Category Archives: Summer

As Of Late

Goodbye, Cougar: Last week, I set crystals in the window to catch the light. Because in the late evening of late August, Cougar died. She died of old age, quietly, at home. As partners, we rode together for 19 years. Another lifetime ago, at an apartment on 12th street in my senior year of college, she used her pin-sharp kitten claws to climb the curtains while I tried to sleep a hangover off. What a privilege to be present for a entire life from beginning to end—and all the places that took us. She’s lived in the mountains, she’s lived by the sea. She’s lived in a small town, she’s lived in the city. Cougar, you were a great friend. You never let a lap go empty. You never let a puppy get you down. You came on dog walks at your leisure. You opened the bedroom door I’d latched shut. You, a mouse-killer with rabbit-soft fur. You, forever tidy in a grey tuxedo. You, curled up on the couch—a sense of peace brought into the room by your sleeping form. Cougar, you will be missed.

Homesteading, Labor Day edition: The thing with building things is that it takes time. I’m impatient. After a day of breaking every-known OSHA law on the tippy top of a latter with a nail gun clutched in my spindly arms, I lie in bed staring at the stars, and my heart bursts with wanting it all done right now and Wifi installed so I can sit at my desk before the window writing, while outside, happy trees repose.

Holiday speed wobbles: To wind up the weekend, we bombed the long hill from the Portland Zoo through the city to the Willamette River and the beers beyond. It was a national holiday and so the sidewalks were stacked with many shiny souls. It was an unflinching cruise through cars, humans, greenery, grit and grime. While I dislike driving or even riding my bike in traffic, skating through the human sea is different altogether—I find it’s a fine way to invite the anarchy of the city.

 

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.

Montana Mega-Weekend

In Montana, the plains are soft with grass and the mountains are always standing watch. At dusk, the details flatten out and all you can see is shapes, triangles stacked up North to South—each peak cast sharply against a prism of golden light. During dinner at Catherine’s house in the Bitter Root Valley, in the shadow of St. Mary’s Peak, I squashed mosquitos and sweated through my jeans while Jedda, the pup, barked and chased. She loves Montana because of all the space. No leash. No rules. It’s nice to be wild.

Since last writing to you, I drove out to Big Sky Country for a long weekend—our annual swim mission, skate mission, dog mission, beer mission, BBQ mission, bike mission, sunburn mission, heatstroke mission, hike mission, camp mission, everything-that’s-good-about-summer mission.

I bought a cowboy hat. I saw an owl. We got to skate two new Evergreen parks, one of which had ponies galloping by and both of which served up stupid beautiful vistas. We got to drink straight from streams and swim in the most lovely lake. I ate the best-tasting PB&J of my entire life next to an ice-cold plummeting waterfall. We hung with friends and their family, and we laughed a lot and baked in the sun.

I was very at home in Montana. It felt effortless and natural to be there. The sweeping scenery relaxed me as we drove along. The high-country smells of dust and pine bubbled up a sense of peace from my kid-hood in Colorado. When we drove by tidy farmhouses for sale, I saw myself buying them, selling off my Portland possessions, disowning my city life, and moving there to chop wood, grow vegetables and walk in the snow. I could do it, I swear. Not yet, though. Not yet.

As Of Late

Go Skate Day: Old news but good news: Go Skateboarding Day happened, and I skateboarded. It wasn’t exactly a satisfying session, as skate sessions go, but it was a premium hangout with my old-time skate buds. For me, that’s what it’s all about these days—that good stuff that happens when you do something you love with people you love. Rolling. Laughing. Falling down. We’re humans. All we have is each other. So, another GSD spent with Scott and Ashley and Derek and I couldn’t ask for more.

 

Work train to Seattle: I rode the train up past the Puget Sound (destination: Seattle) to do a fancy ad-agency pitch for Nemo. It was a fun and adult-y thing to do. I like train travel even though it makes me a little bit car sick. Train sick? Anyway, it’s very hassle-free. A throwback from another time. Also, train stations are beautiful, and I always take time to appreciate beauty in my travels.

 

Holiday crowd avoidance: For the third year in a row, we went into the woods for a couple days, walking far and high, sleeping in tents, and then returned to town on July Fourth afternoon so dirty and dog tired that there was no need felt to celebrate, to light things on fire. Instead, copious food was eaten, and day beers drank at George’s house, and then home to watch TV as the mortars blasted through the evening cool. This has become my “America day” ritual, and I am not sorry.

 

Homesteading: Like a boss, Mark framed up a shed/living quarters AKA shedquarters in two days. I tried to help. I moved some two-by-fours from one pile to another and also tacked up plywood with the motherfuckin nail gun. It feels good to be building, building something real made from tangibles like wood and nails and windows, but also building a life—a potentiality of future days spent easily and peacefully off in the forest.

March-ing

The dreamer in me loves every season. The realist knows life is better in the summer. I do do winter though. Me and the cold know something about each other, like on horrendous wet days splashing around in the streets when the foul weather reflects my inner gloom, or all the solitary walks through snow I use to cultivate quietness of mind.

Then spring comes and life’s just a grand fucking party.

THINGS I FORGET ABOUT IN THE WINTER

Pink drinks.

Painted toenails.

Front stoops.

Sleeping with the window open.

Sunday mini-ramp sessions.

The magnolia.

Feeling fresh air against the freckles on my arm.

Strawberries.

Asparagus.

Enough daylight after work for the pursuit of happiness.

That BBQ smell.

Bicycles as transportation.

Ankle socks.

Doing nothing and feeling good.

The warm air currents—a love letter from the sun.

3 Things

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 PerceptionI 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.

3 Things

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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.

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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.

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(Pic from Oregonlive.com)

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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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Best Day Ever

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I believe in everyday fun, but hard work and purpose are at the heart of who I am. So when I tried to think about which, of all the great days from this summer, was the very greatest, one day kept coming back to me.

Three Rivers, Oregon. I woke up in the woods in a ’56 canned ham trailer. The dog was wedged in between our sleeping bags and the sunlight was everywhere. We ate thick bread with tomatoes, avocado and olive spread and drank our coffee black from the percolator, as we do. A dog walk to the Deschutes River revealed ghostly flyfisherman standing in quiet pools. The smell was dry dirt and pine sap. It was a very summer-in-the-mountains smell that I know from my wildchildhood in the Colorado high country.

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After the walk, we went to work on the property digging fence posts until the early afternoon. This involved the hauling of lumber, the gathering of water, the measuring, the digging of holes and the mixing of Quikcrete. One by one, we set the posts, and as the fence got longer, the pile of lumber got shorter. It was such a satisfying task out there in the hard, dry heat and made me feel so positively tired and good, the way sitting at my desk type type typing never does—although I love that too in a different way.

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After working, we went back to the river and swam for hours. The cold water and warm sun felt so great, even now I can feel that exhilaration of opposites. The local country folk floated by on large constellations of innertubes and cheers-ed their beers at us. It was the very definition of a summer day, and I’m gonna stick it in my cap of fine pure moments from summer and beyond. It’ll be there whenever I need it, forever, I reckon.

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On another note, because—hey, this world is crazy (and how lucky am I to have had even one lovely summer day?)—I thought it was worth saying explicitly, like, out loud:

I do stand for love. I do stand against hate. I do stand against anyone who espouses supremacy over another human being. My grandparents fought the Nazis. My great grands emigrated from Poland to get away from the Nazis. In my work, in my family, and in my life, I’m intolerant of intolerance, and moving away from fear and paranoia is my default state. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a member of the human race!

Canada Mega Post

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I’m a healthier, happier person after spending 5 days in interior B.C.—everyday another exploration in the forest, and everyday another constitutional swim in cold, clear water. Those lakes were so clear that my shadow spooked me more than once, way down where it was on the bottom of the lake. Overhead, the sky was very blue, except where it wasn’t because of billowing plumes of smoke. Wildfires are real, and they’re a way of life in Canada.

Up in Canada, where we basked and wandered, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at will. The only hurry was which recreational activity to do next. I’d pester Mark to rush so we could go outside. Because that’s just what you do up there.

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Piney did dog things like play with the Canadian dogs and splash-and-bite the Canadian lakes. In Nelson, he met Pillow, Bree and Kale—a husky, Great Pyrenees and Australian shepherd respectively. In Trout Lake, he ran off into town with Al’s Siberian Husky, Rider, and got a taste of that wild freedom afforded to the country pup. He liked what he tasted … too much. In Revelstoke, he ripped around a beatific farm with Qimmiq, a low-riding Aussie with a whistle-pig squeal. Although Piney will have many more adventures and live happily every after, he still just wishes we left him in Canada.

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Meanwhile, at Kootaney Lake. 

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All the hips in Nelson, B.C. 

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Had lovely hangs with my ol friend Mark Fawcett and his new pup Kale Chip on their private beach. Life is good in Nelson.

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My pal Al Clarke built this baby cabin with his 2 hands. I know him from 20 years ago, back when we were both traveling the world as itinerant snowboarders. He’s a legend and quintessential mountain man. How lucky that we get to hang together again all these years later!

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Typical Trout Lake views.

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Backyard secrets of the North country. 

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Stu’s fabulous farm, where I foraged a handful of black raspberries and plucked 3 delicious pea pods off their vine.

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Revelstoke National Park was stupid beautiful. There was a grizz wandering the area, but we didn’t see him. Only us up there with the wind and wildflowers.