Monday, October 11, 2010


       I was headed onto 205N around 9:15pm last night.  Out to satisfy a craving for frozen yogurt.  Came up on the Glisan overpass intersection.  There were police and emergency vehicles hovering near the bridge over the Maxx line, the road was blocked; this was a big deal.  I was peering that way, trying to get an idea of what happened.  Fatal motor vehicle accident seemed unlikely - no real chance to pick up speed in that busy area.  Shooting?  Yeah, that might have been it.  And the Maxx was right below there.  Could have been a suicide attempt.
       In the middle of my curiosity, I saw two people hurrying up the side of the off-ramp - as if they'd hopped out of a car.  A man and a woman; petite, with her hair tied up in a knot, light hoodie not enough for the cold.  She had that gait . . . . not sure whether to walk or run, dreading and having to know all at the same time.  The man was in loose-fitting clothes, cap, short sleeves.  His fingertips rested lightly on the woman's back, his posture protective, long stride to keep up.
       As they approached a policeman stepped forward.  She tried to step around, he blocking her way, her hands on his chest, on tip-toe, craning her neck to see.  A third man in a heavy hoodie and baseball cap stepped out from behind the flashing lights and towards the woman.  They knew each other.  Her posture asked a question.  He put his hands on her shoulders as he replied.  She half-turned, half-sagged, his arms wrapping her up and now keeping her standing as her shoulders shook.
       The light had turned green.  I had to go.  But the tragedy of that moment seared into my happy mood.  Death or injury - I don't know.  But I had just witnessed the breaking of some terrible piece of news.  A moment - difficult to take even in the quiet company of your own home, surrounded by friends - had been lived out in front of flashing lights and lines of stopped cars, and me.
       Tears welled up and spilled over.  I felt like the little girl again, struck by the thunderbolt of realization that my older sister - my hero - had slipped into a coma she wouldn't come out of.  That scene out there wasn't my life, wasn't my grief, but it felt close enough.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Childhood Galaxies, and Other Stuff

       To be honest, picking a story is difficult.  I know so many, and my life has been interesting enough that I can go on for hours.  But that makes for a long read, and I even lose interest in typing the whole thing out..... but I'll try to keep it up.  After all, I do want to be able to write a book without stopping in the middle :)
       When I was little, I loved exploring the canyon below my house.  There was a whole world out there that only I knew about!  Like the tunnel under the dogwood by the pond.  The pussywillow on the other side of the fence.  The way the shrubs would bend but not break when you lay on them - creating the perfect "air castle."  The strawberry patch down the hill.  The summer sledding runs over the long dry grass.  The berry patches and apple trees, and the bear scatt that let you know caution was needed.  The spot where the elk liked to cross the creek.  Which banks were best for picking wild irises, bachelor buttons, indian paintbrush, lupine, or yellow dog flowers. 
     I could tell you which abandoned homestead site had the banana and strawberry-flavored apples, and which had the best lilac bushes.  I knew the reservoir pond that stayed full all summer.  I knew that the trail to Pine Creek had a wild onion patch which perfectly complemented a Big Frank when roasted on the same stick.  I could lead you to the coyote dens.  I could take you anywhere you wanted to go within a couple miles of the house.  The landscape was my stronghold, my expertise, my refuge.  
       If I couldn't be outside, I was reading a book about things people did outside.  Clara Barton was my favorite character!  She rode horses astride, was stronger than any boy, and served as a heroic nurse during the Civil War.  I wanted to be as crazy and caring as that!  Miss Barton and I had something else in common - I was painfully shy as a kid. At church I hid behind my mother's skirts as a toddler, hated being up front, and refused to shake men's hands until nearly in my teens.  I was not an especially timid person, it just took a lot to get me out of my shell.  Then there were my tomboyish ways.  I preferred hockey sticks to dolls and didn't like wearing skirts, or even shoes.  It's funny how some things change and some don't.....
     This summer I spent the first big chunk of time at home in a while.  I rode horses, cooked to my heart's content, and basked in sunsets unpolluted by rooftops.  Idling in Walla Walla's fancy new restaurants was nice, but the real joys came in rediscovering the world I knew as a child.  Finding that thicket with the plums so ripe you could hear them falling without so much as a breeze.  Hearing the bear cubs scramble up the tree while riding by.  Picking blackberries over the old cellar. "Spying" on the valley from the old dead combine out back.  Reading a book in the grass with the dogs sprawled out beside me.  School and the city seemed to be distant memories.
     But a distant memory is still reality in many cases.  And mine is back to haunt me.  Well, it's not THAT bad :)  School is interesting and challenging.  Portland has good shopping and lots of ethnic vegetarian food.  I have access to fast internet and unique cafes, and great concerts.  
     But even a performance by Jon Foreman can't quite measure up to the thrill of an unspoiled landscape ahead and a fast horse below.