A new mountain bike: In December Mark gifted me a two-wheeled steed in honor of the winter Yule. I’ve been craving a method to get way out into the backcountry and feel like come summer I will do many horrendous climbs and long loaping descends on this bike, and it will calm my troubled spirit.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: I only read sci-fi when it comes recommended from my big sister, as she has immaculate taste in the genre. When this book arrived, I knew I must read it and did so in a matter of 3 days. It takes you inside a dreamworld flowing with the odd and creepy, never painting the full picture but instead a vague outline, remaining mysterious, knowing all the strangest things are cooked up by your own imagination. The book is part of a trilogy, and spoiler alert—they made a movie out of ’em starring Natalie Portman. Better get reading!
60 degrees on a Saturday: You wake up inside a house with glowing windows. The day shines with opportunity. Go out and do stuff, or sit at home, it doesn’t matter. Life is better in the warmth and light.
Rebecca Gates from the Spinanes: Me, Colorado, died red hair, corduroys and a cardigan, listening to the Spinanes in between Geology and German class. Fast forward 20 years to Oregon, and there’s Rebecca on stage in front of me playing soft-as-velvet acoustic guitar in a halo of purple light.
A winter solstice party in the sky: Sunday evening in the dead of winter is more like Sunday afternoon. What a fine time of day to walk the dog, though. On the way to the schoolyard the sky cracks into a magenta golden dream, like alpenglow, like cotton candy, and then on the way home it’s dark. The Christmas lights twinkle cheerfully as you walk by and peek in people’s windows, watching all the small, graceful moments of their quiet indoor lives.
Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Sam Beam: I’m still thinking about this conversation Marc Maron had with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine fame. What a gentle, funny human. What warmth. In my mind, he’s a bearded buddha, living like he does off in the woods of Carolina with five kids, a bunch of banjos and a head full of dusty tunes. He has the secret. He laughed at every single interview question—even the ones that weren’t funny. “You can’t be too serious about it,” he said. “It’s only life.”
Joan Didion: After watching the Netflix documentary about her, I was inclined to reopen Slouching Toward Bethlehem and spend a night reading wisdoms like this: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 am. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be …”
Portobello rueben at Capitol: On a Tuesday night of no particular import we went out for bar food at Capitol on Broadway. It wasn’t our first choice, but Shan Dong was full and I refuse to wait for dinner in town of 10 bajillion restaurants. So. Amidst ladies dressed in shimmery skirts and men in dapper coats, I ate the reuben of a lifetime. Beet and cabbage slaw, hearty mushroom meet, crisp rye. Thank you, world! Thanks December. Cheers Portland. Sometimes, you just get it right.
Stranger Things, season 2. I know you’ve heard of it. It deserves to be heard of. It deserves to be watched amidst bitten fingernails and tea spilled on the couch when you jumped at the scary thing that jumped off the screen at you. Those little humans—kids, I think they’re called—can really act.
Hot pokers in my back: The unsolved mysteries of a sharp, lingering pain just beneath my left shoulder blade. The last time it bothered me was in the midst of a total life melt down. Engagement, failing. Business, all consuming. Weather, wet and bitter cold. Unsurprisingly, a tarot card reading revealed the source of my back pain to be emotional—the earthly place where I held all my twisting woes. Spoiler alert: I made it through. My life didn’t end. My back felt better—so slowly I barely noticed. That was 5 years ago. Though the hot poker is back, the woes are not. I gave up tarot readings and bought a foam roller.
Depth Perception: I didn’t not like this new snowboard flic by the Travis Rice machine. I had a good time watching it, mainly for all the pillows and powder riding, and also the skit featuring my favorite little Canadian cabin in the woods. The same cabin where—see below—I spent one peaceful, quiet, ultra-starry night of summer slumber.
Black hits. When I bought my house 11 years ago, the trim was painted a festive teal. I hired Neil Dacosta and his lass Sara Phillips to paint over it with an understated white—and do classics accents of deep red. Recently, I realized I could—nay, must do something different. And so I went to Home Depot and bought a pint of black to refresh the accents. What I like is the way black isn’t even a color. It doesn’t add anything to the mix—it just emphasizes things, like putting eyeliner on all your windows. Here they are!
Old Country mornings. Townes. Emmy Lou. They are very recommended for breakfast listening on cool-to-cold mornings with fall light coming through the windows (when the NPR membership drive and other horrors of the world have taken the op for soothing news radio off the table).
Harvest moons. Not the Neil Young album of the same name. The real thing—our planet’s satellite. I can never really get over the moon. It’s strange light and mysterious vibrations. What pulls the ocean, pulls us in seen and unseen ways. Or at least that’s what the folk revivalists tell us. Regardless, you can’t not gasp at that big ol’ pumpkin-sized moon hanging over the horizon.
Dove Vivi. Under the influence of cornmeal crust pizza and a glass of red, on maybe the last truly warm night of the year, you can discuss anything. Friends. Work. Blatant gossip. Philosophy. Rock and roll. Television. Death. Birthdays. Future plans and regrets. Etc. At the end, when there are 2 pieces left but 4 people around the table, you cut each piece in half, so that everyone takes home a morsel of the sacred evening.
Life and death in the forest. On the lot in Three Rivers, in darkest night, I let Piney out of the camper to pee. His ears perked up and he bolted off into the black. I yelled after him—but puppies don’t come back when called, especially puppies on the hunt. A car was coming and as it passed, I heard it, the awful noise—the deadly thud. Confusion. Running. A black shape in the neighbor’s yard. A set of eyes reflecting back at me in the flashlight beam. And a soft pale shape slumped on the ground. The car had hit—not Piney, but a baby deer. Piney had been chasing the baby deer, was maybe even upon the baby deer as it met its violent end. Like you’d imagine, the dog was terrified. The space of a single breath between his little body and death. There but for the grace of gods go I. The next morning, I peeked out the camper window and saw the mother doe standing over the carcass of her babe. When the crows got too close, she chased them away. Minutes unfolded. Cars drove by. Finally, she wandered off into the forest.
The last river days. Despite the Indian summer, the wildfires burning, the red dawn and ash dropping everywhere—despite that, the passage is happening. Summer receding, fall emerging. Usually you can’t remember the last time you went to the river, because you didn’t know it was gonna be the last time—but this year’s different. Sunday, we went to the Lewis for a swim, and it was hot but not too hot and the water was cool. The sun disappeared behind some trees too early, so we sat in the mellow shade. It was impossibly relaxing, improbably quiet. You could feel it—the end, and how the seasons go right on without us.
The Gorge on fire. Red sun, red moon, ridges on ridges incinerating.It’s our turn for a natural disaster—in everyone’s favorite place to go for cosmic nature-spiration. Stay safe, everyone. Keep your people and animals close. Send drinking water and vibrations to all the firefighters. The world as we know it is forever changed.
106 Degrees: Last Thursday, the afternoon cranked up to 106 degrees. Due to that—and the wildfire smoke, the day took on a dreamy quality.Ungodly heat, plus red smokey skies and a white-hot sun hanging in the hazy air. After work, we all cruised the Columbia in Josh’s boat. It was cooler out on the water and felt very far away from Portland. The Portland Riviera, maybe? We swam and sunned as the sun dipped, turning the sky all sorts of florescents as it went.
Green sauce at ChickPeaDX: For your falafel—a verdant cilantro elixir with the zing of life. You see, on the sticky eve of day like one million of the disgusting heat, you need zing.
Pup days of summer: Watched over Bhalu the puppy for a day. He brought happiness (and pee!) into the house. It was great. I forced him into my lap where he squirmed and licked everything. He was a little monster. The wild fuzz on his ears looked like metal-band hair, which reminded me of Lefty (RIP) and my eyes got all misty.
Driving at sunset. To be out moving through the landscaping at at time of night when you might otherwise be bound—couch-bound, restaurant-bound, bar-bound et cetera. Here, amidst the softy, glowy light, the music sounds better, and hope is renewed.
THIS episode of Snap Judgement. Two first-person tales that I’m still thinking about. Life and death. Star-shaped acid tabs. Ghosts, parachutes and marshmallow skies. Let ’em rip and let me know what ya think.
Tapenade. Bagels. Bowtie pasta. Put it on anything. Have I told you about my love of olives and other briny fruits of the warm, sun-washed lands?
Big West Linn with buds. If you live and skate in Portland, then you know that West Linn park was returned to its almost former glory with some patching and fresh coping. I hadn’t been out there since back in the day, which is to say back when we all skated there a lot because it was new and legendary and there were so few other places, besides. These days, I keep it to skating “small stuff.” However, we went to West Linn on Sunday and I had an amazing time. There on old familiar ground, the memories the and muscle memory returned. I took it easy. Cruised. Pumped walls and peered up at the coping. Thanks world. Thanks skateboarding. You’re just what I need sometimes.
A new home: Our search for a camper-trailer elicited this 1957 bauble. It’s not huge/gaudy like RVs can be. It’s small, light, and practical. It is, in fact, just right. There’s a shower and a marine-grade RV toilet, along with a couch that converts to a bed. And all the inside is finished with warm, beautiful wood (not a piece of formica or barf-print fabric in sight!). I can’t wait to recline in the nighttime cool beneath the moon shadow of ponderosa pines and peep out the firmament of summer meteor showers.
Down the street: Two days after something awful happened down the street from my house, I walked by. The air was blue and heavy—still carrying all the sadness for what can’t be fixed. And yet. And yet! Look at all the love.
Family visit: My family came and filled up my house for a week. Mornings, we ate peanut-butter toast and yelled at the dogs to quiet down. Afternoons, we sat out back drinking cold wine and laughing. I tossed the frisbee with nephew Pat while my puppy leapt back and forth ’tween us and never, ever caught on to the keep-away game. We ate so much good food, all fresh and full of living vegetables. Everyone was in good spirits and good health. On that note, how lucky am I?! I know it, and I whisper it inside every quiet moment.
The Girl With All The Gifts: We live in a Netflixian world. Books struggle, reading is second order. So the fact that I’m telling you to read this book—in the face of overwhelming odds against the practice of reading—well, that’s serious, and you should take it seriously. Although suspense is at a premium here, I don’t think I’m ruining anything by saying that this is a post-apocalyptic story of the zombie persuasion. And although the world does not lack for post-apocalyptic zombie stories, this one, I promise you, is different. Anthropologically speaking, it brings a fresh perspective. It’s exciting, and inarguably interesting. It will get your thinking juices flowing. Note: there is a Girl With All The Gifts movie—but read the book, do, because the movie isn’t nearly as rich, as fraught or as scary. Here’s to books!
Fortitude: A crazy television show on Amazon Prime. I say crazy, because after every episode, I find myself saying, “That was crazy!” The kind of bad-dreams crazy where you watch two episodes, and then you have to put on Planet Earth to give your brain a break before bed. Murder. Intrigue. Evil. Science. Death. Vodka. Ice. Polar bears … Just some of the ground covered here. It’s great. Give it a go.
The Red Turtle: An animated short film about a man shipwrecked on an island. It’s beautiful.I watched it once, but I’d like to see it again. I suspect there’s much more there than meets the eye here. Like, maybe, the secret of life?
20th Century Women: Maybe my favorite Mike Mills movie. A perfect depiction of a slice of history, of a “family” in 1979 San Diego and all the complex, strange, wonderful stuff of being alive (including, but not limited to, punk and skateboarding). Being uniquely in my late 30s (you might call it the “middle” of life), I feel like I can empathize with a lot of different ages right now. I can, for example, vividly recall what it was like to enter the impossible landscape that one must traverse from being a teenager into adult hood. And yet, at the same time, I can absolutely imagine what it will be like in the not-so-distant-future to turn, say, 55. This movie does the exact same thing, artfully.
Lucinda Williams, “Passionate Kisses”: “Is it too much to ask I want a comfortable bed that won’t hurt my back?” A perfect opening line. I love Lucinda and this, the sweetest theme song for crazy liberated women everywhere (i.e. me!).
The Puppy Growing Up: The puppy (did I ever tell you about my new puppy?) is getting bigger, yes, but thank the heavens, his brain is also growing. There’s the young lad below, at left, all of 5 months old, next to Chelsea’s adult-sized Igby. I can’t say we’ve shared any moments of spiritual communion yet, Piney and me. I’m still teaching him to not step in his own pee. But I can’t wait for a time, very soon, when he’s all grown up and can be my emotional support animal—instead of me being his …