29 August 2014

New car


Me and my father-in-law
 First there was the Chevy panel truck that we bought from a plumber. It only had one seat, for the driver, but lots of room in the back for camping. It worked perfectly from Wisconsin to Colorado, then Wyoming and back again. It was sold to a friend, along with an accordion.

Then there was the old crummy green Chevy wagon that we lovingly drove into the back woods of Wisconsin as graduate students. But it exuded fumes into the interior and when our first child was born it didn't seem like a great idea to drive him around in it. So we got a used Plymouth Horizon 4-speed. Fun and economical but not quite big enough when the 2nd baby arrived. 

For wood-hauling we also had an enormous old Ford pick-up; it felt like you were maneuvering an ancient fishing boat on stormy water, very hard to stay going straight.

We got a used a Reliant K-car, the worst decision we ever made (repairs, repairs, repairs).  The first new car was a mini van, which was good for hauling 3 kids and a couple of big dogs. Hasn't every family burned through a mini van or two? There was  the '84 Volvo sedan given to the kids by a dear Alabama neighbor and driven to Oregon where it committed electrical-system-hara-kiri 2 miles from home.

The other kid-car was the indefatigable '94 Nissan Sentra, driven to New York, then to NJ where-sadly-a tree recently fell on it.  The insurance company is now willing to pay 1800 amazing dollars for it.

 Then there is the used '93 Ford Ranger pick-up, which we found in Auburn, Alabama, and still have.

And of course the 2001 Subaru, very useful, and so much more fun to drive than the minivan. There have been many great adventures in the Subie, but for quite awhile we've known that another car was imminent. The Subaru has 184K on it. Driving the 2 hours to Portland is not fun; when you turn the radio on there is so much road noise and rattling that you can't hear the music. 

Here in the West, public transportation is not an option...sooo... what car to buy?

I hate car shopping. What do things cost? It's all negotiable, like being a Peace Corps volunteer buying stuff on the street in Afghanistan, which I also didn't like. Except that you are spending huge, serious amounts of borrowed money. Car places try to make it more pleasant by having friendly sales staff and offering free popcorn and ice water, which helps a little because I do love popcorn machines and wish that I owned one.

After the first go-round of negotiations, we walked out. The car was perfect, but there had been a glitch in the online price and it seemed like a bait-and-switch. We needed time to think, and hoped the dealer would do the same, and indeed that's what happened.

In the end we got the car, a Jetta Diesel that should deliver upwards of 40mpg on the highway. It is black and shiny. The dashboard makes sense, shifting is easy, the ride is quiet, and the car doesn't tell me where to go or what to do. (I don't like those cars that talk.) I think we will be friends. I dig the power plate, but that's the dealer's name; the real plates will come in a couple of weeks. Best of all: we just got a new car and now we don't have to think about it for 15 more years.

17 August 2014

The wedding

The last of our much-loved guests have left, the flowers have been sorted through until there are just a few still-presentable beauties, the bottles were recycled, leftovers consumed, and I have just looked at my camera. Daughter J's wedding, already receding in time, was a beautiful dreamy thing that I will always cherish, and even though I managed just a few photographs, well, the day is vivid in my mind. It was two-thumbs-up for her wedding at The Thyme Garden in Alsea, Oregon.
Here are a few details so that you can see too:

There were wedding bells, tiny ones, for every guest.

There was music, a swing band including the father of the bride, my husband.

 The venue was an herbal garden tucked away in Oregon's Coast Range, about 30 minutes from home. It shimmered, buzzing with honeybees, in late summer glory.

 The cake was lemon with cream cheese frosting, decorated with exquisite woodsy sugar-leaves.

 This child scored a fondant acorn and a delicate sugar oak leaf. I feel sure that she will remember these details forever.

 The groom is Canadian, and his mother and aunts baked a fruit cake with caribou, birds, and even Calvin-the-family-dog on top.

 Flowers were brought by the armfuls from the local farmer's market that morning. Dahlias!

 The bride's 2 year-old nephew had a quiet moment with her abandoned bouquet. Where did she go?

 There she is, dancing with her handsome husband...

 ...and (can you believe it?) her 96 year old grandfather. He made the long flight from Chicago to Oregon in fine fettle.

There was a real wedding photographer there, taking what I know will be amazing photos, and for that I am so grateful. I spent most of the time in a haze. The wedding was the sun and I was the planet Venus orbiting nearby, warm with the proximity, but watching from a distance.

I drifted through the weekend in an elated state, lit by the conflagration of family, friends, and love: a magical condition with an unexpected sharpness that brings me close to tears even now.

This wedding has passed, but may its loveliness and inspiration remain a part of all who were there.

03 August 2014

This time

This time next week she will be married to the one she loves, this dearly loved child of mine who never belonged entirely to me. From the very start she was a clearly defined person, on her own trajectory. The arc of her life has already taken her from Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to Alaska, New Zealand, Ecuador, Niger, Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya,  and then to New York and New Jersey. 

It will be a height-of-summer-nearly-fall wedding, and no matter what happens, it will be perfect.  Everybody in attendance is someody I love. I wish you could be there with me as well, in this happy time, celebrating love and great hope for the future.

18 July 2014

Simple vacation

Most of the time when you really need to, you cannot get away. Take the last couple of days for instance: with the worsening situation in Gaza, the horrific take-down of a plane over the Ukraine, and any number of small pieces of bad news piled on top, we are inundated with things we are helpless to change.

At times like this I seek relief nearby. In this case, our next door neighbors are in Ireland and have asked me to keep an eye on their place. This is a welcome task: their back yard is a beautiful haven.

I have only to go a few steps away to see gorgeous flowers, bees buzzing nearby. How lucky.

You should drink in relief where you can find it. It might not be far away, and it might be solitary. Sometimes it's best to take fortification in the simplest things.

My friends at the Friday Shoot-Out suggest "Vacations" as the theme this week. You can go there to see what that looks like in other parts of the world. Meanwhile I'm just gonna stare at the pond.

13 July 2014

Rodeo time

It isn't hard to imagine what's going on inside a little girl's head as she circles a ring on a patient old pony...

... rodeo dreams. A lot of girls growing up in the West dream of this: the perfect little quarter horse, a nice black hat, tailored shirt, fancy belt, good boots, and above all, the ability to ride lickety-split.

If the dreams don't pan out, well at least one can get a hat. If you've ever worn a cowboy hat, then you know it is imbued with special bad-ass powers.

As usual these were for sale at the local rodeo, the Philomath Frolic, always held the second weekend in July. I love going to this rodeo, which is a pageant of color, sound, tradition, patriotism, and the Old West. For one night I'm totally into it. Let's go to the rodeo!

Saddle bronc riding.


Barrel racing.

The second part of the rodeo is devoted to the super-macho sport of bull-riding, but first we must have an interlude: the Local Business Donkey Races. The donkey race participants are all local business sponsors who bring forth two employees, each pair matched with a random, recalcitrant donkey.

First one team member has to get on the donkey. As you see here this is much harder to do than it sounds, after a couple of long minutes causing the announcer to say impatiently "GET YOUR ASSES UNDER CONTROL."

This team is H. Storch Pollination Services. They are dressed like honeybees, of course. The harder you tug a donkey, the slower it moves forward and H. Storch did not win. Too bad! We were cheering for them because H is actually a friend.

On to the serious stuff: bull-riding. Such a terrible idea! What a ride, eh?

This alert horse and cowboy both watched the bull riding from a safe distance, ready to step in if needed.

At their side was a cow dog named Jake.

As soon as a rider goes down, the bull must be guided out of the arena. That was Jake's job.

Maybe the best spectacle of all is at the very end of the rodeo when the horses are turned loose, creating a gorgeous stampede around and around.

Then in a cloud of dust they disappear. Time to go home.

Western art sculpture, created entirely of horse shoes.
There were fireworks afterwards, but we didn't stay. The sky was aflame with color and I can't imagine that anything could have surpassed its drama.

02 July 2014

Do not say the word hobby

Recently I was at a party during which a Nice Person was trying to drag small talk out of me, exhausting for both of us, and I began to feel sorry for her that she ended up next to me. She asked if I had any "hobbies," causing me to blurt in a near-autistic response: "WHAT?"

Before being retired nobody ever asked what I did, and if it came up that I was a teacher of art, that was the end of it. Nobody wished to know more. And now, suddenly, people are mildly curious: what are you doing?

And I am like:  you didn't care before. why bother now?

To answer the question nicely, I should have said "There is a lot of space in my days now that didn't exist before, although I was just half-time when I was working and already an adept daydreamer and time-waster, one foot already in the Lazy Room, walking the dogs and studying the sky above."

Instead I told her that I photographed my Barbie dolls. I suppose that was a sort of test, which she passed-or at least she did not back away- and then talked to me for another agonizing 30 minutes, in which I found out she had a friend just like me, and a partner that preferred his boxer to her.

Anyway. What's up with asking about "hobbies?" Isn't that an antiquated term? I don't like that word. Never ask anybody that! Even if they collect stamps, because it isn't a hobby, it's an interest, or better yet a passion. I like it that some people are passionate about stamps, and they should never have to call it a hobby.

24 June 2014


Truth is by far the best. But  small lies, now, they are tricky little gems. 

I'm fine... 

Naaah, I'm just tired... 

I have read and agreed to the terms and conditions...

Exaggerations are sort of like lies, and we bloggers do it constantly. I understand and appreciate it, usually. For example, I take okay photos, but they aren't Pulitzer prize winners. They aren't "great," although it makes me happy when people say so. However I would improve faster if somebody said "you should have cropped the bottom 1/3 & raised the exposure." That would be welcome and helpful.

Once I read a post in which the guy talked about how he lost a  dog as a child, and he and his mom lived near a busy road, so...yeah he was sad because he imagined the worst outcome. He was probably right. But I said:

I was driving along that highway 20 years ago, and I saw a dog meeting your description. You're right! She was in the road. I pulled over. I was surprised when she came to me...I put her in my car because I didn't know what else to do. It started to rain, so I took her home & brought her in the house. What a nice dog, playful and friendly. We kept her. She slept at the foot of the bed. She lived a long and happy life. She died in her sleep when she was 15 years old. I never knew she was your dog. I hope you're alright with this.

It was a lie, but it may have been close to the truth. Was that wrong?

We all tell lies, every day of our lives. Some are big and bad, and some are small and good.