A new start in late Autumn.

Some things never change; some things are constantly changing. The sun, the ocean, the mountains appear permanent and fixed compared to the lives of crabs, birds, insects, man.  While everything around us was turning inside out and upside down, all of which was most welcome, we were changing in ways neither of us had predicted.  The "us" were my husband and I, married 43 years, almost divorced a dozen times.  We found ourselves playing at the Ocean as the girls in this picture, with  abandon and joy, feeling as though we just met, late January 1966.

With each major change in our lives, we had been bruised badly. We blamed the world and each other. Silently. I even had a few escape clauses in my pocket. If I divorced, I would move back to Italy with the children, find a job, save like heck to send them back to visit their father, and would worry. Worry that they would miss their father, their culture and their language so much that they would choose to live with him. I would then grow old and bitter and blame myself for everything. 

These thoughts were present after each argument, after each misunderstanding.

After forty years, arguments bruise less and less. We learn to predict when the other is too tired, or too worried. We learn to stay out of the wind and the rain whenever possible.  We give in to the other's need even when our need is all we could feel.

The need to be together became stronger than the need to be right. 

This new stage of life in retirement had its own brand of challenges. We were about to learn more about each other, more about habits.

Mostly, we rediscovered  Joy.

...stay tuned...more to follow... joy, pleasure, cooking from scratch........................

Monday, October 26, 2009

Adjusting: the other side of Heaven

We experience these flowers differently when up  close than when we view them from above.  When we stop working, we see the world in a new light.

I loved my work, but I didn't realize that it was killing me, slowly grinding me down to a pulp. It took all I had; it became who I was through and through, day and night, year in, year out.  In the last decade, before I retired, I was a school principal in a middle school, on the outskirts of L.A, working a seventy-hour week and loving every minute of it.

We don't realize how much a job defines us until it is behind us.  We had Sunday dinners at my house with all our children, two of whom are teachers, and the conversation usually moved to some aspect of education. My husband and the two spouses found this phenomenon tiring and boring; they intercepted conversations, interrupted with funny anectodes of something or other. But the conversation never really changed.  The educators in the room were educating everybody else about their passion. The air around us didn't smell of the lasagna or beef roast of the day; the air smelled of chalky  rooms, angry parents, maladjusted teens, victimized children, inept bureaucracies, lack of resources, abundance of violence, neglect, dirt and graffiti. We talked about our lives as though on a mission from God, and everybody else better stand back.

Suddenly without my reason for being, I had nothing to talk about. When I retired, I had nothing else. Literally. When I worked, I read newspapers and magazines just to have a brief experience with the world around me. I had no time for hobbies or interests, for reading or writing that was not related to my work. Even on vacation, I was writing lesson plans, visiting with local educators, comparing notes.

Life had been ordered, organized and precise, dictated by a school bell and a school calendar.

Now, hubby and I found ourselves together twenty-four hours a day, with nothing to talk about.

Stay tuned, our honeymoon was starting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Learning to do nothing: One lesson at a time.


"From the Origin/Earth comes Salvation"

I'm not sure where this quote comes from originally, but I read it lately in a book  titled, Venice is a Fish, by Tiziano Scarpa, 2008.  It talks about the city as an organic entity, embodying its past and its future, dictating how life is lived by its inhabitants.  It is a fascinating read.

I'm telling you this because my adjustment to the new life that on the surface had everything one wants in Paradise, even a walk with that name,  left me longing for something that I could not quite satisfy.

Month after month, year after year, trying different things, I found my source of peace through gardening, observing nature, accepting what was in front of me, reading,  writing, joining the Bandon Writers, the Reading Club, the SMART Program, and running for office. Most of you know that I serve as a Trustee on the local Board of Education. This year starts my second term. 

A word about Nature. I grew up in an era when most people's work was agricultural.  That work was tied to season, weather, wind patterns, natural calamities.  Our very existence depended on forces outside ourselves.  We were responsible for certain parts, at certain precise times; but, the rest was up to bigger powers.  In that setting, we took our job seriously.  When it was time to plant, we planted. When it was time to weed and till, we did those chores.  We anticipated and worked round the clock to beat rainstorms or locusts, or ...We did all we could, when we could.  The rest, we accepted.

I still feel connected to those rhythms.  Working in a garden allows you to dream big, as well as  accept the limitations of your conditions. You clear the land, work in compost, plant, water, weed, and nurture the tiny plants.  But, it is up to the sun to shine, the seeds to sprout, the insects to pollinate.  Some things take a long time.  Some things occurr so fast, they are not visible. Some things depend on dust particles on the wings of butterflies.

We are part of a bigger natural world. Fundamentally, we are 90+ similar to other mammals. Our curiosity, our imagination, our ability to invent has also separated us from our source, our world, our origins. 

When things don't feel right, we need to remember that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Learning to do nothing: A year later.

February 17, 2004

Much time has passed. Doing nothing is easier-a lot of floating through days and weeks, trying to find direction, punctuated by visits from relatives, holidays' get together, trips up and down the coast and out of state.

After Christmas, we flew to Florida with a stop in New Orleans, our Christmas gift to each other. It was good to get away in the middle of rainy season, but disappointing as well. New Orleans was too "packaged" this time. We stuck to the recommendations from the hotel concierge. The driver from the hotel seemed to be reciting well-rehearsed jokes for us tourists.  We didn't feel the excitement and raw energy of our first visit back in 77 when we walked all night, with two children in tow, visiting jazz clubs and hearing the greatest music we had ever heard.  Streets were crowded with people of all ages, and we were not worried about our safety in the least.  Even Cafe du Monde looked lame and scrubbed this time. 

Maybe it's us.

Florida too felt different. Nothing like the Florida we knew in our college days, the running around Key West at all hours, barefoot and penniless.  Now, everything was expensive; everyone, older than us.  I don't remember old people at all when we spent vacations down here in the 70's, down from Tallahassee with our two children and term papers to complete, spending time on  boats, fishing for our supper.  I loved Key West.  It didn't hurt that I was working on my thesis related to  Papa Hemingway. 

We must have clearer goals when we travel. I'm glad too that we didn't rush to buy the motor home. It would be cumbersome and cramped and totally an eye sore after a while.

Days float by.  Instead of jobs, we have appointments with doctors, dentists, surgeons and testing clinics.  How did we get these appointments in when we worked fifty hours a week and drove 120 miles a day?

Hubby has volunteered to coach baseball.  I work with a non-profit. We're meeting people and beginning to be accepted.

The best part about retirement is the feeling that your day is yours to do what you like.  We have coffee and read papers in bed for hours.  Everyday feels like a new start, full of possibilities.

One of these days, I wish to find a passion so deep that will make me jump out in the morning and dream deeply at night. For now, I'll practice patience and contentment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning to do nothing: Part Three.

Journal Entry: April, 2003

Two months into retirement. 

My youngest  child's 23th birthday coming up soon. I miss him; I miss all of them and their families.  They seem in a hurry everytime we call.
We rush through conversations; we talk about the same stuff.

I'm writing this journal as I sit  facing the water, looking up often, catching various movements, the water current, the flight of ducks and birds.  What a far cry from any vacation when we glimpsed at the world and never saw much.

I'm noticing the different birds, the curl of their tail, the coloring of the bill, the expanse of the wing. I'm trying to understand why I ignored all of this for so many years.  There is a tiny squirrel that visits on the deck, constantly scurrying off at the slightest noise, looking all stressed, all the time.

There is a constant sense of longing, and regret, like a smell of clothes after a work-out that you need to shed soon.  It's a longing for the days when you felt on top of the world, when your presence and your ideas were valued and appreciated. Nobody asks you what you do anymore.  Nobody wants to know.  Yet, everything about you is connected to the work you did. I miss my work, the routine, the excitement.

I watch too much television. I believe I am making up for the times when I was too tired to watch television or read a book.  Television is a perfect distractor.

The chores around the house seem to be all mine.  I have noticed that there are two of us eating and two of us messing the place. Yet, I'm the one cleaning and cooking. Hubby is too contented to notice that I'm annoyed.

I must confront him.

The rain has returned. Between storms, there are hours of calm and sunshine when I go on a walk, meet and talk to people. I have a pattern for each day: Monday to Paradise Point, Tuesday to Agate Beach, Wedsnday to the Port, Thursday Battle Rock, Friday The Headlands.  On Saturday and Sunday we drive to places like Cape Blanco or down to the Rogue River. 

We need hiking boots, Gore Tex clothing. After a hike,we are soaked and cold.  This is no ordinary rain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Learning to do nothing: Part Two

First Journal Entry:February 9, 2003

"How many weeks? Stop counting*
The days flow, stopped only by trips to get this and that . Mostly, we need to make this place accept us, show us the rythms and the tides.

"The Ocean pounds-sometimes incessantly rushing to shore like a freight train changing tracks-the same sound the freeway behind our old house made day and night.

"We are purchasing more stuff than we need, trappings of our old lives, to feel comforted again. We bought a bedroom set at a whim. Massive headboard and footboard, two dressers, side tables. Do not need all this. Clothes, we gave that all away. We need sturdy stuff for this place, from shoes to coats.

"I have this tingling feeling that we rushed into this and other decisions. Hubby hates lists and schedules. I feel better when I have a list, checking things off, feeling a sense of accomplishement. But, with no lists, I feel like a kid again, free to jump in and enjoy what's in front of me. This part I enjoy.

"I feel guilty only on one account:not feeling guilty. Seems that I want to like like this-no responsibilities, no agendas, no appointments.  Our days are filled with things we want to do.

"What I miss: Barnes and Noble, Nordstrom Rack, Milano, P.F.Chang, Gelson, Western Bagels, The Hollywood Bowl, The Music Center, Museums, Live music venues.

"What I now have: Ocean, lake, gardens, ability to walk everywhere in town, ability to leave the house unlocked all day and all night, clean air, quiet streets, privacy, birds, racoons, deer, turkey and assortedfowl. I don't even know the names of all the trees, bushes and animals around."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Learning to do nothing and other stories of retirement.

It all started when we began to talk about retiring, sorting through our lives, anticipating leaving L.A. for good.  The first thing that came up was the wish to travel.  Both of us love to get up and go, at a moment's notice, without any plans, any baggage.  As a matter of fact, that was our honeymoon trip.  But, I'm digressing.

We looked at RVs and  travel trailers. We had traded in a comfortable passenger car for an SUV as our preparation step.  Hubby wanted a truck, a big one, with power. We compromised.  The SUV, we reasoned, could haul a travel trailer as well as transport passengers and gear. Neat uh!

We moved to Oregon with our books, computers, clothes,  and a telescope,  filling up the SUV.  We had moved a few times across the nation. Each time we moved for a good distance we ended up ditching every thing else.  You see, most of the stuff we owned came from Goodwill Industries; we just returned it for others to us.  But, our last move was different.  We had lived in one place for over twenty years, and had accumulated good stuff that our children were happy to take off our hands.  Since we were moving to a small cottage by the sea, smaller digs, we didn't need much, and didn't want anything that reminded us of our working days. 

In Brookings, sixty miles from Port Orford, a town big enough to have a furniture store, we stopped to purchase a bed. My American Express card was denied and it took a few manuvers to get that credit approved.  We bought three beds, one for each bedroom, just in case our children would rush up to visit and spend time with us. We also picked up lamps and a working desk. We bought kitchen utensils, plates, life vests and rain gear from the local hardware store.

We looked at RV's and trailers for months, driving to every lot. hours away, tried every model and we agreed on the one we wanted.  It looked like the one pictured above, a one unit that drove like a car, no set up problems, no worrying about hooking up anything.

Our house came with outdoor furniture and a canoe. Hubby and I would sit out on the deck, captivated by the whitecaps out on the Ocean visible from our deck.  We couldn't get enough of those views.  In the morning, we'd sit with coffee and the newspapers, and the evenings, we took out our telescope and stared at the stars.  Life on that deck stretched out like that for weeks until the rainy season.  The canoe waited for our children to visit.

It was after that first storm that we entertained the idea of purchasing an RV again and return to visit the children in L.A. Weeks of rain makes you want to escape for a while. 

Stay tuned for the continuation of this story.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sisterhood Award and a Blog Action Day

This award was created by Ces and bestowed to Tessa who passed it on to her friends.  I was honored to be among them.

 Thank you Tessa. 

Your friendship means a great deal to me.  As we visit each other, share our domestic lives and our dreams, we discover mutual concerns and ideals.  This way, a whole group of global friends is formed, stretching across all continents.  We stretch our arms and aknowledge  our common aspiration for a better world.

Tomorrow is Global Awareness Day.  Together, our blog friends will join across all time zones, starting at midnight, Greenwich  Mean Time. (my understanding!)

May friendship prevail among all nations; may understanding and good intentions support our actions; and may we all elicit what is best and most admirable in human conduct.

To all of you who will read this post in the next twentyfour hours, please join this sisterhood.  Copy the two images and post them on your blog.

Let your words and your actions create a better tomorrow.


On Wednesday, October 14, our friend Janine is scheduled for surgery.  This Cool Lady needs our prayers and best wishes sent her way.  Do join the blog-community in wishing Janine a speedy recovery.

Hope to see you back soon, Janine.

Should you wish to visit her blog and leave your comnnent:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gotta go...


If you dropped in to talk about the ocean, you're too late. No, I'm late.  Here I am ready to go to the Ball, Willow Manor's Ball.  Here is the gown. You need to stop by Willow's to see the entire outfit and my date.

Suffice to tell you that I have reservations for a limo to transport me to the airport in a few minutes.  Hopefully, the weather will be fine in Ohio.  Rain is expected here later on. Must rush.

Ciao. See you at the Manor. 

(Click on Manor, or Ball to peek further at the event!)

Protecting our Oceans.

According to  Surfrider Foundation you can maintain healthy beaches and waterways if you do your part, simple things like picking up after yourself and your pet.  Treat the beaches as you would your own backyard and driveway, by using trash bags to dispose of litter and debris.  Even using fertilizers will impair the health of the oceans.  Fertilizers leech into the water table, and make their way to the ocean.  Hazardous materials, paints, medicines, chemicals that are not biodegradable should be disposed carefully.  Contact your city's disposal facility for details.

Recreational boaters need to be especially careful as they move from one water source to another to wash off the debris and de-contaminate their boats before moving on to another area.  There are brochures that identify  species that hitchhike in your area and give instructions on how to contain them.
Do read and follow instructions.

Sometimes, we are so eager to improve our environment, that we introduce non-native species that kill off other species right in our front yard, beautiful plants that become invasive, or worse,  harbor parassites that kill native flora.  Entire forests of Port Orford Cedar were destroyed this way.  The native Port Orford Cedar is a strong wood, impervious to water and makes an excellent building material. It is slowly disappearing in our forests.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rethinking Ocean Management: POORT

You visited the Port of Port Orford. NOw, I'd like you to meet the real folks who work and manage the operations and are years ahead of many other places.  Tiny towns can teach big lessons.

The link above will put you in touch with the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team, their website, and their video explaining how the fishing industry in this tiny town is step-ahead in understanding and managing resources.

Enjoy. Let me know what you think.  Better yet, let the POORT know you appreciate their efforts.  These folks have been pro-active in preservation and in management of natural resources.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Port of Port Orford

Yes. It is not an error up there: there is a working port in Port Orford, across the bay from Humbug Mountain we visited on the previous post.  This is a working port where boats are on dry dock until it is time to go fishing.  Then, they are hoisted down to the water and off they go.  When they return, they are hoisted up to the dry dock again.  The winds are so violent here that boats could not survive in the water; they would be tossed about toward rocks and islands that jut out on this bay all the way out to sea.  I'll be talking about this port in the next few posts.  Today, just enjoy the sunny day and  the clear air.

The fishing industry used to be huge. Now, there are about two- hundred local commercial fishermen and sports fishermen still using this working port.  Their products are sold live to top restaurants in the nation.  The halibut you purchase in your supermarket does not come from small ports.  It is shipped frozen from Alaska, Asia, Russia.  Locally caught fish is a luxury few people can afford to purchase.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Groves, hatcheries and other surprises on the highway.

U.S. 101 or the Coast Highway travels N-S the entire West Coast of the United States.  In Oregon, the highway is rugged, a slow two-laner, the Pacific on the West, the Coast Range on the right.  At times, and for many miles there are no lights, no towns, no habitation. Forests of Redwood,Douglas and this one, Myrtlewood, will stretch as far as the eyes can see. If you get off the highway, you'll run into old hatcheries like this one.

This stream is by Humbug Mountain, just south of Port Orford, easily forded in many places, and sometimes rerouted by beavers as it happened in the foto above.

All over the coast, Myrtlewood shops display many products made with the Myrtlewood, a cousin of bay laurel.  Myrtlewood is a majestic tree, evergreen in these parts, with a distinctive perfume.   

Friday, October 2, 2009

Today's Poem!

I don't usually do this, send you to another blog.  Today is my first time.  I just read a poem that put me in a spin.  Please visit and experience it:

Tell Erin how the poem made you feel.