Monday, February 28, 2005

sauvie's island this year

First day on the beach this year. I love it out here, sitting in my director's chair wrapped in a sleeping bag, gloves on, trying to write with dinosaur fingers, fingers that competed with Sharon Thompson in second grade for best penmanship. She won, but hers was boring. Mine had flair.

It isn't all that cold on Sauvie Island, on the Columbia, mist rising from warming water. 41 degrees now. The fish like it about 45. Who knew they were so particular? Anyway, the mist is a-rising, bad moon still in the sky, slowly giving way to the sun, red around the edges. Sid is with us, his first trip out, his first sand experience, sniffing and snorting like a pig. He is as fun as anything. I swear. I layered my clothing, and by noon am down to one long-underwear shirt. and, of course, pants. I got my fishing license yesterday so we could have two poles in the water. The water is flat, silver, with reflections of leafless trees on the far bank some 300 yards away. Big freakin' river, the Mighty Columbia. Lots of river traffic -- fishing boats, tugs and barges so heavy they cut the water so deep it pulls the water from shore and releases it, slapping in its wake, rolling along the beach so strong it rings the bells on the fishing poles. I think I've talked about how the beach fishing goes out here. They sink pole holders in the sand, stick the pole in the holder, dangle a bell from one of the eyelets, pull up a chair and wait. It doesn't seem to matter who's bell rings. They all go wild for a real bite. And you can pick out the uninitiated right away when a barge goes by and rings the bells. They run for their poles, certain the clever salmon has chosen this moment to strike. Then, sheepish, return to their chairs to wait all day for probably nothing. They usually only do this once.

The same people come out, day after day, year after year. The season starts earlier, but gets rolling in March. There's the boys from St. Johns, a whole batch of relatives who set up camp each time, and they have women, so I like them best. They put up a pop-up shade thingy and line it with tarps and inside is a woodstove. Always make friends with the people with heat. They bring "the Pacer," a mentally ill brother who likes to fish. He sets up his pole, then marks off his area -- about 15-20 feet of sand-- and paces back and forth in front of his pole all day. Not fast and not always, but its his spot. Its what he does. Then there's Oxy-boy, an idiot with a bad beatles haircut and a running script for Oxycontin. Now we call him the announcer because he never shuts up. When somebody has a fish on, he runs back and forth, shouting every move: "He's getting the net!!! Its on the beach!!!" Annoying.

And this is my life. I sit in my chair, watch my husband reel in the poles and cast for the 4th time today, once each hour, and realize this is my third year on the beach with him. His fourth. I remember the first time he asked me to go, and I said, I love to fish, and he was so surprised. And I sat right where I am sitting and watched him fish, and fell in love. I could have watched him fish forever. And I remember thinking then, way way back then, a lifetime ago, that if I could have any life, any life in the world, I would have this life. THIS very life. And now I do. It is my life, now. And I still prefer sheets with a thread count of 250 or better, and real Fiestaware just that shade of yellow. Sid broke one of my oval Fiestaware platters this morning and he (K) doesn't understand my need for matching plates or just that color. He doesn't have to. And in the middle of my perfect life, I am still myself. Eternally.

The moon may have been full Friday night. I don't keep track.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


This is the first day this year that I've felt my socks--you know? That feeling that they are just one layer too much. And its not like they are heavy socks. Just light little things, but my feet were ready to feel dirt. It is so warm. Some Portlander's are worried, but I suppose it'll work out. It'll be wet before we know it. Hard to say. Maybe I drug the dry south up when I came. Anyway...

I met a woman at work today. I was sitting at my desk, drinking the third cup of coffee, arriving like I do at the butt-crack of dawn. The phone was ringing and ringing, but from a distance. I walked up to the front lobby and answered it. She had called from her room. She asked if I was missing a patient. She didn't know who she was calling -- thought she had made an outside call. She asked, "Are you missing a patient by the name of (we'll call her) Ruby Miles?" Well, it was early, and to tell you the truth, I never really know whether somebody may have made a break for it during the night, so I took the cautious route--my least favorite, but most useful when liability is at issue. I said, "Well, anything's possible. Who's calling?"

"Ruby Miles," she answered, her voice crackling like paper through the line.

Ah. My critical assessment skills spring into action. "She's nuts," I tell myself.

"Hi, Ruby," I say. "Where do you think you are?"

California. And I've got to get back to Gresham."

Oh. okay. I tell her I will find her. She tells me I couldn't possibly because she is somewhere in California. Trust me, I tell her.

I walked down the hall and around the corner and into Ruby's room. I introduced myself as the person she had been talking to on the phone. She was just lost. "But I'm in California," she insisted. "Well, I'm in Portland," I said, ever observant. "How do you explain that?"

She couldn't. But she tried. It was a long story, beginning in childhood with a mother who wouldn't be happy. Wouldn't have dinner out. Would rather wait at home for a husband on a three-day drunk who would come home with bargain jewelery, a handful of magic beans, hoping to secure forgiveness, which we all know is free, but damned hard to come by.

She said, and kepy saying, "I have a good education. I'm not like some of them. I love to go out to dinner." And she told me her story as she fiddled with the remote-- a strange creature to the elderly-- with bent fingers like tree roots.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


I hate it when I get abstract. Who gives a shit about my life? It is Sunday now, and I feel just a little less entitled than I did yesterday, having had enough TIME to myselves. We didn't do much. Left to our own devices, we rarely do. We sit, we consider, we are so deep.

Anyway, you should check out L's blog soulwake. She doesn't write often, but I usually like the drift. I forget

Saturday, February 19, 2005

beautiful day

I'm sitting here with two cups of coffee because that's the kind of girl I am. Too much is not enough. Bacon frying in the kitchen, dog at my feet, husband out on the beach waiting for the bell to ring, and I have time to myself. In a marriage, this seems a little rare. Time with no one else to consider but me. The girls will be here soon enough, and time will be shattered again, split in several directions, and I am self centered. I took half of Thursday and all of Friday off just to have some time to do self preservation.

When I was alone for so many years, I pushed against the edges of lonliness, tried to find the way out, and could not. It was lonliness for a long time, but the eventuality of that kind of resistance is acceptance or death, and I accepted my own company. I became alone instead of lonely. It is a little fracturing however.... When people claim they have come to terms with a single life, that they enjoy their own company, what they don't tell you is that it becomes essential -- that time, those voices, that company of critics and supporters who live in the cobwebs of the fine, fine mind, and who, in the presence of happiness and marital bliss, will shut up for awhile, but not forever. Well, they're back. They tell me my life is only about housework and tripe and that I've lost myself.

To make their point, I had to turn the bacon. I love bacon. That's all I'm having for breakfast. Just bacon.

So, back to the abstract of my life. The point is, I was perfectly ready to lose myself, to start over. All over. Square one. I didn't even see it the last time I passed it. And now, I am finally finally not alone, but I live with the mind of a woman who has made alot of pretty important decisions without considering anyone else. I don't share. I don't play well with others. And its a damned good thing I am nuts about my husband, because I am nuts. Anyone will tell you. And slowly, slowly, I am learning to risk the unveiling of my terrible secrets. They aren't even secrets. That's the terrible thing. There is nothing. And I guard it like Buckingham Palace.

I am not making sense.

Anyway, the bacon is done. Eight pieces. I will eat four and save the rest for my love. I hope he catches a big fat springer. My valentine said: Sit, Stay, Be Mine.

That's marriage.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

the history of my hair

The sun is out and the come-hither, finger-crooking, insinuation of spring is in the air. We are (read: he is) cleaning up dog shit and building a pen. We're taking the yard back, Sid. Fair warning. We were having a standoff about the shape of the pen relative to the yard, and I guess I won, although it had little to do with the dog. It was about effort, and whether to sink another post or angle the fencing and hook it to the existing fencepost, which would have looked like fucking Oaklahoma. My husband, who I adore, and who indulges the Martha Stewart part of me, sunk another post and the pen is square with the fence and all is right in my world. Order. If I can't have it inside my head, I'll take it anywhere else. And I got some stepping stones to tiptoe out to the pen, and teach Sid to tiptoe back in. He is a great dog, but had turned to digging in the boredom of our long work days. It will be an adjustment for all of us. I moved a huge fern over under the lilacs. I hope it likes it there. Should be better, its out of the sun,

Well, I'm blonde again, and for those of you who missed the parade of passing colors over the past couple of months: too late. I'm blonde. I'm very blonde. I'm blonde to the bone. I've tried to grow up, and grow gray, and let it all go, but I'm just not there yet. I should explain that this is a process. No. I'll spare you. The thing is, I want my hair back, and it just isn't going to happen. I am a blonde, actually. I always have been. And when I was laying on the beach five days out of seven, and living in the trees, I had streaky golden curly blonde hair down to the middle of my back. Almost. And its just gone now. Gone. It didn't happen all at once. I remember the first time I frosted it. And RAVE perms. The first edition of spiral waves. And it is ridiculous that I did those things... but not these things. You can't go back. Lorretta knows it. She never did anything to her hair after she tried to go blonde when she was twelve or something. Once you apply the bleach, its just a matter of time. And the real thing is, while I was frosting and playing and messing around with my hair, some of it turned gray. Gray. Me. And its okay for Asha, but I don't know how to have gray hair. Hers is silver anyway. My biggest mistake was starting to straighten it about two years ago. When Maria said, "Jou need a makofer." and I did it. I fried it. So, about a month ago I tried some dark blonde, which turned kind of pinkish gold. It wasn't bad. I kind of got used to it. But I still had this plan to recapture that sunkissed hair of my former life, and I wanted the underhair darker and you get the picture. So the pink wasn't enough contrast, so I just lived with it for a month. People said they liked it, but it wasn't me. Then, yesterday, I dyed it darker blonde, which really means brown. And it looked dyed brown. I panicked and broke out the bleach. I pulled it through a cap and did a really heavy frost and now I look like myself again.

I am blonde.

I have a dilemma: they're putting American Idol opposite West Wing. Shit. That's how superficial I am. I swear I've never watched American Idol before, but I got hooked.

So, the sun is down, I'm baking chicken cordon bleu with asparagus, and it is the night before Valentine's day. A year ago I got my diamond ring. A year.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Haley's birthday party. She's fourteen and too cool to breathe the same air as adults. She knows the words to more punk songs than I ever did. She is cool. And so, it is hard to be a stepmother. Makes me miss my son. We had come far beyond the birthday parties of childhood -- when I could get it together, his birthday so soon after Christmas -- and through the discomfort of adolescence when it seemed nothing was enough, and into the adult phase, where we admitted to liking pie better than cake and mexican food better than that. And we found a little Mexican restaurant down there that we liked and had dinner there each year, just him and me. It was our celebration. Our family of two. It seemed insensitive for us to slip away and celebrate like that -- there were lots of family who would have liked to join us -- but it was my time with my son, and the time was running short. I just didn't know how short, or how much I would miss him.

So I make my husband celebrate for his daughter. They don't know how. And I shopped for her--just little things... a sketch book and a wooden model for figure drawing because she, like me, appreciates Varga; and colored pencils, and because I couldn't resist: an aquatic frog and a vase and a plant and rocks. Don't ask me why. I had to do it.

So in she comes, after school, carrying the package she bought with her own money. And she had purchased a fish bowl and a beta and a plant and rocks. We looked at each other and smiled.

This stepmother thing may not be so hard after all.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

come saturday morning

There are girls littering the furniture and the carpet and there is nowhere to sit but here. I am forced to write. The silent saturday morning-afters, when the ladies are sprawled until noon -- proof of the wild night life of adolescent girls in Portland. They were out at the Paris Club at a punk show. All ages. No booze. Hard to believe.

I am sick again, with a cold that I am protecting like a baby I don't want to ever see grow up. I fear bronchitis like a sword hanging over my head, capable of taking a month or two from my life without asking. I am taking Zicam and looking for Airborne, that new thing that is supposed to make you not get colds. It may be a little late. I am headed for Nature's to get immune restorer, but I am exposed to snotting and snorting people who are dying of viral pneumonia day in and day out, and I am so susceptible. SO susceptible. I hate feeling weak. I hate buying medicine.

Well, its tax time and I'm married. One of the conditions of this arrangement was that I file my back taxes before I moved. Well, of course I didn't. I hate paper. I really do. Before I got sober I didn't even open my mail. Ever. I think I 've admitted that in this running commentary on the truly mundane. "Hey, you should read Someone's blog!! Its all about mail and death!!" Anyway, I used to have these paper bags full of unopened mail labelled "later" and "even later than that" and I finally had to have somebody babysit me while I opened them all. It took all day. Vivian sat with me. (God bless her. She taught me how to shop. She introduced me to debt.) But anyway, I opened all that mail and there were hundreds of bills, mostly meaningless, but there was money: rebates, refunds, etc. etc. etc.... and all sitting in the closet during the bottom of my life. I could have afforded one more hit. I didn't know.

So now, I just mailed off my 2003 taxes and paid the accountant for the 2002 taxes I sent in last spring, and now I am married. Now all the receipts I have saved over the past year will have to be sorted and added and I just hate this part. But I'm going to do it today. Mark my published words. I will not procrastinate. Not yet.

At work it is so heavy every single day. Geneva died. I couldn't even write about her husband. He was so odd. Maybe I did. But I learned so much from him. He was insane, actually a zealot. A religious fanatic. Married to a woman 20 years his senior. May-December romance, I guess. More like November-December, but you get the drift. Well, she was dying and he couldn't get it. His faith, a difficult thing for most to manage under the circumstances, prohibited him from seeing it. He was waiting for a miracle. As far as I could see, it was a miracle she was still breahing. And it isn't that I don't believe in miracles so much as that I see them in the day to day of rising suns and full moons and green buds sprouting through winter soil--now there's faith-- but he was praying for his own personal miracle so he could keep his own personal wife. He was so self-centered. It was all about him. He asked, "Who will hold me when I am wailing in the night." And I thought: Jeez. Can't you just hang out with her and hold her hand and cut her some fucking slack? But of course he couldn't--he still wanted to have sex with her. And oh, boy. Did the staff eat that up. Nursing home sex. It just isn't easy to explain. And here was the thing for me... in order to protect the patient from her humping husband, I had to counsel him, and in the counseling, find compassion for this very odd man. Consent is such a funny thing. Must a wife, albeit a dying wife, consent? Is it understood within the bonds of marriage? So I said, in my limited institutional authority that substitues for wisdom, "If you believe she is consenting, you should at least close the door." And that opened one for us as he began to cry. He told me about his beliefs -- ad infinitum-- and I listened. I tried to find a place in the conversation where I could deliver the bad news--because it is seeming like that is my job these days. The physician's don't seem to want to do it. And really, nobody knows. But you do know. You do. And the families, as much as they don't want to know, want to know. Finally, he said, "You think she is close to death, don't you." And, faithless whore that I am, I said, "Yeah. I do." Simple. Simple. And like JoAnne's computer screen says: "for every complex question there is a simple answer and it is almost always wrong." Yes. So yeah, Geneva died. And he wailed. But by that time, we kind of knew each other, and we were not strangers and being a Christian Scientist, he is grinding against his belief that he will now be forever damned because he allowed medical intervention while he waited for his miracle. "You don't think God would fault me for that, do you?" I told him I didn't. But that's me.

Sometimes I wonder if everything we believe is true, just by virtue of belief. That whatever we think will happen after this life, will be manifested for us. That for each of us, it is all true. Everything. And we believe some horrible things, we humans. Horrible things.

Thursday, February 03, 2005