Friday, August 31, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/07: Meat, Amber, Rushmore

1. Bacon cheeseburger and fries from the HumDinger.

2. Late afternoon summer afternoon, cooling off, watching Snug play: the perfect late summer, late day light.

3. Delta Dawn looked at my self-portraits and thought I looked like Bill Murray. I've been told this before. It's a fun thought.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Late Summer in Kellogg

It didn't take long late this afternoon for the temperature to begin to drop and dewy air to move in with the sun starting to set.

I kept waiting for the kids in the neighborhood who have only a few precious days until school begins again to take advantage of these shorter days to congregate and start playing hide-and-seek or to enjoy the how much easier it is to run in the cool evening and get a game of "Red Rover, Red Rover" going.

It's not how kids play, though.

I thought about the last days of summer while out in Silver Valley Girl's backyard a couple of hours ago, watching Snug nose through high grass along the back fence and, without warning or cause, bolt from the east to the west end of her generous yard.

The late afternoon light is growing softer. Yesterday I saw how this light muted the tan wheat fields on the Idaho Palouse which, earlier in the day, had looked like upright suns glowing at mid-morning.

I felt the old excitement of late summer. I loved playing golf on evenings like this. The Pinehurst golf course was nearly empty. Play was so leisurely time seemed to stand still. Following the parabola of a well-struck four wood, I loved the long shadow of the ball in flight and the evening light made the fairways look more like sea green water than close clipped grass.

I loved that football season was approaching and that the Vandals would soon begin their march through the Big Sky conference. Montana. Idaho State. Weber State. Montana State. Boise State. Northern Arizona. I sat in the living room with Dad while we watched national broadcasts of teams far away, like Alabama or Arkansas or Georgia play early season games outside their conferences with UCLA or Michigan or Penn State. Dad kept a radio at his side, loud enough so that I could hear Bob Curtis describe the play by play. The Vandal fight song became as familiar to me as God Bless America.

Later in the fall, Bob Curtis' voice became inseparable from the smell of leaves burning. Later in the fall, Bob Curtis' voice competed with the television broadcast of the World Series. Later in the fall, the golf clubs went into storage and easy light of late afternoon gave way to early darkness. Later in the fall, basketball season began, but at home the focus was on the great conference games across the nation: Nebraska and Oklahoma in the Big Eight; Texas and Arkansas in the Southwest Conference; Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten.

Later in the fall, the relaxing temperatures of the late summer gave way to rain and cold.

The Idaho Vandals usually came up short.

For a flashback packed moment, though, the pleasure of the radio and the hope of the Vandals beating the Grizzlies and the stealthy fun of hiding in the shadows of Mr. Anderson's bushes, playing hide and seek, and the smell of burning leaves was back.

But, Snug was ready to come back in the house.

He needed to eat.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/07: PalouseIdaho, Stuffed Biscuits, PalouseWashington

1. I went to Moscow today to help Kenton Bird give a presentation on the Silver Valley. The drive from Kellogg to Moscow was exquisite. I'm starting to think that I love the drive from Rose Lake to Potlatch, via St. Maries, as much or more than any drive in the country. The drive from Moscow to Plummer is a close second. Today, the wheat fields in the Palouse looked illuminated. I've never seen such shining.

2. Kenton and I ate lunch with Elinor Michel at the Breakfast Club, the former Knobby Inn. What a delightful restaurant. It's a lunch and breakfast spot with a creative menu, friendly and efficient service, and good food. I can see why it was doing a brisk business yesterday.

3. Kenton and I presented some history and observations of the Silver Valley to Rula Awwad-Rafferty's Interior Design class to help them prepare for a project at Bankleft in Palouse, Washington. I hope we helped them out. I'd sure like to think that they might look to this Palouse project with the idea of discovering what central images and ideas define the town. Moreover, in what ways is Palouse a microcosm of the larger world? I think, in some ways, Kenton and I were able to explain ways that Kellogg and the Silver Valley are concentrated pictures for the world at large and how the events in the Silver Valley's history are inextricably tied to the events of the larger world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/07: Sallie Mae, Looking Bad, Dusk

1. Molly needs a loan to pay for her studies at North Texas State University. We put in an application online yesterday and we applied for the wrong type of loan. Molly discovered this today and it was really impressive to have her call me, calmly explain the problem, find out what I needed to do to get the loan cancelled, and to move on and apply for the correct type of loan. It all worked out.

2. I enjoy unflattering pictures. It's why I enjoy Richard Avedon's and Diane Arbus' photography so much. I also enjoy making faces in the mirror, wondering what certain looks I create would look like in a movie or on stage. I experimented with some unflattering self-portraits today. If you'd like to see them, go here.

3. I love the drive from Plummer to St. Maries along and through Heyburn State Park. Here are a couple pictures I took:

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/07: Tutor Me, Support, Gruber

1. I'm kind of a later comer I suppose, but I am finding the world of online tutorials not only specifically helpful for the task I'm working on, but more generally educational in the world of gadgetry and computer applications. Next up: GIMP.

2. I take no pleasure in the news today that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in June for lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport rest room. What I did find heartening occurred at Huckleberries Online. It's clear that a certain number of people posting at Huckleberries are weary of the social stigma of homosexuality and understand that lying about one's sexual orientation, repressing the truth of one's core self, can only, eventually, lead to twisted expressions of what's been repressed. I don't think it'll happen, but I'd love to see us become a society that simply understands the reality of homosexuality and a society that stops seeing it as an alien way to live. I'd like to see the phrase "gay lifestyle" slowly disappear.

3. For some unknown reason, Annie's mention of former Blue Jay Kelly Gruber in her blog, Void of Course, sent me into a riot of laughter and a twenty to minute scavenger hunt to find out more about him on the World Wide Web. My brief preoccupation with Gruber has passed, but it was fun while it lasted.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/07: Photo Hunt, Sudden Life, Brain Drain

1. All I need is another blogging activity. I already do a weekly Sunday Scribblings post and a weekly Sibling Assignment. I've decided to give Photo Hunt a try. Read more about it here.

2. Silver Valley Girl's family took a short overnight to Syme's Hot Springs in Montana and I was in charge of the house while they were gone. SVG left me a message saying they'd be back late tonight. They got back early and suddenly my quiet, peaceful existence ended as my nieces argued over who got to go on the computer and discussions broke out about dead batteries in mobile phones and dogs barked with joy at the family's return and new dispatches came from the basement that Benjamin had peed on an extension cord. The buzz of activity was good. My slothful rest on the sofa ended and I felt a shot of joy and stimulation.

3. Andy Kemp, a very young and energetic instructor in speech and Lane Community College's forensics coach sent out a mass email today announcing he'd taken a position at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. For many reasons, it's a good move for him. I will miss him, but I'm very happy for him that he found another job, will be closer to the love of his life, and that he will be directing forensics in his new job. Above all, I'm afraid my place of employment is a good place to leave for a young instructor. The economic uncertainty at the college, coupled with a State Legislature that seems to take glee in dismantling the state's proud tradition in sound community colleges, means that the brain drain from Eugene continues.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Get that Sinking Feeling: Sunday Scribblings

I sit down with about four or five research papers. They are late. It's all right that they are late. I've been working with the students and I have a pretty good idea what delayed them.

The students are all doing research about social and economic class in the USA. Some write about poverty. One writes about the history of the anarchy movement. Others write about work or unions or artists who have made workers the subject matter of their art.

Then I come to the paper I never want to see. I read a couple of paragraphs.

I get that sinking feeling.

The prose is too good. It's a student whose work has been chronically late. She has missed a lot of class. She's a good writer, but not this good.

I type out a particularly juicy sentence into a search engine.

It comes up.

It's plagiarism.

My sinking feeling gets that sinking feeling.

My job just got very tough.

The sinking feeling begins as anger. Plagiarism betrays the whole purpose of research writing. It betrays the idea of working out one's own ideas and arguments with the assistance of learning more about the subject by reading what experts have said.

The anger deepens. What kind of fool did this student take me to be? Why did she think she'd pull this off?

Then the sinking feeling shifts to dread.

I have to confront the student with her paper and my evidence. I have to photocopy the paper. I have to print the material she copied. It's not how I want to spend my time.

The moment of confrontation occurs in my office. I get that sinking feeling early in our conversation when she denies it. I close my eyes and utter to myself, "Please. Just own up. This is really going to hurt."

I present my evidence to her. I get that sinking feeling that this is going to upset her.

It does.

She begins to cry. I get that sinking feeling that she'll say she didn't know it was plagiarism.

She does. She says her boyfriend helped her with her research and handed her stuff he had gotten for her and didn't mention he'd taken it word for word from articles on the World Wide Web.

My sinking feeling again gets that sinking feeling as I explain the consequences:

"This means you fail the course. You'll have to take WR 123 over again."

"Can't I just rewrite the paper?"

"No. This is too serious. It's not like you just failed to document some material. Most of what you wrote here was written by other people and you represented it as you own."

She left my office, ashamed and distraught.

I put my face in my hands for several minutes, rubbed my temples, and shuddered at what had just transpired.

The summer passed. School started up again in the fall.

I was leaving campus one day and the plagiarizing student was walking toward me.

I couldn't avoid her.

I got that sinking feeling.

"Mr. Woolum. Hi! Do you have a minute?"


"I just wanted you to know that I took WR 123 over again in the summer. I had a great time. I did all my own work and I really enjoyed it. I know this sounds weird, but I want to thank you for flunking me last spring. It was the best thing that happened to me. I decided to get more serious about school and I'm really enjoying it."

Stunned silence.


"G-g-g-good for you. I'm glad it's all working out."

"It sure is."

She smiled past me on her way to class.

I got that rising feeling.

Want more sinking feelings? Click here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/07: Springer Love Seat, Breakfast, Finances

1. They had been uneasy with one another, but toward the end of my stay, here are Snug and IEG's Annie lying side by side on InlandEmpireGirl's love seat.

2. Bacon, eggs and cheese, and coffee cake at InlandEmpireGirl's house before I left to return to Kellogg.

3. Talking calmly with the Deke on the phone today about money. Things are a little bit tight. Molly needs some help. The Deke needs new clothes to student teach. It would be easy to freak out. We didn't. We'll talk more tomorrow. I'm very grateful these discussions are reasonble.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/07: Dead Tree, Blessed Jar, Mystery Boots

I thought I'd post three pictures encapsulating the trip InlandEmpireGirl, JEJ, and I made today. Our two most fun stops were at the Malo Trading Post and Antiques and to the Second Time Around Country Store:

1. This dead tree shimmered in the midst of all the junk surrounding it.

2. The light of heaven shines its grace upon this jar.

3. These boots seemed to pay homage to cowboys who had died. I'm not sure what these boots actually stood for.

The Many Faces of Snug the Joiner

I uploaded this slide show using the new blogger service to see how it works. If you haven't seen this tribute to my dog, I hope you enjoy it. If you've seen it already, watch it again. It's only three minutes long!

Still Life at Lake Roosevelt: Sibling Assignment #33

I rehearsed this sibling assignment here and I'm going to upload my rehearsal pictures to my Fickr page so that the differences between the photos can be viewed more readily. It's difficult scrolling up and down to see them.

Our assignment was straightforward: Still Life. InlandEmpireGirl's sunflower photos are here. Silver Valley Girl is wrestling with technical difficulties. Once fixed, she'll post.

That's what I think of here at InlandEmpireGirl's home on Lake Roosevelt. It's still. It's still life. Quiet. Still.

One way InlandEmpireGirl and JEJ keep things still is by having a generous number of places to sit in their gardens and on their deck.

The following is a representation of these still places. Each picture is a still life photo of where to go to be still.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/07: Poverty, Anniversary, "Snug, Come!"

1. This morning I started reading "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and after about 125 pages, I'm hooked. I look forward to reporting more about this book when I finish it.

2. I was pleased to be a part of InlandEmpireGirl and JEJ's 10th anniversary meal tonight. JEJ got to decide what he wanted and couldn't have chosen better: fried pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, swiss chard, applesauce, and a zucchini chocolate cake with chocolate glaze with vanilla bean ice cream. Congratulations to my sister and brother in law.

3. More often and more often, to my pleasure and relief, Snug comes when I call him.

Perfect Poem

Often, before I go to sleep, I close my eyes and remember things I've done I hate myself for.

I don't invite these thoughts. They come in two ways. Sometimes they rise up like vapors out of the bayou of my bad memories.

Other times, I can picture a voodoo doll in my midsection and feel long pins of dark thoughts pierce the doll, and, in turn, pierce me.

Last night, just as I dozed off, the remarkable Seattle poet David Wagoner's dignified face and upright bearing unexpectedly hovered over the hide-a-bed. Snug didn't bark, so I don't think he noticed Wagoner's arrival.

My first experience with David Wagoner was completely impersonal. I joined a group of North Idaho College students who traveled to Cheney to hear Wagoner read at Eastern Washington University. It was an exquisite experience that inspired my life-long admiration for Wagoner's work.

My second experience with David Wagoner happened at Whitworth College (now University). I was a very young volunteer teacher's assistant in a Creative Writing Theme Dorm. Part of what I volunteered to do was write letters to a handful of Pacific Northwest poets and see if they would come to campus and give a reading and give a workshop.

Wagoner agreed to. He gave a brilliant reading and his workshop was inspiring and, in its own way, rigorous, in terms of what he helped us all see his writing and reading discipline demanded of him.

I was the host of this reading and the workshop. My job was to introduce Wagoner at the reading, walk him over to the workshop, and be his guide on campus.

Somehow, I had it in my head that David Wagoner and I were best friends. I was so naive. I gave one of those casual, "here's my buddy Dave" kind of introductions, sounding like a pretentious insider, and after the reading, I tried to talk with Wagoner about his poetry like we were fellow student poets in the Theme Dorm.

None of this impressed David Wagoner. He was brusque, but not cold; distant, but not mean; business-like, but not condescending. He was simply being an adult, a professional, in a professional situation; I was being an immature, world-foolish kid, with little sense of boundaries and little sense that written correspondence and being a poet's host does not establish a seasoned poet and a twenty-three year old part-time composition instructor as best friends forever.

My thoughts and memories lightened up a bit when I remembered the workshop. Wagoner opened his instruction by reciting the following poem, "The Fascination of What's Difficult" by William Butler Yeats:

THE FASCINATION of what’s difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. There’s something ails our colt
That must, as if it had not holy blood, 5
Nor on an Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,
Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt
As though it dragged road metal. My curse on plays
That have to be set up in fifty ways,
On the day’s war with every knave and dolt, 10
Theatre business, management of men.
I swear before the dawn comes round again
I’ll find the stable and pull out the bolt.

Wagoner recited this poem with more than passion. He spat it out with fury.

From the top, he wanted us to learn that before poetry is anything, before it is ideas or themes or before it "has a message", it is music. He recited this poem so we could hear the harsh, percussive, angry, frustrated music of this poem.

Maybe you'd like to read the first line aloud: "The fascination of what's difficult."

When used as derogatory words, I would argue our language's two harshest words are "fuck" and "cunt". It's the harsh "f" sound and the harsh "k" sounds, and the pointed "t", joined by the short "u".

This line has a similar effect with the "f" sounds of "fascination" and "difficult" and the "k" and "t" and short "u" in difficult. The harshness carries on in the poem as the "cult" rhymes with "colt" , "jolt", "dolt", and "bolt".

In fact, in form, the poem is almost a sonnet, but because Yeats is writing about frustration he frustrates the very form of the sonnet, making the poem thirteen lines long instead of fourteen, making the rhymes I just mentioned near rhymes instead of full ones, and frustrating the usual subject matter of the sonnet.

This is not a love poem. It's a frustration poem.

It's perfect.

The difficult business side of theater life frustrates his art. It "has dried the sap out of [his] veins". Like the tearing of a garment with biblical grief it has "rent/Spontaneous joy and natural content/Out of [his ]heart."

Pegasus, the inspiration of the muses, must "Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt/As though it dragged road metal".

Musically, it's a perfect poem. In form, it's perfect. Yeats' use of single syllable words, "rent", "lash", "sweat", "jolt", "dragged", "road" plus the image of a colt dragging road metal, all combine to create the feeling of artistic inspiration dried up by theater management and "dolts".

Berating myself before I fell asleep, this poem kept playing over and over in my mind. Self-loathing has dried the sap out of my veins; it rents spontaneous joy out of my heart.

In order to "find the stable and pull out the bolt" and let the colt of my spontaneity gallop free last night, I had to reconcile my pretentious younger self with my more mature self today.

In May of 2006, a committee at Lane Community College asked me if I would introduce Lucille Clifton to the campus faculty and staff and to a presentation for students.

I did. I wrote out the introduction. I kept it short. I did not tell the audience anything about myself. I called her Lucille Clifton, not Lucille, not Ms. Clifton, nothing casual, nothing pretentious. I worked to do what I have seen few introducers of poets do: deflect attention from myself, acquaint those who didn't know Lucille Clifton with her poetry and fame, briefly, and get her on stage and me off as efficiently as possible.

It worked.

I learned from my fascination with what's difficult. I prepared to introduce Lucille Clifton by remembering how I had behaved with David Wagoner.

Lucille Clifton will never rise up out of the quagmire of my subconsciousness and haunt he with self-loathing.

As a postscript, I'll add that last night before I went to bed and before the ghost of David Wagoner prevailed himself upon me, I was looking at a blog called the Self-Portrait Challenge. I decided to snap a couple of self-portraits just before I retired. I look at them tonight, and I think, from the way I look, that last night I was predisposed toward a dark night of the soul before I ever went to bed. Maybe I should have read some P.G. Wodehouse before I tried to sleep:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/07: Friends, Climbing Higher, Contentment

1. The most beautiful thing by far today happened with Snug and InlandEmpireGirl's dogs, Shelby and Annie. The three are finding each other companionable. The home dogs were a wary of Snug coming into their home and on to their grounds yesterday, but today the dogs relaxed. If you'd like to pursue this development, go here for pictures.

2. The drive north from the intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 20 begins a climb into the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains, and provides gorgeous views of Lake Roosevelt. As the climb plateaus, the land gives way to ranches, grazing areas, horses, and other livestock. Across the lake, the Selkirk Mountains begin to take the shape that becomes so spectacular as you travel into Canada and east on into North Idaho. I only drove about sixteen miles of this highway today and the drive helped me clear my mind and think about matters that lie in my future.

3. InlandEmpireGirl's garden provides more seating opportunities per square foot than in any place I've ever been. This evening, in the shade of her garden's variety of trees and flowering bushes and in the coolness of dusk, I cannot imagine a more comfortable, relaxing place to relax, contemplate, and enjoy the dogs than where I was today.

Postcards from Box Canyon

Here's an amateur's experiment. I thought I'd try to create different styles of postcard pictures of Box Canyon. It's a narrow channel of the Pend Oreille River several miles south of Metalline Falls. This channel once was wild, making hauling minerals out of the Metalline area difficult. Engineers tamed the channel with a railroad bridge and a dam. I have cropped most references to the dam out of these pictures.

Today, I figured out how to take wide angle pictures with my little camera. I wish I had figured this out yesterday!

But, see what you think. I've tried to create what I think some older style postcards look like. I see the first picture as more like what postcards look like today.

Snug: Top Dog of the 'Hood

Head on over to Go Figure. Snug got named Top Dog of the 'Hood in a fine review of the rigors of dog crap clean up.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Still Life (Rehearsal): Sibling Assignment #33

InlandEmpireGirl assigned Silver Valley Girl and me a pretty open ended task. She told us to get out the cameras and present a still life with accompanying words. I've decided to try something unprecedented in the short history of Sibling Assignments. I'm going to present a rehearsal piece and I will present my "real" assignment later this week.

My rehearsal piece is a still life of a birdhouse in Silver Valley Girl's backyard. As a still life, the birdhouse's character derives from the sun and rain bleached wood, the cracks growing out from the rusty nail heads, and the welcoming "O" of this simple house.

Since still lifes are about perspective, I've decided to do something pretty simple. I'm presenting my original picture of the birdhouse and then variations on that picture, pieces I've created by using the Picassa "effects" function from the editing toolbox. For now, I'll let each image speak for itself and you can see what is gained or lost by applying each effect.

1. The original still life:

2. Black and white:

3. Saturation (I decided to desaturate the image).

4. Film Grain.

5. Filtered Black and White.

6. Focal Black and White.

7. Glow.

8. Graduated Tint.

9. Sepia

10. Sharpen.

11. Soft Focus.

12. Tint.

13. Warmify.

Three Beautiful Things 08/21/07: Crystal Falls, Box Canyon, Sullivan Lake

Today InlandEmpireGirl, her husband JEJ, and I went on an outing from here at Martin's Creek to Sullivan Lake, nestled in the Selkirk Mountains about thirty miles south of the USA/Canadian border. We traveled east and north on the Tiger Highway and then further north on Highway 31. We made three stops to admire Northeastern Washington's natural splendor along the way:

1. Crystal Falls:

2. Box Canyon:

3. Sullivan Lake:

InlandEmpireGirl posted pictures and her comments, here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/07: Quiet Restored, Snug Returns, Bag Re-Found

1. I am blogging in InlandEmpireGirl's living room, out in the quiet country, perched above Lake Roosevelt. Not a sound, bar the humming of the refrigerator. It's blissful here.

2. Snug arrived at InlandEmpireGirl's house and seemed to immediately know where he was and instantly went about the business of sniffing the gardens, yard, deck, and living room, reacquainting himself with presence of Shelby and Annie, the two dogs here, and the several cats that roam the house and property.

3. I look forward to experimenting with my camera here in northeast Washington. Getting ready to leave Kellogg this morning, I couldn't find my camera bag, modest as it is. But it does provide protection. I looked everywhere at Silver Valley Girl's house. Turns out it was right where I left it: on her deck, set down Sunday morning when I took the pictures featured, here.

Sibling Assignment #32: Limping Toward Graduation

Silver Valley Girl assigned this week's piece: what accomplishment or achievement do we most remember from high school? InlandEmpireGirl's post is here and Silver Valley Girl's is here.

Frank, an aggressive football player, was an opponent in a pick-up game of basketball at our end of the year get together for K-Club, a club for athletes who were lettermen. I was slowly dribbling upcourt and he made a mad dash to steal my dribble.

Those who saw what happened said it looked like I had a magnet in my thigh and that Frank's head was steel. He ran nearly full speed, head first, into my thigh.

I ended my senior year in high school with a pronounced limp while my injury healed.

Things get vague after this, but I'll tell the story this way. The main facts are true, but I can't remember their order at all.

Kellogg High School seniors had a handful of opportunities to win awards: the McKinley Award went to a musician for excellence; athletes were presented awards in the names of Tommy Brainard and Frank Reasoner; an award was presented to the outstanding senior: I think this might have been the Glen Exum award and I think it was first awarded in 1972, the year I graduated. (If you are reading this and have the facts straighter than I do, please correct me.)

I didn't win any of these awards.

The year before I had been soundly thumped when I ran for student body president.

When I arrived home from a late in my senior year evening event and I knew I hadn't won any awards, I went on a long walk.

Make that a long limp. I felt like Chester from "Gunsmoke".

The limp around town began in self-pity. Earlier, in junior high, I had been student body president and our basketball team's most valuable player and I had expected to continue in this award-winning way.

For much of the limp, past the YMCA, Gary's Drug, Sass's Jewelry, Dick and Floyd's, past the Masonic Hall, I berated myself for having failed.

I felt sorry for myself for not winning these awards.

On the way back home, as I passed Teeters' Field, the swimming pool parking lot, the Ford Motors lot, walked under the freeway, and walked past my former employer, Stein Brothers IGA, I stopped feeling self-pity.

I didn't feel self-acceptance, exactly.

I did realize that I wasn't a top dog.

I could play basketball, but I wasn't the best player.

I could sing, but I wasn't the best singer.

I could play the baritone horn, but I wasn't the best.

I could do some acting, but I wasn't the best actor and would never play a leading role.

I was a good student, but I would never be the best.

I could play baseball, but I was not the best outfielder or hitter.

I could strip zinc, but a lot of guys were faster, more efficient, and made more money than I did.

I limped on home, not really knowing what to do with this realization. I can't say I felt great relief when I got home.

I can't say that the pieces of my eighteen-year-old life suddenly fell together.

I can't say this limp around town turned my life around.

I can say, though, that I started to gain some perspective about who I was and what my place in the world was.

That was, for me, as new born and underdeveloped as this perspective was, an achievement I'll never forget.

It was my best high school accomplishment as I limped toward graduation.

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/07: Patience, Relief, Leftovers

1. My approach at the casino is patience, conservative bets, pulling out of machines that are "cold", not "falling in love" with any machine, trying to make a smallish bank last a long time, and playing as many machines as possible. This approach is fun. Today my approach, which I've been using all summer and has been pretty successful, resulted in me coming out eighty bucks ahead.

2. I love days like today when the heat of August is interrupted by low cloud cover, lower temperatures, and rain. What a relief.

3. Leftovers. Pork chops, rice, green beans and bacon. I scarfed down last night's scrumptious dinner all over again this evening.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Good Morning!

These are pictures I took in Silver Valley Girl's back yard this morning in Kellogg, Idaho:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/18/07: Touring the West Silver Valley, Unusual Salsa, Shopping Cart Moment

1. After last Sunday's Shoshone County Pioneers and Oldtimers Association meeting, a trolley ride was available to tour the west Silver Valley. Mom and I didn't go. Instead, Mom, InlandEmpireGirl and I went on our own "trolley" ride today in InlandEmpireGirl's much more comfortable SUV. We toured the new housing projects in Page. We toured Fairway Heights and went as far as the Pine Creek Tavern in Pine Creek. We toured south Kellogg and Wardner. Mom told stories. We tried to remember who lives where. We gawked and admired the new developments all around us in our home valley.

2. Silver Valley Girl concocted a tasty pineapple salsa and coated bbq'ed pork chops with it and had more available at the dinner table. Beautiful, indeed.

3. I leaned on a woman's empty shopping cart at Wal-Mart, thinking it was Mom's. The woman apologized for leaving it in my way. I told her she was lucky. I was going to take off with it. She laughed and pointed out the shopping carts were only a few feet away, pointing at the rows of empty carts. I told her I guessed I could walk all that way to get one and we laughed and laughed at our silly encounter.

Eulogy for Lula: Sunday Scribblings (Dear Diary)

Lula Woolum, my father's mother, died in November of 1991 in Spokane, Washington.

I can't remember if I volunteered or if family members asked me to give a eulogy for her. It's a blur to me.

I had taught at Whitworth College (now University) from 1982-84. I didn't own a car. I walked, biked, and bussed most of the time. I was freshly divorced in 1982 and some nights I walked from downtown Spokane to the far north end of the city, back to Whitworth, trying to sort out my thoughts. I didn't understand this divorce at all. The walks didn't help me understand, but they calmed me, probably with fatigue.

In November of 1991, knowing I had this eulogy to write, I excused myself from my family, and walked from Grandma's house, on east Bridgeport, to downtown Spokane.

I walked the route Grandma always insisted we take to go downtown from her house. She hated going downtown on Division Street, so we would turn west on Buckeye (or Indiana) and then south on Washington and go on into town.

I walked Grandma's route to shake loose memories and thoughts about her life: she listened religiously to Spokane Indian baseball games; she took a radio to bed and listened to Larry King Live; she always had recommendations for me about books she'd heard about on Larry King (and I was a dope and never took her up on her suggestions); as I walked through the neighborhood of modest brick houses on Indiana and Washington, I thought about her snowball bush and her industry in her small garden: her tomatoes, sitting on the window sill in her enclosed back porch to ripen, her green beans, which she always prepared with bacon and served with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy; I thought about her Bible, wondering what verses would be best to eulogize her; I thought about the talks we'd had about heaven and how she saw it as a place without the divisions of people like we knew here on earth; I thought about her being a Gold Star Mother and her misery, a misery she never stopped feeling, at the loss of her oldest son in WWII.

Spokane's landscape is on fire with fall colors in November. I absorbed the flashes of orange and red, maples aflame and walked through Riverfront Park, empty, except for city workers in golf carts tending to tasks to ready the park for winter.

The only way to keep my thoughts straight was to walk to Auntie's Bookstore, it its former and smaller location, and buy a dear diary, and compose the eulogy for Grandma.

My legs tingled. My lungs had expanded. My new dear diary gave me a place to expand my thoughts, to write about eternity, how in eternity no past, present, and future exists. In her death, Grandma would help us taste eternity as her love for gardening and baseball and Larry King and her saches and thoughts about heaven and great meals would live with us, even thought they seemed in the past, we would always carry them into our future.

I was right in 1992. Grandma lives. She helps us taste eternity. She is gone in body, but in my dear diary from that day and in all that we remember her for, she is alive in the present and will continue to live in our future. That's the promise of eternal time.

A dear diary also helps us taste eternity. Observations, scraps of thoughts, memories jotted down, self-examination, longings, self-recrimination, dreams, stories, starts to poems, all of these, scratched out in a dear diary, never die. Writing them sharpens their presence in our minds as we move into he future. Referring back to them brings the past into the present and moves us into the future. When we die, others will find a dear diary we kept, and we are alive again.

Thanks to the purchase of this dear diary, thanks to a long walk into my past, thanks to tasting eternity in remembering Grandma and musing on how her life would be vital to what moved us all forward, I wrote the eulogy.

It went well. In her passing from this mortal life, Grandma was alive for us in a world of time which knows no death.

Read more Dear Diary entries at Sunday Scribblings.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/07: Idaho Heaven, Idaho White Pine, Idaho Tower

1. There is this spot on Highway 3 where the Kootenai and Benewah County lines meet. It's perched above farmland, fresh cut hay, Chatcolet Lake in the distance, and the Bitterroot mountains way to the east. It's the perfect blend of farm, water, mountain, pine trees, birch, cottonwoods, all stretching below this gentle grade. This spot gave me goosebumps today.

2. At the Giant White Pine Campground, I suddenly realized that this would be a perfect spot to bring Snug and do some hiking and then later, at the Laird Park Campground, I discovered there's a swimming spot for dogs and I'd like to see what Snug thinks of it.

3. I really enjoyed looking up at the I tower at the University of Idaho from close to the vantage point where we could see it from the front of the house Mom rented in the summer of 1966 as she finished her BS degree.

And When I Die

InlandEmpireGirl and I went on a sibling outing today. Sadly, Silver Valley Girl was busy landing a new job and spending thousands of dollars on the Princess on fashion enhancements for her senior pictures and couldn't join us.

I was thinking today about my dad and his last few weeks of his life. His last outing before he died was a trip to Prichard and a burger and few cold ones at the Prichard Tavern. Today, I thought, if I can know when I'm going to die, as my dad did, I think I'd like my last outing to be a drive from Kellogg to St. Maries, St. Maries to Potlatch, Potlatch to Moscow, and then from Moscow to Worley, a couple of hours on the slot machines, and then back to Kellogg, over the Fourth of July Pass.

(By the way, I'd also like Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" played at my funeral. If any of my family objects, it's here in writing.)

The following pictures chronicle some of our trip: a stop at the Medimont trailhead on the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes, a view of Cave Lake, a stop at the Giant White Pine Campground, and a tour of the University of Idaho.