Pre-Blog Era: California/Oregon 1985

March 14     Flew Pensacola to Los Angeles; rented car and drove to Santa Barbara. Stayed at Holiday Inn Santa Barbara-Goleta. Dinner at Andrea’s Seafood. Bottle of local white zinfandel. Buck ate baked sea bass; me shrimp bisque and a combination shrimp and cravb Louis salad.

March 15, 16 & 17    Scan0047-1 Sequoia National Park — incredible. Stayed in the park motel; ate at park cafeteria (only option, but a good one). Dinners included pork chops, brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes, fried chicken, green peas and onions. They had good hot apple cider on tap. Hiked in snow to Moro Rock. Climbed the rock over ice-covered steps. Burst into dazzling sun at the top. Enjoyed picnic and each other. Scan0126-1 Scan0043-1

March 18    Stayed one night at the Highlands Inn in Carmel. Dinner at The Butcher Block: bbq combo of baby back ribs, beef ribs and chicken; baby back ribs good — not the rest.

March 19-20    The Holiday Inn in Monterey. Incredible “gardening department” — exotic flowers, bird feeders, wonderful lodging on the Pacific Ocean. Dinner 3-19 at The Whaling Station, very good. Artichoke vinaigrette appetizer; Buck had vegetable beef soup, me chicken curry soup; then grilled gill shark, accompanied by carrots, zucchini and mustard greens, creme caramel and chardonnay. Lunch on 20th at Fisherman’s Wharf, the Red Snapper restaurant. We both ate clam chowder. I had half a dungeness crab, Buck ate cioppino and we shared a bottle of chardonnay. While in Monterey, we visited their marvelous acquarium.

March 21-22    On to the Wine Country. We stayed at the Napa Holiday Inn. On 3-21 took a winery tour and tasting at Inglenook. Dinner at Preti’s: carrot soup (me), salad (Buck) filet mignon, string beans and cauliflower.  On 3-22, winery tour and tasting at Robert Monday, followed by a memorable evening at Mustards Grill in Yountville. Bottle of Mondavi Fume Blanc 1983; butter and bibb lettuce salad with spiced pecans and viniagrette; chicken hoisin with Indian rice (Buck); baby back ribs with lyonaise potatoes (me), condiments and side dish to share were tomato chutney, grilled eggplant and red onions. Dessert was creme caramel with creme faiche, almonds and raspberries (ummmm). Coffee for me and Jasmine tea for Buck. Mustard's Grill cookbook2010 note: I just ordered Cindy Pawlcyn’s “Mustards Grill” cookbook. Should be great fun to cook my way up and down Memory Lane.

March 23-25    From the Wine Country, to Jot’s Resort in Gold Beach, Oregon. Dinner on the 23rd at Jot’s Ron’n Reel Club. Relish tray, salad, prawns (Buck) and baked shellfish (me). Since Jot’s is a condo-style resort, right on the Rogue River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, we had a well-equipped kitchen and were able to prepare our own dinner on the 24th. It was singularly delightful. In Room 416, we enjoyed a leaf lettuce salad, steamed fresh asparagus and carrots and broiled steaks.  On the 25th, we dined “en suite” again, this time with vegetable/lentil soup, sauteed chicken with onions, fresh mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes in white wine, with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Fume Blance. While at Jot’s, we took a jet boat ride on the Rogue River, and enjoyed lunch at a marvelous, rustic place where we ate outdoors. A tiny buck deer slipped in from the woods and nibbled a roll from my hand.

March 26-27    Scan0011-1 From Jot’s, we moved on to The Inn at Otter Crest in Otter Rock, Oregon, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At dinner time, we took the “hill-a-vator” down to the inn’s great restaurant. They set before us a small, perfect relish tray with garlic bread and an herb butter spread on the side. We both ordered clam chowder. Buck’s main course was veal a la marsala; mine was an amazing salmon en papilliote with herbs. They were served with rice pilaf, and fresh sauteed veggies including carrots, onions, zucchini and black olives, plus an oval loaf of fresh-baked bread and burnt cream flan for dessert. Coffee for me and Tia Maria for Buck polished off the evening.

Breakfast at the inn is worth noting, too. Many of their serving and accent dishes are handmade pottery, produced by one of their waiters, Jacob Accurso. I especially liked the cereal bowls and small raisin dishes. The meal itself was Irish-style oatmeal — the biggest bowl either of us had ever seen — with raisins and served with a cinnamon bun. Great coffee for me and decaf herb tea for Buck.

Lunch on the 27th was at The Chowder Bowl in Depoe Bay, self-described as “The World’s Smallest Harbour.”

March 28-29    We drove to the Holiday Inn Boeing Field Seattle. Dinner on the 28th was at Elliotts on the waterfront; 3-29 breakfast and dinner at Snowqualmie Lodge.

March 30    Returned to Pensacola. What a honeymoon — well worth the year’s wait. This trip was a dream come true.

 

 

Editing: The Beautiful Knife

Note: This is an old post from April, 2008 that I was adding back into the "published" category tonight. We writers need to be reminded from time to time (like every day) of the value of editing, so I thought I would post it right up top again for a few days, and then stick it back onto the proper time shelf of the archives. What are your thoughts on editing your own work or working with a professional editor (scary, but productive) on your own writing?

America's favorite French chef, the late Julia Child, exhorted us not to be timid in the kitchen, to learn overall principles of cooking and then use ingredients we have at hand or think we might like; to work with the dough of life until we uncover and discover what works for ourselves; to become inventive originals rather than derivative copiers.

The first time I plunked down what seemed like a fortune for a high quality chef's knife, The Voice (she who knows all and never hesitates to remind me of my shortcomings) laughed at me. "Fool!"

But when I held that perfectly balanced deadly weapon in my hand and sliced mushrooms thin as parchment, The Voice retreated to pout in a corner. One perfect knife in the armamentarium is infinitely better than a dozen dull knock-offs that only produce clutter and ragged cuts.

For most of us, when we first begin to write, whether as a twelve year old or at fifty, the thought of consciously throwing out portions of the grand soul buffet we have laid out is unacceptable.

When we're forced into it, we usually use the equivalent of dull knives, leaving a trail of blood and poorly healed scars. Ugly.

Life is a series of editing choices. Leave this in. Get rid of that. We do it with jobs, lifestyles, the soil where we decide to put down a tap root. I edited out a husband more than a quarter of a century ago. And edited in a fabulous new one. The reflection I see in his eyes is the me I want to always be — but that's another story.

The small, but incessant, damaging drip from the water leak in the wall between my study and the master bath was not going to go away until it was fixed. The study had to be deconstructed, all the books and mementos removed, the desk pushed around, the carpet pulled back and dried, and windows opened to exchange the mildew smell for fresh air.

On the other side of the wall, in the bathroom, the cabinet man — an artist, not a wood butcher — took careful measurements, then cut out the back of the cabinet, exposing molded sheetrock and wet insulation.

The plumber came in and found the leak. A piece of copper pipe from an incoming water line had been grazed by the electrician's drill more than two years ago when the house was first built. That tiny, slow leak had made a mess. Now, it has been fixed and the mold remediated. The cabinet will be repaired, the carpet pad replaced where necessary, and the carpet restretched over a new tack strip.

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You might say I wasted a lot of time taking down that all those books from the study shelves, thinking it would have to be pulled away from the wall. Like so many of the circuitous paths we take, that little side trip led me to a more fruitful understanding of the value of editing.

I found old friends amongst the books, ones for whose companionship I am finally ready. I found a remarkable collection of art books that are meaningful to someone else, but not to me, and moved them upstairs. I realized that the intricately carved wood writing table in the corner made the room too crowded, but was perfect somewhere else.  I raised the wooden blinds to open windows, and discovered the amazing morning light.

And Buck, my trusted friend who can read my words and find that one word or phrase which needs to be added, taken away or removed, suggested moving the big desk more into the center of the study so the room can be used even while repairs are made to the carpet. Whoa. That shift, a few feet to the east, changed something. Major edit. A point of view shift. Suddenly, the room works.

It is morning. Sitting at my desk in the middle of the room, surrounded by air, light and my work, I am in that sweet spot where anything seems possible.

Fortuneless Fortune Cookie

Buck and I had a super busy day, and decided to run up to the Nine Mile and Pine Forest intersection to the new Teriyaki Cafe for a take-out supper. I fixed a pot of Gun Powder green tea to go with.

My expectations weren't very high, but the hot and sour soup was great.

Only one "uh oh." There was no fortune in my fortune cookie.  Dum de dum dum, dum! Not to worry. I ain't scared. I've pretty much always believed in paddling my own damn canoe, anyway, and a few silly words printed on a slip of paper mechanically inserted into a fold of baked sugar and flour loosely called a cookie isn't likely to have any effect on a doubting, analytical old head like mine.

Now, if I read a fortune cookie with this message, "Pray to God, but row toward shore,"  I would be impressed.

What do I believe in?

Love, baby. I believe in love.

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I found this bit of love and sweetness while I was shuffling through old stacks of pre-digital era photos, wanting to wave a magic wand so they would all be scanned onto the computer hard drive instantaneously. It's me, at age 42, holding my step-grandaughter, Andie, now a statuesque, gifted young writer, a senior in high school. I wouldn't give anything for these photos and the life stories cradled therein.

 

Roasted Veggie Heaven

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These slow-roasted Roma tomatoes and sage-dusted, garlic-scented vegetables had us smiling all the way through supper. Later, at my desk, I drank several cups of Lady Grey tea and ate dark chocolate kisses.

Logan Figures It Out

(a daily reading exercise from Southeast Writers Regimen)

The assignment: It is impossible to know someone’s intentions or what they are thinking. We often discover an important truth about someone long after we should have. Think about a time when you learned something new about someone that changed your entire perspective of them — perhaps you caught them in a lie, or perhaps they simply withheld vitally important information from you. Write a scene featuring a character catching someone as you did. How does your character feel about this dishonest character now? How does their perception of the person change?

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The only mystery is why it took Logan 25 years to figure it out. I never liked her, didn’t consider her true family, and would cut her throat with a dull knife soon as look at her. Not only that. Logan’s a big fool for wasting all that time and money trying to win me over. Ha! As if.She thought she could win me over by being nice to me all these years. I thought it was funny how she would fix up the house for holidays, cook for two days and invite us over. I always made sure we arrive plenty late. She never once called me on the carpet for it. What a weakling!

 

She claims to be a Christian, but that’s a laugh. She goes down to that snobby Whiskypalian church a couple times a year and acts like she’s a real Christian like me.

What pisses me off the most is that she’s not that much older than my husband. He pisses me off, too, the idiot. Won’t take care of himself. It would be just like Logan to outlive him and the old man, too. Then she’ll show her true colors. All that stuff about her leaving her estate to my children and my husband’s sister’s kids is a laugh. She’s just saying that now. No way anybody’s that nice.

Funny, though, I do wonder what finally made her realize that no matter what she did I would never accept her, and neither would my kids. I saw to that, and ran her down every chance I got when my kids were babies. I didn’t want my girls to contaminated by that sinner. Now they don’t want to have anything to do with either one of them. Grandmother? That’s a joke. Thought she could win them over with Easter baskets every year. But my husband’s a man and a dope, so she’s fine in his book. Anyway, Logan and the old man broke it to my husband after Christmas this year that they think none of us (especially me) wants to come over for family visits. HELLO? Was I finally bitchy enough to get through to the “nicest two people in the world” as some have been conned into thinking? So, they have stopped inviting us over.

I’m glad. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I won. Yep. I won.

Remembrance of Puppies Past

My first husband used to say that World War III could be raging in bold face headlines in the Sunday newspaper, but I would find a cute puppy story in there somewhere. He was probably right. So shoot me.

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This photo was taken in the pre-digital era: 1988. Buck and I were living on the Williams Ditch Road in the tiny community of Cottage Hill, within the village of Cantonment, the poor neighbor to the north of Pensacola, Florida.

The momma-dog, Amanda Blackvelvet, had been an present to ourselves when it became clear that we were going to get married and stay at least a dog's life together. I have never seen anything so beautiful as Amanda the day we picked her up from the folks who owned her parents in Montrose, Alabama. They had given her a bath, fluffed her up and put a big red velvet ribbon around her neck. She was about nine weeks old, and sat in my lap all the way home, with that infant smell of longing and promise, and those big liquid amber eyes.

We had a fish pond down a hill from the house. It was too far for the puppies to walk on their first big outing, so Buck scooped them up and plopped them into the wheel-barrow. There was whimpering from the pups and some glowering from Amanda, but in the end, a fine time was had by all.

Beth and Pups at Pond
Amanda swam in slow circles, probably relieved to have a few minutes of respite care.

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Look closely, and you can see a couple of the sleeping pups have begun to roll down the gentle incline. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

What a day.




I-Thou

A friend enthusiastically shared the address of her daughter's blog a few days ago. I looked it up, thinking I would read and leave a comment. It is nicely written, an interesting journal of this young person's life as a teacher in a country far away from her home.

When I looked for the "comment" button, however, I found that she has chosen not to allow comments. I was frustrated, at first, but then began to wonder why. Did a stranger hurt her with an acerbic remark?  Did a Spam-related incident cause her to take this draconian action? Were comments ever permitted?

It felt like a mystery. A blog is an extension of a person, not a person, but if her blog were a person, I would like to put my arm around it, lead it into this warm, comfortable room and say, "Come in, come in. Join us. Meet my kind friends. They would like to hear about your journey, and they would like to share theirs with you."

I-Thou.

I woke up this morning thinking of Martin Buber's Ich-Du.

When I read my last post — (Wabi-Sabi — don't you just love how that phrase rolls trippingly off the tongue?) — and then read each of the comments again, I was struck by the remarkable "Ich-Du" nature of our virtual relationship. When I look at your own blogs, and the content of the regular base of commenters, the "I-Thou" of our interactive meeting space is confirmed.

It is powerful, beneficient, and of great personal value. Go back. Read the comments from my last post, and read some from your own posts. It's an excellent meditation; and will surely lead to a deep feeling of wonder and appreciation for one another.


I-Thou (Ich-Du)   Encounter      Meeting

      Dialogue   Mutuality     Exchange

 

Fig Tree at Sugar Shack

Sunday Supper

That blur of yellow in the bottom right-hand corner is me In a tank top, sitting at the piano. It’s after one of our Sunday suppers, and the three good-looking folks in the photo are my step-daughter, Adele, and two of her kids, Andie and Alex. Don’t you love their direct looks and flashing eyes? (Yes, Buck is the cameraman.)

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Westmark’s Retsu Wabi-Sabi

I didn't realize until recently that I've been badly bruised if not broken, and have been running on fumes for several years, going through the motions of life in a sort of emotional coma. I stopped gardening, stopped winding clocks, and had begun sitting on the edge of a sofa or chair like a bird just ahead of a hungry cat. I ran in all sorts of directions, like a white mouse in a tiny box, racing to find a reward somewhere, or if not a reward, an escape hatch.

A few weeks ago, without knowing why or what process was at work,  I took several cheap, old-fashioned black and white composition books and a glue stick, and began sticking bits of colored paper, word phrases, cut-outs of photos — whatever pleased me in a seemingly random way — and I let the books become and then be simply themselves, with no "you are this" and "you must be this" talk.The simple act of using a child's tools: scissors, colored pencils, and glue, was strangely satisfying, and I began to breathe deeply once again.

Then, one day soon after,  I wandered around various rooms and wound up the clocks. Their beating heart sound was like a familiar echo from a former time.

I bought two small dracena plants to put on my desk.

Then I rescued a bedraggled purple African violet from one of those sad supermarket displays. It has already perked up. I smile every time I look at it, which is frequently, since it is almost at my elbow, like a grateful new shelter pet.

A few days later, I went out to the small oval area not too far from the side door near the kitchen and laundry room — the one I call "my weed patch"  — and looked at the messy tangle of junipers, several cedars, rosemary, marjoram and thyme interlaced with thick, strangling blackberry briars. Long shoots of grass were interspersed everywhere. I vaguely remembered this as a space where coriopsis, hydrangea and gardenia bloomed once, where a coral-colored bouganvillea trailed from a hanging basket, where ferns and a Christmas cactus harmoniously co-existed.

I looked at that space and saw myself. Why was I punishing life? When did it begin? There were events, of course, and several tragedies, but I had not fully appreciated the termite-like, chipping away, life-narrowing, cumulative nature of them: deaths — family and friends; the grim, hand-to-hand combat of struggling with a stock market that had once seemed like a fun game; and small, niggling health issues that put you on the couch when small bones fracture. Life. It's life.

I remember returning from a short trip that was not fun because we worked unproductively during the whole thing and cut it short to come home (totally uncharacteristic for Buck and me). This was the fall of 2008 and there had been a persistent drought, along with everything else. When we got home, I looked out at my "weed patch" (already in full neglect mode) and found that hungry deer had (for the first time and never again since) for some reason eaten the tops out of the formerly pretty miniature cedar trees. They were about 5 feet tall, and now were misshapen and ugly. Somehow, that was the last straw. A bleak melancholia settled coldly around my heart, and I vowed to never garden again.

Two days ago, I went out to the old red storage building and dug out my gardening tools. I bought my first-ever pair of Fiskar clippers. And I went to work.

Many things are happening all at once. When I walked into the pantry Saturday morning and saw tiny round black bugs perched comfortably on the white wire shelves, I woke up, joyfully indulged my inner obsessive-compulsive side, stripped the pantry of its contents, cleaned, polished, vacuumed, mopped and rearranged everything. It came out with the herbs and spices alphabetized, yes, but the whole is now playful in a way I have never seen before. I'd like to put in a lamp and a reading chair and just hang out in there, it's so friendly and fun. See?

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The various chains are left-over from hanging light fixtures used when we built the house. I found them on an S-hook in a corner of the pantry, and just like the way they look draped around the shelves. 

In the July 9, 2010 issue of Canadian artist Robert Genn's thoughtful, exquisite on-line newsletter, The  Twice-Weekly Letter, he discusses the traditional Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi. The article title is Retsu Wabi-Sabi. I didn't get around to reading it until two days ago, but when I did, I read it several times, and felt certain tumblers click as I thought about our lives here at Longleaf, the changes we have seen and lived through, and changes that will come: the constant moving river of existence. 

Mr. Genn writes about his interest in systems that "refresh and reboot" creativity. One of those systems is Retsu Wabi-Sabi. He says, "This is how it works: Wabi-Sabi is a traditional Japanese idea based on the acceptance of transience. It also means seeing beauty in imperfection, impermanence, incompletion and decay."  He adds that "retsu" means "something that is collected, in a line, or added to."

Personal daybook-style blogs are a living caravan of our minds at work, our evolving spirits. We add to our memoirs picture by picture, line by line, in an open-hearted sharing of the human experience.

I walked the woods this past Tuesday, the last day of August. They are full of clues to  seasonal changes yet to be fully seen or felt. Summer's rampant growth has come to an end. The long stalks of purple blazing stars have begun to flower. My own heart is once again open, tender and vulnerable, yet unafraid.

Let's link our arms, take a deep, cleansing breath, and walk.

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Maintenance

Sometimes a day of mostly physical work outdoors can be immensely satisfying. Today was one of those.

The dew had dried enough to start mowing by 8 this morning. Buck hefted the heavy container of gas and filled the little riding mower for me, and then he grabbed a peanut butter sandwich and headed over to the Sugar Shack to supervise some fellows who were dumping several tons of white, crushed phosphate rock from the driveway all the way to the back door there. The gravel adds eye appeal, and has the practical benefit of providing a parking pad and clean path to get into the house without trudging through dirt or sand.

I mowed for an hour, and was able to get all of the front, the sides, and part of the back. The front yard is mostly planted oats, wheat and rye, but there are portions and swaths of centipeed. In another month, it will be time for Buck to disk under the oats, wheat and rye, spread fertilizer and lime, and plant a new crop of seeds.

Our friend, Harold, has helped with that planting day for years. I would like to think he will be able to join us this year, too, but he may still be in recovery mode. Harold had surgery yesterday to remove a portion of a cancerous right kidney. Buck and I sat with he and Louise and several other of Harold's friends before his name was called.

At 9, I cut off the mower and hit the shower. I had a hair appointment at 10, and you better believe I didn't want to miss that.

I got lucky. My friend and hair stylist, Michelle Kuehmeier, was late, so a receptionist ushered me to "The Relaxation Room." This salon, LeSan, has all sorts of spa treatments, too, although so far I have not availed myself of any of them. The room was dimly lit, illuminated mostly by flickering light from an electric fireplace (no heat, only light). The heavy, soft leather furniture was squishy and comfortable. I fixed myself a mug of chai green tea, sat back in one of the leather chairs, and became aware of quiet music playing. It sounded like a spiritual waterfall.

When Michelle came in about 15 minutes later and began apologizing for being late, I said, "Are you kidding? I would pay to come in here several times a week and just sit. This is wonderful."

Late this afternoon, I finished mowing the back yard, while Buck worked with Harvey and Mike to spread hot mix asphalt millings on places in our road between gate and house where heavy rains have rutted it and made holes.

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That's Buck with his sun hat on. He and Mike are building a berm to channel water off the road and into the woods. Looks like it will make a pretty good speed bump, too.