Friday, December 30, 2011

One foot stomping.

I am posed the same way as my cat, head looking one way, body  facing the opposite. I have one foot in and one out of the door, not sure how far to venture out.  The holidays and company have worn us out. We are going to need our routine back, our lives back to normal.

Not a chance!
The Normal Train left the station without us.

What's in store for 2012?

We have purchased fiddles and a tuner, and are ready to make music, Hubby and I. We are both taking a class and we'll be getting off our couches every Tuesday evening to join other adults learning to play a new instrument. I'm looking forward to  stomp my feet and  make merry.

This is a first for me! Our children were playing various instruments since they were little. Hubby was in a marching band in  high school. Our daughter has made music her career.  I am the only one without any musical knowledge. Why now?

Why not? I have the time; I have the desire, and the opportunity may not be here next year.

How about you? What new endeavors are you pursuing in 2012?

Whatever they are, may they be music to your ears.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A sense of place.

You are looking at Cape Blanco Lighthouse, at the tip of Cape Blanco, the westernmost tip of the contiguous states. We are in the Far West, and the myth about the West lives here still.

Around us are ranches, forests, cranberry bogs, pastures, and tiny towns, of which Port Orford and Langlois are the closest. The land is rugged. Only one highway, US 101 parallels the coast and connects California on the south, to Washington,  on the north.

We were the last frontier here in Oregon. The Oregon Trail moved people from the East to the West through many territories. We all have ancestors who came this way and settled here.  My husband's family started out in the Carolinas, and made its way west, landing in Utah first before settling in in Willocreek, Montana, and in Oregon and Washington.

My great Uncle Giuseppe arrived in San Francisco as a youth, to make his fortune in California during the gold rush. He settled in Fresno and Los Angeles, where I landed as a seventeen year old from Italy.
We were all drawn to the open land, the sense of adventure and opportunities that the West promised.

Right here and right now, our young people are moving away from their family ranches to seek their fortunes in big cities, East, North, South, to Europe, Asia. They'll join a fishing expedition in Alaska, go raise cattle in Utah, dig for oil in Louisiana. The West offered much, but it is still a wild place, full of natural beauty, but lacking in jobs and opportunities.

Retirees are moving to these small places. They are enchanted by the wild rivers, the spectacular ocean views, and the thundering sound of crushing waves. They are also amazed at how little this place has changed since it was first occupied as Fort Orford, a military outpost to protect ships and lumber workers as they loaded up and moved lumber down the Pacific to Eureka, and San Francisco.

We are still on the frontier, in a sense. We must be prepared to live without electricity for days after a major storm as the highway may be impassable, and no truck or car full of provisions can make deliveries or bring repairmen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

May your days be merry and bright...

The sun is shining Bright here in the Far West, on Christmas Eve.
Newkie is making Merry, as murmurs of starlings cause her to change positions. It is, otherwise, a quiet morning, destined to be a quiet night too, with an occasional Crab boat's  bobbing lights disturbing her rest for a few seconds.

I have all I need in front of me, she says. The crab boat will bring me fresh fish; the people in the house will change my litter box soon after my needs are met.
I'm the pet of the house and they treat me as though I were a Christmas present!

Don't you wish your present was this good?

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trust your instincts.

I noticed the colors in this living room corner this morning as I sipped on my first cup of espresso. The chair had been moved to make room for the Christmas tree. (in the last picture). Wow, I said, who knew that i could put these colors together, and at my age! (I'm celebrating 70 next month!)

Humbly, I bought this chair with no reservations a month ago. A chair that fits my 5' frame, a burned orange to go with the chocolate brown couch in the next picture.

Yes, the dark couch would have been in character for me, always practical and safe. The green lamp? Another shot in the dark, as the pillows and the red chair in the following picture.

You are looking at another chair for me, a rocker, soft Italian leather and an Irish throw with a splash of green in the pillow.

Is this a new me?
Could be!
I wanted these things all along, for years, but always compromising for the sake of this or that, some random need or aesthetics.  Now,  I sit on this rich leather and surround myself with soft throws here and there and I'm totally comfortable with my instincts, my taste, my needs.

Did I consult experts? Did I use magazines for inspiration? Did I follow some sale signage?
Not this time.

I walked into stores to find what looked and felt good to me. When I found what I liked, I pulled the trigger.  The living room came together, a few pieces at a time, in a matter of weeks.

Now, that Christmas tree decorated with birds? That's  my husband's this is it moment! Enjoy.

(If you want to know the details, makers and shops, email me.)
Happy Holidays, wherever you are.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wishing upon a star, and a moon, and the entire firmament of friends.

Once, in a wishing, bewitching, spell-blinding season like this, in our very own
castle on a hill, behind  ivy thick walls and iron gates that kept evil out and pets and children and wishes close at hand, we thought we lived a great life then, measuring time and love by the empty boxes piled outside on trash days.

In fact, our  trash bin was the only thing that told neighbors and thieves that we lived here, behind the gates, the ivy, the heavy curtains.

 I recognized my neighbors with a hand wave as I drove by their places, neither of us  knowing the name of the other.  I only learned their names after an earthquake caused us to borrow flashlights and bread from each other, take turns figuring out how to shut off the gas lines.

Once, after we had just arrived, we invited people from our neighborhood and our work places to a holiday open house. Only one couple showed up.

Soon, we too stopped trying to meet new people. All we had time to do was work, and on the weekend,  get everything organized so we could return to work.

Now and then, we'd sneak  in a dark movie theater for a couple of hours on a grey day, munch on popcorn, sip on a coke, and escape the numbing routine. For those two hours, whatever was on the screen became our real lives. Friends shared laughter; family got together, issues resolved.

And because of such lives, all punctuated by work and work, we look at this season of wishes as a respite on a great hike. We wish more for ourselves and our families. We wish to hold hands with each other, comfort each other.

This is the season of faithful moments, times when we pause and call on anything and everything that is dear to us, bigger than us, more luminous than us to help us make deep connections.

Happy Holidays, wherever you are. Rejoice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sometimes this isn't enough.

Water, sand, trees, branches, old logs, birds, deer, pebbles,,,,,
These are the things that surround us and keep us focused. When we need something, like milk or bread or underwear, we have to get into the car and drive fifty, sixty, one hundred and fifty miles to find that something. People that are isolated and live with this much beauty do not need much.

Except at Christmas.

Yes, now is the time that stores do what they do so well: they entice you, excite you, whet your appetite for things you didn't know you needed. And they show you the realm of wants all displayed artfully and temptingly.  They deserve all the profits they can make at this time of the year. Without them, we would not know what joys money can buy.

I resist temptation with as much fervor as the Pilgrims did. But at Christmas, I can't be logical and practical. At Christmas, we all turn into Santa. We want to surprise, delight and spoil everyone on our list. We even want to reward the salesperson who is too busy and too harried to answer our questions or show us the ins and out of an appliance. It's O.K we think. Poor guy, he has all these people to attend to!

No wonder then that we will bring out our credit card once again, and charge away. After all, even those poor credit cards companies need warmth and joy this season. We're all dreaming the same dream.

Then, we wish  a Merry Little Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gifts for health.

You can grow your own herbs and natural remedies right at your door, and with a bit of luck, and sunshine, or light from your bulbs this time of the year, you can grow the most beautiful present anyone could possibly receive. Rosemary and thyme can be found in little starts at the nurseries, but for annuals like basil and parsley, you need to start your own seeds. Keep the pot in a warm, sunny or well-lighted place all winter long, and in the spring, you can re-plant outdoors.

Herbal medicine has been around for millenia. I am not trying to sell you any products here, but remind you that what you put in your body sustains you in more ways than you know. Herbs, garlic, onions and ginger all help the digestion, as well as enhance the taste and the smell of food. When I think of my mother, I whip up a plate of spaghetti, redolent with basil and garlic and I'm instantly transported and reliving all my days at the kitchen counter.

In this season of commercialism, I'm planting various herbs, with garlic and chives for my friends. I will label the plant shoots,  and add a note with suggestions and recipes  for the culinary neophyte.

I guarantee that this is not a gift that will end up in a pile in the back closet.
Be sure you plant one for yourself!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

There will be stormy days ahead...

All your life, you stand around with your friends and you practice, and anticipate your role.
You do your best to lay out the next moment, and the next hour, and the next performance.
You practice the tune and are ready to play your part, at the right moment.

Sometimes, at the time when you need to come in, you choke up, you stop breathing, you get a cough, you freeze. Your friends cover for you, and you're safe for now. But you know, deep down, that this can happen again. You know this and you are ashamed and mortified at what happened, and how you couldn't play when your time came up.

You suffered a crisis of confidence. A crisis of identity too. You thought you had done your best to prepare yourself for this moment. And yet...

If your friends and teachers and parents didn't support you and encouraged you through these crises, you would never play an instrument, give a speech, try out for a part, and face challenges that frighten you. No matter your age, you will find that new challenges will be creeping in from all sides, asking you to keep re-tooling, change your manners, learn new ways.

You can't quit every time something feels uncomfortable.

I just faced a new challenge just this week. My husband had minor surgery and before  being sent home the nurse wanted to show me how to apply a wet-to-dry bandaging.  I tend to pass out when needles or blood is involved, and told her so. She insisted it was easy to do. Just as she revealed the open wound (yes, an open wound, hence the wet-to-dry instructions) I broke down.

I can't be afraid of a wound that needs bandaging. There will be more of these ahead as we both grow weaker and sicker. Though we know that Hubby needs to face housework and cooking without me, and I need to face handling technical matters and nursing matters without flinching, there is a whole lot of complications and health issues that we may not anticipate at all.

This new stage of our lives is all about facing our darkest fears. Our parents didn't live this long.  Now that the health industry has so many new procedures to prolong life and good living, we have new challenges to anticipate too, challenges that might frighten us, break us down if we are not prepared.

As for me, I'm taking a nursing course next semester, needles or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011


There is a family of squirrels running  these rails all day long, from one tree to another. Newkie is attentive and patient, measuring every movement to maximize her chances of catching one of them. She has been in the Northwest with us for a few months, experiencing Summer, and Autumn, and today,  a Pacific storm with waves crushing on the rocks sounding like trains changing tracks kept her from venturing out.

She sat and waited, and noticed birds and squirrels ignoring the sound of the waves. She ventured out for a while until hail and snow flurries sent her back in.  Again, she sat by the window and watched and waited.

When she finally saw birds and squirrels on the deck, she asked to be let out again.
The deck was crunchy with hail.
She chose to move around under the chairs and tables before rushing after a squirrel.

I guess if we want something bad enough, we  ignore the discomforts afoot.
She'll adapt to the rain, the wind and the heavy noises soon enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The unconditional condition of the present.

(pictured above: The Port Orford Lifeguard Station, now a Heritage building, full of old memorabilia.)

We used to dream about palaces, big houses with many rooms, for all the things we were going to be! Two, three stories tall, with grounds and gardens and pools. We pulled pictures out of magazines and drooled over them. We dreamed hard; we worked hard; we played at what we would become before we became. We lived on two coasts, the Atlantic and the Pacific. We, Hubby and I, supported each other through our early marriage years, putting each other through school, graduate degrees, post-graduate fellowships, taking turns taking care of our babies or making a living. We hobnobbed with Nobel Laureates, sipped imported wines while eating French food served by butlers, and knew what art to buy, and who wrote the latest bestseller.

Both of us were first-generation college graduates. We were self-made and proud of it!
Our money bought us books, good wine, tickets to the theater.

But our ambition was always bigger than our pocketbook.
If we just paid off the car, then...
When we get the next raise we could...
After the braces and the  music lessons, we might...

When we linger over those days, we can easily slip into a funk. We have to be kind and supportive to our old selves.  We have a lot, we tell ourselves. We did more than we anticipated. We raised beautiful children who grew up to be wonderful adults.

We had real muchness in  our lives.

We have always been clear-headed and resourceful. Now, at this time in our lives, we know what needs to be done and no magazine picture or expert opinion is necessary.
Our health will be our dominant motivation.
If we stay focused, our present will be just as exciting and as rich as our past.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the mood...

(photo: Atelier de Campagne)

Another 'dream' picture, this one for a sun room/garden room. When I lived in Southern California, sunshine pouring in from everywhere, I knew nothing of long grey days, wet and windy days that would keep us indoors for hours.  Now, I need to pretend that the sun will come out soon, and green things can grow anywhere.

Hence, a sun room necessity for the Northwest. Ours is full of outdoor furniture and odds and ends we move around and can't bear  to throw away.  My project this winter is to clear out and keep just the things that put me in a good mood:

This is what I want:

1. Benches and tables.
2. Pots and vases.
3. Snips of Provence in bistro chairs and distressed wood.
4. Plants: cuttings, seeds, starters, full grown olive and fig trees.
5. Watering cans.
6. Dry bouquets of herbs, roses, lavender, assorted flowers.
7. Naked branches and dried grasses for assembling and displaying with some seasonal flair.
8. Easels and paint and paintbrushes for when the mood strikes me.
9. Catalogues and pictures to inspire the gardener, the painter, the naturalist.
10. And last, but not least, a cozy place to nap on, with the sun on my face.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Before and After.

The After picture!
After retiring:
Real woods.
Real planks cut out from those trees out there.
Real weeds.
Real birds and assorted animals.

Real weather.

Before Retiring:
Copied picture of a state of desire:
Bird cages nailed on a wall.
Benches made out of polished veneers.
Imitation birds.
Rustic Dream.

These are the changes that we can control.

(My apologies to the designer/photographer of this lovely vignette.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

We love a good fairy tale.

Newkie stiffened up,eyes grew wide and she posed for attack.
There was a family of deer out the window, and her whole body paid attention.
I pulled my camera and shot this,deer hardly visible among all the shrubbery.

Newkie was itching to go out. I kept her in until the deer passed. She is a city cat; knows only about cars and trucks and dogs, and an occasional stray cat or mouse.

Here, she could encounter raccoon, mountain lions, bears, and hawks. Like her, they have territories to explore, and they too hunt and are hunted.

She thought the place belonged to her alone. On  the first  day of her outdoor adventure, a neighbor's cat ticked her off, and she busted back in the house all furious and wild-eyed. From that day on, she circles around the house with a hunter's confidence, but keeping her options open, retreating quickly to the comfort of a warm house.

We imagine a perfect state of being for ourselves and our families. We forget the wild nature of things. Pets remind us of how far we have come.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

How retirees spend their time.

1. They eat at home, so they prepare many meals from scratch, as I do, and as these tomatoes  ready to be roasted can attest. ( I have a food blog where these will star many times!)

2. They take up hobbies full time. My neighbors are golfers, fishermen, quilters, gardeners.  Many more are painters, sculptors, writers.

3. They join clubs. Here in our small town, Rotary is the premier 'club'. The Lions, the Masons, and many other groups recruit and invite people to join. Find a club that meets your mission in life. Many ladies belong to the Red Hat Society.  I'm not sure what they do, but they look great, in their red hats when I see them at lunches.

4. They volunteer.  Look around and ask the residents about volunteer activities. Hubby and I have been involved in many groups. Schools, libraries, senior centers, hospitals all need volunteers.

5. They organize events. My neighbors are busy with projects all the time, fundraisers for different groups that need money or support.

6. Support causes or political events.  Hubby and I worked as Precinct Captains, going door to door to encourage people to take a stand on various issues. We happen to be democrats, but every party has Precinct Captains.

7. Run for office. I am serving my second term as a school board trustee. I served as president and vice-president, at times very busy.

8. Start a business. Many people open up a small business as a part time occupation in something they are really proficient in.  With on-line support, you too can succeed at your new endeavor.

9. Plan home-improvements projects that you can manage. Be sure you get the proper permits, and the proper consultations. Different states have different rules on what can be done by non-professionals.

10. Let your family know you are willing to house-sit, dog sit, baby-sit or fill in for them as they need you.  Many times, younger people hesitate asking you thinking you are too tired, or living too far away to be of help to them.  Let them know you are willing to assist them, and negotiate the how and the when.  You will feel useful and the family will appreciate your help.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Where the forest meets the sea.

This is not where I grew up or even where I lived most of my life. But this is where I feel most at home.

How is that, you ask?

I can't explain it with reasonable answers. I can only say that the first time I saw the sea, when I was twelve, I marveled at its beauty,  immense horizon,  infinite mystery. That sense of wonder and calm never left me. Whenever I needed to feel restored, I made my way to the waterfront, walked on the beach, got myself cold and wet and totally immersed in a life force bigger than anything else.

We moved here to Oregon, from Southern California, trekking up the coast all the way, looking for a small village where we could just settle down and enjoy the last chapter of our life, for a small cottage  isolated from the hustle and bustle of big city lights, a place where, at night, we could sit outside and stare at the sky. I hoped to find a water feature nearby. If not, a bird-bath would suffice.

The place we found here in Port Orford spoke to me the instant we got out of the car and looked across the back yard.  In front of us a fresh water lake. Across the lake, the Pacific, waves lapping on the dunes, gently caressing the lake here and there.

I turned to my husband, before we even saw the house, and I said, Honey, make them an offer!
When he asked that I look at the place and evaluate it, I scoffed. This is it, I stated, with utter certainty.
Hubby had to figure out all that needed done, as I was so smitten with that water view that nothing could detract me.

A few months of negotiation, and we quit our jobs, gave away our possessions, and drove ourselves and a few boxes of books, the 800 miles on Hwy 101 to reach our new destination.  Hubby had made a couple of extra trips ahead of me, to get the house painted, the beds bought, the utilities turned on. He chose his office with the view of the forest. I chose mine with the water view. We have furnished the place simply.  We remodeled the kitchen, added a sun room, modernized the baths and the flooring, made the place comfortable.  

Did I mention that my husband is a tree lover? That he had missed his forests when we lived in Southern California? That he took us camping and hiking any chance he had? That he would go to the beach in California only rarely?  This place of ours is perfectly matched to our personalities. It is cool year round, as he likes it. It has plenty of forests, trees, ranch land, as he likes it. It is isolated and rural, as he likes it.  And it has the Ocean, and plenty of space for gardening, as I like it!

What about you?
What do you like about your place?

Friday, October 28, 2011

BlogWorld Fest 2011

Dear Blogger,
I'm glad I caught some of these blooms on camera, and now, as the sky darkens, I can upload into this post, and share them with the world. Without you, these beauties would never travel.

Thank you for such an opportunity.
Thank you for making this process fairly easy!

When I started I was sixtyfive; hence the title!
When I started, I wrote for almost a year without a single follower.
When I started, I didn't know how to copy, paste, upload, etc.
I still have lots of trouble.

Yet, the process was intuitive enough for an old-timer like me; I kept making mistakes, getting advice, trying to maneuver.  As of today, Blogger catches my errors automatically, informs me of new applications, even invites me to a Blogfest right down Hwy 101!  Now, that's some service!

So, if you are anywhere near Los Angeles early in November, go and participate in BlogWorld Fest and  blog about it so those of us who are too far, or too busy, or too embarrassed to show up at such event can still partake of its riches.

After all, haven't we shared world events with each other before?
Haven't we provided the local stories to the big media outfits?
Without our singular perspective, our homey-styled output, Blogger wouldn't be loved as much as it is!

Keep us informed, Blogger.
And keep the program free!
aka Lakeviewer

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The next stage.

It's Fall, and the rains have not arrived yet.  Everything is drying, except the morning fog over the ocean and the lake. Lights from crab boats bob through the night on the Ocean, like stars in the sky. Overhead, the sky is calm. Winds are soft whispers.

This is a false lull.
We're anticipating furious storms any day now, storms that will shut us in the house for hours and days. Newkie, our new cat, will be shocked at the violence of the winds. She'll have to become an indoor cat exclusively.

We've been on curvy and treacherous  roads since July. Literally.Metaphorically. Roads with names like Shock, Grief, Funeral, Memorial, Probate, District Attorney, Crime Unit Investigations. We are tired and worn out. We sleep poorly. Our  patterns have changed. Our foundation has shifted.

There will be a next stage.

But, as in an earthquake, the next stage is the mess you alone deal with. Everybody else will have moved on. You deal with the clean up,  the re-building, the healing.

As long as you have life, you will have stages.
Like seasons, they each bring new perspectives and new challenges.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

This season, it's raining hunger everywhere.

Pines, oaks, and assorted grasses and vines cover the grounds of public places here in Oregon. It is the end of the dry season. Soon, everyone will don their rain gear, and trek through these paths more cautiously,  with sturdy shoes instead of tennis shoes, with many layers and gloves and extra socks.
Many will attempt to make a living by foraging here in the woods, looking for mushrooms that will bring in good money.
Many will camp out here and there, out of the wind and the rain and the cold, hoping soon to find a job that can help them get out of the rain.

We have colonized the entire Earth, every latitude and longitude, by land and by sea. We have adapted the topography to fit our needs. We have moved earth, damned rivers and opened up channels to keep things flowing the way we want.We have reshaped the nature of matter, bent physical laws of the Universe. We invent ways to work less, and ways to experience more.

Our knees and hips and cornea can be replaced. Our hair and skin and body fat can be tempered.At the doctor's office our chemistry is analyzed and problems are identified. With a few pills and injections,  we can all live past our anticipated calendar years. We live in the richest country in the world.

So, what's our biggest issue?
Too many are jobless, with no resources.
Too many are losing their homes.
We have never seen so many hungry people line up at food pantries!


Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's on your "bucket" list?

Bucket lists are ultimate lists, things we all want to do before we die.  This picture, taken at a friend's house reminds me of the bucket list we had back then.

!. Top on the list, traveling!
 Here in this living room, we learned about China and how we could jump in and join the rest of our family, (in the mirror) who were about to take that plunge.  That summer, 2007 our roof had to be replaced, and we never took that China trip.

2. Get Healthy!
This item has moved up to #1. It is not one activity, but a whole life choices of activities, including many decisions that seem unrelated. Buying a new mattress, for instance, comes under this item on the list, as sleeping through the night becomes more and more of a dream.

3. Conserve our money!
This is counter-intuitive! We are no longer wage-earners, no longer anticipating stock growth or big windfalls from promotions. Our expenses seem to get bigger, not less with age. Instead of how do we give away or spend our money, we have to practice frugality. Again!

4.Stay engaged!
When we were working stiffs, our goal was to have enough money to escape somewhere, away from everything and everyone, on a cruise without people, a tourist attraction without tourists. Now, we have to concoct ways to meet new people, make new connections, stay on top of the news, involved with our communities, with worldly issues.

5. Pass on the wisdom.
How do we tell our children to work hard, but not to forgo pleasures and trips that will enhance their lives; how to listen to their inner dreams and make them live dreams.  From where we sit, life doesn't give you unlimited chances.

Yes, the bucket list is now a to do list for Today.
What can I do now!


Monday, October 10, 2011

There is a whole world we haven't explored yet.

I follow Newkie outdoors, as she beckons me, becoming a follower when called, a stroker when approached.
I become an observer of shadows, as she does, the dancing light attracting us for a while.
Chasing a leaf, she jumps on rails and skitters twenty feet in no time.

I tiptoe gently behind her.
We explore. She disappears in the underbrush and I start my way to the garden,  down to the lake.
She reappears.
She whines, You come back to me! she seems to say.

I cajole her.
I walk up to her and show her that  I can get down and up to the garden space below. She could follow me and play and explore while I gather apples that have fallen.

She sits, watches me from the deck, crying for me to return.

She frets, moves from one end of the deck to the other.
I hurry as though a storm is approaching.

Her cry is my new weather vane.

I want to un-kinck my  whole body the way she does, rolling on the grass, or the carpet edges, reach out and pull myself through and through.
I wonder how she manages her tail when she rolls.

One minute she is running all over the place.
The next, she is in a closet, behind clothes, all in a ball, napping away.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This time last year.

A year ago today, out apple trees and pear trees were laden with sweet fruit.
I made applesauce, apple pies, pear tarts.
My friends and neighbors were showered with fruit products.
Relatives from Washington State spent the weekend with us, and we planned a bigger family reunion  with the rest of the troupe for 2011.

Well, here is October 2011, and we are all scattered to the four winds, bent and busy, barren and beaten.

It turned out that Brian's Memorial Ceremony reunited most  of the relatives, and friends we had not seen since we left Los Angeles ten years ago.  We promised each other to make an effort to come together for joyful occasions, the way God and Patriarchs had intended.

My relatives in Italy, however, will still be missing.

When people left to seek their fortunes on another continent, the send-off was very much like a funeral. People did not return for decades, sometimes never again. Few people have the resources to visit regularly.

Do keep in touch with your loved ones. Time is a precious commodity.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A boy and his dog.

Butters, short for Buttercup, and her "dad" Brian a couple of months ago.

In Oregon, everyone travels with a dog or two, to the grocery store,  the dentist, the beach, even to the work place. Dogs behave beautifully everywhere, on or off leash, waiting patiently  in the back of a pickup. not panicking or attacking anyone who approaches them.
We have come to accept the presence of dogs everywhere.

But Butters and Brian live(d) in Southern California where it is very unusual to see dogs act so friendly and so calmly when they accompany their people. Butters and Brian were well matched in character and energy. Brian fed her a special diet of raw meat to keep her lean and fit, and devoid of allergies. Weekly, he'd take Butters to the dog beach, to chase after balls, or sticks. He walked her before going to work, and after he returned home.

Brian loved dogs. He had lost his childhood companion, a mutt called Woolly, while he was in college. For years after that, as he moved from one apartment to another, he dreamed of a day when he could move to his own house and have another dog. Two years ago, he purchased a house and a big yard. Butters, a yellow lab pup,  joined him three weeks later.

After Brian's death, we looked for someone to adopt Butters.  A young man who had been the house sitter and dog sitter  stepped up. The two of them are well matched in enthusiasm and energy. We were happy for her, and glad the young man's family agreed to the adoption.

Through the weeks when the garden was coming together, Brian's friends took turns taking her to the dog park, or around the block for her usual walks.  Butters is quite strong and energetic, and while she is quite docile indoors, she needs to run and play.

Butters will continue to remind us of what a great life the two of them had together.

(she has a facebook page!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Read the lines.

Our whole history is written on our faces, our bodies, our ear lobes,hair, skin, gestures.
Whatever lives we live, our bodies bear witnesses to our history, to our parents' history, to how well we eat, how well we manage challenges.

When you were little, you mother could trace the history of the family tree just by noticing how you had grown, how your posture matched Uncle Carl, how your digestive problem was the same as her brother Jim. Your mother could read everything you did during the day by the wrinkles on your skirt, the flush on your skin, the bounce in your step.

She was the clearest mirror you had in your life.

My children are all grown, and if I see lines during our visits, after we have left each other's company, I worry and worry about what I have read. When they were little I could come right out and ask them. Now, not so.
Having read lines, do we respect the other's privacy, or do we involve ourselves in their lives?

What do we do?
How do we maintain boundaries and still support each other?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

If we could live like a cat.

Meet Newkie, our newest pet. I watch her as she adjusts to our new place,  new sounds and new animals all around us.

She is teaching me new tricks.

1. If a place/person makes you feel uncomfortable, move.
2. Rest as long and as often as you wish, in the best possible places.
3. Get up only to play, eat, change position, look for adventures.
4. Listen to your own needs.
5. Train everyone around you to your wants.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Being in one place and taking stock of the situation.
Noticing the random chaos.
Noticing extraneous stuff demanding your attention.
Aware of how things have changed; how you have changed.

But windows need to be replaced before the rains come.
Weeds need to be removed before they choke your roses.
Firewood needs to be stocked for those long winter days.

Unlike words on a page waiting to be shared, moved around, crossed over, replaced, our actions are irreversible, enduring, permanent.

And life, always, demands action.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Illusion of life.

This is the kind of garden space I once contemplated, a bit of green, a hint of water. Southern California had been on water ration for years and years, and when my then teen children took showers, we tried to save water by installing timers on appliances, and by collecting and recycling 'grey' water, shower water.
This kind of illusory water dream was a natural in the desert conditions of greater Los Angeles.

Fortunately for me, we moved to a place that is green all the time. This kind of landscape would appear an anomaly in most of Oregon. Here, it rains seven, eight months out of the year, continuously, and when summer finally gets here-this time it never really came-we welcome it with spontaneous giddiness. We excel in gardens maintained in natural settings, weeds and all, and plant what will survive around wild life.

When I see cactus and rocks, I smile, remembering how silly and naive I was, hording old roses from the Huntington Garden, dreaming of replicating the beautiful British gardens I saw in magazines.

When I accompanied Janet* to nurseries that specialized in native Californian plants, and we picked up a few cactus plants for special effect, I realized how far we have all come. We are smarter and wiser with our resources. We try the understand the natural conditions and natural flora and fauna, and try to live in harmony with our surroundings.  Janet's plan was elaborate, incorporating both hardscape and focal areas that interpreted the dreams she and Brian had.

A garden will nurture your soul and your dreams.
It will tell your story.
Let it speak your dream; and, let it communicate it easily and fluidly.

*Janet is my son Brian's fiance'. After he passed away suddenly this last July, she designed and organized a garden space to celebrate his/their life and dreams as a Memorial Garden. Read the story and see the work she and his friends did, by going to my previous posts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Garden Inspirations.

I'm back in Oregon, 80% wild and uncharted, where people can go off the grid, get lost and never get found.

I'm searching for inspiration, for my garden, for my soul.

How about this garden space?
How does it make you feel?
Does it tell your story?
Does it make you want to linger and get lost here?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Education under fire.

This is Kim, a friend of Janet, my son Brian's fiance'.
As I review pictures taken during the workweeks around Brian's Memorial, I'm immensely impressed by how competent these young people are, Kim, Janet, and all the men and women jumping in and doing what needed to be done.

They worked in teams, and independently. They identified what needed to be done, and got right to it.

I'm especially impressed on how everyone worked: expertly, willingly, with confidence and efficiency. They cut, trimmed, dug, scraped, carried, painted, constructed, planted, etc.... They jumped in and contributed with all their might.

In my youth, tasks were separated by gender. I never did learn to change the oil in the car, to figure out what to do when a  machine stopped working,  even  how to handle a weed-wacker. I'm the result of a classical education: women were trained for certain household tasks, men for everything else.

Our education in the last thirty years has prepared our youth well.

Boys and girls have had access to tools, technology, science, finance, engineering, etc...
A boy can become a nurse. A girl can become a contractor.
Federal and state laws were put in place to allow equal access and equal opportunities, regardless of gender, regardless of race, religion, or financial conditions at home.  There are laws in Oregon, for instance, that allow a man and a woman to serve as precinct captains for their party affiliation. One man and one woman per precinct. Women had never seen the  back room deals where political pacts were formed, where support was gathered, where alliances were cemented.

Now, how do we continue to make sure education serves our youth's future needs? How about adding finance education, health and nutritional education, contract laws, wills and estate planning, entrepreneurship, ethics?

State Boards of education are struggling to keep schools open with today's budgets, and everyone is worried about the lack of funding. What are we trimming when we cut education? What future choices are we denying our youth?

Are we willing to go back to those times when only the rich had access? How fortunate for them!

Yes, we have made strides to give our youth meaningful experiences and information. We still have a long way to go.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How one punch...

Remember the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"?
Remember how George, the main character played by Jimmy Stewards,  finds that his life is too hard and considers ending it?
Then, he meets an angel, who shows him how George's life is affecting so many people around him. Yes, yes and yes! So many people are touched by us, by simple things in our midst that we never think about.

I'm looking at our lives right now after Brian's passing.  Even though I will never know what actually happened the night he was hit, many people saw the assault, and they will think about the event and how it could have been different, both for Brian, for his friends, for the very person that gave him that mortal blow.  All those young people will be affected by that event, for days, for months.  They will talk about it, will warn their friends and relatives, will associate the one punch in anger as the fatal blow that forever changed their lives too.

One punch to the face.

The family and immediate friends came together and had a memorial. But, Brian's many co-workers and even his animals were not aware of how their lives would change forever in just a few days.  Projects had to be re-assigned, paperwork redirected, appointments and schedules changed. I know this because I had Brian's daily calendar with me after we picked it up at the police station, and there were reminders going off all the time.  Our boy's high tech phone scheduled, reminded him of times and places needing him, paid his bills, navigated him to places he had never been to, even listed the grocery needs he had.

I'm looking at his life in awe. He had officiated at one of his friend's wedding; he had applied for a patent, had just solved a major problem with a device he was building. He had saved every penny to buy a house. Had done so because he wanted a dog! Then, his nesting instincts kicked in and he looked for the love of his life.  His life was full of exciting possibilities slowly turning into realities.

Hi dog Butters is with a young friend in Long Beach, across the street from her old house. His cat Newkie is with us, in a home surrounded by giant trees and water. She's adjusting, cuddling up on Brian's blankets we brought up with us.

I'm not mentioning the obvious: how his fiance' life has changed! How everything she was dreaming has changed. Choosing a life partner, building dreams and envisioning your future are at the heart of human endeavors. The cost of this loss to her is limitless!

I'm not counting all the expenses that come with this event. Not just for the funeral, for the Memorial, for the settling of his estate. I'm thinking about the cost of investigating, preparing for the trial, court time, legal representation. I'm thinking about all the people who will miss their work, their families, their other obligations.

I can imagine how his neighbors in Long Beach feel every time they see Butters on a walk, at the dog park, chasing a ball.

I know my neighbors here in Oregon all know the fragility of life; they are mostly senior citizens, used to seeing a moving truck disassemble a household after someone dies at 90.

We are not used to seeing a young man's life disassembled!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It takes a village...

Humans are most humans when you need them the most.

We're back home, to a clean house, a trimmed yard, a stocked refrigerator thanks to wonderful neighbors and friends who got together and prepared this lovely welcome for us.

Port Orford is a small town, a thousand people or so, half of whom are part-timers.  Those of us who live here all year long have become accustomed to each other's rhythm, each other's special circumstances. On a second's notice, my neighbor Joyce and Jo coordinated the upkeep of my empty house, the maintenance of our gardens, the stocking of the refrigerator.

Dragging ourselves in last week, after 800+ miles of traveling with a caged cat who didn't enjoy the trip at all, we were tired, hungry, overwhelmed, expecting to find a weedy yard, dead plants, a messy house we had left when we rushed down to Long Beach after getting a 911 call from the sheriff's office in Fullerton where our son had been a victim of a homicide.

But, I knew that about Port Orford.

What I didn't know and didn't expect was the enormous amount of love and neighborliness   Long Beach and Los Angeles showed us.  People came to work on the garden and the house from miles away, day after day. Neighbors brought food and tools, put up with  noise and  constant crowds.  They eased our pain with grace and consideration.  The people on Terrace Drive were enormously congenial.  Even when we blocked their driveways to accommodate trucks delivering  sand and amendments,  neighbors jumped in to help unload.

I'm still wrapping my head around  last month's events. I'm still in shock in so many ways. But, I want to tell the world that we humans can be most human to one another in our gravest times, in the times that count the most.

So, thank you Port Orford.
Most grateful to you, Long Beach.
Thank you Fullerton's Sheriff's Department.
Gratitude to the people of L3, the company Brian worked at for their generous and heartfelt support.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New resident at our house.

Meet Newkie, a stray my son Brian adopted ten years ago, and has been moving around with him to his many residences until the last three years when the whole troupe, Brian, Newkie and then Butters, the lab, moved into Brian's house and Brian's yard.

She is a pro in settling in. Even at motels, as we traveled back home to Oregon after the funeral and the garden project,  she took the moving in stride, comforted by the fact that her humans were around, and food and necessities  were exactly were she could find them, in the same configuration.

She's settled in, a week into this move, and soon, she will be exposed to the outdoors for a few minutes at a time, until she learns how to retreat back to the safety of our house.
Her best toy? Empty boxes!
Her favorite activity? Sleeping.
Her favorite hiding place? The very dark recesses of a big closet. We were relieved to find her after a long afternoon of calling and looking for her everywhere.  So far, she seems content, curious and comfortable with the many nooks and crannies to explore in this new to her house.

In the evenings, she cuddles up willingly on our bed.
Just the way she did with her daddy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What lives on...

We live on in each other's memories, each other's stories and images. We live on and on and on...
I think about all the people I've known, all the people I've loved, and not a day passes when I don't feel them around me, a hand on my shoulder, a smile directed at me, a look from their faces to remind me of how we were together, how we touched each other's lives.

We have a tough time with death.
We have difficulty with the concept of Ending.
The place is dark and airless.

We become obsessed with grief.
We tend to retreat from others.

Yet, a sketch like this one, shared by a friend, brings smiles and wink=wink-knowledge of the good times, images we can embrace to get us to a more solid path.

Thank you to all Brian's and Janet's friends who came by the house day after day to make the garden a reality. Thank you to all of you who joined us at the Memorial Plank Ceremony.  Thank you to those of you who left kind words to soothe our soul. Thank you to those of you who contributed money/resources to make the garden a reality. The experience that Janet, his fiance, had envisioned, became a beautiful reality. The coming together of friends and families who go back to kindergarten days in Woodland Hills was most healing.

Your love helped us deal with the dark place of Ending.

We are back in Oregon as of this posting, with Newkie, Brian's cat. She cuddles up nicely, and enjoys our company. We haven't even unpacked the many boxes we took with us, boxes that contain a rich and meaningful life.
We are safe for now, among friends.
We'll forge ahead, one small step at a time.

(If you want to see pictures of the Memorial Garden, visit me or Janet Lee, or Brian Williams on Facebook)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A memorial garden for Brian.

Janet, Brian's fiancee, has designed and organized a memorial garden in Brian's name. His friends and co-workers have donated time and resources to make this garden a reality in just a few days.  At the end of the week, after the official service on Saturday, everyone will  share parting thoughts by recording them on wood planks that will become a memorial boardwalk, guiding visitors through the  garden.

Each person can choose a message, can choose a plant, can donate money for amendments or other supplies, can join  the work crew and remember the friend Brian was in his/her life.

The project is designed, organized and coordinated by Janet Lee.
Visit her Facebook page for details, or follow the link below:
brian's memorial garden


Search for Brian's memorial Garden

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some losses...

This is my youngest son Brian, and his beautiful fiancee Janet, during the weekend of July 4th. This is the last picture I took of him. We talked about wedding plans at the lake.

He passed away last Sunday.

We are all in shock. Nothing in the world prepares for this.
Some losses are too great to bear.
All who loved him and knew him will miss him so.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Be prepared with a traveling kit.

See this outgrowth from the big log? It reminds me that strange things can happen to you at the most inopportune moments.
My husband's first visit to a doctor after we retired occurred as a result of us not being prepared. We had gone out to eat at a seafood place in Florence, Oregon, with the entire family. Seeing that oysters were fresh and reasonably priced, he ordered and consumed way too many of them, in various combinations.  By bed time, his face had begun to change shape, growing unusual protrusions and changing colors.  He was having a mean allergic reaction and we rushed to the hospital.

There, he spent a night being cared for, medicated and watched over.
Since then, he has given up oysters, but I still carry something in my purse for such an eventuality.

Back pain, allergies, headaches and stomachache can interfere with your daily life away from home.
So, what do I carry in my purse at all times?

1. Aspirin
2. Benadryl for allergies
3. A list of medicines and doctors
4. A snack
5. A water bottle

Sure, the car has a first aid kit too. But, I could be stuck on an elevator, and having an aspirin, a snack and water can sure make my/his wait for help a lot more enjoyable.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What happens when you age too fast and...

You can't bend.You can't push.You can't work the way you used to.
This is not the way this place should look, with weeds and brambles taking over the docks. We try, Hubby and I. We go out and pull weeds, cut vegetation, trim the rambling vines.

We work an hour or so, with hoe, pruners, weed-wacking machine, hands and shoulders, legs and hips.
Soon, everything aches.
 Not enough to make us cry; but enough to stop us in our pursuits. Sorry, we say to ourselves. Sorry, we say to each other. We have abused our muscles and joints enough for one day.

The rest of the day is shot too. The tiredness pins us down for a few hours, through a meal and a nap. And it still lingers in our bodies through the night.  The only thing that helps is a hot bath or a massage. The bath is not so easy to get in and out; and the massage requires fingers and muscles from someone else who is strong and invincible.

Do we age faster after a certain age?
Or, have we neglected our bodies to the point where this decline is  inevitable?
I used to....
I wish I could still...
The irony is blatant: Now that we have time, we lack energy and stamina.

And tomorrow does not look any brighter.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A fuzzy paradise.

This is all I see on a bright summer day from my perch above this garden, after a glass of wine, a good meal, lovely conversation, an unsteady hold on the viewfinder.

Yet, this is all I need to see on this day. It's enough!
My adult child, her dog,  a peaceful day in the garden.
I'm contented just to be witnessing this moment.
I know storms will arrive late in December and this garden will be battered, inundated, thrashed. Mush, debris, broken branches and soggy ground will prevent me from visiting this area for  many months, erasing hope, burying all seeds of future joy and comfort.

I'm in rhythm with this life more than ever at this time in my life, knowing things change.
In the distance, storms are gathering. In the depths, continents are grating against each other. On any one of the 365 days, I could find myself battered too.  I may find myself wishing  for a bit of scampering in this garden of earthly delights, in this walled, wish-fulfilling garden.

It must be this consciousness, this temporal perception that helps us create and transcend the present, invent stories and legends, dream big dreams of a paradise with no pain, no wants.
It must also be what helps us  design, plot and plunder anyone who has this paradise all the time.

Oh how fuzzy our lives can be.
Thank heavens, the calendar marches on.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It just takes one!

One person stepping in unknown territory.
Then, another.
A third.
A group of scouts stomping along.
Soon, the path is beaten and becomes recognizable to the rest of the tribe.
Soon, everyone will automatically choose this path.
Tomorrow, we'll all be scampering around on our merry way, not giving even one thought of how this path was once unknown territory.

Got an idea?
To improve your world?
To forge a new direction?
Take the first step forward.
Tell someone.
Who will tell another one.
And the world will soon find  a new path started by one person.

Just a few years ago we used to fish until there were no more fish. Now, we have marine reserves in place, lists of sustainable fish, incentives to support and manage a healthy fishing industry.  So, it should be with all of our consumption.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dreams are the plans you make for the future.

This is my rock, my neighborhood, my sand dune, my paradise.
I breathe this in and rejoice.
I pinch myself everyday and declare: Life is Good!
How did we end up here?

We took few vacations all our working years. We were busy most weekends with children's activities, sports, art, music, dancing, plays, 4H, girl and boy scouts. We shopped for necessities; we cleaned and prepared for the following week. Any leisure time we had  was spent shuffling our children to their activities, or spent volunteering, as coaches, referees, supervisors, fund-raisers, feeders, drivers and all around cheer-leaders.

Most summers I  went to school to get another degree, or taught, attended or organized workshops, planned and prepared materials for my classes. As an administrator, I worked twelve months with a few weeks of vacation when both Hubby and the children were available.  We squeezed in reunion visits to family in Montana, Washington State, Italy.

Our most memorable times? The times we spent in a forest, by a creek, camping,in a cottage by the sea.

Our vacations drove us to cooler places, like Northern California, or Oregon.
Oregon was where Hubby spent his childhood, and had many wonderful memories of vacations on the beaches, camping, rock hunting.

When we planned to retire, we knew we wanted to leave Los Angeles and live in a small cottage with an ocean breeze. We began looking just north of San Francisco, and kept looking until we found a place we could afford.
I tell this story often.
I can't believe we are here already, I add.

Yes, we had dreamed about this place. We had also kept that dream alive for decades, constantly alive, like an all night fire, watched and fed, taking turns when things were dark and scary, when possibilities were scarce for advancement and savings, when earthquakes, fires and emergencies seemed to be forever in our present.

We kept watch. We kept feeding those possibilities.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How we celebrate our independence.

We all ask ourselves why we live where we live.
Why we choke up when we see our flag, our armed forces.
Our parades.
Our fireworks.

We are happy to have simple food on our picnic tables, burgers and hot dogs, salads and apple pies. We don't need expensive wines or artisanal cheeses to make us happy. We need our families and neighbors pot-lucking with us, sharing our camping experience, rolling up our sleeves keeping  streams clean,  oceans healthy.

In our private paradise we worship in our own way, and we respect how anyone else worships.
We celebrate our independence on  July 4th by meditating on what makes us strong: our amazing journey, from a nation of religious refugees to a nation with open arms to all refugees. We speak many languages and we come from many cultures.

In this new land,  our hearts beat as one in our resolve to be the best society humanly possible.
We are proud to be Americans.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Way We Live.

Weather rules here in Port Orford, on the southern Oregon coast.
Sure, the calendar says summer. The rains have dwindled to once, twice a month.

Yet, we're still in a watery mist most of the time, with green life all around, in a variety of shades and shapes. We breathe moist air all year long. Even in summer.

We are surrounded by water and watery images more than man-made images.

At one time, this place was a bustling fishing port. Before this dock was erected, ships docked in open areas, in the bay, largely unprotected from hurricane-force winds that clobber these shores.  Routinely, tempestuous winds and high waves destroyed whole fleet.  
At present,  sixty to seventy  vessels fish regularly in these waters.

You'd think the town would have access to the fish caught here. All of it, is shipped out the minute it arrives on land. Crab is shipped live, in tanks, for premium prices.  If the locals want local fish they need to befriend a local fisherman.

A couple of times a year, the town is treated to a fish fry or a crab feast, courtesy of the local Rotary or the local fishermen.  Then, all proceeds go to local causes, like scholarships for our high school students.

By July, the town has swelled, doubled, tripled. Relatives drop in to celebrate holidays here, try their hands at fishing on the rivers, from the docks.  Fishing is the number one sport, followed by kayaking, biking, golfing.

Did I mention we are only 23 miles from the world renowned resort links of Bandon Dunes?

Yes, in the same supermarket line, we come face to face with millionaires who fly their own jets to play a weekend of golf here, as well as the local fishermen who can barely support their families some years.

One thing for sure: we all wear wind-breakers, all year. The millionaire's is definitely Gore-Tex.