Tuesday, December 25, 2007

christmas present

Christmas in the present.

The gifts: A copper teapot, a pocket knife, a treadmill and a sock monkey to add to the clan. He's beautiful. Haley found him at an antique shop. He is handmade of real socks, not the acrylic type you see mass produced these days, and has a crooked handstitched smile.

Being present at Christmas.

All of these things.

Together we cleaned the house. I got everyone phoney fur throws so Nicole and I can stop battling over the zebra stripe. Sid even got one. He doesn't know what to think. It is on his bed, and it is soft, so he likes it, but it doesn't smell like him so he is suspicious of it. We are awaiting the arrival of the mother in law.

She is come and gone. Brunch of eggs and veggies, coffee cake for the normal people, watching Stardust and talking to all of the families on the phone. So many others, now. So many. My family grows and grows and at times like this, I feel like they know me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

drive by christmas

It was a good trip, the Drive By Christmas. I gave my son his scrapbook and he was properly surprised and pleased to have it. I think he even teared up a little bit. We drove house to house, leaving tiny gifts of homemade blackberry jam wrapped in red cotton dishtowels; red metal stars and red rubber spatulas that I found at Winco and love to cook with.

It was good to see everyone, and it is good to be home.

I like being a passenger, in so many ways, but on these trips south, then north again, I am able to reminisce as we pass places for the many-th time, places so embedded in memory that they seem at times part of a movie set. As I age, and as places age and change, I am moved at the impermanence of things: of the many tractors along the road, of Mexia's -- a roadside cafe or tavern or inn, one that captured my imagination every time I passed it on the freeway headed north. It was a tall white clapboard house with a vertical sign that you could just see through the trees. A poorly marked exit leads to it, but I have never taken that exit. I was always afraid to. Mexia's, in my imagination, was a satin-lined brothel, a roadside oasis, brownskinned women more beautiful than I've ever been, with ivory hair picks holding back flowing locks of black hair. As I passed what is left of Mexia's, I wondered at my memories, of my fear of beauty and its unwieldy power and my unwillingness to allow reality to alter memory.

Driving through the Applegate, seeing the barns that finally finally finally came down as though somehow they would not, that somehow they would remain, that my memories would be enough to hold the sagging timbers intact until I no longer needed to see them as they had always been, always and never falling for these long fifty years now, as though the landscape existed only for my entertainment. And we passed Roy Winningham's green house, built for him by his brother Dave who is in his 90's now, and Roy is gone I'm almost certain, the retarded younger brother, who lived in his own house on the edge of the meadow and helped tend the cattle across from McKee Bridge. I remember those old men. Dave, who talked slowly and could play horseshoes like nobody else. He was a patient man, as ranchers can be, men who live by the movement of seasons and light, who are not pushed by artificial time or held back by manufactured misery. Not modern.

But I always thought Roy's house would be there, and I always thought there would be people at McKee Bridge who remembered the stories Dave told. And they are mostly gone. As I packed away my son's scrapbook, and tucked the genealogy of these people, the Applegate pioneers, my son's people, into the back cover, I was glad I had made some record of a time gone by: loggers and ranchers, men who needed alot of room to live.

As I grow old behind them, it is terrifying to think that the time is passing, that I have lived in log cabins and hauled water from a creek and know how to use kerosene and clean a lamp globe without burning myself or breaking it. So much is behind me, and the terror, I suspect, is that there is less in front. I am in awe of my life, and the people and the history who have touched it. There is nothing to regret.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

jane is gone

Watching her leave was hard. She stood in my office, shaking her fist in my face, cursing me with the words, "You, you have no love in you." And I don't know how far off she is. At that point, she was close.

Like so many of us didn't, Jane got caught being crazy. And once that happens, it is all doom from there on in. You become protected, and being protected ain't nearly as fun as living your own crazy little house, knee-deep in hoarded margarine containers and tin cans, setting up shop outside your own front door selling potholders and paperbacks for a dime.

Over the years, Jane had collected a whole bunch of dimes. Many many thousands of dollars worth. And now, now what good does all that frugality get her? Protection, that's what. She shook her shrivelled fist and hyperventilated, "You're taking my life from me. I want my life. Not YOUR life. You life is worth nothing!" her thin voice crackling across my desk like old lightning.

I hate social workers.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Every day I run out of time, and writing is lingering at the back of the pack of wolves that nip at my heels this time of year. So much to do. So much to do. I have listed the demands on my time, work and Christmas among them, and will not bore you with them again. Writing comes and goes and will come again.

At present, I am composing a letter to go with the scrapbook for my son. It must be carefully articulated as he does not suffer emotion easily or for long, and it was an emotional stroll down the dark alleys of this past life. I want to issue a blanket apology, something akin to David Crosby's "Sorry I drank thanks for the liver" statement, and let it go at that, but I won't. He will always know he was born to a writer, dammit.

My days have been full of cardmaking and harpplaying and housecleaning and treegetting and lightstringing and foodeating and moviewatching. I am lazing through the winter without apology. We head for the southlands friday for our Driveby Christmas, flinging presents into the yards of our families and on the road and home again.

For the politicos: I am waiting to see if Oprah can get Obama elected. Are we so asleep that he seems real? To me they are all cartoons so far. I don't know what will happen. Of course I don't. How could I?