Sunday, February 20, 2011

week-long days

It's a lovely Sunday in Portland, soft puffy white clouds hopefully keeping a little warmth down here on the ground. I haven't ventured outside yet, but it's the kind of day that I want to stretch out as long as I can, into the week-long days that Alice Walker writes about, "days of enormous trees and mellow suns" that she tells me still exist, "still beautiful, still mysterious, still with week-long days (if you turn off TV and radio for months on end), still profound." (Walker, Living by the Word)

I'm house/kitty sitting for my sister and brother-in-law. They have a small condo right in the middle of what people call an up&coming neighborhood, so there are cafes and little thrift stores in walking distance, as well as some kind of treatment / recovery center for women across the street. The women there take many, many smoke breaks on the corner, hard women who have had hard lives and weren't taught the emotional tools to cope, a real-world reminder beyond the world of the wine bar Kir, Le Pigeon and the 20something quasi-hipsters at the Doug Fir. Sometimes I'm wary of them. The women, and actually, when I think about it, the quasi-hipsters. But mostly the women, that they're looking at me and not understanding me, thinking I'm soft, privileged, judgmental. Maybe I am, and that's why they make me nervous. Their looks seem to be a constant "Fuck you," telling me to keep my distance, but my sister reminded me that non-violent communication would ask "what are they trying to say they need with their fuck-you looks?"

It's a Powell's books day - I'm reading a collection of short stories by Pam Houston, and want to go pick up another. She writes about horses and dogs and the prairies, and that's part of the reason I haven't left the house yet. I'm not quite ready to leave wide-open spaces to shuffle so close to others and their unspoken needs that I can't always read.

Courtney, originally uploaded by Elspeth and Evan.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Recommended beach, bonfire reading: Cowboys Are My Weakness

I have a dog named Jackson, who between the ages of four and five, in people years, became suicidal. In a period of less than twelve months, Jackson jumped out of the back of a speeding truck, ate a fourteen-pound bag of nonorganic garden fertilizer, and threw himself between the jaws of a hundred-and-fifty-pound Russian wolfhound.  Similarily, when I turned twenty-eight years old, I started to date a man whose favorite song was 'Desperado.'  
... My friend Debra said, 'He's not an altogether bad person. He just has no imagination, and of course, that has made him a little mean.' 
(From "Jackson is Only One of My Dogs", by Pam Houston)
As I was on the hunt for some fun reading, an escape, my sister handed me Cowboys Are My Weakness, by Pam Houston.  It takes me out of the mountains, bare branches and grey skies of a Northwest winter into the plains and prairies of Montana and Wyoming, and once, the frozen tundra of Alaska. Her characters are strong women with a weakness for dogs and the wrong kind of men.  You can relate to how they change their lives, adopting the odd hobby here and there. Who hasn't donned ugly thigh high rubber boots to stand knee-deep in freezing river water, fly-fishing for love? Then, in a moment of clarity, her characters connect with who they really are, and what they really want in companionship. Most likely a dog.

In an interview with Powell's Books about her later book, Sight Hound, Houston says, "it was time to write about a few good men. That one of those men happens to be a dog, well, who would call it a surprise?"

Adding Houston's bibliography to my beach, bonfire, lazy day reading list.

(Photo: I'm thinking a paul newman-esque cowboy would be a fun catch.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Through the window of my mind

Through my window, originally uploaded by ILoveDoodle.
I'm feeling — stuck. I'm letting voices in my head panic about the fact that I'm 35 and seem to have no marketable skills for today's society. In response to my moping about the current, grim job market, my friend emailed: You haven't had the luck you deserve with work, but you're talented and special, and look at the amazing adventures you've had along the way.

I needed to read that, to remember that I've enjoyed and learned from my adventures, good and bad. And that this period of unemployment and a limited social circle is another sort of adventure. Today as I waited for the bus, standing in the cold, spitting rain that seemed so Oregon, in a bad way, mean rain that blows sideways in the wind that threatens my umbrella, I thought once again how much I dislike my life right now.

And then it clicked. I'm enjoying being miserable. I must be, since I keep letting those thoughts swirl around my mind. And realized that I, at that exact moment, could ignore the mindfulness and awake-awareness that just happened and wallow a bit more in how disgruntled I am. Or, I could try to change my thinking. I've been so panicked that my life is going to be small, uneventful and boring. And then I realized, of course it will, if that's all I'm thinking about.

So it's time to pay attention. To catch and change my thoughts. I can't change this damp, bone-chilling weather, but I can appreciate that the white lights in the shop window glow a bit brighter because it's so grey. I can't change the fact that the people on the bus are crazy. Crazier than L.A. bus riders, but I can silently sing "the freaks on the bus go round and round" and make up stories for them, and maybe even try to empathize that they are just a wee bit emotionally out of touch and unaware, as I have been the last few weeks. I can't change the fact that jobs I'm applying for are not responding to my resume, but I can write more, read more inspiring writing, and GET OUT to meet more people. Life is what I think it is.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Design desire: Design Sponge - Sophistikat

I can't get over how much I want this combination in my non-existent home.  I am so okay with asking Hermes for boxes sans 'spensive trinkets.

(Design Sponge: Flor’s new “Sophistikat” floor tiles and the gorgeous stack of Hermes-style boxe)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Connected: I AM my brother's / sister's keeper

Tom Shadyac, director of Jim Carrey's face in "Ace Ventura" and "Bruce Almighty" went on a life-changing adventure, asking the world's greatest minds "what's wrong with our world and what can we do about it?" What he found out was much more hopeful, that our connectedness is scientific, it's in our DNA. As Desmond Tutu says, "We are because we belong."  (I'm geeking out a little at the opportunity to see and hear more from Desmond Tutu. He has the most peaceful, happy face of anyone I've ever seen.  Except some of those guys in Bhutan where gross national happiness is part of the government's work.)

In King Leopold's Ghost, writer Adam Hochschild quotes Roger Casement's 1892 assessment of the brutality of colonial Africa. "'Altho' the men were their soldiers we all on earth have a commission and a right to defend the weak against the strong, and to protest against brutality in any shape or form.'"

The Congo is still suffering brutality, but in the face of rape, poverty and disease, there is hope in our connectedness. Action Kivu gives you the opportunity to connect directly with the work being done to send orphaned and vulnerable children to school, giving them a sense of family, dignity, pride and excitement about the future. Your donation enables a woman who was a victim of rape or watched her family killed to learn the trade of sewing, to create and be a part of a healing, supportive community.

We're doing a week-long Facebook fundraiser for Action Kivu's work with women and children in the Congo - can you give today?

"We are born to be our brother's keeper. It's the way that we're wired."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tee time, babies and beer: Things to Do in Portland

I golf. Never thought I'd say that, as I always agreed more with Twain that the game seems "a good walk spoiled." But toss me a glass of wine and a club and suddenly I'm hollering "Four!" to warn the ladies to guard their babies so I can whack my bright blue ball in the general direction of a white flag and hole. 

This Saturday, my sister and her husband suggested we make the most of a Portland day without rain and go golfing at McMenamins Edgefield, just a short drive east of Portland.  Before leaving the city, we stopped for lunch at the food carts on Belmont, choosing pizza (gluten-eater brother-in-law), a Greek salad (sister) and fries (me). Arriving at Edgefield in mid-afternoon sun breaks, we stopped in at the golf shack to sign in for our tee-time and to pick out our clubs and cups of hooch: beer (gluten-imbiber) and wine for my sister and me. Being around the same height and from the same gene-pool, my sister and I figured we could save four bucks and share two clubs.  A bad idea made worse after we polished off that wine and our balls were flying in different directions on the green.

Edgefield's 12-hole course is low-key, as evidenced by the party of twelve or more ahead of us that held up our game. Six golfed while wives and girlfriends coo'd over babies strapped to bellies and sauntered off the hole engrossed in chatter when their group finally moved on.  The only downside to the day, these happy people brought out the worst in me. Their group kept growing and even appeared to be procreating on the course as we paused again for three more women to cross the green, and one called out "you can't make a pregnant woman run!"  Ha ha, she laughed, never apologizing.  Ha ha, I thought as I swung my club in her direction.  Maybe I should have had one more glass of the happy juice.

Heading back into town, we parked at my sister & her man's condo and walked to Olympic Provisions, a local charcuterie. Their sign proclaiming their specialty, MEAT, will scare away any confused vegan who might stumble in.

We ordered a bottle of wine and a couple small plates, one a chef's choice of three kinds of salami that, cross my pig-loving heart, tastes just like butter.  It practically melts in your mouth.  We made an attempt to love our arteries with a plate of beets, carrots, savoy cabbage, horse radish cream, caraway seed.  And under the category a first time for everything, I fought my sister over the last bite of perfectly roasted cauliflower.

A lovely day in Portland, Oregon.  I'm also going to be following these blogs: 365 Things to do in Portland and Things To Do In Portland, to try to find more community fun.