Sunday, February 28, 2010


Saturday was sunny and clear. We took a short walk in the morning and drove up to Bandon for lunch.  We sat and ate our crab enchilada and chicken cesar salad, drank Pinot Grigio and Long Island Ice Tea, and watched these pelicans on the rocks the entire time, as we enjoyed our meal in comfort at Lord Bennett's Restaurant.

We didn't know that a tsunami warning had been issued for the Pacific Coast as a result of the enormous earthquake in Chile.

After lunch, we decided to take our long walk of the day as we digested our meal.  The tide was still high, and walking had to occurr on the bluffs above the surf line, 30+ feet on solid land. We were halfway through our walk, when some tourist mentioned a tsunami arrival in his greeting. We cut our walk short and  got back to the car and the radio, at the time that the tsunami was about to hit Hawaii. 

We thought about our cottage on the lake and its possible destruction, the aggregated history in boxes and on the computer. Everything would be gone.  Our car, where I used to keep backpacks of emergency supplies when we first came up from California, is empty except for rain gear and baseball caps.  We had no food, no meds, no blankets.

I thought about Cloudia at Comfort Spiral and Pseudonym High School Teacher, two bloggers from Hawaii. 

I thought about the rest of my family in Southern California, in low land.

By the time we got back home, I had totally forgotten about the need to have emergency supplies in the car.

Why is it that we think these things won't happen to us?

These events should shake us up.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cabin Fever and other Ailments...

This is the time for me to complain a bit. We are having one storm after another, plenty of rain and wind and fallen branches all over the place. I can barely leave my front door.

The place is brimming with budding new growth.

But, it is also soaked and overburdened.  Even the resident deer are leaving for drier grounds.

Right about now, snow looks good to me, slopes on Mt. Ashland.
On the other hand, I shouldn't be complaining.

I get more time to read, write, visit in blogland, and cook.
Never mind. My apple pie is ready!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Organic Food in Schools

Most of us have experienced the difference in taste and quality of organic food.  Most of us purchase our food from farmers' markets that bring local produce and local meats to our neighborhoods.  Schools, however, in the U.S.,  have relied on surplus ingredients from the Dep. of Agriculture to subsidize lunch and breakfast programs.  Menus have relied on packaged goods laden with calories, salt, sugar and preservatives that allowed the products to be stored for years.

First Lady Michelle Obama has called attention to the quality of food served to children. And a movement to improve school lunches has been launched.

Last week, I read about a campaign by the Organic Trade Association. You may want to read the entire article on page four of Port Orford Today, February 17, 2010:

Titled Organic Food in Schools, the article talks about how the Organic Trade Association is conducting the initiative as an extention of its consumer education and awareness campaign. This particular campaign allows citizens to vote and sign up their local schools to receive start up funds to set up an organic garden. Check them out:

Our local food pantry is already receiving organic food donations from local ranchers, fisheries and farms.  People here are generous and open hearted.

Let's all work to bring top quality food to our children's lunch and breakfast programs. They deserve no less.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Falling in Love

In Blink, Malcom Gladwell shows you that we have a second set of skills we are not aware of; skills that allow us to instantly choose and decide what we like, what is best for us.  These skills are not consciously available; they work best in those blink decisions. When we fall in love, that's what happens.

And that's how we ended up in Port Orford.

We were coming up one late afternoon from the South, on that red highway.  The highway had been shrouded in fog, most of the way.  When we came to that curve of the road, we saw the town's lights, resplendent, clear and brilliant against the rest of the world. 

It was a Brigadoon Moment.

We stopped for the night at The Castaway Motel, up on a ridge overlooking the port. Late in the night, the port kept working hoisting boats up and down the dry dock. We sat and watched for hours. The next morning, we drove to a real estate office and asked to see anything with a view of the water.

The first house we saw was on the lake, on a peninsula facing the Ocean. While hubby looked inside the house, I walked down to the waterfront. From that spot, I could see clear out to Qua-to-Ma Rock, the old man's face lying on the water  told me I had arrived to my final destination.

With tears in my eyes, I walked backed up to the house.

"Let's buy this place!" I said.
"Don't you want to see the inside?" Hubby responded.
"I've seen enough. This is for us."

Seven years later, after we replaced the roof, the flooring, the kitchen, the siding, after we added a sunroom, a French garden, a well, after sinking a good amount of money, we are in love with this place as much as we were on that first day.

Hubby is a scientist by training. He agrees that there was  much to love about this place, and all its negatives could not have dissuaded us.

Thanks Mr. Gladwell for explaining this behavior.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't Box Them In

Living things grow.

Their needs change.

 People, birds, dogs, cats, all finite and limited, share times together and leave each other enriched somehow. We grieve, we feel injured and forlorn when a beloved pet passes, when a friend leaves, when a parent dies.  We may be the only living beings mourning other living beings.

Even when we know that a friend is on a journey, we miss him/her.  Something in us needs those connections to remain intact.

We paint, we write, we built cages and boxes to keep our memories alive.

In the last few weeks some blog mates have left blogland and I miss them already.  Something in each of them added to my understanding and appreciation of the world. Their words, their pictures, their life stories, their creative work added to the meal of each day, the sunshine that warms me.

I shall miss Erin's poetry. I wish her well on her journey. She deserves much success and more appreciation. May her star shine brightly.

I will look for her comet to return.

Riding a Recession

Fishermen know a thing or two about recessions. They call it weather,luck, and greed. Their recession can occurr any time of the year, any year, even when their boats are sitting on dry dock. If weather doesn't interfere with their job, fish runs might. Even with a great catch, the price set in advance by the buyers' cooperatives may end up causing a recession.  This year, back in December, the crab catch was excellent. Yet, as time progressed, the catch didn't quite turn out as anticipated.

The price of crab had been set in advance of the season; it was actually a bet on how much crab would be available and how much customers were willing to pay for it.

Farmers know recessions too. They call it weather, infestations/luck, and greed. The cranberry harvest was excellent back in October; but so was the harvest back on the other coast. The price of cranberries was lowered, and the farmers made less this year with a good harvest than last year with a mediocre harvest.

Nobody can control weather or luck.

We can surely try to control the human factor, greed.  

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Heartbreak of Valentine.

No. I will not post pink -frilly-hot-house flowers here.
I will not perpetuate the myth and the commercialism.
I will not become an advertisement maven today. Though, the couple above is worth listening to today:

The Comforters

I'm going to tell you why we should not celebrate this day.  You'll agree with me shortly.

When I was the principal of Almondale Middle School, the most anticipated dance by the thirteen and fourteen year old set was Valentine Dance, usually held either before or on the 14th, preferably at an evening dance.  The entire week was devoted to planning and decorating the gym for such an event.

Girls talked about the dress/heels/makeup.
Parents talked about refreshments, decorations, lighting, music, all the various details and logistics of putting on a dance.
Boys worried about not being the only ones there. They came to be entertained and surprised at all the fuss.

I worried about getting enough supervision and guidance.

Yes, guidance.

Inevitably, a dozen girls would be in tears even before the dance started. Something would happen to the dress, the friend they had hoped would show up, the friend who showed up but danced with somebody else, the friend who showed up but stood around the entire time. The worst part, they had not given themselves time to enjoy the evening with the friends they had. 

Their lives were ruined! An hour in the event, and many would call home in tears. Many remained locked in bathrooms, inconsolable, the rest of the evening.

By the end, only a handful of girls were happy and cheery. The rest were angry or sad; everyone  disappointed in something.

Now, if I had to evaluate  an event's success, at the top of the list would be the number of people who enjoyed the event.

Valentine's Day Dance would fail.

Nothing could turn out as anticipated.

The secret to happiness is to just let it happen. Don't plan it; don't coax it; don't spend a fortune in conjuring it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oregon Islands

This is Bandon, 23 miles north of Port Orford, on the Pacific Coast, in Oregon, USA.
The temperatures are in the mid-50's. The wind is mild. The sun is shining.
It's Tuesday, February 9th, 2010.

In a few hours, wind and  rain pushed everyone indoor.Off Cape Blanco winds clocked at 70 miles an hour through the night, and trees and debris scattered everywhere.

It is Friday as I write this.  It has been windy and rainy and grey for three days now.
The storm will gather forces over the prairies, receive strength from the Canadian winds and connect with the Gulf Stream to create havoc on the East Coast.

This is typical weather for us.
What's not typical are the number of days with great weather that follow each storm.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dressing the Naked

There are two things we need to navigate today's world: costumes and lighting!
What? You might be surprised at this allegation. You might think I'm just joking.
No. I'm the serious type.
Though, I really enjoy Jon Steward's nightly sparring; occasional dips in Jay Leno's irresistable hair do and possible spins in his fabolous sports cars.

 The sign above is a landmark in Hollywood. I told you a story about a friend and I in that shop,  in my  memoir  entitled Hollywood Dreams.

I'm digressing.

We need costumes, from shoes to hair color/cut/enhancements, to participate in social discourse. Costumes let us in the house. As those folks found out when they leisurely strolled in and nobody stopped them at The White House.  Their costume was most appropriate. Costumes identify you as a rock star, a secretary, a CEO.

Costumes tell the world who we are, how much respect or reverence we anticipate, and how people should address us.  No wonder The Pope keeps wearing those ancient outfits and insists nuns and priests all dress alike.  He knows all about costumes.

We also need lighting.  George, right under the costume shop up there, I happen to know, used to have just a small shop. But, with much finesse and perseverance, he spread his goods all over the first storey,  insisting that lighting needs respect.  I ask you the same thing: would you go in a place with poor lighting?  Didn't you read Hemingway's short story, A Clean,Well-lighted Place? Didn't your mother teach you anything about applying your make-up with plenty of light?

You will not frequent  places that  are stingy with their lights.

In a well-lighted place nobody will cheat, rape, or serve lousy food.

I digress.

We are coming up on Fat Tuesday, the day for banquets, merriments, and the wearing of strange costumes. It is the last day before we regroup and repent. It is the last day for shedding our usual costume and don some outlandish robe that will make us feel more important, more daring, more loved, more respected, more rich, more of everything we want and don't have within our daily confines.

It is also a day when we can shed that identity we are draped with, for all to judge us, forever pinning us in place.

We can finally let our imagination  run wild.

Why, with just the right lighting, we can be Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie for one day.

You think costumes are just for Hollywood and for Fat Tuesday?  What are you wearing today?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sundays: A walk on Memory Lane.

(Note: this was a draft in my other blog that ended up here before it was finished. I decided to let it be; you decide if you want to read more by visiting my  memoir)


Los Angeles basks in constant warmth with its ever- present
sunshine caressing everything it touches, winking at newly watered lawns, blushing and blurring the edges. Seasons change like Polaroid picturea, intriguing the senses before catching the eyes.

“Quick, let’s go shopping before fall fashions give way to spring suits.” We say jokingly.

Time sits still, posing for photos.

Our lives, Uncle's, his wife's, his three babies', were languid reflections, plastic toys bobbing in the backyard pools, leaves streaming from one end to the other, suddenly settling at the bottom of the drain.

Five years had passed in suspended animation- in a spell brought out by some evil force.

At  first, I felt a trusting innocence. Everything new and green.

 Then, a sudden cold winter chill, a whip-lash on a freeway going eighty miles an hour. I felt too scared to change lanes, frozen by fear and disbelief. 

Yet, every letter I sent back home showed  nothing but broad smiles and  sunny dispositions.

The truth sat behind the camera.

The truth was revealed on Sundays.

Sundays. I went to the eight o’clock Mass. The prayers were in Latin, ancient language of my people, still with me through those rituals. Every mass felt as if my Mother and I were together, she with a shawl covering her head, bowed in resignation, grateful that I had escaped a fate like hers, thanking God and the Virgin Mary for the life her daughter was enjoying.

“Oh Mamma, If you only knew!” I was praying to the Virgin Mary, and talking to my Mother, one and the same to a crying heart.

“Please, Mother, Virgin Mary, guide me, save me from my anger and my loneliness.”
"Why, daughter, why are you unhappy? You are ungrateful and spoiled. How did this happen?" These were the words I heard spoken back at me.

I couldn't explain my life.
I only wanted to end it.
I NEEDED  to send a message to all the saints.
I needed a miracle.

After church, I prepared the day’s main meal and waited for the rest of the family to gather together. I waited,  watching television, watching Donna Reed and her perfect world where  children were loved and families were whole.

On Sundays, Uncle went to ride his bike, his wife read the Sunday paper, and the children watched television snacking on potato chips and dip. Nobody ate the meal I had prepared.

On Sundays, Uncle’s wife would barge in my bedroom room and rummaged through my papers, my clothes before telling me what the problem was.

“What’s wrong?” I asked,  feeling like a sinking raft. 

“Do you want rats in the house? You are used to rats, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Well, this is not your rat infested hovel back home. We are civilized here.” She was holding a piece of bread that had been left on the table from lunch time and shouting at the top of her voice.

Mortified, confused with shame and disappointment, I tried to explain the bread left on the table: “Uncle was at the table. I thought he had finished!”

I just wanted to scream.

The truth was that we never sat and ate like the family I knew. Back home, everyone came to the table for the main meal. First, while waiting for everything to be ready, we snacked on olives, celery. Then, taking up our assigned seats, with Papa’ at the head of the table, the midday meal would be served. The whole meal was woven with story telling, singing.

“Mangia, mangia” Mother encouraged. The meal would end two, three hours later, when
groggy from all that food, people took a long siesta,  discussing “sotto voce” so the little ones and the very old could nap comfortably.

I loved those Sundays.

Meals were prepared according to recipes passed down for generation.  Never written, never changed, the ingredients came from our farm, seeds carefully stored and carefully passed down from family to family. All of life’s moments were shared at these meals. Grandma Maria Rosaria would join each of her seven children, once a week for a midday meal that would stretch into the evening. She arrived before noon, right after the last Mass, and she regal us with stories about her childhood,  when as an only child, her pa‘pa, the padrone of the masseria, would take her on buggy rides, visiting neighbors, checking on the land that nourished them for generations.

“These hazelnuts taste just like those on that piece of land by the river, the one your great-nonna got as a wedding present. Have not tasted any thing that good. Too bad I lost it all when we went to Brazil. Those crooks sold the land right from under us. We lost everything.” Those ‘crooks’ were her brothers who instead of managing the land, saw an opportunity to sell and cash in the profits.

Invariably,  the conversation would include her greatest adventure, her time in Brazil. She lost a child there, and disappointed and homesick she and Nonno returned to Italy penniless. Nonno died a few years later, leaving his wife with seven children to raise by herself.

She spoke of humid heat, of flowers of exceptional perfume, mango and bananas, fruit I had never tasted. She painted canvasses of extreme beauty and extreme harshness, life and death in the same frame.

Papa' would sing a  song about a man living away from home, missing his mom. Tears streamed from everybody’s faces, especially at the end: “ Mamma, solo per te…..E per l’amore not ti lascerei mai piu”, (Mamma, because of you, ….and for that love I will never leave you again).  Papa’s voice, a beautiful tenor strengthened from years of performing at weddings and anniversaries, was grandma’s pride and joy.

We tasted happiness with each bite, each song, each movement. It felt like the joyful harvesting of grapes, family and neighbors singing along as they collected grapes from one vineyard to the other.

A lifetime sat with us at these meals.

And Sunday was our day to splurge, cook a stuffed rabbit, redolent with garlic and basil, stuffed with leftover bread, sage and wild mushrooms. The meal was begun after Mother returned from the early mass, the mass for Mothers and old ladies .

The rabbit was fattened in the cellar, months of scampering among wine flasks, eating scraps we brought down every time we went to the cellar, four, five times or more a day.

Always with plenty of tomato sauce to coat the homemade pasta, the rabbit had stewed for hours, perfuming the entire house, sending inviting perfume to the whole neighborhood. Sunday meals lasted all day, until every thing had been eaten and everyone felt satisfied.

The world was full with food and company on Sundays.

On Sundays, I was famished and lonely.

The Value of Wetlands

Wetlands have enormous ecological value: they provide food and shelter for emerging life as water and waste are slowly filtered and changed.

These are in- between spaces, looking like wasteland, with rotting matter and unattractive growth. Sometimes cities rush to clear these spaces and reclaim them as real estate.

When that happens, it is like reclaiming the night, the time we need to rest, change, make sense of our world, retain important information for our survival.

Our  lists and debris  get churned and dumped out by the morning light.

Go ahead. Let things be for a while.
Your own thoughts need to perculate through sandy banks, reedy channels, before they can become clear and recognizable.

Evolution takes time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Page Turners

Pick a page, any page. 

I just conducted an experiment. I chose these memoirs, and looked at page 20, selecting a line or two on that page.  I then scrambled the books, and tried to match the quote to the right book.  See what you can come up with.

Books Titles:

Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Julia Child, My Life in France

Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes

1.  "I've also been asked what I was doing in bed with a Republican. And in order to demonstrate my loyalty to the Democratic party, I tell people that I may have slept with a Republican, but I actually had sex with a Democratic senator."

2. "We went to a little place in Saint-Germain where the food was fine, although nothing compared with La Couronne (the standard by which I would now measure every eatery), and disappointigly packed with tourists."

3. (note that the paragraph starts on the previous page. I'm selecting a line in the middle)
             "Even the simple act which we describe as 'seeing someone we know' is to some extent and intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the person we see with all the notions we have already formed about him..."

4.  " And from every adult he spoke to he got the same response:
'You best talk to your daughter, Mr.Dunham. White girls don't play
 with coloreds in this town.' "

5."I thought I had fallen to bits before, but now (in harmony with the apparent collapse of the entire world) my life really turned to smash. I wince now to think of what I imposed on David during those months we lived together, right after 9/11 and my separation from my husband."

6.  "The apartment is empty and I wander between the two rooms, the bedroom and the kitchen. My father is looking for a job, and my mother is at the hospital with Malachy. I wish I had something to eat but there is nothing in the icebox but cabbage leaves floating in the melted ice."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Simple Things, catching the wave...

What makes you happy?
For me, it's a calm day at the dock, to catch crab, to watch sea life.

What are the simple things that keep you going?

Visit Chris at enchanted oakfor more simple things . Find out what she and others are doing to help the people of Haiti.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We live here!

Every day, rain or shine, we walk
Around the lake, down to the dock, to the beaches
The Pacific calling with rumbles and splashes. 

First thing in the morning, we look out
and see this.
Then, we  breathe in deeply
Thank God
we are alive.