Friday, June 27, 2008

Pistol River State Beach

Pistol River State Beach

I feel like I am posting just for Geoff today. We were all up very early yesterday, to take him to the airport for his flight to Chicago.
I really wish we were with him. He's gone to be with family, in remembrance of Jim "Corm," who passed away last February. It is strange and indescribable... the countless ways our lives have changed since that sad and unreal day when we first got the news. I could hardly say what happened; it was too painful, and even now, I find that there is still a great deal of disbelief and grief.

I find myself thinking Everyone in Chicago is going to have so much fun, and we'll be missing out on all of that family time, and then I am taken aback when I realize, again, that it's a memorial, that we have lost someone. It won't be all fun and levity, and the fact that I forget is very telling of how hard it is to believe, to really know that he is gone. I do not think that time eases pain. I believe that time is what it takes to learn how to wrap the pain and hide it from our heart and thoughts, otherwise it cannot be tolerated. When I turn off the noise of everyday tasks and chores, when I quiet the daily din of rambling thoughts and remember that Corm is gone, the pain unfolds and I am devastated all over again.

I still wish we were with Geoff. Everyone will be having fun. There will be fun and healing and wonderful memories to share, new ones in the making. And even when it is painful and sad, I wish I could be with Geoff, and Ruth and Holly, Paul, with all the people that knew Corm and loved him, because time does not ease pain... family, friends, love and sharing ease pain.

I still remember the first time I met Jim and Ruth. It was 1982. I hardly knew Geoff and came to their home as a guest of a mutual friend. I think it was my huge crush on Geoff that made me take everything in and preserve it all in so much detail. Geoff introduced me to "Mom and Corm." I shook their hands, "Hi Mom, hi Corm." Even then I was struck by the familiar and easy way I felt. They had company and were finishing a spaghetti dinner, and Geoff was really excited about his sister being home. Holly had just returned from a year in Wisconsin.

I can picture the dining table, the soft evening light of summer. I can even smell Corm's spaghetti. I can remember the relief at realizing that Holly was Geoff's sister! Geoff was so sweet and attentive, and until I was introduced to her I thought she might be his sweetheart! She lent me a swimsuit, so we could all swim at the neighbor's pool. Now we share baby clothes and holidays, and sisterly love.

And in 26 years I have had the pleasure and blessing of becoming a part of a family that feels as much my own as the mother and brothers I grew up with. I was a child when I met Corm, with a child's limited perspective, and I cannot say when this changed, but I see so much more now and it breaks my heart to realize what we are missing.

My husband, his integrity and skills, his tender devotion... I can see that Corm influenced these dear qualities.

My cooking... turkey burgers, chili and spaghetti are some of the mainstays of our favorite family dinners.

Love. I can say that Corm has been a significant teacher about love. I realized this too late to thank him.

He loved music, and he could play instruments and sing... I used to sit in Geoff's room listening to Corm sing to his parrot, Pablo, in the shower. I adore this memory, and can still recall the happy sensation of enjoying those loving (private) concerts.

He loved language and art and craftsmanship and he applied himself skillfully to all of his interests and endeavors, so that his work and his home, his cooking and conversations were all artful, intelligent, well made. I will miss walking in the house he and Ruth built, appreciating the views they chose, the quality of the construction and the beauty of their work.

He loved Ruth. He loved her in private ways. He loved her with his heart on his sleeve. And it was not about flowery declarations or material gifts... it was about sharing the workload, listening to her needs, honoring her beliefs and sharing his own. His love was about being constant and dedicated to Ruth as his partner. He went to work to provide for their goals. He came home to share in the making of their dreams, to be in her company. I never heard him speak to Ruth or about Ruth without at least a hint of reverence, a protective tenderness and affection. Especially in recent years, I would be so touched by his giddy exuberance when he told me how much he loved her, cherished her, appreciated her, and it was with unchecked candor that he shared his love of his wife, and his awareness of her love and devotion to him. I thought A person could be sustained and carried through anything with this kind of respect and affection. It's a beautiful gift that he can feel this way and share these feelings and acts. And when he died, I thought How sad it is that we cannot witness this love, this outspoken regard and tenderness any more.

I think, perhaps at the memorial, in the next few days, Corm's love and devotion, his dedication, will be witnessed once more, because he touched so many of us and we can each of us carry some part of him with us. When we tell his stories, and share the memories, we will evoke the qualities that were a part of him and that he imparted in us.

I hope Geoff will come home and share many of the details of his time in Chicago, so that we can have some idea of what we are not there to be a part of. I realize that we are missing not only Corm, but in not being at this memorial we are missing all of the people that knew and loved him and that were an influence and inspiration to who he was. Even as a memorial, how can it not be a wonderful time? Everyone there is a part of a circle of people that influenced or were influenced by a wonderful person...

I really hated to leave my Mom and Ron. More than ever, I am keenly aware of the frailty of life. Nothing is constant on this Earth. I tried not to cry as we drove away, or during any of the 1,000 miles driving home... the children have seen too much of that already. I have tried to let Corm's example move more consistently in my life, so that I share my love out loud and wear my heart on my sleeve. I love as much and as sincerely as ever, but now I consciously endeavor to say what I feel, to honor what I feel and to treasure the time I do have with the ones I love. So, as sad as I was to leave, and even with my fears and worries, I found some comfort in knowing that I love my Mommy and Ron, that I have shared my feelings and said my piece... it's not the same as having them close by, being able to drop in on them any time, but it's good to love and be loved, and share those thoughts and feelings often.

On our way home we stopped at Pistol River Beach State Park. It was an unplanned break at the start of a long and arduous trip home. There are about 42 or more places that I would have loved to stop and visit, such is the beauty and attraction of the miles between here and there, and it's hard being very pragmatic and merciless about not visiting every park, viewpoint and farm stand.

Ah, but it is so worthwhile to stop, to quiet the din of everyday chores and appreciate the beauty in the world, the humor, art and language, and the people in our company. So, we watered the chickens, and found the trail to the beach. We let time pass unaccounted and played at being treasure seekers, and pirates. We planned picnics and camp-outs and noted the size of rocks, the sound of the waves. Geoff, you would love this place. We were looking for agates and imagining having a home on the forested bluffs overlooking the ocean. As happy as we were to be there, we were even more anxious to come home to you, because we love you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Oregon

An alternate title for this post could be: Things I left Behind

At the top of Delia and Ron's quiet street is a feed store, where there is always a variety of happy, rescued animals to visit. A hand written note nailed to the door reads: If you must drop off an animal, please leave some cash to help us out... or something like that. In these economic times there are many stories about abandoned pets, but this feed store has been making room for all kinds of unwanted animals for many years.

Horses and dogs, cats and pigs... all are sheltered and fed to the best of the store owner's ability and without any assistance. The owner was getting a lot of complaints from a few vocal citizens that accused him of not keeping the animals in better facilities. I find it so disheartening when people want to complain, but don't want to find solutions, to help or contribute. I admire the effort of the feed store owner to shelter and feed abandoned animals, to find homes for them, especially since he cannot stop people from anonymously dumping their responsibilities on his front door.

Besides a big pig, some healthy chickens, free-range bunnies, horses, dogs and cats, the feed store also has an attic full of antiques and collectibles. It's a dusty, eclectic array of stuff, adjacent to the hayloft and smelling of sweet alfalfa.

During our stay, and in past visits, we spent a lot of time exploring the corners and shelves of the feed store.

I think it would be so strange to find my portrait in some random shop. I suppose famous people are accustomed to this, but I've always felt a kind of sadness when I see boxes of old family photographs. Once treasured photographs, in second-hand stores, like long forgotten memory orphans. At least Mr Peck has the advantage of being recognized and remembered kindly.

"Antiques" is a term that gets thrown around rather loosely in second-hand shops and resale stores. That's okay... one person's junk is another's junqué. But some antique items make me feel old. What's this VCR repair manual doing here? Hey! VCRs are not old! Right? Why, when I was a girl, we didn't even have VCRs. We waited for the moon to be full so we could do hand shadows on the outhouse door.

The sweetest surprise of this visit was the kitty that kept meowing and meowing and meowing and walking away, while looking back at Alex. She wanted him to follow her, and she kept waiting for him to catch-up, then she'd meow some more and walk away, always look back for him and waiting. Alex caught on to her game and followed her to where the attic of the feed store meets the hayloft of the barn, and that is where he saw what Ms Kitty was so eager to share...

She had a very shy, very black baby, with the very bluest eyes. The momma cat exuded so much pride she could not contain herself. She purred and padded back and forth, she snuggled and meowed and looked to us for affection, approval and admiration. She ranks very high in my memory of happy momma cats. And her woolly black kitten was almost impossible to leave behind.

Do you remember BP, the potbellied pig I wrote about? The one that Maria conversed with? I actually filmed a bit... it's the last part of Maria explaining to BP how to "Oink, oink, oink." It seems she was not impressed with the snuffling, snorting kind oinking BP did. She thought it was so funny that the pig did not literally o i n k!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coos Bay Sights

In Coos Bay farmer's market days are Wednesdays, May through October, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Arrive early if you have your heart set on cranberry walnut bread. We came for fruit and baked goods, to leave a message with a gallery owner for my Mom, to visit "Threads That Bind", a wonderful quilt shop that sits right in the heart of the farmer's market, and to take in whatever sights there might be to enjoy. Sights like a tall sailing ship in the bay, slipping by Commercial Avenue.

Just behind the boys is the gallery where my Mom has jewelry for sale... Bay Moss Studio is a beautiful gallery, with many lovely examples of Oregon art. And those tables you see there are laden with all kinds of breads and nutty, fruity treats. I liked the cranberry-apricot bread I sampled.

And speaking of good food, Alex remembered our visit last year to Foodies Grill and we had to go back. Before I launch into gastronomic praise of Foodies: I am so tickled because when I Googled "Foodies," my recent post about them came up... I am happy to spread the good news about good foods! So, I was wrong about there only being 3 menu items. Did they expand? I dunno, but you can see for yourselves that the menu is small. Do not be dismayed... small menu, big flavor! Oh, I wonder if I can order some of that Blackberry Barbecue Sauce? Savory and sweet, and full of berry delectability. So, half a block up from the farmers market, just across from the fire station, look for a stand (bigger than a bread box, smaller than our minivan) and inside they are cooking delicious food and serving it with smiles and style. Max recommends the freshly blended strawberry coconut lemonade.
I recommend arriving hungry!

Honestly, we could have spent many days seeing sights just in Coos Bay and North Bend, and in the few square blocks where we went to the farmer's market, Threads That Bind quilt shop, Foodies, Bay Moss Studios and Leaf's Treehouse, we were not seeing all of the sights. It would have been fun to spend the afternoon in The Pottery Company, on Anderson Avenue, where we could have painted pottery. I think it could be fun to paint my own teacup and saucer, then turn it in to a bird feeder, like this one I saw in Leaf's Treehouse, "Your this-n-that Store."

In The World article about the reopening of the "Flea Market," the Leaf's said, “(We) live locally, and want to see this historical town noticed in people’s travels." Well, I certainly noticed. Their shop is full of old stuff, cool stuff, funky stuff, and it was a nice place to browse and treasure hunt. I had to bring home some those bird feeders and Maria found an armful of books she could not part with.

And yes this is the same place where we came across the Polish hens I posted about. Maria was so excited to have her picture taken with them. If ever a hen dressed for high tea, it was a Polish hen for sure. You might think I am satisfied with the zoo I have already, but seriously... I regret not bringing these 3 hens home with me. If you know where in So Cal I can get Polish chicks, please don't let me know!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blogging is Like Unpacking

It's true. Blogging is like unpacking. My brain is like the trunk of the mini-van... full of stuff that's just bursting and ready to come out. My thoughts are like the rooftop bag... tightly crammed with essential bits. Really, there is no point in doing much else, until I have downloaded the camera, recorded my deep thoughts and made sense of the other musings.

I made the perfunctory market visit, so that we have restocked the larder. I asked the boys to unload the dishwasher and put the groceries away too. I even made lunch, and emptied the cooler... actually I assessed the damages and let William empty the cooler. That accounts for my initial sweep through domesticity, and now I am going to faithfully record high and low points, happy and tasty moments, and stuff.

So, after my mom's accident, Geoff and I scrambled to get things in order with work, school, home, pets and our conestoga, so that we could go to her in Oregon. We put out a lot of fires that week and by Friday night we were on the road.
4 children?
3 chickens?
3 sleeping bags?
check, check, check, check, check

That first night we made it all the way to Solvang. Incidentally, there was a recurring theme on this venture and it has to do with advance reservations. Advance reservations are a real good idea. No pictures from Solvang. We arrived late and we checked out early and Geoff and I whistled loudly when we snuck the chicas back to the car!

We didn't see elk and salmon jerky until we were far north of San Francisco. Winding our way ever north we saw bear carvings, ferns, meadows, rhododendrons, barns and tractors, cows and sloughs, pear trees, strawberry fields and hundreds of places that looked too enticing to skip, but of course we did skip them, this time. Next time, I want to stop in Eureka and eat at the place with the sign out front: Carnivore, Herbivore... We Have What You're Looking For!

And all along the way I would see things I wanted to remember, to photograph and write about, to share. We stopped every 2 or 3 hours, and that's when we would beg Maria to use her potty or try to sanitize some public restroom for her. My apologies to the planet for a dependence on disposable princess panties.

I would give the chicas a nice cool drink and replenish their scratch. Geoff was hilarious, slowing extra much in the curves and apologizing to the chicas for severe bumps in the road, and the rest of us rolled our eyes and laughed, because we accuse him of not being as courteous with us!

We slept in Fortuna, which is easily becoming one of my new favorite places to imagine living in. From Fortuna we finished the journey and made it to Delia and Ron's in the late afternoon. What a delightful experience it was to enjoy the long days, which grew longer with each passing day and the further north we were. It made it hard to realize it was dinner time, then bedtime. Still, I really enjoy allowing the rising and setting sun decide the start and end of day.

Look at our Pippy. It's those feathers in his tail, the ones that taper and curl... those are the ones that have me concerned. Until he is bigger, I will not be able to find him a home. And if he lays an egg, then all my fears will evaporate, but I am not too hopeful. Or we could find a home of our own before he crows, but for that I am even less hopeful. Sigh.

What about Amelia? She stands guard, always flying to the highest point and playing a cock-fight kind of posturing game with Pip. Oh dear. Why would we have to get 2 roosters? Why?

When Pip and Amelio are acting cocky, Lady Betty Orpington retreats to a quieter corner. She is shy and reserved, and when the light begins to fade she will sit on my arm and snuggle in.

Though it was colder than we were used to, the days were still lovely and Mom and Ron have such a wonderful corner of the world to call their own. We enjoyed the garden flowers, the wild flowers, a quail sighting and the wind in the trees. The chicks enjoyed the grass and seeds and new variety of stuff in the ground... things to scratch and enjoy. We made an improvised chicken run for the sunny days and they stayed in a small room in the garage at night.

Sitting together in the big yard, walking to the feed store, collecting seeds for the chicas, napping outdoors... such sweet pleasures. In the evening we would help Delia down the stairs and share her walk. I think I counted 5 different kinds of pine trees growing along their quiet street. We always turned around before we got to the schnauzer house. Hilarious little dogs bark incessantly, then get their little toys in a wicked choke hold and demonstrate their vicious skills. It's funny once or twice, but not conducive to relaxation and inner peace. I guess this means their quiet street is only that way when the schnauzers aren't disturbed.

I'm glad we found warm clothes for Maria... a bit large, but when I bring them out again in November they will be fine. We've come home to a heat wave. It's so strange to travel; to be in a completely new place one day and then another the next day. I still don't know how to cope with the distance between here and Delia and Ron's, or the ocean between here and Ruth, the deserts, mountains and prairies that separate us from Nancy and our Midwest family, the border and miles that keep us from my abuelos. Such blessings, such longing. We are fortunate to have the desire to be with family, and we have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to visit and travel, to connect. I just want more. Such insatiable longings.

Geoff drove north with us, then flew home first thing Monday morning, so he missed many of our adventures and encounters. When I drove the children and chickens home, I was filled such gratitude for my wonderful vehicle; it's safe and comfortable, so reliable. And I thought about how lucky we are to be seeing redwoods and rivers, to be able to go to family and hold them and be glad for the good stuff. Driving home I thought about how much I was missing Geoff, and how happy we would all be when we were together again. Somehow, some way... there has to be a way for us all to be neighbors, to live close enough to hold each other every time we need it, want it... this would be very good.

How Do you Make a Tissue Dance?

How do you make a tissue dance?
You put a little boogie in it.
Bad joke, I know.

If I thought we were going to bring boogies all the way to grandma's house, I never would have shown-up. But, it wasn't until Thursday morning that the first clue issued forth, when Maria sneezed. Then she sneezed some more. And some more, and when it finally occurred to me that these were caused by more than a tickled nose, I felt dread and frustration. My Mom and I went over all of the practical, emotional and more practical issues... Maria was getting sick, we were 20 hours from home, neither mom or Ron could possibly, even remotely risk getting any kind of cold, we hadn't thought of leaving for at least another week, we had to leave as soon as possible, maybe it was too late anyway. It was a sad conversation, since we were both disappointed and concerned... me for her and her for me.

All of my big plans, to be a nurse, a maid and cook, to make good use of myself to my recuperating mom and to give Ron a little back-up and relief, all of it was sunk. The most prudent plan now was to get Maria and her boogies out of town, so our focus turned to packing, to passing her tissues, to taking down the tent, corralling the chickens and loading the conestoga. Alex would miss the electronics thrift shop in Coos Bay, and there would be no more stops at the quilt shop or feed store. I never did vacuum, or clean the fridge.

The boys took the tent down Thursday night, so we could make an early earlier start on Friday.

We would not miss the mosquitos. Not a bit, but we still hadn't been to Bullards or even mailed postcards. And we would be leaving behind all of those blackberries. Well, they were only blossoms, but one can easily imagine the buckets of berries to come.

I did manage to help with laundry and I cooked some meals. I gave my Mom a leg massage... she may have noticed I am out of practice, but I had hoped to repeat the service during my stay. I think we forgot to return the bouncer to the garage. Sorry Ron.

That's how my thoughts are these days... bouncing from one thought to the next... thinking of what we did and what we forgot. Hoping we were helpful, knowing we could have done more. Regretting that time ran out. Praying that we brought all of the boogies back with us.

Aunt Becky, Dan and grandma Eunice are driving to Oregon this week, so maybe a break between helpers will be welcome. Ron is doing such a good job of taking care of Delia, and Delia is doing a good job of doing all she can, like walking regularly and being patient. Healing takes time, and waiting takes patience. There are still specialists to see and injuries that will mend slowly. I would not blame her if she got very sad, if she felt overwhelmed. It is hard being a patient, passing time waiting for normal. If she were bummed, it would be quite understandable, but so far she is brave and grateful, her humor is intact, her spirit is good. She is, as always, admirable and strong.

It was hard to leave. Their home is remote and not easy to get to, otherwise I would assume that I could return as soon as Maria's cold passes. We need to close the gap, shrink the miles between our homes, somehow. I wish it were only an hour away, or a minute, or even one day's drive, instead of 2 or 3 day's worth. Even flights are circuitous and long, and expensive, of course. All the way home, I was thinking of how we could live closer... maybe in Corvalis, or Eureka, pretty Fortuna, the Bay Area, the Central Coast. For 1,042 miles I thought about how wrong it is for families to live so far apart. I thought about turning the car around and calling Geoff, "We're here. Come. We'll get a few acres, raise goats, grow basil and tomatoes."

The further we came, the harder it got.
The trees disappear, the roads widen and crowd.
We travel faster, meaner.
Gone is the scent of redwood, the colors of farms and forests.

My thoughts are still bouncing. I still feel the vibrations of the long ride home. The car is in the driveway, covered in dust and ash and 2,000 miles of travel and packed. I could almost get in and start all over again.

The children are the best travelers. We shared ideas and reflections and enjoyed our stops along the way. It will take a few days to unpack, to return to our routines and rhythms, to discover the new rhythms of summer.

Thank you Mom and Ron. We were so glad we were able to come and share time with you. We enjoyed our stay, and we were greatly comforted being in your company.

And thank you friends and family who have reached out to our family, to Ron and Delia. Your kindness is a comfort too.