Sunday, September 6, 2015

Marriage-Hard and Beautiful

Rocks and roses.  Marriage is like the footing surface that the bride and groom stand upon while they say their vows.  Hard and beautiful.   

As my stepson, Cody, and his wife-to-be, Emily, stepped across the petals that had been scattered by a band of children onto the pebbled path, I thought that this marriage would have fewer stones and more petals than so many other couplings that I have known.    

Marriage ceremonies are grounded with vows and lofted with symbolism.  Moments before Cody’s wedding began, the tents were removed from over the chairs thereby banishing the shadows that they cast upon the guests.  The storm momentarily pushed clouds aside and sunlight graced the scene.  A good sign.

The other wedding party celebrating on the island that weekend had their tents, tables, and place settings blown into the bay in the previous windswept night.  I pictured their teacups bobbing, the sodden napkins sinking and the canvas tents speeding away leaving the niggling suggestion of an ominous beginning in the minds of all in that wedding party.  Our guests smilingly settled into the chairs overlooking the lavender field.    

The tent above the dinner setting remained cautiously tethered.  Good marriages have some element of intention, of planning and of forethought.  Emily planned Cody concurred.  Cody planned and Emily concurred.  They surely disagreed but had to have comprised.  Guests couldn’t tell of any disagreement. 

The gleam of silver on old platters bespoke of tradition and of the longing for something that would last and be treasured.  Emily had planned her wedding shower to include gifts of the serving platters.  Good planning.  Cody made sure the dining tent was secured the night before.  Good planning... as rained poured during the dinner.

But any marriage couple, who are expecting perfect execution of plans, and then responds with anger when things go awry will find trouble foreshadowed.

As Emily’s friends began unpacking the silverware, it became obvious that there were only a few spoons.  If Cody and Emily’s friends and families are any indication of how they themselves will handle future challenges, they are in luck.  Brendan stirred his coffee with a knife, laughing.  (So little is worthy of anger.)  If the lack of spoons was an omen, it was a good one.      

As was the dinner.  Pulled pork from the restaurant where Cody and Emily had their third date.  If the two of them remember to keep dating, returning to what they loved and adding to that repertoire, they will keep amazement in their relationship. 

Cody's beloved sister.
Click, click, click went cameras capturing love, advice and jokes tossed to the newly married couple.  Cody's sister and Emily's sister both spoke with eyes a-glinting at their newly-wedded siblings. 

Emily's delighted sister.
Even children had words of advice.

The advice was given with a smile.
"Everything dies!"
Not every wedding lets children take the microphone.  Blessed was this wedding with words from the attending kids.  “Congratulations!” spoken shyly and a surprising “Everything dies!”  Marriages are hard and beautiful.  Even a child could predict the eventual end.  Until that end, may Cody and Emily be blessed with enough hard times to keep them growing spiritually and enough beauty to keep them as joyful as they were on their ferry ride to the wedding.

 Good luck, you two.  Keep music in your hearts, a rock in your pocket and flowers on the table.

"I like your guitar.  Oh, I mean your ukelele," said a child as he passed the wedding's cellist.    
And laugh.  Do laugh often.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Writer's AWOL

AWOL means "absent from one's post, without intent to desert."  Those of you who might have been wondering why I have been AWOL, deserve an explanation.  Maybe you were thinking that I was intending to cap my pen, unplug the computer and take a cat nap.. never to write a tale again.  It has been some weeks.  Uncharacteristic.  But, I am back.  Mark me present and returned to post.  

Twenty years ago I was given a guest tour of a cabin in the woods up a nearby canyon.  With its multiplicity of windows- through which the sound of a river and the smell of pines drifted- it became my cabin standard.  Now, soon, it will be mine.  I left one morning, almost the very next day after noticing that the cabin was on the market and ventured up to see it.  My realtor and I had to stop at the checkpoint and explain to the sheriff why we wanted to go into the canyon.. which happened to be under a stage one fire evacuation.  When I said that I was looking to buy a cabin, the sheriff burst out laughing and waved us on.

I have wanted or rather needed a place that can become a writer's retreat.  I never have enough time to write in my lovely old home in town.  The cabin will be perfect.  So back to being AWOL, I have been busy dreaming, financing, sprucing and sorting.  The cats have been keeping me company while I paint or trim hedges.  The house is looking better.  Ready for market.
Look at that back wall paint job!
This beautiful home with its stream and sunflowers will one day no longer be mine except in memories.  I have been savoring its views.  Only a few days ago I decided to slow down and put it on the market later, formally in the spring (although it may become someone else's sooner).  I must continue to finish odd and end tasks on the house, but I'm not going to be so neglectful of writing, not AWOL again.  Besides, my dear friends who know of the unexpected demands on my time have been leaving me gifts to sustain me.  

More on that cabin soon..

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Jobs

I’m late.  Most years by mid-June a list of the summer projects has been posted under a magnet on the refrigerator, the shop cleaned and the sawhorses set-up.  Last summer I missed the ritual when I spent the summer mostly painting over smoking damage from a renter.  So three weeks ago, late for me, I finally began on this summer’s list. I found myself delighted to be among old tools and pleasing tasks. 

Clamps are among my favorite implements.  I seem to use them often.  I have large ones for repairing chairs and smaller ones, like this one in the photo that I was using to hold together a re-glued leg. Flipping the little stool over I had realized from the dark green paint on the bottom that it had military origins.  Walla Walla hosted a large air base during WWII.  I’m imagining that this stool could have been a mechanic’s one since its two-inch thick maple seat has saw nicks and deep oil stains. I’m curious how this little stool with its gorgeous thick maple seat came into being.  Who during the war designed it and designated its use?  How many were made?  Where are they all now?  The stool was obviously made with some pride.  I’m glad it still has a life now as a table next to the smaller of my claw foot tubs.  It is nice for holding a book, an iced drink or a candle.  One day it may be a shop stool again.  That would be fine. 

The leg that I was repairing had been previously screwed together and I was just reinforcing the break with some glue before retightening the screws. I sanded the seat for almost an hour having to go fairly deep to eradicate the oil.  I left the slightest trace as a historical marker.    

Back and forth to the refinishing cabinet for supplies was pleasing; it was familiar work with precisely the tools to do the work.  Scrappers, masks, stripper, steel wool, wrap to cover the stripping fluid while it worked, dental tools and those clamps. 

My jobs this summer have included stripping, repainting and varnishing the stool and also a bathtub seat.  I finished stripping white lead paint off of old shelving for the kitchen cabinets and sanded, stained and varnished them.  I took off the old paint from a couple of doorknobs to put into the freshly painted antique doors upstairs.

The work was transformative and reflective.   The kind of work that opens doors.      

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Joy Ride

From where I live I can see the cumulus clouds building up over the Blues.  My view is a narrow one from the house, not like this sweeping one, but the clouds lean down my street and sometimes, when the urge is too strong, I have to head out for a ride.  I’ve been cloistered at home with the light from my computer screen glowing late into the evenings or smothering projects in the shop with paint stripper for a few weeks now.  I haven’t written on the blog or even added to my memoir.  Not a word.

So I called to Pup and we headed off.  I promised her a walk somewhere, but she loves the ride getting there.  Here she was in this photo listening to the slither of a snake or the rustling of a field mouse.  The trip last night up the North Fork of the Walla Walla River gave her smells of goats and cows and a deer.  She stood between the seats watching or hanging her head out as the good smells came.  

It’s harvest time in the valley.  The dust was back lite by sun rays as the tractors came in from the fields to park for the night.  Wheat trucks loaded rushed by me.

The hawk on the gate looked for the final meal of the night in the short stubble and a coyote ran along a ridgeline. 

This was no ordinary ride.  It was a joy ride.  How one celebrates when one’s world flips around is something one doesn’t always plan.  Earlier in the day I yelled “Whoop!” as I submitted an application for a writer’s residency.  The shouted “whoop” rose above me and dissipated through the walls out into the valley.  I guess that when I went for the ride later I was just following the syllables, pulled along in the wake of their projection in a southern course.  I used to be a retired elder and now, flip, I am a writer.  Or so, I now suppose.        

I stopped a moment at an old pioneer cemetery.  Here I know are the graves of whole families who seemed to die all at once.  I’ll take joy where I can find it.  I’m sure that I’ll carry it with me when it will be my time to go.  When I think of dying I think of how much I shall miss this gloriously beautiful world, so I try to catch its images and maybe in the next world I’ll reconstruct its essence.  

The North Fork is a dead end, but no matter.  The light on the barbed wire, the old cottonwood trees and the folds of the hills proffered slices of views.  Pleasing ones.  Later while I waited for the pup to poop in the dark at a park near home, I figured out how to use another aspect of a photo application.  Another joy.  Applying for that writer’s residency may be a dead end, but the road there has given me insights into my capacities and dreams out on the horizon. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Diversity Day Photos 2015

Diversity Day is an annual event in Walla Walla.  It is held in Pioneer Park with wonderful music represented by many cultures, great food and activities for families.  I participate annually at this event in offering an activity for children with my Baha'i Faith community.  This year children built "A World without Prejudice" with blocks made of log rounds and driftwood.  It was delightful to see the co-operation among all of the children who participated.  The event is a reminder that race unity is possible.  As always, many races were represented and they were all beautiful- the photos can testify to this fact.

"Ye are all the leaves of one tree."  Bahá'u'lláh

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Ailment of the Heart

Two of my neighbors, one in a southerly direction and a second to the west, both suffer from an ailment that is a most unfortunate one.  I have seen the pain on their faces.

It’s not genetic, cancerous, contagious or medically curable, yet it is an isolating and debilitating ailment.  It’s not caused by an accident or failure to eat well, get a good night’s sleep or to follow a doctor’s orders.  It is tragic ailment. 

A few nights ago I entered a neighborhood cul-de-sac, just wandering slowly on a walk with pup.  I had finished mowing the lawn and had on a t-shirt that I had almost thrown-out in a cleaning purge and then kept to use as a rag.  The shirt had been tossed onto the washer and it caught my eye as I headed out to do the weekly mowing job and decided to wear it.  My gray hair was in a ponytail to get it off of my face.  I wore some old shorts.  I was probably slightly limping with my hip acting up.  I’ve been walking evenings close to home on streets that I am most familiar with to pamper the ache in my hip.  Pup paused on the edge of a lawn sniffed for some dog that had visited previously and dropped a few dribbles of pee.  She had already pooped by the evidence of the poop bag hanging from the leash.  A scream rushed rancor into the cool of the evening air.  I saw her, a lady at some 70 yards ahead, but I looked in back of me thinking that she was yelling at someone besides a gray-haired lady.

Her words registered.  “GET THAT DOG OFF OF THE YARD.  MY NEIGHBOR WOULDN'T APPRECIATE IT.”  Looking back in her direction, I saw her face contorted into a shrewish grimace and more words spilled out.  I didn’t catch them and she turned to her husband to express her contempt of me, begging him for acknowledgement for her rude demeanor.  I was puzzled.  I hesitated, thinking that I should approach her, introduce myself and apologize letting her know that her wish was one that I could certainly honor.  After all it is a small and relatively inconsequential request.  She turned and advanced down the drive yelling more.  Her dyed hair flouncing and her ailment painful to witness.


The street is not marked “private” and her own two large dogs accompanying her on her strident campaign down her drive wore no diapers, so I had to assume that they, like most dogs peed on the ground, marked their territory and loved the smell of other dog’s pee.  It wasn’t like this was a peeless street.  The incongruity of her anger, dogs by her side, made me walk away slower with m small dog in tow trying to make sense of her rudeness.  “GET OUT OF HERE,” she yelled one more time.

A most unfortunate ailment.  The other neighbor who has the same the kind of affliction was embarrassed the moment that I had smiled at her and told her that I would keep my dog off of her yard (which is half rock).  My response so embarrassed her that she stumbled trying to get back in the door.  You see this ailment is always self-diagnosed.  She knew she had been discourteous.  Disrespectful.  She knew, just like the first lady.  Both causing heartsickness to themselves and to others.  An ailment of the heart.  Most unfortunate.

The cure?  They could be kind to all who cross their path.  Be civil.  Be neighborly.  Treat elders with respect.  Act on those signs.. which both of these women have on their houses.  (One actually has three of the signs in a variety of media.)  Be welcoming. 

Be healthy.  Take heart seriously.  


Monday, June 15, 2015

My Ten-Year-Old House Guest

 “You know when you go on a vacation some place and you wish that you didn’t have to leave?” said my ten-year-old house guest.

“Yeah, I know.” I said.  “I once stayed in a stone cottage by a stream in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, when I was about your age.  That is why I bought this house with its stream gurgling downhill.   It reminded me of that place.”

“I don’t want to leave here,” she said and smiled.

I told her that I hoped one day she might have a house like mine on a stream. 

She was a delightful guest and I shall not forget her.  Before she left she offered to pick raspberries.  I gave her some that I had picked earlier in the day to take with her, as I thought that she would be leaving shortly and didn’t have time to go out and gather any.  When her parents came down in a bit, ready to leave, they asked where she was.  They found her in the garden picking me raspberries to replace the ones that I had given her.  She was one thoughtful kid. 

She has made me think of how memories of childhood vacations, odd moments here and there, manage to stay in some mind folder marked worthy of keeping.  I traveled extensively as a child.  My folder should be crammed, but it isn’t too stuffed.  Really.  I wonder what she will remember of my place.  The stream, the swing, sleeping in a Queen Anne antique bed by the length of a window looking out on hazelnut trees, the raspberry bushes thick like a woods or our conversation.

I was a quiet child, but I remember a few people distinctly.  I remember the adults who took time to have serious conversations with me or laugh with me.  Children deserve these kinds of relationships.  And really, there sometimes isn’t any difference between the wisdom of a kid and the wisdom of an adult.  Each distills some quality of an experience, share their views and the conversation becomes worthy of filing.  A child’s view is sometimes so fresh and sincere.  I don’t want to forget how to make those kinds of observations.  Or at least I shall try to keep delightful and thoughtful kids around me, like this kid, who was visiting and didn’t want to leave.     

(I wish that I had her photo.  You would have loved her smile.)