Thursday, July 31, 2014

bright wings

having visited a friend's family vineyard recently, i learned that they own over 400 acres, some of which have never been cultivated. this struck me as rare! i'd already been thinking about what i'll call the "people vs. nature wear factor" on our planet and was happily surprised that there still existed a parcel of farm land that was still mineral rich and untouched. i've had the privilege of venturing many places this summer, starting with oahu and the san juans, then cannon beach and silver creek falls. in each there is absolutely unspoiled beauty right next to the wear and tear of humans. i've watched people, myself among them, finding ATM machines in order to satiate their daily quest for food, water...then garbage cans, bathrooms...clothing, souvenirs, coffee, icecream...car or boat fuel...only to do it all over again. i'm happy to say it seems nature always wins. vines climb up again, water perseveres...it brought to mind one of my favorite poems by gerard manley hopkins who understood this very concept when he wrote in the late 1880's (well past lewis & clark's 1804 expedition west). in "God's Grandeur", he writes: the world is charged with the grandeur of God. it will flame out, like shining from shook foil; it gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed. why do men then now not reck his rod? generations have trod, have trod, have trod; and all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. and for all this, nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things; and though the last lights off the black west went oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs-- because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. despite having memorized this poem in college, i still have to look up what "reck his rod" might mean and summaries seem to indicate the phrase, "why don't people respect and appreciate God's creation and take care of it?" the rest, i think, is fairly straight forward. and, while i know people debate the possibility of using up all of earth's natural resources, i still love the line that says, "and for all this nature is never spent". the next line is refreshing as well, "there lives the dearest freshness deep down things". it's like coming out of a crowded mall into a natural wetland; times of refreshing that come from the Creator into all things created.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

the law of focused flavor

ok, so it's not really a law, but the opposite is: the law of diminishing returns. i learned this while waiting for my cell phone to charge in the back of a bookstore. because i happened to grab "the french laundry" cookbook to pass the time i now know that the first bite of food is usually paramount, followed by "just ok" and down from there. most cooks, the author explained, counter this by adding too many flavors which only confuses the diner's tastebuds. to really wow the palate, he says, focus the flavor instead by using one entree and four different distinct sauces or a very distinct sweet or savory. this is so true in cooking, art and life. i am suspect, for example, when a restaurant menu tries to be not only breakfast-lunch-dinner but has way too many things going on in each category. how can they possibly specialize? in art, it never bodes well when i don't know when to stop--the best pieces come before things can turn muddy; when i resist the urge to "just add one more thing". and, in life, less is more time and time again. when you are tempted to get more, bigger or better to satisfy you in any area of life, you can come back to this simple law of focused flavor to win out over diminishing returns.

ms. grammar police loses at boggle

let's just say that i wasn't sad to see our game score paper used to start the campfire. for a word girl, i lost badly at the regular evening campground rounds of boggle. granted, i got better, but spent way too much of the precious timer trying to get a really long word instead of just making up smaller ones and adding an "s". there are only so many points you can get for "hand...hands...handy...handed" i wanted to go big: words like sycophant or dalliance; cherubim and regalia (use those 4 in a coherent sentence, i dare you!) and on the ferry float from bike camping around san juan island, i laughed out loud at anne fadiman's grammar policing chapter from her novel "ex libris". here are a few examples from the fadiman family's literary snobbery files. "the place we had dinner last week served p-e-a-k-i-n-g duck!" "einstein's theory of relativity led to the development of the Big Band Theory." "cakes frosted Happy Birthday's", "when i was only three and still named belle miriam silverman i sang my first aria in pubic." or consider the 1631 printing of the bible especially printed for king charles I, "thou shalt commit adultery". but it gets better. "...from the beginning camilla approved of charles' marrying diana while she remained his power mower." i would rather lose at boggle among friends than forever go down in history as the one who made the fast food restaurant sign read "get your stalking stuffers here."

the kind of person i want to be

one of my friends wrote a poem about the kind of person she wants to be...(i need to ask permission first, and if she agrees, i can post it here) but basically, one who still writes old fashioned letters with stamps on them and practices kindness, reads real books and sleeps in hammocks. there are two basic ways to become yourself: learn who you don't want to be and grow more into who you DO want to be. i want to be a very fun, slightly frivolous, reverently irreverent, frolicksome whoosh of stardust that also has substance. that if you poke me with your finger, i don't fall over. that i can be silly because you know i would take you seriously in a moment and could have a real conversation at any time of the day or night. the kind of person who is just at home with small children as well as sages and everyone in between. i want to remember to say thank you. to always identify with the salt of the earth type folks, knowing that being in touch with my simple roots and having expensive taste do not have to be mutually exclusive. i want to notice, care, ask, and listen. i want to have a relationship with the passing of time in such a way that i know when to "waste" it and when to seize it, knowing the thin line in between that always values it. and i want to put people first always. two quotes i read recently resonate with this, "i quit my job and i made this decision that i was only going to do things that i love to do." a harvard sociology study finds that the happiest people who find themselves in later life stages are those who, "...learn to speak a foreign language, play jazz piano, surf, act, write plays...what characterizes them all is the willingness to take risks, experience vulnerability and uncertainty, learn from experimentation and failure, seek guidance and counsel from younger generations and develop new relationships of support and intimacy." yes, that's the kind of person i want to be.

...and all that jazz!

grown up kids have to take naps, too! i've just woken from one such delicious summer respite and come inside from sharing a pint of blackberries with the chickens in celebration of their first eggs! (beautiful, brown and with the most yellow yolks) i've been going at full throttle with my own birthday celebrations, trips, experiences, colors, words, books, projects...like a sponge i took today just to soak it all in. i thought that, very much like rests in music give jazz their meaning, today could be what helps me absorb all the sheer goodness so that it becomes a part of me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

the late starters orchestra

love this book so far (authored by ari l. goldman) and in the front is the following quote, "i have three messages. one is we should never, ever give up. two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."--diana nyad, 64, after completing the 110-mile swim from cuba to florida on her fifth attempt.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

40 mph

with just four days of my thirties left, i have to say just how excited i am to turn 40! there is no begrudging the years here. in fact, i even feel like honking when i pass a 40 mph sign...it feels good to be in my fortieth year...so good! no cliches, no jokes, no platitudes, i'm just excited and i'm gonna eat some cake. because i can. the next decades? bring 'em on! light speed ahead...

Monday, July 7, 2014

july 4th photo essay

you've been...yarn bombed!

"you've been...what?!" i exclaimed, having never heard of the practice. walking through Astoria, i came face to face with the results of the most recent yarn bomb. from the postcard, and i quote, "Astoria invites you to create for our Yarn Bomb! (over) Attention all fiber artists: reduce your yarn stash and join us in Astoria, Oregon to create a yarn wonderland! (installation and reception dates) Sponsored by Astoria Visual Arts, Fiber Arts Academy." so, next time you don't know what to do with that leftover alpaca yarn, head north with your needles, my friends and join dozens of other hookers (pun but no offense intended) who are beautifying our city streets one stitch at a time.

st. john's bridge & cathedral park

my first experience with the St. John's Bridge was not an altogether aesthetic one. it served as a focal point and measurement of my 7 hour and 40 minute 26.2 mile walk during the portland marathon. i was, alas, too tired at the time to fully appreciate it's architectural structure. last week a friend and i kayaked to it from Kelly Point Park, near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, and ate lunch at Cathedral Park. the St. John's Bridge is the only suspension bridge in the Willamette Valley and one of only three in Oregon. it was designed by internationally renown engineer David B. Steinman (1886-1960) and Holton D. Robinson. construction was begun one month before the Stock Market crash of 1929, thus giving jobs to many during the Great Depression. in the words of the designers, "...the challenge and opportunity was to create a structure of enduring beauty in the God-given wondrous background..." which they definitely accomplished!

more books, please...

as if stacks from the public library weren't enough, i also attended the friends of the library book sale at cannon beach. as a first-timer, i learned some tricks. 1) go early. you can get coffee later, this sale is not to be missed. if you just can't forego your morning java, there may only be books on breast feeding or barmitzvah's leftover, which is great if that's what you're looking for. to each his own...2) hit the fiction section. it's arranged alphabetically, at least until it turns into picked-over piles. there's some brand-new stuff there for $5 or under! 3) carry cash. the dear, sweet volunteers will gladly make change for you and 4) be kind. your bag will bump into people about 13.5 times on average while scooting between rows. balance that assertive reach of avarice with a modicum of gentility and all will be well. p.s. i just read annapurna potluri's first novel "the grammarian" and found it quite good. if you happen to check it out from the same library i did, sorry for the sand. hey, what can i say, it was a beautiful day for dune reading!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

being interruptable

the other evening a friend and i were going for a walk which took us by another friend's house. from the sidewalk, we could see her in her upstairs room, so we hollered up through the open window, "hey! want to come walking with us?" and she hollered back, "yeah, i'll be right down!" (imagine our honor when we learned she chose us over finishing her ironing). we had a fun visit and didn't have to try to "get it on the calendar". it reminded me that a very important aspect of community is the art of being interruptable, something i'll confess i'd like to be better at. i would like to incorporate more shades of this into my life, adding depth and variety to admittedly what are sometimes my two speeds: 1) on a mission and 2) hanging out (but when it's my idea). there are times, granted, not to be interruptable or we wouldn't get anything done. i would say that sometimes being able to stop what you're doing when it's not your idea is a close cousin to spontanaeity and, the more organized and efficient you are with your time, the more you can wing off on a moment's notice! i love this photo because it represents seizing the morning. i am so grateful for the 'interruptions of nature'. as the quote by pat clafford goes, "the work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."