Monday, June 29, 2015

How the West Was Built

Hubby and I celebrated our June/July events that included Father's Day, our anniversary and his birthday, at Timberline Lodge in the foothills of Mount Hood, in the Oregon Cascades, a monumental lodge built in the '30s as part of F.D.R.'s public works programs. This was our first visit to this elevation, over six thousand feet of majestic splendor. The Arts&Crafts style lodge has been renovated and modernized, with all the amenities one would expect in this age: running hot and cold water, heat, superb restaurant food, internet...

We love exploring new places whenever possible, anticipating both the good and the bad part of a new adventure. What we found was truly a remarkable place, everything hand built and furnished in just eighteen months. Eighteen months! Our little bungalow in California was built in eighteen months with plenty of big rigs and ready-made parts shipped to the site for assembly. Nothing at Timberline Lodge was pre-made. Even the furniture and drapes were constructed on site.

Ten miles south of Timbeline Lodge is Government Camp, the original site for all the encampment and organizing activities necessary to built the lodge.  Government Camp is still operating, btw. It is now a vacation village with all the modern trappings and reasonably priced accommodations for skiers and hikers.

This was a trip down memory lane for Hubby. His father worked at such camps during the recession, and it was fun for us to visit not one but many areas where the work of the WPA (Work Project Administration) left a lasting legacy.

On the way home, we stopped at Bonneville Dam and Power Plant, a remarkable place to trap the Columbia River's power and prevent destructive floods that had  destroyed towns and agriculture around the Columbia River Basin. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Remember Limbo and Purgatory, and...

Can life moments be captured by a photo or a memoir piece? I no longer keep thoughts or deeds journals. I never really succeeded when I tried. Snippets here and there, a moment in a decade, a blurry photograph. If low and confused, I write stuff down, as a way to decode, I guess, the importance of the blow I feel at the moment, rather than chronicle the entire event in details.

Something in me feels that there will be endless opportunities to catch all that is worth catching and this moment is repeated often enough that it is not worth clogging that memory stick waiting in the hole of the laptop.

I carry my phone everywhere these days; but I seldom use all its functions. Taking pictures takes me out of the action, becoming someone I am not. Besides, I rather receive pictures from others; and then, in a state of nostalgia for things and people I met across my journey, for the person I used to be in the moment someone else captured, I can enjoy and appreciate the event and all its facets again and again. What it seems to be, this reluctance of mine, is a distaste for posing rather than a distaste for recording. Also, it is a distaste for relegating life to snippets, to blurry arrangements that are neither artistic, nor realistic. In the moment of a picture being taken, we, the subjects, are being frozen out of our moment, literally.

Perhaps, my dislike for picture taking has to do with my realization that what is happening may not be what was meant to happen; what was detailed to happen in the plan we all made before the event took place.

Or, it is my desire not to be disappointed. You see,  I used to keep lists and construct elaborate plans for my life. Financial plans; food plans; career plans; educational plans...There was never a week when I didn't have a detailed weekly menu and grocery list; when I didn't maneuver my numbers to come up with more money for savings, for vacations, for those piano lessons. I excelled at planning.

At work, when processes such as , "Strategic Planning", "Total Quality Control";  and "Risk Abatement" were bantered about, I jumped on the "Bandwagon" and schooled myself in these strategies. I wanted to be the first and the best, eager and willing to implement new and improved methods and strategies I read about in the journals I subscribed to, or the workshops I attended.

(I never did take pictures at these events. If pictures were taken, and later became adverting for future events, I felt a sense of disappointment, and betrayal, as though a moment in time capturing two, three groups at a training could stand for weeks of pouring through notes and manuals, for mastering difficult ideas and making them fit in comfortably with current practices.)

What was a  long professional quest, to become state- of- the- art with vision, mission and strategic planning, accounting for all the factors that might derail or spur the team from or to success, such long planning  could never be captured in one, two pictures, in one two sentences.

Can we really capture things, frame them in a few words when they are  constantly changing?

Life, private or professional,  has a way to slip through, reach out and faze out processes even before they are mastered, becoming distracted  when something new hits the shelves. We no longer spend a lifetime mastering anything, as new tools appear right at our fingertips promising everything we were missing.  We no longer know what to trust when something hits the market.

We can't even trust our memories or the memories of those who came before us, the ancient wisdom that chronicled and provided  needed wisdom for the future.

As I watch my daughter implement Montessori learning opportunities for her toddler, I smile and rejoice. Maria Montessori's wisdom is still alive and thriving. Everything old is new again. Who knows, something I might have said or done will still survive past my lifetime.

Perhaps I should take a picture, or a video of this day. Some thing needs to be written down and recorded so when we feel neglected or disappointed by our present we can retrieve the past and begin anew. Remembering doesn't come naturally for many people. Writing things down or painting a picture may just help us see the folly or the glory of past days.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The unimagined life of the actuarian

How long do these blooms last?
How fast can I walk with cheap shoes?
How far will my money last?
What are my chances of getting cancer?

These and other questions do have answers, based on statistical analysis, a gathering of raw data supporting a longitudinal study or a species factor status...We do have experts who know what numbers to gather to provide the proper guidance for the rest of us.

Or do we?

My biggest surprises in old age were never on any radar, mine or my Hubby's. I thought we had the world figured out by our sixties. Expenses get reduced after children are grown; needs are diminished; wants are simple shelter,food and medicines.

How did medical needs end up costing  more per month than food?
How did communication devices end up tipping our piggy banks?
Why did we choose to live in a place that needed a sewer tax to rebuild its sewer system?

In my working years, I paid nothing for medical care. From the time I had my first child, the bill for his care and mine in and out of the hospital was the cost of that phone call home. Yes, $1.50 to call out of zone. Today, I might not even use the hospital phone, since my $ 150 monthly cell allows me unlimited local calls, coming and going. I didn't even have a cell phone until early 2000, and then, I only used it for emergency. But even with full insurance and Medicare coverage, I will be surprised by the hefty charge attached to my hospital stay.

We might imagine the future pain free, and even device free, in an all comprehensive smart environment that knows what we do, even before we do it, can identify the places and services we need when we type the first letter of a query on google search. But, can we imagine the future affordable? Reasonable? Friendly to those of us who were not born into it? Indiscriminate if we do not have a bank account with unlimited funds? Or, unlimited friends to rescue us when we are publicly shamed on some social media?

Will these blooms last longer if I avoid chemical additives?
Will a path be available if I do not have Nike's best running shoes?
Will my present income cover my future needs?
Will my cancer risks decrease with age?