Saturday, January 30, 2010

Every Once in a While a book Comes...

Every once in a while we read something or watch something that stops us cold, takes us back to our roots, or makes us tumble down our perch.

At our last book club's meeting we discussed Matthew B. Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft, a philosophical treatise of the value of manual work.

The book is not our usual fare. We read lighter stuff, fictional narratives mostly.  Our favorite book had been  The Last Chinese Chef.  Why this book then?  Because each of us attempts to bring something new to the group, something with which we are not acquainted.

This book takes me back to the times of my parents, and their parents, a time when shop classes were full of young men learning carpentry, mechanics, electronics.  My maternal grandparents represented in this picture, Anna and Paolo Rapolla, and their oldest girls, Graziella and Addolorata, my mother, were land owners, well to do people, who hired help whenever they needed to. However, they had a "can-do" attitude about everything. If something broke, they tried to fix it with whatever materials were available.  They sewed all their clothes, grew their own food, canned and preserved what they needed to survive harsh winters, and taught their children, boys as well as girls to solve their own problems at home and at school.  Punishment was doled out fairly, and praise was reserved for outstanding accomplishement.  Nobody received a student of the day stamp, or a student of the month certificate.  These tangible tokens were rare, reserved for the top achiever in the entire school.  Work was visible, appreciated, valued, and understood.

The book covers the distance we have come in our work places from a time when we knew the product and how to fix it if it broke, to the present time when we are on an assembly line that stretches across the entire globe, where a product is envisioned, blueprinted, digitalized, packaged and sold before it ever gets out of the factory which might be made of many parts assembled in different locations, with instructions written in different languages. Ugh? I'm tired just thinking about this.

So, doing is no longer bound with thinking.

I can be working on a piece of a puzzle I have no idea what it is.

My success rests on two things only: how I interact with my boss; and how I appear to be useful.  My bullshitting skills are more important than any other skill.

When the product breaks down, finding out who did what that caused this or that, may be a monumental problem. Look at today's problem of Toyota's.

Our value and self-concept are now based on the opinions of others, not the quality of our work.
Why, many products are manufactured with defects that make them throw-a-ways, one use only.  We are so tied down to keeping the present job because without it we cannot pay the mortgage or the bill at the orthodontist, that we do what is required of us without questioning, without lifting an additional finger, without tipping the balance of power and relationships. 

No wonder we feel empty, depressed and dissatisfied. Time to go shopping for something to make us feel better, right after we stop to drink at the place where they know our name, and won't tell on us.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Too old or Too Broken

At some point in the life of a product, something goes wrong, can't be fixed easily or economically, and we begin to lose confidence, worry about the expense of repairs, worry about encountering problems when it is really inconvenient, such on the high seas, on a deserted road, when there is fragile cargo still to be delivered. 

We worry and we decide how to deal with the worry, either by replacing the boat or car with a newer model, or by hiring a good mechanic/handy-man to repair or replace parts that will give us back our peace of mind.

Not everything can be replaced, repaired or discarded. 

Some things are too precious to fuss with or to discard: an old watch our Dad left us, the old silver urn Mother gave us, the mink coat, too out of style.

Don't you ever worry that we too may be too old to be repaired, too out of style to be relevant, needing too much to be maintained and treasured?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Simple Things

I just came back from visiting a new blog, Christina's  Soul Apertures.

It stopped me cold. I'm here to list my simple things:

*a view like this
*a plate of spaghetti
*a phone call from my kids/grandkid
*a kiss
*a walk
*a rainy day that ends in sunshine

Write your simple things today and be thankful.  Visit Christina's post and add your comment. Her spirit will soar and her comments  will help the folks in Haiti.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Following the Rivers

Coos Bay and Charleston are sixty miles north of Port Orford, up on Highway 101, about an hour away, on the Coos River.

It is the place where we go to shop and eat out.

On weekends we go see a movie, pick up groceries, buy tools and equipment, spend an entire day out of the house, especially when the weather is awfull and we suffer from cabin fever.

Coos Bay sits a bit inland on the Coos River, and the fishing village of Charleston sits at the mouth of the same river.  Coos Bay used to be a very important port for shipping lumber down to Eureka and San Francisco starting in the mid 1800's. Most towns on this south coast were set up for lumber harvest.  Besides military and provisions posts, towns were company towns, with one or two mills, trucks, stores and conveniences including small cottages all built to support the lumber industry.  There are some exciting stories about this area, about the lumber barons who ran and coordinated just about everything.  The beautiful gardens of Shore Acres were part of the summer residence of Mr. Simpson, a rich and prominent citizen with households in North Bend, Coos Bay, Charleston, Eureka and San Francisco. 

The sky was a bit unstable. Dark clouds kept many people indoors.

There are no ocean views on the way to Coos Bay.  Forests and ranches parallel the highway for hundreds of miles.

The entire state of Oregon still has unspoiled territories, wild rivers, roadless forests.
Most lumber mills have closed, as forests have been designated as State or Federal Natural Reserves.
The town of Port Orford is leading the way in preservation of these natural habitats.

Read the award winning books of Tim Palmer and Anne Vileisis, a husband and wife writing team residing here, supporting and promoting preservation and ecological balance:

Trees and Forests of America, by Tim Palmer
Rivers of America, by Tim Palmer
Discovering the Unknown Landscape, by Anne Vileisis
Kitchen Literacy, by Anne Vileisis

Deer, elk, bear and turkeys  share our roads. Artists, writers, scientists and conservationists inhabit our towns.

At night, city lights are dimmed or turned off, an ordinance allowing residents to enjoy the spectacular night skies. A wide rainbow of sheer white linen stretches from one end of the sky to the other,  a night sky Milky Way more spectacular than one can imagine guides our steps.

Driving sixty miles to do the weekly shopping is a small price to pay for all this beauty.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is it real, or is it created?

The photographs are real. The action is real. The characters are real. The emotions are real.
So, why is it that writing a memoir feels like writing fiction?

Those of you who have been following my other blog, When I Was Your Age, memoir stories
will notice a certain style that is different from this blog. 

It is a trick of the mind, a suspension of time and place similar to writing fiction: Reliving past events of long ago feels like one is seeing a movie, an old black and white, grainy, barely audible, frought with pauses and erasures.

All the pain, and the anxiety and the homesickness and the confusion, all return in good dose. Selecting episodes to portray these emotions without falling in murky waters of self-pity becomes the issue.

You tell yourself: I have to tell the truth!
You tell yourself: This is not interesting to anybody else.
You tell yourself: What if I make somebody mad?

WE tell stories because we must tell them. There is something that needs to come out in plain light.

Your understanding, encouragement and support are dearly appreciated.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Sunshine Award: Continued

Please visit my previous post for details.

Today's nominees for the Sunshine Award are:

Eleonora at  a trip to Italy, including all things tasty.

Ribbon at  a view into fragments and memory of life in Australia.

Nicky at life in South Africa, its beauty and its challenges.

At no other time in history did we touch each other so easily, with a click of a finger on a computer pad. We can see sights, learn history, taste new foods, understand the challenges and hopes of people all over the world.

I have known the three ladies mentioned above for a long time; my eyes have widened and my appreciation of people's resilience and good will has grown each time I read their posts.

With each visit, we change; we widen our perspective; we grow wings.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Sunshine Award from Italy!


I want to thank Me at Decomondo for nominating me for this award.

18 gennaio 2010

Ho ricevuto un fiore - The Sunshine Award

Pablo Picasso:

"Everything you can imagine is real."

Those who receive The Sunshine Award are required to pass the award onto bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogosphere.
I am very flattered that Me considers me "inspirational".

Thank you, Me..

These are her words:

"All of our life is soaked with creativity even if it is art to be its major outlet. It is nestled in each of us and, if properly stimulated, bursts out. We need to take care of it, to strengthen it and to grow it into its beautiful and precious flourishing.

It's my pleasure to give over The Sunshine Award, the flower of creativity, to bloggers whose positive attitude, motivation, improvement and creativity at 360 degrees I admire.

lakeviewer - Sixtyfivewhatnow

L'esperienza di vita di lakeviewer ha dei punti in comune con la mia, in quanto entrambe facciamo parte degli espatriati che hanno lasciato il loro paese in cerca di orizzonti nuovi.

Amo leggere i suoi racconti sull'infanzia a Venosa, città di Orazio, nei pressi della quale anch'io ho vissuto per un paio d'anni; mi piace la sua vivacità e la creatività con la quale affronta la vita.

The lakeviewer's life experience has some points in common with mine, we both are part of the expatriates who have left their country in search of new horizons.

I love to read her memories about Venosa, the birth town of Horace, near which I also have lived for a couple of years; I like her vitality and creativity in facing the life."

The rules for accepting this award:

- Put the logo on your blog or within your post.

- Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.

- Link the nominees within your post.

- Let the nominees know they have received this .

Since I know way too many bloggers who deserve this award, I will feature one at each posting.

So, my first recipient, someone who needs to be known by all for her creative spirit,strength of character, and positive energy:

Renee at

- Share the love, visit and give out this award to deserving souls.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rainy Days and Mondays

The Northwest coastal weather this time of the year is rainy the majority of the time. Light, soft rain,  and hurricane force torrential squalls, all in the same hour.

We wear rain gear all the time, on short and long trips.

We don't use umbrellas. We wear Gore-Tex, a specialty material designed to keep us dry.

To travel anywhere, we cross rivers, creeks, forests and hamlets. Our roads are one-laners, curvy and blind, often crossed by deer, elk, turkeys and a variety of other animals.

After a good storm, be prepared to stop and wait for transportation workers to clear roads of fallen trees and other debris.

No wonder that we have so many micro-breweries to help us cope with cabin fever. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Writing Your Life Story

How do you write your life story? 

Like footprints on the sand
your life appears
jumbled, confused
mixed with feelings of regret
lost opportunities
unrequieted loves.

You resolve to follow the signs
the clues of a passing life
a shoe print
a picture
a pebble
an old necklace
a feeling
a smell
washed away in a minute by that errant wave crashing around you.

When you find it, take it home, put it in a bottle on a window sill and cherish it a bit longer.

If you're interested in how I am managing to write my life story check my other blog.

Life story:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Window Views

Through a Window. One minute dark and ominous. The next, bright and shiny.

Visit Merit at

One last urgency

This is where I am now. Sorrounded by beauty everywhere, I don't want anything else. Food, shelter, companionship, creative pursuits, community support, children who are self sufficient and not needing us any more: all these things make me extremely happy.

My one urgency: my life story. 

If you're not sick of me, check my memoir blog:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Playing Golf

We live a few miles from an exclusive golf resort, Bandon Dunes, a huge complex for serious golfers who enjoy playing on links with ocean views and panoramas resembling Scottish links.

This picture was not taken there.

Most of the locals would love to play golf; but, we can't afford the fees and the clothing, and the caddies, and the entire experience of Bandon Dunes.  Most of us will hit the ball at a miniature golf place, or in our backyards, or at a less expensive venue.

The trouble Oregon will have in the election at the end of this month is convincing citizens to up the business tax base. Our initial business tax is $10-ten dollars. Yes, ten dollars.  Prop. 66 and 67 ask the voters to reform this ordinance by making the tax commensurable to the income the business generates.

Fair. Equitable. 

The opposition contends that passing these propositions, upping business taxes and upping the percentage of income tax for folks with income above 250,000, doing that would imperil job creation.

Our caddies at Bandon Dunes are part-time college students. The number hired is proportional to the number of players who fly in on their private jets to play for the weekend. These folks are dropping an average of $3,000 for a few days of golf in an unspoiled paradise.  Charging a higher tax base will have no effect on the number of golfers or caddies. It will, however, have an effect on the number of teachers Bandon School District will layoff. 

The State coffers have fewer dollars for education; schools are forced to cut additional days and additional staff if these propositions fail.

Politics is a game we all play.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On the shore.

Sometimes, while you hesitate to take the next step, it helps to know that there is a life-saving device nearby, and a perceptive and attentive lifeguard.

Families usually play this role. They are there when you need them. They'll throw you a life jacket, or ring, or pole, and keep you from sure destruction.  This assurance, this belief that no matter what I've done, how stupidly I've acted, when I'm in deep doo-doo, the family will throw me a life-saving device, this comforts us, and lets us forgive and forget all the trauma that exists in families.

Friends also play this role. They point out our mistakes and our idiosyncracies right to our face. We expect them to keep us out of trouble, for our own good. We expect them to drive us home after a beer binge, after a fight, after we have lost our ability to control our lives. They know enough secrets and weaknesses, that if they got upset with us, they could become our worst enemies. 

Writing buddies have the special role of encouraging and detecting. Sometimes, they become such good friends, that they tend to do one or the other. They want to detect all the time; or, encourage all the time.  Unlike teachers who tend to keep a distance, making sure mistakes are always noticed and corrected, writing buddies have to find this balance.  Too friendly, and the critical eye suffers; too critical, and the friendly blanket is dropped.

That brings me to blogging friends.  Without any protocols, we have taken up our roles and fit right in. We encourage, we sympathize, we add to the discussion, we visit often enough to pick out the patterns of each other's lives, and we socialize beautifully.   When we get tired, we drop out of sight.

Don't you wish life was always this easy?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Traces of life.

Even if we have not made new resolutions, maintaining our current status requires heavy maintenance. Sometimes, it takes all our energies to go through the day in one piece.

I'm not complaining.
Not now.
Not now that I'm retired.

I'm actually tasked with too much time on my hands.
Too many hours of leisure.
Too much food to be consumed before it spoils.
Too many blessings to list in my nightly prayers.

I have the time to be engaged in as many activities as I want.
I have the luxury to pick and choose.
I can say no to chores.
I can spend my day any way I want.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself. And that's the time to write my memoir, to retrace my steps, to tell my story before it all becomes a blur.  It's the time to share the journey of my life before my life requires heavy duty maintenance again.

If you feel like it, and you have the leisure to read, you may want to follow me:

If you are in your senior years, you too ought to retrace your steps, leave breadcrumbs of memory for your grandkids to map your journey.  They are not likely to sit down and listen now. They may not be interested in your story until you have passed. But, you wrote it down, and it will be available when curiosity strikes. 

So, start today:

Tell it in your own words, while you have the time, while heavy maintenance is still in the future.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Day

The day has ended like the year, dark shadows and dead branches silhouetted against a setting sun.

Tomorrow, cows will graze lazily on Floras Creek, showing or hiding the political campaign sign, our own destiny written on a wide field.

We have things to look forward to.

And things to forget.

Will make a new list.

And bet the sun will come up again from the East.

Happy New Day! Happy New Year!