Sunday, January 29, 2012

Road Trip

Off the grid for the next few days.  I'm heading up north to hang with my sister, give the dogs a change of scenery as they reacquaint themselves with her Jack Russell, Cooper.  Chaos will ensue, but the three guys will be excited beyond doggy words to see each other again.  Dogs.  Life is so simple.  Food, butt sniffing, walks, naps.  We humans should be so lucky...excluding the butt sniffing part, of course.

Because it's a long, boring journey, mainly due to I-5 being one of the most nondescript, bland and monotonous highways ever laid down, I will be entertaining myself with a book on tape.  As corny as that seems, it beats trying to read while driving.  Seriously, there is absolutely nothing to see or do from Point A to Point B.  And if I get tired of the book tape, there's a contingency plan: I've loaded my MP3 with new songs and will scare the dogs senseless by singing the blues at the top of my lungs.

Ah, road trips.  You just gotta love 'em.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Flying High

Yesterday afternoon I was working on the book--doing revisions, changing a few things around--when I happened to glance out the windows that overlook the valley.  At first I thought I was seeing a Turkey Vulture, though it's a bit early for them to be back from their winter holiday in California.  Because it was such a large bird, I was curious to see what it was.  Grabbing the camera, I went outside to the back deck for a closer look.

I have to say, this was without question, the biggest hawk I've seen around here.  He was spiraling in ever-narrowing circles, his head down as he scanned the ground--no doubt searching for a tasty snack, or maybe an early dinner.  Trying to focus the camera, keep him in the center of the lens, and avoid a shot straight into the sun was challenging.  Then damn, just as I got a bead on the guy and snapped this one lone photo, he gave a piercing screech, folded his wings against his suddenly bullet-shaped body, and went into a supersonic dive deep into the trees below my vantage point.  This happened in a nanosecond, between one shutter click and the next. 

Yikes.  Makes me very glad I wasn't on the menu...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Birthday Boy

Today is Ozzy's 9th birthday. It just seems impossible to me that eight years have gone by.  We got him just a few days before his 1st birthday...and here we are today.  So much has changed in that period of time, it's almost more than I can stand, though the one thing that has remained constant through all the trials and smiles: my wee boy.

He's driven me crazy sometimes, worried me desperately (last year when he got so ill and nearly died), made me laugh more times than I can count or remember, made Alan a small dog lover, and has more miles on his passport than most people.  He's adorable, tough, too smart for his own good--or mine--and has given me more unconditional love than any human being ever has.

Ozzy on the seawall at the waterfront at Cramond, our old neighborhood in Edinburgh.  He has just had a trim and looks like a little puffball.

His beautiful feathers cascading down from his ears--gone now, probably for good since his horrific scalping last year from the most incompetent groomer on the planet.  There are a few wispy hairs growing back, but nothing like the thick, trademark feathers he used to have.  Still.  He'll always be a most handsome guy, with or without the flash.

Happy Birthday, sweet boy...and here's wishing you many more.  Thanks for letting me be your human.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Happy 253rd Birthday Robert Burns..!!

The Scottish celebration days are the ones where I feel most homesick and lonely. Today, Rabbie's birthday will be heralded with Burns Suppers all over the world, but of course, nowhere more perfectly than in Scotland.

Right now I am so missing the Supper, with all the hoopla and fun, the stories and ceremony, the whisky and food, the kilts and gaiety. It's a truly exciting night, usually beginning with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Then it's on to the main event. Everyone stands as the main course is brought in. Haggis on a large plate, brought from the kitchen by the cook and followed by a piper playing his bagpipes. They walk around the room, then lay the haggis at the host's table. This is where someone--either the host or another person--will recite the "Address to a Haggis," written by Rabbie himself. At the Suppers I went to, it was always Jack, my dear sweet friend and a long-time pal of Alan's.

Towards the end of this very, very long poem, when the narrator says, An' cut you up wi' ready slicht, the host plunges a sharp blade into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end. This is without a doubt the highlight of the evening--though my most favorite part was at the end of the poem, when there was the whisky toast to the haggis.

Everyone sits, and eats their haggis, neeps and tatties. The first time I went to a Burns Supper, I was fairly clueless about what haggis really was, so when I got my big ol' plateful of mashed turnips and potatoes, and a very generous portion of haggis--which looked sort of like a cornbeef hash--I just tucked in and kept having fun. Everyone at my table, including Alan, were all watching me to see what I would do, but heck, it tasted great to me, and I just smiled and kept going. It wasn't until later that I found out what I had actually eaten. And trust me. You don't want to know.

Still, for all the years I went to those Suppers--and regardless of where it came from--I really loved that haggis; plus it didn't hurt that I really loved the whisky too.

When it's time for coffee and the cheese courses, much later in the evening, there are more stories, more toasts, whisky and speeches, including one of my favorite things which was "A Toast to the Lassies," a very funny poke at the ladies and delivered in comedic style by some guy at the Supper. Funnier still though was the rebuttal, "A Toast to the Laddies." So much laughter and fun.

At the very end of the night, the host asks one of the guests to give the vote of thanks, everybody stands, joins hands and sings Burns' most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne.

It's a wonderful night, a great experience.  I miss it terribly.  Buggers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Pursuit of a Song

Lost a few hours this afternoon.  Here's what led to that...

I've got the telly on, mostly for a soft background white noise effect, though while having my lunch I was watching the end of a program.  Finish lunch, go downstairs to switch laundry loads around and this song comes wafting down the steps and into my ears.  As I'm folding towels, I'm listening, trying to figure out who's singing.  When I hear these lyrics, toward the end of the song, I race upstairs to see what this is that I'm hearing:

There's a thin line between power and glory
Out on that road to nowhere.

I get upstairs and see a movie has started.  Click on the Guide button.  It's called the Road to Nowhere.  Just as I get that--the song and the movie--the guy sings:

You're riding backwards on a blind horse
In a carnival down south somewhere
Where the Tunnel of Love
Is no longer there.

Wow.  22 words that paint such a picture in my mind.  The lyrics alone are pretty compelling, but even better the guy's voice is low and gravelly, sounding like a blend of Johnny Cash (in the burner years) and Jace Everett...bluesy and rough; the words are almost growled out.

I get on the internet, because now I just have to know:  who is this, and what are all the words to this song?

Turns out, the movie is a much touted (Indy awards, etc.) film noir.  Made all the rounds of the film festivals, both in the States and abroad in 2010-11.  It's kind of a film within a film and one of those complicated movies you have to watch without missing a scene or a line of dialogue.  I've already missed both, so that's all I have to say about the movie.  I am more interested in the song.

After a long, convoluted effort, I find out the singer is Tom Russell.  Renegade.  Singer, songwriter.  Does his own thing.  Has loads of albums and songs.  He wrote Road to Nowhere for this movie.  Okay.  That's all wonderful and good, one question answered.  But I still want those lyrics.

I spent the next few hours scouring every website that had anything to do with music, lyrics, Tom Russell, and the damn movie.  I found several places that said they had the lyrics, but when I clicked on the link, I was told the song was on his new album and lyrics weren't yet available.  Au contraire.  The album's been out awhile.  No matter how I searched, it was in vain, so for now I have given up.  I can always buy the album (Mesabi), though it still doesn't give me the written lyrics. 

Ah well.  What's a couple hours in the pursuit of a song.  I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon...can't you?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Zen in an Orange

Earlier this month, I was reading one of my Daily Fix blogs.  The post was about helping a friend through a difficult time; there was reference to Zen, a monk, and an orange from a particular movie.  Before sending the friend home, he said, quoting the movie, "Are you going to freak out?  Or are you going to eat an orange?"  I thought to myself: What a curious thing to say!  He finished his post with this:  

And consider eating an orange. You can see, smell, taste, feel, hear, and understand the whole of creation if you pay attention. It might be the worse day of your life, but that might be the best orange you ever ate.

I really laughed at that, and made a comment on his post.  He replied back, telling me about this movie, Zen Noir, and suggested I might want to see it.

It took me awhile, mainly because I currently live in a very small town with limited resources.  Yesterday I was dinking around the internet and discovered I could download any movies I wanted with my Amazon account.  What a dope.  I know.  So this morning, after walking the dogs, and before I got on with other things, I made a nice, big cup of tea and sat down to watch this movie on my laptop.  It's only about 75 minutes, an easy amount of time.  

And so worth it as it turned out.  What a movie: Funny, serious, sad, and very, very Zen.
In a nutshell, it's about a detective who is trying to solve the murder of a monk.  The cinematography is beautiful, the story told in these little bites as the guy talks to the two monks and one woman at the temple where the "crime" occurred.  I laughed out loud at least three times as the detective tries to get to the bottom of what happened--as well as understand what's happening to him in the process--as he's swept up in the Zen of it all.  He also has issues from his past that shadow him.

In a poignant moment, there was also a brilliant levity.  The guy is trying to deal with his feelings for the woman at the temple, his past, and death, when he asks the Master:

"What happens when we die?"
"Don't know."
"Why not?"
"Not dead yet."

(Yes, that was one of the laugh-out-loud bits).

The end made me tear up a bit.  It was the right ending, and was such a journey for this guy, it just made me feel for him.  Though he had heartbreak, and would again, he was learning that on the worst day of his life he could still eat the best orange.

(And RG?  Thanks for the tip.  It was indeed a good movie...)

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Yesterday I had a comment from Robbie about my Stories on Skin post, specifically my writing style of using dialogue for my 100 Words tales.  I replied that it's easier for me to paint the picture, leaving the details up to the reader (paraphrasing, though you can read the actual comments in the original post--before this one--if you're interested).

I've been thinking about this since last night.  It's like eavesdropping when you read dialogue without explanations or details, isn't it?  Overhearing something--on the bus, in a grocery checkout line, at the dentist--you don't know the before or after, just the now of the story.  You get to make up whatever you want for backstory.  That's why I like using dialogue.  I'm giving the reader a snippet, the reader gets to fill in the blanks.

For instance.  When I wrote Stories on Skin--and this next part will be X-rated, so if anyone doesn't want to deal with that, stop now.  Here's what I saw in my head:

The couple were in bed, obviously naked based on their clear view of each others' bodies and scars.  They had just made love, were relaxed and happy in their relationship, though it's still new enough they were just learning their skin stories.  They were both adventurous, a common bond between them, and enjoying the fun of sharing those adventures.  I saw them facing each other, laying on the bed, their heads held by one hand bent at the elbow, as the other hand was free to explore the skin.  That's how the eavesdropping came into play.  I listened to them talking, the details were filled in by my imagination.

Now, another example could be my mother.  She would picture something entirely different; it wouldn't even be the same movie.  The best she could do in her mind, I'm sure, is see them on a beach somewhere, in bathing suits.  There's just no way on earth she would see what I saw (naked bodies, satiation, touchy-feely).

This is my point exactly.  I use dialogue to free the imagination, letting the reader conjure up anything that works for them.  It really doesn't matter what I had/have in my head while writing the story.  And that's why it's easier for me to write this way.  I don't have to fill in details.  I can just eavesdrop, then share what I overheard.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Or, in this case, about 36 hours.  The rains have finally started to slow down, but it's been nonstop torrential since Tuesday night.  I am not complaining.  Not only does the region desperately need the water, but I needed the rain.  For a fire sign I have a great affinity for water.  Go figure.

This morning I tried to take the dogs to the park again, but it was truly a downpour, so I ran some errands, did some grocery shopping, and by the time I was done the rain had mellowed to a heavy dense mist.  And the dogs were ready to get out of the car.  A workable version of reverse doggy psychology.

Our walk took us down along the river.  The contrast between this morning and two days ago was stunning.  And hey!!  I actually had my camera...

Tuesday vs Thursday

There were huge trees racing down the river, though nothing that came out clearly in a photo.  I should have taken a video.  The amount of roaring water was pretty impressive, especially compared to just a few days earlier.  No more brown hummocks, that's for sure; they've probably been swept to the coast by now.

Tranquil, meandering, calm... turbulent, raging, wild 

I'm truly pleased we've had such a storm, though it might be better if the rain stopped for a bit to allow the water to soak into the ground, and for the river to settle down before overflowing its banks. 

On Tuesday I was standing on the other side of that big tree taking a shot up river.  Amazing what a difference a day makes...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Even Shorter

This morning I was reading about this guy, Sean Hill, who writes bite-sized short stories on his Twitter page, average length 140 characters, or less.  Not words mind you, but characters.  He has a huge following, but as I'm not a Twit, this was all news to me.  I read some of his little bites--they were funny, weird and cool.  He has recently published a book of 300 of these tiny stories.  Here's an example:

I handed Tom his birthday present.  Awkward pause. "Didn't you get ME anything?" I asked. "I forgot." We're not the closest of twins.

One of many that made me laugh.  Follow this link to the Huffington Post article where you can read several more, if you're interested.

So.  I thought 100 Words was difficult.  How hard would it be to write only 140 characters..??  I tried a few different approaches--delete, delete, delete.  It's hard to draw a scene with such few words, at least it is for me. 

As I was sipping my coffee, pondering the task, watching the rain stream down the windows, this came to me.  It isn't funny, like most of Sean's, but I did manage to write it with only--counting spaces--128 characters.

"Your coffee always tastes better than mine," he grumbled. "Secret ingredient," she smiled.  Raised brow, waiting. "Italian DNA."


And speaking of rain.  It's a regular monsoon today in precip-parched Roseburg.  Howling winds, lashing rain.  Love it, love it.  Though I can't say the same for the boys.  Even with the crap weather, I still tried to take them to the park, figuring once we got there, they would ignore the storm.  Come on.  They're dogs.  But no.  The buggers wouldn't even get out of the car.  I'm standing in the pouring rain, trying to coax them out of the back seat, and they actually turned their heads away from me like they were embarrassed I could be so stupid.

Fine.  See if I care.

Though, once we got home, I made them stay in the backyard until they actually acted like dogs instead of nancy boys, then we all trooped upstairs to get dried off. 

I'm really happy we're having such a storm, but equally happy I'm no longer living in Seattle where they are buried under snows they haven't experienced in nearly 30 years.


"Left us in the rain." "Yeah." "Called us nancy boys." Ponder. "What's that mean?" "Must mean we're brave, we got treats when we came in."        (139 characters, with spaces).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cry Me a River

Yesterday I said in my post that I was going to take the boys and my camera and hopefully get some cool snow shots.  Unfortunately, once I got down off the mountain, there was hardly any snow on the Flats at all.  I saw a snowman or two, melting quietly in a few front gardens, but not much else.

Walking along the river, I was amazed--not for the first time this winter--at how low the water is.  Southern Oregon has hardly had any rain, and this latest little smattering of snow doesn't count for much either.  It's been mostly the endless, worthless fog, day after day, week after week.

In the photos below, those brown hummocks in the water--river grass--are usually long gone by now.  During the deepest, driest part of summer, the tall, green fronds are really cool looking waving with the current, but by now the river should be roaring with water, nearly flooding its banks.  At this point a person could literally walk across to the other side...

Up river shot, the direction towards town...

Across the river...

Down river, with a small glimpse of snow in the shadows...

A little ways down river--the water mellows and deepens, slowing  as it meanders out of town.  Except, from above, on the bank where I'm standing, the bottom is clearly in view underwater.  It shouldn't be.

It's worrying that the river is so low.  Because I live on the mountain, and not in the city, water is pumped up from the river and kept in these big water storage things.  Along with mountain folk, there are also the people down in the Valley--including some very big farms and now the new vineyard--who rely on the river for water.  If we don't get some serious precipitation over the next few months, we could be looking at trouble.  By late May, summer weather starts and there won't be any rain until at least October, if we're lucky.

Yikes.  I'm thinking a rain dance might be in order.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Bit of Snow

Monday morning wake up.  Ah, this is more like it, and what I expected to see yesterday morning when I opened the blinds...

It was dark and gloomy, though the snow, thick and pristine white against the early morning shadows, was bright and vivid.  This is what I wanted for Sunday, but it's okay for today instead.  Besides, it's a good excuse for another day off to keep reading my book.

By the way, the Irish stew was wonderful last night.  And the biscuits?  Mouth watering.  I have plenty of leftovers, plus some to freeze for another day when I will feel like a dose of contentment...and don't want to cook.

Now, a few hours later, the sun is breaking through the clouds, and I think I'll take the dogs and the camera down the mountain.  From my vantage point, I can see that the main road far below is moving along just fine.  The interesting part will be getting from here to there, though I have faith in my big ol' Chevy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sweet Sunday

At last.  The Sunday I've been waiting for...

Only real detraction so far is the lack of snow and the expected storm.  I really wanted the weather people to get it right for a change, but this morning when I opened the blinds, there was just the barest dusting on the back deck. 

And from that same back deck this morning:  Can you see the mountain snow? Yeah, I know...hardly worth mentioning. And look at the Valley floor.   Not a snowflake to be seen.

Closer view...

Ah well, there still might be hope.  Right now--just past Noon--the clouds are rolling into the Valley, it's getting a bit darker, and I have every hope for a totally crap afternoon.  I was a bit worried my day would be ruined when the boys and I went down the mountain this morning and it was actually bright, warm sunshine and blue skies.

But now, the Irish stew is in the pot, stewing away, making the house feel cosy and comfortable.  The dogs and I will have lunch, then it will be time to settle on the couch, crack open that book--the one that's been staring at me, tempting me, for three days--and spend a lovely Sunday in another time and place.

OH!  Eureka...!!  It's snowing like crazy, the Valley has disappeared, and it's dark and gloomy. 

Same view as the first photo, above:

And even better...a blizzard of snow, getting worse as the minutes pass.  The wind is kicking in now too.  Most excellent.

Totally according to plan: my perfect Sunday.  Time for me to go and appreciate it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Italian Chronicles - Seconda Parte

At the start of the new year I posted the Italian Chronicles - Prima Parte.  That story was about the joy and exuberance the Italians have for their festivals.

Today, because I'm sick of the fog and want to imagine blue skies and sunshine, I'm going back to Italy, and a story about my camera.  An angst-ridden story about my camera.


When we were in Italy, Alan and I took a great boat trip to Capri one day, wandered everywhere, had a truly great time.  Toward the end of the afternoon, to cool off from the summer heat, we went on a little boat excursion around the Isle.  It was so refreshing to be out on the water, to feel the breeze, to see the island from a different perspective.

It's an amazingly craggy, mountainous place, with these stunning villas tucked randomly along the cliffs.

The geology is ancient, worn and carved from endless centuries of wind and rain.  If you click on this shot to make it larger, you can see a huge space hollowed out of this mountainous crag.

Legend has it that if you pass through this arch and kiss the one you're with, you will have true love forever.

I love Italy.

And now we get to the crux of this post.

Remember my many complaints about the times--for whatever reason--I didn't have my camera?  How I've had to develop a mind album of images because I couldn't take an actual photograph?

I'm in Italy.  I practically had the camera glued to my hand.  I took hundreds of cool, wonderful, exciting photographs.  There was never a time, no matter what we did, that I didn't have my camera.

We're cruising around the Isle of Capri.  The guy piloting our little skiff is telling us to pay close attention when we round this one little peninsula.  If we're truly lucky, we'll see the wild goats of Capri.  Famous for their reclusiveness, it's a rare treat to see them.  I'm ready, camera on, focused, and in my hand.  We come around the bend, eyes scanning the cliffs, hoping we'll be one of the lucky ones.

"There!  On the rocks!" points the Italian guy.  And sure enough, I can see three wild goats.  I quickly snap this shot, then ask the guy if he can get closer, but he tells me no, it's not safe, plus the goats are protected  and can't be disturbed so this is as close as we can get.

Okay.  No problem.  I have a great telephoto lens.  I zero in, find this beautiful black and white goat, center him in the photo, and press the button.

Nothing happens. 

I make sure the camera is on--of course it is, I just took a picture.  I fiddle and dink, but my trusty camera is dead in my hands.  Alan asks me why I'm not clicking with wild abandon, my usual method of picture-taking.  

The boat is moving past the goats now, and I've only managed this one meager photo.  Frantic, I turn the camera off and on, but the damn thing won't stay on.  My heart sinks as I realize the problem.

The batteries are dead. 

Here I am, cruising on the Mediterranean, passing by the famous wild goats of Capri, and even with my camera in my grasp...I can't take the shot.  I hang my head in disbelief.  I've been taking photos with such fervor, for days now, that I didn't even think about the batteries.  My camera can take hundreds of shots before I need to replace them...and apparently I have done just that without paying attention.  Oh crap and damn.

So.  The moral to this story?  It's not good enough to have your camera, you also have to make sure it's going to work.   And always carry spare batteries. 

Still.  All things considered...we were incredibly lucky to actually see the wild goats, even if I only have one sketchy picture to show for it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Odd Moments

You know how you can hear a word you don't know, then suddenly everywhere you go, you hear it?  Or discover something new and then see it all over the place?  Or, how come I've never heard about whatever before, but now I've heard about it five times this week?  Then there's that strange thing where you're thinking of someone, and out of the blue you hear from them.  Weird.  What are the odds? 

Here's two...

Very icy, and dense with fog this morning as I walked the dogs.  I'm wearing out on this fog crap, though there is supposed to be a truly bad storm hitting the West this weekend, with wind and snow and later into next week, lots of rain.  If it snows I'm stuck on the mountain, so my plan after walking the boys was to hit the store.  As I'm walking, I'm thinking about that 5-part story I posted last week, and how long it's been since I've heard some of those songs...songs that I love like Desperado, Running on Empty.

At the grocery store, standing in front of the peanut butter--do I want crunchy or creamy?--and what comes wafting overhead from the store's speakers?  Running on Empty.  I cocked my head, closed my eyes, and with a big smile on my face, I murmured along with Jackson as I stood in a grocery aisle filled with peanut butter, my mind lost in a time warp. 

Little snippet of the song...

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don't know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that'll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on empty, running blind,
Running into the sun, but I'm running behind

Those words just speak to me, even now.  The lyrics remind me so much of another life, another place.  And how odd that I was just thinking about this very song not an hour earlier. 


Yesterday, I took the dogs to the big county park, just to change things up a bit.  I meant to take my camera, but in the hustle-bustle of getting two insanely excited toddlers dogs into the car, I forgot.   There was only one other person in the entire park, so it was a great, quiet walk for the three of us.  At one point, along the river, the dogs were sniffing and snorting and acting for all they were worth like bloodhounds.  I get bored with standing around freezing, and want to move on.  Finally, I say, "For crying in the night, boys!  It's not like there's a bloody family of raccoons in that tuft of grass!  Let's move it!"  Begrudgingly, they have one more sniff each, then we get back to walking. 

Several minutes and half the circumference of the park later, we're coming down this long grassy slope next to the boat ramp, unused during these long winter months.  And damn.  Up the ramp waddles--I'm not making this up, I swear--a family of raccoons!!  What are the odds?  The papa coon was huge, easily twice the size of Max and Ozzy put together, then came mama, followed by three kids.  They must have been teenagers though because they were not small.  The whole family of five leisurely walked up the ramp to within 15 feet of where I was standing, totally motionless.  The boys were good and didn't move either, an odd miracle in itself.  The dad stopped, raised his head and looked right at me, made a funny growling-type noise--not threatening, more like "step on it kids"--then continued up the ramp and across the parking lot.  When the family reached the dense shrubs at the treeline, the dad held back until everyone had disappeared into the brush.  He rose up on his back legs and looked at me.  I nodded my head at him, he stared for another moment, then slowly dropped to all fours and vanished into the woods.

How odd.  I had just been snarking at the dogs about a family of raccoons. 

And buggers.  Where was my blasted camera?? 

I don't know how he knew I wasn't a threat, that the dogs wouldn't go for him or his family.  Course, he might have been a ninja raccoon dad and would have eaten the boys for a snack without a by-your-leave.  Still.  It was a cool, though odd moment, and surprisingly, the boys just sat and watched the whole thing unfold without any aggro at all.  Odd on top of odd, no doubt.


I'll finish my post with this.  It's not odd--unless it's odd that as humans we don't have more of these moments, no matter how small, to treasure and appreciate in our lives...

I'm looking forward with great pleasure to my weekend.  Especially Sunday.  I'm hoping the prediction for bluster and snow comes true as I'm making a big pot of Irish Stew--a concoction I have perfected over the years to taste like a bowl of pure ambrosia.  It will cook all day, filling the house with contentment and anticipation.  I have a recipe for Kentucky biscuits that just melt in your mouth, and are perfect for soaking up the juicy deliciousness at the bottom of the bowl.  Hold on...wait a minute...I'm drooling...need a tissue.

Okay, I'm back.  So, Irish stew, Kentucky biscuits, and the best part?  One of my most favorite authors has a brand new book--that just came out yesterday--in a mind-blowingly good series.  I plan to settle on the couch, a dog on either side, as (hopefully) the wind howls, the snow blows, the stew cooks, and I fall eagerly into the story. 

Oh my.  Some days life is just good, isn't it??

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Right to Offend

I don't do this often, or at least I don't think I do:  Rant.  I'll try not to stay up here on the soapbox too long, but something has been niggling at me since a blog post I read this morning and I just have to get it out of my head.

It has to do with one of my Daily Fix reads.  I usually enjoy the irreverent style of this British writer, his insight and observations are very entertaining.  His posts are long, including this one today about shaving off his beard to start a new year, to change things up a bit, to look fresh.  So far, so good.  As he's shaving, he arrives at the Hitler moment when he removes his mustache but leaves that little caterpillar under his nose.  He diverts here, and muses about Hitler; how this style of mustache is forevermore equated with evil and yet Charlie Chaplin wore it first.   He ponders leaving this bit of villainy on his upper lip to see what people will think, what they might say to him, perhaps he might even get a physical reaction out of some.  By his own admission he writes that he enjoys giving offense.

Hmmm.  I frown slightly at that.  I was so liking this post, but now I feel...uncomfortable.  What is the purpose in giving offense?  Why would it be enjoyable to upset people, hurt their feelings, perhaps wound them?  I shake my head, scattering these thoughts, and read on.

Several more paragraphs, then I get to the part that so totally offends me, I can't believe what I'm reading.  And let me say right out: I don't get offended easily.  He's writing about an incident at some regatta he attended, doesn't say when, but he enjoyed the killer looks he got from American military guys, on a hot day at the river at this boating event.  He was apparently wearing--his own words again--a deeply offensive tee shirt about 9/11.  He goes on to say, blithely, that he must be growing up a bit because for a moment the memory makes him cringe.  For a moment?  Are you kidding me?  Holy crap.

I don't understand.  I really don't.  Again, what does a person get out of being so offensive?  What's the payout, the reward, the frigging purpose?

I really wanted to write something in the Comments section of his blog, but after reading the ones already posted--where, I might add, only one person out of 17 made a half-ass attempt to even acknowledge the tee shirt statement--I was at a complete loss what to say.  And, don't get me wrong here: the guy can write any damn thing he pleases on his own blog site, that's assuredly his right; I am not being forced to read his words after all.  But still.  The cavalier, even cruel insouciance as he enjoys offending is disturbing to me.

Walking the dogs along the river, pondering, stewing, rolling thoughts around in my mind.  For one of those rare times in my life, I am without words to express myself properly.  Then, driving home up the mountain, clarity strikes.  I sigh with heartfelt relief to realize it's a measure of my humanity, and personal integrity, that I'm so offended!  What kind of woman would I be otherwise?

So.  I didn't post anything on the guy's blog, no point.  I had a momentary meltdown--and I still don't understand getting pleasure out of offending--but I came out the other side with a clearer sense of self.  And from my perspective?  I would much rather be the offended than the offender.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fog and Fortune Cookies

This morning there was a severe weather alert about the dense, freezing fog.  I could see ice on the back deck, but the fog was way down in the Valley; I was sitting above it in the glorious sunshine of a crisp and clear Monday morning.

Since I am up the mountain and there are no guardrails to stop me from sliding into the abyss if there was ice on the road, I waited a bit before taking the boys down to the park.  Didn't have any trouble, as it turned out, but crap, it truly was freezing walking in that thick, creepy fog.

Got home and just had to take this mini video.  This is one of my favorite weird weather things: fog in the middle of southern Oregon.  I don't understand it, but there it is.  Oh, and take my advice here...keep the mute on.  I swear, there can't be a more dorky-sounding creature than me on a video.  I say freezing frog, then actually snort before correcting myself.  Jeez, spare yourselves people.  Just watch the video in peaceful silence and forget listening to the voice-over.


Once a week, Jan (the BFF) and I talk on the phone.  This has been going on ever since we went in different directions about 15 years ago--no matter where we are, we talk once a week--I stayed in Seattle, then went to Scotland, she went to Idaho.  Yesterday during our afternoon catch up, she told me this cool story.

First though, background...

Jan grew up in LA, though her mom came from northern Idaho originally.  Jan would spend her summers with her grandparents, deep in the woods of the Panhandle.  She loved it so much that her goal in life was to eventually live there.  She left Seattle, bought a cute little house, and then had to figure out what the hell she was going to do for money in this tiny, backwoods part of the world.

In the meantime, her grandfather has passed away, and her granny has moved from the deep woods into town--town being a relative word.  Jan is mowing her gran's big yard one day, shortly after moving there, and the old lady across the street asks Jan if she could mow hers as well.  One thing leads to another and before too long, Jan is landscaper, handywoman, helper and driver for a veritable village of little old ladies--she is one of the most hardworking, resourceful people I know, and one of the most caring and generous.

Of course, over time, some of her little ladies pass away, go into care, move away from the rigors of a harsh northern climate, but somehow, there are always others to take their place.  Jan is a 24/7/365 woman, and rarely stops except for once a year when she goes back to LA for two-three weeks.  Whenever I've been able to visit, she makes me work alongside her, going on her jobs, meeting the ladies, being her slave.  If I didn't do this, I wouldn't see her.  She takes her job seriously.  There have been a few times where she's nearly killed me, but that's a story for another day.

Anyway.  Back to yesterday...

Fay, one of Jan's ladies from almost the beginning, passed away a few months ago.  She was very independent, and other than Jan stopping in every morning to check on her or help with chores, she lived pretty much on her own, way out of town in the real wilderness.  She was feisty, funny and drove Jan crazy with her bossiness, though they had a true friendship.  Fay was one-of-a-kind, a wonderful pioneer woman who lived in an inhospitable environment and loved it for all of her 93 years.

Her family wanted to sell her place--several acres, a great log cabin, outbuildings, wild turkey, deer, moose and bear--and asked Jan if she would take on the task of clearing out the house and grounds so they could sell it.  (Family lives in another state).  Jan agrees and works out a schedule so she can spend at least two days per week on this task.  Later they decided to keep the place in the family--a good thing--but still wanted Jan to carry on.

So far, she has spent a couple months on this, and the other day decided to work on the storage shed behind the house, just to give herself a break from the sorting, cleaning and packing in the house.  She finds all kinds of extra foodstuffs, like cereals, and chips, and other things that Fay had squirreled away.  Nothing that could be donated to the local foodbank, but could sure be scattered in the snow for the birds and wildlife.

By the time Jan has reached the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, she's come across two huge bags of fortune cookies.  Shaking her head, smiling at her old friend's funny choices, she tosses handfuls of the cookies all over the back field...about 400 of them.

Days go by, then Saturday--one of the two days per week alloted--Jan goes to Fay's and begins to pack things from the kitchen.  During the process, she glances out the window and sees something odd in the snow, across the yard in the field.  Puzzled, she can't figure out what she's looking at, though it seems like confetti has been strewn all over the place, little bits of color catching her eye in the winter sunlight.

Later, after hauling some boxes into the garage, she wanders out to the field.  And stops in amazement.  The birds have eaten all the fortune cookies, but left the fortunes.  Hundreds of little pieces of colored paper, frozen in place, all over the field.  Jan bursts out laughing, and plucks one up.  It's in perfect condition, words clear and visible:  You will have a long and happy life.  Again she laughs before going back to work.

Yesterday she told me that every time she goes out to Fay's, she's going to seek her fortune.

I love it.  And how much do I wish I were there with my camera..??  Can't you just picture this..??  A cabin deep in the forest, a large clearing covered in pure, white snow, little strips of color laying everywhere to brighten the scene, and the silence filled with fortunes yet to be read. 

A very cool story.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

End of the Song

Heart Songs
(Part Five)

Sitting at the computer, I tried to order my thoughts, carefully replaying the night’s revelations. With this newfound perspective, how did my insight equate to this relationship? What was I feeling? Did I want a song to come blasting out of the ether, weighty with meaning, deciding for me? Or was I already there, hard on the vapor trail of Bonnie Riatt’s m├ętier? I'm tired, worn out. Rubbing my eyes, turning the radio down to a soothing murmur, I begin to write.

After a time, a hand enter my vision, a voice says softly, “Would you like to dance?” and I’m swamped with deju’vu. As I look up at him, my brain goes quiet. I don’t hear any sounds, see any pictures—my cerebral cauldron has finally stopped bubbling. He gives me an enigmatic smile, takes my hand, walks me back to the den. Strange, I feel a bit shy, awkward even. How long since we’ve danced?

He turns off the lights, the glow from the fire our only illumination, pushes a button on the player and pulls me against him, wrapping arms tight around me. This is good. Sting’s voice drifts over us, not really a dance song, but we’re hanging on, swaying together, the words to “She Walks The Earth,” feather my ear as he whisper-sings to me. His voice gets low and gravelly—shivers up my spine—as the lyrics burning with desire float into my head. I get it by the time he’s singing every other heartbeat, I beat just for her.

Ah. The catalyst song and the music man. I’m in.


A slight chirping noise finally registers: my computer’s pitiful cry of alarm. Jerking upright, I realize I have fallen asleep, my neck is stiff, my hands splayed across the keyboard. Twenty-eight pages filled with alphabet soup, attached to the end of my story notes. But far, far worse, as comprehension slowly penetrates my sleep-addled mind, I realize my music man didn't come for me after all.

The house is quiet and shadowy around me. Vague, wispy beams from the streetlight outside my window angle across the carpet; in contrast, the glare from the computer screen is shocking against my weary eyes. Glancing at the clock on the wall above me, I sigh in resignation. 3:00 a.m. Haven’t I been here before?

I shut off the computer and stand at the French doors, my heart heavy as I stare out into the dark, rainy night. It’s not every day your brain catches fire, or you have an astonishing revelation; it’s both exhilarating and exhausting. I have a fleeting vision of that other 3:00 a.m., a barn and baby lambs—even with time past and years gone, achingly alone still feels the same. I endure a sharp burn in my solar plexus for a moment, then I can't help but smile.

Now that I truly comprehend the force of music in my own personal opera, I know that somewhere, sometime, I will hear the song, or the song will hear me, and decisions will be made, changes will come, life will move forward.

Because no matter the time or place, the person or the dance—in my heart and soul there will always be the music.

-- End --


When I first began to write this, these three guys stood out in my mind as the main focus of the story, the major players who had passed through my life--along with the music--up to that point. There were minor players, other stories and adventures, but these three undoubtedly had the most impact. (About two years after Music Man and I broke up, I went to Scotland on a business trip and met Alan, and though he became a major player for sure, he came along after this story was written.)

In case there is some curiosity about what happened to those three guys, guess what..?? I know. Well, more accurately, I knew. Since I've been living in Scotland for nearly a decade, my intel is now pretty dated, except for one of them...

Corporate Guy:
He spent over a year hiring and firing workers to care for the farm after I left. No one would do the work I did. Eventually he sold the place, moved east and started his own business with heavy equipment. I know. Very strange choice for a corporate guy. He used to call my mother once a year or so--though it's been a very long time now. Last anyone heard, he was doing very well.

Toxic One:
He quickly found another victim woman, moved to Florida and worked for NASA. I used to fervently hope an alligator would snack on his manly bits, but I let that go after awhile. My sister and her husband are Porsche people and belong to a club. They go to rallies and other club things, from Canada to California. They were at a car show several years ago and my sister recognized him in the crowd. He was overweight and wasted looking. Lucky escape for me on more than one level then.

Music Man:
We're still really good friends. In fact, we had a great long phone conversation over the holidays. He's a good man, and though we couldn't manage as partners, we did forge and keep a warm friendship. He's a wonderful guitar player and is in a small band that plays around Seattle, mostly for fun. I'm happy he's still a music man.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nearing the Final Chorus

Heart Songs
(Part Four)

Warp speed. The dawn of a new century is on the horizon, I’m ruminating in the car as we drive through the stormy Seattle night.

When we get home, I grab the dog and nearly run down the empty road. I need to be out in the elements, unconfined, as this mind-altering epiphany swirls through my head. Music, relationships, meanings. The songs flood through me, bringing pictures, sounds, smells, bombarding my senses. Miles later, when even the dog is tired of walking, I found myself coming full circle: Bonnie’s lightning bolt song from the car in my mind as I stand in front of the house where my relationship is disintegrating.

More floodgates open as I gaze in the windows. I can see him in the den, fiddling with the CD player. I wonder what music he is drawn to tonight. The beat in my head goes on, out of my control—my inner jukebox flips through Dave Matthews and “Crash,” Rod/Bryan/Sting, “All For Love,” Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” The lyrics to hundreds of songs, carved like petroglyphs in the caves of memory.

I stand there, in a cascading, drenching, roaring white water of music. Dave Koz, Peter White, Boney James, Miles Davis, Najee, Bob James. My mind, filled with music, sparks with images, takes me—

—Off the beaten track in Utah, listening to Michael Jones playing “After the Rain,” the music soaring up red rock canyons in a place where Butch and Sundance once hid out; driving over a summit in the Cascades as the sun dawns on a clear, summer morning, rays of light shooting down the crags like laser beams, Michael’s “Morning Mist,” perfect accompaniment; the Painted Desert during a lunar eclipse, David Lanz’s piano resonating in the night, tickling the stars with “Christofori’s Dream,” as senses are filled with desert perfume.

Where does passion go when it seeks asylum elsewhere? Does it endlessly circle the cosmos, searching, hoping, for a place, a person to call home?  Or is it just a transient dream, an emotion so volatile the sheer momentum of such power must inevitably lead to an implosion?

He had the headphones on now, deep in his own private musical mystery tour as I watched from outside. The rain, my Wurlitzer mind-meld and wet dog drove me indoors. I needed to write down these tumultuous thoughts, this enlightenment, and could feel it all pressing on me. After turning on the computer, and changing into warm clothes, I poked my head in the den to ask what he was listening to. Before I could speak, he turned, pulled off the headphones and said quietly, “We need to talk.”

We sat in the den, our only music the crackling logs in the fireplace, the dripping sound of rain outside. I spoke about lost passion, he voiced responsibilities; I wandered in the past, he had no desire to remember. Had we misplaced the way to common ground? Eventually, I tell him about my evening’s experience, my illuminations about catalyst and background, the power music has to change reality. If anyone could understand my musical epiphany, it should be him, the music man.  But no. My words seem to fall on deaf ears, our efforts to reconnect stall. Either he doesn’t get it, or he gets it too well. Common ground crumbles under my feet.

Withdrawn, preoccupied, he’s already returning to the CD player, headphones in place, before I’ve left the room—and I have to get these thoughts out of my head before I explode.

I need to write.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Music Begins To Fade...

Heart Songs
(Part Three)

I spent the next few years getting myself back in balance, gaining some wisdom—a good period actually—and if U2 touched my heart singing “With Or Without You,” or Peter made me yearn with “In Your Eyes,” then Midnight Oil brought me back to earth with “Beds Are Burning.” Sting, Phil Collins, Paul, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi—they played Scheherazade to my Schahriar, and I was content with that.

In the groove, minding my own business—and isn’t that usually when we get blindsided?--I'm coasting toward the end of my 30s, when bam, glissando into...

Act Three.

I was taking part in a four-day conference in Chicago for a Vietnam Vets group that I worked for; people from all over the country, full agenda of veterans’ issues. On the final night there’s a gathering in the hotel ballroom after dinner; a DJ is playing all the great rock and roll tunes. I’m back in a corner, sitting at a small table by myself, tucked next to enormous pots of bamboo, watching the dancing, talking to people as they drift by, thoroughly enjoying the downhill slide of a long working weekend. I’m singing away to myself, “Like a Rock, Witchy Woman, Georgia On My Mind, Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay,” not missing a line, tapping my feet, having fun.

One of my all-time favorite tunes comes up and as I’m softly murmuring the words to "Desperado," I hear a quiet, clear baritone from the other side of my bamboo grove. Some guy, with a great voice. He could carry the music, he knew scale, he could sing. Cool. I’m totally enjoying this new development, safe in my bamboo blind. Peering through the fronds, I see he has his back to me, unaware that I’m there, can hear him. As the music reverberates around the room, he doesn’t miss a beat, sings every note and lyric of “Heart Of Rock And Roll, Born To Be Wild, Light My Fire.” A music man. Oh my.

The DJ takes a break, a few folks join me for some recap-the-conference talk. When I’m alone again and look through the bamboo, he’s gone. Damn. Who was that masked man?

As I sit there, pondering missed possibilities, the DJ starts a new set with another of my favorites. A hand appears, held out for me to grasp, followed by, “Would you like to dance?” I recognize the timbre of his voice. It’s him. When I take his hand, stand and meet his eyes, he gives me this unexpected knowing kind of smile. It takes me a minute before I understand. He knew all along I was behind him, listening. He’d been singing to me.

We dance. He whisper-sings in my ear every word of “When A Man Loves A Woman,” and I’ll swear for all time that Percy was never that smooth. Honestly? It was a done deal for me before the last notes of the song had faded from my ears.

You would think a catalyst song would be inescapable here. Not so. This was background, pure and simple. It’s really about all the music—the songs, the singers, the feelings—permeating and enhancing, bringing me to that moment in time, right where I was supposed to be. The music in him sang to the music in me and that was all I needed to know.