Category Archives: At Home

The Days Of Piney Past

The heat here continues. All sense of freshness gone. Out with July and the tiger swallowtails. It was this time last year when Piney first learned to swim. At the Sandy, in a pool between the rocks, he discovered—you can float and paddle and make waves and it’s fun. He spent that afternoon swimming in circles, splashing a storm and biting the water as it rained down on him. Thus began a great career in watersports. Piney swam for joy, not fetch or concern for others’ safety. It was wonderful to behold.

Piney passed away in the spring. On Friday, April 30that 5:30 p.m., we “put him down,” that old euphemism for ending a life that I’ve used and worn like a suit of armor against the awful truth—that we stopped Piney’s life at a year and a half old because he had become suddenly angry and fearful, scary and aggressive. He started attacking us around the house. Whenever he felt nervous, or threatened. I quit bringing him to work. We called in a pro trainer. Life at home became tense and unpredictable, alternating between violence and silly joy—when he force-snuggled us in bed and spent laidback hours stretched out asleep in the sun by the cat.

We never knew what to expect.

Then came that last week. That last attack. Before Mark could get outside to pull Piney off me, the dog had pulverized my forearm and left a toothmark so deep in the palm of my hand you could see the pale pink muscle fiber squeezing through. I was bleeding. I was terrified. I loved Piney, and I knew couldn’t live this way anymore.

There aren’t many options for animals like him. We looked. We tried. We cried.

The last night we were all together was sweet-scented and summery. Mark and I took Piney to Mt. Tabor, laid out a blanket and drank cans of beer as the sun set, throwing morsels at Piney from a pile of treats so big his eyes grew round when he saw it. Liminality was in the air all around us. You are here now. You will be gone tomorrow.

I know we did the right thing. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Ending his life, it was the hardest decision I’ve yet to make. Everyone—the vet, the behavior therapist, our families—reminded us that Piney wasn’t healthy. We heard their advice. But. It was our decision and ours alone to make. We learned a hard lesson—how deeply responsible we are for our animals. After all they’re not teddy bears but sentient beings with minds and freewill. We bring them into our world, and we are responsible for them. This responsibility is really just the other side of love. The stronger the bond, the heavier lies the weight.

We measure our lives through our dogs. Family visits. Friends that came and went. First skatepark business. First real job in a decade. I remember the dog I had for all of these.

I remember Piney as the dog who we housetrained in the middle of an ice storm. The dog who spent the night on a mountain in a blizzard and kept us warm. The dog who made a parcel of land in the woods near Bend feel like home. The dog who loved my elderly cat Cougar so much he nearly exploded every time she walked in the room. I remember a life-affirming sunrise hike to the rim of red-rock cliffs with him. I remember the time we splitboarded up Tilly Jane. The wind on the ridge was fierce and he cowered against the leeward side of my legs. On the ride down, he chased me so close I nicked his paw pad with the steel of my edge.

I remember a lot about him.

I hope I always do.

Homesteading, October Edition

It was hard to find time amidst the juggling and scrolling to drive out to Three Rivers and winterize our trailer. And yet we did—out of fear. Remember last winter when we all got snowed in in Portland for 2 months?

The trip was last minute, a little panicked, but the drive was so beautiful we forgot all about that. The colors as we passed over the volcano—crimson scrub oak between the dark, mysterious pines, and when descended onto the plains everything got softer, warmer. Pale gold-spun grass, burnt orange brush, gauzy evening light. When the day fell, we were warm in the trailer. The puppy slept literally on top of me. Cramped quarters are the coziest (and happiest). And getting punched in the face with a paw first thing in the morning is one of the rare joys of being a dog owner.

So, we applied to have water routed to the property, and we built a small roof to keep the snowdrifts at bay. That is all. Just these small things are what we can do right now. Though I love the little trailer, I’m still haunted by dreams of a wildly cozy A-frame. I hope my cabin aspirations will birth reality in the coming years, the kind of reality that involves a couple dirt movers and a concrete truck to pour a foundation.

Late Summer To-Do List

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1. Keep my garden alive. 90 degrees, for 90 days straight, or it feels like it anyway. If you need me, I’ll be out back watering.

2. Skate backyard mini ramps. This is always on my to-do list. My priorities are forever straight in this department.

3. Tiptoe my way back to reading. My dog ate my book. True story. He ate page 301-333—the last 30 pages. Time for a new story and a fresh start.

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4. Avocados and watermelon. The foods of summer. More of them, please.

5. Eat dinner outside every night until rains. Have dinner conversations with the bees and hummingbirds.

6. Ride my bike to the bar. A luxury of the dry, not-totally-fucking-freezing months.

7. Procure a T shirt dress. A lazy lady’s must-have staple of the Indian Summer.

8. Get a little sunburnt—one last time. Just a little, for old times sake!

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Homesteading By The Numbers

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.5 acres of forest.

2 trips to home depot.

2 95-degree days.

21 fence posts.

18 bags of Quikrete.

4 5-gallon buckets of river water.

1 BLT and a beer with Annie.

4 mosquito bites.

1 full moon.

2 daybreak slumbers destroyed by the neighbor’s defiant rooster.

3 dunks in the Deschutes River.

1 chocolate coconut-icecream milkshake at a wooden table in the shade.

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Homesteading, Part 1

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I purchased a little land in Central Oregon, just a twirl down the road from the Deschutes River. As mentioned elsewhere, my plan was to build a cabin of dreams there. No undertaking works the way you think it ought to, though. It happens that the groundwater in this area is too close to the surface to build a regular old septic system—no, to install a tank for my cabin, I’d need to drop many Gs on a fancy sand filtration system.

The short of it: I’m priced out of building anything for now.

Who cares? Less work for me! I’ll be happy with a tidy fence and a modest camper trailer. We could put solar panels on the trailer. We could set up a wood burning stove. We could build a shed for a couple bikes. We could, we could, we could …

I spent this weekend backfilling the septic test pits. In other words, shoveling dirt into big holes. When was the last time you shoveled for a couple hours straight? Crikey! It nearly killed me. In life, I feel strong. But in shoveling, it’s clear that I’m a pathetic weakling. I’ve got the arms of a typist, a tinkerer, a delicate herb gardener.

No matter, though, because I also happen to love hard work. Mark and I shoveled and shoveled, while the sun warmed the earth and the Ponderosas kicked out that sweet perfume of the Northwest. We heard the rhythms of the neighborhood, we saw where the shadows fall. What can I say? We bonded with the place.

South Century Drive, we’ll be seeing you!

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Favorites 4.4.17

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 …

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3 Things

I Am Not Your Negro. Watch this movie. Show it to your kids. Heck, show it to your pets. Yes, it’s that important. I am in awe of James Baldwin as a thinker. What an amazing mind. And when you get to realizing, as he suggests, that the whole of Western Civilization was built (thru colonization/slavery/warfare) on a model of white power that we’re still living in, it’s like, what the F do we do now?!

Artichoke heart wings. Procured a plate of these from Century Bar the other night. Of all the things that you could deep fry and dip in a sauce instead of chicken wings, I’m gonna argue here that artichoke hearts are among the best. Full of tang/flavor, and yet light and easy on the stomach in their way. A triumph for vegetable-arians everywhere!

Recovery. After our life-giving “winter ordeal,” we spent all of last week recovering. Their were sneezing fits and other symptoms of the common cold. And there was absolutely no energy to be had anywhere until Friday or so. Earlier in the week, from the moment I got up, it was a stone-cold countdown until I could come home and sit on the couch. Also, Piney got fixed and snoozed off his surgery meds with the rest of the laid-out household.

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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.

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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