Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Abstract oceanviews from a stormy weekend at the Ester Lee Motel in Lincoln City, OR. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010


It must be that time of year again.  The gray and gorgeous Oregon coast gets more than it's fair share of posted photos as I long for some salt water rhythms.  Another day of work and then I'm off to a mini two day retreat of writing and writing and writing.  Honestly, I wasn't sure I'd ever say that again.  I wondered if the idea of myself as "DL" or "Dead Lazy" as I was occasionally called by my father, would settle in so thoroughly to my bones that it would be impossible to ever lift them again.

Laziness is just a subset of fear.  Do nothing and never fail.  But finally the fail better ethic of my beloved Beckett has set in.  I have joined a new critique group and yesterday was awed by the talent on display.  Sometimes, it takes this kind of force-fed brilliance to kick my sluggish competitive genes into gear. If my fellow writers can show up with such a delicious, meaty feast then I better get cooking.  OK, not cooking.  That lame metaphor only makes me panic.  "But the only thing I can make is cereal!"

All I need to do is hole up in a quiet room, ocean before me, and crank out some bright failures.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hugs all around

There are dozens of ideas roaming dumbly around my head these days.  More than a few of them are about the physical distance we keep from one another and the rare moments when that distance disappears.  I've got my own observations on the subject whispering in my ears to become some kind of essay (and by essay I mean scribbles in a notebook pleading to be turned into fiction and not dropped on the page all naked and vulnerable), but for now I simply offer a few articles on the power of a little skin on skin:

For some scientific backup for my profession as a massage therapist click here.
For a broader article on the power of a pat on the back click here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Booty from the land of book nerds

Every once in a while, I stop and wonder why I'm still so devoted to Portland.  My neighborhood is crawling with boys in handlebar mustaches and girls in skinny jeans and big, ugly glasses that sneer at the outdated.  I can't walk to the store or the bank without being aggressively smiled at and cajoled by some poor wage slave promoting the ACLU, HRC, or Greenpeace.  The traffic is ridiculous for a town this size.  The housing costs are still overinflated.  Our summer is six weeks long and at night the screams of a thousand drunks filter through my windows.

BUT THEN...Wordstock comes around.  Every year this festival brings together a dizzying mix of author readings, workshops and panels scattered among rows of vendors hawking books, journals, and other ephemera.  Even though the convention center setting makes me feel like I'm in a miserable hybrid of multi-ring circus and strip mall, I never fail to thrill at being surrounded by masses of other book nerds.  If nothing else, Portland is a city of readers.

For me, this isn't just the source of a few cute facts like Portland's libraries being among the busiest in the nation or that Powell's buys 3,000 used books over their counters every day.  It means I'm part of a huge, wildly diverse tribe of residents who value the written word.  This is no small thing. 

I caught the last bit of Anthony Doerr's question and answer period at Wordstock and he said, more or less, that novels are one of the most essential ways we have of getting into another person's head.  The empathy we get from fiction (and nonfiction for that matter) makes us better people.  It's nice to know that, even though we may fail to retain the lessons learned from all those pages, we are at least trying.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lake Quinault: A trip report

Maybe it's a sign of a deep acceptance of myself as a Pacific Northwesterner that, for my birthday, I chose to take a trip to the Quinault Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula.  It could also be a sign that I couldn't afford a week in the Caribbean. 

We stayed at the Lake Quinault Lodge which was built in about 3 months for $90,000 in 1926.  The property sits directly on the lake and from the grounds there are several easy hikes either along the lake or into the forest that seems to be trying its hardest at every given moment to repossess the land carved out of it by humans.
 Whereas Portland receives a little over 3 feet of rain per year, this area of the world gets about 12 feet.  When we arrived at the front desk of the lodge I heard the receptionist saying into the phone, "There's no guarantee. It rains even in August.  It's the rain forest."  While she remained pleasant, I could tell that she said this many times a day to people hoping to find a patch of sun in this wet, moss-rich landscape.
We were lucky, lucky folk that the most rain we saw was on I-5 on our way there.  The clouds parted right around sunset and stayed away for the rest of our trip. 

An inviting dock pulled promises from us to return in the summer. Of course, we knew that in August the dock would be full of screaming children, all the sweet solitude of it crowded beneath dozens of slapping feet.
We watched for cougars.  We saw none.  We didn't watch for foxes, but were briefly blessed with one crossing the main road.  One fox, half a dozen blue jays, and dozens of strutting crows.

The best place we found for a good thick coating of moss was the Maple Glade trail on the North shore of the lake.  Past the field of elk, we stepped into the creepy, quiet and boggy glade. 

 There's a partially restored homestead on the trail and it was interesting to imagine a family settling there in what felt like the middle of nowhere in 2010. Is there any way these monstrous, fuzzy trees seemed less frightening at the turn of the century?  How many months of cool, gloomy days would it take before you surrendered to the moss?

I don't know what those homesteaders thought, but all I could think about was how the whole place was simultaneously strange, beautiful and a good place to hide a dead body.
Back at the Lodge, a good dose of fire-warmed couches and sturdy wood beams cleared my head of most of its morbid thoughts. . .

That is until I looked up at the stencils of teeth-bearing indians and stalking wolves painted onto each of the large pillars.

 Better to stay focused on the beauty outside: the lake, the dew drying slowly from the lawn and the Adirondacks, coupled and waiting for company.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Day After

In 1983 ABC broadcast "The Day After" about nuclear war between the U.S.  and the Soviet Union.  I was in 8th grade and still remember how, by the end of the movie,  I had decided that when the attack came (and it was coming at some point without doubt) I wanted to be among the glowing skeletons, evaporated in an instant.  Surviving the cruel halls and danceless crepe-papered cafeterias of junior high were difficult enough.  As much as I hated my boring little town, there was no way I was going to survive its destruction and my own radiation poisoning.

Of course, instead of a nuclear winter, I eventually wandered into the black and gray folds of a teenage depression.  Accompanied by a persuasive goth and indie soundtrack I started to believe it was loneliness and/or boredom that was going to kill me and not some angry Russian.  My own bitter brain was a far more real enemy than any of the blatant bullies or cold-shouldered whisperers I'd actually encountered.

By the time I was sunk deep in the disappointments of a poorly chosen and disastrously executed college career, I was pretty sure that I'd not see the ripe old age of 40.  In my early twenties, I was so sure of this that I took on the persona of a cranky old lady.  It was as if I had to make sure to get in all that unfettered complaining about annoying people and their stupid ideas before it was too late.

And now, here I am, the day after my 40th birthday.  Not only did I make it, but with the help of my beloved city of Portland, a surprisingly appropriate career and a small but brilliant cadre of friends, the bitterness has diminished and what remains of my old lady persona is finally age-appropriate.  My beau now joins me as we shake our fists at the drunk fuckwads shouting outside our house at 2am.  Get off our lawn!  Don't you know people around here are trying to sleep?! 

Oh yeah, that's the stuff.  Here's to 40 and long beyond...