Saturday, March 31, 2007


It is a dream of mine to live on a houseboat. Simple. Work would get in the way I am pretty sure. It already does. My sister-out-law is moving to town from Alaska and we looked at one for her. I would do that. I would. I know two women who live on them, one in Vancouver and one on the Channel. One single, one married. We talk about it, husband and I, and it may, like so many other of our dreams, become reality.

It is Saturday morning on Clinton Street, my favorite time. I woke up to a blog by my best friend l. about closing all of the libraries in Jackson County. Tragic. A beautiful commentary that I hope she sent to someone else. Orwellian. End of civilization.

I am not doing what I had planned to do this morning. K went fishing and it felt so good to just be home that I didn't get dressed and go out at the butt-crack of dawn like I usually do. I am home, drinking coffee and typing. My favorite.

It is a big day in my world: Fuschia Saturday at Fred Meyer. WooHoo! So I empty the dirt out of too many pots and stack them in my truck ready for the free dirt. Free dirt! Can you imagine? They are always a bit disconcerted to see us roll up with our piles of pots. In line in front of us are ladies with flower pots they can hold in their hands. Little painted things, all porcelain and fragile. Mine are industrial types: Huge vats of dirt and moss ready for the planting. It has been such a dark winter that it seems early, but here it is! Fuschia Saturday is upon us. I must find sphagnum moss to line three baskets and a few accompanying plants to fill in between the fuschias.

The back yard is shot. We are going to have to try sod. I guess the ground stayed too wet and drowned the new grass we planted back in October. It was a wet one. so there is just mud, and it has to dry out a little before we can sod it. Fortunately, due to all of our last summer's projects, there is little square footage to cover. Sod should be easy, but I've said that before. It is all easy for me: he does it and I watch and hand him things. Like this Thursday morning when the sink fell off the wall in the bathroom: he just gets the stuff and fixes it. Me? I make a little island for bathroom stuff by the kitchen sink and expect never to have one again. I adjust easily. I remember when my heating stove started leaking in my house on 4th and Oak in Central Point and I couldn't fix it and nobody else would and I heated the house by pouring cups of diesel fuel into the heat box and it leaked on the floor and my whole house smelled like diesel all the time, and my clothes, and I just lived in it and lived in it. Helpless as a newborn duck. And it isn't that I was unwilling to fix it, I just couldn't care about it enough to get it done. Paralyzed by poverty. I came to expect so little. Deserving is a powerful thing. Expensive.

I hate it when I feel like I am reporting instead of writing...when poetry leaves me and I am stuck with the facts. It is a barren landscape and I cross it with uncertain steps, each footfall hoping to land on softer ground.

Ah, there it is.

When my sister-out-law was here we went to the Japanese Garden. Oh. I want to go back when the irises are in bloom. It was perfect, silvered clouds in broken blue sky, cherry blossoms postcard perfect. But alas, too many humans. Ants on a hill. It was the height of cherry blossom time, so to be expected, I guess. We (me and K) talk about going to Europe, and I think, okay, okay. A couple of thoughts recur: I am terrified to fly. Sincerely. And second: If I could just get everybody out of the Sistine Chapel and take a private tour, that would work for me. Or Ireland. Or Greece. My husband wants me to get to those places, but again, the flying... and the people. I hate crowds. I don't go to parties. I don't have fun. It scares me. It always has. The amount of whiskey it took for me to have a good time at a bad party(and that by rumor, second hand reporting, and public record) was obscene. And knowing my social phobias, I always had to get a head start on the party favors so that by the time I got to the party, it was over for me. I have literally fallen face first through the door on my way into a party. Over before it started. By design or default? Who can say?

So home I am and home I'll stay. OH! we are planning a long (2 week) vacation this summer. We will head out from here east to Wyoming then North into Canada. A tour of the Rockies. (low numbers of humans, I'm hoping) We will camp and fish our little hearts out. We may hop place to place, or find somewhere we like and hang out. The Odell lake thing is off. I have trouble dreaming quite as large as my honey. All I want to do on vacation is not work. Really. That's good enough for me. We looked at renting a Hummer, but seriously, talk about obscenely conspicuous consumption. I hope we just take our truck. I bought an atlas of the US and Canada and am obsessively planning. I don't mean to follow the plan, but we'll have one. It passes the time.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

tour guide

I have spent the better part of this weekend being a tour guide. Yes, me, the one who couldn't figure out why she kept winding up at the airport. My sister-out-law is moving to town and suddenly must find a house to buy. I am voting for the houseboat in Scapoose, but that's me. She is a country girl, moving from Alaska. She is the only quasi-family member I would not be horrified to have around. She is a grown up, and therefore, okay with me.

Portland is a big city, but a small town. I drove her around my neighborhood, and some others I am semi-familiar with, and we found some houses that people didn't want anymore. We drove through felony flats and showed her why she isn't interested in all that. After, we had dinner at Salvador Molly's. I love their food although it is very noisy in there.

Why is it that semi-hip restaurants get to be so noisy and dirty with so-so service? And why is food that is too spicy to eat and enjoy, enjoyed by some as a sort of masochistic rite of passage? I don't get it.

Later same month: Addendum to all of this... my sister outlaw didn't get the job after all. I am disappointed. She is disappointed. We are disappointed. I miss the people who know me. Not that there is so much to know, but there is so much to tell. She has the backstory. She has the goods on me. We killed and ate rattlesnake together (kind of a cross between scallops and chicken, in case you were going to ask), did a road trip with two cases of good wine, listening to only Roseanne Cash and Carole King's Tapestry. I wore this black, beaded antique top with hand painted roses and danced the beads off and woke up in Charleston with two bikes chained to the back of the van. I never did like wine.

Ah, well. Another life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

cardboard rosetta

Rosetta is dying. She is, perhaps was, a socialite, a fainter of victorian proportion, hand to forehead, grasping for balance as each ripple shakes her well-heeled world. We will keep Charlie, her 25lb cat, who comes to sit on my desk when Rosetta is not feeling well. He spreads his bulk across my paperwork and makes himself clear, staring at me until I go check on her. I don't seriously believe in the whole cat-as-medium thing, but I believe in Charlie.

I had the wierdest dream. I dreamt that I had to share my office (recall that I don't share well, play with others, run with scissors)and it was like a secretarial pool with lots of desks, no dividers and lots of old and crabby social workers. ick. So I grabbed a chart and started leafing through it and in between the pages I found a doll, flat cardboard, tattered, long and thin, naked with godiva-long gray yarn hair and bright crytal blue eyes. As I held her in my hand, I realized she had a pulse. It was the strangest dream. I'm sure it was Rosetta.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

sunrise on the island

It was an early morning on Sauvie's Island, water turned onyx in the dark, sunrise slow and persistent, under and between the clouds, layer upon layer of gray. Boats launched in the still night, small red and green lights the only evidence of their passing. As the dawn arrived, Sandhill Cranes flew overhead, giant pteradactyls, making a clicking noise as they fly. From what I hear, they fly upwards in a spiral formation until they are out of sight and head to Texas on the Jetstream. Sauvie's Island is a bird sanctuary. You can hear the geese gossiping in the trees clear across the Columbia, their numbers in the thousands, darkening the sky as they rise as one and head off to the next empty cornfield.

Barges pass, loaded with all kinds of cargo, so heavy and huge that they push the water, actually suck the water from the shore -- the river a thousand feet wide -- and as they go by, the water backfills and slaps the shore with wake after wake after wake. Occasionally, they pull out so much water that they ring the bells on the beach poles, novices running to hook a fish that isn't there. There was a seal out today, feasting on the fish we didn't, and boat people coming too close to shore for the comfort of the beach guys. Scotty throws weights at the boat people and shoots at the seals, but Scotty wasn't there today. Score one fish for the boat people.

Just as we were about to leave, one of the poles bent and hubby ran for it but lost this one. We had been napping in the truck, and I tried (valiantly) to leap out of the truck and reel in my line in case the fish ran for it and our lines got crossed up, but my foot was asleep and there was nothing I could do but shake it off and wait for the tingle to subside. By that time, all was lost.

Last night, the salmon was so good. Fried in butter with steamed rice and sauteed brussel sprouts. Best food I've had in a long long time. A sixteen pounder gave us enough steaks for 7 meals. At 9.99 a pound at Freddy's, that is a $160.00 fish. And I guess if you count fifty bucks for a fishing license plus salmon tag, gas to get out there day after day until you get one, season after season after season, Freddy's might be the better deal after all, but there ain't no sunrise at Freddy's, no cranes, no mighty columbia.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I want to write about the unit, the sadness, the insanity of it all, but the sun came out and I left work early to come home and move my tulip pots into the light, and rake dead leaves sitting too long on the back patio. I wanted to be in it. Inside Spring. I don't want to miss another one. I missed too many, too many sunny days spent inside a bathroom stall, too many moments for planting and regeneration spent in dark bars and back alleys. Too many long nights spent talking about all those things I would if only I could. And I can and I do. But that is abstract, and God is in the details.... or the devil. You decide.

A string on my harp spontaneously broke. Just up and snapped. It is repaired now, and on with the music.

It is Saturday morning, and Haley is asleep on the couch and I am not alone in my home the way I like to be, but I know that it won't be long until these girls are grown and gone, and that they also like their time alone. They are women. They need to regenerate just like I do, and for this short time, this time before take-off, we share this space. I miss my son.

Pearl doesn't care what our names are. We are pretty much all the same to her. Servants. She calls us Mira or Bobby Sue or Gilligan if she's really annoyed. She doesn't care about much but her sister. Her sister lived on the "other side" and came over each day to have dinner with Pearl. She wasn't ill, only old, and she died in the night. Pearl's family doctor made an appointment to talk to her and wanted to be the one to deliver the news. A family doctor. She's said they set him up in business years ago, and she's 90-something.

Pearl's husband died a few months ago and like most widows she misses him like a body part. "I'm too young to be left alone," she says to me. I just nod. I'm not going to remind her that she's 90. Deep down, she knows it. At the moment she's somewhere back in the days when she and Joe were dancing at O'Conley's downtown. She has that look in her eyes. "I'm a ship without a rudder," she says, sitting in her wheelchair, her sunday-go-to-meetin' leopard print mumu spreading around useless legs like frosting on a cake. She says "sunday-go-to-meetin'" as a joke. She is a modern woman still, checkered eye-glasses, chewing gum, a wicked sense of humor and appreciation for servitude.

I am up early and heading out soon. Husband is fishing. I am not. Too early, too dark and too cold for me.

Update!! first springer salmon of the season: 16 pounder, Sauvie's Island, 9:00 a.m. I don't have to figure out what we're having for dinner: salmon, rice, roasted veggies.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


We went for a drive today, out to Astoria and on up into Washington. I've never been to the places we went. I like Oregon better. I love Astoria. I'd live there. But throughout the drive, I was struck by the deterioration of wood homes. The great old houses of the 21st Century are falling apart. I mean really falling apart. The closer you get to the coast, the truer it is. What the fog and salt air doesn't get, the blackberries do. If you stand still long enough in Oregon, blackberries will consume you. Its a fact. I saw house after house slowing sinking into the landscape, becoming one with nature, tilting, sliding, gravity exacting her payment for time spent. I lived (a relative term) in this house (another relative term) in Inglewood or Inglenook or something. A small coastal town. The house was sinking into Shinglehouse Slough (thus the affordable rent) it did not have windows to speak of, black plastic covered the windows, and we had to hop across log rounds to get to and from the back door. Electricity was questionable. On an incoming tide, water would reach the floor, short circuit the kitchen, and you couldn't stand on the floor and touch the countertops at the same time. So, undaunted, we hopped chair to chair, my four year old son's memory inspired by ECT. But that was a lifetime ago.

We drove through Rainier, the town of, and I asked, innocently enough, where is Mt. Rainier? My husband laughs, is still laughing even now, and says, "Seattle." Well, why the fuck would somebody name a town Rainier if you couldn't even see it from there. And maybe on a non-cloudy day you can, but that is hardly the point. I mean, Portland is a port, and there are other more aptly named places, Ashland, for being at the base of a volcano, maybe. I can't really think of many examples, but I was a little embarrassed. And because we drove past the old Trojan nuclear plant and I said, "I thought that was in Washington," and again, the laughter. But really, if you think about it, when you're driving down I-5 from Seattle and you look off the side of the freeway and there it is, and you know damned well that you're in Washington, and that in a few miles you'll cross the fucking bridge into Oregon, well, anyone would conclude that Trojan is in Washington. But it isn't. Its in the Oregon bump. I will admit to being somewhat geographically challenged. I am easily disoriented. I hardly know where I am most of the time and have no sense of direction, but I always have enough gas and I know for sure that given enough time and petrol, that you can get anywhere from anywhere else.

And back to the impermanence of wood, why is it that eventually, once a house really begins to decompose, the owners paint it purple? I don't think it is a good house color under any circumstance, but when the shingles are rotting, the cattle have long since broken through the fences and gnawed off the windowsills, that a person would think, hey, I know what will give this place a fresh look: purple paint.

But I do love farm country. I love rolling up to a breakfast joint at about ten-thirty on a saturday morning and watch the last call babes having breakfast with Mr. Lucky. I'm mean. I admit it. Only in a small Oregon town would you see the sign: Tanning, Toning and Saw Sharpening. nuff said.

All the way out, a radio station was playing Beatles A-Z. I know this guy who picked Ringo Starr up hitchhiking outside of Vegas. I happened to mention this to my husband who knew Sherman. Sherman Parker was, and may still be, Ruch Oregon's most inert individual. He lived in a shack with a dirt floor, not because it was hip, but because he didn't notice. He did not bathe, that I know of. My husband found it far more difficult to believe that Sherman had ever left the Applegate Valley than the rural legend that he had rescued one of the Beatles from car trouble. Or that a Beatle would have car trouble at all. Sherman is alot of things, but he is no liar. He won't even drive a red, yellow or orange vehicle becasue he thinks those colors are "of the devil." He didn't always think this way, and in fact at one point was so loaded on PCP that it took him 12 hours to crawl from the garage to his house -- a total of maybe 100 feet. Usually it only took him half an hour. :)... but the Ringo story is that Sherman drove to Bakersfield -- for car parts, the only thing that motivated him-- and on the way, passed a blown up van and stopped to help. There was Ringo and some Vegas dancer and he gave them a ride into Bakersfield. It could be true. I, myself, have never seen a Beatle, but I loved them. George most of all. When I was young it was important to say which was your favorite. You had to commit.

So, that was my day. It was good to get away.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I know that I am still a young whippersnapper to Frankie. Frankie grew up in the south and is named after Frank James. Story has it that they had their last stand on her grandmother's porch. And I figure what the hell, it had to happen on somebody's porch and it could have been her's and its a good story. And I'm a liar too. Nothin' wrong with that.

So I'm leaving for the day, and I hear her yoohooing from her room, "Honey!" So I'll be Honey for a minute and I go in there. She's blind. I'm not sure why that matters, but I'm sure it matters to her.

She is crying. I sit next to her on the bed and stroke her face. "I'm old," she says, the pink satin quilt her son brought is pushed to one side and the old wool blanket is up around her chin.

And that's the thing. Was a time, many many times over, that I looked in an old woman's milky eyes and said, "Hey, you're just a spring chicken. You're lookin' good. Nothing stoppin' you!!" Only the arrogance of youth would deny what an old woman knows for certain.

This time I just said, "I know," and I held her hand. Its what I would want. She prefers the old wool blanket, but the pink satin makes her son feel better.

the dream

This morning I was reminded of my house dreams, the ones where I awaken within the dream and find that I am in the process of moving, and that somewhere along the way I have given up my home, my long time residence, for a place that seems at first glance extraordinary. It is furnished with beautiful antiques, which admittedly are a little baroque for my current tastes in furniture, but there I am wandering room to room, until it seems that all the rooms are really connected, and there are no whole walls, just unfinished framing in places, and it is dark, and the further I get into the back of the house, which seems to go on forever, I find things that belong to people: an antique hair brush and mirror set, clothes in the closet, a razor and toothbrush. And I am not alone. I come to a back room and an old woman is sitting in a rocking chair with red long-johns and I know she is the other tenant, and I have given up my privacy to live here and I can't go back.

So that is the dream.

I am working too much. I am tired. I am hungry. I am dealing with too much. But I am finally alone this weekend, and I went out this morning to find squirrely bread, which I like alot, and frozen blueberries and frozen cherries, and two perfect white long underwear shirts. I bought two because I can.

So my sweetie is fishing and I am not. And I have a day to myself, yay, to practice my harp, and straighten my world, and wander through antique shops to my heart's content. My heart's content. Yes. I will do my laundry, and not just throw the million dollar lingerie in the dryer because I'm too lazy to care for my things. Work takes on too big a piece of my mind, and I get home, and it takes a minute for things to settle back to where they belong. Home.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


It wasn't really warm enough, but it was a morning for cleaning and rearranging, and the overstuffed chair ended up on the porch to make room for guitars and harps and other assorted items. Nobody sat in the chair anyway. It was just a collector, something like a butler who holds out his arms for your coats, but unlike a butler, never puts them away. A catch-all, which seems to be what any semi-flat surface in my home becomes under my lack of survellience. And the only way I ever clean my house is if I rearrange it: thus, the chair moves to the porch sort of like one of those little square plastic toys with moveable squares, precursor to the rubiks cube, where you have to move the squares around in sequence, but you never get rid of anything, much like all of my acquired treasures. I've thought about this, and wondered at the underpinnings of my lack of domestic skills, the causes and conditions that have made me the crappy housekeeper I am. I've honed it to one narrow point of light: poverty.

I have moved so many times, and so quickly many of them (I once thought I'd start a company called Midnight Movers), that I may never feel permanent. I was always moving in or moving out, so cleaning always involved moving furniture. Stay with me, this may make sense eventually. That, and bad furniture. I always had free sofas that were on the verge of un-useable, consequently the sofa turnover rate was high, and I'd be replacing the last gasp of upholstered charity as the next item, often stolen from a goodwill box, was brought in (middle of the night, big men, low light), Then and only then, would I clean the space left by the old one, not out of necessity, but opportunity: There was the vacancy, full of dust bunnies (dust rabbits) toys and lost socks, begging for attention. Even I couldn't deny it.

Okay, poverty and laziness. I'll concede the point.

But that's not the point. The point is that we had breakfast on the porch and although my feet were cold, it was good to breathe the late winter air. I am a porch sitter by custom, and love to watch clinton street from my perch high above the sidewalk. I love the snatches of conversation: "...can you believe that for a family of four?" and "...pushing her bike up the middle of the street with no lights on." And the morning-after girls, in outfits that must have looked better in the dark, with uncomfortable shoes they no doubt had not planned on walking home in, uphill no less, bed-head and smeary, wishing they hadn't. I think. But I would think this.

So my love and I had breakfast on the porch, bacon and eggs and flourless, flax toast for me, potatoes and an english muffin for him.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

the water is wide

Tiger Lil was humming.

Wait, let me back up.

I've been practicing my harp and am actually learning to play it. It matters to me to learn this, and surprises me (the arrogance) that there are still things I want to learn. I'm not sure if stasis is my goal, but save that thought for another day.

I am learning to read music. Rather, I read music, and am learning to play the harp correctly, not by ear. So I am actually able to play music I have never heard before. But learning this way, I am never really certain if I get it right. I have been practicing a song called "The Water is Wide" for two weeks. Because I have never heard the song played by anyone but me, I'm not really sure what it sounds like.

So there I was, getting some lunch together in the dining room, Lil singing in the background. She's a soprano. A really good soprano. But she no longer knows the names of things if you ask her. She could say it outright if it came from her stream of thoughts, but if you interrupt it, there is no recall. Just generalization.

I am filling my plate with salad and I hear this tune, this haunting melody, and I think, because I am self-centered, because I too live in my own world, that the song is in my head, that I am just hearing the notes together because I play them over and over again, day after day, and this song has become part of me. Because I don't know this song, really. I just know these notes together, and how they sound when I play them. And Lil sings on.

So I rise to consciousness, aware of the tune, and look around me. I realize Lil is humming, and I look at her and experience the frustration of knowing she is unable to answer a straightforward question, but I must know. I must.

"What is that melody?" I ask her.
She looks at me with wide nordic eyes, "I'm..." she can't even find the words to say she doesn't know.
I try to bail her out. I have to know, but I accept that she will not be able to find her words. "Is it 'The Water Is Wide'?" I ask.
Her eyes light up. "It's wonderful." She exclaims, hand to her heart, eyes seeking more information from me, begging me to tell her something she can hold for just a moment.

Because moments are all we have.

Any of us.

So we hummed the tune together, and I confirmed what I knew. And she sang a few of the words, but not many, settling for da da da da da in the loveliest soprano range. And I promised I would bring in my harp the next day, and did, and we had another moment together. And it is selfish of me to have wished that when I showed up with my harp the next morning, that she bounded across the room (at 93) to greet me, but she didn't. She just hummed, and it was another day... another moment.

But the thing is, I recognized the tune, so that means I was playing it right. I am learning. She is unlearning. I am grateful for forward life.