Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nomad kayaking son ..... will I survive?

As I begin this post Nov. 18, son Chris, 23, is en route to India and perhaps Nepal, China and Tibet, on a two-month kayaking expedition. This is not "ordinary life" but it is his life. Here he is, my baby, 20 years ago dipping a paddle into the river for the first time. (That's his dad's vintage blue Dancer) And here he is a few years ago in a circling-the-drain Chilean waterfall. Actually, I"m not sure that's Chris. He and a Spanish kayaker explored this creek and took turns with the camera. Those days Chris was on his own with a hunger for adventure and a quiet determination to join an elite cadre of kayakers who travel the globe pursuing primo adventure and first descents. That's what he's doing now—primo adventure and first descents. And that's what he did in 2008 in Pakistan and Brazil, and in 2007 in Newfoundland and Chile. It's a ridiculous life. He toils for a few months to earn enough for life support and airline tickets, and then hops around the world with his kayak. It's not something that you envision, or can even imagine, for your child. But Chris is driven by an endless well of ambition and passion, so I go along, oscillating between pride and terror. Despite my fearful motherliness, I say, Go Chris!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting the low-carb religion—again

It's already in place. The 5-7 pounds I accumulate every winter has settled in. This bodes ill as mashed potatoes and gravy loom large on the holiday horizon—not to mention fudge, pecan pie, and the mincemeat treats my 92-year-old mother is, ummm, encouraging me to make. (When an elderly mother encourages, it is more like commanding. And so I will soon be making a mincemeat pie.)

My excess poundage has settled in the strange pocket front & center below my waist, an formation that my sister, who also grows one,  calls her dessert pouch. At least I still have a waist, a fact I don't take for granted. I remember my 20-year-old svelte self looking (down) at older women, who, I'm sure, were younger than I am now, and wondering why so many had protruding insect-like abdomens. Now there's an image I'd rather not apply to my own anatomy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What's so bad about November?

For starters, the sunflowers, once lords and ladies of the garden, are fallen, picked clean of seeds and crumbling to dust. A lone gold finch alighted for a final meal a few days ago as I prepared toppled giants for the "melt-down" pile, but alas, nary a seed remained. The bewildered bird flew off, probably looking for a finch soup kitchen. It was only a couple months ago that the sunflowers  were in their glory. How quickly glory fades, and light too, another of November's sorry lessons, within which one must search for hope.

For example, I started this post at 4:57 p.m. and it was almost dark.
But hello, that's a perfect rationale to start happy hour earlier! And also dinner. Ominous clouds fill part of the sky most days, whether it rains or not.
But that makes for dramatic lighting, which sends me scampering for even more photos, most of which are losers. But taking them (or making them, as current vernacular goes) satisfies my growing itch to capture moments before they go the way of sunflowers. Also on the cheery side of November, diminishing light primes deciduous tress to transform into sweeps of brilliant color, including those planted by PK in 1984 when we built our house, trees that now embrace with glowing arms our little Southern Oregon nest.

Some bad news this November: one friend was diagnosed with  cancer, and another is scheduled for throat surgery, relegating the  rhino virus currently mashing around in my head to its appropriate category: trifling. Then there's the same old, same old, having naught to do with November, but coincidentally, it came to my attention this month that:
  1. Too many old people are sad, lonely, and bored.
  2. Soldiers and civilians continue to suffer and die in wars that beggar justification.
  3. Muslim fundamentalists hate you and me more deeply everyday just because of where we were born. 
  4. Politicians dick around with national health care, and how does anybody believe that things will get better if insurance companies continue to rule?
  5. Young girls still want to look like Barbie.

And then drilling down to the more serious muck:  I know that right now, not far away, some out-of-control parent is whaling—physically or emotionally—on his or her kid, or closing a  door and a heart on a screaming baby, or sexually abusing a child. Or a woman is being brutalized by her husband, boyfriend, or father. Or a miserable pet is chained outside in the rain. Or a homeless teen is selling sex for food. And the ugly images go on and on and on. If I let them.

That's why I, and most more-or-less healthy people, cultivate art, music, dance, gardening, nature, and sport too. To create a balance of beauty and vitality with evil and decay, to construct a reality separate from the gut-dragging underside of humanity. Even though I live in rural USA, the snarling sad face of the loveless is as prevalent in Southern Oregon as it is anywhere in the world. Rural America is not at all spared from home-based hometown brutality. It's all here, same as it ever was, although not exactly as the Talking Heads sang. It's more like a scene out of a David Lynch film or a Stephen King novel. Our pastoral landscapes and safe-looking streets and neat little homes (and a fair number of McMansions) can and do hide brutality, ignorance, and pain. Somebody has to do something, and somebody does.

But for now, it's not me. I've resigned, after nearly seven years, my position as a board member for the Womens Crisis Support Team, a still-passionate grassroots organization addressing local domestic violence. But I will soon follow my heart into  an organization such as CASA, which advocates in the legal system for child victims. I'm fortunate to do paid work for an affordable health care organization, La Clinica, in Jackson County, Oregon. One of its program is Healthy Start, Oregon's most effective child-abuse prevention program. Tragically its funding has been reduced, and more cuts are threatened, putting at least 50 local kids, mostly babies and toddlers of first-time ill-equipped and isolated young moms, at risk for abuse and neglect. This drives me crazy.
So I create my own reality with plants, food, flowers, friends and family making November not such a bad time, after all. Some images to back up my claim.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great cigarette giveaway

A follow-up to the found pack of Marlboros—cigarettes that I couldn't bring myself to toss because, as a reformed smoker,  I remember how disagreeably desperate it was to be addicted and fresh out.  Just last week I saw a guy scrounge a ground-out butt in the grocery store parking lot and light up right there. This guy would be a lot better off if he wasn't a smoker, of course, but it's not so easy. Ask anybody without the means to buy cigarettes who's reduced to stooping for butts, which was my occasional degradation as a super-addicted 20-something.

I dropped the pack in the same parking lot so it looked like it had accidentally fallen out of my car, then I peeked from inside the grocery store.
That lasted about two minutes. How sick am I to stand here watching the bait? And who/what am I trying to catch?

I got what I came for and was in the check-out line behind a 40ish woman, who was visibly twitchy. She initiated a conversation. It came out that she and her unemployed boyfriend had borrowed a car to come to town for food, which she paid for with food stamps. Usually they walk, but it was misting outside. (The cost of a pack of Marlboros at this store: $5.29.)

I blurted, "Do you smoke?"
'"What?! Well, yes. Can you smell it on me?"
"No, of course not!" I said. And I really couldn't. It was something about her twitching, not that twitching is a necessarily a characteristic of the nicotine-deprived.
"There's a pack of cigarettes in the parking lot by my car. Do you want it?"
She practically jumped me in her enthusiasm. She didn't ask why the cigarettes were there, but I told her that I planted them hoping a smoker would pick them up. She grabbed my arm and stared me in the eye. Her face was red and getting redder.
"Are they still there?!"
I could see that they were,  soggier by the second. We got out there in a flash. It had been maybe five minutes total. She picked up the pack and right away counted the treasure. Fifteen! Some were soggy. She could dry them!
"Thanks!" she called over her shoulder as she hurried to share the bounty.

Mission accomplished. As the title of my last post foretold: Gimme a toke, I'm so broke, gimme a cigarette I can smoke. I refuse to feel guilty.