Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Moon jellies and other manifestations of white

January 12, 2007

The first exhibit at the Newport Aquarium always stops me in my tracks. When you come in through the main entrance, you come upon a clear tank (plexiglass, I’m assuming). It’s circular, and about 10 feet across, maybe 12 feet tall. It’s full of white jellyfish that we all call “moon jellies.” I have no idea what their real name is. But it’s like watching a living lava lamp, and it has taken me as much as a half hour to get on with going to the other exhibits. I stop, look, walk around the round tank (stopping frequently) to see if different views produce something different.

These jellyfish are white and almost transparent–even their bodies. There’s something other-wordly about them. I’ve threatened for years to put a similar tank in my living room, although how I would support even a somewhat smaller filtered saltwater tank with no electrical power except in the evenings is beyond me.

But when I was in Seaside this weekend, I found this at the Seaside Aquarium:

Moon jelly sculpture

The best thing about this little glass rendition is that the moon jellies glow in the dark. I figure this might make Ben a little crazy when he’s up and around at night. I like Ben a little crazy, so that works. And this is very low maintenance. I’ll just have to dust it once in awhile.

White is a lovely phenomenon. I think many folks would identify it as an absence of color, but of course it’s really the full integration of all colors in the visible spectrum. You can separate them with a prism, but no rainbow has ever been as starkly lovely as crystalline white, IMNHO.

Remember the sunset I posted? Here’s what that tree looked like this morning:

Snow tree

And here’s another view from the front door (I didn’t venture too far afield this morning. . .):


Now I’ve got lasagne in the oven and it’s time to go check the fire.


It ain’t just Peanuts

January 11, 2007

I just got back from a couple of days with my old MFA group refreshed and invigorated, and I found the following in my mailbox. I’m not going to forward this to the whole world, but I am going to share it here.

My apologies to my non-U.S. friends. Quiz #1 is pretty U.S.-centric. But I suspect you could make up your own. . .

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just read the e-mail straight through and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.  

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last six Academy Award winners for best actor & actress.  

6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.  

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier? The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. Pass this on to those people who have made a difference in your life. 

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” (Charles Schultz)

Itinerary, wildlife, and wild life

January 8, 2007

This will probably be a short post, followed by a couple of days of being offline.

I’m off to Seaside tomorrow for the winter MFA residency. I graduated in June, but I’ve been lucky enough to be invited back as a guest emcee for the evening readings.

Today’s workshop and reading with Lawson Inada were terrific. Got the start, I think, of another Big Elk poem. It’s been a rather good week with the wildlife here. Brenda and I saw a very large bald eagle, the winter wrens have been hopping up on the porch in the mornings to play and talk with me, and our varied thrush flock has multiplied into about a dozen or so. Tonight there were three deer in the orchard again.

At any rate, I’m starting to get in the pensee poetique frame of mind, so going off to hang with a bunch of writers for a couple of days sounds terrific.

Catch you Wednesday evening.

My slippers are featured in the New York Times

January 7, 2007

So, this is what I really intended to write about earlier.

One of the great difficulties in living where I live is getting the newspapers. I try to go to town only once a week. But Ralph and Brenda also go at various times. Whoever goes buys an assortment of newspapers.

Last Thursday’s NY Times ( the “Style” section) featured emerging trends in fashion. And there, on page E5, is a picture of Signe Conway, who wanders around Manhattan in her bedroom slippers, something the Times calls an “emerging fashion trend.” What makes this notable is that these are MY bedroom slippers–L. L. Bean’s shearling slippers with outdoor soles.

Brenda and I just talked about this. Bedroom slippers are something you buy for everyone you love but never for yourself. This year I bought myself the first real pair of genuine slippers I’ve ever owned. Now here they are featured as a fashion trend.

When I bought them, Ben said, “You can never wear those outside.” But I have, many times, and they’re none the worse for it. Now I really feel vindicated. This gorgeous young woman is wandering around one of the arguably most sophisticated cities in the world in my bedroom slippers.

QED: Quod erat demonstratum. I rest my case.

Software, blogs, and the perils of moving

January 7, 2007

I actaully had something else entirely planned to write about tonight, but I was so excited to find questions about my wonderful stove in the comments to my last post that I’ve totally forgotten what it was.

Today was very productive. I found a whole bunch of stuff that’s been missing since I moved. Right before I left Portland, my hard drive died, and my computer has never been the same. My e-mail contacts all disappeared. This might have been a greater tragedy, except that I printed them right before this happened. But they’ve been buried in the monster pile of unsorted paper I shoved into bags and backpacks. I found them today, as well as the copy of MS Office I was missing, my OneNote, and other assorted things that just vanished in my migration.

So although I couldn’t send out my holiday greetings, had no idea how to reach some people I really care about, and other stuff, my computer is now more or less up to date, and as soon as I get back from my about to happen wanderings, I’ll do something more.

No snow yet, thank goodness, for which I’m very grateful. I’m off tomorrow to have brunch with an old friend I haven’t seen for about three years, then drive with her up to Lincoln City for a marvelous writing workshop and reading from Oregon’s new Poet Laureate, Lawson Inada. Tomorrow I’ll be headed for Seaside, where my MFA program has invited me to be a guest emcee for some of the featured evening readings. If I’m offline for a day or two, I haven’t disappeared, I’m just traveling, and I don’t think I’m even going to take my notebook.

We had an inch and a half of rain last night, so we’re still averaging more than an inch a day this year. The fir trees love it.

Welding gloves and other baking essentials

January 6, 2007

Josh wanted pictures, so here are a few. If I understand this correctly, you can click on the thumbnail and get a larger version.

I have been on a bread baking binge this week. It’s partly Ben’s fault (“You’re bread is wonderful. I ate it all up,” words everyone likes to hear froma mate). But it’s partly the fact that I got some new baking toys yesterday on our all-day shopping marathon. I got two new bread peels (the wooden boards you use to slide bread into a hot oven) and a new pastry cloth (that allows me to fool with how I shape things without messing up the gluten skin). I also got six new 6″x6″ baking tiles that might be the prettiest stone I’ve ever seen. The distributor calls it India jade. It’s a pale aquamarine color in a sort of marble finish. I think the fact that things need to be functional does not eliminate the need for them also to be pretty.

Here’s today’s product:

 Bread, 1-5

These were baked in what I call the heart of the kitchen, the replica of an antique woodstove we bought last year. I do most of my cooking on this stove:


Now, in case you’re wondering what welding gloves have to do with this, the various interior parts of a wood cookstove get VERY hot. So my nephew, after observing the big burn marks on my arms, bought me a pair of rose-colored welding gloves. They’re not great pot holders (they don’t have much insulation), but they are terrific at allowing me to bump my arm against a 500-600 degree surface and emerge unscathed. Thank you Ralph.

Here’s a sunset from a couple of nights ago:


While waiting for more weather, redwood, springboxes, full moons, and other assorted miscellany

January 5, 2007

This, I guess, is sort of a test about how many characters I can put in the title frame. But it’s more than that. We’re awaiting possible snow tonight (it almost never snows here, and we’ve already had one massive storm this year), and while we’re waiting, a glorious full moon has risen from among the fir trees across the river. Actually, from the fuzzy edge, I’m guessing that it’s one day past full (I pay no attention to calendars on these things), but it is still incredibly lovely and bright.

Brenda and I went to Eugene today, partly to get redwood and partly just to fool around. We need some redwood, and it’s been very hard to find it here. Ralph brought the last batch up from northern California, but over the holidays Ben found an ad in the local agricultural paper for a lumber company that sells only redwood. I called them, they had in stock what we needed (and much, much more, but that may have to wait for another day), so today we scratched anything productive from the calendar and drove to find this place. It’s about a 2-hour drive.

Redwood is a key element in what is called a springbox. We have what may be the best water on the planet here. It bubbles up in various places along the ridge behind our place. After watching the geology lectures on ground water, we’re all guessing that our artesian springs travel underground from somewhere on Mary’s Peak, the tallest mountain in the Coast Range. Mary’s Peak is about 10-12 miles from here by air, much further by road, because the road follows the river.

If you’re lucky enough to have an artedsian spring, it’s coming not from the water table but from a deeper underground pool/stream of water that in places decides to escape from the rock it’s encased in. It bubbles up. Often the flow doesn’t look like much. But it’s constant. You develop the spring by digging out a little space around the place it bubbles up and inserting what is called a springbox.

A springbox is a sort of porous wood chamber that seems to serve two purposes: 1) It keeps debris from clogging up your intake, and 2) it creates a little safe spot where the water can accumulate and flow through the pipe and tank system you’ve built to where you want to use it. Water is very hard on wood, and most woods deteriorate rather quickly. Not redwood. Redwood is a mermaid in other clothing that loves to snuggle up to water.

Our first springbox was put in more than 20 years ago and feeds the system we use in the house. It worked perfectly with only an occasional cleaning of silt for about 10 years. Then, based on forensic evidence at the scene, a big elk slid off the bank and landed right in the middle of it. It’s been reconstructed a number of times, but it’s never been the same, and it was clearly time to replace it. So we needed redwood.

The redwood company was a trip. I will probably go back there just to exchange insults with the owner. When I mentioned that my truck had only a 4-foot bed, he suggested that I go out and buy a real truck and come back. Then he took me to the back room, grabbed one of his employees and told him, “This woman is clearly going to be a big pain, so I’m turning her over to you right now before I become rude. Here’s what she wants; take care of it.”

This wonderful guy spent close to an hour with Brenda and me finding just the right pieces of redwood and cutting them to size. Then he helped us get it loaded in my wimp truck, wandered around with us and showed us the terrific picnic tables they have, BSed for awhile, and disappeared. This was my kind of store. I don’t know how much redwood I may need in the future, but I definitely need at least two of those picnic tables, and I’m going to find reasons to need a lot more.

Then Brenda and I spent the rest of the day goofing off looking for kitchen stores, interesting stuff, and generally shopping for nothing, something I usually hate that was great fun today. I bought two bread/pizza boards and a pastry cloth. I’ve come to the conclusion that commercial pastry cloths are made for non-cooks, so later this week I’ll be headed off to Joann’s fabrics for some canvas to make my own. If I want to make strudel, for example (something I’ve never done but that is coming any day). I’ll need a cloth that covers my entire table. I suppose I could use one of my damask tablecloths, but I’d rather have the real thing. The one I bought will be good for pie pastry but little else. I want one for strudel, 36-inch noodles, and other monster things. I may learn to throw my own pizza dough instead of just patting it out on a pan, who knows?

My lord, this post has gone on and on. I’m going to bed.

But first, I forgot to mention that I stopped and picked up my new bread stones today. A granite sort of rock called India jade. It is so beautiful. . .So beans are soaking for tomorrow night’s bean soup, and the bread stones are going to get a good workout tomorrow with some baguettes applied to them. When I got home tonight, Ben said, “Your bread is so-o-o-o good. I’m afraid I did it some serious damage while you were gone.” Wonderful. I know how to make more.

Falling object in New Jersey generates major weirdness

January 4, 2007

“. . .one man who lives at the home found the object at about 9 p.m. Tuesday after returning from work and hearing from his mother that something had crashed through the roof a few hours before.”

Something crashed through the ceiling and this woman waits until her son gets home to mention it? Only in New Jersey, I think. I would have called all the neighbors immediately. Even if they knew nothing, we’d have had a good gab about other important things.

The river is up, roiling and angry and brown. I emptied 3.4 inches of rain from the gauge this morning, and it’s already approaching half an inch again. Today is the 3rd, so that makes between 1 and 1.5 inches of rain per day this year, so far.

I’m trying to figure out all of this techie stuff while cooking rice to make fried rice for dinner. Why do I feel so stressed after being on unemployment for two months now? I think it’s the thought of unknown stuff falling from the sky. And people not bothering to report it. . .

Wrapping up the year

January 3, 2007

Here’s the official total: For the year 2006, out here on the Big Elk we had an even 97 inches of rain. I used to be 5 feet, 3 inches tall; I suspect with aging and bone deterioration I’m now closer to 5’2″. In either case, that’s enough water to go over my head by half again my height.

But I haven’t drowned (or melted, even, the only actual proof I have that I’m not the wicked witch of the West). We’ve had glorious holidays. It’s raining again. The rain gauge has just over 1.5 inches in it tonight. But the trees will love it. And if the truth be known, I’m enjoying it, too. No guilt about not being outside busting my tail on something or other.

2006 was good to me, and 2007 is promising. Promising what, I’m not totally sure, but I am a firm believer in serendipity and che sera sera, and I’m ready for it.

A message from five centuries ago

January 2, 2007

I found the following letter on a Christmas card sometime in the ’60s. In those days, no one was embarassed to acknowledge that Christmas originally was a religious holiday. When you bought Christmas cards, it was as often for the message as for the illustrations. I have never found anything I liked as much as this message from a 16th century Italian monk. So here is my wish for your new year:

“There is nothing I can give you which you do not have but there is much that while I cannot give it, you can take. “No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.  Take heaven.  No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.  Take peace. 

“The gloom of the world is but a shadow.  Behind it, yet within its reach is joy.  There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see, and to see we have only to look.  I beseech you to look. “Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.  Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. 

“Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.  Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, the angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.  Our joys too, be not content with them as joys.  They too conceal diviner gifts. “And so at this time I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings but with profound esteem and the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.” 

                                      Fra Giovanni ~ 1513

Happy new year 2007 to all