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It was three years ago I discovered the Kickstarter campaign of a filmmaker named Nickolas Rossi. He had a vision of creating a documentary film about singer/songwriter Elliott Smith that would be less drama about his life and more music focused; what came to be known as a “love letter” to Elliott Smith. And as I followed the path of creation that became the film Heaven Adores You, it was evident every step of the way that this project was being done with the utmost love, respect and admiration for Elliott and his family and friends as well.

And finally the time arrived for me to be able to view this film that I had literally been counting the days to see. The screenings have been at various film festivals literally all over the globe, which is a testament to the worldwide appeal of Elliott Smith’s music. But last night was a very special screening I attended, the showing of the film in Portland, Oregon, a city that is widely held as Elliott’s hometown.

The theatre was packed, a sold out show, and the energy of breath-holding anticipation for Heaven Adores You in Portland was palpable. After a lovely set of Elliott Smith songs performed by the Portland Cello Project it was time to see the film that so many have waited to see.

What I watched for 104 minutes was a very well crafted tribute to Elliott showcasing his music not just from his days of fame but also treating the viewer to some rare songs from his adolescence where it becomes obvious that he had the seeds of musical talent and genius ready to sprout.

Heaven Adores You is also well seasoned with snippets of commentary and memories from Elliott’s dear ones that shared in his lifetime. I found myself in more moments of laughter than tears as I watched this film, not being awash in the usual drama and darkness that is often attached to the telling of Elliott Smith’s lifetime.

And then there is also the visually stunning cinematography that adds to the breath and depth of Elliott’s journey in the various places he lived and created and played his lovely music.

Heaven Adores You is the ultimate gift of tribute to this lovely troubadour who left us all too soon; it is a fitting homage of love to a man who was really just all about love himself.

http://heavenadoresyou.com/

heaven-adores-you_low-res_041714

 

Elliott Smith, singer songwriter extraordinaire by many people’s standards, would have been 44 today, had he not died a much too early death in October of 2003. After his passing, a good share of his notoriety came not due to the amazing music he created, but by the manner of his death, and the sometimes dysfunctional life he led as he dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.

But those who were close to him knew the fullness of his generosity, his great sense of humor, his compassion, and the other endearing qualities that inspired his family and friends to honor him with a series of four benefit shows in four different cities. They run from August 4th to August 10th and are the brainchild of Ashley Welch, Elliott’s younger sister, who decided to pay tribute to all the great things about her brother that made him her “hero”, as she describes Elliott in Autumn deWilde’s book, Elliott Smith.

One of those great things about Elliott Smith was his generous nature. Elliott was known as one to never turn down a chance to play a benefit show for someone, and before his death he had begun the process to start his own non-profit to help abused children. In this light of his giving so much to others, every show in each city – Portland, OR; Los Angeles; Austin, TX; and New York City – will be donating all the proceeds to a non-profit in that particular city. All the musicians are playing for free, as Elliott inspires so many to share and reach out to others as he did in his lifetime.

Another great thing about Elliott Smith was of course the music, the amazing legacy he left behind, the songbook of an extremely gifted and talented singer and songwriter and troubadour. He is revered by his musical peers, as is evidenced by all who agreed to come out and play these benefit shows for free. Some are more well known than others, but all shared the music with Elliott and shared the joy of music with him.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the first show, in my city of Portland, a place Elliott called home for a time. He is well loved here, and the energy that night was just one big lovefest of Elliott, of music, of joy. Sweet and touching stories were told about Elliott from his friends, revealing a much more positive side of his life that was often overlooked. The crowd made much of the event a singalong, as the well loved and familiar words and melodies sang out in a loving cacophony.

Many famous musical artists are often memorialized in tribute shows, and that speaks to the success and inspiration of their music. But these shows touting Elliott Smith touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t just the music we celebrated, but the fact that he used his fame for the greater good, to give back to others less fortunate. And really, Elliott shows us that we can all do this, in our own way; we don’t have to be famous to be angels of generosity. Here’s to you, dear Elliott – thank you for inspiring all of us through your music but most of all through your shining soul.

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

 

Yes it’s true, we Portlanders love our coffee, and there are a plethora of coffeehouses all around town to drive home that truth. I myself have a list of favorites in my neighborhood, but what a joy it is to discover a new treasure outside of the Alphabet District, the quaint and quirky name of the area in which I live.

And yes it’s true, shortly after moving here I dared to get rid of my coffeepot and the monkey on my back habit of half a pot of coffee in the morning. I had started to feel like a coffee junkie, so I quit cold turkey, suffered the pangs of caffeine withdrawal and stayed away for a time. Well, a short time that is, until I found myself tiptoeing back to instant coffee, only one cup a day. And hey, that’s not really an addiction, only one cup of instant coffee in the morning, is it? And I can quit anytime! But today was different, I just needed more – and here is my story…

Two Cup Day

I had relegated myself

To a self-imposed limit

Only one cup of coffee

To start my day

But today felt different

A cool breeze

Gray clouds in the skylight

The flickering candle I had lit

To stave off the dim daylight

One last swallow of the first cup

And off to the kitchen

Marching triumphantly

To celebrate my new holiday

Behold the inauguration of

Two Cup Day

tiny coffee

Dog time

I am headed back to Minnesota for a visit in May, and I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, and spending some quality time with them. And besides those lovely souls I am planning to spend time with, I am thoroughly looking forward to some dog time!

I will most certainly be seeing my daughter and son-in-law’s two dogs, Chopper and Boe Boe, as well as my son’s dog, named Buster, and I am making sure to pencil in time to see “my girl”, my collie named Maddie who I had to leave behind with my ex-husband when I moved to Portland. And sadly, I will also be sure to visit the grave site of my other dog, Kirby the lovable cocker spaniel, who recently passed away after a happy and fulfilled dog life of twelve years.

When I went back for a Christmas visit in December of 2011, I stayed at my daughter and future son-in-law’s home for most of that time. So I got to know Chopper and Boe Boe quite well, and was inspired by their day to day antics enough to write a poem about each of them. Boe Boe is the elder one of the dog household; he is a mellow mutt who had the run of the place until the little guy came around. And Chopper, with his boundless Jack Russell terrier energy is about as different from Boe Boe as night from day. But they have learned to love each other, with Boe Boe accepting Chopper into the family, and helping to breathe maybe a bit more life into the old boy.

Those of us who are blessed to experience the love of a pet, be it dog or cat or even a goldfish, know of the special bond that ensues from such a relationship. I look forward to having some very special dog time when I go for my visit in May; as I once more get to experience some unconditional love in the way that only our pets can bring.

Chopper and Boe Boe

Chopper and Boe Boe

 

 

My name is Boe Boe

I was here first

Before the little one

But it doesn’t matter

I let him think he is cuter than me

He wants to play

As puppies do

He gnaws on my neck

Thinking I will accept

his invitation to run and play

But I like to rest these days

I had my time of

playing and puppy-ness

So when the little one runs in circles

I curl in a ball and watch

And remember my days of such behavior

I am Chopper

My house is an obstacle course

I jump onto the couch

I am tiny, like a cat

So I run along the back of it

Then onto the other couch

And I leap!

I fly through the air to the chair

A perfect landing!

I do not require a net

I am nimble – a jumper of great heights!

Then I dig in the toy box

And take out many toys

And leave them

Later I will take out more toys

And leave those also

Then for fun

I run in and out of my kennel

But I don’t stay in there too long

Because sometimes they lock the door!

I hear a noise outside

Or is it in my head?

It doesn’t matter

I bark anyway!

All of this is very tiring

I finally rest

Until 5 a.m. – at the very latest!

Then it is time to get up

And run the obstacle course again

Kirby, now in Doggie Heaven

Kirby, now in Doggie Heaven

 

 

Memories of Kirby

 

A white ball of fluff

Tiny and nestled in a laundry basket

Comes home to join our family

The roly-poly puppy

Grows into a handsome dog

Who never quite learns to enjoy

Being bathed or groomed

But he behaves like a gentleman

So kind to all who care for him

 

If you happened to say the word “walk”

Be prepared to grab the leash

He always enjoyed the forays and adventures

Into the woods and down the roads

Seeming to find great pleasure

In scaring up a bird or two

 

Thoughts of food filled his mind

Constantly

His tastes ranging

From potato peelings

To rabbit poop

And anything in between

 

Not content to lie on the floor

Our furniture was his furniture

Our bed was his bed

Snuggling close at night

Sharing a pillow

Sharing love

 

And his body aged

As all bodies do

Now he romps once more

Seeing clearly, running freely

Uninhibited, unencumbered

He left us but left his love

And sweet memories of Kirby

Maddie girl

Maddie girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The words to a poem started coming to me this morning as I had my morning cup of coffee. I wanted to use the word “wellspring” in my poem, but I wanted to make sure that I was using it in the right context. I didn’t have my computer on yet, so I grabbed my paperback copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary I had bought a few years back, before I realized that the online version was much more useful.

As I turned to the W’s toward wellspring, I happened to notice a definition listed for the word “well-endowed”; a word that I thought would never merit an entry in a dictionary. But there it was, and just for fun I read the definition, which soon turned my smile to a frown. I read the two definitions listed – 1: having plenty of money or property  and 2: having large breasts. Seriously? Really? Someone actually had the male chauvinistic, misogynistic gall to write and then allow the second definition to be published? It was almost as if someone had channeled the spirit of Noah Webster himself, from the early 19th century he lived in, and asked his definition of the word. Because this could not possibly be the work of any respectable 21st century writer; hadn’t we come so much farther than that?

So my question to Merriam-Webster would be, in the light of modern day equal rights for both men and women, where was entry 3, which would most certainly be:  having a large penis. That might help to take away the sting from the slap in the face that definition number 2 seems to be, and let’s give the guys their time in the spotlight too, right?

I came upon them again, the eager young faces, asking me as I passed by if I would like to buy some cookies. The past couple of times I have given them a quick smile, saying “no thank you”, and kept on my way. But this time I thought oh, what the heck, I have some cash on me and besides, who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies?

It’s always been a dilemma, making the choice between the ever popular Thin Mints, or maybe the yummy Samoas with the great combination of caramel and coconut, or should I get my personal favorite, the tangy lemon cookie they call Lemonades? What to do, what to do! As I listened to the three giggly girls giving me their best sales pitches for each cookie, I made a final decision to go with the Thin Mints, having a plan in mind as to what to do with them (besides just eating them!)

I handed one of the girls the only cash I had, a twenty dollar bill, and smiled at their squirrely laughter as they oh so slowly counted out my change. Moms were close at hand, making sure that the money end of things was handled correctly, and they happily thanked me for my cookie purchase. And bless her heart, the girl who handed my change back to me did exactly what I do with any cash I have in my billfold – she placed all the bills facing in the same direction – someone after my own obsessive/compulsive heart!

Once I got to the library for my weekly volunteer shift, I was able to put my Girl Scout cookie plan into action. I had decided that instead of once again eating the treats in the break room that all the others have brought before, I would be the one this time to make a contribution. And oh, the joy it brought! My choice of Thin Mints was heartily endorsed by Matt, one of the younger employees who is a bit on the shy side. But his face literally lit up when he asked, “Who brought the cookies?” When I told him I did, he opened up with a smile and told me of his passion for Thin Mints that was completely unexpected.

How fun to have a simple box of cookies elicit such joy; from the young girls who were so eager to sell them, to their mom’s grateful thank-yous for supporting their daughters in this endeavor, to the beaming face of Matt as he enjoyed an unexpected treat that day.

And as I was getting ready to go home, I heard a quiet voice in the break room, asking me if I was going to take the cookies home with me. “No, I’m leaving them here,” I told Matt, who I swear actually breathed a sigh of relief. And he promised me with a sheepish grin that he would try very hard to leave some cookies for the others to enjoy.

I was volunteering at my neighborhood library this morning, talking with one of the staff who I hadn’t met before, and telling her about my retired life and what I do to fill my time. “Oh, so you’re a professional volunteer!” she proclaimed. And I had to thank her for giving me such a title, it really spells out who I am now – how perfect, yes, a professional volunteer.

I can see why she would say that, as my days now are pleasantly filled with helping out in a number of places. I do have Monday as a “free day”, walking in the morning with a friend and then doing whatever I please for the rest of the day. Then comes Tuesday, and I am presently helping  an older gentleman clear out all he has accumulated over his 70 years, trying to make more room in the studio apartment he now lives in. Wednesday and Thursday mornings I take a very short walk across the street to the grocery store, where I help out as a shopper for a non-profit called Store To Door, a place that provides grocery shopping service and delivery for those unable to do so. Friday is also another day of helping a senior, this time being a visitor and friendly face to an elderly woman, who just wants some company to help stave off the loneliness of growing older. Saturday is usually another free day, except for every third Saturday when I help with the neighborhood clean-up. Then I end my week by helping out on Sundays mornings at the local library. And in between all this are other one time opportunities to help here and there, for all kinds of different places and reasons.

Looking at all of that, I can see why I was bestowed with such a title; yes, it seems like it is an occupation in itself, all the volunteering I do now. But this is exactly what I have been reaching for, since I retired and even before that, when I would imagine all the wonderful ways I could help people if I just had the time. Well, now I have the time and I seem to have found some wonderful ways to help. This truly is my work now, even though I don’t get paid with a paycheck. Instead, I am able to pay forward the gift of time I have been given, when I was able to retire early at age 50 after a long but burned out at the end career in healthcare. I love my new job title, and life is very good working as a professional volunteer.

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