Monday, May 13, 2013
Where can you buy fresh strawberries, salad greens, pastries, homemade dog treats, beaded jewelry, wind chimes made from broken crockery, artistic photographs, and tie-dyed everything? That’s right: the farmers' market. The Newport Farmer’s Market reopened last Saturday on the grounds outside City Hall. The weather ignored the predictions and offered blue skies and warm sun as hundreds of people strolled among the booths, toting cloth bags for their purchases. Many brought babies and/or dogs that darted around sniffing each other and inhaling the delightful scents of hot pizza and kettlecorn.
It’s the place to be on Saturday mornings, so I was there, $15 cash burning a hole in my pocket. I wandered among the potted plants, avoided the Mother’s Day rush at the cut flower booth, fingered the fused-glass flowers and refrigerator magnets, and oohed at the watercolor paintings as the artist looked on. I must have said the word “pretty” dozens of times. But in the end I settled for a bag of Gilbert’s Glorious Goober Gobbles, dog treats for my dog Annie. They’re peanut butter flavored with yogurt-based frosting. I used the rest of my cash for lunch at the Chalet, where I’m in love with the turkey wraps. Annie’s reaction to her present? “This tastes weird, and how come you didn’t take me with you?”
The Newport Farmer’s Market continues through the summer on Saturday mornings at City Hall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We’ve also got farmers’ markets in Yachats (Sundays 9-2 at the Commons), Waldport (Wednedays, 10-4:30 at the Community Center), Lincoln City (Sundays 9-3 at the Cultural Center), and heck, probably every town in Oregon. Maybe I'll see you there.
Monday, May 6, 2013
While the rest of Newport, Oregon celebrated Loyalty Days with a carnival, a race, a parade, the crowning of a festival queen, and a field of flags honoring our veterans, and while freakishly hot weather brought scantily-clad crowds to beaches where it’s usually daring to go without a coat, hat and gloves, approximately 100 of us gathered at the Hallmark Inn and Resort last weekend to talk about poetry.
Poetry? Yes, poetry. Your average American will think you’re strange if you say you like poetry, stranger still if you tell them you’re an actual poet, but not here. The Northwest Poets’ Concord, now in its fifth year, is a wonderful three-day event in which we’re surrounded by our people. These are the kind of folks who spill their coffee or trip on the stairs and say, “Ah, there’s a poem in that.”
We gathered for workshops on performance poetry, sonnets, poems about body parts, poetry and photography, poetry and yoga, poetry and drama, poetry and the blues, and more. When the days’ classes were over, we gathered in the new beachside banquet room below Georgie’s Beachside Grill for open mic sessions where we could hear and cheer each other’s poems. And we stopped at the conference bookstore to buy each other’s books and take a little of the magic home.
Poets usually write in solitude, but for three days in Newport, they’re not alone.
It felt odd to emerge from my final session into the hot afternoon and shop for dinner at the J.C. Market with the tourists buying beer and ice. They didn’t understand that every item that went into the cart could become a poem. Ode to a watermelon. The perfect sonnet about a tomato. Fried chicken blues. You never know.
Monday, April 29, 2013
The bushes rustled and shook. Something big was in there. And it was coming our way. Annie froze. I looked around. Nothing but trees, shrubs, birds and field mice for a half mile in any direction. Newport Airport to the north, trees to the east, more trees to the south, houses too far away to the west. No humans close enough to save me from whatever it was. It might be a deer, an elk, a cougar or a bear. All have been seen in the area, although not usually in mid-afternoon. We hikers are instructed to remain calm, keep talking, and fluff ourselves up as big as possible to convince the animal that we are more scary than they are. If that doesn’t work, duck and cover and hope to survive. Having an unpredictable dog with you does not help.
I tugged on Annie’s leash. “Come on. Come on. We have to get out of here.” She moved an inch at a time, too scared to walk. The creature was coming closer. Sweating under my tee shirt and hoodie, my heart pounding, I continued trying to drag my dog toward the safety of the road. But we weren’t fast enough. The creature was coming out, coming out, here it was.
Oh. “I thought you were a bear!” I exclaimed to the Mexican man with a giant bouquet of salal leaves balanced on his shoulders. I don’t think he understood a word. I tried to form a sentence in Spanish. I knew "oso" was bear, but I couldn't figure out the verb tenses to say I was afraid.
Annie stared, her tail between her legs, still afraid. To her, he looked like a man with no head, just a bunch of leaves. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” I told her as Leaf-Man went by us, soon followed by a leaf woman with another big bunch of greenery. The two work for the company near our home that sells greens to florists to put in bouquets with roses, carnations and other flowers. Several times a week, a giant truck backs up to the dock at 98th and 101 to be filled up with bundles of leaves they gather from the wilderness areas around South Beach.
Yesterday, when I saw the bushes moving again in the same general area, it occurred to me that THIS might be a bear, but I doubted it. Sure enough, another man emerged with a big bundle of leaves. He was wearing hip-high rubber boots. Annie didn’t like the looks of it at all, especially when he hefted the leaves up over his head and walked by us. But I had my camera this time, so I snuck a picture of the fabled Leaf-Man.
Someday the rustling in the bushes might be a bear, especially when all those blackberry vines full of flowers start producing fruit. If so, I hope Leaf-Man is nearby. That ought to scare any old bear.
Monday, April 22, 2013
It’s spring. The rhododendrons are starting to bloom. The wind is soft. The grass is tall. Along the road, the trilliums are turning from white to pink and lavender, and yellow flowers have blossomed on the Scotch broom. Annie and I can sit on the deck again in the sun instead of hovering around the pellet stove while the rain pours down.
A week ago, I cleaned the winter grunge off a couple of lawn chairs and set them on the deck. Saturday, between chores and church, I sat in one of those chairs with a cool drink. My late husband Fred came to mind. I remembered sitting here with him on an afternoon like this.
I think about Fred more often this week. The second anniversary of his death is tomorrow, April 23. On that morning when his spirit left his body, the rhodies were blooming and the robins were singing. Tulips sprouted in a rainbow of colors amidst green leaves and green grass. After winter’s storms, we shed our coats and came outside.
It’s been two years since that shocking morning when our lives changed forever. It’s a little over four years since Fred fell and started his nursing home journey. It has been 11 years since his Alzheimer’s Disease became apparent. Sitting here in the yard with my dog Annie, who barely knew Fred, I ache for a human companion to sit with me.
I don’t usually sit on these chairs. I sprawl on the deck with the dog or sit out under a tree with a book or my guitar. Maybe I feel less grownup, less alone, sitting on the weathered wood of the deck.
I think about my father, also widowed, who often sits in his patio on an old leather recliner with split seams and stuffing coming out. Perhaps he remembers when the patio was new and the family gathered there for barbecues. There are cobwebs and spiders in the brick barbecue pit now. Almost 91, Dad goes on, and so do I.
I don’t think about my loss every minute. I’m busy with the good life God has given me, but sometimes something as simple as sitting in this blue-green plastic chair makes me think about my husband. It’s Fred season. The rhodies are blooming. The birds are singing. And tax season is over. Fred had a tax business and did people’s returns for more than 25 years. He barely looked up between late January and mid-April, but after April 15, we would take a vacation, often combining it with the celebration of our May 18 wedding anniversary. It would have been 28 years next month. What a wonderful day that was, blessed with the marks of spring, just like this day.
I miss my husband, my love, my companion, the man who made me laugh, made me feel safe, and made me see the joy in life. Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I try to keep that in mind even as something deep inside me screams “No! I want him back.” In 2011, spring came, and it was time for Fred to graduate to the next life. I have to let him go. We all do. But let’s remember him this week. Stop to enjoy the flowers and the birds and sit on the deck in the sun with a good glass of wine. Cheers, Fred.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Have you ever watched “House” on TV? No, it’s not on the Home and Garden channel. It’s a doctor show on FOX about an infectious disease specialist named Gregory House who treats all kinds of weird diseases. Typically his patients come in for something minor, say a sore knee and end up with all kinds of horrible symptoms. Their skin turns wild colors, their livers fail, they vomit blood, they go into cardiac arrest and are just short of dying when someone realizes that oh, they went to Outer Mongolia six months ago and picked up a parasite. With treatment, usually something against hospital rules, they immediately recover, and House is lauded as a genius.
I’ve been feeling like one of those patients this week. Last Saturday, my only problem was a runny nose from the dust emitted when my vacuum cleaner went ballistic from all the dog fur stuffed inside it. After spending hours taking the ol’ Bissell apart and cleaning it, my nose was running like Multnomah Falls. But that’s just allergies, I thought. Yes, it was still running on Sunday and I sneezed while playing the piano in the middle of Mass—and squelched a couple of other sneezes—but I was not sick.
Monday I woke up tired and achy. I was sure a little caffeine would fix it. Nope. The aches got worse, and slowly I developed a fever. By bedtime I was shaking so bad with fever and chills that my teeth were clacking together. Should have gotten that flu shot, I thought as I retired to bed, huddling in a fetal position.
Tuesday morning, the fever was higher, but I took some Ibuprofen and over the course of the day I cooled down to normal. However, now I had a new problem. My stomach hurt. I couldn’t even look at pictures of food on TV, and things got more miserable from there, with some symptoms I won’t describe. You can guess. Another day in bed, hugging my dog against my tummy. But I got to watch my favorite talk shows on TV.
Wednesday when I woke up, I had a new problem, a strange one. I was seeing this thing out of my right eye. It looked like I had a cockroach perched on my eyelashes. In fact, I swatted at it a few times, but it wasn’t actually there. It was like a super-floater in my actual eye. This was quite distracting. I left off my writing mid-sentence because it was hard to see and I was freaking out. I’m sick; it will go away, I told myself.
When the cockroach was still there on Thursday, I called the eye doctor. My stomach still hurt, and I was worn out from the fever, but I joined the ranks of white-haired cataract surgery patients for the long wait to see Dr. Haines, much more handsome than Dr. House. When I did get in, he dilated my right pupil and took a long look. Now, I wanted him to say it was nothing and it would go away, but instead, he looked at me with a serious face and told me I had a definite “vitreous detachment.” A what?
Now I’m not going into the medical description he gave me. I barely understand it myself, but the vitreous is the gel-like goo inside the eye that kind of holds things together. This detachment is common in older folks. Best case, nothing more will happen. The cockroach will remain, but I’ll get used to him, maybe give him a name. Worst case, this leads to a torn or detached retina within the next six weeks. If I start seeing flashing lights or what looks like a curtain across my eye, I have to boogie back to the doctor ASAP for laser treatment.
This made my stomach hurt worse. I also got a bloody nose. This morning, I’ve got the antsy stomach, I’ve got the cockroach, I’ve got the bloody nose, and I’ve got a singing gig at 2:30. Life goes on. Maybe I should call the cockroach Gregory.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Worn out from a busy weekend and sleep deprived from not getting enough zzzz's, I offer this little poem. After all, it is National Poetry Month.
Some people have crystal vases
or sculptures in the entryway.
I have a bottle of medicine
to be squeezed into the dog’s ear
as I hold her between my legs,
promising her a walk, a cookie, anything,
if she’ll let me do this one more time.
(eight more days to go! I have lost track of how many times we have done this. The vet says Annie is a "poster child for ear infections." She's got those cute floppy ears and she's always getting wet . . .)
Monday, April 1, 2013
After church on Sunday, I joined friends for brunch at the Adobe in Yachats. Picture an ocean view, mimosas,I salmon and crab quiche, and a loaded buffet. Nobody could eat it all, but we tried.
Finally, I came home to my dog, who was so happy she couldn't stop licking my face. I put on my sweats and tackled the mess in my woodshed, piling stuff up to take to the dump. What a thing to do on a holiday, huh? But my back has been acting up lately, and I finally felt able to do something besides soak in the spa and sit around with an ice pack. So now I can look out and say, "Yes, I did that."
If you are not Christian, forgive my religious digression and enjoy the wonders of April, when all the plants that looked stone dead come back to life. Happy spring to one and all.
P.S. A young friend who plays with guitar on us decided the Holy Spirit's name is "Bob." I like it. How about you?