Monday, December 30, 2013

the secret life of walter mitty

this film, starring and directed by ben stiller, proved to be more than i expected!  based on the short story first penned by james thurber in 1939, walter mitty poses a funny foray into his daydreams, while living ever more of his real life.  a case in point for no longer needing to zone out because you're already living the life you've always imagined! so tonight, in reality, i made myself a gourmet supper starting, as any cooking should, with garlic in olive oil...add in salmon, quinoa and a small glass of cotes du rhone rose...candlelight, french music and voila! why fantasize when you can make it happen; plus who says dining solo has to be a bland affair?  in the spirit of going for it in 2014, i plan to go to hawaii.  what have YOU always wanted to do?  like walter, let's go for it!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

drumroll, please...

i am a firm believer that reading improves quality of life. (upon hearing that my neice, for example, was having a flat-screen tv installed in her bedroom, i did what any bibliophilic aunt would do and immediately made her tell me a story from her imagination. which she did quite well, to both my relief and enjoyment, i might add.)  in 2011 our bookclub read 64 titles.  then in 2012 we upped that to 76 books.  i just typed up our 2013 list and, drumroll please...we finished off 138 books this year!  while my tv literally gathers dust in the bottom of my closet, we have read ourselves better with a grand total of 278 books in just three years. want to have a great book club in 2014?  our only rules are not having any rules:  read whatever you want (coffee table books and kid's books especially count), stop reading if you don't like it--life's too short, and share fun food.  (it's also spiffy to go to bookstores and lectures while trying new places to eat; anything to do with books counts--see also "bookclub: the expanded edition"). 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

gateau des Anges

this is a holiday activity worth putting all of your eggs in one basket.  literally, it will take about 8 of them.  starting with advent, i wanted to have a little christmas each day, so on a random wednesday evening i decided to make a birthday cake for Jesus.  i know He's ageless, but if He were here in person, He'd be over two thousand years old our time.  that deserves some respect.  i had a recipe in my great-grandmother's handwriting for angel food cake and, being the sentimental meaning-laden person that i am, decided that "cake of the angels" was perfectly fitting for the occasion.  when it comes to baking and life in general, doing a few things well is my maxim.  and, since cooking is an art but baking is a science--which means the chemical reactions therein can go wrong--i was very exacting in following her instructions.  as i baked i thought about her life and how much i would have liked to spend more time with her here.  she lived to be 104 and i remember on her birthday five years before that she had sat up and declared, "i'm not 99!"  rather than from confusion, which i thought at the time, i think she was coming from reality.  a reality that i understand more and more--she didn't feel 99.  perhaps her spunk and light heartedness leant her what i feel, that i'm a 12 year old trapped inside a 39 year old body. so i sifted and measured and waited.  here's her recipe:

Angel Food
1 cup egg whites (8-10 eggs)
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. cake flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. water
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. lemon flavor
1/2 tsp. vanilla

sift flour and sugar seperately four times.  measure each after final sifting.  add salt, water, and flavoring when egg whites are half-beaten.  add cream of tartar.  continue beating until egg whites hold their shape.  fold in sugar 1/4 at a time.  then fold in flour 1/4 at a time.  bake in slow oven (325) for 50 to 60 min. 

i topped it with a strawberry-lemon sauce, 3 candles and singing.

some books to go along with this recipe nicely?  mfk fisher's "love in a dish" and "the table comes first" by adam gopnik.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Holy--sort of--Night

'tis the season to keep laughing!  want to sail above or right on through some of the more serious expectations and demands that seem to show up this time of year?  have a good chuckle.  turn it into a belly laugh.  get the giggles with a friend until tears stream down your face.  at this time of year, i have to ask myself, WWDBS?  (what would dave barry say?) and i think he might approve of the following holiday message.  i was attending a very classy holiday music party recently.  truly lovely.  lots of talent, lots of ages, great food.  as the evening progressed, however, and we moved toward the finale of the hallelujah chorus, people's drinking began to show itself.  which made me want to institute a new law against drinking and singing.  why is it, i asked myself, that when people sing "O Holy Night" they feel as though they must sing louder than anyone else around them, vibrato until the glass they are holding cracks and punctuate parts of the song that are actually supposed to be quiet?  a baby started crying.  "i'm with you, kid", i whispered in his direction.  and, i also felt like adding--targeted towards the contralto in the corner--"shh, baby Jesus is sleeping."  because he couldn't have possibly slept through what happened when the trumpet player started trying to one-up the contralto.  then the tenor in the christmas sweater piped in above both of them and, pinot in hand, singularly out-vibratoed them all.  i excused myself to the restroom when i knew the high note was coming because i'm not very good with a poker face and could freely laugh out loud behind the closed door.  here it comes..."O Night...Di-Viiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine" the baby cried again, a good time was had by all and i went home, laughing all the way...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

the know-it-all plays tennis

and this is from the "M" section for motion.  jacobs is playing tennis, which reminds me i've always wondered if it enhances or distracts from life to understand why something happens the way it does.  (for example, i can enjoy the sunset without knowing all of the rules of atmospheric light or ride my bike blissfully ignorant of most all physics terms).  he writes, "...i am feeling more confident than usual.  i've come up with a bold new strategy.  i've been brushing up on the physics i learned in the britannica, visualizing the mechanics of flying spheres, and i've semi-convinced myself that this will make me a better player.  i will see the court in angles and forces and arrows.  i will be master of the natural laws of tennis.  i will turn knowledge into power, specifically a powerful forehand.  as we warm up, i tell myself to be aware of the magnus effect.  the magnus effect is what causes tennis balls with topspin to dive downward.  it's actually a special case of bernoulli's theorem which we can thank for keeping airplanes aloft, and has to do with a greater pressure on top of the ball than under it.  every time the ball comes to me, i watch that yellow fuzzy projectile spin, understand what's going on, and thwack it back.  i am doing it!  the master of the natural laws of tennis is in the house!  i am playing as well as--if not better than--my impeccably dressed brother-in-law.  i keep focusing on my beloved magnus effect.  but i'm not forgetting about the parabola of teh lob, discovered by galileo himself.  i'm not even forgetting about how gravity is weaker toward the equator, so the south side of the court should have a little more bounce.  okay, well, i'm trying to forget that one, because that's probably not going to help me.  and i'm trying not to get caught up in the coriolis effect either, which says that a projectile moving north will drift to the east because of the earth's rotation.  that won't likely have a huge effect on my ground strokes.  but still, the master of the natural laws of tennis is thwacking back forehands and backhands, visualizing the projectiles in all their newtonian splendor...we have had our moment of glory among the yellow spheres."

the know-it-all

aj jacobs is funny.  and smart.  seriously smart.  he sets out to try to become the smartest person in the world by reading the entire set of encyclopedia britannica from A-Z.  and he succeeds.  his book "the know-it-all" captures many of those words, so i guess you could say he makes the reader smarter without us having to do all the work of turning thousands and thousands of tiny print on tissue-like pages.  here, in an exchange between jacobs and his brilliant 11 year old nephew, is one small dosage of what i learned by reading his entries, this one in the "L's" for language, "well," said douglas, "everyone's heard of antonyms and synonyms.  but there's also capitonyms.  that's when the meaning of the word changes according to whether it starts with a capital letter...like Herb and herb...or Polish and polish...or consider miranyms, the word in between two opposites, like when you have 'convex' and 'concave', the miranym is 'flat'." his nephew proceeds to show off with the longest word he knows, "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" (the disease you get from the silica dust when volcanoes erupt).  aren't you glad you know that? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

the book thief

this movie made me want to be a better person.  as i sat through the credits wiping my eyes, i had a big picture view of life:  flying over at 10,000 feet, as it were.  while i wait for my order of the book by australian author markus zusak, i decided to see the film first.  a unique point of view about this novel is that it is narrated, gently i might add, by death.  at first this might seem off-putting, but to me was an interesting angle and beautifully done.  he is not menacing, simply present, witnessing both the worst and best of humanity. the actors, especially geoffrey rush's character, really portray kindness during wartime in a way i've not seen before.  the best of humanity:  something i'd like to contribute to with my days on the planet.

visible, invisible

for advent, i'm feasting...but not in the usual way. oh yes, i like eating, quite a lot.  but i've learned about myself that just as--if not more--important than food and water is taking in beauty.  mainly in images and words.  i love this time of year because i use the symbols around me (visible) to enjoy their even more important meaning (invisible).  i recently discovered the poet wendell berry who, i think, would be the happy combination (and i mean this as a compliment) of the:  farmer next door + mary oliver + gerard manley hopkins + william wordworth plus maybe a dash of william stafford.  naturally i love berry's reverent irreverence and have collected a few of my favorite lines from reading, fire-side...the full poems (unless otherwise noted) are in his collection entitled "leavings". 
-(on the older generation in town) in their rest and quiet talk there was peace that was almost heavenly, peace never to be forgotten, never again quite to be imagined, but peace above all else that we have longed for.
-(on birds) think of it!  to fly by mere gift, without the clamor and stain of our inert metal, in perfect trust.
-(on his lifetime friend arthur) to be on horseback with him and free, lost in time, found in place, early Sunday morning, was plain delight.
-(on hope) that we may know the small immortal joy of beasts and birds.
-(on poetry itself) there!  where the aerial columbine brightens on its slender stalk.  walk, poem.  watch, and make no noise.
-(sabbath walk in the forest) Gratitude for the gifts of all the living and the unliving, gratitude which is the greatest gift, quietest of all, passes to me through the trees.

X (on love)
i love the passing light upon this valley now green
in early summer as i watch late in life.
and upon the one by whom i live, who is herself a light,
the light is passing as she works in the garden in the quiet.
the past light i love, but even more the passing light.
to this love, we give our work.

XII
learn by little the desire for all things which perhaps is not desire at all
but undying love which perhaps is not love at all
but gratitude for the being of al things which perhaps is not gratitude at all
but the maker's joy in what is made,
the joy in which we come to rest.

but what is made by destruction comes down at last to a stable floor, a bed of straw, and for those with sight light in darkness.

Friday, November 29, 2013

fragile strength



just some of the beauty from the glass museum...it is definitely worth a visit!  dale chihuly was there signing books at the time and we got to peek inside the "hot shop" where glass was being made!

artists and children at play

i found this quote at the Tacoma museum of glass in the children's area...it couldn't be more true for me!  "artists play, just like children.  human children and artists need the same things to fire up their imaginations.  they need quiet time, space, tools, and inspiration.  inspiration is what we see, hear, feel, and touch that gives us ideas.  when they play, children and artists can take creative risks.  they explore new ideas without worrying about what other people think or how things might turn out.  without play, creatures like us would not exist!" 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

love in a dish

about a year ago, in broadway books, i stumbled upon an interesting little book called "love in a dish" by an mfk fisher.  having no idea who this was but being immediately impressed by and drawn to the writing, i put it back on the shelf.  this weekend i found the book again in a completely different bookstore.  i should have listened to my gut and bought it, for when i got home, the last copy had been sold by our local bookstore.  but this led me on a quest for her other books, one, which i bought, outlining their stay in my favorite city, aix-en-provence!  when i looked up more about her, i learned that she has authored dozens of books and is known in the cooking world as the grandest of food writers!  fisher, 1908-1992, ranks with julia child and james beard in terms of gastronomic delights.  now, next time i find "love in a dish", i will buy it on the spot!

keeping things fresh

driving a different way to work.  visiting another town.  living in someone else's space.  all examples of deviating from the usual routine. or should i say living a life that purposefully incorporates the routine of freshness?  for we can also be tourists within our own routines:  all of the familiarity AND new eyes too.  taking time to photograph objects in the changing winter light.  picking something on the menu that you don't usually try.  making an adventure out of the smallest things.  what does vacation mean to you?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

gratitude

i'm thinking of two main works today.  psalm 100 and a poem by mary oliver.  her poem is called "the place i want to get back to"...

...is where in the pinewoods in the moments between the darkness and first light
two deer came walking down the hill and when they saw me they said to each other,
okay, this one's okay, let's see who she is and why she is sitting on the ground,
like that, so quiet, as if asleep, or in a dream, but, anyway, harmless;
and so they came on their slender legs and gazed upon me not unlike the way
i go out to the dunes and look and look and look into the faces of flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed that brief moment?
for twenty years i have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
such gifts, bestowed, can't be repeated.
if you want to talk about this come to visit.
i live in the house near the corner, which i have named
Gratitude.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

spirograph!


to understand my delight, rewind with me thirty four years or so, to 1979 and my first spirograph.  i was five and this kit entertained me for hours as i spun the pen colors to create geometric designs.  so yesterday, imagine my joy when a student gave me not just any spirograph, but the Deluxe Spirograph Kit as a gift.  he said it was the last one in the store. (add to the geometric gala by the fact that another lovely person in my life said she had been looking for a kit for me too, but the store was all out! clearly it was meant to be...and i'll share)  i knew what i was going to do when i got home from school yesterday.  the responsible adult that i am, i threw down some dinner and left the dishes in the sink:  priorities!  i broke open my new kit and returned to my inner child, making design after design.  and you know what?!  that's one smart invention (thank you engineers and architectural enthusiasts) to use the spheres in cocentric circles not to mention the other shapes (did i mention it's the Deluxe?) the box says ages 8+, so phew...i can keep playing with it until i'm 88+, that's a relief!  and it comes with the same tried and true pen colors:  red, blue and green.  ahhh.  some things never change.

the way back

this is a meaningful film about seven prisoners who escape from a siberian gulag in 1940.  starring ed harris (apollo 13), jim sturgess (across the universe) and six-time oscar award nominee peter weir (master and commander), the movie chronicles their 4,500 mile walk to freedom across the world's most merciless landscapes.  it was an academy award nominee in 2010.  the tension between helping other human beings vs. self-survival is paramount when one dares to help another and an onlooker says, "son, kindness like that can kill you."  the onlooker ends up benefitting from the very same person's kindness later in the film when he is carried by him across the desert and given a renewed will to live.  it is inspired by a true story and i will refrain from telling you the resolution in case you want to rent it for yourself!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

bayside bungalow


i'm excited to have a mini-Thanksgiving retreat at brittany's bayside bungalow (how's that for alliteration?)  she *built it herself and the little nest is currently situated on the olympic peninsula where she rents it out for people to see how they like living "the tiny life".  *after sealing the wood on our chicken coop with linseed oil, (our coop is likely about the same size as this house, actually) i really respect all the work that goes into a project like this!  for more on brittany, her process and resources for paring down, visit www.baysidebungalow.com



Saturday, November 9, 2013

winterizing

the garden is plowed, the harvest in.  we've had our first frost and are hurriedly trying to finish building our new chicken coop.  on a practical level, today i took both my bike and car in to their various shops for tune-ups and winterizing.  in a bookshop, i saw that adam gopnick has even written a book called "winter" in which he takes looks at the season through the viewpoints of artists, scientists and poets.  nature is slowing down and preparing to rest.  this rings true with my soul as well.  on a spiritual level, one distinctive of attending spiritual direction is for a common language of who God is to us as an individual.  another key piece, however, is grounding us within the larger faith tradition; the church calendar.  as we approach the advent season, the Holy Spirit strips me of my leaves and anything else that does not welcome room for the Christ child.  and on a creative level, i am always on the lookout for interesting classes, websites, recipes and novels that i can cozy in with for this season of learning. how are you looking forward to winter?

comfortable with a brush

i had the privilege of meeting a painter, anton pavlenko, at a recent art gallery event.  his modern oil impressionist paintings of france and of the countryside really resonated with me.  what was even better was to get to have some real conversation with he and his wife, courtesy of the mutual friend who introduced us.  anton shared that he was always very comfortable holding a paintbrush, since he was a small boy.  he went through a time, however, when he stopped painting and tried to fulfill other people's version of what success looked like.  finally he asked his wife if he could set up a painting area in their home and he found his joy again as canvas after canvas idea came pouring out of him.  i'm so glad he picked up the brush again.  you can see more of anton's work at www.antonpavlenko.com.


a whole lot of sketching goin' on!

what do you get when you add roomfulls of excited art students together with 217 brand new sketchbooks and micron pens?  a whole lot of creativity!  this is an actual photo from my office after i unpacked the bulk order from Blick.  it's been like an early Christmas at our school as we launch our own version of the sketchbook project.  since i've never done something like this with 1-6th grade before, there's a fun edge of discovery together as we go.  i buy up books filled with ideas; everything from zentangle (which is very relaxing and which they love) to books showing other artist's sketchbooks.  we've also had meaningful discussions and spontaneous sharing has opened up during drawing about everything from finding their purpose and not being afraid to make mistakes to what is in their heart that gives them joy and what they want to sketch next.  most all of our students are thinking about their Christmas lists, because they want art supplies!  what better gift could a teacher ask for?  i'll keep you posted on our project.  now all i need is an airstream trailer for the may 2014 art show.  know of any?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

curiosity

i don't think curiosity kills cats, as the old saying goes.  what if the cat discovered something truly remarkable!?  curiosity.  a word i'm seeing a lot lately, in everything from common core (keep curiosity at the heart of education) and novels to ted talks and creative enterprises.  i read, or should i say devoured, steven p. kiernan's novel "the curiosity" this last weekend.  it's about scientists who discover a man frozen in ice and bring him back to life amid ethical debates of the 21st century and the study of cryogenics.  i happened to see the author's note at the end...to learn that he happened to be inspired with the idea for the novel back in 1992...when he happened to hear james taylor's song "frozen man"...i happened to be at friend's house...who happened to have the song on her iTunes playlist...as well as (what are the chances here!?) the nonfiction book of a real mummy discovered in northern italy in 1991...that happened to inspire the james taylor song...curious?  you bet i am!  and hoping to stay that way for life...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

induction


i am inducting wendell berry into my personal poets hall of fame (music, please). he joins gerard manley hopkins and mary oliver as the wordsmiths and nature lovers i would most like to meet in heaven.  i discovered berry's (who--like mary oliver-- is very much alive, by the way) collection "leavings" at powell's and thought i had put it on hold at the library.  what i got was "new collected poems" which i'm so glad for!  hugging it to my chest i immediately began to read at dinner (the kind where the hostess says "just one?" or "dining alone?" or "will anyone be joining you?"  the kind where i'm tempted to pull up a chair for the author of the book that i'm having dinner with).  as the vineyards spread their golden locks over the hills and blueberry bushes are ablaze with vermillion, wendell berry's verses join in like a psalm.  as i'm appreciating every change in color and every ray of sun that graces us, one morning i heard birds singing.  later when i went for a walk, i heard birds again, like bookends to the day.  that's when i discovered wendell's "a song sparrow singing in the fall", as if on cue, which i have marked with a pressed leaf.

somehow it has all
added up to song--
earth, air, rain and light,
the labor and the heat,
the mortality of the young.
i will go free of other
singing, i will go
into the silence
of my songs, to hear
this song clearly.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

between bitter and sweet

author jamie ford is coming to powell's tomorrow night!  i just started reading his novel "hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet", which is set in both the 1940's and 80's as it traces the main character, henry (chinese) and his friendship with keiko (japanese) during the war.  on the heels of hearing a Holocaust survivor speak last week, i realized anew what was going on here in the Pacific Northwest in '42 and was grateful for our bountiful lives.  i hadn't realized the full extend of the internment camps.  even though i'm not finished with the book, i stay up a bit too late each night reading because it's just that good...and i'd like to have jamie sign it for me if he's not too busy signing copies of his newest book.  see more at www.jamieford.com

title 9 enough

i do love getting my Title 9 catalog in the mail...and i had an epiphany this week: i don't have to carry a whole change of clothes when i bike to work.  leggings, boots, dress & scarf, sling a messenger bag with lunch packed inside across your shoulder and voila!  ready to pedal AND look professional in the classroom.  Title 9 models have such interesting descriptors by them. "genetic physicist, mother of two" (photo of fit woman with glossy hair rock climbing) or "guide dog volunteer, firefighter" (photo of woman in little black dress laughing at a coffee stand).  then, there's me, "after school art teacher, bike commuter" (photo of me with paint on my clothes, grease on my legs making dinner in pj's and looking none too glamorous).  i must confess it tempts me to try to be all things:  the wonder woman who makes her own homemade organic ravioli AND sends long snail mail birthday greetings to all her friends and family AND volunteers at the local library AND manages her finances AND practices yoga regularly AND hosts parties in a clean house while grading papers AND
eats homegrown pesticide-free carrots (while posing next to a farmer's market stand in that little black dress). even typing that makes me tired.  so one week i might really focus on special projects at school but maybe not exercise as much as i'd like.  another week my house is spic and span but maybe i didn't get to my pile of books to read.  still other weeks maybe i host a party but fall asleep in the middle of doing the dishes.  and then i think, "go easy on yourself, you ARE a Title 9 woman, you're REAL!" it's about a life well lived, people well loved and time well spent; an overall life balance, not perfect days or weeks.  for all my trying, i will never be one of those people who always have all ten fingernails at the same time--art is too demanding on the hands--or who never have to have a single hair picked off of their  shoulder (human or feline), you know, the people whose sweaters never seem to get fuzz balls?!  yes, i will probably spill coffee on my new scarf...so i want to find out, thinking of yourself and all the amazingly REAL women you know, the ones who sometimes lose their temper or forget to go to the bank or who--God forbid--make a frozen meal from time to time, who would you nominate to be a Title 9 woman and why?  

Friday, October 11, 2013

the lost art of RSVP

it's fun to know the origin of some of our modern abbreviations.  for example, i didn't know--until my grandfather told me--that a tip, or "TIPS" that we pay after a meal originally was done beforehand:  To Insure Prompt Service.  and then there's the art of RSVP, from French "Repondez S'il Vous Plait" or respond if you please.  so it's funny that tips evolved to become evaluative of service and i'm wondering why we as a generation tend to rsvp less and less.  i guess people assume that showing up or not IS their RSVP, which means that responding beforehand--like handwritten invitations--is a dying art. or maybe, as i heard recently about this generation and the advent of texting, "they're just waiting for something better to come along" so are hesitant to commit one way or the other to social engagements.  do you know of any other abbreviation origins?   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

driving Alter home

today i got to spend time with 87 year old Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener.  a local speaker for the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, Alter came to our school to present his story and book, "64735:  From a Name to a Number" to middle schoolers. for the last couple of years i have used portions of his YouTube videos and book during the 7th grade unit on Holocaust Literature but didn't dream i'd actually get to meet him.  not only that, but  through a turn of events, i was given the honor of driving him home to Hillsboro after the assembly.  after all that he has been through, from losing 123 members of his family to the Nazi regime and having all of his teeth kicked out by a guard, to working in 5 different camps and narrowly escaping the gas chambers himself, he tucked his small frame into the front seat of my car and said, "positivity.  life is all about positivity."  as he put his seatbelt on, i asked how he felt after his presentations.  "it's not easy emotionally or physically,"  he said, "you know, i've had some rounds of cancer, too.  i'm an 87 year old ordinary man who's had an extraordinary life experience.  are you a religious person?"  to which i answered, "i do believe in God and Love, if that's what you mean" and he said, "well, i'm still here, and it makes me wonder if He just wants me to keep telling my story.  my oncologist thinks i'm a miracle twice-over, for surviving the concentration camps and for still being alive without chemotherapy."  his mind is quick, no doubt from his avid reading of the New York Times and Scrabble playing.  he went on, and i soaked up every word, "have you read Victor Frankl's 'Man's Search for Meaning'? i myself have read it three times. Victor survived Auschwitz and the one thing they could not take away from any of us in the camps was right here" he said, pointing to his mind,  "here is our imagination, our memories, our perspective. we were able to still create meaning here, even though we lacked the means to enjoy life.  now when i look around society, i see how much people have, they have all the means, but they don't seem to enjoy it...everywhere is meaninglessness, depression and anxiety.  i think the key to a meaningful life is positivity and appreciation, being grateful for even the smallest things." i agreed and asked which exit to take from highway 26, "oh, don't worry," he said, "we're not going all the way to the beach" to which i said, "why not?!" and we both laughed.  i took his box of books and birthday cake (yesterday being his birthday we celebrated with him) into the first floor apartment where he showed me a boquet of flowers, "from the father of a girl who said my story saved her life" and then motioned me toward a photo of him taken while he was a prisoner.  "i look at this photo every day.  and every day i am grateful.  when i look up at the shower head and the water comes out hot i am grateful.  do you play Scrabble?"  to which i said, "you just may have yourself a new Scrabble partner." i shook his hand, "i'll leave you to rest now, thank you so much for sharing your life with us."  "we will see each other again.  have a life filled with meaning and beauty" he closed.  I couldn't help thinking it was more of a blessing than a goodbye.  for more about Alter, please visit www.alterwiener.com.

rant of the bookish nature

entry disclaimer:  i try only to use this blog to encourage, promote beauty, share the calm...just for today, i need to rant.  (i teach middle school, afterall, so maybe you can humor me by alowing me, oh, say one rant per thousand entries or so to preserve my sanity?)  so this is a rant about trying to check out a book at my library that you already know i LOVE...the clerk notices my address does not match the library county.  sends me to my local library to get a card to bring back so i can enroll in a 'passport' program.  ok.  only the city i live in doesn't HAVE a library.  so i go three miles to the nearest one, happily peruse the aisles, pick three books, fill out my library card registration form and wait in line.  they send me upstairs.  that desk sends me downstairs.  they send me back upstairs.  they send me back downstairs.  i get in line again only to be told that if i want a card i will have to pay double digits $$ per year and only check out one of my books and then go back upstairs to get the expensive little sticker on my card to take back to the very first library.  i try to always be kind.  i was kind.  so i kindly put all three of my books in the return slot, recycled my application and left.  i'll figure something out, but being stuck in the demographical, political crossfire wasn't what i'd had planned for my evening.  maybe a cup of tea and said book.  i understand libraries need support and finally someone was kind enough to explain to me the process of library funding, local taxes and geographical boundary lines.  but it had been a long day at school multitasking and, among other things, encouraging small children to READ.  ahem. so i called the first library and they said that because i work in a nearby city, i can get yet another set of ID and go to a fourth library to see if i can get something called a courtesy pass.  by this point i'm tired.  i guess i didn't realize how lucky i've been all these 31 years of having a free library card tucked in my purse, going happily whenever i want since 3rd grade and checking out as many books as i like.  no kidding, it felt a little bit like the Spanish Inquisition.  so, dear readers, i'm done with my rant now.  in the scheme of things, i know it's really not a big deal. but you know the verse, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also?" well, i got a sneak peak into my heart and realized that i don't care about riches, fame, fortune or material possessions.  try to take my library card away, however, and you just might see a grown woman cry.   

Monday, October 7, 2013

autumnal sustenance

i've been throwing fall parties now since 2005 to celebrate the most bountiful--garden-wise--time of year.  other parts of the year are bountiful in their own ways, but this is the time when fresh food is most readily available (which i would notice a lot more if we didn't have most everything available 12 months of the year at the grocery store).  i like to think of joining in ancient traditions: from the feasts of the early Israelites to more recent Native American examples of hospitality:  sharing produce with our neighbors.  i'm just old-fashioned enough to still believe in baking from scratch and inviting people over to relax on the back porch, so to speak.  at any rate, our tomatoes were pretty well rent asunder by last weekend's storms, but the apples were more than fine and made for great bobbing, sauce and pies!  i enjoyed the process of getting ready for the party:  inviting people, working in the garden, baking, stuffing tomatoes and peppers with risotto, mulling the wine...so much so that before people were to arrive, i went for a nice, long walk to notice what had turned into the consummately ideal fall day:  intricate spider webs shining in the sun, fuzzy caterpillars crossing the road, merlot colored leaves falling before my feet, geese flying over in an azure sky...i'm so glad i didn't miss the day and i hope that the beauty of autumn got all over my guests as well.  lots of space, inwardly and outwardly, to host people who hopefully left better than they came! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

every book has it's time

i can finally say i've read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  and i'd have to say i enjoyed it.  reading it even made me climb into the attic to see if i saved my Golden Book Children's Classics.  (i didn't, simplicity clashes with nostalgia at times).  and i think what initially got me curious was the whole raft and canoe connection with a river and sense of personal adventure, having had both this summer.  there are a whole host of books that one is "supposed to have read" that i've never cracked open.  since life is short and there's nothing worse than spending time reading something you're not interested in, however, i think it best to let one of those types of classics find you if and when it wants to.  i also can't help thinking that good ol' samuel clemens wrote a lot of himself into both huck finn and tom sawyer.  smart of him to request that his real autobiography come out 100 years after his death to "make sure that people he wrote about were also safely gone" (takes the messiness out of memoir).  i've even stayed in the mark twain room at the sylvia beach hotel.  decorated in his style and filled with his novels, the room itself is a piece of history.  i thought it strange, however, that just as i was getting ready for bed i smelled wafting cigar smoke.  probably coincidence?  at any rate, just like huck's saving someone, telling the truth or having an adventure, every book has it's time too.  p.s.  if this book finds you, i hope it's one with illustrations.

in praise of naps

"i count it as an absolute certainty that in paradise, everyone naps.  a nap is a perfect pleasure and it's useful, too.  it splits the day into two halves, making each half more managable and enjoyable.  how much easier it is to work in the morning if we know we have a nap to look forward to after lunch; and how much more pleasant the late afternoon and evening become after a little sleep.  if you know there is a nap to come later in the day, then you can banish forever that terrible sense of doom one feels at 9 am with eight hours of straight toil ahead.  not only that, but the nap can offer a glimpse into a twilight nether world where gods play and dreams happen." --excerpt from How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

Saturday, September 21, 2013

a gardener named june

i love attending the annual cottage tour held in cannon beach!  one of the last stops of the day was a master gardener's.  nosing around, i peeked into her garden shed and found a poem called "tending" tacked to the wall with a photo of flowers.  i'm glad i took the time to read it and snap a photo of the last stanza.  i wish i had written down the author, so as to give credit where credit is due for these beautiful lines, "it makes me wonder, standing on well-worn planks, wrapped in softened light, how much we ever know of love before it flowers.  what lies behind our gardens of desire?  is it inchoate energy that bursts forth into splendor?  if we are born to labor in the vineyards of the Lord, i come to know June, here, where her odd treasures, her gardening secrets, are all stored." 

escape from mr. lemoncello's library

want a just plain fun book to read?  try "escape from mr. lemoncello's library" by chris grabenstein.  chris is the coauthor (with james patterson) of the new york times bestseller "i funny" and has written for jim henson's muppets as well as being a playwright and improvisational comedian.  filled with puzzles and riddles that actually help teach people about library history and use in fun ways, this book also makes fun allusions to other books and plays with titles in very witty ways.  even the author's note is fun (how many times can i use the word fun in this entry?), "is the game really over?  maybe not.  there is one more puzzle in the book that wasn't in the story (although a clue about how to find it was!) if you figure out the solution, let me know.  send an email to author@ChrisGrabenstein.com."  the mystery continues...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ah, book club

admittedly, my reading pace has slowed down with the start of school, but not my enjoyment!  i'm more eager than ever to read because it's not necessarily an all-day luxury anymore.  book club starts up tonight, whereupon i will have a chance to catch up and read items of my choosing...favorite sections of the Oregonian, the latest edition of Portland Monthly magazine and get started on my fun stack.  right now that includes "Through the Children's Gate" by Adam Gopnick and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.  the one i'm most excited about, however, is an elementary-middle school level book about kids escaping from Mr. Lemoncello's library; published this year, it's filled with allusions to modern books and puzzles to solve.  a student told me about a new book she's really enjoying by Lois Lowry, an author i'm familiar with, but a title i hadn't heard of yet:  "Gossamer".  so yes, my renewals will be more frequent, buying me time which i shall savor like fine chocolate...long live book club!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

your brain on creativity

one thing i've always wanted to do was watch my brain work while i was thinking.  "this is your brain," they'd say, "and this is your brain on creativity."  it's what i call 'the zone'.  time as we know it ceases to exist, you're in a state of heightened focus, and you and what you're doing blend into one continuous action.  it's important.  it's relaxing.  and it's something we hardly ever get.  i heard someone say recently, speaking of simplicity, that they didn't think we were meant to be filled with too many details of varying sizes.  for example, can we really attend well to simultaneous thoughts and news items such as the middle east crisis (global/macro) AND what sandra bullock wore yesterday (individual/micro)?  or, say, the latest ways to cut our mortgage fees AND the cute puppy trick that someone captured on youtube?  i think you get my point...at some point we have to focus on something, which means there are a lot of other things that we are filtering out.  it seems that the ability to do this is lessening as the stiumuli increases and i'm wondering what it's doing to our brains.  a life coach once gave our team a chart with four quadrants labeled:  urgent/not important, not urgent/important, urgent/important and not urgent/not important.  she challenged us to spend the majority of our time on the things in the square labeled "not urgent/important", such as planning time, exercise; the things that get easily crowded sometimes by what's right in front of us.  "attend to a crisis, obviously," she said, (speaking of the urgent/important), "and then get right back to investing in the things that pay the long-term benefits."  people paid her a lot of money to tell them this and then ask them if they did it.  so, no doubt sandra bullock rocked the pink dress, but i think i hear my exercise shoes calling me.  and then i'm going to read, maybe draw; spend some time in "the zone".  this is your brain.  this is your brain on happy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

psl

that's all it needed to say on the coffee shop window:  psl.  yes, last weekend i had my first pumpkin spice latte of the year.  but that doesn't mean that summer is over!  far from it, in fact. and just because the other evening i got caught walking out in the most torrential rain that ever pelted on my person, hair stuck to my face and such a drowned sopping mess that people i don't even know were offering me shelter (two days later, my shoes are not dry yet) i still think we get some of our very nicest nw weather in september and october and i plan to enjoy every moment.  furthermore, i think it is even possible to keep a summer state of mind no matter what season we're in.  it's a daily choice to be calm.  i've noticed how frenetically the world rushes by and i've written a few things down to make sure that i keep everlasting sunshine in my mental outlook.  1) hunt down what you liked about the day and share it with someone, ask them in return 2) if you are grateful for someone, tell them so and be specific 3) share your toys 4) if you get something new, give two things away 5) listen well and offer up things that are important to you 6) ask for what you need 7) leave open-ended time when possible 8) know thyself and plan accordingly 9) when in doubt drink water, eat healthy food, move your body and sleep, things will look better in the morning 10) repeat all of the above.  there's plenty of time, plenty of fun and yes, plenty of pumpkin spice to go around. 

the class

two weeks of in-service under our belts, we had our first week of school!  all of a sudden, friday nights speak to me of pizza and movies.  on one hand, teachers are too tired for wild forays by this time in the week *leave room for exceptions, every week is different!  on the other hand, you don't just want to do nothing...but you do want to be passive, not in charge...so hence the birth of the pizza-movie pairing (instant food and escapist entertainment).  to celebrate first-friday style, i got into oversized sweats and broke out the popcorn to watch "the class" a film by laurent cantent.  if anything, it made me thankful for my school.  it was almost too-real for my evening and not as escaptist as i'd hoped; documentary-like (french with english subtitles so you can at least read the insults the kids are hurling at mr. marin) about a tough inner-city middle school in paris.  it was an academy award nominee for best foreign language film and palm d'or winner 2008 at the cannes film festival, and is based on francois begaudeau's best-selling autobiographical novel of the same title. clearing my dishes and shuffling off to dreamland, i promised myself out loud that i would not be dashing off to france to teach middle school, glamorous as it may sound in theory, the grass is green enough right here under my very own teaching shoes, merci very much...  

Friday, August 30, 2013

bts srl sos asap

back to school
summer reading list
save our ship!
as soon as possible...

...in other words, just because school is starting doesn't mean summer reading (or a summer state of mind for that matter) has to end!  au contraire, literary comrades, right now my labor day weekend library pile includes art book "drawn in" by julia rothman, cookbook "friends at my table" by alice hart, novel "fin & lady" by cathleen schine, and travelogue "voyage of a summer sun" by robin cody.  the sketchbooks are vast and varied, plus julia's own work is amazing (check out www.juliarothman.com).  alice hart's book has the gift of beauty and hospitality that i flipped through (or rather drooled through) preparing to host a fall harvest meal.  cathleen schine is quick and witty, i couldn't stop reading and even stayed up too late just to finish her book...the plot never gets hung up or snagged anywhere, it keeps moving...and she introduces an "I" perspective/mystery character about three-fourths of the way through and lets you discover who it is:  brilliant! and i'm really identifying with robin cody's canoe journey of the entire columbia river...many of his discoveries are familiar to me because of my traversing the willamette.  for the first time, i also admit interest in the adventures of Huckleberry Finn because of affinities with the mississippi river.  what's on your fall book list?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

the jump-off creek

i'm in a woman vs. wilderness theme here, must have been the getting to find our campsite via kayak adventure.  so right now i'm reading "the jump-off creek" by molly gloss (a PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist) of which william kittredge says, "an instant classic...a truly beautiful piece of American storytelling".  i agree.  i find myself feeling pretty handy at the prospect of the great outdoors, but then again, we have REI.  could i REALLY survive/homestead/pioneer?  as i was drifting off to sleep i came up with a list in my mind of what i think i could do and what classes i'd need to take from the grown up wilderness scouts of america.  pretty good at list: general resourcefulness, map-following, animal prints and tracking, first aid, canoeing, fishing, cooking, planting a garden, care & feeding of animals, arranging/beautifying, washing, sewing, chopping wood and building fires--including but not limited to candle-making.  ambience and light are important! the help-me, i'm homesteading for the first time list:  lumber & building skills, how to shoot a gun, knot-tying, various cuts of meat and preservation techniques, water-proofing, and pretty much everything else i haven't thought of yet.  i think it would be fun to get to choose supplies to start with (coffee!) and see how long i could go (see also the character Sam in "my side of the mountain") and i suppose for the first few months of my wilderness experience (spring or summer, thank you very much) it would be helpful to be near civilization.  but what about you?  what would you want to learn if you were playing at you vs. the wilderness? 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ultraoligotrophic

waldo lake is nothing if not ultraoligotrophic!  limnologists said so.  thanks to my kayaking partner and my word-finder, i now can share with you that limnology is the study of "physical phenomena of lakes and fresh waters" and that ultraoligotrophic basically means water so pure and nearly distilled that it is actually too poor in plant nutrients to support a lot of fish.  what it is not poor in is beauty!  because no motors are allowed and the fishing isn't good, what you get is a massive pristine wilderness.  the water is so hard to describe.  depending on the depths, which you can actually see to, my best attempt would be "indigo blue mixed with green with a white prismic quality running through it".  when i put my white padde in, for example, the whiteness intensified, as with bleach. we were self-contained units for three days and two nights, paddling our way from campsite to campsite discovering the as-yet unspoiled piece of nature that even norman rockwell would envy.
 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

river love




the secret of the green

here is today's creative work:  a three-piece vertical, mixed-media collage of our very own willamette river!  we have summer days of freedom and time to synthesize to thank for this...following months (actually three years, all told...and more to come!) of inspirational kayaking and a more recent reading of luci shaw's book "breath for the bones; art, imagination and spirit:  reflections on creativity and faith".  creativity is a paradox; it is both fast and slow.  fast in that it all comes out at once.  slow in that it is formed for months below the surface.  inspiration?  another paradox: at once holy and completely mundane.  holy because of being divine image-bearers.  mundane because i started off in the garden which led me inside to clean which led me to sort and shred all the old papers in my file cabinet which led me to find old maps which led me to think "aha!  i could make that collage of the willamette river i've been thinking about".  so on it goes...the quotes on each piece are as follows, "...they are great crystals of light on the surface of the earth...pure, beyond a market value, how much more beautiful than our lives, how much more transparent than our characters are they!" henry david thoreau.  (surrounded by words:  chinook, wild, confluence of the sacred, salmon).  "...the pioneers--they, we--walk out into a world we think makes sense, we feel at home; meaning breaks off the surface, floating...what will draw our children back?"  kathleen dean moore (words: upstream, falls, navigate by listening, great heron, paddle with the current or against).  "i will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; i will make the wilderness a pool of water, and dry land springs of water."  isaiah 41:18 and "...if we stood quiet and listened, we could hear the gurgle of water running through the open, stone-lined irrigation ducts that criss-crossed the city in every direction.  water was the secret of the green."  luci shaw (words:  osprey, atlas of design, silvered banks, eagle).   

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

your name here

a shameless advertisement for your local library, dear readers.  i have my personal favorite, it's true they may not all be created equal, except in the most important thing:  free books! chances are, if you follow this blog, you probably already have a card in your wallet or purse (i'll pause while you doublecheck) and i had the distinct pleasure of reaquainting someone with their lending system extraordinaire this very week.  names shall be withheld, but my inquisition went something like this, "so ______ when, exactly, was the last time you were here?"  (they couldn't remember, but it was in the years category).  "so do you still have a card?"  (they didn't) "ID, please, i'm here to change all that!" and adding a "don't worry, it's free" i personally marched them up to the service desk.  twenty minutes later, my protoge not only was a card-carrying member once again (i made a trumpet with my fist and sang a victory song, but quietly, this was a library after all and had a small induction party for two) but had three entire books in their arms that they were interested in and had looked up themselves.  you know the whole leading a horse to water thing?  i took that a few steps further and just decided to be the horse who drinks tons and tons in front of all the other horses, again shamelessly, singing (or i suppose neighing) all the exemplary qualities of the library's waters.  i forgot to tell the new devotee to actually drink (read the books in their arms) it was implied in my *enthusiasm. *which i might add, if bottled would be more than enough to constitute a re-opening of the library on thursdays, sigh. credit cards?  they're a bad idea.  coffee punch cards?  a very good idea.  but a library card?  now that's worth signing up for. 

got salt?

here's the book i was telling you about--isn't it pretty?  i think i would be one of the people mark was referring to who, once having purchased a block, would be afraid to use it.  i'd likely want to showcase it as a piece of art. my first encounters with salt, however, were about as sophisticated as watching grandpa sprinkle it for at least 3 minutes, forming a small everest, atop his meat and potatoes...and my backyard chore of using it to kill slugs in the garden.  i graduated to the oh-so-hip level of switching the salt and sugar in restaurants for april fool's day (if you ended up with saline coffee, i apologize, it may have been my fault!).  thinking as an adult about salt and how a little goes a long way, depending on the moisture of the food involved, i thought about seasoning and grace and what kind of person i want to be.  Jesus knew about the properties of salt; to think that we can flavor, clean, and preserve with our lives...and i've uncovered a few things entering my fortieth year of life.  1) we are in charge of our own happiness.  i know it sounds simple, but it's true.  no one else, not your boss or your spouse or your kids and friends, but YOU.  we don't really get to decide what happens to us, but i am more and more convinced of our control over what shapes us; how we think in response to life. salt, as bitterman was saying--like diamonds--is the result of huge pressure over great amounts of time.  and it's mined, hacked at really, in huge chunks before it's refined into lovely slabs such as these.  it goes through testing to see what grade or quality it is--will it be for serving on, warming only or being heated to high temperatures for searing meats?  2) shake it off--like coaches often tell athletes, what looks like a mess isn't always so bad. salt has to be cleaned, but it has a surprisingly long life as a chemical compound.  his book has tips for what to do when it appears to be past its prime, which i love for the resourcefulness of it all...don't just throw it out, be creative!  3) joy is infectious (so is negativity) don't be afraid to surround yourself with people you like who you want to be like!  this is not to say that we don't need to stretch ourselves or share with differently-minded people...on the contrary, choosing well who you spend the most time with can't help but season every interaction you have from the inside out, on the community, acquaintance or stranger level.  got salt? 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

day four pedal girl

...so i made up for it (the car use, that is) by biking the fanno creek trail all the way to the beaverton city library and farmer's market!  sampled hot sauces, looked at figs, drooled at cheeses...then returned a library book (erin mckean's "the secret lives of dresses") and got a new book and movie for the panniers before heading home ("take good care of the garden and the dogs: family, friendships, and faith in small-town alaska" by heather lende and dvd "happythankyoumoreplease").  i'm going to miss all this daily biking...not that i can't still ride, but life speed will pick up a bit in august with the approaching school year.  even though these lovely open-ended, externally agenda-less days of summer will give way to more full schedules and the "need" to drive to and fro, there are still time cushions to ride to in-service, maybe even jury duty?  i still want to try taking my bike on the commuter train and trimet, for example.  and there are many nice days in september and october where i could do my park & bike routine (drive the big hill between home and work and bike the rest of the flat way, get to school early and change into teaching clothes).  in the beginning of my experiment, my goal was to be totally carless for a week.  i flexed that into being ok with occasionally driving as long as i biked somewhere every day.  i've noticed it in my improved leg muscles and in my wallet $ cutting the cost of gas/mileage.  yesterday after my ride i was too tired to bike all the way to dundee and back to check my cats and pick up my mail, so i drove...and in one day i put more miles on my car than i had all week and i realized i ordinarily drive that much every day without even thinking about it.  needless to say, i'm enjoying my experiment and wishing it was reality!  so tonight, i bike to church.  and tomorrow, one more trip to the grocery store and library.  the more i ride, the more thankful i am that someone was brilliant enough to invent the bicycle. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

biker chick, day three

so (sigh) i had to use my car.  until i'm properly outfitted for trimet carrying night riding, i thought it wise.  and i have to tell you that even after only a couple of days it was strange being behind the wheel of such a lugging, exhaust-emitting machine that i didn't get to power.  my legs felt left out.  for such a car freak (i drool over certain makes and models; to reign myself in i tell myself that all cars are alike: a mere aesthetic rearrangement of useless, rusted scrap metal waiting to happen, and this helps for a while) i am more and more dissatisfied with the whole idea of "having" to own a vehicle and all the expense that goes into keeping up appearances and function.  so, remiss, i drove into portland, found a lovely parking spot, paid forty cents for it and made my way to powell's, city of books.  on my way, i spied a record shop; perfect place to inquire after viola rock, i thought, ask the people who sell the music.  a bearded, bespectacled man behind the counter asked me "wassup?" and when i started with, "i was wondering if you knew..." he interrupted me with "whoa, whoa, not so chipper there, tone it down, i'm working sober!"  "ok," i began again, "portland is known for its espresso afterall," i chimed...before asking about local band venues. that proving somewhat fruitless (and not wanting to stay to find out if he was more helpful when working not-sober), i headed to hear mark bitterman talk about salt.  can't you do better for a friday night? you may be wondering.  truth is, to hear mark talk about food IS friday night entertainment.  he, local owner of The Meadow on Mississippi, which specializes in salts, sauces, wine and chocolate (and is opening a new location on NW 23rd!) expounded on his new book all about salt block cooking. he teaches like poetry, telling stories along the way about trips to salt mines across europe and croatia.  he looked younger in person than he had when i saw him on tv the same morning at the gym, now wearing "remodel" garb for his new shop and looking like he could use a *drink (*see also record shop owner).  from there, i took in a modern movie version of "much ado about nothing".  modern dress, black and white filming, full-on shakespeare.  at first i wasn't sure if they were going to pull it off, but it worked and we all gave it a round of applause.  my legs still wanting to pedal, i settled for walking back to my waiting scrap metal and bid it carry me home to a new day where neither bike nor legs would be jilted like shakespearean lovers:  saturday. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

urban experiment, day two

today in carless land was fun as well:  yoga mat + pannier=fitness!  i biked to the local gym and was going to use the free 3-day guest pass i had printed; but because i live so far away (wine country where there are no gyms!) and am not a local, i paid for a visit, which was fine...so i maximized it...steam sauna, dry sauna...yoga class...spa...then rolled up the mat and biked back home again to where my cucumber water (it's really good) was waiting for me.  because it's a friday and during the school year i would usually be at work, i took note of who was at the gym...a lot of retired people with their personal trainers and i guess the rest of the young folks were either on their lunch break, independently wealthy, or have fridays off!  maybe some are teachers like me.  at any rate, it was me and a lot of grandmas (and a couple of grandpas) doing downward dog pose and warrior...after class, they were talking about their next trip to hawaii, things like that.  part of the fun of this urban experiment is the people-watching/time of day demographic (how does the other half live?)...so my next challenge, eek i might have to use my car, is how to meet a friend to go out tonight after it's dark.  headlamp + panniers=???  i'll keep you posted...namaste.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

urban experiment, day one

it seems fitting to begin august with something new:  my urban experiment.  while it's still summer and time is on my side, i'm trying a week of living in the suburbs and seeing how long i can go without driving my car.  i love everything about where i already live in the country and i discovered i can bike places, it's just a little dicier getting there--less traffic in wine country, but also less biking lanes; not so conducive to ditching the vehicle.  last night i realized that i could just hop on my bike and ride to the park, scoping my environment, even if it was approaching dusk, not something i can do at home.  and then i started today by returning my library books, taking great satisfaction at riding up to the drive-up return boxes, i might add.  next was rolling over to the closest trimet connection, realizing that if i needed to go into the city, i could either park my bike there or take it with me and continue riding.  groceries?  not a problem!  with borrowed panniers, i strolled the aisles of new seasons and filled them with *milk, yogurt and coffee, complete with a french baguette sticking up out of the side!  *all a european really needs afterall (thanks to the country, i am my own farmer's market of fruits and vegetables, so purchase of those has gone way way down for a few months!  the chickens will help with the egg factor--harder to bike without breaking those).  i returned home errands done, food stocked and fully exercised for the day; what's not to love about that!?

Monday, July 29, 2013

viola rock, PDX!

i'm used to reading...notes.  the last couple of days, however, i've been jamming on my viola (no, that is not an oxymoron) by playing along without notes to tunes on my iPod to by sting, carly rae jepson, 2cellos and the verve.  don't get me wrong, i've loved my 21+ years in orchestra and owe them the very heart of my viola, it's just that, well, i've gotta bust out!  i've emailed the portland cello project, local hipster teachers and even sara matarazzo who was featured in portland monthly's music scene.  short of putting "violist for hire" on craigslist, which would, i fear, be the catalyst for even more viola jokes than are already on the internet, i would love to play background for local bands, cds or even film!  i know i'm taking a slight departure here in wordnest to ask this, but please comment if you know of a very cool group needing somone who wants to rock her viola...

the endurance

i threw a kid's book into the mix, "sea of ice:  the wreck of the endurance" by monika kulling because i was curious about what made the head of the expedition, sir ernest shackleton, so skilled in leadership.  a week before, i had opened to a quote in the complete book of the adventure that read, "shackleton was nothing if not purposeful."  persistence, intentionality; those words get my attention.  as the true story goes, in 1914 he and his crew of 28 men set sail from england to antarctica, shackleton wanting to be the first explorer to trek across the continent.  when their vessel was trapped in frozen ice floes, they were forced to abandon ship.  shackleton and two other men went for help, returning for the full crew, all of whom survived!  i took notes on the pros and cons of his leadership style that went something like this.  cons:  wanting to be first (debatable?), and thus ignored ice warnings of locals.  but the pros far outweigh those:  articulated and financed his mission, chose his crew carefully, provided more than ample supplies, gave credit when it would be easy to take credit, his men believed in him, he did everything plus above and beyond anything he expected of them, he took risks for them, he persisted in his rescue efforts, he instilled in his crew the habit of hope:  looking for rescue every day despite the odds.  those attributes, in my mind, make for a leader worth following. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

the sketchbook challenge

i caught this exhibit in person while it was still here in the northwest, but look it up to see where it's going next:  www.thesketchbookproject.com.  a mobile van with the snappy "my sketchbook is smarter than your honor student" across the back houses hundreds of sketchbooks from all over the world.  to get started, you scan the barcode on one of their library/business cards and look up sketchbooks by interest, topic, theme or locale...they include a "mystery" book with your checkout and after you've looked through them, you return the books and check out more.  not only does this give me ideas for art k-8 at my school, but it reminds me of how i sketched my way through france at this time last year.  paris has been a theme, to say the least, lately...permeating life.  want another summer combo?  get ahold of the sketchbook "rooftops of paris" by fabrice moireau (artist) and carl norac (poetry).  this goes nicely with the gorgeous "paris in color" book by nichole robertson.  and, while you're at it, you could rent the dvd "paris 36".  novel-wise, "the suitors" by cecile david-weill and "crossing on the paris" by dana gynther round out the happy pile.  one of my favorite sketchbooks from the project was by an artist in eugene who captured her month-long stay in paris. ahh, to dream...

summer combo

i have just crossed off another thing on my "wild woman list of things to do":  stand-up paddle boarding!  it's similar to kayaking but with crazy yoga balance and the closest i'll ever come to walking on water.  our teacher was lexie hallahan, director and owner of northwest women's surf camps on the oregon coast (www.nwwomenssurfcamps.com).  it's a nice warm-up for surfing, methinks, which looks much, much more challenging!  for now, i live vicariously through books like the one by ben marcus, "surfing:  an illustrated history of the coolest sport of all time".
".

Thursday, July 11, 2013

cyclepedia and slabtown

the coolest, bar none, exhibit is here at the art museum right now!  "cyclepedia" is 40 bicycles  (of a much larger collection) ranging from an ice bike (studded rear tire and blade instead of a front tire) to a paratrooper bike and literally everything in between.  if it can fold up, take a picnic, race or let you pedal side-by-side "the buddy bike", it's there!  the exhibit itself, though small, is lithely displayed in a white room; bikes arranged in curving formations and hung by ceiling cables. outside the museum is a collection of bike helmets that make up the red "P" that is the art museum's logo.  tres hip.  from here you could literally bike to portland's "slabtown" area (lovejoy street area and north).  last night at powell's i got to hear norm gholston and tracy prince talk about the archives, historical photos and interviews used to uncover the history of one of the city's most densely populated neighborhoods (you can get their book "Portland's Slabtown" new from Arcadia Publishing).  they taught us, a standing-room only crowd, just how influential the Native American and Chinese cultures were to the settlement of this area and peppered their lively lecture with tidbits such as the fact that portland's first hockey team was bought by Chicago and went on to become The Blackhawks (i never knew that!).  a gal on the streetcar the other day looked at me amusedly like i was a tourist and asked me where i was from?  "from here," i answered, "i live here".  it must have been the joie de vivre permeating my face that gave me away:  dare to explore where you live like it was the first time you'd ever been there.  i guarantee you'll find new eyes...(new maps...new japanese happy hours, new saltwater soaking pools...to be continued!)

masterpieces you cannot live without?

brian doyle, author of "mink river", writes regularly for the Oregonian.  his latest column is entitled "must-read masterpieces".  doyle, his usual wit intact, expounds on the virtues of everything from annie dillard's "pilgrim at tinker creek" to kathleen dean moore's "riverwalking" (both of which, i couldn't help noting, are next to each other on my bookshelf!) since book lists are at the very heart of this blog, naturally i clipped his article and underlined all the way, noting what brian thinks i should--and should not--be reading (dickens need not apply and so long, hemingway novels...chime in if you think otherwise, healthy debate being key to intellectual rigor) and then i had an idea to add to mr. doyle's.  why not try a book+film=experience combination?  here's an example from my week.  first, read claire messud's "the emporer's children" and then go see the film "the great gatsby" (fitzgerald).  they're both essentially about the balance of power in relationships and being 30, trying to make one's way in New York City.  I've visited NY in my early thirties and, while not trying to make a living there, it gave me reference points for the book and movie. what combo would you propose? 

gift of the canvi

while in the art store, my friend and i decided that the plural of canvases would now be referred to as "canvi" as we searched for the perfect size and amount for my little project.  inspired by the work of heidi keith (www.heidikeith.com) and her project "saving daylight" i wanted to do a small version of paying attention to something over time.  i chose cannon beach's haystack rock at five times of day:
1) ansel adams mist 2) firstlight 3) surf's up 4) dune nap and 5) sky on fire.

atlas of design

at first glance, i took this photo to be a plume of smoke until noticing that it is none other than an aerial view of our very own willamette river!  "how beautiful!" i gushed, pinning david coe's cartography to my bulletin board.  (if you look closely at the bottom left tributary, you can see the shape of a heart tilted on its side).  fitting because i was just about to use the analogy that came to me today:  if the city of portland and i were dating, we would be well past the small talk (zoo train and voodoo donuts level) and into the sharing of history (more on that soon) that promises to be a deep and life-long relationship. one example is that i'm privileged to have kayaked a large section of this river in the last couple of years (most recent segment 15 miles on tuesday) as far north as the fremont bridge upstream to the wheatland ferry and it is every bit as beautiful as you can imagine.  from urban funk to grazing herds (in the water, cows!  i am not making this up) the river's course has carved new beds but is still the same flow our native american ancestors would have navigated so well.  more of david coe's work can be found in the book "atlas of design".    

Friday, July 5, 2013

if, just, only

if you notice
this bird sends echoes of himself
into the trees
if for no other reason than
the joy of it
and that kind of light
will never again fall
just so against the verdant moss
nor on the just-cracked yolk
in the cobalt bowl
stippled market figs
the curve of river beds
just-pruned scent of pine
yes, if you notice
you understand
each tide, each blink,
each wind
is the only one.

ls 7.5.13

Thursday, July 4, 2013

tour de home

i can't help but think that at this time last year, i was planning a two-week july trip to france!  so today i did what any sensible person would do and appreciated the francophile elements right here in my own backyard!  usually one to savor a slow morning with french press, today i started hastily with yogurt and fruit, i had my own tour de france to ride, afterall.  hopping on my new commuter bike, i rode the mere three but scenic miles to red hills market, ordered cold-brewed coffee and turned on nbcsn to watch the real tour's peloton ride from aix-en-provence (blissful sigh) to montpelier in stage 6.  if it had been football, i would have been competing for a view, but i was the sole oregon watcher at this particular locale, glued to the set in order not to miss any familiar sights in the south of france.  lavendar, plane trees, mediterranean coastline, colorful jersies, signs in french, roundabouts...from there i moved to a wine-barrel crafted chair (stamped 'made in france') to read about cooking in a small town (in france) while the lavendar stems swayed under golden bees (blissful sigh number two).  i pedaled home past tasting rooms and expansive pinot noir vineyards before reaching my driveway whereupon i was greeted by adorable children (of the family who is staying here this month) sharing fresh-picked blueberries with them, i stretched along with the day sprawled open before me...one thing i always wanted to do while in provence was have a kitchen so i could both go to market AND cook (the best combo is their markets and our kitchens) so i did the next best thing with the fresh produce from home...roasted hazelnuts with fresh rosemary, grilled balsamic mushrooms, seared salmon steaks on fresh garden greens, olive oil & seasalted baby potatoes...the rhythm continued as my sun tree brewed and naptime approached...waking hungry for chocolate, i furthered my french intensive.  noting the tricoleur (or french flag) is bleu, blanc, rouge (in that order) i celebrate july 4th and salute the french, who have 10 days until their bastille day...c'est complet, mon tour chez nous.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

setting sail

i have actually been doing some summer reading, books finished in small bites here and there:  a chapter over an italian sandwich, a few pages from my camp bunk, paragraphs while waiting for jury duty orientation at the county courthouse.  it's amazing how much 10 minutes here or 15 minutes there can actually accomplish. 
in this manner i finished robin lee graham's novel "dove" about his 5 year sailing adventure around the world (he started at age 16 and returned at 21 married and starting a family) complete with shark scares, romance, and storms.  and i'm now happily savoring "on rue tatin" by susan herrmann loomis, her tales of living and cooking in a french town, complete with recipes.  gateaux chocolat, anyone!? 

zentangle and other summer skills

having finished with school and camp, i am now poking my head up, gopher-like, to survey the scene before me:  july!  with this month comes all things summery and i've made a few discoveries as i launch into this 31-day stretch of bliss.  in no particular order, i have discovered...that there is such a thing as cold-brewed coffee...kelly's brand strawbanero pepper jelly...the art of *zentangle...jury duty orientation...how to make savory asparagus tarts...
the (proper) way to change a bike tire...how to prepare a fairly water-tight-looking message in a bottle (complete with **news clipping of a sunny forecast and a stick of bubble gum, should it survive the seas)...the best way to carry a boogie board while riding a cruiser bike...that tobasco actually tastes good on watermelon...and how to barter-down the price of figs in a US market.  these, my friends, are summer skills.  *i like this particular zentangle because to me it looks like surf boards.  **who says messages in bottles should only contain notes, why not an oceanic care package that floats? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

roller coaster connections

i don't have to go to disneyland for a wild ride this summer.  i go to camp.  foster sibling's camp, that is.  we have our own roller coaster in that when they come they are not sure what to expect.  by mid-week they are laughing and wrestling around with their sibs and by the end of the week they are having separation anxiety.  it's better to have time with their brothers and sisters than none at all, though.  many of them haven't seen each other for months, even years because of the foster care system.  some are adopted separately; in rare cases together. so i'll see you back here in july.  meanwhile for more information, check out the links at www.ctbnorthwest.org or www.camptobelongoregon.org

Monday, June 17, 2013

to inscribe or not to inscribe?

in my continuous quest of decluttering, i wonder how much to go digital?  not that there will ever truly be an "upgrade-free" day in the world of technology, but if i wait long enough, maybe everything (radio, camera, movies, email, books, phone, kitchen sink...) will be streamed on ONE simple device?  the allure of sleek, slim and trim is before me:  downloading all of my music and books to a memory card or cd?  to kindle or not to kindle? (need i mention that for his birthday, one of my kindergarten students got a kindle!? at that age, my presents were along the lines of fingerpaint, neato soap crayons, and boats for bathtime, but i digress.) at any rate, i ditched my old radio alarm clock today because i like the first thing i hear in the morning to be birds, not bad news or car commercials.  i have an alarm on my cell phone, afterall.  that's where it started.  before i knew it i was tearing through my small space getting rid of items willy nilly.  i've done this several times and am careful about what i take in, so the fact that i could fill my car trunk with unneeded stuff yet again was a bit suprising and yet deeply satisfying.  and then:  the question of books.  that's a tough one.  so yes, i went through my library of books yet again today and pared down.  in other cleaning fits, if i see that someone has written an inscription to me in the book, i've usually kept it, but today i decided, "why not make someone else's life just a wee more interesting when they find it?"   it's fun for me to read the inside covers of books, afterall, 'to dear margaret on her 12th birthday, we hope your batmitzvah brings you happy memories for years to come, your loving mother and father' (favorite latke recipes) or maybe, 'for doris on her 70th birthday, may your garden continue to bloom as lovely as you, fondly, your grandaughter helen' (the joy of peonies) ...no, i can't say that i would mind anyone reading the inscriptions to me and it makes me wonder how many books i've written in that ended up in the hands of strangers via the rotary club book sale or local thrift store?  so when you see, 'to little lanettie on her 4th birthday, love auntie and unkie carpenter, 1978' (a children's treasury of verse) you'll know where it came from. inscribe already, it's much more interesting!

gettin' sandy

i must confess i'm at the time of year where my reading means i look at pretty coffee table books--for the pictures.  when i actually read in june, i don't look up new words in the dictionary and my beloved wordfinder collects dust.  while this girl entymologist promises a swift return in this department, i can show you something i did do:  my lastest aspirations in sandcastle building.  mine (with shovel) and a professional (woman dancing) a la cannon beach's 49th annual sandcastle competition.  from masters to the junior sand fleas, these grains were taken quite seriously from morning until late afternoon tide.  by morning, any that survived were mere mounds; a testament to the glories of temporary art. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

indie, library love

one recent thing that made my "30 days of fun" list was simply wandering the aisles of a local bookstore (rather a large chain, i might add, not to be confused with independent booksellers--at which i always try to support them with a purchase). so there i was, copying down interesting titles as i went with a *library trip in mind.  *i have to say the local library has helped curb my desire to own every new book that i see (except at the aforementioned indie bookstores) because of their great inventory and bestseller section (if only we could keep them open on thursdays!)  but i digress.  here are some reads of late:  i was happily surprised with the young adult book, "masterpiece" by elise broach.  the artistic relationship between the boy and his beetle (yes, beetle) contained several deep and quotable sayings on art and friendship that actually quite moved me.  then i discovered "frightful's mountain" by jean craighead george, which comes after her book "my side of the mountain."  if you like alot of falconry, you'll enjoy it; i prefer sam's survival methods in the first novel.  and, on my first day of truly being able to do nothing, i read "the maytrees" by annie dillard.  since she is such the naturalist, i expected it to be somehow about trees. it is, rather, a study in small town character; friendship, loyalty and love with a tinge of philosophy thrown in.  very different from her "pilgrim at tinker creek", a copy of which i keep on my shelf.  i am taking a borrowed copy of laurence cosee's "a novel bookstore" with me to the beach and i have his "bitter almonds" on hold.  what's on your summer reading list?