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29 June 2009

How You Love

Love is the thing that enables a woman to sing while she mops up the floor after her husband has walked across it in his barn boots.
~unknown, as printed in The Hoosier Farmer

The kindest word in all the world is the unkind word, unsaid. ~unknown

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

At the risk of dating myself, I ask, do you remember that song ‘Stand By Your Man’? I know, you do. I’ve always loved that song but what I love the most about it now is what made it most controversial to women’s rights groups – the title itself. But I don’t care about that or even the words to that song. What I care about is my man. I found someone in this wild and crazy world that I absolutely love and cherish and that same man loves and cherishes me for who I am. There is nothing more special in this life than that, than my Warren.

So, in normal instances (not in abusive situations of course) when I see a woman consistently not standing by her man, I am utterly baffled. She’ll give him a dirty look because she is displeased or she’ll mutter or spout out something unkind – when all the poor guy did was not live up to her tall expectation of a certain chore, duty or responsibility he undertook or ‘was about to undertake’. Other times, she will tell him how his life must be run, not letting him be the man of the house - which is all he really wants. When I see her treat her otherwise excellent husband like a piece of dirt I want to pull her aside and say “Hey, what’s up with that? That’s your man! Seriously, that – is – your – man, girl. That’s the man that you, yes you, gave your full heart to and now you treat him like this? He loves you so much, can’t you see that you are building this huge divide between eachother that soon will be a chasm so deep that love can’t find it’s way back to repair the damage?”

How you love and how well you forgive is the only thing that really matters – with the heart open wide, without judgment, and endlessly and genuinely forgiving eachother. We all have these genetic mutations that we are born with and that we pass on to our children. These genes make us teeter on the edges of becoming an irrational firey bitcharoonydoony, making us just a wee inadequate and a little imperfect at times. Ok, ok, we definitely go off the deep end once in a while right? And I'm sure for good reason! But anyway...

It certainly helps to regularly throw the routines out the door and burn the ‘how to’ books and just live by the moment. What’s the worst that can happen really? I mean really, will life as we know it come to an end? I seriously doubt that. And Love doesn’t happen to everyone all the time, so be careful with love, hold it gently. Stand by your man and give him some air and sunlight, he can’t grow in the shade and neither can you.

24 June 2009

Maple the Magnificent and the Secret Art of a Sculptor

When we bought our small little bungalow of a house, exactly 4 years ago tomorrow, we
inherited Maple. Maple is the mother of all japanese maple trees. Her canopy spans 400 feet across the south side front yard sheltering us from the scorching hot July and August sun and keeps the inside of our house at least 10-15 degrees cooler because of the colossal shade she provides. Underneath her she nutures a miniature forest of shade loving plants.

She engages herself fully in every season, not missing a chance for us to notice her. In the spring, her bare branches begin to produce buds that grow into a gazillion tiny green leaves. Then tiny little dried flowers fall in masses all over ground. Of course, our living room begins to look like the front yard as we track those in. The summer finds her reaching towards the heavens, soaking in the hot sun and providing us with a comforting shade of coolness. She turns amazing colors in the fall as little seedlings begin to flutter off her branches in droves. Winter arrives and she drops her leaves like flies, leaving us with a thick carpet of green, red, orange, yellow and brown wet leaves. Finally, her branches are bare and she closes her eyes to settle in for a long winter's rest. You know spring is here when the seedlings begin to sprout up in millions in every nook and cranny in the ground.

When you approach our house from down the street, Maple can look pretty overbearing. She is magnificent in size. I have heard her being compared to a slightly off-kilter frizzy 'fro. She was in need of a serious haircut. In the world of certain skilled gardeners, you never prune a maple. Instead, you sculpt a maple. There is an art to sculpting. I won't go into what sculpting is all about but let me just say it takes at least 3 people, one of whom must be the master sculptor. You never just get up in a maple and start willy nilly cutting branches. In our situation, the goal was to lighten her load, maintain the shade yet allow little filtered light to come in. She also had a lot of untamed branches that if let to their own devices, would definitely shorten her lifespan and diminish her quality of life - not to mention saving our power lines and our roof!

"My Warren, The Master Sculptor"

So the first year we got together with Debbie, our soulmate of a friend and of course, an accomplished Master Sculptor. Over a bottle of wine and homecooked meal, we sat out in the front yard to strategize. We presented cases to eachother like divorce lawyers, vying for our idea to be agreed to by all parties. As our heads got lighter from the wine, our excitement was building. I'm telling you, it is incredibly entertaining to engage in a pursuit of the perfect scultping job.

After we agree to disagree and came to a consensus, our tools came out and we assumed our positions. I walked down the street, Debbie placed herself underneath the canopy and Warren began to scale Miss Maple. Debbie gave the single and Warren wiggled the branch we had decided to cut. Down the street, I was able to easily see which branch was coming down and visualize how the tree would look if that branch was gone. I'd give the OK and Debbie and I would run underneath the branch to catch it as Warren sawed it off. It would go on like this for a couple of hours during which time we would swap posts every so often. Neighbors would sometimes gather to watch our production.

Finally, Maple's appearance began to approve as she let in a little sunlight for the first time. Her remaining branches lightly bounced upwards towards the sky. We could still feel her protective presence but it was like she was refreshed and and enlivened. Walking up and down the street, we viewed her from all angles. Satisfied with a job well done, we commenced a gardener's eternal past-time - clean up. Gathering the branches, we cut them into pieces which would be piled into the back of my truck for a future trip to the yard debris composting site. Pictures would be taken, and we'd take note of certain remaining branches to be carefully watched for future sculpting sessions.

Every spring, Maple get's her spa treatment. It has become an annual tradition that we fondly look forward to. We take care of her, and she takes care of us. We have a deep friendship and committment with her. It's a special relationship to the natural world we are so a part of. If Maple was not a city tree, we'd let her grow wild, in any direction she wished and sprout branches from here to the moon. But in the city, it is her right to be sculpted and cared for as well as it is for us to act as her curators to preserve her well-being. If you sit out next to her really late at night, she will talk to you. Her voice is soft but she speaks of strength, determination, hope and beauty, inspiring your spirit to be like hers. She likes to be noticed so next time you come by, gently lay your hand on her trunk or one of her branches and wish her well. She will thank you for your kindess.

23 June 2009

My Happy Place

I've got dreams in hidden places and extra smiles for when I'm blue. ~Author Unknown

Tuesday was not good to me. Monday was not either. And there's nothing that will change that. Why worry over why, but instead I just accept it. So, I've got to go to my happy place for a while. The place where my dreams reside and sometimes if I'm lucky, collide with reality.

My happy place varies from time to time but the foundation of it remains consistent. Today my happy place is over on my 7 acres of dreamland that I own. Enough space between the neighbors for me. Enough space for me to get away and be lost in my blue thoughts.

There's a small flowing creek that runs through the whole land. I lighten up when I put my feet in the cool water. Everything is safeguarded by a wall of enormous redwoods, doug firs, cedars, and pines. Pine cones litter the landscape. This fortification gives me a sense of security. A meadow full of wildflowers spreads out in a sunny clearing with butterflies, bees and birds feasting off the colorful array of pollens. The rainbow of beauty puts a grin on my face.

Mostly what calms me is the silence which is not really silent. No cars, no airplanes, no humming of appliances, no phones, no civilization to harsh my mellow. The silence here is a stillness that is gently suspended at times with the flapping of birds wings or the water current meeting rocks in the creek. Sometimes the wind or a forest dweller rustles the tall grasses.

Here I can think. Here there is harmony. Here the spirits are uninhibited and do not worry about being seen. I am so contented and blissful here. Here I am one with the natural world. Here I belong. Here, is where I exist, subsist, and feel alive.

Staying here eternally is not an option. Visiting here is a choice. Before I set foot on the path that will take me back to an indisputable complex existence, a deep inhale of my breath will capture the taste of the air, a concluding glance at the splenor around me, and a pluck of the scented bark from the forest tree, will take a picture in my mind that will refresh the illustration of this happy place. With my reserves replenished and stocked up, my exodus back to reality is stockpiled with a repaired psyche and freshened approach to life. Tomorrow now assures it will be good to me.

17 June 2009

The Last of the Greatest Addictions

"On the eighth day God created coffee so that people like me could experience those seven other days." ~ Anonymous

>Did I happen to mention ever that I love coffee? I have loved it since the moment I first tasted it. My grandmother used to brew coffee after a large meal to serve with dessert. The smell of the coffee brewing in the kitchen would literally make me drool. As a kid, I would beg the adults for a little taste of their coffees for each adult liked their coffee a little different. Some took it only black, others with cream, others with sugar, others would just take it in a shot glass. The different tastes of their coffees delighted my senses. My mother did not approve as I well now know why, but we will get to that in a minute. As a teenager, I would day dream about the day where I would wake up in my very own apartment and leisurely brew myself a pot. Then I'd sit down at the kitchen table to read the paper and sip my coffee.

Now, as an adult, I dwell in the house of coffee and my blood type is caffeine (well, ok and a little merlot). Actually, now, as an adult, there is no time to sip my coffee and read the paper because I am running late for one thing (never can seem to get up on time), and I'm busy walking and feeding dogs, throwing together my lunch, taking a shower and running out the door in the nik of time. I do still have dreams (delusions maybe) of actually getting up early enough to sip my coffee while reading the news on the internet.

So, I don't just love coffee, I love serious coffee. I like it all ways but it must be good coffee and it must be ground fresh each morning and it must be strong - strong enough that I can almost smell myself awake. Mostly I drink my coffee black - a pure, unadulterated brew. After years of taking cream, I am weaning myself off the artery clogging stuff. I started with hazelnut milk - mmmmmmm delish but expensive. Then moved to soy milk. Now I'm milk free and pretty much cool with that now. Stumptown coffee is my absolute fav and I will skip a meal to save enough $ to by those special beans.

Along with loving the taste of coffee, I have developed a habit-forming daily routine. I cannot go without my morning coffee which follows me around as I sleep-walk through the house getting ready for work. Late morning and early afternoon coffees are a given and if I have an evening engagement, it goes without saying that I'll down another cup to be able to stay up past 10pm.

Over the years, I've found myself in various stages of coffee addiction and have always been able to keep it somewhat under control. I would never even THINK of going without my morning cup of joe, but I may (just maybe) skip the afternoon cup if alls going well. If I don't need the jolt but am craving the taste, you'll find me brewing a cup of decaf - I like it that much. Science reports, doctors and the media say a lot of things about coffee and caffeine and you should give it up. Like I said before, maybe I'm just in denial, but I think I have this 'addiction' under control. I'd stop drinking coffee, but I have a lot of reasons not too - my coffee is fair trade, organic, locally roasted and sold, it tastes of heaven, and hey, I'm no quitter!

12 June 2009

The Adventures of Doug Gordon

We have a new addition to our family. He's two inches tall and his name is Doug Gordon and he is our Garden Gnome. What, you think I'm cheesy? WHATEVER! Doug Gordon has only been at our house for 1 day and he has already had quite an adventure. We took him out to sit by the fire with us last night. He thought that was totally cool. (Double click on the picture to your left to see Gordon!)

Later we found him roaming about the wood pile.

In the morning, I found him high up in the trees.

You laugh do you? Well my friend, it's quite normal for gnomes to roam. They have quite a sense of adventure and can sometimes disappear from your garden for a time. Usually they are off sightseeing around the world. At least ours hasn't left the property yet. We feel very secure, indeed, with Doug Gordon the Garden Gnome as our watchful protector. Should you come to visit, be sure to say hi to him as he lurks stealthy around our garden!

10 June 2009

Extra Long and Loving It

Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself
and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.
-- Herbert Otto --

I love my feet. I always have. I think they look especially good when they are tanned from the summer sun and cleaned from the sand in the ocean. However, most of the time they are pale white and have a little bit of garden dirt stuck in between the nails. My toes are super long and I have always been able to reduce the sternest of people to laughing tears by displaying my innate abilities to do circus tricks with my toes. I can wave hello, give thumbs up with my big toe, spread out all my toes like a scary monster, pick up things and write with my toes. Warren likes to call them my extra set of fingers for he swears he has never seen toes so long and nimble. I wear three toe rings because it does help ease distance end to end making them look as if they are slightly shorter than they really are.

Usually when I pick out summer sandles, I try to find the ones that discreetly show only half of my toes, thereby making their length deceptively shrink a bit. However, this summer has been a different story. I am embracing my toes, my long toes. I couldn't help it. I found 3 pairs of cute sandles at Value Village, barely worn or not at all, all under $9. They were so cute in fact, that I ignored that I had broken my summer sandle rule - my toes actually looked extra long in them. I feel better now that I am not afraid to show my toes. Yes, it may be the cute sandles and the toe rings but I am more confident. When I catch anyone glancing down at my feet, I want to say to them: "Hey, what are you lookin at? Yeah, those are my toes and they are long huh. So get over it. I can do things with those toes you could never dream of doing with yours."

Life is short, my toes are long, and I must embrace it all to the fullest!

09 June 2009

And it stoned me to my soul

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I do not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
~Pablo Neruda - my favorite Chilean poet

Eleven years ago, today, I met my Warren. I knew from the second I met him that he was the man I would be with for double infinity. In fact, I felt like I had known him before, maybe in previous lives. Here's how the story of my life began.

I was finishing my 3rd year at PSU, living on campus and driving regularly out to Hillsboro to visit my sister and only friend in Oregon. I had been out at my sister's house that Friday, June 9, 1998. We had worked out in her apartment gym, made a couple of drinks, and had chatted about our lives. Finally, I decided it was time to go home. As I pulled back into the PSU parking lot, I got out of my car and bent down to tie my shoes. Afterwards, I started to head towards my apartment when I suddenly felt a strong pull to go the other way. I turned around and walked towards the Ione Lounge across the street. What was I doing? I was going to go get a drink. But wait, I couldn't go into a bar alone, or could I?

However, the force that was pushing me was not to be reckoned with so I entered the bar and ordered a drink. As I sat at the bar, realizing I was a complete idiot for coming in here alone, I decided to down my drink and get the heck outta there. Just as I was about to do so, I heard a voice say my name. I turned around and it was Marty - another student co-worker on campus. He was excited to see me because he was graduating tomorrow and his cousins from California had just gotten into town. In fact, they were here and he wanted me to meet them. I told him I was just leaving, but in true Marty fashion, he ignored my plea and grabbed my drink, urging me to follow him. Well, shit, I'd get this over with so I could go home.

Once we reached the pool tables, Marty handed me my drink and introduced me to David who was playing video lottery. David quickly turned around and waved a hello. Then Marty interrupted a pool game to introduce me to Warren. That was when my whole universe shifted. Warren turned around to greet me and shake my hand. I was immediately entranced with his smile, his aura, his vibe, his eyes and unbelievably his heart.

Right away we began talking. Marty left to take his wife Chris home while we continued to talk. Warren says that day was the only day in his life that he ever discontinued a game of pool. When Marty came back, we decided we'd all go out for a midnight breakfast but the cafe next door was closed. Very, very reluctantly, we said goodbye to eachother. I walked home feeling flushed, alive and wondering how I was going to find Warren the next day because I knew he was in town until Sunday and he was staying at Marty's apartment on campus.

The next day was graduation day. I arose early and walked all over campus hoping to 'run into' Warren. No such luck. Later that evening, I attended a graduation party in the building where Marty resided. Urgently, I kept running downstairs to see if I would see him walking by. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Warren actually did walk by! My heart pounded as he walked up to me, recognizing me from the night before. We talked for a bit as he was with Marty and others. Then he said he'd be at the Ione later that night and I said I'd meet him there later.

I resumed hanging with my friends, helping prepare an exotic Iranian meal that was taking way too long to cook. Finally, after an unbearable wait, I was able to get away around midnight. I ran and ran the two blocks to the Ione. What if he wasn't there? I was so late. As luck would have it, he was there. Apparently, everyone had been wanting to leave for some time but he had urged everyone to stick around just a little bit longer. When I got there, he made introductions and everyone left to go to bed.

Warren and I left together and bought some beer. We sat on campus and drank beer, smoked cigarettes and talked for hours. It was so easy to talk to him. His smile made me at ease and the way he opened his heart when he spoke to me, I could not help but think I was falling in love with this man. Eventually, he walked me back to my apartment where he asked for my phone number. Of course I didn't have a pen so I invited him in (imagine that!). In my apartment, I played all my favorite blues CD's while we talked about our lives, our past loves, our families, our dreams, our friends, and everything under the sun. Well, we didn't exchange numbers until 3 hours later in the wee hours of the morning when we decided we had better call it a night. Everything in me wanted to kiss him but instead we wrapped our arms around eachother and said goodnight.

He flew back to California later that morning but we ended up talking on the phone to eachother that evening. I called my mom to inform her that I had met the man I was going to marry. I met up with my sister the next day to share the details of this man that had stoned me down to my soul. It was like our lives were two trains that ran parallel but had finally intersected and become one.

So to make this long, long story short, after a brief visit in July, months of phone calls and emails to eachother, dealing with my phone being turned off for lack of payment of the high bill, Warren moved up here later that fall. As we hopped on the love train together, the wheels of life began to turn and we held hands knowing that from here on out, our journey in life to various destinations would not be alone. Knowing and loving this beautiful man has stoned me to my soul.

03 June 2009

Coolin Off Doggie-Style

What other way is there to properly cool off on a hot summer's day?

Bettis, Tahoe & Huck

Big Bettis

Baby Bettis

02 June 2009

Food of the Earth

The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

This spring I was lucky enough to get a garden plot in the PSU community garden. I got the last plot. My luck turned out to be a mixture of missed emails, turnover in the community garden coordinator position and my good-natured persistence. Turns out the person who had the plot previously had dropped out of school, but had already weeded and prepped the garden plot, leaving me with much less preparation.

So of course, I can't go this alone, I gotta share the love right? I spread the word around my office to see if anyone is interested. Turns out 5 others have the gardening bug, too! It's worked out really good. Over the course of a week or so we got quite a good collection going of plants - tomatoes, kale, marigolds (won at a conference). Then we got $ donations from others in the office and a trip down to the farmer's market added more tomatoes, chives, eggplant, peppers and cucumbers.

Planting day arrived and we trudged down to the garden toting our boxes and bags of veggie starts. Working together, on our knees and in our work clothes, as we planted we discussed ideas for care of the plants, where to put each plant, what else we needed, exchanged knowledge of previous gardening experiences and agreed we'd split up the week amongst eachother to divvy out watering duties. I really enjoy watering duty.

It's the anticipation as I walk or drive to the garden, wondering how it is doing and growing. Then it's the excitement once I arrive to view what has happened since I was there last. Early in the season, what captures my attention is the minute yet incredible growth of each baby plant and seeing the basil and bush bean seeds finally sprout through the dirt. The progress of each plant is captivating. This weekend there were two little green tomatoes on the baby vine and bees busily pollinating the flowers.

As I water, I get lost in my thoughts and as I weed and fix up the hills and moats, I feel grounded and content with my hands in the dirt. I remind myself that I need to get onions going and more chives. Eventually it's obvious there is nothing else for me to do there, even though I was in a hurry in the beginning, I now don't want to leave. After one last look, I say good bye and leave the garden, locking the gate behind me. It's going to be fun being a gardener of edibles. Plus it's good practice because I have a huge plot on a waiting list for next year at a community garden near our house. Every step is the way and takes me a little closer to my ultimate goal of eating my own home grown.