Sunday, March 17, 2013



This year I set myself some goals. Not resolutions, mind you – they are made to be broken because they are usually too overwhelming and general. We all know the usual ones anyway…lose weight…stop a bad habit….stay in better touch with friends and family…etc. Resolutions rarely have deadlines or a beginning and an end.

So I just set out some goals, particularly to accomplish some things that I have put off, sometimes for years, because of other duties and responsibilities. Care for the ill and elderly. Make money to pay the bills. Always something with more importance than the things I want to do.

My father was a bus driver when my parents were married, and from that experience he carried the mantra: Gotta make time. Gotta make time. He loved driving but my mom put her foot down finally on the time spent away from home, so he gave up bus driving and became a taxi driver. Gotta make time didn’t always make sense when driving a taxi, but he learned the city so well that he could find the shortest driving distance anywhere (which wasn’t exactly what cabbies normally do. I remember taking a taxi in New York City and watching the street numbers go up - then down, up – then down until I mentioned the fact that we seemed to be going back and forth instead of taking a straight route and he quit doing it.)

Take a family trip to any place though, and the mantra took over: Gotta make time. Gotta make time. He would rarely stop for a meal, and even getting him to stop for a potty break took some serious threats.

So I was talking with Gary the other day about how I had let a similar sense of urgency take over my thinking, to the point that I put aside my pleasures for the sake of keeping my nose to the grindstone of my business and other concerns. Which, to be honest, is no longer necessary. It’s just a mental state I developed (like the cat insisting I get up at 6 am instead of 7 since Daylight Savings time set in. I reset the clocks, but can’t find the reset button on the cat.) Then I realized: the mantra actually works in my favor. GOTTA MAKE TIME…to do MY things.

One of the goals, then was to make more time for art work. Fine, but this was predicated on some more short-term goals. First, to clean up the studio and organize it. It had become a catch-all for miscellaneous furniture moved in from other rooms while we revamped them, stuff from my ephemera business that had overflowed, materials saved for art projects piled up hither and yon, cartons of stuff that were my mom’s that went in there for quick storage after she died. I also wanted to finish a small bedroom redo and use part of it for a sewing room.

I gave the studio a week which of course turned into a month, but in the process we cleaned out a large wall closet by the stairs and put the cartons of family stuff in it…removed stuff from the little bedroom, from which we had already removed carpet and replaced with tiles, and painted the walls. Stuff crammed in that closet was sorted and much of it disposed of or stored the hall closet, and fabric and sewing materials from the studio and hall closet were installed in the small bedroom, along with a sewing table and machine and with a lot of notions going into the now-emptied dresser. The other side of the room was rearranged with a small guest bed, side table, reading lamp, etc. Tight, but cosy. We finally got pictures on the walls, curtains hung, and called it finished. Once the junk was cleared out of the studio I purchased a carpenter’s tool chest (on sale, and this floor model was scratched so I got it for a further discount. Gary is always embarrassed when I start dickering, but approves when the price becomes so reasonable.) Everything got sorted (except for a few files left to finish) into a permanent place and my work table was finally cleared! (I did get stalled on labeling drawers, which I must finish because I can’t remember where I finally put things.)

Then – predicated on setting up the studio, I had another goal. For years I have wanted to participate in an International Collage Exchange. It’s pretty simple. You make 13 collages of about 8x10 and send them off to New Zealand. One can be earmarked for sale. One is donated to a public art collection. The others are exchanged with other participants and you receive back 11 or 12 (depending on if one sold) collages by other artists. It’s all for fun – the works are put on the website, the donated item joins a “live” exhibit, and you receive a dozen pieces of art from all over the world.
I made the deadline the end of February, since the work was due in New Zealand by mid-March. Danged if I didn’t make it on the evening of Feb. 28. I sent them off, and then danged if I didn’t find one of them in the scanner a few days later. Determined to “complete” this project I mailed that one off, too. 
Three goals accomplished in three months. Not too bad. There is more, but I must remember: Gotta make time. Gotta make time for ME.
Some of the collages submitted decorate today’s blog. I enjoyed making them so much that I will probably start working on some for next year.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Icky Sticky Christmas Tree Sap

Icky Sticky Christmas Tree Sap

A friend’s Christmas letter describing a search through the woods with his daughter for the just-right trees, and the “pruning” done by her goats on the way back through the pasture, reminded me of the remedy for pitch-covered hands.
It also reminded me of the days that we raised goats. Let me tell you right off that goats are smart, endearing, funny, empathetic, sometimes ornery, and very, very clean. They do NOT stink – except for the bucks during breeding season, when they exude an odor that would fry your brains, and engage in other “sexy” (to a goat) activities that the uninitiated deem disgusting. Just ask a female goat – all this turns her on to be receptive to the male’s advances. I once knew a buck named Don Juan, who lived up to his name – he would kiss, cuddle, coddle, nudge and noodle around with a doe until she was out of her mind with breeding fever. In other words, humans did not invent foreplay. 

They are also particular about what they eat, and where. They won’t eat anyplace that they have defecated. It’s a matter of internal health, to avoid parasites. They do NOT eat tin cans, or other non-organic stuff.   They do eat things you don’t want them to – they are partial to rose bushes for instance. But they also eat blackberry vines, nettles, cockleburs, and poison oak and ivy, which makes them welcome guests where those things grow. You have to be careful when they are eating poison oak. You can understand the book title, “Never Kiss a Goat on the Lips” if you think about it. Of course, a poison-oak-free goat really needs a good smooch now and then. Take my word for it: they are irresistible. (And yes, they will eat wood-pulp paper: it’s cellulose after all.) And they do have a very healthy appetite for tree matter, especially young tender fir boughs. 

In light of that, a shirt-tail relative by marriage of mine used to have a Christmas tree farm. No poison spray was used, and when they trimmed the trees to conform to public taste for shapeliness, she’d give me a phone call to come get some branches if I wanted them. I’d take the van and fill it with young tender boughs that the goats not only liked to nibble, but that they also would bed down on when they were fresh.  


And she taught me this one marvelous trick for cleaning the hands afterward: put a tablespoon or two of shortening in your hands and rub it in, then wash off with soap and water. Not only does the shortening saponify the pitch, it leaves your hands wonderfully soft.  

A friend of ours owns a third-generation tree farm, started by his grandfather and still being harvested and replanted in cycles. Our friend has been falling and hauling and sawing trees for nearly 50 years. Once he came over and cut down a dying fir tree for us, and when he was finished he asked if we had some gasoline or kerosene to clean his hands. I brought out the shortening and he protested, but tried it. He stood there after the “treatment” turning his hands over and over, and then said, “And to think that I have been pouring poison on my hands all these years!” 

So, if you venture out to collect a tree for Christmas or Chanukah or Solstice or whatever and it bleeds all over you, try rubbing in shortening and washing it off in hot water with soap. No hard scrubbing needed! No stinky chemical smell, no chemicals leaching into your skin.  

Who knew? Now you do!

Happy holidays to all, whatever you celebrate.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Discovering Myself in Cronehood

As I approach my seventieth year, I am continuously reminded by some of my women friends, as well as by publications dedicated to women’s issues and awareness, that I am in my “crone” years. I am now of an age when younger women (and possibly even young men) are supposed to look to me for guidance, counsel, and sagacity.  My diverse range of life experiences have supposedly lent me a flavor called “sage.” It is assumed that I have developed profound wisdom based on this nearly three-quarters of a  century of living.
I don’t feel wise. In fact, for the most part I feel confused, disappointed, and baffled. I am far less certain of what I know than I was when I was in my twenties. Then, issues were clear and goals were well-defined. These days when I consider an issue, I am deeply aware that issues have histories, have sides, have clear spots and murky areas; have, in fact, a great many human factors behind their every aspect. An issue that I could hold up like a sphere of clear glass four decades ago now sits heavily in my palm, a multi-faceted polyhedron filled with opaque smoke and ever-changing oil slicks.
Goals were easier then, too. Anything seemed possible, with the long roll of years ahead for opportunities to present themselves and for plans to proceed to realization. Looking back, I realize that no matter how well one plans, there is no way to prepare for the numerous unexpected events, disasters, turning points, missed opportunities and choices one will face in proceeding down that road of years. Now I see some of my goals as ingenuous, others that were noble but that were shattered by the circumstances of my life.
There is a quotation that I have seen attributed to John Lennon that is one of the more profound little aphorisms that I have adopted, no matter who uttered it first: “Life is something that happens when you are busy with other plans.” Only the experience of years of living can reveal the validity of this phrase. In most cases, it is a poignant reflection on what might have been.
However, I refuse to linger on what might have been. The depression brought on by thinking in those terms is equaled only by its pointlessness. Perhaps that, in itself,  is the beginning of wisdom. In the end, whatever wisdom I have acquired has been through living, through life experiences, and not from some higher enlightenment. The greatest lessons, in fact, have been far too mundane to be called enlightened.
To be sure, some of those lessons were passed along to me by older women whose advice I sought.
As a new (and very young) mother, I agonized over the decision I had made to give my baby a pacifier when information was published that criticized pacifiers as being emotionally addictive. My elderly landlady at the time listened to my anguish, then melted it away by saying, “Well, I always figured it was easier to take away a pacifier than it was to cut off a thumb.”
It was this same landlady who gave me another tidbit of her wisdom. Once, when she was extolling the virtues of her late husband and their “almost-perfect” marriage of over fifty years, I asked her the secret. She summed it up in one terse phrase, “Never go to bed mad.”

Years later, when I was distraught over the constant bickering of my two young-teenage daughters, I appealed to an older friend, the mother of seven. “What did you do when they fought with each other?” I asked. “If I intervene, they both turn on me and tell me to stay out of it.” “Well,” she said with a benign little sigh, “I just went in the bathroom with a good book and locked the door until it was over.”
Perhaps, after all, this is the wisdom that can best be passed those younger than ourselves. We surely cannot advise them on the larger aspects of their lives...what career to choose, whom to marry, the meaning of their lives. They do not want our advice, won’t take our advice if offered, and often our advice is out of date. What we can give, and give wholeheartedly, are these tiny chips of reality from our own experience of daily living. We can dispense them like chocolate chips, sweet and palatable little morsels, or – in some cases – like withered raisins that encapsulate a tiny bit of energy and truth no matter how aged they become.
Some of my crone-sisters are adopting habits such as dressing in flowing skirts and embroidered cloaks, with garlands of flowers in their hair and lighted candles on their Goddess alters. I think what startles me most is that these contemporaries are even calling themselves crones. Until recently, I have been thinking of myself as middle-aged. Suddenly being inundated with offers for senior citizen insurance, prepaid burial offers, and the obituaries of younger friends, has brought me up short. I realized that I must have passed through Middle Age but I failed to notice.
Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel ready for long skirts and garlands. I still feel comfortable in the jeans and sweatshirts I have worn most of my life. I love garlands but if I tried wearing one on my head, within minutes it would tilt like a tarnished halo and slide into the candle flames, igniting my hair and anything else flammable in the room. Heck, I don’t even have a Goddess alter, although I do acknowledge a small piece of female-shaped driftwood that I stuck in a rock niche in the garden, and I sometimes chat with a burl on the side of a hoary old oak tree in the back yard that very much resembles a wood sprite.
The fact that I have noticed, or adopted these images does tell me that I may be ready for cronehood. I can only hope that it’s ready for me.


Monday, October 15, 2012

News from Western Oregon: RAIN!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seldom is rain “news” around here, but after a dry period from July to NOW, we finally had some rain Friday night. Not the huge downpour I was hoping for, but a good steady rain for a while and a few showers. There’s a Sou’wester coming in later today which bodes for heavy rain and considerable wind.

This is the second-longest dry spell in our part of the country in recorded history, the longest being in 1942. We natives have been getting pretty fidgety – they don’t call us Webfoots for nothing. I was so excited that I got up in the middle of the night Friday to look out the window. It was wet, was about all you could say for it. No frog-strangling street-washing puddle-making downpour, but at least wet. I went back to bed and must have been dreaming about rain; because I woke up thinking that I felt raindrops on the end of my nose.

But when I opened my eyes – it was just her Highness, Fiona the Feline Princess, licking my nose. “Oh, hello!” she says. “Are you awake? Then you might as well get up and fix my breakfast.”

 6:30 am. The cat won.

I did anticipate either running out in a downpour to get soaked, or sitting in the van to hear rain on the roof and watch it run down the windshield. I like to watch rain running down windows, but our house has such long overhangs on every side that rain rarely reaches the windows.

But I finally found a video (OK, accidentally) that satisfies my need – or will when the “real” rain starts. Best of both worlds and it’s warmer inside the house.

Monday, October 15, 2012 

The storm failed to appear on Sunday, except for about a five mph wind briefly in the morning. In fact, the afternoon was mostly dry and fairly sunny, although we did have overcast all day.

Today started off mildly enough. I glanced out the kitchen window when I went for my first cup of coffee, and three fawns, just losing their spots, ambled down the middle of the street. Since it had rained again during the night and pretty much cleared the air of the pollution that has been hanging over our bowl of a valley, I finally started the day without sneezing my face off. Which Fiona truly appreciated. I have startled her at times so badly that she ran for cover. Besides, when the sneezing bouts started before I got her food dishes ready, it was gustatorus interruptous, a condition she did not appreciate.

But things changed this afternoon. By 3 pm it was so dark from the gathering clouds that I had to turn on lights. The rain finally arrived. So – although we haven’t had the high winds (which we don’t need, living under large trees) the rain is finally pelting down with vigor, a steady thrumming on the roof (for some reason I’m reminded of a passage in an Oscar Wilde story) and the gutters are (yes!) sweeping colored leaves furiously to the sewer grates, which I hope were adequately cleaned out prior to this. I’m curious to see if the street repairs done by the city will eliminate the “lake” that usually forms at a certain intersection.
A huge tension was growing across the population as the rain-free days passed by without a hint of moisture. Now it has largely dissipated. And my intention of dancing in the rain has also dissipated. I put on some wool socks and I’m watching out the window, warm and dry and relaxed. Fiona is, as usual, curled in a ball on the back of the couch, which is covered with her “VIP” blanket. (Gift from True Value – it says DIY on the other side, which suits her not at all.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back In The Junction Again

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog. Why? You might ask. Or not. Whatever.

A series of events brought me to a crashing halt. My domain name expired, which I didn't know until nothing worked. I got that straightened out, but then more problems came along. My mother opted to have me provide 24/7 care of her daily needs. She just decided she wanted to lie in bed and "be served." Her doctor was really helpful: "At your age, you can do anything you want." So she did. Kept me running, I can tell you. I need not go into it all, but it became a full-time nightmare.

We were finally able to place her in a nursing home, but within a few days of "getting my life back" I suffered an accident that, 2-1/2 years later, I'm still trying to recover from. Meanwhile, two of our beloved cats expired. First Tibbs, who just collapsed and died a few hours later at the vet's.

Spike was the worst. He was one of those cats that just wriggle into you heart and wrap themselves around it. Smart, funny, endearing, empathetic (anyone got sick, Spike was there until they recovered, a steady "nurse-companion.") He had a lingering illness which the vet and I worked to identify and treat, but we never nailed it down and his heart just finally quit from the strain.

So since then I have been trying to re-imagine my business, make many changes, and in the course of time I lost track of my information to access this blog. It goes back to the domain issue: I was using an email address that was serviced through the domain, and I never got that reactivated. So there it sat: visible and a source of frustration (meanwhile I started two others) until I finally figured it out.

No-one really needs to know all that, unless someone notices the time break and wonders why it happened.

So we carry on with only one "Tuxedo" cat - Fiona is still very much alive, although sometimes you wouldn't notice it. She more than attests to the "cats sleep 80 percent of the time" rule of thumb. Trying to get her to play is a task  and anyone trying mainly gets a workout in frustration. Oh, she'll chase the thing-on-a-string every once in awhile, for maybe three minutes. Then she flops on the floor and says, "Bring it to me," and will bat at it from a reclining position as it whizzes past.

This then becomes a more personal rendering of life on the hillside. There is lots to see and a lot to ponder.

Remembering Spike:

Fiona (sleeping on shelf) and Spike, watching the snow.

It looks as though the formatting for this blog is screwy. Let's quit and see
if we can figure this out. Meanwhile......

Where is my book? Where is my beer?



Thursday, October 26, 2006


Lee had yelled a “word” about
the hairball on the rug,
so the cats were in the cattery
feeling very snug.

“I say – that’s one big cat down there,”
said a reverential Spike.
“Oh, let me look!” Fiona cried
and then she hollered, “YIKE!”

“That’s not a pussy-cat,”
said Tibbs with wisdom rare,
That is a wild bobcat –
I’m glad that we’re in here!”

It’s true. For the first time in the 15 years we have lived here, wild bobcats have shown up in the back yard and around the neighborhood. We can only assume that they are following dinner – that is, the wild turkeys that turned up recently. (See my previous entry on the turkeys.)
Bobcats can grow to about 36 inches in length and weigh in around 30 pounds. Not huge, but pretty big by housecat standards. Their prey can range from insects, frogs, and rodents to mid-sized animals such as rabbits, hares, and yes – housecats! They have been known to kill deer, usually when they are bedded down.

The danger of wild animals and street traffic is one reason that our cats are housebound. The cattery gives them 24-7 access to the second-story deck where, as you can see, they have several levels of viewing and resting platforms, catwalks, a natural branch to climb and scratch on, as well as litter boxes, cat beds, and fresh water. They have access through a cat flap cut into a piece of Plexiglas and inserted into one of the windows.

The other half of the protection angle is the birds. We have many hanging feeders and a wide range of wild birds, and we prefer not to make them cat food. The hummingbirds that hover inside the cattery from time to time are at their own risk.

Only once has a bird been caught around here. One day there was a flash of movement through the house and then a black-and-white flash through the living room and down the stairs as Spike went after whatever it was, followed by a horrified shriek from my mother who was at the bottom of the steps.

I dashed down the stairs and found Spike huddled at the bottom, a small brown bird clasped in his paws. The bird looked totally pissed off and Spike looked utterly pleased but puzzled. “What do I do with it now that I caught it?” he seemed to ask.

I eased the wee creature from between his paws and examined it. There was no damage and a quick identification explained the event – it was a Chimney Swift that had apparently entered the house through the upstairs fireplace. Spike followed as I carried it back upstairs and turned it loose from the deck, a kind of dejected expression on his face at seeing me throw away this exciting new toy.

Perhaps the event of the bobcat will convince some of my neighbors to keep their cats inside. Although some of them profess to love the birds also, they are aware that their cats prey on our songbirds. This is an ecological disaster. Here are a few facts that I gleaned from the Internet, from reliable scientific studies:

In 1987, Peter Churcher and John Lawton asked the owners of cats in a Bedforshire, England, village to keep any 'gifts' brought to them by their cats; owners of 78 house cats participated (all but 1 cat owner in the village), with the researchers extrapolating from these findings to estimate that the 5 million house cats in England were responsible for killing approximately 70 million animals each year, 20 million of which are birds. [PB Churcher and JH Lawton, 1987, "Predation by domestic cats in an English (UK) village. Journal of Zoology. (London.) 212:439-455.]

A four-year study in rural Wisconsin by Coleman and Temple confirmed the UK findings; 30 cats, radio-collared for various periods of time, led researchers to conclude that, in Wisconsin alone, cats may kill 19 million songbirds and some 140,000 game birds in a single year. [JC Mitchell, 1992. "Free-ranging domestic cat predation on native vertebrates in rural and urban Virginia." Virginia Journal of Science, Vol 43 (1B):107-207.]

Richard Stallcup of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory estimated that of the 55 million domestic cats in the US, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, some 10% never go outside, and another 10% are too old or slow to catch anything. Of the remaining 44 million, a conservative estimate is that 1 in 10 cats kills a bird a day - this would yield a daily toll of 4.4 million birds - or 1.6 billion cat-killed birds in the US each year. ["Cats take a heavy toll on songbirds / A reversible catastrophe," Observer, Spring/Summer 1991, 18-29, Point Reyes Bird Observatory; Native Species Network, Vol 1 Issue 1, Fall 1995.]

Hercules the Liger

Of course, there are much larger wild cats, even around here. We have evidence of cougars in the woods from time, and one was spotted on the street a few blocks from our house several years ago. Now, that would be a site to give a kitty pause. Although for a really big cat, you have to look for a liger! (Don’t show this to Spike – he would faint for sure.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Printers, Spiders, and Green Peter Part 2

Hmmm...being new to this blogging gig, I'm not sure what happened, but I couldn't post the rest of the photos for the previous blog. So here are the "visuals":

Ann's type cases:

The fossil that had Bob so ebullient:

The Trap-Door Spider nest spotted at the base of a rotting stump:

Green Peter Lake and Mountain: