This Time Last Year

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This time last year, it was a lot more like spring, remember?

There was a barely warm breeze on the loose, causing me to browse the nursery for seeds for my future veggie garden (all the while caught up in a kind of frenzy dreaming about the fresh salsas and salads I’d make when the warm months returned).

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There was a quick trip to Astoria to shake off the cobwebs. Despite my my longstanding grudge against the Oregon coast (too crowded in the summer, too gloomy in the winter, altogether too many windsock shops), I really liked the city’s ancient crumbling victorians and colossal freighters anchored in the inlet. I liked the melancholy place names—like Cape Disappointment, where all the ships crashed, even the one carrying supplies to build a new lighthouse. It’s all exceptionally Northwest!

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There was also a life-affirming first-ever backcountry trip to a fire lookout in Central Oregon. I’ve almost never felt happier than I did on that first night spent rolled up inside a sleeping bag on a tiny bed atop a towering mountain. This is because I was incredibly warm and comfortable, I was tired from wallowing 4 miles uphill in the deep snow with a heavy pack (an act that I would call mountaineering, but I know if I did real mountaineers would pat my head and say, “Hush”), I was among several people that I liked very much, and I was there in the cozy dark surrounded by 360 degrees of windows that held nothing but stars.

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Anyhow, in keeping with the New Year Vibrations of early Feb, I support getting 100% back to basics, getting 100% serious about clearing out clutter both mental and physical. This year, though, I don’t have the energy for renewal. With the short days and darkness of weather—and with death all around—I feel like I’m only now coming out of a deep, dark hole. My current energy stores are reserved, it seems, for just keepin’ on.

So hey, winter of 2017, I apologize. I’ll do better next year.

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Lately

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Lately, I’ve been under the weather, in weather that’s awful. These things go together. There’s something very right about sneezing and shivering while walking through the soaking-ass rain (so icy it could almost be snow—but it didn’t want to give you the satisfaction).

My ailment—it’s nothing serious, don’t worry. A common sinus-ey thing. I’m just sick enough to feel bad, but not sick enough to give up on life. The thing to do in this condition is execute the bare daily minimum—and then come home and lay around. And as part of this plan’s rollout, I’ve been watching The Young Pope on HBO. Crikey! It’s really great. The characters are offbeat and complex, flawed, funny and strange. And the scenery. The reds are deeply saturated, the whites glow with an unearthly light. I mean every clip is perfect, like its own baroque painting. If you haven’t watched it, do. And give it a couple episodes for the story and characters to air out. That’s my opinion anyway—you can do whatever you want, of course.

So that’s what’s been going on around here. I’m starting to feel better, although Mark (who built me the above raised veggie beds for spring if/when it ever comes) ominously, epicly sneezed  this morning. Maybe he’s next? At any rate, a full moon lunar eclipse is on the way tomorrow—how lucky! I reckon we could all use some cosmic assistance during a dark time such as this.

3 Things

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Mini ramping revival: Years from now, we’ll tell tales about this winter. The “crazy winter of ’17″! Right now, though, we’re livin’ it, and I am not understating things by saying this is the least amount I have ever skated in any season, ever. But that’s okay. We have to live in time and the realities of our world. It was awfully nice, though, last week, to session the garage mini again—sustained by friends and beers—and feel warm, and, heck, feel happy.

Durango’s ashes: Over the weekend, a few of us hiked a very long way into Mt. Hood National Forest. We kept climbing the steep switchbacks until we broke free from the trees and found what we were looking for—a bold, rocky precipice. Here, several months ago, we’d come with Durango—my wonderful first-pup-after-Lefty. And here, we scattered his ashes. When Lefty died, we buried him in the garden and I can still feel him there. I don’t know where Durango is—I can’t feel him anywhere. Maybe he wasn’t even with us long enough to linger. Still, scattering his ashes made me happy. Watching that dust fly away wild on the wind. Earth dust, to become, at some point, start dust, I hope?

Moonlight: I don’t know if the trailer does this movie justice. It makes it seem overly serious, misses the tender moments of light. However, I didn’t go see Moonlight (the early show on a winter evening of no particular import) because of the trailer. I went because I heard it was good—nay, great, and had the Oscar noms to prove it, and also because I listened to an interview with the film’s creators and found their perspective compelling. LONG STORY SHORT, I loved this movie. See it—even if you think it might look depressing. Like all real-world stories, with sadness, there is redemption.

Compassion Is Radical

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Saturday was a big day in Portland. A big day everywhere. Even on our morning dog walk, we saw the hustle—the whole city getting ready to march. Families piling into cars, the kids carrying their very own homemade signs.

Katie showed up to my house right as a hard, cold rain began to fall. We walked to the train, joining a steady stream of people, and barely squeezed on the blue line headed downtown. Again, the whole city was here. The train had to blow through all the subsequent stops, its cars already packed to the gills.

Once downtown, you felt it. A swelling crowd, a swelling energy. It was palpable—it vibrated right through your rib cage. The masses were full of good will, but in general, the mood was somber.

As part of the event, there was a rally and a march, but we couldn’t get anywhere near the “rally” and so just stood around, and walked around, and couldn’t find our friends, and talked to people, and brushed shoulders with all walks of life, all ages. Before the march started, nobody knew what to do with themselves. What are we doing here? Shouldn’t we be DOING SOMETHING? You had to remind yourself, we are here to be here. Our presence is enough—it is, in fact, everything.

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The rain fell harder, colder. We live in Portland. That’s what it does. My hair was soaked. I had full body goosebumps. My cardboard sign was disintegrating. All of it was just fine. Perfect even. Because why should it be easy? Baby, a little rain must fall.

Personally, I took the idea of “women’s march” very literally, and my signs reflect that. But I imagine people were there for a wild range of reasons, from fighting systemic racism to defending gay rights. One of my favorite signs addressed the new prez and simply said, “Grab a constitution.”

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As an employed white women, I come from a place of privilege. And although the massive turnout for this march also, in its way, emphasized how we (“we” as liberal society) have NOT shown up when other minority issues where at stake in the past—we are here now.

Speaking strictly for myself, I was standing there in downtown Portland, Oregon, USA, to leverage my power and privilege in order to help people who are underserved in this country and to challenge the systemic mechanisms that infringe on the rights of people without power. Because it’s the right thing to do. (And because just complaining doesn’t do any damn good.)

I’ve heard/seen some arguments against marching, recently, online and from friends and frenemies. “Those people probably didn’t even vote, and now they’re out their protesting to be cool.” ????? A strange argument. I only know a few people who didn’t vote—they’re def not the ones protesting. I think this is a way of trying to take power away from the thing, so that one does not have to feel bad about oneself for not participating?

The “crybaby” argument. I reject this reasoning, because it’s the quickest route to taking the spotlight away from the issues, making it an us vs. them thing instead of an advocating for a little kind, calm thinking.

“Protesting doesn’t work.” As spoken by a generation that’s wayyyy too used to instant gratification. Sure, there is no direct route from A) protesting to B) change. You won’t see it on a road map. More like, it’s ripples in the pond. Get enough of them, and you make a wave.

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Again, speaking only for myself, I can say that the more I did nothing, the more helpless I felt, like nothing you could ever do would ever make a difference because it’s all so depressingly, frustratingly, steam-coming-out-of-yer-ears fucked. However, when I started doing things, walking in the streets, sending emails, making a phone call, sending a postcard, I felt more hope, not less. Taking a little power back, it felt like. Sure, I don’t expect my actions to affect change. But OUR actions, well they might attract the kind of climate and universe in which kindness/compassion/common decency COULD HAPPEN. And wouldn’t that be radical?

Two Worth Your Time

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For snow days. For ice storms. For cabin fever. For life on weather hold. For cold nights with the furnace on blast … Here are 2 good movies that’ll get ya thinking.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story. A crazy story about a crazy story. What is art?  Does it matter who the artist is? Was it all a hoax? Is hoax even the right word? For me, this drama says more about “us”—a society hungry for celebrity—than it does about a middle-age woman channeling a teenage boy to write books.

Midnight Special. A sci-fi that doesn’t feel like sci-fi. Such a subtle movie. What’s it really about? You have to use your brain, figure things out for yourself, make the connections and be rewarded.

Burning The Old Year

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For certain reasons, as well as no reason at all, I didn’t go out on New Year’s Eve. The trick here is to plan your no plans in advance. Don’t do any “we’ll see what happens,” or “maybe we’ll check out that one party for a little while.” Decide ahead of time. Put your sweatpants on early. Then when the light falls, you’re already settled in and cozy.

Anyway, as holidays go, this one was a bit sad—a night full of memories. However, we were warm inside by the fire and our plates were pleasantly full, which, despite anything, is a life affirming way to spend a winter’s eve. At one point, a tidy package was discovered outside our front door. We unwrapped it to reveal a candle smelling of cedar, along with the loveliest note. “Can’t help but feel the emptiness. I hope this warms your heart and home.” I lit the candle and cried … for him … for both of them.

Early the next morning, we drove up a volcano through the blizzarding snow. Tony and Ryan were awaiting us at the ticket line. We hopped the lift and rode hip deep powder until our faces froze off. It was smooth and creamy. It was largely untracked. We whistled and hollered. We went fast. We were happy.

And just like that, a cycle starts anew. Happy 2017, everyone!

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2016 By The Numbers

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1 mini ramp. What happened was, it rained a lot, and I started missing my old mini ramp this spring. I didn’t tell anyone, though. Within a week, the universe, along with Colin, Johnny, Niki and Deva, had delivered a lovely used ramp to my residence. Some things just work like that.

 

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2 border crossings. I’ve taken to making a list of places I wanted to go. A “to-go” list. For years, the little surf/hippy town of Tofino, B.C. and the medieval ocean-faring country of Portugal have been on that list. Now they’re not. Because I went there, to both places, THIS YEAR! On the making-shit-happen scale, 2016 was a level 10, I’d say.

 

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5 months living with Mark. My steady boo moved in on August 1. After what amounts to years of living alone, the struggle to not become curmudgeonly was real. But turns out, having someone at the house when you get home is quite lovely, because then that someone is around to open stuck jars of jam, and there’s someone to drink wine with as the light falls, and when that someone happens to be someone you love, well isn’t that just a little bit of life magic?

 

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6 nights sleeping out under the stars. I thought it was more. Surely it was 15 or 20? It’s one of those mysteries of memory, how all those nights sleeping in my old bed, the shades closed just so, one just like the next, they all blend together, and so 1 or 2—or 6—nights passed bathing in starlight, an owl crying over there, the tallest of the trees rustling and creaking, or if in the desert, a coyote howling in the nearby dark … Nights like these are so full of sensory experience that they just take up more room in your mind.

 

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2 broken hearts. Twice in 3 months, I held the head of the dog I love while the life passed right out of him. Lefty? I think about him all the time. I dream of him often. And now, with a little perspective, I can look back and be proud that I didn’t cling, that I was afraid but didn’t let the fear rule me, and that I was able to walk with him into the best death possible.

For Durango, our lil pup, barely 5 months old, Mark and I are still struggling and struck dumb, with no understanding and no peace. Durango departed us one week ago today. Christmas, Twin Falls, Idaho. 10 p.m. We left him in the car. He was alive. We came back, he was dead. I shook him, pressed his little ribs cage and blew into his little lungs, we panicked, we yelled, we called every vet in town, we didn’t know what to do, our hands froze, we cursed the cold, we drove too fast up the dark highway to an emergency vet hospital, we got pulled over in their parking lot, the cop saw Durango and said “Go!”, we rushed him in, they stuck a tube down his throat, they stuck a needle in his heart, but it was all … too late. We had to leave him there, on the table. Just leave him and walk out. Get back in the car. Drive home to Portland, 12 hours through a cataclysmic snowstorm, staring out the windows, pits in our stomach, suffocated by the stillness in the car, feeling like everything was the same but impossibly, irreconcilably different.

My dear friend Genna said to me recently, “Sometimes there’s no lesson to learn, no ‘takeaway.'” I shall choose to believe that. Or maybe the lesson is just how we get to know our own capacity for love when faced with its sudden absence? Anyway, for now I’m staying in, living a sparrow-brown existence, avoiding my phone with it’s many megabytes of puppy photos, and pretending everything is alright—because eventually, it will be.

Favorites 12.20.16

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Road trips over airports. I’m elated to be driving to Colorado for Christmas instead of flying there. It’s a long drive. But think about the airport! The airport, during the holidays. There’s a complex equation that sums up time spent vs. worth. For plane travel, you have to factor in bag-check lines, security lines, boarding lines, weather delays, lines to get coffee, lines to buy expensive, poorly tasting snacks, lines for the bathroom, lines for baggage claim, lines for the airport bus. Ugh. This year, though, we shall allocate between 17 & 18 hours to: podcasts, Leonard Cohen tunes, conversation, and driving through the snowy world being masters of our own destiny.

Kite Hill Cream Cheese: Made, not of milk, but of almonds. Typically, I turn my head at fake cream cheese. It usually tastes off. Is it the emulsifiers? I dunno. But not this delicate, artisanal stuff. It’s rich and supple, saturated with the perfume of green meadows and soft-petaled flowers. Spread on toast, it has the power to save the world I’m pretty sure.

The puppy in the morning time. If you have a dog, then you know that they are inarguably at their cutest first thing in the morning. Spunky. Snuggly. Happy to meet the new day. Now take a puppy and times that by about 1 million.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople: Taika Waititi always kills it. This film is mad and rambling. It’s so warm. So clever. And gah, Sam Neill! Anyway, I strongly advise you to watch the movie and feel good.

Ice World

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A snowstorm blew into town at around 12:18 p.m. on Thursday. The weather persons had predicted it, so when the sky went from hard gray to feathery white, no one was surprised, and we were all delighted to run out into the office parking lot and turn circles amidst the billowing flakes—each of us inwardly pretending that we were the very center of the snow globe. Mark came to pick me up from work around 2, as I refuse to drive in the snow. We put his truck into 4 wheel drive and rolled Northeast-ward from Belmont through the peaceful streets. Inside a Chinese restaurant in Hollywood, I ate hot noodles and felt happy.

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Everyone in Portland (as no one in Portland is from Portland) laughs about how the schools close and the city grinds to a halt at the first hint of snow. We all come from heartier, colder places, it seems. In truth, there was only one snow day ever that I can remember growing up in Colorado. And yet, I get it. Things are different here. Portland doesn’t have snow plows. We don’t have salt or sand. Snow shovels? Naw. Also, the temperature hovers right around freezing, turning snowy streets into stone-cold ice rinks. Even with 4-wheel drive, hills you didn’t realize existed, like the one on 47th and Broadway, become insurmountable Everests in these conditions. Momentum is your friend—every intersection, a total hail mary.

Anyway, I like the mythos of the storm. Storms create stories. They’re rememberable, they’re romantic. Even in a place like where I grew up, where it snows professionally, we had our storms. I’ll forever remember this one Christmas eve—I was young. 7? 8? It snowed nearly two feet. Our power went out in the night, and my sister and I laid awake staring at the digital clock blinking 12:00, feeling like the only people on the planet, wondering, desperately, if Santa had come?! When we couldn’t resist any longer, we snuck out to look under the Christmas tree. You couldn’t even see the tree there were so many presents! A mountain of them. Dark shapes in the dark. We didn’t peak under any wrapping papers, or shake any box to determine its contents. We just just stood there and soaked up the potential energy of all those unopened presents. Minutes later, we slipped back into our beds and fell asleep softly, deeply—as softly and deeply as the snow falling down outside.

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Cabinspiration

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This time of year more than others, I find it worth remembering that I have enough, I am enough.

Still, I’ve often pondered a world where a small woodsy cabin, forever in evergreens, was part of my life. I’d imagined it to be a humble, utilitarian place, built simply out of natural materials, and I’d go there to quiet my mind, live honestly, be outside.

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In fairly breaking news, I’m here to report that I’m in the process of purchasing a small plot of land in the woods of Central Oregon. This modest half acre, shaded by Ponderosas, will in all hopes be the site of said future cabin.

I’m spending all my money on it—my retirement, and any and all savings. Fear-inducing? Yes. There is no safety net. But what’s our money doing there, in the bank, anyway? Why do we work, if not to bring daydreams to right here, right now? And banks, well they don’t always do the best things with our money, do they? So this is a plan to sort of take that money back. It’s a retirement plan I can actually use until I retire (which, let’s face it, will prob be never!).

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This year, more than any I can remember, has an on-the-cusp energy. I turned 39 in September. It’s very tipping-point-y. I feel an awful lot like I better start making that ideal life happen right now. If not now, WHEN?

So—I’m on the hunt for tips and cabin-spiration. I was thinking A frame. But now I’m not so sure. Maybe something more modern? I dunno. What do you think?

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