Saturday, August 29, 2009

quilt update

Not to be outdone, I went to Fabric Depot and bought two rotary cutters, two plastic grids and a self-healing cutting mat. I am a real quilter.

Friday, August 28, 2009

the quilt

Without going into agonizing detail, I am working on a quilt. Its a work thing. The finished quilt square will be 8 feet by 8 feet and will be part of the Alzheimer's Quilt to Remember. Like the AIDS quilt, only not.

So, I've gone to great effort to design this quilt, to purchase the fabric at Fabric Depot on the first day of their 40% off sale when every seamstress in the metro area shows up to stock up. I spent hours selecting fabric, another hour standing in line. I solicited photographs of Jan, the woman we are honoring in the quilt, a woman who has lived with the disease for probably 15 years, has been in a locked unit for eight, has been bed-bound three of the eight.

Tough woman. Tougher disease.

So, I get my husband to make digital photos of the originals of Jan as a baby, a child, a beautiful young woman, a bride, a wife... and print them, magically, from my computer right onto fabric squares.

Now, it is time to cut the fabric.

This is all happening at an assisted living facility, old women with fading eyes and shaking hands cutting fabric and trying to follow a pattern, saying things like, "This is old hat to me." and "Where's the line? I can't see it." I kept telling them, "Hey, no big deal. If it isn't perfect, we'll sew different sized seams and it will all come out in the wash." Me and Jan's daughter marked the lines on the fabric and the old women did the cutting. I was working without a net, as usual, nervous about letting the project get away from me, cutting the fabric badly, having to find more, or god help me, different stuff if they wrecked it.

But they didn't. They did great. Just great. That is, until the REAL quilters arrived. Real quilters, equipped with rotary cutters and transparent plastic grid-sheets. My handmade, tape edged templates were no longer enough.

I started hearing things like, "Some of these squares are a quarter-inch off!" It made me nervous. We kept on cutting, thanking the old women, encouraging them, telling them its fine, don't worry. The real quilters kept complaining about our inaccuracy, finally saying, "Its the markers, not the cutters." And the final blow, "You're honoring your mother with this quilt, I'd think you'd want straight squares."

We were the markers. It was our fault. We had ruined the project. We had dishonored Jan.

Not really.

No, the real quilters stayed on and straightened every single edge of every single square. I was impressed. I did not even mention medication or OCD. Not even once. I thanked them profusely and know they will hang with me to the end of the project, because that's what real quilters do.


A white dove settled on the air conditioning unit outside my office all morning yesterday. It was so beautiful, pure white with a black tail. I wonder where she went? I wonder what it means?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


We been drivin' for days.

We took off Friday night for Weiser to watch Haley graduate from a Northwest Youth Corps back country session for the fifth or sixth time. We stayed the first night in Baker City at a crappy motel and left early for Weiser. This time the ceremony was outside in the blazing eastern sun near Mann Creek Reservoir. I've always wanted to see Weiser, home of the fiddle championships. It isn't much, an old Idaho town, old houses, no money for paint.

I also love Weezer's song Island in the Sun.... we'll never feel bad anymore. hip hip.

The drive over was pretty much how the drive is from Portland to LaGrande: beautiful at first as we drove through the gorge, then fascinating as we approached The Nothing--that great flat quilt of parched land rolling out beyond the turn in the river where the Mighty Columbia heads for the ocean at Umatilla or Hermiston or something and leaves Oregon to die of thirst. From then, well, staying awake was the task. New wind farms have sprouted up along either side of 84, strange plantations, the Washington windmills visible only from Oregon and vice versa. They are cartoonishly large, with generators the size of a schoolbus sitting atop towers well over two hundred feet tall. Occasionally we came upon one visible from the road, shockingly white against the perfect blue sky, propellers twirling slowly in a steady wind in a 154 foot swath. It was hard not to stare.

Once we were done in Weiser, we headed for Caldwell Idaho to visit my neice. They have a lovely small farm on the outskirts. Idaho looked like I expected Idaho to look. I've seen the panhandle, but never south. Rural. White. Republican. Cassie explained all that to me in advance. But being from Southern Oregon, and lily white, I would have been right at home.

After visiting Cassie and Mike, we took off for northeastern Oregon, home of the beautiful Wallowa Valley, which seems a generous reward for enduring The Nothing. We passed through part of Hell's Canyon and into the green green grass of Joseph at sunset. Because this was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants road trip, no advance reservations were made and there was a big ol' bike rally in Joseph and no lodging in the entire county except Minam. We'd heard it was a Bates Motel, so we drove all the way back to LaGrande to get a room.

So, we came back home along the Washington side, stopping only at the pretend Stonehenge which is actually a WWII monument with an inscription on the sacrificial altar that read something like, "blah blah blah...and the fire of patriotism that only death can quench." What -- really? Only death? Not even an Original Reed's Ginger Brew?

And what does stonehenge have to do with WWII?

And now my husband, doomsayer that he is, is looking at video clips of windmills exploding in flames and coming apart in a stiff wind. Geez. It is good to be home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

on blackberries

After two days of blackberry picking, netting probably five gallons of berries, enough for five gallon-size freezer bags, ten jars of freezer jam and two gigantic blackberry milkshakes, I have a few observations to share.

Is blackberry picking a lost art? Where are the blackberry pickers? In this economy, its a no-brainer. In Southern Oregon, where people still realize that berries actually grow out of the actual ground, there are people lining the roads in 110 degree weather, boards underarm, going to their favorite spots.

Seriously. You pay five bucks for a teaspoon of blackberries at Freddy's - and I'll admit, they're fat and pretty and you don't have to change clothes to get them and you're typically not wounded in the process unless you cut in line or use the parking lot of the 39th and Hawthorne location, but really, why NOT pick blackberries? They're free. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but I knew a guy once who planted blackberries in his front yard. Now that is begging for trouble if you ask me. Hand in hand with cockroaches, blackberries will suvive human occupation. I've seen them consume houses, cars, neighborhoods.

And there is significant difference between country picking and city picking. If you see previous posts, you'll learn about the first time I picked blackberries in Portland. It was an event. I got lost in Oaks Bottom. It is my husband's second fondest wish to have blackberry pie for his birthday and I didn't know where to look. The next year, I took my husband with me, and it was a little scary down in there with homeless folks that were napping or dead, but the berries were great. Then, we found this place way down at the far end of front street in the industrial district way out toward Linnton and it was good, some evidence of homeless folks, but not like being trapped in Oaks Bottom in the damp and dark. So we went back there this year and they'd mowed or poisoned all the berries and they were gone, and the people were gone, too. This year we picked out in Hillsboro along a forgotton road, kind of a perverse Lover's Lane/slash/city dump, with old sofas and porn magazines. Nasty. But the berries were great and easy picking what with my knee injury and being like standing on a pegleg pitching headlong into the briars.

I miss picking berries on the Applegate River. I miss knowing the places of fat berries near water. Berries that are firm and juicy and don't fall apart in your hand. I miss the winding road, the sound of larks and sandpipers protecting their nests along the beach, flat stones perfect for skipping; the low August river rolling warm over tumbled rocks; the absence of fear and imbalance.


You do have to know what to look for. For instance, there is a gloss to berries, and if the gloss is gone, the berry is over-ripe. And fatter is not always better. And there is an art to just picking. My husband tends to look up and over the tops of the bushes, to places he could never reach if he was seven feet tall, always in search of the perfect spot. Me? I just pick along the road, slowly, deliberately, going after low berries and the forgotten ones at waist level. You should not have to pull on them, but to gently roll them off the vine and into your hand. And don't get greedy. Don't drop a handful trying to fit just one more into your palm. Put them in the bucket. And don't set the bucket on uneven ground. Trust me on this. I use a cut out milk jug that has less chance of spilling.

There are a couple of things to bring: a board, a long sleeved shirt and wet rags. The board is to lay down and walk into deeper berries (once you've exhausted all the low berries.) The wet rag, well, take my word for it --when you're done picking, you'll know what to do with it. The shirt, for protection. But I think you can go faster if you don't wear a shirt and are careful. The shirt hangs up on the thorns and impedes the whole process. I don't mean shirtless for god's sake. Just sleeveless. And brave.

So, if you want some pie, say so. I have enough to make a few.

Friday, August 07, 2009

posting blues

Well, you'll have to take my word for it. My garden is luscious. It is bursting with squash and tomatoes and peppers and peas and cucumbers and lilies and pansies and nasturtium and morninglory and sunflowers and these red things that asia knows the name of and my veggie table is full of free food, but the photo posting thing won't work so you'll just have to wait.

thanks for waiting.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


In my former life, in my former town, I knew how to have a picnic. I'd hop in the truck, grab some cheese and crackers and reed's ginger brew, original, and head up the river. I knew the good places where nobody knows, private land, deep green holes like bathwater in August. But I don't know these rivers. I can't find a private place for a picnic. Now, it is my mission to figure this out. I don't want to go too far and I don't want to hang out with the throbbing metropolis. I just want to have a picnic. Period.

Today I drove out to Oxbow Park in Gresham. I'm not sure, but I think it was the Sandy River. It was alright. I found a nice table overlooking the river and read for awhile. I don't know, right now, if you can achieve privacy here in the big city. But on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm giving Oxbow Park a lukewarm 6 for a couple of reasons: number one: it is my first graded park and I wouldn't feel right giving it high marks when there is nothing to compare it with. I won't even consider Lewis and Clark or Blue Lake Park or Dabney Park which were packed with young drunk people who couldn't drive well and the grass is brown. And two: you can't even bring your dog. And truthfully, I don't care if you can't bring your dog, I care that I can't bring my dog. My dog is at least entertaining and not mean.

So there you have it: Park #1 Oxbow a rating of 6 on the picnicable scale.

My knee is better, for those of you keeping up. Torn meniscus. No dancing.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

heat wave

The pool is up. Isn't it blue?