Friday, December 31, 2010

The last of 2010.

Sunset at Cape Blanco, westernmost point in the continental USA, bidding you all a good last night of 2010.

May your Tomorrow be a new beginning: productive, thoughtful, caring.

Happy 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Town at the end of 2010.

Port Orford is a sleepy little town, a fishing town, a once logging town, now home to retirees, ranchers, reformed Californians, spiritualists and artists.
Yes, artists, and writers, and retired CEO and scientists, and CIA experts.
There are more galleries here than restaurants.
More churches than real-estate offices.
The entire town is only a couple of miles long, with U.S. Highway 101 right in the middle, moving North to Alaska, South to Mexico. All around, hills and enclaves, three wild rivers providing recreational opportunities and food for those who are patient and are willing to plumb its riches, and a historical park where the first soldiers fought and were decimated by the native population, with dire consequences on both sides. There is a native curse on this town, not because of that original battle, but because of the subsequent retaliation and immure actions of the government against all native populations.

The town has about 1200 residents, 700 full time, with a volunteer mayor and councilmen, an elementary school and a high school to serve the 300 plus or minus student population, of which a good 45% are on free or reduced lunches. 

There is one blinking light on the south end of town by Battle Rock Park, a storm warning light on the north end, to warn motorists when winds are  violent enough to make the south heading trip too dangerous. As I write this, the town is on wind alert.

Also: a supermarket, a convenience store, three gas stations, a video store, six restaurants, all but one on the main drag, two real-estate offices-down from six just a few years ago-, a post office, a lumber/plumbing supply store, a newspaper office, a frame store, an organic store/vegan restaurant, a car parts store, a car repair shop, a hardware store, a glass and window repair store,  four RV parks, a library, a port, a marine reserve,  the brand new  Hawthorne Gallery and  Redfish restaurant with impressive pieces, fabulous food and outstanding views.

You can walk the entire town in less than 30 minutes.  The hills, lake and river shores will take much longer.

Most people know your name here. They will stop and chat with you everywhere. Soon, you'll connect with just about every body in town.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What we do today...

We are footsteps on the sand, soon to disappear, less weighty than flotsam. 

Every step we take, every bite we eat, every thing we generate,  everything we purchase will  impact others.

Step lightly.
Leave no footprints.
Consume only what you need to survive.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wishing you the Best!

May you have green for hope
Old books and memories to guide you
New toys to keep you current
And the love of a good man or woman
To cuddle with on stormy nights.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, wherever you are.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tax cuts and a contemporary Christmas Carol.

(I took this picture of my Hubby looking at Cape Blanco Lighthouse just this morning, during our walk on these rocky shores I've come to love. The lighthouse is situated at Cape Blanco, the westernmost tip of the contiguous United States-for the geography geeks out there.)

There are certain stories that guide us, year after year, lighthouses, like the Cape Blanco Lighthouse pictured above, a government built structure, still operating on Cape Blanco, to keep ships from crashing on the rocky shores.

If you have been following the news, you've caught the new Scrooge Story: Let the Rich keep their tax cuts, or nothing will happen in Congress.

Today, on Hardball with Chris Matthew, Matt Kimble from Freedomwors said: "...unemployement benefit is junk... The trouble with unemployment and economic stagnation... is a spending problem..."

I'm just a pensioner. Both my pension and my Medicare benefits were part of my wage package through a lifetime of work. Talking about eleminating these programs because they are costly, is an ethical and moral problem, the one Mister Scrooge had to deal with.

 To balance the budget on the backs of seniors and people on unemployement is an ethical problem, when Wall Street and millionaires insist on keeping their bonuses and being rescued when things go bump in the night.

Greed is governing right now!
A lighthouse only for those with big yachts!

"Less Government" is a code phrase for get rid of all programs, all regs, all things that make good govenment, including unemployement benefits. It's a code phrase for, every man to himself. Women and children and unemployed cost are rocking the boat, will make us drown. 

What is a nation to do?

Let's keep the Lighthouses, the regulations, the programs that give people a lifeline. In a Democracy, we have a moral imperative to save everyone in a storm, and to give education and protections to prevent crashing on the shores.

Then, let's have a conversation on how to become the great nation we think we are, the nation that shone like a lighthouse to the world at war, to the world in poverty. Let's have our conversation on how we can afford to do all the things we need to do, in a smart way, in a fair way, even in a humane way, Right now is the time to start. Right now, for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


We had a big storm last night, still around,beating down branches, releasing pent-up compost into the air.

In-and- out of the storm

At lunch with our yearly ambition martinis
leather chairs embracing our backs
looking accomplished in our power-suits
we admire our reflections in the window
as we  pose  for obligatory fotos
capturing another year
another growth point
another boost of productivity,
the ocean all but calm in the distance.

Nobody counts the small bird
scurrying on the sands
its tweet drowned by seagull scheeches
its tiny steps erased by waves
encircled and hushed
by an empty sandwich bag.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ready or Not!


(reprinted and adapted from a friend's email)

1. The Post Office.
They are in deep financial trouble. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive.

2. Banks.
Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check, and in turn, the post office, the corner bank, the clerks at the counter.

3. The Newspaper.
The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

4. The Book.
You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. Aren't you downloading music from iTunes for half the price of CD's?. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book.

5. The Land Line Telephone.
Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

6. Music.
The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who like to hear it. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."

7. Television.
Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

8. The "Things" That You Own.
Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system.

So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

9. Privacy.
If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7 "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again. All we will have that can't be changed are Memories.


(Thanks, Erna, for sharing these thoughts with us!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What I miss about L.A.

The day I made my husband buy this piece of land with lake and ocean views, I was besides myself, drunk with excitement, ready to dive into deep waters with my clothes on.

As the real estate agent pulled up to  the house, I spied the water, and asked her if the house had access to the water. When she said yes, I ran down to the edge of the lake, my whole body convulsing  with happy thoughts. How perfect this was, water and pine trees all around.  In the distance, a lighthouse, a very good sign in my book.

 I ran back up the driveway,  and into a tiny dark cottage where Hubby and Real Estate Lady were discussing structural beams and water pressure. The tiny, dark place was not on my radar. I was buying here to buy that VIEW!

 "Hon, this is it!" I blurted out.

Now, we had agreed that if one of us just loved a place, so much so that we couldn't wait to declare our spilling enthusiasm, the other would consider this effluence as The Sign!  Hubby got the message.  He made an offer.

We returned to L.A. with pictures like this.  Everyone we knew drooled over these pictures. Really?  You are moving from L.A.?  After you built yourself such a beautiful home in those hills?  How can you do that?  Doesn't it rain in Oregon all the time? What is the house like?

Yes! Yes! Yes! The house is small; but it doesn't matter!

Hubby was most surprised by my rash decision. Our children were all in L.A. Our jobs were in L.A. We had most of our adult lives in L.A.  We had just finished building a house after a major earthquake. Didn't we go to major trauma together?  Could we afford giving up our jobs and retiring before everybody else? Was I sure about this big move?

He worked out the details, including the sale of our brand-new, custom home, our early retirement, our disassembling of household.  Our children chose the furniture and furnishings they liked, and in a very civil way, they all got what they wanted, including books and art pieces.  We left for Oregon with our clothes, a couple of boxes of books, our computers six months after that first visit to Port Orford.

So,do I miss  L.A.?  Do I miss the shops, the museums, the theaters, the many attractions? Do I miss my furniture, my great kitchen, my friends and neighbors?
None of these. 
Do I miss the children? Yes.
Do I miss them terribly? No.  They are all grown and settled,  busy with their lives.  It was a lucky day when we could all get together for a meal now and then.

Do I miss the beaches, the beautiful people? No. No.

I don't miss the crowds, the traffic, the delays, the sheer elbowing that occurrs in a city that never ends.
Do I miss the sunshine?  Yes.
Do I miss it terribly? No. After each storm, there are glorious sunny, temperate and  comfortable days  to take long walks on the beaches, to remind myself of how lucky I am.

You see, I was always the one dreaming of living at a cottage by the sea. Hubby wanted a cottage in the mountains, by a lake.  We got them both, actually, one side of the house faces the water, the other, the mountains. We only regret not having moved sooner. Our children would have loved living here.

Happy Holidays, wherever you are.
Dream your dream and seek it far and wide.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where would you live?

In one place, buildings and roads are all around you, all easy access.

In the other, you are  isolated, rocks, trees, and  surf are accessible through rambles and side roads.

One is full of people, products, services and distractions. You can sit at lunch and watch the seagulls below.
The other is devoid of human influences. You bring your sandwich and walk the sand, seagulls following your footsteps, hoping for a crumb.

Ambition, martini, leather chairs..
Water sprays,sea weeds, fishy entrails.

Feeling safe and accomplished, having lunch with your friends in power-suits,  air-conditioned,  retreated. The ocean is  a one dimensional painting behind you.

Feeling adventurous and wild, leaving your cave to get wet, cold, drowned by  loud screeching of seagulls. Tides and waves and sea birds have erased your footprints.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't let them tell you they are busy!

Old man, waiting for his wife to finish her shopping.
She is busy, purchasing something she doesn't need.
He's busy, worrying about his lunch, the bite on the budget this excursion will take.

Old people are mostly bored, in pain, or lonely.  What this man needs is to play with his grandchildren, but they are not around.
What his wife needs is to be in charge of  something important.

O.k. I'm simplifying, but the crux of the matter is still here: old people are not utilized well. They end up flitting here and there in search of something that gives meaning and purpose to their days.  Even if they can't move, they want to move, they want to feel that their days are full of activities that change lives, save the world.

We tend to relegate them to a semi-dead state, a waiting in limbo state, until maladies take over and their lives have reached the point of no return.

Grandparents used to live around their children and grandchildren, were consulted on all major decisions, supported the family by babysitting, educating, cooking and maintaining the household.  They were an integral part of an extended family.

Boredom and loneliness did not contribute to their demise.

How is it in your family?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Waiting for that big one!

Christmas is my  tsunami. O.k. an exaggeration! But, right after Thanksgiving, a wave of panic kicks in my psyche, one a day, sometimes more.  I tell myself these feelings occur every Christmas season, and there is no reason for me not to have this problem licked. I should really skip the season all together, fly to Barbados and pretend it's summer.

From November 26-to Christmas Day, I'm in the depths of depression. Not what you think, not the seasonal cold and dark weather induced malady. It all has to do with frenzy of this buying season: the expectations, the anticipation, the frustrations in choosing the right thing for the right person, the exhaustion, the going broke, the everything.

Usually, I adopt one of two  tactics, either delay purchasing anything until the last possible moment, or get a list and stick to it from day one.  Neither works.  The first one causes panic; the second one causes disappointments.  After all, the ideal present is never on a list; the ideal present suddenly pops up as one walks down a busy street, thinking of something else. 

The worst ever situation is when people tell you what they want. Now, you feel obligated to purchase those items, as well as some fabulous surprise.

There is way too much energy spent at Christmas. It's just dandy for those who enjoy the excitement. These are the same people who go to Disneyland, I guess, and can pretend to be children from the minute they enter those sacred doors. All that pretending wears me out. 

Hubby used to drag us (me, dragged!) to Disneyland on Father's Day. He just loved the joy on the children's faces. My point is that creating a pretend-real place is over the top pretend. The whole merchandising makes me gag, too.  My attitude was considered totally un-American. My children dismissed my arguments and insisted going to Disneyland was another cultural norm real Americans adopt willingly.

I haven't even started to talk about money. You'd think being old and on a fixed income would free me from all this nonsense.

I know! I can start a campaign of no-purchases as a Green Party platform. After all, we are in a recession, people. It's the right thing to do. It will disappoint so many people, Hubby especially. But it is the right thing to do!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kazuo Ishiguro,Thankfulness and other Thoughts.

Snow on the coast: a sight to behold. A thankful thought that we live in such beautiful surroundings, where temperatures are mild all year long. Humans should be thriving here.  Humans, however, are rare in these parts. They fear the harsh winds, as well as  the monotonous winter days of dark clouds and incessant rain. Humans tend to detach themselves from pain and discomfort as long as they can.

What if our sole purpose was to become instruments of comfort and eternal life for others?

That is the premise in Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, an innocent, elegiac novel of coming of age.

It is a story about human clones who are nurtured to be fully humans.  Their lives have all the requirements for success and usefulness in a proper society. Their needs for love and companionship, for history and past connections are every one's needs.  The story begins in a boarding school and ends as the protagonist goes off to tend to another sick person about to donate his/her organs, and live out their purpose in life. What she finds reassuring in all this pain-filled world she ended up in, are the memories she has of her childhood with friends, when life was innocent and full of small surprises and constant friendships. She never questions her purpose in life; she is grateful she has such wonderful memories.

This is a very sad story.  
But what if this really happened?
To what extremes will we go to prolong life, to cut back our pains and discomforts?
If you have not read Never Let Me Go, you have missed another gem from the author of Remains of the Day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I'm still here, on the lake, working in this garden, my back yard, a slip between the house and the lake, often too wet to be cultivated, too sandy to be productive. On those benches I do my best thinking, looking at miracles after miracles as far as my eyes can see.

I've changed my profile picture though. For no reason.
I've collected some followers. For reasons I do not understand.
I've wondered why I've been writing here, when I could write somewhere else.  Writing comes easily here, in this little box where you and I post, a box no bigger than the 3x5 cards we used to take notes in college. Those cards served only one purpose: to record verbatim, the words of others, the words that would become our research.

"Four hundred" sounds like a lot. But, in just one year as a retiree, I have cooked more than four hundred meals, written hundreds of short stories, some of which ended up in my memoir, some ended up as fire starters.

Blogging has become a habit with me. The second thing I do after I wake. The last thing I do before I sleep.
I've made lots of friends; lost many; irritated a few. The world is available to my eyes and my soul with just one click of the mouse. 

Thank you for following this blog. Thank you for sharing your life and your world with me.
May we live to post four hundred more times!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How are You?

We look at a plant and we know how It is, what weeds or parassites are affecting it. But, do we know that about people? How are You? we ask with little or no interest in the answer, day after day.

I left such an inquiry for Erin

Read her answer.
I'm in awe.

the tiny leaf

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving on my mind.

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the States, my favorite holiday:

1. Nothing to decorate, unless you count what you already have around.
2. Everyone will expect the same food, year after year.
3. Everyone will be happy to eat the same food, and will act surprised at how good everything is, and how come we don't eat turkey more often, they'll say.
4. Nothing to buy or present, except food.
5. We will have enough leftovers to not cook the rest of our lives!

And the most important reason of all: We get the family together, those of us who can, and will remember all the other Thanksgivings in our lives. A Marathon of Memories, Sports, Memories, Sports, Pies with or without ice cream, More Turkey, more Sports....

We'll be somnolent and lazy, thankful for what Providence has  generously bestowed upon us.

Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weather Watching.

From November on, we watch the weather. Actually, we watch the dunes that separate our lake from the Ocean, right here on the last picture.  On this date, a few days ago, the waves breached the dunes, tumbling furiously down into the lake.

Over a decade ago, on this very berm that is now being reshaped by the waves, the town's sewer system was destroyed.  The lake water became brakish, salty. Fish died and the lake's ability to provide  residential water supply was compromised.  That event changed the narrative around here.

We now have a new outfall for the lake.  We have a new sewer system. We even have a new plan for city growth.  Weather wise, we seem to be prepared against another breach of the same magnitude, a breach folks were told happened every century or so.

As I photographed these waves pouring into the lake, I couldn't help panic a bit.  With one heavy stroke, Nature could change the face of this town, the face of our lake, our home.  With one stroke, we could be homeless.

With one stroke, we could all be washed out to sea.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Catching the soul

Here we are on a glorious summer day. Hubby is busy with something. Jasmine, our grandchild, and I are smiling at the camera in her friend's hand.

I want to remember this time we had with her, the world in front of her, though looking at the two of us, Hubby and I  need to keep working on our weight!
 I want to remember how happy Jasmine was that day on this patio.  I see her eyes have the same glint as her dad's, my son. Her sweet smile has  the same soft tone as her mom's. 

Photographs do catch  our inner strengths and personalities. They do project all the things we are.  We look at them and all we see are the things we don't like about ourselves. We begin to critique how our hair looked, how are clothes didn't fit right, how busy we were to look up or participate.

One can write a life's arc with one photograph. 

I have a link with my past and with my future in this photo. Jasmine will remember these days of her youth and entire sensations will return to fill any gap in her memory. 
How marvelous to have these tools at our disposal.

I remember that after this picture was taken, we made pizza, and I began a food blog to pass down a few recipes and a few guidelines.  Pictures, stories, instructions: humans are aware of their finite destinies and keep inventing tools to help them remember.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Politicum sans decorum

No. This is not on my property. I do not own a riding stable. I do not own horses. I don't ride them either. But I do like to look at them. And everytime I do, I remember how much my dad loved horses.

He had horses all his life, for practical purposes. He even served in the Cavalry.
Horses and I, however have little else in common. Except, they remind me of the good old days, when people dressed properly, were polite, played by the rules of civilized behavior, and were never caught telling lies or showing their dirty linens in public.

And that brings me to today's topic. How politics has lost decorum, class!

 Political views aside, politics is the art of getting things done with people with disparate views.  We like politicians who can list a series of accomplishments that support our point of view, our local community's elan.

Lately, however, we are flaunting something else, the art of knocking things down, destroying what has been accomplished, villyfying any achievement that we disagree with. This is not politics.

This is arena fighting.
Christians versus Lions.
No holds barred.
Fight to the death.

It's a mid-term election that instead of correcting a course, it's bent on staying on the course, right or wrong. Ouch!
We all better put our gloves on!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do you wonder?

Why anyone would get this sign made?
Why we write to no one in particular?
Why we vote and nothing really changes?
What will we remember of today?
What if nothing happens?
What if something happens and I don't know about it?

What is the answer that is blowing in the wind?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

TRick-o-treat for Unicef

You know how it is: you don't want your own children to eat all that candy they pick up on Halloween. So, why hand   out candy at all?
Do something good for children of the world. 

Support Unicef campaign to purchase clean water!
Have your children collect coins for Unicef.
Go to any Toys-R-Us store, or search Unicef on line for stores where collection boxes are distributed, and arm your children with a good cause.

When they get back home, offer them fruit and fresh veggies to celebrate their success!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Signs of the time.

It's campaign season!
Signs are appearing on many lawns, even in places with no lawns.

Here, in Oregon, we already have our ballots. We vote by mail and we, hubby and I, and our daughter and her hubby in the next county, have attended debates and fundraisers, rallies and presentations.  We are ready to cast our votes today.

The actual deadline is not until November 2nd. But why wait?

The choices are clear for us.
Do people actually wait until Nov. 2nd to make up their minds? Do people actually study issues and listen to debates? 

How do people really choose?

I do know that even my youngest child is ready to vote.
I guess we must have done something right as parents.

Do vote.
Even if you are disgusted with the choices. Make a choice. 

Don't let others steal our right! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Do not go gentle..."

Memoirs are not for wimps!

They are the last word of dying men.
They stand for eternity, trees planted on firm ground, overlooking the abyss.  Memoirs are the last will and testament of those who are brave enough or crazy enough to take pen in hand and committ their thoughts to paper, to eternity.

Or so I thought!

Lately, I've been reading memoirs written by twenty-something, people who have had about a fourth of their lifespan behind them.  They wrap up their experiences  in a big fat ribbon and call Julia Roberts to play them on the big screen.  Julia will evoke all sorts of personalities from all the movies she has done, and voila', we have a rich banquet of characters to satisfy all hungers.

I believe President Carter's White House Diaries and his memoirs are the words of a man who had a presidency that was misunderstood, or over-critical. Why, even his party was fighting him.  Yes, he needs to set the record straight, explain himself, explain the situation he found himself in, explain the country at that juncture.

Memoirs are as real as the photographs we take. The background, what came before and after, what is not illuminated, these are elements manipulated by the writer.

A memoir like Stephen Elliott's The Adderall Diaries adds another layer to the mix.  It is a self-study: "This book (is) functioning as an external memory I go over every day."  (p.102)
Memoirs are more important to the writer than any thing else he/she writes.  Memoirs pin down experiences and feelings revisited and re-interpreted.   An impressive process!

Everything we produce is a part of us.  Memoirs are the most transparent.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: Water.

This is Garrison Lake, a freshwater lake fed by numerous streams of pristine beauty smack in the middle of Port Orford, between main street and the Ocean.  To the South, is Hubbard Creek,  our main water source.  To the North,  the Elk River sports some of the best fishing in the West.

It rains six-eight months here.
We are water-logged most of the time.

But this town has a  dirty little secret.

Our municipal water, after it's processed and stored, is lost by 50% before it reaches its residents.  Our delivery system is ancient, leaky, broken.  Our pipes need repairing before the town can grow and prosper.  We have had this problem for a long time.

To replace this infrastructure the town needs to float bonds or tax its one thousand inhabitants, most of whom are part timers, vacationers. Nobody wants to take on a debt of fourteen million dollars to repair the water system. Everyone wants an easy,  inexpensive solution. 

We have water. We just can't deliver it!

There are many towns like ours up and down the coast, in remote areas, in places that once were bustling with fisheries or saw mills.  Many of these towns no longer have fisheries or saw mills.  Without jobs and commerce, these towns have dried out.  Their tax base cannot take on major changes. Now, most of them are havens for retirees looking for peace and natural beauty. Retirees, usually on fixed income, do not vote for bonds or taxes.

Clean, potable water is the first thing a town needs to deliver.
When this need is neglected, we can't survive.

For discussions and articles on water and other environmental issues visit:
This was written for Blog Action Day October 15, 2010.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Foreclosed in America.

Sign on the door: “Per me si va”*

The road was paved with gold and precious stones

At every step a sign, don’t look behind!

Everyone, get your chance, come to our shores

Move to America.

The words spoke of freedom and vast prairies

Wild rivers, new horizons

Land-a-plenty, with no fences

Discover America.

We rode toward Paradise, toward Zions

And all the way out West

Following Lewis and Clark and many moons

Settling in America.

Wife, children, a cabin milled before winter rest

Heartaches, lost limbs, broken bets

Woods to conquer, nests to upset

Making it in America.

When husband’s hand was amputated

And a medical debt cleared the house

And the horses, and all our future gutted

While fully mortgaged in America,

All the signs were in a strange prose

No art or science helped, no music or history

Not even Braille, Hebrew or Morse.

The only way to be American.

I knew nothing of promissory notes

Just things I could eat, carrots and cabbage

And a language without Kings and Toads.

Who knew I’d be foreclosed !

In America?

*Dante, Divine Comedy

Sign at the Entrance to Hell

“Through me is the way to…”



Friday, October 8, 2010

Life's full of Surprises!

These beauties were planted last May, papaveri from Italy, poppies of rich-red splendor.  All spring plantings, in the Northwest weather of 2010 became molded or eaten by slugs. My garden was planted three times with vegetable starters and seedlings.  Even then, I have very little to show for all that money and work.

When I saw these Italian seeds on the rack at 101 Nursery,  I took them home with hope.  I chose an elevated spot next to a struggling fig tree.  I know, what is this obsession with Mediterranean fruit and flowers?  I know, I can't resist  lemon, orange, fig and persimmon trees, even if   70 degrees is our hot spell.

 I'm hopeful!

The lemon trees developed scabby infections, were treated and re-treated, but I still lost two of them.  The fig trees are barely showing signs of life. The persimmons have died once, and have resurrected from their roots, showing promise.

These beauties, however, these stunning Poppies remind me of the wheat fields back home in Italy, where hundreds of them appear year after year among the golden heads of wheat, swaying with the wind, pulling your eyes to the fields.

I'm glad these beauties are mine for now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our next car? Not!

Saw this at the Cranberry Festival in Bandon.

Can you believe the gumptions of this owner?  Right here, among environmentalists, folks who  hug trees, burn trash with permits, are the first to establish bottle recycling,  set up Marine Reserves voluntarily,  set up fishing quotas and land management guidelines. 

A Wilderness Assault Vehicle at a Cranberry Festival?

Seriously, he is lucky to leave the parking lot with his scalp on!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beach Finds

When I'm not writing, reading, cooking or gardening, I walk.  This is my neighborhood, the houses on Lake Garrison facing the Pacific Ocean. From my house, I can walk to this beach and spend hours here.
Lucky Me!

It's easy to find peace here. The Ocean pounds right outside our doors, keeping us in its rhythm, in its core harmony.  We are connected to each other and the world by this constant pounding, splashing and thunderous clashing. We are just tiny voices here, lost in the sand of time and space.

Sometimes, we appear to shine, agates in the sun, catching the rays for a second, wet and sparkly and brand new. Agates are tiny stones, beaten and polished in their journey by all kinds of forces. Like agates, we end up here, on the shore, awaiting the final chapter of our days. The stories we could tell!

I've become a solitary walker, by choice.  With each step, I weave a story, a narrative of losses and finds,  of journeys that took me closer to what I wanted, and further from what I loved.
All narratives speak of our struggles and  joys , our humanity.

With each story, with each walk, we find something new, a sign we missed yesterday, an object that reconnects us to our past.

Where do you find inspiration, threads for your narrative?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Schools Under the Microscope: Final Words

I'm ending my discussion on this topic by sending you all to read the article in The New Yorker, Sept. 27, 2010, p.27, entitled Comment-Schoolwork, by Nicholas Lemann.

His final words:

"We have a moral obligation to be precise about what the problems in American education are-like subpar schools for poor and minority children-and to resist the heroic ideas about what would solve them, if those ideas don't demonstrably do that."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Schools Under the Microscope: Part Three

Southwest Oregon is represented in Congress by Peter De Fazio, a democrat from Eugene. Eugene is sophisticated and quite liberal, compared to the rest of the Fourth District that Peter De Fazio serves. Peter understands the various factors, the veteran enclaves in Brookings, the disgruntled fishermen and lumbermen in the small coastal towns, the many retirees from California with environmental concerns and financial independence, and the lack of great paying jobs afflicting many of our communities where big swaths of ranch lands and century farms have been trying to break up and sell parcels to make ends meet.

Peter meets us in town-halls on a regular basis. His smiling face and that of his dogs-we love dogs in Oregon; they go everywhere we go-are common sights in our communities.

This year, Art Robinson, a Republican, is running against Peter and has stuck his campaign signs on every parcel of land not occupied by a democrat.  Before any body knew what party or ideas he was representing, his name became a household oddity.

So, who is Art Robinson, and why am I talking about him in an essay about schools?

The answer is simple: Art Robinson hates public schools! He thinks parents who send children to public schools are abusing their children!

Don't take my word. Go google him and find out for yourself.

Art Robinson has home-schooled his children, has produced videos and materials for homeschooling children where racial bias,religious conservatism, and environmental disregard, are  ideas woven in the lessons he created and has sold to families.  He wants everyone to believe what he believes. 

And that brings me back to my original topic.  There are all kinds of people who prefer home-schooling. But, to run against public schooling, the right of every young person to be educated and exposed to many ideas, to participate in a democratic society fully conscious and prepared, that right is being denied by Art Robinson.

"We want government out of our life!" is a rallying cry by the new voices running for political office.  Well, I do want government to fulfill its functions, to protect, to educate, to make rules by which each of us is treated fairly. I don't want government to stay out of schools. I want national standards in teachers' preparation, national standards in curriculum benchmarks, national standards for certification and for assessment.

It's hard not to take a stand this political season.
Not taking a stand will mean the end of life as we know it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Schools Under the Microscope: Part Two

(IMPROVING  takes time. We ought to remember that when we are talking about institutions!)

Diane Ravitch, Why I changed My Mind about School Reform  in the March issue of the Wall Street Journal, is an excellent article to jump start our discussion. Ms Ravitch is the author of " The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, " published in March by Basic Books.

"On our present course, we are disrupting communities, dumping down our schools, giving students false reports of their progress, and creating a private sector that will undermine public education without improving it."

As of this date, many schools in the United States, from Washington D.C. to California, have been closed, or have become private, teachers have been dismissed, parents have been given permission to take their children somewhere else, and funding and support for public schools are at an all time low. This last year's economic recession has further penalized any effort to stabilize this institution.

We all agree that strong and well qualified teachers form the backbone of a good system. When we enter a classroom, and  observe that  teacher's'interaction with her students we can draw many conclusions  about her effectiveness. But that's just an impression, a snapshot. Teaching is a complicated dance, both choreographed by the teacher and danced together in that room, at home and in the community.
Teachers are the directors, the performers, the writers and the set-design of their show. Like preachers, they need a willing audience, a trusting relationship, great tools, and a support system that allows them to spin magic in their rooms.

It's easy to say, let's hire the best qualified. Does that mean, the one with the highest grades?  I don't know about other countries or other states, but here in the West, college students need no more than average grades to apply for teachers' training. We don't get the best students.  For decades, we have needed more teachers (in the West)  to staff hard to staff classrooms such as those for new language learners, bilingual classrooms, special education classrooms.  Our math and science classes in secondary schools are extremely hard to staff.

In Teachers' Training, nobody is excluded for personality or character flaw. Harsh, soft, radical or liberal, every teacher candidate is welcomed. After two-three years of probationary status, they become permanent and are offered automatic renewal in their contract, or permanency.  Their contract specifies how often they get evaluated, visited, consulted with, and how the process is structured.  If  problems are discovered early in the teacher's career, he/she is given assistance to improve.

Once a teacher is permanent, only two reasons really exist for dismissal: criminal behavior, or total incompetence.  The first is usually a law-enforcement issue, not an educational issue.  Total incompetence is extremely hard to define and even more difficult to prove.

A great deal of the talk about Reform, has to do with getting rid of incompetent teachers.  Everyone agrees our children deserve the very best.  Most people want short cuts to teacher dismissal.  Most people have their own idea of what determines incompetent behavior.  What we have not done is bring the teachers' unions and association into this discussion, into certification and re-certification issues.  When a teacher is under fire, we take sides.

Strong qualified teachers need a host of support to remain strong and qualified.  They need strong leadership in administration and in their board members, and they need opportunities to share and learn from the best throughout their career.  Even strong teachers become weak and maimed if parents don't support their methods, if tools are not available, if the paperwork,interruptions and politics of their district sucks the energy out of their efforts.

Strong qualified teachers also need incentives, such as good salaries, opportunities for advancement and recognition, opportunities to contribute to the running of their institutions.
 Strong, qualified teachers want strong leadership, appreciate rules and procedures that keep their campus safe and pleasant.  They will not stand in the way of reform; they will welcome change that will benefit student success.

Most of our schools are under-staffed, meaning that people are doing way too much, besides teaching a full load. Teachers run clubs, field trips, enrichment programs, as well as testing and committee work.  Their reaction when we mention school reform is yes, let's get rid of those incompetent people.

I'm offering  Two solutions to this big problem: First: Strengthen the selection,the training,  the hiring process and the internship programs.  No young person should go into a profession that will not be a good match for her.  Those first years of teaching are critical.  Let's design these steps more carefully, and give those new teachers plenty of support,building  critical skills and habits right from the start.

SECOND: Let's involve teachers in school reform, by making them the leaders in finding solutions, not the victims of a bloodshed.  Teachers know how best to reach students and how best to improve curriculum.  Giving them time and resources, they will build wonderful learning communities.

How do I know this? I have seen it work!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Schools Under The Microscope!

Summer is over, and schools have started. Everyone, including the janitor, dreams about that outdoor vacation, even if he didn't go on vacation. Summer will linger in his soul for a long time.  School, like work, is where we return, after the fun, the recreation, the time off. School is where children spend most of their young lives.

Lately, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon on the subject of school reform. Chatrooms are filled with all kinds of people who believe that schools need reforming and the best thing to do is ....

Everyone has a solution.
Everyone has an opinion.
Even my oral hygienist.
After all, we have all been in schools.

As you know, I'm a retired educator, and presently serve as a member of the local school board.  In addition, two of my children are teachers in public schools. If I look at all the people that are teachers and follow this blog, we now have a very good sample of professionals who can jump in and get into the conversation.

Historically, in my lifetime, schools have never had adequate resources. Many teachers supplement their classroom libraries, supplies, videos and outdoor activities with their own moneys.  I go back to my first teaching days when sets of textbooks had to last ten years or so, and things have not changed much since.

When President Johnson's War on Poverty brought some needed funds, training and supplies into poor schools we began to address  the disparity of educational opportunities in different neighborhoods.  Rich neighborhoods had great schools; poor neighborhoods had poor schools.  The rich children had parents with books and accessibility to cultural activities.  Poor children had illeterate parents, no books, not even enough food. 

Now, Title One funds have continued to flow into schools with poor children, and the funds have done tremendous good to those schools. But, the dispararity doesn't go away. 

Rich folks will continue to have the advantages because they can afford to supplement their public schools with PTA and Booster Clubs funds and parent led field excursions, and parent volunteers, and mentoring. They can tax themselves to construct new schools or repair present ones.  Poor schools will have a portion of their funds cut, as of this writing, if the children do not make adequate progress. The local parents are too poor to provide supplemental funding to maintain the facilities, or to provide field trips and other enrichment activities.

There are five  issues schools face:

1. Motivate students to do their best and stay in school.
2. Provide  rich curriculum offerings, including the arts and outdoor education.
3. Achieve Adequate Progress as measured by standard and non-standard methods.
4. Maintain facilities so they are safe, pleasing, and attractive.
5 Hire and retain the best qualified teachers.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fishing Season on The Rogue

Here we are in Gold Beach, 23 miles south of us, at the mouth of the Rogue River.  This river is still wild, meaning that it doesn't have damns and distractions.  The adult chinook salmon that enter the river to go spawn in their ancestral habitats are fat and happy at this time of the year.  The first rains have blasted the opening of the river, and here you can see the small boats all trying to catch the big one.

Fishermen are allowed two catches per day.  They hope to get a big one, this time of the year, as the salmon has spent years at sea before returning to spawn.

The female will die after spawning, exhausted by the activity, and at that point she will be a delightful meal for a hungry bear.  Bears have been known to scaveng in town, close to camping grounds before the salmon's return to spawn.

This cycle of life and death takes place every fall.

There is a ceremonial run, called The Run to the Rogue, performed by the native population, the Siletz and other tribes, from their reservation in the north part of the state, down the coast to the Rogue, where their hunting and fishing places used to be before the white men displaced them forcefully.  They gather at Agness, a small town up the Rogue River, barely accessible by mountain roads, where they have a pow-wow, a gathering, called The Gathering of The People.  On their run down the state, they stop at each community, and are welcomed and fed by townspeople, until they reach their final destination.

Should you want to read about The Run to the Rogue, visit our paper or look up "Run to the Rogue" on your google bar to learn about this event and other Native American events and cultural facts.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The American."

I'm disappointed by this movie: it didn't show me the beautiful Italy I love. No, sirree!
It didn't even show the Sweden I love. Bummer!
It failed to show George Clooney smiling his big smile I love. Sh..!

But the movie is a study in tight and spare storytelling, from the setting to the characters, to the lack of music. Yes. Silence is king here, broken only when cars bump, tires squeal, and guns pop suddenly to remind us that we are following an assassin here.

Tight and sparse, The American is a study in character development. From the first frame in a chalet in Sweden, to the last one on a river in the Abbruzzi, our character has tried to escape his work, his identity.

At the end, he succeeds.Beautifully. As the endangered butterfly he had been studying.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Price of Isolation

Highway 101 is  known as the Pacific Coast Highway. It  travels up and down the west coast of the United States, from Mexico to Canada and Alaska. It is a scenic, two way road, traversing rivers and mountains, big cities like San Diego,  Los Angeles and San Francisco, and many little towns, like Port Orford. 

The Highway is our main thoroughfare, North to Bandon and Coos Bay, and South to Brookings and California.  If something should happen on this highway, a bridge problem, a mountain slide, we are trapped.  Traveling by sea would be our other alternative; unfortunately, the only boats on our dock are fishing vessels, not passenger or even freight vessels.  Fishing vessels here are small, containing gear and storage for fish catching and transporting.

Oregon is still quite rugged: many mountains and streams are wild and inaccessible.  This part of the coast is even more isolated than the other parts.  The only other road to the interior and to I-5  in this part of the coast, is Highway 42 going East to Roseburg, a three hour slow drive through the Coastal Range with  slides and snow problems in winter months.  There is a road from Gold Beach, through Agnes that has left many people stranded,  and is not recommended through winter months. A few years ago, a couple from San Francisco was stranded for days, with two little children, having taken a wrong turn and unable to drive out after a snow storm.  The young husband died, after leaving his family to search for help. This story is etched in our consciousness every time we travel in winter.

Our tourist season has ended. Now comes our isolation season, wet and windy most of the time.  Those who make a living here are tough souls, aware of the price they pay for this much beauty and this much isolation.

If you want to know more about Oregon Coast issues, go to
The Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association is a voluntary association of counties, cities, ports, soil and water conservation districts, Indian Tribes  on the coast, all trying to solve issues of concern to the people living on the coast.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Natural and Man-made Beauties

I don't know what holds my attention longer: the view at Battle Rock overlooking Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, the food at the newly opened Redfish Restaurant, or the exquisite Hawthorne Gallery next door to the restaurant.  These are Port Orford's premiere destinations, great view, superb food, outstanding art.
The young man on the motorcycle is Chris Hawthorne. He, his wife Julie, their children, sisters and brothers are all artists, in different media.  Their work is featured in many museums and galleries. 

When they opened Redfish Restaurant, named after the Redfish Marine Reserve you can see by sitting on the patio above, Port Orford received an additional jewel, an enticing and well appointed restaurant with world-class pedigree.  We ate lunch here today, delightfully constructed salads with grilled salmon for hubby and chicken for me,  freshly baked bread, delicious wine, and a view  unequaled anywhere. 

WE don't have to leave home to have great food anymore.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two-Piece Orchestra

This is a unshameful plug for two favorite musicians on the release of their new cd:

Two Piece Orchestra

Follow the link, give it a listen.

You are Welcome!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Perspectives of a writer.....

I live like a writer now, from the time my eyes open in the morning:
i walk around with a camera looking for small things
and i talk to myself the whole time
the story in front of me
revealing details and strings
dead cells
life under cover
here and there
waiting for intervention
waves of stimulus
salt water to push them to spring
to life to find movement and rhythm of the universe.
I live like a writer now, the smallest thing tells the biggest story to me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Back in Time

Sometimes, I think we stepped back in time when we moved to this hamlet. People here love the sixty's, cars, music, clothes, attitudes.  I was a teen in the sixties. I understand.

On a day when old cars are paraded and people pose with their favorite, a holiday fixture we call Show and Shine, the Sixties are alive and well.  In this last photo, Mr. and Mrs. Miller from Brookings pose with their Pontiac and a picture of him sitting on his first car, a Pontiac similar to the one he is standing close to, now a labor of love to maintain his memories intact.

Happy Labor Day, wherever you are!