Monday, July 30, 2007

Peace, Dogs, and Berries

I looked up and it's been an age since I've posted. Why? I'm been enjoying a string of delightful guests, mostly recently DYR, here to pick up her super-groovy new Prius. We took in a shamefully small percentage of the sights, and spent a lovely evening on the porch chomping on a brie baked with honey and three berries: Oregon-grown raspberries, the biggest organic blueberries I've ever seen (thank you, co-op!), and some blackberries from the yard.

The guests have all gone, and things are slowing down a bit...just in time for me to gear up for my return to Texas. I plan to spend as much of the next week as possible lounging beside moving water with Large Dog and a book.

I'm going to spare you pointless rambling, and offer a couple of pictures. The first is a panel on Ashland's Peace Fence. The second is, of course, Large Dog enjoying a break during today's hike. I hope you will enjoy the sentiments expressed in both.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Shhhh.....Don't Tell!

Last Sunday night, I went to dinner with three old girlfriends and a new one. Before, during, and after our fabulous food we laughed our heads off and most likely appeared to have consumed many more cocktails than we had (that’s not to say cocktails weren’t consumed).

At one point, someone suggested that we each tell something about ourself that other people in the group didn’t know, something that the others might find surprising. Luckily, I was early in the lineup and was able to get away with a fairly safe fact rather than a true confession. Even so, Oregon Writer spewed her g&t when I revealed that, for five years, I played the French horn; who knew? I learned some fascinating things: it is possible to live to age 30 without a driver’s license, Bill Gates at one point had a serious dandruff problem, and – no matter how hard you might work up your stripper persona/gimmick – you need only show up at a strip club to get a job and you can walk away after stripping one night without ever flaunting your geographically-themed outfit.

We all shared what we thought were safe things, nothing that risked much. Even so, I came away from the evening feeling that I knew the women much better thanks to their revelations.

So how much intimacy do we miss out on by withholding seemingly unimportant details? We think, “Oh, that can’t possibly be of interest to anyone but me” and keep our lips sealed. Two years ago I took a few vaguely autobiographical pages to my writing group, although I was hesitant to read because I always fear that my work will veer into the maudlin or the merely therapeutic (a la the "Fuzzy Hat” story that someone once read in a workshop, pointless to everyone but the author and the source of great amusement in our writing group). When I finished, Oregon Writer said she wanted more, wanted to know what books were on my nightstand at the time and what kind of candles might have been burning and what was hanging on the walls. I’d excluded those details, exactly the things that help a reader inhabit a text, because I thought they were somehow narcissistic. But by withholding what I thought didn’t matter, I’d prevented the very communication that was my goal.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the topic of real secrets, things we keep from people we love and the things we keep from ourselves. How much of the risk we perceive is real and how much is based in needless fear?

I’d love to be more courageous these days, as I approach my fifth decade. I’ve always been prone to spill the beans, but with every year I see how much of that tendency is, ironically, a clever defense mechanism. If people think you’re an open book, they don’t dig for the real information, the stuff hidden in the footnotes or kept in note cards on the desk and never included for publication. I want to be clear. I’m not talking about a disinformation campaign, nor am I advocating deceit. I refer to sins of omission. But we sin against ourselves, not those to whom we don’t disclose.

I hope, in the months ahead, to speak less but say more. Better to risk the loss of a relationship than to insure a half-relationship by withholding my self.

I thank my friends for their Sunday night revelations. Especially “Logger Girl”… cheers for taking it all off.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Glad for Shade

Biker chick, here (self-propelling variety), checking in from the fiery Northwest. We've only had a couple of small fires in our part of the region, but a visiting friend just made it through Utah and Nevada before the interstates were closed behind her. I suspect my journey home will not be as scenic as the drive I made in June, at least not until I hit the rain forests of Texas.

Now that I've actually ridden my bike, I'm pleased to report that she is as lovely in motion as she is sitting still. I've been on a few early morning jaunts, while it's still cool, and while I'm not traffic-worthy yet I am getting my legs under me. This morning I rode for an hour along a mostly shady, creekside path. Great birds. Friendly pathmates. Good decision.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm glad I listened to my instincts (and to the folks at Siskiyou Cyclery) rather than the buff young racer at the other store who assured me that "three speeds are really all someone needs for the kind of riding you're going to do." This could well be true if you look like the speaker. I've employed many of my 24 gears so far, particularly on the initial ride when I turned around and discovered why the first half of the ride had been so easy.

I'm meeting my old book group tonight to discuss Slaughterhouse Five. Hopefully this will lead to some substantive posts soon!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Road Hazard

Picture of Bike

Yes, I did it! This is my keen new bike. She's a Specialized Expedition Sport and I bought her at Siskiyou Cyclery, where the folks were incredibly helpful and did not make fun of me at all.

I rode her around in the parking lot and I truly felt like a kid again. Well, really, I felt like a character in one of those movies where someone is frozen and thawed out way in the future and walks around saying things like, "What is this strange machine with wheels?" My last bike (see my previous post, Pedal Power) had goofy little thumb levers for shifting. This one? All you have to do is turn the handlebar grips ever so slightly and the chain glides into one of 24 (yes, you heard me, 24) gears. I think even I will be able to ride uphill!

Of course, I didn't take her out for a spin since it's over 100 degrees here right now. I'd go tonight but I'm doing dinner and a movie with an old friend. I'm going to head out first thing in the morning.

Any suggestions for her name?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Porch Sitting

In honor of Independence Day, and all things possible, I give you the view from my porch:

Now that we have that out of the way, we can commence with some virtual porch-sitting. I'm going to step away from form and good writing and just ramble tonight. Small child is at camp, Large Dog is snoring, I've just poured a glass of Oregon red, and I've raised the shades and turned off the lamp in hopes of catching sight of the occasional Roman candle as it showers over the lake. Pull up a chair and let's just chat.

I am a fortunate individual. Every time I hear myself complain about something, I try to remember this. Much about my nation's government disgusts me. But today I am thankful that I am not living in a more oppressive society, that I had access to education and sanitary living conditions, that the streets I walk are, in comparison to most streets, safe. Yes, I wish America were better. Yes, I wish it had different leadership. Yes, I wish we were greener, more peaceful, less greedy, more tolerant, and the list goes on. Yes, I'm glad I live here.

This little town where I love to spend my summers, a rather liberal enclave, has the sweetest, old fashioned, 4th of July celebration. The parade, which draws crowds from all over, has retained its small town feel. I didn't go this year, so I don't know if perennial faves such as the wiener dog entry (scroll down a bit on this link to see Ashland photos) or Geppetto's dancing wontons returned, but it is worth getting up at the crack of dawn and staking out a spot. Afterwards there's food-n-stuff in Lithia Park. At night, there's a fab fireworks show at the high school stadium but you can watch it for free at Walker School playground, and "enjoy" your neighbor's fireworks while you wait for the big show to start. It's the closest I ever hope to be to simulated combat. The last time I went, I swear some incendiary device missed my head by an inch. I can hear the show booming in the distance as I type.

You've probably seen Sideways, and if so you know all about pinot noir. Oregon pinots are yummy. And all sorts of wonderful wines from California, Oregon, and Washington never make it over the borders. Tonight I meandered downtown to Liquid Assets and savored a flight of three 2004 American cabernets. I snacked on steamed asparagus with organic feta and chopped olives plus a wee portion of duck mousse.

This morning, as I was packing small child's camp bag, I kept smelling sausage. Breakfast sausage, a la Jimmy Dean. Could I be having an olfactory hallucination? A small cerebral event of some sort? I suspected a simpler explanation. I leaned over and took a whiff of Large Dog. He reeked of sage. There are three varieties out in the yard, and he had some telltale strands mixed in with the drool. Beats dog breath any day.

Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I'm going to buy a bike. I really like the one I found online, but I think I'd be better off buying something I've actually tried. Surely one of the five bike shops here in town will have something. I'll feel better supporting a local business, too. If I'm successful, expect either bike path adventures or ER chronicles in a future post.

Happy Independence Day, wherever you may be.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Pedal Power

Time in the Northwest always fills my head with noble ideas. I'll give up wheat and dairy! Use homeopathic ointment on my sprained ankle rather than go to the doctor (I fell down some stairs in Laramie on June 3 and the damn thing is still swollen and painful)! Read lots of nonfiction!

I tackle these ideas with various degrees of enthusiasm. So far I've reduced wheat and dairy, avoided my doctor out fear of some kind of splint, and purchased three nonfiction titles.

But all these pale in the face of my latest idea.

I want to buy a bike.

OK, you can stop laughing now. I mean it. Stop laughing.

This town is lousy with bike trails. All the main streets have bike lanes. There's lots of shade. And just think..when I get back to Texas and find myself shy one ingredient for a recipe, I'll be able to hop on the bike and pedal the three miles to the store rather than fire up the minivan (at least I'll do so during the four or so months of temperate weather). DYR will be so proud!

The bike idea has been simmering for a while, but it hit the boil a couple of weeks ago when I took small child to buy her first pair of soccer shoes at Joe's (last time I was here it was called G.I. Joe's...guess the military association wasn't working for them any longer). Parked out front was the most fetching pink girlie bike. Not a girl's bike, but a grownup model. "Hmmmm," I thought, "isn't that a cute little number! And so reasonably priced. No sales tax here in Oregon, remember."

But those of you who know me know that the only things I buy on impulse are earrings. I've been mulling and stewing and pondering. I want to buy a bike I'll enjoy. My last bike was a disappointment. And when did I last have a bike in my life? The seventies.

They called them "ten speeds" or, in my neck of the woods for some reason, "English racers." These bikes - and only a couple of brand names qualified as cool, although I can remember neither of them - were tall and thin and sleek and by my family's standards expensive. And I really, really wanted one.

My parents were Depression children, older than my friends' parents, and almost pathologically frugal. They were also big on Sears. So when the bike finally arrived, it did not bear one of the cool brands. It was the Kenmore of the cycling world. But that was not the worst of it. Oh, no. I'm short, and I was even shorter then, maybe an Amazonian 5' 1.5". When my mother, similar of stature, saw the regular bikes at Sears and sat on them she thought they were far too big, dangerously so, and purchased a "youth bike."

My humiliation was complete.

Of course, no one ever said anything about this. In fact, the bike was probably the right size for me. But it was soooooo not cool, and the gears never did work correctly, and riding it never brought the joy I'd sought. I was always chugging along behind the other neighborhood kids, and while I now know that was a function of my far shorter legs, in my teen mind it was the bike's fault.

Fast forward over 30 years. Infomaniac that I am, I sat down today to do a little bit of research on bike buying. I feel like a stereotypical sitcom senior citizen trying to program a VCR. So many bikes! Road! Mountain! Hybrid! Comfort! Cruising! And, thanks to the web, each one is the only one I should buy. Rest assured. This is not a mid-life crisis bike. I'm not trying to heal the wounds of the past in any way. I don't want to break the bank. I'm not trying for hipness, and I want to be able to walk the next day. And I am overwhelmed by the choices

So I'm throwing it out to you. Here's what I want to do on my bike: ride on (almost always) paved trails or roadways, ride around town, maybe take a day ride once in a while. I want enough gears that I don't have to work particularly hard on hills (not that I'll find many in North Texas) but not so many that I need an instruction book. Speed is not paramount. Reliability is a plus. Please send your suggestions.

And here's hoping I haven't forgotten how to ride one!