Archive for the ‘The World Beyond’ Category

Our Very Own Cape of Invisibility

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Astoria As Seen From The Bridge 6/19/17

In Oysterville, you know summer is here, not by the calendar or even by the ambient outdoor temperature.  It’s the morning fog – that moist marine layer that is said to have drawn the first hordes of tourists here back in the 1870s and that soon gave rise to the name “North Beach Peninsula.”  Those visitors came downriver from the hot inland valleys to find cooling relief by the seashore.  Near the mouth of the Columbia, they landed on the right or north bank where the ocean beaches were more accessible.  Voilà!  North Beach Peninsula!

In our household, we are content in the knowledge that the fog “will burn off by 11 o’clock.”  That’s what my dad always said and he was right nearly all of the time.  We also know that, if we are headed to Portland or other inland points, we should dress for hot weather.  So it was yesterday morning.  It was in the high 50s here when we left Oysterville at 10:30 a.m. and visibility on the back road made a blessing of the oncoming fog lights.  We threw our jackets in the backseat against our return, ‘just in case,’ but were pretty sure we wouldn’t need them in the big city.

Blue Sky, Blue Columbia – 6/19/17

The gray drippy-enough-for-windshield- wipers weather continued and thickened as we neared the river.  Not only was the other side of the Columbia shrouded, we could barely see the water, itself, beyond the rocky rip-rap.  But… on the bridge, the view became magical!  Blue sky, blue water but no shorelines on either side – just the cottony, protective band of white fog.  Absolutely beautiful.

A lot has been written about fog.  Patricia Beatty, in her book O The Red Rose Tree wrote of the “eerie walks” her characters took in the mornings around Ocean Park.  In the familiar old folksong, the weaver says, So I hauled her into bed and covered up her head, just to keep her from the foggy foggy dew.  And, of course, Carl Sandburg’s fog came in on little cat feet.

Looking Across The Bay 6/20/17 – No There There

I don’t know that any of those descriptors fit the fog of Oysterville and the Peninsula.  At least, not for me.  I think of it more as an isolating, muting barrier – a protective cape of invisibility à la Harry Potter that we are provided again and again during the summer season.  Within it, we are isolated from the noise and fuss of the world beyond our neighborhood; we can concentrate on the things that really matter.  Until 11 o’clock.

It was 89° when we arrived in Portland yesterday.  Not a cat foot in sight.

How many times in one lifetime?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Hanford Tunnel Collapse – May 9, 2017

I had never heard of “down-winders” until my friend and neighbor Carol Nordquist was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago.  It was her younger sister, ‘Aunt Becky,’ who said, “Oh yes.  We grew up in Walla Walla.  Our family are all down-winders and cancer is what we die of.”

These thoughts came flashing to mind yesterday afternoon when I happened to see a FaceBook message from Joanne Rideout:  RICHLAND, WA (KPTV) – An emergency has been declared at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.

Crude Oil Pipelines in the U.S.A.

No matter how much reassurance we’ve been given about safety precautions since the site opened in 1943 – no, wait!  It was a secret until well after the war.  Part of the Manhattan Project, you know.  It was during the Cold War (1947-1991) that site expanded to its current size of 586 square miles – roughly equal to half the area of Rhode Island – and sometime during that period that we were told “no worries.”

Hanford is currently the largest and most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, and despite the fact that it is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup, it has continued to leak radioactive waste into the soil and groundwater. As if all of that isn’t horrifying enough, Hanford offers a number of tours for members of the public, elected officials and their staffs, tribal officials, stakeholders, and others.  Plus, it’s on the Register of National Historic Places.  Just like Oysterville.  Go figure.


What’s most incredible to me is that new and terrible corporate proposals continue to be promoted as “safe.”  Furthermore, we are told that the benefits far outweigh any possible negative consequences.  About the Dakota pipeline the developers told us it “wouldn’t just be an economic boon, it would also significantly decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil…”  About the proposed LNG terminal in Warrenton, just across the river, we were told…  “the West Coast needs foreign LNG to avert economic crisis, and this ‘clean’ fuel will serve as a ‘bridge’ to a renewable energy future.”

So far, our Astoria/Warrenton neighbors are holding firm and seem to be prevailing.  But how many more environmental safety battles will be lost in our lifetime?  How many Hanfords does it take?  How many down-winders?  And how many salutes to history and facility tours to assuage horrified consciousness? OMG!

The Choice Generation

Friday, May 5th, 2017

I am familiar with the phrase “boredom is a choice.”  And I understand that for some people which bathroom they are most comfortable in is a choice.  But yesterday at Emanuel Hospital I heard a new one: “Which race do you consider yourself?”

Actually, as I thought that over, it made as much sense to me as lots of other things these days.  Remember when eye color was an identifying feature?  That was before the rainbow of choices in contact lenses.  In fact, there is hardly an aspect of our lives that doesn’t involve choices.  There don’t seem to be any ‘givens’ any more.  It’s a little crazy-making.

I’m not at all sure what the root problem is.  Is it that ‘the grass is always greener’?  Or is it more one of those ‘because we can’ things?  Or maybe it’s a deep conspiracy by therapists to insure their job security.  My mind feels like it’s bending a bit too much when I try to figure it out.  I get boggled enough at Fred Meyers (or any other large grocery store) when I look at the cereal choices.  OMG!!  It seems easier to choose  eggs and bacon for breakfast!

Now that we are naming each generation, I think this next one should be called ‘The Choice Generation.’ (Not to be confused with Pro-Choice, which is something entirely different.)  It seems to me that there are no hards-and-fasts about anything.  I know young parents who go to great lengths not to ever say ‘no’ to their toddlers. It’s crazy-making.  Whatever happened to guidelines and parameters and acceptance of things as they are?  What happened to facts and truth and reality?

I think I was born before we got into naming generations.  My mom always said that I was born “during the Depression.”  Come to think of it, maybe I’m part of the Depressed Generation.  Some days it seems admirably fitting…

About those tax dollars…

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Yesterday.  Early morning.  Traffic, medium.  There were three of us cars, one behind the other, on the 101 cutoff over to the river road. After we turned east at the stop sign, we all picked up speed as we headed for Chinook, but no one seemed inclined to pass.  We were the third in line.

Suddenly, a car was passing us.  One of those ‘out of the blue’ streaks.  We were on a slight incline.  Visibility for oncoming traffic: none.  He passed us before Nyel even got the “as*****!” word out of his mouth.  He passed the car in front of us and went right on past the next car. It was a few seconds before I thought to breathe.

“Where’s a cop when you need one?” we said in unison.  We could see well ahead of us by now.  The speeding car was way ahead of all of us.  I wondered if he would slow down through Chinook or… And then there were flashing lights behind us, coming fast.  The sheriff’s car whooshed by us and was soon out of sight.  Did he hear the silent cheers from all of us as he passed?

As we approached the outskirts of Chinook, there they were!  Cop car and as*****’s car.  Nyel and I gave the deputy a thumbs up as we passed, though the temptation was to flip another finger at the perp.  Maybe one of the people ahead of us took care of that.  No matter.  We were pleased to see our tax dollars at work.  And, I realized, as the next clot of oncoming traffic came toward us… if it hadn’t been for the work on the bridge and the intermittent lulls in traffic, we could have be relating a whole different story today!

Out of the Loop

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

It was a quiet Friday Night at our house.  Only Tucker and Carol came over – neighbors bearing a bowl of delicious peanuts.  We offered “jumbo shrimp” (The ultimate oxymoron. Why aren’t they called prawns anymore?) and beverages, and the four of us munched our way through a rare opportunity for a companionable visit.  Our topics ranged from family news to the world situation and we speculated that most of our “regulars” were at the Town Hall Meeting in Long Beach.

I had actually learned through email and Facebook messaging that several friends were ‘abandoning’ us for the chance to attend a Democratic Town Hall with Jaime Herrera-Buetler – which sounded like another oxymoron to me.  I’m mildly interested in knowing if Rep. H-B appeared in person or if this was a video version of her telephone town hall the night beforehand.  We had received a phone call asking us to participate in that one, but we had declined.

I think we are burned out on the political scene for a while.  From the grass roots level right up through the world (and maybe interplanetary) situation, we are feeling out-of-synch and out-of-sorts.  And before the do-gooders and activists and rabble-rousers remind us of all manner of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and ‘don’t give ups’ let me say, “Been there.  Done that.  And probably before you were born.”

It’s not that I’m against staying informed.  Far from it.  But in this day and age I think I can manage much of the information-gatheriing from the comfort of my rocking chair.  I’m feeling like all those signs and banners and meetings and marches are up to others now.  I’d love to think that I’ve earned the right to be consulted for my wisdom but, of course, now that I’ve reached my octogenarian years, my ‘wisdom’ includes the knowledge that no one really gives a fig about it.  I wonder if that’s always been so.  Just lip service to reinforce the idea that experience and longevity have some value.

When in doubt, consult Google…  “influential elders in American history” I wrote.  Nothing substantive.  Just information about care for the elderly (say what?) or about influential Americans like George Washington who died when he was 67 (and don’t tell me that was ‘elderly’ then; many of my own ancestors from that time period lived into their 80s).  Nothing about revered little old ladies dispensing the answers to life’s problems…

So, probably this “wisdom of the elders” is just another hoax to keep us old ducks hoping and hopping.  Why am I not surprised?

Hopeless in Astoria?

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

FisherPoet Venues in Astoria

We spent the morning coffee hour trying to figure out the logistics of attending the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria tonight.  Hopeless.

With seven venues and three to five time slots per place and three poets per time slot… tonight’s schedule is more than daunting.  Factor in the parking possibilities, weather (icy cold, windy, 100% chance of rain) and our ages and conditions (old and infirm) and it’s a logistics nightmare.  Plus, we are wanting to see certain performers – Geno Leech and Mary Garvey and Irene Martin and Hobe Kytr and Patty Hardin plus The Brownsmead Flats and Spud Siegel – some of whom are onstage in different venues at the same time.  I don’t know how to choose.

The FisherPoets Gathering is always on the last weekend of February which coincides pretty closely with my birthday.  On stellar years – those with a 5 or a 0 – we often have a Big Birthday Bash and we have to miss out on the Astoria excitement.  But this year our plan has always been FisherPoets or Bust.  Or, it was until we started trying to figure out the where, when and how of it.

“We’ll have to eat dinner at three o’clock right before we go,” I said.  That did not go over well. (Did I mention the problem of being set in our ways?  That is one of the subheadings under the “old” category.)

“Or we could eat afterwards… a midnight supper,” was the counter-proposal.  That didn’t go over well, either.  It’s hard enough to stay up past my 8:30 bedtime.  Eating in the wee hours and risk the heartburn consequences?  No way!

Whatever happened to spontaneity and going with the flow? How did we get so locked into routines and ruts?  When did life begin to revolve around creature comforts instead of new and exciting experiences?  Sad.  Very sad.

As the plan stands now, we’ll bundle up, go early, try to park in place nearby one or two of our venue/poets of choice, and eat when we can.  Right now, at six in the morning, it does not sound like a good time.  Hopefully, my ambition and stamina will build as the day unfolds…  Or, we could wait for the movie.

In The Blink of An Eye

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill

Like millions of others who have been missing Gwen Ifill on the PBS NewsHour in recent weeks, I assumed she was off on another assignment.  It never occurred to me that she was actually on her final journey and that we wouldn’t be seeing her again. For several weeks we have missed her hard questions and her big smile and it’s hard to believe that she will never again be a presence in our lives each evening – explaining, clarifying, illuminating the big issues of our times.

I saw the news of her death, absolutely fittingly I thought, on Cate Gable’s FaceBook page.  Cate, as columnist and occasional reporter for the Chinook Observer, delivered the information in a large, bold-faced font and in words that caught the eye immediately:

  “OMG. Gwen Ifill dead at 61. What a f***ed year.”

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff

As is often the case these days, I had been working on a project that required some remembering and had gone to the computer for assistance.  What date did we remodel the kitchen in this house?  It was before we moved in 1999 but??? And so I went to look up a few things to nail down yet another piece of my failing memory.  Of course, while I was at it, I checked my email and my FB page…  You know the drill.  In the blink of an eye, the world seemed to tilt alarmingly. Once again.

When we watched the news last night, I was thankful for Cate’s message.  I think the PBS NewsHour Tribute to Gwen Ifill would have been too much to take in otherwise.

Time To Pull Up Those Big Girl Panties

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016


Gobsmacked is a good word for it.  But, I have to say, the feeling isn’t new.  After all, I’m a woman.  I’m a liberal.  I fall in the lower middle class income-wise.  And… I’m short.  Not the best credentials in the world for qualifying as an underdog but legitimate all the same.  I know how it feels to be bullied, to endure the ‘wrong’ people in charge, and to feel powerless.

It’s hard not to say “Welcome to my world” to all my social media friends who are in serious mourning mode this morning.  The fact that we’ve been in denial, especially for the year just past, is lamentable to be sure.  But, we have work to do, so let’s get on with it.

underdogPerhaps we should begin by doing the homework we should have done from the beginning.  What got us to this point and why didn’t we pay better attention?  One of the first things I saw on FaceBook this morning was the poignant question, “What will we tell our children?”  I think we’d be wise to turn that around.  What can our children tell us?  Especially those who have survived the playground bullies and have found ways to persevere with dignity in spite of being underdogs.

I do wonder, though, why so few people listened way back during the primaries when a few of the pundits said that Bernie Sanders would have a better chance than Hillary Clinton in a race against Donald Trump.  I believed it then and I believe it now.  Too late.  Sad but true.


Ready! Set! Hope and Pray!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

core-critical-thinking-skillsI believe I’ve connected all the dots:

  •   The purpose of public education in the U.S. is to produce a thinking electorate.
  •   We’ve dumbed down the K-12 curriculum with the excuse that no child will be left behind.
  •   We concentrate on basics and how to take tests.
  •   The teaching of thinking skills must now be deferred until college.
  •   College is unaffordable for 83% of our citizens.
  •   Voters with higher education levels favor Clinton.
  •   Trump leads among non-educated white voters.
  •   YIKES!

outline-mapI have my outline map of the U.S. at the ready.

My blue and red color crayons are in place.

crayonsReady!  Set!  Bring it on!

Better to Laugh Than to Cry

Saturday, November 5th, 2016
Jeopardy! Contestants 11/4/2016

Jeopardy! Contestants 11/4/2016

The final clue’s answer in last night’s Jeopardy! category, “A Spanish Inquisition,” caused the audience to explode into laughter.  Us, too!  And probably millions of others.  The clues were basic questions such as What is your name? and What time is it? written in Spanish  and requiring the contestants to translate into English.  It was the final question, though – “¿Quién paga por el muro?” – that caused  the spontaneous eruption:  “Who pays for the wall?” Even host Alec Trebek, usually so formal and dignified, had to laugh.

Trump Statue in Seattle, August 2016

Trump Statue in Seattle, August 2016

The night before last, the PBS News Hour had done a piece called, “Has the election season hurt the Trump brand?” – for decades associated with glitz, glamour, and luxury.  The answer to their question seemed to be “Yes,” but last night’s Jeopardy! question made me think that perhaps it’s just a matter of changing focus.  In my opinion, Trump’s brand has segued into the realm of Pop Culture and the ridiculous.  Perhaps he needs to change his marketing strategy.  (Or, perhaps he has and this is all yet another merchandising strategy… Yikes!)

Take the statues that were unveiled around the country last summer!  Surely, no one could have taken them seriously.  Not like the Greek and Roman statues of yore.  (Even though there is now evidence that those statues were brightly colored once upon a time.  It’s time that has caused them to pale – or is that peel? – down to bare, white marble.) But surely the statue placement is branding of yet another sort?

Time Magazine Covers, 2016

Time Magazine Covers, 2016

And how about the two Dali-esque Time magazine covers by Edel Rodriguez?  In a way, they were beyond humorous.  To me they were clear evidence that Mr. Trump had entered the realm of Pop Culture.  Right up there with Sarah Palin.

It’s all a sad commentary on whatever someone might make of the “Presidential Brand” in the United States – if there is one.  As my sainted mother used to say, “It’s better to laugh about it than to cry.”  Only a few days now until we see whether laugh lines or tearstains will mark the next four years.