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S.

December 4th, 2015 (07:12 pm)
current mood: Wistful

He still owes me a cookie.

Instead, he sent me his suicide note. Later, three framed photos he'd taken in art school. His fingerprints were still on them.

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My second year of college, I moved into a room in a large Victorian house with 8 strangers. Waiting on the porch with another prospective roommate (Nathan) for the landlord (Aaron) to show us around, we were surprised by the door suddenly yanked wide.

A handsome man stepped out, dressed in a vest and tie, giggling and grinning, and asked us, "Well, what do you think?"

Nathan and I looked at each other. "Uh... about what?"

"Do I look ready to conduct a wedding?" He snickered, took a bike out of the house and peddled off.

I never met his friends, but one of the first things I learned about Scott was that he was unpredictable. He had filed an application online and headed out to officiate a wedding.

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The rain was coming down in sheets, flowing down the steep street three inches deep. I'd measured it up to my ankle, splashed it, barefoot, up to my knee. The couches on the porch were infested with mice and probably fleas, so I watched the weather perched on the railing, leaning against a post. It was not comfortable, but it was beautiful.

Miley came out for a smoke. Scott came home from a date. We made comments on the rain, then they went inside. I was struck by melancholy, mesmerized by the roar of water falling, the hum and fizz and slide and rush - so I stayed, shivering, half in and half out of the downpour. Foolish and young, and perhaps a bit dramatic.

I startled when he wrapped a quilt around me. It was warm and light and smelled of him.

"Are you alright?"

I smiled, "Yes, thank you. Just thinking. You don't need to... Your blanket will get wet!"

He left me to my musings, and I stayed longer than I would have to justify his generosity. When I brought in his quilt, I discovered that it was his only bedding.

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My mid-term paper on the history of the Celts was due the next day. Behind a stack of books, staring forlornly at a blinking cursor, I heard a tap at my second-story window.

"Mam mo offen ma mindow!?"

I struggled against the 100 year-old window, somewhat painted shut, to find Scott with his mouth around the stem of a wine glass. In his other hand was a bottle and another glass, and he hung on the fire escape by his elbows. I had trouble helping him in through my laughing, especially as the window only opened a foot tall.

I was 19, and that pear wine was the best I'd ever had. He stayed for a sip, declared it not to his taste and left me to my writing. With a sip here and there, my writing grew more fluid. At last, a rough draft complete in record time, I lifted the bottle for a victory toast... and found it empty.

Giggling my way down the stairs, I hunted for Scott to share my success. He was in his room with a woman, so I let them be.

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We discussed philosophy and religion over laundry. He snuck me into his 80's night DJ session at a bar. We got bored one evening and jumped into an outdoor pool fully clothed. I ended up sleeping in the same bed as him multiple times on adventures, but only as friends. When I was molested, he held me as I cried and didn't pry. We wrote long emails to each other while he was stuck in the office, exchanged poetry and stories. I took him camping and sailing, hiking and biking. And at one point he saved my life (story to follow).

(no subject)

June 9th, 2010 (09:01 am)

 


Two years of planning have come to fruition in the form of a lovely baby girl.  During the long nights, when she screams from gas or gnaws my nipple, when the diapers have overflowed or my shirt is soaked, again, with a kind thought, when I’m sticky and disheveled but she will not sleep so I can take a shower – at those times, I try to recall the anticipation.

It worked the first time we tried, after nine years of trying not to.  The decision itself was scary enough, now it was actually happening.  I remember her moving for the first time, the butterfly flutter.  Her later movements were more curious; was that an arm or a leg?  Which way is her head pointing?  Are those kicks or hiccups?  Her gender was a mystery, as was the molding of her face, a mixture of Sean and my features.  Would the baby be healthy?  What should we name him or her?  Are we ready, have we done all we can?

Now I watch her sleep in fascination.  Her snores and sleep murmurs I follow in rapt attention.  She’s breathing.  She’s beautiful.  I got to take her home, and now I get to take her anywhere.  Everywhere.  She rests in my arms as if it were heaven, and in a way I suppose it is.  Five weeks since her birth, and it will always feel like yesterday.


Memory

February 10th, 2010 (12:12 pm)

 
 


My first memory is of lying on a blanket in the grass, under an alder tree on a sunny day.  My mother is chatting and laughing with someone nearby.  It is warm and I lie there and watch the breeze move the leaves, and the meadow grass waves next to me.  I might have been 3 months old, or one year, or two.

I remember the first day my brother went to school, to kindergarten, and my mother and I watched him from the front door as he boarded the school bus.  I was three, and I swung by the brass door knobs, kicking my feet off the floor.  I was eager to spend a half day alone with my mother, and anxious to see this new thing called "homework" when my brother returned in a few hours.

I recall climbing out of my high-sided crib early on a Saturday morning, going in to my folks room and taking great joy in squashing their down comforter as I snuggled down between them.  Mom would get up to start the fire in the stove, and I would cuddle down into her warm hollow and talk to Dad.
 
At Samish Island, my grandparent's farm, my older cousins played hide-n-seek with my brother, but he did not want to play with me.  I was a girl, and too little to play.  They pretended to let me play, and then ran off.  I wandered around looking for them for a while, but they always ran when they saw me.  Walking back to grandma's house along the oystershell driveway, I started to cry and had to sit down on a car bumper.  My oldest cousin, nine years my senior, found me and carried me back to the house.

Walking half a mile from my aunt's house to my grandparent's, a pack of summerhouse dogs starts to chase me.  Hunching my shoulders and burying my hands in my armpits, I back up against the woodshed as the pack surrounds me, barking, lunging, nipping at my clothes.  I am five years old and most of the dogs are taller than me.  Grandpa comes out of nowhere, yelling and brandishing a large chunk of firewood.  He hits a few before they flee, but their numbers have made them confident, and they only go as far as the end of the driveway.  As Grandpa escorts me to the house, he tells me I should always walk with a good strong stick, to never run, and to yell, "You go home!"

Ultra Sound

December 14th, 2009 (02:57 pm)


My body has hit “Play” and there’s no pause button. My breasts have grown three times their size, though my belly at 5 months has yet to pooch beyond the size of half a grapefruit. Mothers unerringly give me a long list of complaints to look forward to, but I actually forget, sometimes, that I am pregnant. I forget that my life is about to change – is changing - dramatically. I forget that there are lists of things I’m supposed to do and not to do, as I hike and work. Then I get a little nudge at the belt line, as if to say, “hey, I’m still here.”


I find myself humming little tunes to the movement below my belly button. I don’t know what is there, a boy or a girl, or if they will be a scientist or an artist or both. Will they have a sense of humor? An allergy? An ear for music? This carefully-planned creation is as much a mystery to me as an ill-timed possibility of 10 years ago. Will I get to show them the world, and let them discover it for themselves? Will they come to curse the world we’ve borrowed from them?

So I hum little tunes, and I hike, and eat well, and wait. I wait with trepidation, with warm joy, and with curiosity. This is the greatest science experiment I have ever conducted.

Lost

April 6th, 2009 (07:41 pm)

  
 

Rolling off the ferry, a group of bikes pursued by cars, the seven year old girl pumped the pedals of her one-speed to keep up.  For once, she was in the front!  Pink tassels flew in the wind of her passage, slapping her hands in joy.  An unfamiliar port quickly climbed into the forested hills, and she was passed by two, three, all the bicyclists in their brightly colored spandex.  Breathing hard, she slowed as the shoulder widened, to look behind her.  Cars roared past her, racing to the stoplight at the top of the hill.  Diesel fumes made her cough, and she stopped to turn fully.

 

No one was behind her.  Her brother and two older cousins who had kept ahead of her, taunting and ignoring her throughout the trip, were not there.  The rest of the bicycles had vanished over the hill, and none of her family’s well-used jeans had pedaled past her.

 

A familiar rumble announced the disembarking of her grandparent’s camper, and they waved at her as the truck passed by.  Only two bikes were strapped to the back.  As they vanished over the hill, the ferry began to load its next set of passengers.

 

Turning around, she started riding through the lines of parked cars, looking for her folks.  She caught a glimpse of someone who might have been her uncle, but lost him in the maze of lots, spread across the hillside in tiers. 

 

Heading back to the road to more properly Stay Put, she realized she was Lost.  Lost in a foreign port as the light was fading, she knew that they had lost track of her in the chaos of the group.  Her grandparents figured she was with her parents and her parents with her grandparents, so it would take time for them to miss her.

 

A white van pulled out from a distant lot – her folks’ van?  Despite her yells, it disappeared over the hill.  They were going to have pizza.

 

It was time.  She got off her bike and started to walk back to the ferry police, to turn herself in.  She practiced her lines, “I’m lost.  I’m seven, and my parents forgot me.” 

 

Tears blurred her vision.  How would she find them?  Would the police take her home?  Did they leave her on purpose, to show her that she should not stray from the group?

 

The past week had been filled with freedom and frustration.  Biking the backroads of the islands, she’d kept up with the vanguard of boys, three to nine years her senior.  Falling exhausted into her sleeping bag each night, for the first time she’d slept through the thunderous snores of her father, uncles, and grandfather.  The boys explored the campgrounds with wild abandon, striving to lose her in the forest.  Returning alone to camp, their grandmother chastised the girl for not helping her mother with cooking and setting up camp.  Reaching the top of a hill meant M&M’s from her mother, and a swoop down the other side with her laughing father.  They explored lighthouses and pioneer church graveyards and homemade playgrounds.  With 11 bikes and a camper, they held picnics in flowered meadows, bushwhacked to secluded beaches, and told stories around the campfire.

 

Sunburned, bug-bit, and smelling of woodsmoke and childsweat, she was tired, and looking forward to a meal that did not have to be rehydrated.  But they had forgotten her.

In my life

March 14th, 2009 (08:27 pm)

 

Things I would like to do in my life.


   Own a house

Kayak in New Zealand

Hike the Cliffs of Dover

Make a good cheese

Land a career position

Make a fire without matches

x Sail a boat solo

x Marry a man I love

Make a thimbleberry pie

x Grow a wonderful garden

Learn to swim

x Have friends of all ages

Raise a child

Write a book

Make wine

Make life-long friends

Join a book club

Learn another language, and use it

Paint a mural

Make a tile mosaic

Climb a tree taller than 15 feet

Camp by kayak in the San Juan’s

Skip a stone more than 3 times

See a Pacific Giant Salamander

Tour the Smithsonian

Make a difference in a community

Finish a Master’s degree

Learn a stringed instrument

x Teach people about nature

Earn smile wrinkles

x Knit a hat

Go completely organic

Have no need of a car

See Sequoia National Park

Hike the Grand Canyon

Join a session in an Irish pub

Participate in politics

Find a cluster of ripe honeycap mushrooms

See an opera in Vienna

Eat chocolate in Belgium

View the stars in the Southern Hemisphere

Camp, sans car, for more than 10 days

x Bike the Appian Way

Ice skate

x Sell something at a farmer’s market

Participate in a masked ball

Learn more than one song on the piano

x Fix my own car

Build a piece of furniture

Write a song

Leave behind something good, and lasting

 
 

 

Bittersweet

January 13th, 2009 (07:37 pm)

 


 

Thinking about jobs I’ve had, people I’ve known, the best and the worst employment opportunities, I remembered being a marine scientist. 

In January, three years ago, I traveled to Olympia with my boss, a quiet Asian American, son of a Japanese preacher.  We were taking soil samples from the depths of the bay, drilling a tube into the muck to test for toxins.  Joyous work.  The crew of the barge was rough-n-tumble, more comfortable in a biker bar with a peanut shell floor than a brewpub.  Bundled in wool and safety gear, I had to focus on carefully maneuvering along the back of the barge rather than socializing, moving from the soil plug to the jars, hosing things down, changing gloves and starting over again.

Being on the water in January is usually cold enough to numb your hands, without the constant spray from the hose, but the wind picked up as the afternoon wore on, and the temperature dropped into the low 20s.  In between plugs, I jumped up and down in my raingear bib overalls, my hands under my armpits.  Keep working, keep moving, make the fingers bend, only 20 more to go… 

Shivering and seasick, I hardly noticed the snow beginning to fall until the boat pulled in to the harbor.  It was dark, and the crew left to get dinner, leaving us to finish making up our samples under the dock light.   I grew to dislike the sound of sand being scraped from a metal bowl by a metal spoon.  After a time, I stopped shivering, and my fingers could no longer grip the sample bottle lids to screw them down.  I used my palms.  From one moment to the next, I forgot what I was doing.  Weren’t we done?  No, still have to split the samples from the 32nd run into the 33rd – or something, I’d lost coherent thought by that time.  I don’t even remember getting from the barge to the hotel.

I have never felt anything as simultaneously painful and wonderful as that bath.  Taking my clothes off seemed to take hours.  My rubber boots almost went into the bath with me; I had so much trouble pulling them off my numb feet.  I couldn’t tell the temperature of the water, but trusted that the steam meant hot.  Anything had to be warmer than I was, but I added a dollop of cold in case the water heaters were turned on to kitchen-scald.  As I lowered myself into the tub I could not feel my hands or feet, my rear was numb, and my face tingled.  My back felt the heat, but in an arm-asleep way, which quickly lost its novelty as the rest of my nerves thawed awake screaming.  I was beet red from head to toe in a matter of seconds - and it was glorious!  Thousands of needles stabbed my flesh, and I couldn’t keep my breathing regular.  Slowly the ice melted and I could bend my fingers. 

I fell asleep that night feeling like a bowl of tapioca pudding, fresh out of the microwave.

 

 

A new hope

November 24th, 2008 (08:55 pm)

 

A new hope.  Even with the economic downturn, even in the private, shy, soft-weather Seattle streets, people seem to be smiling more often.  People are looking forward to change, even if it requires sacrifice.  The burden of inequality seems to have lifted from some.  Five of my friends and acquaintances have lost their long-term relationships over the summer, and yet every one of them has recently founded new relationships.  I am recently jobless, and more are joining the rolls of unemployment every day, and yet there is a sense in the unemployment office of hope, of eagerness, that this is a very temporary waiting period.  I teeter on the edge, between joining in the joy and despairing for the coming apocalypse, hailed by inexorable environmental calamity. 

 

Where there is life, there is still hope.  And any environmental scientist worth her salt is an incorrigible optimist.

Alki

September 3rd, 2008 (07:43 pm)


Summer and its joy lure us outside
For weeks we play, adventure, discover, burn and lose sleep
Then launder our fleece, cotton, and nylon 
in remote locations, amongst strangers

Sweet campground shower, an ode to thee, quarters in hand

The first step shocks like the first plunge into the sea
Heat washes with hard fingers on unfamiliar places
Sweat and dirt and salt and mosquito spray
Campfire and cedar and salmon and wildflowers
Windburn and sunburn and sand and scratches
Brine and bog and grove and meadow

Sore muscles, tired eyes, blisters and calluses
Fade into a glow that’s squeaky and godly and sleepy

Now for a quiet beer in a foreign pub
Warm friends, hot pizza,
And the cold stars to steer home, 
by and by, Alki

Ranging

August 16th, 2008 (03:10 pm)

 
Rangers canoeing the Mercer Slough

               

I eat my adventures in small bites, lately.   Small adventures need to be savored.  Summer’s heat robs me of sleep, making the days pass in a lackluster blur.  Ah, for Fall and the winds off the Fraser River Valley, for sunset forests and all the rain promises.  Mushrooms, squash, corn mazes, first frost, dark beer.  Of all the seasons, Autumn is the most fragrant.  Scents solidify memories, and I have had many grand adventures in Fall.

 

 

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