Paris with Renee

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

e.e. cummings

September’s gift comes from Rosemary Powelson, once a colleague at Lower Columbia College. She taught art for many years, tap dances, acts in plays, and is a joyful soul living it up in the world. I think you’ll enjoy this travel story: She took her granddaughter to Paris–and it’s a lovely tale of how we can love each other well.

Thank you, Rosemary. I’ve fallen behind on my own blog-entries, but more will come. For now, how fun to share Rosemary’s story. When she told me about their time in Europe, I said, “Would you write that for us?”

*          *          *

metro-mademiselles
Metro mademiselles

One summer afternoon, some years back, my 10 year old granddaughter, Renée sat on the couch reading The Little House on the Prairie. Out of the blue she announced, “I want to go to Paris.”

“Sure, I said, when you’re 16.” I didn’t think much more about it, but soon I noticed her “Paris” t-shirts and the Eiffel Tower key chains hanging from her back pack. She had a big dream and trusted me to make it come true. I opened a savings account and started dreaming with her.

On her 14th birthday she looked me in the eye and asked, “Are we really going to Paris?”

“Yes,” I replied–and felt the train leave the station. Continue reading “Paris with Renee”

The Way We Make Our Lives: Kathleen Benz Soon to Retreat

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Carl Gustav Jung

 

K. Benz

Last year, at the beginning of 2014, I decided it was time to search out–or simply notice–people doing cool things in the world and write their stories. “Cool” is relative, of course. What’s “cool” to one person is “absurd” or “crazy”–or maybe even a pure waste of time to another. I’m pretty sure some of you will find the story of Kathleen Benz puzzling while others of you will be inspiring and wonder “What would that be like? To spend three years cloistered, without any responsibility other than to develop insight and compassion?”

Last year I also began writing articles for a local newsletter once in a while–highlighting people and activities of a local Buddhist organization. So, it only makes sense to merge these two “platforms” once in a while. Since I’m rather new to hanging out with the Tibetan Buddhists at KCC in Portland–and some of these folk have known each other for decades–writing stories has given me a chance to ask questions and get to know people in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.

Lucky me! Continue reading “The Way We Make Our Lives: Kathleen Benz Soon to Retreat”

Risk, Reveal, Relate: The Poetry Circle Goes to Manzanita

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer,
it sings because it has a song.”

Maya Angelou

 

IMG_20150126_124136Last year my friend Stacey Hill told me she’d begun a ritual of gathering herself up three words to guide her for the year. She challenged me to do the same, and I did. But, by 2015 I’d already forgotten our new “ritual”. Stacey, of course, was on top of it, and I found a good old-fashioned letter in my mailbox: She announced her three words–“C” words.

“What are yours?” she wrote.

Finally, weeks later, mine woke me in the night–“R” words this time.

In the morning, they were still in my mind, so I texted Stacey. (No time for the old-fashioned letter, I wanted to tell her NOW.)

Only minutes after I’d sent the text, my phone rang–or, rather, sang.

“I love your words!” said Stacey. Which made me happy, and I asked her about her own, and we talked about the mountains of snow that kept her home from school for yet another day–as she drove her car home.

“Hang on a minute, Deb. The plow truck’s in my way!” Her driving in post-blizzard Massachusetts had me feeling nervous–but that’s another story.

Yes, in 36 inches of snow, this New Englander was talking to me (hands free, of course) while she drove home from a cafe! Continue reading “Risk, Reveal, Relate: The Poetry Circle Goes to Manzanita”

Changed For Good: Motorcycling in Marriage & Doing What You Thought You’d Never Do

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly,
you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

Shadow of motorcycleThis week I’ve invited writer and artist Majida Nelson to tell us about something that has inspired her life. You’ll love her story–one that begins on her 58th birthday–in the 99 degree “bake your skin off HOT” desert.

Besides numerous illustrations and art projects, Majida K. Nelson, writing as M.K. Nelson, published her first middle grade novel, THE RED ROYAL SECRET in November of 2012 (Puddletown Publishing Group). The adventures of camera-mad Lucky Lukenyenko, his best friend Ken Wong and tag along little sister Mei Ling unfold in contemporary Portland, Oregon but have roots in history. It’s a fun read–highly recommend!

A native Portlander, Majida and her husband, Mark, recently moved from the Hawthorne district all the way across town to Humbolt–our neighborhood in northeast. Majida is an avid gardener in the process of leading her neighborhood in the planting of more native habitat.

Thanks, Majida, for sharing your creative spirit and being the first guest-writer for L.I.T.!

Ride on! Write On! (or is it Right on!) and Boogie-woogie. . . I wonder if you have energy left to dance along the way. Maybe it is internal!

 

Riding the Motorcycle Pillion and how it changed my life for good

by MK Nelson

Pillion Post     May 2009
Grand CanyonWait a minute…it’s my birthday. 58 (but who’s counting?) and how am I celebrating? Sweating in 99 degree heat in California City (near Mohave–as in desert) “assisting” with a flat tire change. Mostly I’m keeping “the mechanic” here above watered inside and out.

We were cruising along in the 99 + degrees doing pretty well for maritime types. We hoped to get into the Desert Tortoise Reserve before noon. In the shade of a gas station we stopped to drink water and to get our bearings when I noticed a Harley guy coming across the lot. “Are you looking for a tire repair?”

Bewildered, we looked down at our rear tire. The bike had picked up a nasty shard of metal outside town and pierced our new tire.

Bikers look out for each other and thank our lucky stars for that. It was hot. We had a flat. The town had no motel. We needed lunch. Did I mention it was bake your skin off HOT? Continue reading “Changed For Good: Motorcycling in Marriage & Doing What You Thought You’d Never Do”

On the First Days of the New Year: Be Inspired by Something Yummy

 “Cooking is like love.
It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

Harriet van Horne

 

IMG_20150103_173428As we drove home from our New Years visit to Port Townsend–always an amazing eating venture with friends Paul and Sharon–I thumbed through a cookbook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library. I even jotted ideas in my notebook! I knew I’d get lost imagining flavors and textures, so I scribbled possibilities for first-week-of-the-year menus.

Mollie Katzen is author to one of the first cookbooks I used back in my twenties: The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Who wouldn’t love to cook from a book with such a great title?

Since then, Katzen has updated her nutritional understanding: Continue reading “On the First Days of the New Year: Be Inspired by Something Yummy”

Room for Rent: “One of the Best Way to Grieve I’ve Ever Heard of”

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,

and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared”

The Buddha

When I walked into Linda FitzgeraIMG_20140616_143553ld’s home, the words “I’m Happy” reached out from where they sat perched on the mantel. As she showed me around I kept looking to these words, wondering about the block of wood.

I met this dynamic 73 year old water-color artist while waiting for the MAX–the light rail here in Portland. I had struggled to buy my ticket, the machine refusing my credit card. She whipped out her smart phone.

“I like to buy mine online. It’s so much simpler,” she smiled. “You never know when the machine might not cooperate.”

We soon realized we were both headed downtown, both going to City Hall to testify as Airbnb hosts. The city is in the midst of creating new laws to guide the sharing economy. I told her about our 1907 Four-Square and the studio we rent out to travelers, and she told me about the room with a bath in her North Portland home.

“It might sound funny, but this is the best way I’ve ever heard of to grieve,” she said. “It really is. It gave me other people to serve and talk to when I lost my husband.”

Vince Fitzgerald died last September, leaving a void in Linda’s life and a lot of empty space in her home. She heard about Airbnb and realized it would be a good way to use her space and earn some income.

IMG_20140616_161412“I’m happy,” were some of his last words, she told me. Her story made me smile as my eyes stung. She described his last days, the family standing around his bed, and him assuring them, “I’m happy.”

Her husband had lived more than 18 year with Parkinson’s–diagnosed only a year after their marriage. The final three weren’t easy, but he kept his humor–and his appreciation. Earlier in his life, Vince Fitzgerald had been a Franciscan priest, had then married and fathered children, and after being windowed had found Linda. (They had met many years previous, but now they met again!)

“At first I thought he was too boring, Continue reading “Room for Rent: “One of the Best Way to Grieve I’ve Ever Heard of””

Crayfish in Timothy Lake & “The Peace of Wild Things”

“If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was ‘Thank you,’
that would suffice.”

-Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

Mt Hood from Gone Creek campground
Mt Hood from Gone Creek campground

One way to love the urban life yet stay refreshed is to get into the woods, especially the nearby Cascades. We hadn’t done it in way too long. And though we’re self-employed and rather flexible –you would think–we sketched in a couple of days at the end of June to “get away”.

Go we did! We packed the car, arranged for Cam, our neighbor, to visit our cat and water plants in the greenhouse. We left on Sunday by noon and wove our way out of Portland–which took almost an hour! Our timing must’ve been perfect because once we found Timothy Lake and began our campsite-search, the pickings seemed beyond good luck.

Site #31 at Gone Creek Campground was a walk-in–and on a tip of the lake: Hemlock and Vine Maple provided natural border on either side, and a drive-in loop gave us some distance from the road so we hardly noticed passersby. Continue reading “Crayfish in Timothy Lake & “The Peace of Wild Things””

Carolyn Norred: Poetry, Seeing & Being

 “We are each other’s harvest;

we are each other’s business;

we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Gwendolyn Brooks

 

CarolynIMG_0032
Carolyn Norred, Poet

Poet Carolyn Norred notices details. Whether a journey to the Everglades, a week with her family in Hawaii to celebrate their 50th anniversary, or a birding venture in nearby Sacajawea Park, I can often visualize the places and people she’s met along her wanders. She tells me about them or reads to me a poem she’s written.

We first met as colleagues, teaching in the Department of Language and Literature at Lower Columbia College. Soon after, she invited me to travel to Baja and kayak around the Sea of Cortez. Once fall quarter ended we flew out of Portland.

I always thought she was crazy for extending such an invite to an almost-stranger, the new hire. We’d hardly talked up until then but would take off together–both kayak-rookies: That’s how our friendship began–losing luggage, losing tickets, stranded on an island for several days because December’s not the best time to kayak in the Sea of Cortez (unless you like big waves and don’t mind taking it slow and waiting when the sea says so.)

Such ventures and her willingness to take a chance makes Carolyn the special person and poet she is.

Over the years Carolyn would tell stories about the trips we shared Continue reading “Carolyn Norred: Poetry, Seeing & Being”

Citizen Scientist: Ann Kastberg Counting Frogs

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

Emily Dickinson

 

annkastbergAnn Kastberg is another person living into the wonder. She’s one of those born-agains, but not in the way you might think: After a career as an accountant and years raising kids, she chose a new husband, and then she chose frogs. Russ is a great guy. As for the frogs, few people get more excited about these thin-skinned critters than does Ann.

With waders strapped high, she points to a slimy egg-mass, “Another one! It’s a Red-legged!” she hollers, and someone on the crew will squiggle a line to the tally of record.

When I met Ann years ago I wondered what drove her. I wondered how someone gets so dedicated, becomes an amateur-expert engrossed in the lives of frogs and salamanders–learning about the lifecycle of amphibians and tallying egg-mass-sightings for the use of scientists–as if earning her own Ph.D.

She says she has always loved frogs and tadpoles. As a kid with a backyard swamp in Portland, Continue reading “Citizen Scientist: Ann Kastberg Counting Frogs”

Yuta’s Visit & Daffodils Smile

“We just can’t know what we don’t know”

Words of the journalist

IMG_20140317_095120

Since I’m not quite done with the frogging-story I’d promised to share this week, I’ll tell you about our time with Yuta. His  stay with us reminds me of my own years of roaming and the people who allowed me into their homes when I didn’t know much about being a guest or hanging out in other cultures.

I made my first trip to live in Glasgow for a year when I was the same age as Yuta, 20. The Chinese grad-student who sat next to me on the flight from Vancouver, British Columbia to London was kind: She let me ramble. She answered questions. She never turned away or made me feel like the lost-kid I was.

The stuff I said and thought back then should be embarrassing, and I used to grit my teeth at the memories. Continue reading “Yuta’s Visit & Daffodils Smile”