Kisses lovers. This is what 50 looks like the day before it hits.
I squandered 49 in procrastination and sadness. How incredibly stupid.
I am grateful everyday for my family. I have to keep my attention on fine details because the big picture right now makes it hard for me to breathe. I am trying to let go of fear. That is such a hard thing to do. I am sporadically creative and feel in my bones that therein lies my salvation. Where is the courage required to leap?
There have been years from which I ungraciously took my leave claiming I would not miss them. Hello 2009! But I will. Right now, feeling properly old (thanks Mama for the AARP membership including bright red retro fanny pack!), I see them for what they were. Opportunities squandered. And fuck that.
So, barring Mayan prophecy, 2013 will be wooed. No more waiting for perfect conditions. I'm leaping. And I know I'll land where I should. Like always, I'll land on my feet. Remind me to tell you about how I used to jump off my horse Marmalade at a run and stick a perfect landing every time just for fun. That's how I roll. I truly do love you.
I've been away. Caretaking. Driving up and down between 5800 ft and 8000 ft in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado where my father lived until he rolled his car and changed his circumstances.
One day, driving home from the hospital I saw this scene at the local Denny's. We are not in Portland any more.
I can't sort out all the emotions, ideas, revelations, and resignations of this trip just yet. Still in the midst of figuring out the fine points.
When I drove home down that mighty and magnificent Columbia river gorge and rounded a bend to find the tip top of my sweet Willamette Valley I could finally breathe. I tasted the moisture in the air. I drove down an everyday street in this beautiful place and saw every sort of person in every sort of dress. No cow ponies or cows at Denny's. But I did see a goat mowing a lawn and my own fine dogs dancing with joy. And, best of all, the people that I love who make this place home.
In honor of the fullness of that I made a dutch baby that my baby and I just devoured.
Moan at the cliche if you will, there is no denying that, for me, there is no place like home. And home is a green, wet, fertile valley that terminates at its northern border in a confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers and lies just a low, misty mountain pass away from the Pacific ocean.
To make a dutch baby:
Heat oven to 400 degrees f
Grab your cast iron skillet and cut up an entire stick of butter to toss into pan
Place skillet with butter in hot oven and melt
In blender or with a whisk and large mixing bowl beat 6 eggs, then add 1 1/2 cups milk, then slowly whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour and whisk/blend for a minute.
Quickly pour egg mix into melted butter in skillet. Place back in oven and cook for 20 to 25 minute. Dutch baby will puff up and become golden.
Top this golden goodness with a squeeze of lemon and powdered sugar or jam or maple syrup.
If you are wildly inspired, during the intial butter melt, toss in a couple handfuls of thinly sliced apples and a handful of brown sugar and let this cook for a few minutes in the oven before pouring over your dutch baby mix. My oh my! how your mama doing?
In other news, this is lovely and again, not news to anyone, but such a wonderful reminder. Also, via the ever lovely, often poignant Miss Whistle our beloved Stephen Fry on Kindness something my glorious mother with her generous wisdom suggested as my mantra for the trip.
Here was the view driving back to Ouray every night for the past couple of months. Spectacular.
I always joke that I could be a brown bear. My favorite foods, foods I grew up eating in Alaska, include salmon and berries. My sister-in-law just posted a link to brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls in Alaska. It is too gorgeous not to share.
Brown Bears and Salmon. A perfect marriage. They each need the other. There is no need to root for one over the other. Neither exists without the other. May they be together always.
When I was a little girl I used to love it when my parents would take us to the restaurant at the visitors center at Mendenall Glacier where I would consume the words most delicious tuna sandwiches ( I have tried to recreate these sandwiches to no avail-closest I get is buttering both sides of the bread and spreading a very light layer of mayonnaise then piling on the tuna and adding some salt). Beside the road on the drive to and from the glacier runs a creek. I remember watching it carefully as we drove up when the salmon were running. Dear reader, you could not see the water for the fish. A creek of flashing silver as far as my eyes could see. I imagined it always had and always would be so rich with life.
I remember taking my son to see the Trask River Fish Hatchery here in Oregon one fall as the Chinook were spawning. In Oregon fourth grade public school students must do a report on a state county and my beautiful child scored Tillamook County-home to so many treasures including, conveniently, Al & G Ma's beach cabin in Rockaway.We embarked on an epic exploration of all things Tillamook from the highly recommended Historical Pioneer Museum to the Cheese Factory. We decided to check out the fish hatchery after visiting a nearby Pioneer Cemetery.
There I stood, suspended on a gangplank above the river, caught completely by surprise, sobbing at the sight of so many glorious fish. I never imagined I would ever see such a richness of salmon again after leaving Alaska. I knew it was just a small, hatchery raised group that I was witnessing in the magnificent, poignant finale of a journey as mysterious as it was epic. And there I stood weeping for the bears and the salmon and the native people and the fisherfolk and the little kids (the little me) who knew abundance and now knew that richness was gone. And I wanted my son to understand that story so desperately-to recognize those fish as life-bearers, as silver and red, exhausted gods creating whole worlds with their struggle.
Brown bears can be scary even though they most often remind me of my favorite dogs. We camped on Kodiak Island and heard stories of visitors who had to swim for their boats as they were chased off the beach by big bears. As we hiked to our cabin, we would ring bells and sing camp songs as loud as we could so the bears could avoid us. I remember marveling at my parent's good humor when all around us prowled hungry brown bears. I was sure we would eventually be eaten but I never let it deter me from running around that island with my brothers splashing into lakes and picking salmon berries.
Silly me, I thought plump children would be more delicious to summer hungry bears than fat salmon. There is nothing more delicious than fat salmon.
On my father's first week of work as state highway engineer, one of his survey crew was killed by a bear. I knew and respected their power even as a child. And I loved them. I love them. As ferocious as they are.
I hope they live long and prosper and send descendants out into the future to meet up with an ocean tested multitude of fat, shiny, oily, rich, beautiful life-giving fish.
Email marketing rarely moves me. But to see that Office Depot teamed up with Lady Gaga and the Born This Way Foundation really made my day. And it will stick with me. Courage in the face of this bully culture some so desperately want to cultivate (I'm shouting at you Sheriff Arpaio and you Michelle Bachmann and you Westboro Baptist Church and oy vay the list!) is a very beautiful thing (You listening Domino's Pizza and Target?). So, I wrote them a fan letter:
"I have never written to thank a company for marketing emails before but Office Depot deserves applause for teaming with the Born This Way Foundation. Our country has such a divisive landscape. Our politicians happily proclaim their bigotry, racism, and sexism. People wear their hatred and fear of others as badges of honor. It is time for all good citizens (even, perhaps especially, corporate citizens) to take a stand for justice and to defend the rights of all people to safety and self-expression without fear of violence and shame. Thank you so very much. I will never have to decide where I purchase my office and art supplies. You have made me a happy customer."
Wow. I got no mojo flowing. The mayhem maker has us all chasing our tails as we await what will be. Cryptic enough for you?
It is hard to love people who don't love themselves. That sounds so obvious. Stupid platitude. But in practice, to love someone bent on their own destruction or even just too sick to see they are courting death, is an exhausting thing. Sometimes you want to stop loving them.You want to let them go. Sometimes you wish it was over. Sometimes you feel guilty for entertaining that thought.
I love my brothers. We are each so different. But when I feel small and vulnerable and overwhelmed, I can fall back into a time when it was we three sitting in the back of an old car listening to the radio and singing along with each other. The middle child so very earnest. The baby so affable, sweet, and beloved. And me the big sister bossing and trying to make sense of the chaos. We were together. We were not alone in the world.
This song reminds me of them just because we sang it out loud together on one of our many long road trips.
And for the one who needs it, some truth as I see it and a little hope:
Made a lovely visit to the Hulda Klager Lilac Garden with my own glorious mother and my beautiful baby boy. The gardens are open every year for a couple of weeks before Mother's Day to celebrate Hulda's legacy. When I discovered that Hulda lost everything in the floods of 1948 and had to start again at age 83, I was inspired to face my own neglected garden.
10 years ago, in a fit of rage, someone I loved took an axe to my own 100 year old lilacs in the backyard. They were at least 18 feet tall and 20 feet wide-a veritable lilac perfumed forest. I suspect they were just one more thing he could be jealous about.
My dear neighbor Hazel, who was born in the house next door, told me the lilacs had bloomed that prolifically all of her long life. My house is now at least 123 years old and the lilacs were here for most of that time. I have mourned them each spring and avoided my backyard (site of the massacre) for too long.
My mother bought a beautiful Sarah Sands lilac, hybridized by Hulda, as a gift for me. So, I'm putting on my gauntlets and heading out to do battle with a forest of blackberry and residual heartache. Wish me luck.
I think that you are aware my dear reader of how deeply grateful I am to have been gifted the mother I have. To share two beautiful, sun-filled days with both my mother and my son in a single week was so lovely. I do hope your Mother's Day was just as sublime.
Today's highlight, in addition to planting peppermint, pineapple mint, and CHOCOLATE mint (who knew?!) was a kind comment left by one of my longtime blog-crushes Janelle from Ngorobob House: Life From the Hill. You, my dear reader Red Tara, can imagine my fan-girl excitement! She had posted to her blog this morning after a bit of a break. Reading her post made my morning, so I stopped by hers to let her know.
Since the day I gave up monkey muffins, I have relied on writers who deliver the goods for my morning indulgence ( huge latte with honey and a google reader chaser). Janelle's blog is a favorite treat.
Another eagerly anticipated blog is Tania Kindersley's, Backward in High Heels. Like me, Tanya adores horses. She recently brought her red mare home to the far north of Scotland. I have been planning to write about her experience with a commenter who suggested that readers were bored with her new found passion for the red mare. That she was too single-minded in her posts.
I tried to leave the following comment on her post:
Tania I wish I had commented on yesterday's post. All day my mind was humming with sympathetic joy for you and the red mare and the pony and the pigeon. I don't have an eloquent way to express it, but this coup de foudre has been what finally grabbed my attention and made me a daily reader after a long time of just occasionally visiting.
I am fascinated by people's passions. Especially those of women, as we have for so long been told to keep quiet about personal delight lest we call too much attention to ourselves.
I, too, have loved a horse and part of the joy of these posts has been the stirring of my own sweet memories. But greater than that has been the (admittedly voyeuristic) pleasure of following along as you throw caution to the wind and ecstatically follow your heart's desire. We should all be so brave and so lucky.
Thank you for such tremendous pleasure and for the honesty of your work on the blog which has come to feel like a delicious present I get to unwrap each day.I am so grateful.
For some reason I couldn't leave the post but I wanted to put it someplace to remind myself that what we love, what we are moved by, is the fuel of life. I feel so bogged down in the 'shoulds', the 'what-ifs', and sometimes even, oh the shame of it!, the 'what will they think of its?' that I need reminders and fuel.
To the women and men who write about their lives and passions and everydays I can only say thank you. And, I love you.
That's all for tonight. I'll figure out this new blogger trip another day.
I am working away on some new projects. If I can tear myself away from reclaiming my land, I'll be back to fill you in on the details.
Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,
smiles like a big cat and says
that she's a conjugated verb.
She's been doing the direct object
with a second person pronoun named Phil,
and when she walks into the room,
some kind of light is coming from her head.
Even the geraniums look curious,
and the bees, if they were here, would buzz
suspiciously around her hair, looking
for the door in her corona.
We're all attracted to the perfume
of fermenting joy,
we've all tried to start a fire,
and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.
In the meantime, she is the one today among us
most able to bear the idea of her own beauty,
and when we see it, what we do is natural:
we take our burned hands
out of our pockets,
by Tony Hoagland
from Donkey Gospel, 1998
Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Lest you think I am flighty or fickle with all this constant falling (I can assure you my loves endure), I offer this as explanation - I listen to wise people and I try and try and try:
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
~ Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
Happy Saint Patrick's Day - one of my Poppa's favorite holidays. I am a proud descendent of John Kelly. I take my name from his. It means warrior. My beautiful mother, his fine daughter, sent me greetings and she closed with: "May the most you wish for be the least you get; may the best times you ever had be the worst you will ever see." And love, always love.
I left the comment below on Mrs. G's blog, but I wanted to put it here to remember. It fits in with a certain theme I'm vibing on. The comment was left in response to Mrs. G's request for thoughts on this video (which she said was sweeping the web and I had not yet seen-6 million viewers?):
So, Dad is quite angry. And he has a gun. And obviously, he is a parenting teenager newb. As the daughter of an angry man, I can tell you that public rants and humiliation do not forge strong parent/child bonds, healthy relationships,compliance with daddy's wishes, or respect.
We are seeing one angry dad's response to his child's teenage angst. Teenagers do that. They diss their parents. They feel "put out" by the demands their parents make. The are embarrassed and even disdainful of their parents. They can frequently be over-the-top asshats, cruel, thoughtless, and pissy mean.
This is normal human development. Normal = Not a shooting offense. Fear has no place in parent/child relationships. It is destructive to that which is most essential-trust. And, if handled correctly, (I liked to use long words about individuation and developing synaptic connections i.e. "your brain don't work so hot right now because you have a lot of synaptic connections to forge.") teenage asshatment can be talking points that enhance a teenager's sense of self and self-worth, which helps them develop connection and empathy, which makes aging parental ass-wiping highly probable (one among many of the highly desirable traits we hope to see in our offspring).
I don't advocate being a doormat for a kid, but I do believe we must show our children respect before we can demand it from them. Like all tough skills, becoming a tolerable human is a learned behavior. Takes trial and error and a very committed team routing for you to actually master the complex feat of growing up.
I have 2 beautiful adult children who at times did equally stupid, insensitive things (just as I, too, did when young-probably still do as we save all our best bullshit for those we love and trust. Sorry Mama.). I believe that they have learned how to be remarkable adult people through loving, honest, SAFE, (no cigarettes, anger, guns -heaven help us!) and respectful interactions with adults they could count on to establish boundaries and listen as often as they talked to teenagers.
I feel bad for this family. Where do you go to talk things out when the level of aggression is raised to such heights? And how can a cornered kid make a graceful retreat or attempt rapprochement when they are not shown how to handle disappointing behaviors which, let's face it parents, our kids receive from us as well.
So, that was my comment on the video. It makes me sad to think 6 million people think this is ok parenting. I call shenanigans. This dude is an amateur who could benefit from some education. I can only hope he was arrested for deploying hollow-point bullets in a residential neighborhood and that his arrest taught his daughter a little bit about how not to handle her disappointment and anger.
Lately I've been feeling cranky. Any time I open my mouth someone is there to tell me I am angry. Every alert woman will have this experience almost daily. It's nothing new. Most of the time I just ignore it, sometimes don't even notice it. The offense I am committing is commonly called having an opinion while wearing a vagina. Hearing about how this makes me an angry woman, a wrathful goddess, bitchy, or the perennial "over-reactive" is so fucking boring.
I have opinions. I am an emotional creature. You could be so lucky. You could. And then, if you were, you would stop policing my words. You would hesitate before clamping your hand over my mouth and whispering "shhh!" in fear of the boogeyman who is around every corner just waiting to hurt a girl. You might, like me, occasionally call that boogeyman out. Yell " Bring it!" at him or point out to passers by that he is standing right there and they are walking too close and should tell him to go shower some of the stank off if he really wants to use stealth to scare.
I am not interested in compliance. I believe it is how we got into this mess. I am tired of being told how I feel or that the radical fact that I feel and then express my feelings is a problem.
My life, like everyone's life, will be brief. Too quick a trip to tiptoe around all this bullshit. So, I wear hip waders and get on with it. To those who would prefer I demur I say "Fuck you" and "You should try it sometime." I know that you are afraid that once you open your mouth all that will come out is a scream, but trust me, there is so much more you have to say.
"I am an emotional creature. It's how the earth got made. I love love love being a girl." Thank you Eve Ensler.
Universal Mother. I have loved you long time. We had our babies around the same time. I danced my beautiful son around our dark living room to the Lion and the Cobra when he couldn't sleep. I felt you there with us, your magic so real.
I see you tweeting sweet darling girl. I want to reply, to remind you that you wrote the anthem (the one I sang and played over and over to my daughter hoping to immunize her from the dangers of a self-immolating desire):
I never wanna be no man's woman
I only wanna be my own woman
I haven't traveled this far to become
no man's woman
Now, I know for all of us (especially you, me, and my girl) that doesn't mean we don't like blokes. We are more than we seem, like all women. We are glorious. We must remember.
My luminous mother and I once did the Portland Marathon together. I know! Can you believe it dear reader? What's more fantastic is that we finished! I do not enjoy trudging uphill. Some might call this laziness. I don't look at it that closely.
The marathon course is pretty hill-avoider friendly except for the approach to the St. Johns' bridge which offers a hill challenge, albeit a minimal, modest, most people wouldn't notice yet present hill challenge. On my way up I alternated between whining at my poor mum ("Are we there yet?"), singing James Brown's "I Feel Good!" breathlessly, and reciting this lovely poem by Thich Nath Hanh, which, along with my glorious madre, was companion to me on almost every step of the 9 months of training we did to prepare:
Peace is Every Step
Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.
And, today you sent this dear reader, to remind me how much I love the monk and the world: