Sunday, May 24, 2009


Yesterday, on a blue-skied sunny Oregon Day, I re-enacted a ritual that was an accepted tradition in my family during my growing up days on the farm. We would gather buckets full of flowers, stash them between our legs in the back of the family Chrysler or when there were just the three of us--Mom, Dad, and me, maybe in the back of the pick-up.

It was Decoration Day! To the Pioneer Cemetary at the top the hill in Oregon City we'd go. Through the gate, winding down a narrow road through tilting gravestones of community founders, to the site of the Baker family plot. In those days there was a wrought iron fence surrounding the plot, and in the middle there stood a pink marble monument, tall and stately with the Baker name chisled at the base.

After we placed the flowers--large bunches of snowballs, lillacs, irises if they were in bloom, my Dad would wander the cemetary, with me in tow. We'd stop and read the inscriptions on the grave markers. From these brief statements, I learned the history of these hardy people who came across the Oregon Trail, settled this wild country, and then found their final resting place here in this peaceful spot.

Instead of snowballs--although there were snowballs on some of the graves when I arrived at the family plot--I bought several potted geraniums, watered them well, and installed them at the graves of my brother Kenneth, my Dad, and at the foot of the still standing monument which marks the Baker plot.

Then I sit on one of the gravestones and think. About these people. Three died before I was born. My grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Baker has been resting in this plot since 1901. Over a hundred years. I think about him, and who he was, and what he would think of his heirs and our times. He fought in the Civil War, and to tell the truth, I can't remember which side he fought on.

Then there is my Aunt Gladys Baker Olsen. The first woman Justice of the Peace in Oregon. She was known as the "hangin' judge" in Molalla where she ruled with an iron fist. Aunt Gladys was a fashionable women in those days, and while my other Aunts wore housedresses and aprons, she would come to dinner in a "Sunday dress", hose and high heeled shoes. She lived to be 101. I'd forgotten that.

I always feel better after I visit the Cemetary. It is not sad. The grieving for those I knew is past. Of course I miss them, but in many ways they are still with me. Several times when I've had a big decision to make at the Restaurant, I would go and sit there, between the graves of my brother and my Dad, and try to draw some wisdom from them. "What would they do?"

I like this Holiday, now recognized as Memorial Day, remembering those who have served in the Wars. So, following my few minutes of reverie, I did go back to the Maintenance Office and paid 50 cents for a small well-used American flag which I put on my brother's grave. He's buried in his Naval Uniform. Some 60 years after he'd served in WWII's Pacific Theater,

History lies here.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Mother's Day, 2009, and I've just opened the door to find a gigantic vase filled with a magnificent array of flowers, from several gigantic pink roses, plumped and half opened, to intriguing fragile chartruese spider mums, and purple delphiniums, and tightly budded yellow irises. There is even a most unusual long-stalked cabbagey-looking flower or greenery. A tiny card is tucked in amongst the blooms, and I'm pretty sure I know the sender--or senders--as in the last few days I've had e-mails from my Corvallis kids asking me for my address.

My Mail comes to a PO Box, and hardly anyone is concerned with actual addresses on this Island. It's more like, "the first house behind the mailboxes", or "the house next to the McCleans". At any rate, this is a glorious array, and I have placed it on a now-cleared-off-dining table, having removed the assorted books and papers accumulated there in the past few days, covering most of the old pine board table, leaving me to eat at the counter, or god forbid, at the coffee table in front of the TV.

The flower arrangement is deliciously fragrant as well as beautiful, and I'm smilling as I clear off the table to prepare a proper setting for such a display. Thinking, as I proceed about these two "kids" who have dictated the tiny note which I'd retrieved and opened earlier. Here it is:

"Dearest Mom,
Happy Mother's Day!! You are truly the greatest...
"The Poetry of our Lives". Thanks so much!!!
Love, Suzanne and Scott

"Poetry of our Lives". The phrase is magnificent, like the bouquet. Poetry! Full of Color, Emotion,
Love, Angst, Fullfillment and Disappointment, Wonder and Excitment, Pain and Enchantment". (I'm thinking Disney Cruise here) But...I digress and I think back on our lives together. It was at Kapiolani Maternity Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec. 9, 1958, 5:30 PM-- when my first-born, Scott changed my life forever. The delivery, as I was to learn, was just the Beginning. My script changed forever. After years of being just a girl, then a woman with a husband, parents in the background, in one fell swoop I was changed into a "Mother".

I think I was not unlike our cat, Filbert who--when she was not much more than a kitten--we called her a "teen-age" mother--birthed 4 or 5 kittens under our porch. We watched her, as she observed the event, almost like it was happening to someone else, and it was obvious that she was totally perplexed with her proper role--if any--in the event.

Assuming the role of Mother means you're not done until the final curtain comes down. I don't know, maybe you're not done then, and you hover around as some kind of protective angel, making sure everyone has clean underwear on when they leave the house in the morning, and offering appropriate protection and advice when dictated by the occasion. This is pure speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't some degree of truth in it.

Being a parent is the hardest job I ever had. It is also the most rewarding job I've ever had. The reward part increases as you distance yourself from the day-to-day responsibilities of the child care, runny noses, school and friends and finances and discipline. It is written in the job description: MOTHER: requires 24/7, round-the clock shifts, from birth of the child til he/she reaches age 21.

However, there were those unparralleled precious times with the three of them--all under 7--in the bathtub together, or the picture I have of us--in the Fiat convertible, the two boys carefree in the backseat, while the little 2 year old pink-dressed girl sits unbelted, totally unsafe beside me in the front seat, with my bee-hived hair flying out behind me. Money can't buy that. Nor can legislation ever take the memory away.

So I sit here in the middle--with my Mother--who I appreciate more every single day--on one side of me, and my kids--who are now parents--on the other side of me. Surely there's a word for "The Poetry of Our Lives"....I think that will do.


Friday, January 30, 2009


It's a New Year, we've got a New President, and things should be looking fresh and promising, no? Au Contraire. If you listen seriously to the news you would think THE END IS NEAR. Where is that old guy holding the sign? Well, let's see. It's not an old guy with a long beard and a wild look in his eye anymore, its a whole raft of plastic-looking people blabbing away on the TV, assuring us that things have never been this bad, but Help is on the Way, just wait, while the Government figures it out.

Not a wrinkle anywhere, not one hair out of place, teeth all sparkly white, lined up like chiclets, the men dressed in $3,000 suits, the women, from 18 to 80 with the same straight cookie-cutter hair style; these people look like adult-sized Barbie and Kens instead of real life reporters and/or jounalists.

So I'm going to believe these Salespeople (selling us their world view) who are doing their daily theater, complete with make-up and costumes, reading whatever some highly paid script-writer has put together for maximum effect on their audience? I don't think so.

So I'm going to color my life with their predictions and parade of experts and pundits either pummeling those with opposing views or praising their fraternity brother? So I'm going to let them scare the pee out of me so that I feel helpless in the face of impending doom, with only "them" to save me? I don't think so.

I've got a LIFE, and if I'm smart, it doesn't include them to any great extent. It includes my friends, my family, my business, the mountain at sunrise, the river that runs through my town. These things are here now, close at hand which I can feel and touch and relate to, not on a flat screen, but in full color, real life, three dimensions. The whole gamut is right here--in the present--with people who do have wrinkles, pimples, crooked teeth and bad hair-cuts, and forget to put the toilet seat down. That is what is real for me.

It is good enough. Whether the sky falls or not.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It is Christmas Eve at the Vatican. Through the magic of radio waves, I hear the Pope singing Mass. Earlier today with nothing to do, no place to go, I listened to a Three Hour History of Christmas and Santa Claus. Totally fascinating, and filling in gaps of my own knowledge with little known but apparently well documented elements in the evolution of the Holiday now upon us. It's a Celebration which has evolved through 2,000 plus years of the human family, mutating along the line, borrowing bits and pieces here and there, even changing the names and faces from time to time, but, in my opinion maintaining it's primary essence

I've lived long enough to return to the love of fantasy and magic of childhood, and wonder why I gave all that up for reason and logic and consensus and all that academic, scientific proof stuff. For those who don't want to "believe" in Santa Claus, I wish them well, but don't rob me of my pleasure, my grand children's delight; don't rob me of the chance to dodge the onslaughts of reality for a few weeks, and retreat to the simplicity of a Christmas tree, to the family traditions built around the giving and receiving of gifts, and all the good things that come from these special precious days of December.

It is already dark enough. Just eight hours of daylight today, but my Christmas tree with it's twinkling lights substitutes for the stars I can't see with the dark snow clouds hanging low, and the moon only a faint blur through the haze. Nothing can match the wonder and the sweet belief of a four year old grand daughter. We need her so that we don't become too jaded and cynical. She believes in the Magic. We support her in that.

Although I'm not Catholic, there is something reassuring about hearing the atonal Christmas Eve Mass, in real time, twelve thousand miles away. It's part of the mystique. Beyond the mundane. A centuries-old tradition being confirmed. Following the Pope's broadcast from Rome, there is a NORAD Report informing us that Santa has indeed left the North Pole and on his way with a sleigh packed full of toys for all good little girls and boys.

It is, after all, Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Up until today, I've waxed sentimental over Bing Crosby's singing "White Christmas". It all sounds so romantic and cozy, and full of Hallmark card scenes. However romance has met reality, and so much for "dreaming", since I am now on Day Seven, snowed in on a small Island in the middle of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Outside it is a winter wonderland. The railings on the deck are piled 8 or 9 inches high with the purest whitest softest snow known to mankind. From every window in my house I look out to see a forest of trees, some as close as 10 or 12 feet. These are big trees, tall firs, heavily frosted with snow now. Beyond the trees lies the Sound. The water is as gray today as the sky, which by all appearances seems to be falling into the sea. That could be snow coming in again over the Sound, I don't know. But the forest stands stark against that solid gray backdrop, with no part of the Island visible across the way.

I think of novels I've read about being snowed in, the cold, the isolation, the quiet, the loneliness. I think of Alaska and brutal Yukon stories by authors like Jack London. And of course there's the once popular Robert Service Poem, "Cremation of Sam McGee". I'll never forget my Dad reciting the poem's last memorable lines, when as the friend opens the furnace door to check on the progress of the cremation of poor old dead and solidly frozen Sam, he finds him sitting straight up in the middle of the fire, and Sam says:

"Please close that door,
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear
You'll let in the cold and the storm.
Since I left Plum Tree, down in Tennessee,
This is the first time I've been warm."

Yesterday when I went outside it was 17 degrees. I can relate to Sam. It takes your breath away.

But I digress. How about Dr. Zhivago? Trudging through drifts of frozen snow in Siberia, where he forges his way across the Russian steppes in search of his family, eyelashes and beard frozen? Or the unforgettable scene where he and his lover, Laura (remember Laura's Theme?) take refuge in the family dacha, as much ice inside as outside. Long Icicles hang from the furniture and the chandeliers, looking for all the world like crystals. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....

The first 2-3 days of involuntary confinement were the hardest. Impatience. When can I get out, how soon can I drive, when can I leave to join my family in Oregon for Christmas? I'm desperate for my daily Mocha. But I busied myself. I got in and did all my procrastinated chores. Cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer, same with all closets and kitchen cabinets, did laundry, felt productive.

Day Four. With nothing but the vacuuming left to do, Impatience was replaced with Hope. "Well, we have to be over the hump now, it won't be long now, and things will be back to normal". Giving in to the need for order and some routine, I made up an Agenda. Got up, showered, dressed in clean and pressed clothes as though I were going out, fussing with hair, make-up, all of that, and then sat down to luxuriate in unhurrid writing time. Lunch was at noon, Dinner at 5:30. I planned to finish my One Act Play, spend some time on my Memoir, then pack-up for my trip south.

Day Seven. No relief, au contraire. Now we have 10 or 12 inches of snow. Today: Acceptance. It is snowing again. I am warm, cozy, with plenty to eat. Now I've become lazy. I watched a frivolous movie, "Breaking Up" with cute Jennifer Anniston, size 2, and some good looking macho dude living a New York love story. Semi-predictable. Bittersweet, funny. Perfect.

I haven't seen anyone now for three days. Many commiserating phone calls. I have no visible neighbors, but I know they are there, across the road, hunkered down, like I am. I'd walk over, but don't want to fall. I could just as well be like the guy in "Adrift" Seventy six days lost at sea.
At least he had birds for company. Maybe he didn't know they were albatrosses.

Christmas is 3 days away. My fake Christmas tree stands like a sentinel, ablaze in lights in the corner. Waiting. If nothing changes, I will be here, alone, in this lovely house,just me and that phony tree, immersed in a sea of White on December 25, Day Ten.

Dammit!! There's Bing Crosby again.....I don't believe it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I've just finished the second week of Summer Camp here at Indralaya on Orcas Island. The Camp is associated with the Theosophical Society, but instead of lecturing or preaching, their belief is manifested in the general atmosphere of harmony, peace and co-operation flowing through all the programs and in the care and feeding of Campers.

All campers over the age of 9 have "chores". Immediately after meals, it's washing dishes, sweeping, cleaning tables, setting up the coffee service, and my least favorite--pots and pans. My ten year-old grandson was on Lunch Dishes for the whole week of Family Camp, and felt more than a little put upon, but reported early for his duty daily and performed admirably.

At lunch he would use only one plate and either a spoon OR a cut down on the number of dishes he'd see come through his station. About the second day, while in the buffet line, he admonished me to do the same.

The Camp is "rustic", dates back 80 years. There are 30 or so cabins, from really rustic (no plumbing) to modern (plumbing and heat) are scattered through the woods, some over-looking the Sound. Nights are black and quiet, and the breakfast bell wakes everyone at 7:00 AM. Over a hundred unspoiled acres invite hikes and exploration.

After dinner, the big campfire sends sparks up into the night sky, flooding parents and grandparents with nostalgia, while the youngest campers see magic happening. And of course, no campfire is complete without semi-rehearsed silly skits, amateur talent and old time songs.

No electronic equipment is allowed. Simplicity is the mantra. With only two scheduled activities during the day, it allows for plenty of free time for RR&W. Readin' Relaxin' & Writin'.

Open Arts and Crafts for all ages during the afternoon bring interested creative campers together, with time for chatting, and absorbing oneself in making paper-mache masks or wallets and i-pod holders out of shocking pink, irridescent aqua, black or silver duct tape. Teen-agers learn the art of threading a needle, and four year olds try their hands at embroidering on the Memorial Camp Banner, to be hung in the Dining Hall.

The evening Sock Hop in the big wood-floored TeePee with DJ music from the 60s-70s required painted toe-nails for admission. Probably 100 different bottles of nail polish--colors from black to white to green and blue and purple--were available at tables set up in the late afternoon sun in the meadow next to the TeePee.

Several "manicurists" offered professional application, but my 4 year old grand-daughter would have none of that, and did her own. A different color on each nail, plus stripes. I had to help her on her right hand, as her left hand wasn't quite doing the job.

The Sock Hop was crammed with all ages, dancing to their own particular beat. The four year old danced with utter abandon, while the ten year old, newly self-conscious hesitated at first, then entered gingerly, and finally-a smile and obvious enjoyment. The just-thirteen-year old grand-daughter clotted with girl friends who giggled and danced, and were among the last to go under the lowest bar during the Limbo.

I was a "Townie" both weeks. During Family Camp, my daughter and 3 of my grandchildren stayed at the camp, and I slept in my own soft bed, took warm showers in the morning and then took all my meals at the camp. The second week, YOGA camp was peopled with adults only, and again it was unscheduled except for the two yoga sessions daily. I took Lunch there, enjoying the cameraderie, the mint tea in the afternoons, and once more--the chores.

The Yoga was mellow, non-competitive, but provided a good work-out, leaving us all well-stretched and stronger at week's end. I am so blessed to live on this off-the-beaten track piece of the planet, and even doubly so with this brief immersion in the woods, and the little piece of antiquity (could be called a time warp) that lives on in Campsites such as Indralaya.

Low demand, plenty of freedom, and a limited schedule of activities are the best features (along with the fresh-from-the-garden-all-vegetarian meals), but they ALSO provide much frustration the first couple of days. Moving from a "mainland" morning-to-night programmed life, at first most everyone finds it nerve-wracking! Nervous reactions are like "what are we supposed to be doing now?" The answer comes on about Day Two...."whatever".....or "nothing". There is the gift.

What taxpayer would complain if, instead of funneling billions and billions of dollars to corrupt governments we've never heard of--thousands of miles away--or funding insane programs and bridges that go nowhere....WHAT IF: we just sent every kid to Camp for a couple weeks each summer, maybe from ages 9-12 or 13. "Kids--meet nature. Here's the garden, and how things grow. If you want breakfast, be here by 8AM, and there's the Chore Board. Enjoy!!! Don't forget the Campfire!"

It's got my vote.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Picture this. A one room school-house, filled with almost every member of every family in the small Waldron Island community. Seventeen students in the school, from K-8. Two graduates this year.

It was Thursday night, June 12th, when the Big Event of the Year took place. Most Islanders would still be here past mid-night, with babies asleep on laps or on the floor, but this is a night

Following the Annual End of School play, "The Perilous Gard", presented by the Studentbody, with every child from kindergarten to 8th grade playing a part, the stage sets were removed, an upright piano rolled in, and music stands set up for a small ensemble of student musicians who proceeded to play "Pomp and Circumstance" while the two graduates marched in, having changed from their Old English play costumes into their dressy graduation clothes.

It is the custom that the Graduates take the leading roles in the End of School play, and this year was no exception. Naomi took the role of the Fair Maiden, and Zach played the Nobleman suffering a Magic Spell cast on him by the Fairy Queen. A complex play in every way--Old English sets, costumes and language, but capably delivered by this unlikely troupe of actors, most of them between 6 and 10 years old.

They pulled it off--Fair Maiden saves Handsome Nobleman--TWO hours of memorized advanced dialogue with few hitches--an impossible challenge, it would seem for this small school and such young kids. Had I been the teacher, I would have selected something like Snow White or Pinocchio. Familiar, simple, guaranteed acclaim. But then I remembered that last year they did MacBeth! On a outside stage. Full-on Scotland style, complete with kilts, castles, and the moving Birnham woods.

Optimistic and Ambitious? I guess so!! Still marveling at their performances a couple days later, I'm thinking that these kids, their teachers and parents are much like Bumblebees.You know the Scientists and Engineers at MIT have determined that due to their aerodynamic design and weight they can not fly. Fortunately for the Bumblebees, they have no knowledge of these findings, and so fly around with little or no regard to the reseach at MIT.

So there you have it--the Waldron Bumblebees. Doing the impossible.

I Love it when the Experts are proved Wrong!

Monday, June 9, 2008


Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation, and something just pops out of your mouth, and you have NO idea where it came from?

Driving North on I-5 yesterday, I thought back to the words that surprised me during a conversation with a bank teller the day before. While she punched in the numbers for my
deposit, we casually discussed the weather, more specificially the "Junuary" cold and rainy days we've been having of late. She said something like, "well, we have to make the best of it, and go ahead and have some fun".

I agreed, and then at that point these unexpected words came out of my mouth: "Hot Damn, Get It On", followed by a full explanation (seemingly necessary at the time) that this was a favorite exclamation of an OLD boyfriend of mine, a great big former Oklahoma Sooner Football player, by the name of Ward Ragsdale. I also informed her that he looked exactly like Dennis Weaver, the actor who played Chester on Gunsmoke, and later starred as TV's McCloud, a Texas cowboy in New York. Not unlike Ward himself, country boy in the city.

But Ward...He was an Okie who did well in the insurance business; he was the ultimate salesman--he inspired trust early on--and then eventually lost it all, thanks to the bottle. He was self-educated, street smart, called everyone "honey" with that ol' country accent, and at one time (unplanned, of course) we drove twin Thunderbirds. His was silver, mine was yellow. He did not suffer fools, and when he was done with someone he was done.

You never had an argument with Ward. He would just up and leave. No discussion. The next time you saw him, it would be as though nothing happened. No recriminations, no sorting out. Over.

His failed marriage and subsequent lack of family and roots probably left him too much drinking time, and he spiralled down and then out as he tried to stop a thief in a 7-11 store one night, and hit his head on a steel shelf.

Ever so often someone from the "old days" will bring up Ward's name, but there are also times, when--unbidden-- he pops up out of my subconscious too. Like while doing business at the bank.


This morning someone in our Yoga Class offered a Movie recommendation. It will be shown here at our little Orcas Sea View Theater this week-end, and it is called "Young at Heart". It is a Documentary revolving around a choral group of Octogenarians. The group has been together for some time, and their passion and dedication to and enjoyment of their music seems to be a key in keeping them young and vital--happy--and involved in life and living. Obviously they provide a model for those of us who are standing a bit lower on the age ladder, but are in the middle of those once anticipated "golden years".

In discussing this "Young at Heart" phenomenon, someone told me they thought one of the most important things in life for everyone--from little kids to old folks--was to have "chores". To be responsible in part for the on-goingness of the family or the house or the organization. As the nest empties, and spouses and friends die, it becomes incumbent on each and everyone of us to take on new "chores" or interests, and to remain vitally involved in Life as long as we are Living.

My Heart feels Young.....but....sometimes my body sends other messages! So, I gear down a bit. But then-- I'm reminded of my retired school teacher friend, who--just recently--followed her interest in crafts and card-making, and went ahead to launch a very attractive, professionally formatted Blog, complete with digital pictures, graphics and interesting text. Old dogs do learn new tricks!!

There are active, passionate Seniors in my Yoga Class, Meditation, Poetry and Play Writing Writing Groups, Book Clubs and Study Groups. And then there are surprise finds-- like the stimulating retired-engineer German conversation partner I met at Starbucks, who keeps me informed about International News as reported in the German papers, as well as sharing historical perspectives on growing up in Neuremberg. Some Seniors are still working--like me. But common traits apply: Active, Curious, Creative, Connected, Engaged, Learning, Optimistic.

Often I observe my four-year old grand-daughter playing, exploring, pushing boundaries and limits, absorbing, singing, laughing, crying. She is totally in the present, not concerned with yesterday or tomorrow. I think this defines "Young at Heart". I'd like to be just like her.

PS--It was the retired school teacher who led me, step by step 'til the wee hours of the morning, through all the machinations necessary for the establishment of my own blog!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Welcome to My Blog!!

Nearly midnite, my shoulders are draggin' and my brain is strained, but determined I am to launch my blog 'ere the village clock strikes twelve. Scientists are now claiming that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks, and if that applies to dogs, well, let us hope it applies to humans as well.

Lucky to have lived this long to see the amazing developments in technology, I am privileged and challenged to keep current with the things that my 10 year old grandson accepts as commonplace.