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Archive for December, 2011

The definition of home

I lived over half a century in the same state, and then felt the overwhelming urge to move halfway across the country and replant myself in a state I had visited only once. This has caused me to redefine what home really is. Is it a place where we grow up and more times than not settle our adult lives in? Or is it a place that calls to our very soul and says, “come”? I have come to believe in the latter, as I find I am in love with my “new” home of Portland, Oregon. Oh, I enjoyed Minnesota all those years; I wasn’t miserable. But something in me felt a pull, a resonating as I traveled to Oregon in 2010 for a retreat, in a place that was actually outside of Portland. But I remember as I sat in the airport, waiting to board the plane to Portland, I heard a voice in my head saying, “I’m going home!” And as soon as I set foot in Oregon, I knew that one day, this place would be my home. It is a love affair here that I have with my pretty city. Every day I wake and say to myself, “another beautiful day in Portland!”, not mattering one bit if it is a grey day or a bright sun filled day. And I find other “homes” within my home. There are the two coffeehouses that I love more than all the others; one that plays the music I love and has the best caramel to add luscious flavor to my coffee, and the other one that makes the best marionberry bars and has the quaint outdoor patio that is almost meditative on a lovely Portland morning. I have also found the teashop that is akin to being in my home, with comfy over-sized chairs to sit in and the most delicious teas, both hot and cold. And then there are my two favorite parks; one that is close to my home and has gently sloping hills covered with massive, older trees that provide welcome shade on a summer day, and the other park which has an area of native grasses and plants, along with a pond full of playful fish and lovely lily pads. As I get ready to board the train in a few hours that will take me to family and friends I haven’t seen for six months, I say to myself that I am going back to Minnesota, but I will be coming home to Portland.


I live in the city now, where the plight of the homeless is so evident to me as I walk the city streets. At times they reach out in desperation, asking anyone who passes by for food or money or a bus transfer; pride pushed aside to give way to survival. But even a response of “sorry, I can’t help” is met with “thank you”. We can learn from all souls here on this earth; these poor souls in dire straits still have the manners that so many of us with so much fail to use in our overly busy lives. I have been awakened to how horrifically difficult the life of a homeless person is, and I have come to find much more appreciation for all that I have, the riches and blessings that we all deserve. I started a list one day of all that I have; things that the homeless often don’t have – food, and a place to cook and store food, a bathroom and water and a place to clean up or just brush your teeth, a comfortable bed with a warm blanket, furniture to sit in, a lamp to read books by, clothes and a place to wash them and then store them, and the list goes on and on. Don’t you see how wealthy most of us are? And it’s not just the material things, it also encompasses the security of having a home to go to, a place to stay warm and dry and protected. It’s not having to live in fear and doubt and wondering how in the world you will get out of the hole you fell into. But despite their circumstances, these are people just like you and me who have come into hard times that could certainly happen to any of us. They are not any less vibrant or intelligent or beneath us in any way. There is a small newspaper published here called Street Roots, and it is a testament to just how much we are all connected, all wanting the same basic things out of life. There are articles about life on the streets, with interviews of people telling their stories. There are also poems and art work that show the creative depth of these souls, who struggle with pain but are making their way out of the cavern of desperation towards the light of hope. And the best part of this whole project is that the vendors who sell the papers are given a chance to work, to earn money to get back on their feet, to feel pride in a job well done. This is all any of us really want out of life, isn’t it? To earn a living and have a decent place to live, with food and clothing and those things that help us live comfortable lives. In this way, we truly all are connected, and we can reach out to each other to help when some of us fall – with gifts of time, with gifts of money, with gifts of things but always with gifts of prayers for one another.

The watch and phone stay at home

A few months ago I moved 1600 miles away, to Portland, Oregon; retired and looking for new people, new places and new adventures. Portland has not disappointed the adventuress in me. Every day I venture out on foot; a new mode of transportation I have discovered. I walk and walk, and talk and talk to those who will engage in conversation with me. But I have two rules when I leave home to explore: Rule number one is to leave my cell phone on the dresser, and rule number two is that the wearing of a watch is not allowed. How can I interact and connect with my fellow Portlanders if my phone interrupts our lovely conversations? My friends and family back in Minnesota can make use of the wonderful phone tool called voicemail. And this blessed gift of time called retirement frees me from having to embrace the illusion of time – and I have learned what an illusion it truly is. I can set off to the park with a good book or my writing materials, and when I finally return home and look at the clock I realize how many minutes and hours have slipped away while I was engrossed in the present moment. I realize timekeeping has a purpose in this earthly realm, but when I can step out of it, it is so freeing. That goes for the technology of cell phones also; they are certainly useful and needed at times. But I find that in meeting new people in my new home, I much prefer the connectedness of years gone by – face to face, eyes to eyes, smile to smile.

Moon musings

The promise of a luscious lunar eclipse tonight, and the warm glow of the full moon the past two nights has me remembering how much I love the moon. The moon is an inspiration, she is my muse. Moonlight is soft and gentle; the quiet blue hue coming through my skylight invites me to bathe in it. It is hard to explain the pull of the moon, except in the poems that come out of the energy I feel as I watch it through a clear night sky, waxing and waning as it does.

The Bride

She sits so quiet

Clouds sweep across

A wedding veil


A shadowed view

Of the blushing bride

I see the waning has begun

Parts slowly erased

She will be hidden for a time

Just like now

As the veil of clouds

Becomes a mask

The hidden bride

Lovers of the Moon


We are the moon

We are the moonlight

Radiating love

Calm, serene

Quiet, unassuming

We wax and wane

Ever changing

But even when unseen

We are full and bright

Like a luscious full moon

In its luminous glow

The envelopes lovers such as us

Time Spent on a Crescent Moon

Come on my love, let’s go!

Take my hand, come sit with me

On the edge of the moon

And we’ll dip our feet

In the waters of the sky

And stars will nibble our toes

As they swim past

We’ll dream of a time

A grand and glorious time

Where there is no time

We’ll dream of a place

A grand and glorious place

 Where there is no place

Where sitting on the moon

Is quite an important task

And we count the planets

As they swirl around us

Holding hands until

The dream comes true



Connecting the dots

I ventured to Powell’s Bookstore today, which is a must see place if you ever visit Portland, and becomes a frequent go-to spot for Portlanders for all their reading needs. I wanted to find a new crossword puzzle book to occupy my time on my upcoming 36 hour train trip to Minnesota. As I wandered around the crossword section looking for just the right book, I noticed other books of games and puzzles: Sudoku, word finds, mazes, brain teasers. Then I recalled how much I loved doing dot to dot as a child. Something about going from number to number and finally producing a picture always felt like such an accomplishment. Maybe it’s because my drawing skills are so very limited; I can produce the ever popular stick figure, as well as a sun, moon, clouds, a very square house with a chimney (and smoke coming out of it for the full effect), and the v-shaped birds that don’t really look like birds at all. After searching the “grown-up” section for any dot to dot books and finding none, I moved to the children’s section. Success! I found a small section of dot to dot books, and one that was more “advanced” – perfect! I brought it home and anxiously found the perfect mechanical pencil to use with a nice fine lead that would produce a thin line, conducive to rendering a most artistic drawing. I started at one, slowly going from number to number; ending at fifty I looked and voila! I had drawn a peeled banana! I squealed with delight like a small child. Truthfully though, I could not take credit for having drawn anything – I just remembered how to connect the dots.

Winter in a new place

I spent 50 some years used to the seasonal rhythms of the Midwest. That included harsh winters that did not allow flowers to bloom much past October. I am finding that winter in the Pacific Northwest is much kinder to vegetation, and that flowers continue to bloom, even in December. My internal seasonal clock is so confused! I know it is winter, it is colder here, yet I can go for a walk in the park and still see color! That was my chief complaint after last year’s winter in Minnesota; the dull, drab, colorless monotony that dragged on for what seemed an eternity. But here in Oregon I find color that nourishes my soul through the shorter, grayer days. A walk today revealed a dash of flowers here and there, along with moss that hangs like green overcoats on the tree trunks. There are leaves that fall off the trees, just like the Midwest, and they create a soft carpet on the sidewalks. Then I find trees whose leaves look as vibrant and green as they did in the summer months. But I’m not complaining. Soon enough I will be going back to Minnesota for a visit, and I know that I will be missing the winter in my new home.

Flowers in December


The roses have given up

Their petals now brown

Too shy to bloom in the cool air


But the pansies persevere

Their clown faces and circus colors

Celebrate the winter season


Hibiscus hang on

Now faded, washed out blue

On display until the bitter end


Cranesbill of delicate purple

Withstand the dropping degrees

And continue to hang on the vine


December flowers bloom

Like colorful candy sprinkles

On the muted green foliage



The monkey called fame

I never used to think much about famous people and how we perceive them, even though like you and me they have to go through all the everyday particulars of life. Those kinds of things are never really talked about, although there may be the occasional photo at the grocery store, or a “beautiful” person that is caught jogging in sweats, no make up and a headband holding back unruly hair. But once I quit watching television, I started to realize how fame is an attribute we bestow upon those we deem worthy. This first came to light when I stood in line at the grocery store, staring at the row of magazines by the check out, and realized I didn’t recognize so many of the faces on the covers. These are obviously people who are well known by most of the population, but if I were to encounter them I wouldn’t give them a second glance. Perhaps that is why so many celebrities move to far off places to live, to get away from the constant recognition and ensuing fan ardor that seems to interrupt their lives during what should be private times. For some of those “blessed” with fame and fortune, I do believe they may feel like they have a monkey on their back.

The Odd Monkey




Oh! the notoriety

What an odd little monkey it is

That clings to those

Who make the climb

Up the pedestal

That we construct for them

But, alas

The pedestal crumbles

Under the weight of this person

Who we thought

Was as light as the gods

Oh! our illusion shatters


New music!

I have been searching for some new music, but nothing I have heard lately on the radio or Pandora has made me go running to my list of cds to buy and make note. But I recently found a new group, through the oddest of connections, my knitting group. The Monday knitting group at the library consists of us “older” ladies, who are able to find time every Monday afternoon for some knitting and a good deal of talking. So when one of the knitting ladies mentioned in passing that her son has a band, just as a hobby, with free music to download, I made note of that! Once I got home, I went on the band’s website and settled in for a listen. I am pretty picky about the music I listen to; I don’t easily jump on the bandwagon just because everyone else is listening, or because of the proud words of a mom telling her knitting group about her son’s band. But as I listened, I found myself going, yes! This is what I have been looking for! The name of the band is Trails and Ways, and they are from Oakland, California. I would describe their music as pop with some folk tendencies and a bit of bossa nova sprinkled in – delicious! And the lyrics are sheer poetry – they can be read on their own and enjoyed without the musical accompaniment. If you want to check them out, here is the link to their website –  http://trailsandways.com/ – Maybe you will also find some great new music there –

It was the tub that sold me

I tried not to be too picky in finding an apartment; after all, I had only given myself a week in Portland to find a place to live, otherwise I would table moving there for a future time. But the one thing I absolutely had to have was a tub. For me, bath time is a sacred experience, not just about  washing up. So when I was shown the claw foot bathtub, in the quaint and cozy studio apartment with the skylight, in the charming 100 year old building, I fell in love! This was a bathtub that was actually designed with the full splendor of the bath in mind. Nice and deep, with a gently sloping end that would oh so nicely accommodate my bath pillow. There is nothing worse than trying to recline and relax in a tub that sits upright all around. And I could fill it with enough water to really sink into – luscious! Even though I sometimes have to wait a good 20 or 30 minutes for hot water to come round, it is well worth the wait. I have found lavender to be my favorite of all bath additions, be it an essential oil or bath salts. And on occasion, I have taken rose petals and sprinkled on the water, just to accentuate the bliss of the bath. Lastly, no proper bath is complete without candlelight, and some mellow melodies playing on the stereo. I have gone so far as to have a Pandora station entitled Bath Music, consisting of gentle and soothing music to bathe by. I actually found a book about baths, appropriately entitled The Book of the Bath by Catherine Kanner – I can’t wait to try out some of  her amazing bath recipes.  Now that the winter days are upon us, I find that the gift of a perfect bath is perhaps all I really need for Christmas this year.

Finding my truth, through knitting

When I first joined the knitting group, I was a “squares only” knitter. My knitting experience through the years had yielded only that which could be knit in a square – dishcloths, blankets and the occasional scarf. I envied those who could produce rounded items, such as hats or socks or mittens – how hard could it be? I was willing to learn and the helpful, eager ladies in the knitting group at the local library were anxious to assist my branching out beyond my comfort zone of squareness. I chose a hat for my first circular venture, deciding that the toes of a sock or the thumb of a mitten would be too much for me at this stage of the game. But before I could begin, I had to make a trip to a knitting store. I found one that seemed to welcome me with open arms, with its bins of yarns in all shades and colors and textures. And the woman who was working there at the time was so helpful, as she led me through the store to acquire all that I needed – yarn that would be compatible with the beginner’s pattern she found for me, and some circular needles that looked very perplexing to me. Thirty five dollars later, I was out the door and ready to create a hat – with the guidance of the lovely knitting ladies of course!

Truth number one I learned about myself – I am inpatient. I wanted to wear my new hat, so I tried to finish it on my own at home, rather than patiently waiting for the help I needed. As I put my finished hat on my head, adjusting it to cuteness, I watched in horror as the top of it slowly unraveled. Truth number two – I get angry! And I like to throw things in my state of anger. I watched my hat, with a trail of yarn, sail across my apartment, along with the circular needles that I blamed for my knitting mishap. But once I cooled down and began another attempt at my hat, I was able to create a hat that did not unravel. Now I was ready for something a little more advanced. How about fingerless mittens? They didn’t look to be too difficult, but were a step up from a hat, as they involved using double pointed needles – a new knitting tool I had yet to use. Off to the knitting store once more!

If I had thought of the circular needles as a challenge, I found double pointed needles to be downright evil. I uttered some rather choice words during my repeated attempts to get past the first few rows, and learned how to throw those small wooden needles like spears. But I reached inside myself for a dose of patience, and knit on and on, all the while speaking words of praise to my pretty wooden needles. But alas, I got caught up in delightful conversation with my fellow knitters one day, and realized after that fact that I had twisted my needles and was knitting inside out. This led me to truth number three – I am a “squares only” knitter, and that’s okay. I realized that the thing I love most about knitting isn’t the luscious yarn or pretty patterns or even the finished product itself. What I love most about knitting is the meditative quality of it – the repetition, the clicking sound of the needles. And the knitting group is a wonderful social outing; a time to visit and share stories and laughter with others. I will always admire the others in my knitting group for their creative gifts and amazing works of roundness that they are able to knit. But I have found acceptance of the happiness I gain from knitting – and the truths it brings to me and no one else.

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