Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: 365 Days at kelloggbloggin'

This week's Sunday Scribblings topic is Powerful. You can read other powerful posts right here.

Today is my 365th day keeping this blog. Has it been powerful, this keeping a blog? I'll address that soon. First things first, though.

When I started on October 1, 2006, here's what I thought I'd do:

1. I'll write every day. I decided to count on the blog to structure my life a bit and give me some discipline and motivation to write on a daily basis, no matter how strong or weak the writing.
2. Directly or indirectly, I wanted the blog to reflect that my way of seeing the world and how I experience things is grounded in having been born and raised in Kellogg, Idaho.
3. At the end of a year or so, I would see what I had and see if a larger project might come of this daily blogging.


I've been true to #1, I'd say, 355 out of the 365 days of the year, although sometimes retroactively. I sometimes write 3Beautiful Things the next day. Close enough for me.

Number 2 just happens. Even if my readers don't see the connection between something I write and Kellogg, Idaho, I do.

Number 3. Well, this coming month will be a looking back while I move ahead and see if I see anything worthy of anything beyond a web log.

Has it been powerful, this keeping a blog?

My. Oh. My.

I was a little naive when I started this blog because I genuinely didn't know that any one would read it. I wanted to write and I told my students it was there and some colleagues at Lane Community College, but I didn't know that others would read it.

But they did. They have. They do. I got involved in webwide projects like Huckleberries Online and Sunday Scribblings and PhotoHunt. People from these projects have visited and left comments and I've returned the visits.

But, I never imagined that I'd make contact with so many people in other ways. It's been powerful to have discovered writers like Student of Life and Momma's Gone Mad and others and to have correspondence with them, to even extend and receive their support about different things. Likewise with Katrina, Jbelle, Cis Gors, MarmiteToasty, Herb Urban and quite a few others. I hear from and write to my long-time friend Bridgit after we'd hardly been in touch. (Did I mention that Bridgit was a student of mine at Whitworth? [inside joke;)])

We've written or g-chatted or shared comments about Buddhism, baseball, depression, dogs, literature, poems, poetry, Christianity, Shakespeare, Marmite, and slews of other shared interests. It's been powerful to engage in thoughtful and liberal spirited conversations with so many good people.

I never imagined that starting to keep a blog would deepen the bonds in my family. My sisters started reading my blog. They learned things about me they didn't know. They wanted me to learn things about themselves I didn't know and to learn more about their perspective upon events we were all involved in in family life.

We started giving each other weekly assignments. We've done thirty-nine now and I don't see us stopping. It's amazing. I used to have at most monthly contact with my sisters. An email sometimes. An occasional phone call. My visits to North Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Through blogging, now, I have almost daily contact with my sisters, writing posts I know they'll read, reading their posts, giving each other assignments; our emails to each other have probably tripled, if not quadrupled because of our blogs.

When I visit Kellogg, or go to InlandEmpireGirl's in northeast Washington, we have deliberate sibling outings: no spouses, kids, or our mother allowed!

We never did this before. We never carved out time for the three of us, and now we grab our cameras, go up the river or go to Spokane, or CDA, and we laugh, eat, snap, admire, tease, and have a great time together.

It's because of our blogs.

The blog has also put me back in touch with people I hadn't had contact with for over thirty years from my high school days and people older than I am from Kellogg whom I never knew. I never thought I'd see Wucky again, or Marc, and the three of us had drinks last month in Kellogg together.

I have correspondence and comment sharing with Starr Kelso. Unbelievable. I hear from George Goetzman and we exchange Silver Valley stories. Delta Dawn and I have gotten to know each other in ways we couldn't have imagined. An old friend of my father's, Walt Gaby, emerged because another friend of my father's, Merv Hill, sent him a funny list I posted that Dave Oliveria ran in his Huckleberries column in the Spokesman Review. Walt has opened up to me all kinds of things I never knew about my father and his two brothers. It's blown me away.

In other words, it's not just been having readers from my family or my hometown or my home region or across the country or around the world find and read my blog, the most powerful experience has been the connections. I've never been happier.

It's the miracle of the Internet and it's a very powerful miracle indeed.

I look forward to year number two.

I'll keep saying to myself: Blog on, Raymond Pert, blog on!

Three Beautiful Things 09/29/07: Ah! Radio, Tim, Checker Mirth

1. The Ducks lost to Cal this afternoon, 31-24, in a gut buster and I sure enjoyed listening to the whole game on the radio.

2. When was the last time I enjoyed a piece of short fiction more than Tim O'Brien's "On the Rainy River". It encapsulated my favorite expression of understanding and compassion. The best compassion ain't sloppy.

3. The checker at Albertson's today was friendly, funny, and a little tiny bit flirty. She made Joe Albertson's supermarket a little more fun to visit.

PhotoHunt: Original


Original Sin








Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sibling Assignment #39: Humiliation and Motivation

Silver Valley Girl gave this week's assignment. She asked us to write about something that happened before we went to college that contributed to being the teachers we are today. Silver Valley Girl's assignment is here and you'll find InlandEmpireGirl's here.

I'm not sure why I even played basketball my senior year at Kellogg High School. Much of the pleasure I'd once felt playing competitive basketball had pretty much dried up. I enjoyed basketball, but my skills were diminishing instead of improving, my heart was no longer in it, and I didn't have that much to contribute to our team.

I often have dreams, even these thirty-five years later, of being back in high school and declining to turn out for basketball, of pursuing other interests and enjoying my teammates as a fan.

But, at the time, I joined the team out of habit. I had fun being around my teammates and becoming a clown on the team, making the guys laugh, but I didn't enjoy practice or even the games all that much.

My senior season hits it nadir when we hosted the Wallace Miners, our cross county rivals, at home. We had beaten Lewiston and Clarkston at home the weekend before and those wins catapulted the Kellogg Wildcats to the sixth ranked team in the state.

John Hinkemeyer, one of our steadiest and toughest inside players, was nursing a sore ankle coming into the Wallace game. Our coach, Bob Emheiser, decided to rest him, at least to start the game, and made me a starter. Furthermore, he appointed me as captain for the game.

I was in over my head. I hadn't started a game all season. I really hadn't even played all that much. I was excited, but in a nervy way: too much adrenaline.

After Wallace captain John Boffencamp and I met at the center circle for a pre-game briefing with the referees and after the National Anthem, we broke from our huddle for the game's opening tip.

We won the tip, Bruce Larsen eyed me streaking ahead of any Wallace Miners, hit me in stride with a perfect pass, I drove unguarded to the basket, and my lay-in spun out. It was the adrenaline. In my mind, I laid the ball softly against the backboard, but my body was pumped and my shot was too forceful.

So began a woeful night for the Wildcats. I missed couple of jump shots, badly, got benched, and the Wallace Miners jumped out to a big lead that they never relinquished.

Before the game, we'd been told to clear out our lockers. The locker room was going to be disinfected because a flu virus was spreading.

Distraught and embarrassed by my performance, blaming myself for the loss because I missed that opening lay-in, I left my pre-game warm-up jersey behind.

I didn't think much of it, until the next night. Our opponent was St. Maries and when I arrived for our pre-game meeting, Coach asked me where my warm-up was.

"I forgot it last night."

"I know. You're suspended."

I, and four of my teammates, were suspended that night. Others left their warm-ups. Harold Littleton was suspended for eating a hamburger too close to game time.

Coach was taking out his anger for our loss to Wallace on the players he suspended.

"Oh! And don't think you're going home. I want you on the bench in your street clothes."

Our "street clothes" were a purple shirt and a gold tie. Coach decided not only to suspend, but to humiliate us.

I've never forgotten that night. I deeply regret not having had the guts to walk off the team. I may as well have. I was a cipher for the rest of the season, with little commitment to anything but subverting the coach as a smart ass and redoubling my efforts to do stuff to make my teammates laugh.

This incident has had a deep and lasting impact on my work as a teacher. One of my principal tenets as a teacher is to do all I can never to embarrass a student and never to humiliate one.

I've not always lived up to this. I've had my bad moments. But, especially as I get older and more seasoned as a teacher, I keep in the front of my mind, all the time, that no one is motivated my humiliation. If a student has a problem, that problem will never be solved and will only be exacerbated if I humiliate her or him.

Again, I've had my bad moments as a teacher. I've not always been true to this principal. But, I my work is governed by the principal that most important source of motivation for a student is to be treated humanely.

I'm keenly aware of students who are, in a college English class, similar to how I was a basketball player that senior year. Many students have lost their confidence. Many are disgruntled and disillusioned. Some have suffered humiliation from teachers and are wary, even distrustful.

I've learned that the only way to effectively counter this malaise, when I encounter it, is to be humane.

I learned this most vividly by Coach Emheiser's petulant suspension of me for the pettiest of reasons.

Sometimes I have learned what is right by having been wronged and swearing never to wrong another person in the same way.

The humiliation I felt that Saturday night during the game against St. Maries is the strongest example of this kind of learning.

I'm not grateful for having learned the importance of humaneness in this way. It still angers me. But, it was one of the most unforgettable contributions anyone made to my development as a person that led to me being the almost always humane teacher I am today.

Three Beautiful Things 09/28/07: Engagement, Invisible Poor, Rain Arrives

1. My 10:30 class sizzled today while discussing the short movie, "The Family Tree". Their insights and understanding of the movie stimulated me, making wish the class period wouldn't end and that we could go on digging into how the movie is structured and how it treats the experience of loss, survival, and reconciliation.

2. Coffee with Penny was really good. She works with VISTA and is going to give a talk to other VISTA workers about her life-long experience with poverty and she wanted to try out her ideas and approach on me. I think she'll blow her colleagues away with the depth of her understanding and the difficulties of her experiences and with the way she understands the hidden blessings of her difficult life.

3. Rain is finally beginning to spit a bit in Eugene. It felt good to have the air be a little heavier, to hear some claps of thunder, and to see the dusty ground get a little moisture. Before long, we'll have longish stretches of rain and it will grow tiresome, but I always welcome the tentative beginnings of the rainy season, of grim clouds pushing themselves upon the blue sky.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/27/07: Lane Community College's Boy in a Chair Returns x 3

I'm in the infant stages of learning how to use my new Canon Powershot A640 camera. Before my six o'clock class this evening, I went back to my favorite and a familiar subject, The Boy in a Chair at Lane Community College.

1. I love how the tree growing out of his head is bare in contrast to the lush foliage behind him.



From this perspective, you can see how the lowering sun washed a small patch of leaves several yards in front of the boy:



I'd like this picture better if the details of the boy's face were a little clearer, but, still, I like the way the sun crowns him:


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/26/07: Tears, Sarah's Back, Silence

1. I had to hide behind the classroom's projector and sound system console today while the credits ran at the end of the short film "Family Tree". I wanted to shed the tears that movie draws from me in private.

2. Sarah was born in Silverton and was raised in Pinehurst and left the Silver Valley to come to Eugene and go to school. She was in my WR 121 class in the fall of 1999 and experienced the fear and dread of my near fatal bout with meningitis. She's retaking the course. And here she is, eight years later, sitting in the front of my MWF WR 121 class, back in school, determined to get into the nursing program. A lot of history has passed between us.

3. Kendra wrote me that she and her husband were moved by my poem, "Free". Her husband worked in the Sunshine Mine. So did his father. His grandfather was killed in the 1972 fire. They read the poem and paused for a moment of silence together to honor the men who were lost.

Heart and Soul and Mind

Today's one of those days in the blogging life of my sisters and me when we are walking on a worn path we are all three familiar with. If you get a chance, go read about and look at the pictures InlandEmpireGirl has posted about her middle school students learning to draw during Native American Week at the Inchelium school, where she teaches, on the Colville reservation. Go here. Also visit Silver Valley Girl as she writes about inspiring her seventh and eighth grade in Kellogg Middle School's GEAR-UP program with some thrilling and stirring Dr. Seuss. Just go here.

While my sisters work to help nourish the talents and bolster the spirit of middle school kids, I am working with adults who need the same.

While Silver Valley Girl instills ideals in her students of dreaming of an ambitious future for themselves and while InlandEmpireGirl helps facilitate her students' bringing the history of their heritage and making it alive in the present, I'm going to be working with those parents and divorcees and recovering addicts among my students who are only now, well beyond middle school, trying to take hold of the Dr. Seuss's rallying cry: "Oh, the places these kids can go!"

Classes at Lane Community College, where I teach, started Monday and already two particular students have my attention.

One came to me today with her letter of accomodation from disability services. She's an adult. Right now she has seven kids at home, three or four who are hers. She has a hyphenated name, but wanted me to know right away that she was cutting that name in half. She suffers from ADHD. She needs to be able to get up and walk around if need be. She's in physical pain and needs a special chair in class. I've worked with student in her predicament a lot. I want to say, "Oh the places this kid can go!" and I know that the gravitational pull of her circumstances outside of the classroom and the afflictions she brings to the classroom will grab at her constantly, that she'll be giving more energy to just trying to climb the mountain of her life, slow step by slow step, than she can give to her studies.

I was pleased to see that this woman's face, while unmistakably marked with the deep creases of suffering, is an open, smiling face. I can tell that she is starting this term of study with determination, that she wants no pity, but she wants understanding. She was, in her forthrightness about her condition and living circumstances combined with her hesitance and vulnerability, asking me, without saying it, to be flexible. The abstract time line of a college term and concrete demands on her time may not mesh. She's going to need understanding and flexibility to successfully navigate the whitecaps of life and the demands of school.

She doesn't have the luxury of youth, of having the youthful energy to mess up and know there's most likely a next time. Her next time is now.

Tuesday night one of my adult students stayed after class to tell me he's deathly afraid of my class. It cost him to tell me that. No grown man wants to tell another man he's scared to death of anything, let alone a college composition class.

This man is in another bind I see too often. He's dyslexic, severely dyslexic. A world of marks on a page that flow in legible sequence for me from left to right, are, for him, jumping all over the place, making reading a painstaking undertaking. What's more, he can't spell. His shame about his spelling leads him to limit his writing vocabulary to the small set of words he knows how to spell and so many of his ideas and ways of understanding the world go unexpressed. He knows the words. He can't make them known to another who reads expecting to recognize those words as spelled in a standard way.

Before I could ask him about taking advantage of disability service's resources, he told me a story I've heard too often. In order to take advantage of those services, he has to have his disability verified by testing. The testing costs five to six hundred dollars. It has to come out of the pocket of the person to be tested. He doesn't have the money.

He's in a suffocating cage of his anatomy, of the way he's wired.

We talked about some possible solutions: books on tape, speech recognition software, and other technological instruments that he'd have provided for him if he were tested and verified as dyslexic.

My sisters and I have talked often about how none of the assessment policy makers and others in the public who legislate what must be used to hold us accountable in our work, takes into consideration the messy particulars of what inhibits learning and academic success that has little to do with the quality of instruction. We aren't producing shoes. We aren't in the business of products at all.

I've seen students faced with the sort of difficulties these two face triumph academically. I've seen many more disappear, not having found a better place to go, but resigning themselves to never having the quality of life they can dream of improving, but can't make those dreams come true.

My sisters and I try to help our students develop their minds. It's great work.

Most of what we do, though, is a matter of heart and soul. Students like the ones I've described want to benefit from all I have to offer to help them develop and exercise their intellect.

But, more than that, they hope to benefit from whatever I can offer them of my heart and soul. Both of them know that they are intelligent enough to do well in school, but their hearts are in pain and their souls are in doubt. They have every reason to doubt that they'll ever reach the place they want so badly to go. Doubt isn't an intellectual problem. It's a malady of the heart and a poisoner of the soul.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/25/07: Focus, Focus, Sweet Pop

1. My new Canon Powershot a640 arrived today. I spent the afternoon working on school tasks and my evening class met tonight, so I haven't taken a chance to try this camera out. My afternoon is freer tomorrow, so I'll be able to start snapping around. Get ready Snug.

2. I'm energized by having decided to assign different books and to change the philosophical focus of my WR 121 course. We'll be exploring loss, survival, and reconciliation, reading "The Things They Carried", "Buffalo for the Broken Heart", and "The Souvenir". Our department has cut back on literature offerings and so my entire teaching schedule is three sections of this one course. I passionately look forward to being able to focus on this one course and to move deeply into these central human concerns of what we suffer, how we get through it, and what the different faces of reconciliation can be.

3. After my evening class I arrived home, popped a generous bowl of popcorn, lightly buttered and salted it, and sat down with a very cold bottle of Diet Pepsi. The caramel flavor of the Diet Pepsi sweetened the popcorn and suddenly it was 1964 and I was at Northtown in Spokane with Mom and my sisters and the smell of that old shop that sold caramel popcorn overwhelmed my memory circuits.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/24/07: Stepfather, Stirred, Snug the Cowardly Dog

1. The Deke told me that she appreciated how I've been as a stepfather to her children and it touched me deeply.

2. I had a good talk with Dubya about Clint Eastwood as a film director and we shared how stirring we found "Letters from Iwo Jima".

3. Snug lunged at the mailman. He was in protective mode. The screen door was unlocked. He hit the screen door and his contact with it scared him and he jumped back. So much for protection. The mailman and I had a good laugh. The mailman said, "Well, he had his chance."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/23/07: Rarin' to Go, Sleepless, Black Hole Illness

1. I have my course syllabus and calendar ready to go for my three sections of WR 121 and I'm stoked to get started.

2. I finished my sibling assignment. The project stimulated me, finding pictures to accompany "Sleepless", a composition written and played by my long-time friend and fellow Kellogg High School graduate (Class of '72), Tim O'Reilly. Scroll down to the post below and you'll find my slide show.

3. Jbelle turned me on to an insightful blog post about depression. It rang true. One day, I hope, it will be accepted and run of the mill knowledge that depression is a mental illness, no more a matter of the condition of one's will than contracting the common cold or cancer. You can read Michael McGrorty's piece here.

Sibling Assignment #38: Sculpture at Lane Community College

My fellow Kellogg High School class of 1972 mate, and long and good friend, Tim O'Reilly has returned to composing music after a long hiatus. A week or so ago he sent me a sound file of a piece of one of compositions, "Sleepless". I assigned my sisters and me to take that piece of music and make a slide show with pictures that we had either taken or scanned. InlandEmpireGirl's is here. Silver Valley Girl's is here.

It was intriguing and stimulating to do the opposite of what I usually do; I usually have pictures and then look for music. I hope this show of sculptures at Lane Community College fits well with Tim's composition:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/22/07: Even More War, Fiction, Mad Momma

1. I finished watching "Letters from Iwo Jima". It's a singularly powerful and unsettling movie. It does far more than simply put the experience of the Japanese soldiers at Iwo Jima in a human perspective. It digs deeply into the futile nature of war itself and the immeasurable disconnection between the conduct of war and the principles of freedom it purports to be in defense of.

2. I have hesitated for months to post my Sunshine Mine Fire poem, "Free". I suppose, in part, I've hesitated because it is a fiction and I have been concerned that such a powerful historical disaster might seem diminished by fictional treatment. But, today, I posted it, here. My hope is that the death of Carl Nash and the grief of his wife and the kindness of Billy will ring true, even if these events of the poem didn't really happen. I think, however, in the larger world of grief and kindness they did happen. I just don't know the particular people who suffered like Mrs. Nash or extended kindness like Billy. That's why I think fiction is our most reliable and practical means of knowing truth. It doesn't let the strict facts of history get in the way.

3. A few questions I posed to blogger Momma's Gone Mad resulted in the start of a wonderful email exchange between us today, an exchange rooted in our mutual love of North Idaho, the Oregon Coast, and a shared faith in Christianity.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Photo Hunt: Paper


This photograph, taken at Heceta Beach, Oregon, made me think how thin as paper the line can be that marks where the ocean ends and the sea begins.



Click the icon for more paper pictures.

Sunday Scribblings: Hi, My Name Is Carl Nash

Hi, my name is Carl Nash. I am a made up person that Raymond Pert created to tell a made up story as if it happened in and after a real life event. The real life event was the Sunshine Mine Fire of 1972, near Kellogg, Idaho. Ninety-one men were killed. My story is about what people did and felt in the aftermath of the fire.


Free

Down the Jewell Shaft of the Sunshine Mine
The men called bologna horse cock
And the miner who loved horse cock most was
Carl Nash. His hands chewed and bloody
From shoveling mine car after mine car of muck,
At lunch Carl unfolded a cloth napkin on the lunchroom
Table and laid out his horse cock and onion sandwich,
Prayed thanks, and ate it like bread at the communion rail.

Billy trudged down two houses after each snow fall
And heaved shovel after shovel into tall berms to clear
The way for Carl Nash to tell Billy he shovelled snow
Like a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest
And to drive his Rambler Ambassador on to the glass road
Leading up Big Creek Gulch and day shift at the Sunshine Mine.

When the mine fire hit the lunch room at the 4100
Level, Carl Nash died with a cloth napkin unfolded
And dropped his nose into his spongy horse cock sandwich.

Months later snow fell hard and deep and Billy
Trudged down and offered to shovel snow for Mrs. Nash,
Who thanked him very much but couldn’t afford to pay him
The way Carl did. Billy trudged back toward home
And turned around and knocked again on Mrs. Nash’s door.
“It’s okay. I’ll shovel your walk for free.”

Three Beautiful Things 09/21/07: Cheerleading, Memoir, War Again

1. The word of the day: sarcasm. My work place is on a downward slide fueled by budgetary woes and I can endure it, outside the classroom, with heavy sarcasm, acting like a cheerleader for the slide in quality and the bottom line driven poison that is coursing through LCC's veins.

2. Jose and I had a great lunch together. I'll keep readers here posted as to when his rollicking and insightful memoir is finally published. Talking with him today about the demands his writing has made on him was compelling. It might be a while before it comes out, but, trust me, this will be a book you'll want to read.

3. I started watching "Letters from Iwo Jima" and in the early stages of the movie, we see that the WWII Japanese war machine was fraught with in-fighting, inflexibility, ideological blindness, and a sense of tragic doom. So far, it's been most enlightening to gain further insight into the absurdity of war as seen through the experience of the Japanese fighting forces on Iwo Jima.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Desert Diva: Here Are Your Answers!

A new blog pal I met through Photo Hunters is Desert Diva. In a comment recently she asked me two questions:

1. What's the origin of Three Beautiful Things?
2. What's the origin of Sibling Assignments?

1. I don't remember how I came upon the Garden of Eden of Three Beautiful Things, but one day I discovered Clare's blog "Three Beautiful Things", where the international movement to record three things that have given one pleasure during the day originated. Visit Clare's blog and you'll find that she's inspired quite a few people to jot down Three Beautiful Things each day.

2. My two sisters and I enjoy writing. One day in November, 2006, my younger sister, Silver Valley Girl, emailed me and InlandEmpireGirl and suggested that we start giving each other weekly writing assignments. At that time, neither of my sisters kept blogs, but they both decided soon after the new year to write blogs and so our weekly assignments are out there for anyone to read. Needless to say, the most fascinating dimension of this project is to see how differently the three of us all see and understand the same things (and how often my younger sisters must correct their older brother's memory!).

This project has done more than anything in our family's history to draw us closer to one another, understand each other better, and keep in close contact.

Three Beautiful Things 09/20/07: War, Grace, More War

This evening I finished Louise Steinman's memoir, The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War. In going through her father's belongings, after he died, Steinman finds letters her father wrote to her mother during World War II and a Japanese flag with a soldier's name on it. Steinman decides to return the flag to the soldier's family. It's a terrific book. Here are three beautiful things about this book:

1. The human body and nervous system not wired for war. While the abstract principles and possession of land war is fought over might make war necessary and make soldiers admirable, war exhausts the body with its inherent deprivations. War shatters the body with its violence. War stretches the nervous system way beyond capacity and many soldiers never recover from the damage.

2. When Steinman returns the flag to the family of the Japanese soldier who was killed in the Phillipines, I've rarely witnessed such a moving account of the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

3. In unadorned prose, Steinman's father's letters give readers a much deeper feeling for the horrors of what soldiers experienced fighting in the Pacific Theater. I often wonder if these men, on the one hand, are grateful for the public admiration extended to them and for their efforts being called "The Great War", but, on the other hand, if they'd like to be better understood for having endured battle trials and horrors that were far from great and that left many of these men damaged, if not physically, certainly psychologically, for life. In a general sense, was the WWII soldier understood for this? Did the public generally understand that the Great War may have had a great outcome, but that the fighting itself afflicted many soldiers with long term damage and horrible memories?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/19/07: Poem, Coffee, Muffin

1. Debbie liked Dan's poem about his granddaughter so much she copied it out and went to visit Dan's office to introduce herself and talk about the poem.

2. Hope/Faith/Charity and I talked about a wide range of things over coffee: Dorianne Laux to mortgage rates.

3. I hadn't been to Great Harvest for months. Alice works there. I don't know her. But, she has ragged on me for different Great Harvest faux pas I've committed: I bought too many muffins once without a pre order; I used my credit card once on an order too small for the credit card -- I've committed other crimes against Great Harvest. BUT, today, we had a lovely exchange about the change of the seasons and how she enjoys whatever season she is in and never wishes it were another season and told her that's the way to live and we parted on the best terms ever today. Oh..I really enjoyed my apple raisin muffin and coffee, too!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My Personal DNA: Considerate Visionary (An Eight Syllable Way to Say "Wimp")

I followed Silver Valley Girl's lead and took this PersonalDNA test. You can, too. Just go here.

Click for my personalDNA Report

Here are personalDNA maps that uniquely represent my personality. Mouse over any part of the box or strip to learn more about the traits that the colors represent.



Three Beautiful Things 09/18/07: 21st Century Guy, Gums, Promotion


1. I've decided to assume the persona of 21st century guy at LCC. Our college is having problems. So, I say things in meetings like, "'Effieciency? That's so 1998! It's the 21st century! The 21st century is about process, unit plans, assessment reports, input, productivity, accountability, and so on! I embrace the 21st century!"

2. One thing I do really appreciate about the 21st century is the continued improvements in dentistry. I have my teeth cleaned every three months instead of every six months and I really like Trish, the hygienist. In fact, here are words I've never written or spoken before: with Trish as my hygienist, I enjoy going to the dentist.

3. Another thing I enjoy about the 21st century is Web 2.0. I think for the hell of it I'll create a myspace page to advertise my winter quarter World Literature course and make some kind of YouTube thing, also. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/17/07: Feng Shui, Dim Light, Upgrade

1. Back to work today. News to catch up on. Good conversations. I thought I'd left my office clean when I took off for the summer. Wrong. I started. I didn't finish. Until today. It really felt good. My office is really taking shape.

2. Jay told me and Dan that our college president said in her speech this morning that budgetary matters looked difficult but there was light at the end of the tunnel. I said, "Even if it's a forty watt bulb." Dan and Jay laughed really hard.

3. I ordered a new camera tonight, a Powershot A640. I have dropped my other camera one too many times and although it works, I decided to take the opportunity of my other camera being a little sluggish as an excuse to upgrade. It won't be my last upgrade. I'm going to learn more about this camera, learn more about taking pictures, try to save some money, and eventually buy a camera fit not for a hobbyist but an enthusiast!

North Idaho Summer (Part 1)

I spent two months in North Idaho, ending on Tuesday last week.

I thought it might be fun and gratifying to reflect from time to time over the next week or so about what has stayed with me about this visit.

I loved the burgers. I get tired, in Eugene, of the hamburger having become a gourmet entree, with blue cheese and avocado and other fancified ways of preparing it, so that when I come to Kellogg and to North Idaho, I can rest assured that I will be able to eat honest hamburgers, whether off the bbq in Mom's or SilverValleyGirl's back yard or whether at one of the local eateries that treats the hamburger in plain, straightforward ways.

No one in the Silver Valley fixes an Event Burger or a Happening Burger. That's what I hate in Eugene. Everything has to be an Event or a Happening or part of a Scene. Even burgers.

But in the Silver Valley, at Carlin Bay, in Potlatch, in Orofino, and especially in Murray, the hamburgers were real.

I ate the best hamburger I've had in years....well, let me rephrase: I might have had the best hamburger of my life at the Sprag Pole Cafe in Murray, Idaho. Wait. Just a second. I think I scanned a picture of the Sprag Pole that George Goetzman took and turned into a greeting card. I'll be right back - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Found it! Here:


Everything about the burger I had at the Sprag Pole was perfect. I wish I knew something about the beef. It was the best ground beef I've ever tasted in a burger. I wonder if it was fresh or a cut of beef superior to what is usually used in burgers, but this hamburger's patty was almost as melt in the mouth good as prime rib. Not only that, the patty was generous. It was thick. So the sweet taste of the generous patty was augmented by the its size and by how it was cooked all the way through, while retaining its juiciness.

I did not want to finish this burger. I kept taking long slow bites, sinking my teeth into the core of the patty as patiently as I could, letting the juices of the beef and the sweet catsup and biting mustard and fresh tomato and sweet onion all reward me with their slow pleasures.

I took a bite, admired its taste, set the burger down, admired it, let the taste rest in my mouth, and reluctantly picked up the burger for another bite. I was reluctant only because another bite meant I was getting closer to finishing this great sandwich and I never wanted this experience to end.

But, end it did and, now that I'm back in Eugene, I must go out into the many rural areas of Lane County and see if there's a burger universe that parallels the universe of the Sprag Pole Cafe.

Or will I have to wait until I return to North Idaho to once again experience such a full and generous burger?

Snug Trots Along the Pacific Ocean


Snug trots, originally uploaded by Bill Woolum.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/16/07: Bath, Sib Post, Jesus Saves!

1. Snug was all briny and sandy after chasing seagulls and swimming in the Pacific Ocean yesterday, so taking him to Suds 'Em Yourself and making his liver and white coat shiny again was a treat for him and me.

2. I enjoyed posting my Sibling assignment today and writing about what, in part, makes Snug so important to me.

3. I put my XM radio on Bluegrass Junction and this evening the channel featured a gospel bluegrass show and I really enjoyed songs praising Jesus and bemoaning the grief of death but anticipating the life to come being sung and played as bluegrass music.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sibling Assignment #37: Another Pair of Eyes



This week's Sibling Assignment comes from InlandEmpireGirl. We are to write about a significant event with a pet that made us glad to have the pet. I'll post links to my sisters' posts as soon as they put them up.

Yesterday, my English Springer Spaniel, Snug, and I went to the ocean at Heceta Beach, a few miles north of Florence.


Maybe it was because I had my camera and I've been doing experiments with letting my camera be my eyes. Whatever the reason, yesterday I accepted Snug's invitation to see the ocean and the beach the way he does and I tried to make a record of his perspective by taking pictures of it -- and even when I couldn't photograph his perspective, I tried to see this most familiar beach in a new way, from a Snug's eye view.

Oddly enough, seeing the ocean through Snug's eyes made me think of Moby-Dick. When I read Moby-Dick for the first time about twenty-six years ago, my view of the ocean changed. I had never before thought of the ocean as a wilderness. Being a landlocked Idahoan, roadless stretches of mountains, forests, rocks, glaciers, and rivers defined my image of the wilderness. My familiarity with the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness also shaped my image of the wilderness as unforgiving scabland and desert.

But, even though I 'd thought of the ocean as perilous and unpredictable, not until Moby-Dick did I think of it as a wilderness. Furthermore, I never thought of the beach as wilderness. I never thought of beachcombers and meditative walkers strolling along the thin edge of water and land as walking in the wild.

Yesterday, watching Snug chase seagulls and other birds and watching him stalk the beach and nose his way through the beach grass and spontaneously charge toward a new gull squawk or dash to sniff out a tufted puffin carcass, I realized that he was not in a county park or at a human recreation area. Snug was in the wild and the sea breeze, banquet of wild smells, great expanse of sand and ocean, and seagulls diving at him, soaring above him, and often taunting him stimulated the core of his being so that he could be something like a wild dog, not so domesticated.

Snug also roused primal fear in me yesterday. In absolutely obsession with particular seagull, Snug bounced five yards, ten yards, fifteen yards, and then nearly twenty yards out into the ocean. The water was shallow and the incoming surf was mild, but I kept thinking of undertows and wilderness forces in the ocean that pull outward as well as push toward shore. I called, "Snug! Snug! Come on, Snug! SNUG! That's enough! Snug, come on! SNUG! SNUG!" Mine was a feeble voice in the wilderness. Between Snug's ecstatic barking, the wind blowing in my face, and the splashing and crashing of the waves, my calls to Snug were vain.

I was out of my element. I only hoped Snug was in his. He is a water dog.

Snug gave up after about fifteen minutes and resumed his waterlogged sand wolf stalking of the beach, outsmarting my every attempt to leash him to head home, taunting me the same way the seagulls had taunted him. But, I knew that if I started back toward the car, Snug would follow.

As much as he loves teaching me about the wilderness of the ocean, Snug loves the comforts of the hearth, too.

Three Beautiful Things 09/15/07: Light, Bath, Chase

Snug and I went to the ocean today. I fell in love with Oregon all over again. I finally decided that it doesn't have to be either North Idaho or Western Oregon. I can love both at the same time. One difference will always endure, though. When I'm in Oregon, I always miss North Idaho. When I'm in North Idaho, I never miss Oregon.

Here are three pictures of three beautiful things at Heceta Beach today, just north of Florence.

1. It was a wonderful day for sea and sun and sky and clouds playing with each other.


2. Snug seemed to enjoy this moment of bathing in the light!

3. Most of all, he loved chasing seagulls and other birds!



If you'd like to see the pictures I took today, go here. If you'd like to see them as a slide show, go here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Collector Personality

My mother collects spoons. They are souvenir spoons from different cities or national parks or other places, I guess. She also collects angels. When I walk in her house, I literally think I've died and gone to heaven, if heaven is a place with hundreds of house plants, antique kitchenware covering the entire east wall of the kitchen, and if heaven is where no magazine, regardless of how obscure, gets thrown away. My mother is a collector, a hoarder, and a keeper.

My sisters and their husbands are collectors, too. Chickens, watering cans, pottery, music boxes, oh, I don't know what else. I always feel guilty at Christmas time because I can never remember who collects what and I don't want to ask because I don't want to appear to be exactly the oblivious brother I am.

My family is a collection of collectors - - except for me. I am a purger, not a collector. I want stuff to be gone. I don't keep things. If something comes in the house, I'm happiest if something goes out to make room for it. I don't like hanging on to clothes. I keep books moving out and have performed ruthless purges of my CD collection, greatly enriching the inventory at Goodwill.

I don't know what it is about me.

I guess maybe I see stuff as like the blood in our circulatory system. Maybe collecting strikes me as being like cholesterol. Too much collected stuff builds up and arteries get blocked and somehow, for me, when too much stuff starts to pile up in the house, whether it's magazines or books or clothes or even mugs and drinking glasses, I want to clear the arteries, get the blood flowing again, and feel like I can breathe.

In my personal thesaurus, collecting is synonymous with claustrophobia.

Right now, the only things I really collect I store electronically. I'm starting to collect photographs, ones I've taken and ones from our family's collection that I've scanned. I have very few printed pictures from the past, but with a digital camera and an external hard drive, which takes up very little physical space, I can collect pictures, and they don't take up any room. I can make little YouTube slideshows and I can display my pictures at Flickr and they are like, well, invisible.

So, I guess I'm really a virtual collector, a collector of invisible things like digital pictures and thoughts in my head, but when it comes to the material world, I'm a man in conflict with it, and find it hard to even collect coins in change jar.

Read about other collector personalities here.

Three Beautiful Things 09/14/07: King Lear Experts, Into the World, Mystery Procrastination

1. Don Wall Scott Pedro Roderigo Albany Shirk came by the house today to talk about how the King Lear production is coming along at Lane Community College and we had a grand time shooting the breeze, drinking a cup of coffee, and pulling together all the threads of intrigue and meaning in Shakespeare's King Lear. Not bad for an hour of conversation.

2. I ventured out of the house in Eugene for the first time since returning home. It was good. I did some banking and some drugstoring and started to regain my sense of direction in this goofy town of Eugene.

3. I love getting caught up on home business things that need my attention. I took care of one of those projects today and next up is a project I've been putting off for several months that will be a major relief to finish up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Photo Hunters: Plastic


I have a funny thing about taking photographs of plastic bottled water bottles. I took this one backstage during one of our rehearsals of last winter's Lane Community College production of Othello. Water is an actor's source of life. I enjoy the playmaking activity visible beyond the bottle in this picture.



Maybe my favorite plastic object is my XM Radio receiver, here seen one night just before I went to sleep with the radio tuned to Real Jazz, Channel 70.





See more plastic pictures here.

Three Beautiful Things 09/13/07: Puppy Love, Desk Magic, Decade with the Deke

1. Can love be put on a numerical 1-10 scale? I'll pretend it can. My love for Snug is 10. Now, back in Eugene, I'm back with the Corgis. I love being back with them. My love for them? 9.99999999999999. . . on into infinity. It's a tight love race with the dogs!

2. Before I left Eugene to stay in Kellogg for two months, I dedicated a couple or three days to straightening and organizing my office space. What a joy to come back to that space and work at it today! While away I purchased a scanner and an external hard drive and my newly organized desk has room for laptop, printer, scanner, external hard drive, XM Radio receiver, and Bose speakers. I never in all my life dreamed that I'd be able to listen to music or baseball games or the BBC, store sick amounts of gigabytes of data, scan pictures from all phases of my life, publish a blog, and print CNET photo tip tutorials all in one modest-sized space. (Jeez. If I look to my right, there's our cheap television and cheap DVD player and I just have to insert a shiny disc and a movie appears for my enjoyment.)

3. Speaking of scanning. I was going through a desk drawer and looking at pictures. The Deke and I started messing around with each other ten years ago, at just the same time she was releasing her second CD, "Ninety Miles Out", a masterpiece of writing, playing, and singing. She had a friend take photographs of her for the album cover, and, although this one didn't make the cut, it's one of my favorites and reminds me of when the Deke and were young kids in our mid-forties!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Three Beautiful Things x 2, 09/11,12/07: Pickle Man, Zip's, Hallucinating?, Home, Coma, Snug :)

Driving for over 12 hours on the 11th on into the 12th from Kellogg to Eugene, and sleeping most of the 12th has made these two days almost seem like one. But, without question, six beautiful things occurred, and here they are:

1. I dropped off pickles on behalf of InlandEmpireGirl at Delta Dawn's and got word that DDawn enjoyed them, almost to the point of tears. It was a recipe of DDawn's mother, so InlandEmpireGirl helped awaken sweet feelings in DDawn for days gone by (but that were suddenly back!).

2. Guilty pleasure: Belly Buster and a tub of French Fries at Zip's in Ritzville!

3. I've never seen such a sustained pink and orange sunset glow as today, driving from Ritzville to the Tri-Cities. The sun seemed almost frozen, it dropped so slowly and the pinkish golden light made the whole landscape seem woozy. I wondered if maybe I was high on Zip's and Diet Pepsi!

4. I walked in the back door. I hadn't been in our house for two months. The oak wood kitchen floor and the newly cleaned counters and sink looked heavenly to me. I immediately felt that I was in the right place, even though I had just left the right place. I definitely have two lives.

5. I needed to sleep most of the day today after driving until 3 a.m. The house was still, the room cool, Snug needed the sleep, too, and I just let myself glide under the thick quilt of near comatose sleep.

6. Snug has been a gentleman since returning to Eugene. He's been gentle and playful with the Corgi's, loving and obedient with the Deke, and, as always, a good pal for me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Scream:Edvard Munch Meets Silver Valley Girl



Three Beautiful Things 09/10/07: Feng Shui, Burrito, Eclectic Princess

1. I sorted, organzied, and deleted files in on my external hard drive today. It's like cleaning up a cluttered room. I keep looking for the just right feng shui.

2. I enjoyed a wet burrito the size of a bison's head today at San Felipe's.

3. The Princess was on her computer near where I was organizing my external hard drive and she played the widest variety of music and it invigorated me, making an otherwise tedious task very enjoyable.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/09/07: Scream, Siblings, Bored

I spent all day today scanning and editing pictures from Mom's collection of photos over the years.

1. I remembered, years ago, taking a bunch of close-ups of Silver Valley Girl, like this one:


2. My Uncle Bill was killed in WWII before he turned twenty, so not many pictures exist of my dad with his two brothers, Bill (the tallest) and Harry (the next tallest), and his sister, Ruth. I was glad to find this one:

3. InlandEmpireGirl worked at the old Kellogg Evening News. I'm glad she gives her blog more energy and passion than she apparently gave to her job in the newsroom!

Three Beautiful Things 09/08/07: YakYak, Loud Girls, Scanner

1. Ed and Jake and I got together for breakfast at the Silver Spoon and, as if I needed it, I remembered yet again what I miss by not living in Kellogg: a good breakfast with good friends talking about the ins and outs of behind the scenes life in Shoshone County. I'll miss this a lot again when I return to Eugene.

2. Coco had nine friends over for her birthday party and it was wonderful listening to them play Capture the Flag in the back yard and hearing all their laughter and loud talk as they moved from one activity to the next with contemporary teen music blaring over the cd player.

3. I sorted out and began scanning dozens of pictures Mom has at her house and began to devise all sorts of ways those pictures could help this blog.

One Perfect Jump Shot: Sibling Assignment #36

Silver Valley Girl assigned me and InlandEmpireGirl to write about a vivid time we remember from junior high. InlandEmpireGirl's post is here and Silver Valley Girl's is still to come.


My ninth grade picture



It was mid-February. Our ninth grade basketball season was drawing to a close. By any measure, we'd had a great season. We'd defeated Wallace, Lakeland, Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, Kootenai, and St. Maries. The only team we never could beat was Sandpoint.

Our last game was against Pinehurst and it was, for many of us, the most important game of the year. We knew the Pinehurst guys. We'd been football teammates in the fall because the ninth grade team combined Kellogg and Pinehurst. Many of us played Babe Ruth baseball and had been All-Star teammates in the summer. We wanted to beat Pinehurst really bad.

We'd already defeated Pinehurst once, earlier in the year on Pinehurst's home court. I don't remember any of the details of that game. I do know, however, that none of us felt overconfident because we had beaten these guys once before. We were mentally and emotionally prepared for a rugged contest.

While I was fired up to play Pinehurst that night, I didn't want our season to end. I didn't know it at the time, but that ninth grade basketball team constituted the last time I ever experienced success on an athletic team. It was the last time I performed well over a season and the last time I felt a part of a selfless, disciplined, joyous team that loved to play together and understood how important each of us were to our team's success.

I'd had a particularly good season. Competition at the ninth grade level fit my style of play and, being more physically mature than most guys my age, I enjoyed a certain level of dominance over most players on other teams.

My role on the ninth grade team was very well defined. I roamed the baseline in a 1-3-1 offense and our offensive schemes kicked into gear when one of our guards got the ball to me and an intricate series of movements without the ball and rotation about the floor took place.

If I could shoot consistently from 12-15 feet along the baseline, it opened up our whole offense. To help form me into a scorer, our coach, Jim Currie spend hours with me, making me shoot over him, helping me develop an arching and soft jumper.

Going into the Pinehurst game, I was our leading scorer. In all but a couple of games, I fulfilled my role of scoring along the baseline superbly and it opened up numerous scoring opportunities for the rest of the team.

When we came out for warm-ups before the Pinehurst game we were really pumped. We noisily and energetically went through our warm-up routine and were all springing high off the floor, giving each other a lot of skin, and could feel ourselves ready to pounce on the Pinehurst Pirates.

One of Pinehurst's better players was suspended for the game, and that player would have been my man to guard and be guarded by. His backup was an inferior player without a lot of skill, but was a tough kid, a guy you wanted on your side if a fight broke out.

I jumped center against him to open the game and we won the opening tip. Quickly, we got into our offensive set. The gym was packed. A lot of Kellogg adults who didn't have kids in school were there because they'd heard how good we were. In addition, Pinehurst's fans helped pack the gym.

The guards moved the ball out front and I swung along the baseline to the side the ball was coming around to and one of our wings passed me the ball.

I was about fifteen feet from the basket.

My defender move close to me. I put the ball in front of me, took a step forward as if to drive to the hoop, and he retreated. I immediately stepped back, jumped straight up, floated a jump shot, and it softly, but with authority, snapped the twines.

Only eight seconds had ticked off the clock. When I made that jump shot, the large Kellogg contigent exploded.

That moment seemed to last for twenty minutes. In my heightened state of excitement, I glanced to the crowd and it was if I could pick out and identify each face in the crowd. I saw my dad. I saw Dick Costa. Mike Turner. Con Pearson. Joni White. All of them and they were ecstatic. My teammate Roger Pearson clapped once emphatically when I scored and slapped me hard on the ass as we set up our full court press.

It was the most vivid moment of my three years on junior high, that one jump shot. It was perfect. The form of the shot was perfect. The jump start it gave our team that night was perfect. The roar of the Kellogg crowd was perfect.

We went on to win that game 84-49. We ran Pinehurst out of the gym. All season long, our coach had wanted us to put up a hundred shots in a game. We did so that night. He wanted us to have a game when we broke the eighty point barrier. We did it that night. He wanted a night when the whole team got to play. It happened that night. Everyone got in. We wanted to end our banner season on a high note, and we did.

I didn't mature much as a basketball player beyond the level I played at in the ninth grade. By the time my senior year rolled around, I languished on the bench and became the team clown.

But, no matter how I awful I felt about my talents in baskeball in high school, I could always return to the vivid memory of a perfect jump shot and gym exploding in joy because they witnessed that uncomplicated shot and could tell that they would see a nearly flawless night of basketball from our ninth grade junior high team.

Sunday Scribblings: Writing

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who won't or can't drink cheap coffee. Their coffee has to come from Starbucks or a high quality Espresso stand or else they can't or won't have coffee.

I like good coffee. But I make it a point to drink coffee wherever I can find it. I drink Wal-Mart coffee, Western Family coffee, Kirkland, gas station mini-mart coffee, anything and everything. That way, if I'm in a situation where premium coffee is unavailable, I'm not up a creek without a paddle and I don't suffer.

Not so long ago, when I drank quite a bit of beer, it was the same story. Yes, I enjoyed locally brewed ales. I drank a lot of Hammerhead and Terminator Stout and loved having a Fat Tire Belgian or two or three or four.

But, I never quit drinking cheap lagers. In fact, often a Budweiser or an Oly or, if I could find it, a Lucky Lager were more enjoyable because I had a history with the taste and effect of those beers. I would be drinking old drinking stories as much as drinking beer.

What does this have to do with writing?

Well, for years, my writing was hampered by my efforts to make it premium. If I wasn't writing premium prose or if I felt like I couldn't write premium prose, I didn't write. Consequently, I didn't write much at all.

In addition, I bought into the idea that writing was precious, special, a human act akin to Jesus turning water into wine. I bought into the idea of writing coming from a special part of the human psyche and that not everyone had access to that place, just like we don't always have access to premium coffees or beers. (Or, for that matter, premium food. I enjoy great food, but I also stay acquainted with Taco Bell and Zip's. I can't let myself be unable to eat anything!)

In other words, I had mystified writing. I'd deified it. Not my writing, but writing as a thing to do.

Slowly, but surely, about seven years ago, this deified idea of the magic of writing began to lose its grip.

It happened in a Yahoo chat room called "Professors Chat". I went in there and found people who wanted to talk about Shakespeare and culture and other things. In an online chat room, writing is performed spontaneously, quickly, and what one writes soon disappears.

I got into some good discussions there, and found that I wrote some pretty insightful and forceful stuff off the cuff. I was writing in a conversational way. It was ordinary. But, my writing was working and I began to carry that same principle of ordinariness over into my writing away from the chat room.

I decided that I would start regarding writing as ordinary, common, a thing to do as regularly and as unassumingly as putting on clean socks.

I took the pressure off. I started to regard writing as being like inferior coffee. My writing didn't have to be premium. It was just writing. I wasn't striking a rod against a rock and having water come out. I was just writing.

Another way of putting this is when it comes to food and coffee, and when it came to beer, I let it rip. I eat whatever food is served me, with a few exceptions, and drink whatever coffee I can find.

Letting it rip when writing is to put aside the pressure to be great. Just let it rip. Just write. If the writing moves another person, that's gravy. I can't write trying to make that happen.

Whereas I read others who have a premium writing style with flair and gifts for turning phrases and making quirky, illuminating connections, I can't worry if I'm doing that or not.

All I can do is be honest, put self-consciousness and deliberateness aside, and let it rip. If I'm awake to the world and my responses to the world, the writing will take care of itself.

It's a relief to me not to be constrained by having to have a certain kind of coffee or only a certain quality of food. It's liberating for me.

Likewise, it's been liberating to treat writing like breathing or walking. I think of it as something I do as naturally and unconsciously as seeing when my eyes are open. I don't set aside time for it. I don't need a special room. I don't create a writing environment for myself.

I just write.

The best thing that ever happened to my writing was I quit trying so hard to be good.

Read more writers writing about writing here.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bottle Time


Dad and I hit the bottle.

Dad's Corn and Dad the Corny Chef


After Dad retired, he decided to take up gardening, along with my mom. If I remember correctly, they had enough problem agreeing on how to do things if they worked in the same plot that they divided the yard, one part for Mom, the other for Dad. Dad's pride and joy was his corn. Here he is, I'm sure fantasizing that he is in Nebraska, an honorary Cornhusker. Dad was about six feet tall, so you can get a sense of how tall these corn stalks grew.

Having grown up with Dad and watching him, over the years, resist working in the yard or garden, it was heartening to see him take on this project.

Equally heartening in Dad's retirement was to see him decide to give cooking a try. He started trying out new recipes; he and Mom had an empty nest when he retired, so he tried out all sorts of things on her and he looked forward to us kids coming home so he could whip us up some new meal he had figured out. One year, for Christmas, someone bought Dad a chef's hat, which he enjoyed completely, although I don't remember ever seeing him wear it in the kitchen.



Saturday, September 8, 2007

Photo Hunter: Music


Back in January, these geese taking flight over the baseball field at Lane Community College erupted in song as they soared to whatever their destination might have been.


For more music photos, go here.

Three Beautiful Things 09/07/07: Meatloaf, Gentle Leader, Burn

1. Tonight was the last summer evening of dinner with Mom. She whipped up a dandy: meatloaf, baked potatoes, acorn squash, French bread, and salad. This would constitute, for me, the perfect dinner.

2. I'm slow to learn. Snug is overly rambunctious in Silver Valley Girl's house. Finally, a few days ago, I decided that when he's indoors, Snug will either be on the gentle leader with me in control or he'll be with me behind the closed door of the guest room. It's been a relief to have Snug under better control, not running through the house, not eating dog or cat food that's not his, and not hassling Silver Valley Girl's dog, Peaches.

3. The second degree burn I suffered when my leg hit against Scott's motorcycle's exhaust pipe is healing. It's still red and somewhat tender, but the blistered area is beginning to scab over and the injury seems to be responding to my First Aid.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wanna Buy a Classic North Idaho Tavern?

The Blue Lagoon Tavern, near Medimont, Idaho and in the heart of the Chain Lakes District, is for sale. Here's a slide show I made of its exterior virtues and the stunning natural beauty nearby:

Three Beautiful Thing 09/06/07: Wucky, Blue Lagoon, Kottke

1. Until today, I hadn't seen Rick Wainwright (a.k.a. Myrtle Beached Whale) and Mark Dorendorff for at least thirty-five years. Rick and I go back to when Mom was his second grade teacher. I was in kindergarten, but Rick and his mother came by our house on occasion. Rick and I spent a lot of time together from about 1967-70, golfing, playing baseball, bowling, listening to music (he introduced me to Cream, Steppenwolf's other songs [beyond "Born to Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride"], the Beatles' White Album, Cold Blood, Mitch Ryder, and so on), and riding around in his dad's Torino. I spent less time with Mark, but we were in junior high and high school band together and baseball teammates in American Legion ball. In a high school band concert that featured three drummers doing solo sets, Mark played the "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" drum solo. To this day, when I hear "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", I think of Mark. The best part of our having drinks together for an hour, was how easily we sat down, without awkwardness, and jumped right into conversation about baseball, the military, Kellogg, and a host of other things.

2. I created a slide show of the Blue Lagoon Tavern, near Medimont, Idaho. The O'Reillys are selling the place and I decided to pretend I was in real estate, so I took pictures and put them together into a slide show, pretending that the slide show would be a way to kick up more interest in the place. You can view the slide show here or here.

3. To complete the slide show I needed Leo Kottke's tune, "Twilight Property". I was very happy to discover that it was in stock at Long Ear Music in Cd'A.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 09/05/07: Bull Run Lake, Blind Photos, Blue Lagoon

1. Returning to Highway 3 to take pictures of the area surrounding the Blue Lagoon tavern, for sale. I especially enjoyed going to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes trailhead at Bull Run Lake.




2. I was slow getting pictures together to fulfill the latest sibling assignment: blind photography. I had a great time taking pictures of Silver Valley Girl's sink on the deck that she uses as a planter. You can read an explanation of blind photography and see the pictures, here.

3. Very soon I'll be posting a slide show, "For Sale: Blue Lagoon" that features the tavern and the surrounding area. I built the slide show today and doing so made me feel like a real estate agent working to feature all the best aspects of the tavern's external beauty and the gorgeous lakes, river, and mountains just a stone's throw away from the Blue Lagoon. Here's a picture of what you see if you sit on one of the benches on the porch of the Blue Lagoon:



Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blind Photography: Sibling Assignment #35

I assigned this one. I've been fascinated by a blog titled, "Dog's Eye View". It's kept by a woman who is legally blind and is a terrific photographer. She leaves her camera on auto and, with her limited eyesight, points the camera at an angle relative to her subject that she thinks will make a good picture. She also experiments a lot. She doesn't really see what she has done until she downloads the photo and sees it enlarged on her computer monitor.

She let's her camera see for her.

I experimented with this idea when InlandEmpireGirl, JEJ, and I went to a junk shop near Curlew. You can see one of my pictures, a glass jar, here, that was taken blindly. I didn't look through the viewfinder. I let the camera see the glass jar for me.

Before exhibiting my latest blind pictures, let me say you can find Silver Valley Girl's photos here and InlandEmpireGirl's shots here.

To fulfill this assignment, I decided to focus on an unusual object on Silver Valley Girl's deck. It's a kitchen sink she has turned into a planter. Here is a blind picture of it. It's my establishing shot:




I took about thirty-five pictures of this sink from a variety of angles, trying to put the camera places I'd have to contort myself to achieve, if I were to look through the viewfinder from that angle. Here are some of the results:

From this angle, you can see the tiny statue that rests on the deck. I like the way it looks like the statue has just washed the apple she's holding in the sink. Now it's ready to eat:


In this picture, I like the way the nozzle dominates, even though in the function of the sink, it is dependent upon the faucet:


This sink is ready to be changed from a planter to a functioning sink:


I decided to transform one of the photgraphs from color to monochrome. For just being a picture of a faucet and a nozzle, this picture has a lot of drama. The tree makes the picture dynamic. I get a sense of movement and dynamism in this blind photograph:


I highly recommend this exercise. It helps us see that our eyes and our insistence on seeing things through the viewfinder can be limiting. Taking pictures blind opens up all kinds of possibilites for seeing and for letting go of our usual way of seeing ourselves as the camera's eyes. It's fun to let the camera do the seeing.

Three Beautiful Things 09/04/07: Benewah Beauty, Blue Lagoon, Silver Spoon Cuisine

1. I just can't resist driving from Kellogg to St. Maries and around the area. Snug and I had a relaxing drive together today. I don't think he is as enthralled by the Chain Lakes and the cool shadowed highway, but he did stay very content the whole drive.

2. Tim, a KHS classmate, asked me to take some pictures of the Blue Lagoon, a tavern on Highway 3, near Medimont, that his brother was running until he went out of business. They are selling the Blue Lagoon. I was happy to make the photo shoot part of my outing with Snug.

3. Jeri and Jodi left Mom's house this morning after a four night stay. I had breakfast at the Silver Spoon with Jeri, Jodi, and our friend, Rhonda and not only enjoyed my German sausage, hashbrown, eggs, and toast breakfast, but very much enjoyed the stories about life in Kellogg over the years that buzzed around our table!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Photo Hunter: Dirty


This week's Photo Hunter theme is dirty. It made me think of a snowstorm in Eugene, Oregon in January and this snowman, which is not dirty, and the quick thaw that soiled the snow, which is.



Go here to find links to other dirty pictures.

Three Beautiful Things x Three 09/01,02,03/07: Cousins, SlowFood, Carlin Bay, Visitors, Vault, Lo Mein, Bend, Rich, Mockery

1. Cousin John and his wife Gloria came to Aunt Lila's in Orofino to see Mom, and, a bit later, I joined in and I was reminded again of how much I enjoy my cousins in Orofino. Lura on Friday night, full of good wit and fire, and John, on Saturday, full of stories and and information and questions and points of view about everything from the current climate in logging to successes and failures of vocational training in Idaho.

2. Saturday, Mom and I stopped in a little cafe outside of Potlatch on US 95. It was a little unclean. The waitress was slow and apathetic. The cook was stressed, talked non-stop in a frantic voice, and the food took quite a while to come out, despite the few customers. But, when it did come out, wow! A thick bacon cheeseburger with tomato, onion, lettuce and a thick swipe of sweet relish on a homemade hamburger bun. It would have been the best burger I ate all weekend, except

3. I rode on the back of Scott's powerful Honda and Ed drove his Yamaha and we took a trip from Wolf Lodge on Highway 97, overlooking Coeur d'Alene Lake's many spectacular bays: Beauty, Powerhorn, Gotham, Echo, Arrow Point, Turner and others, and stopped for lunch at Carlin Bay. The restaurant staff was very shorthanded, our order took nearly a half an hour to come out, but when it did, wow! I ordered the Carlin Burger, a double patty, cheese, Canadian bacon Dagwood burger on a sesame bun. I ate it as slowly as possible, trying to make this magnificent burger last as long as possible. Three days, three great burgers: Ponderosa, Potlatch, Carlin Bay.

4. Jodi Jewell grew up in Orofino, a close friend of Mom. Jack Robinson grew up in Kellogg with Dad. Jodi married Jack. Mom married Dad. Jack and Jodi's daughter, Jeri, is my age. Jeri and Jodi arrived in Kellogg Friday night, while Mom and I were in Orofino, to stay four nights at Mom's. What a pleasure to see Jeri and Jody. The whole Labor Day weekend has been made much happier by being able to sit down several times and visit with Jeri, a friend I've known for as long as anyone.

5. My favorite time to be in a casino is between about midnight and nine a.m. Sunday morning Ed and I left Kellogg at seven a.m. to go play at the Coeur d'Alene Casino for several hours and ended our time with an exciting roller coaster ride on three or four Open the Vault machines. We always end our sessions at the casino by each putting about ten bucks in an Open the Vault machine and having it give us a lot of winning spins, combined with too many losing ones. Today was the first time we came up empty, but we played for nearly an hour on twenty bucks and had a lot of fun laughing, groaning, hoping, even if we did end up losing.

6. My Lo Mein noodles Sunday night at Kellogg's Wah Hing restaurat were to die for.

7. Oh boy! Don't get me started talking about the necessity to be flexible with students when they hand in work late. It happened tonight at the dinner table. Silver Valley Girl and PKR hosted Mom, Jeri, Jodi, me and the rest of their family for dinner tonight, and I got happily worked up about my approaches to teaching writing. I tried not to dominate. Sometimes I did. I listened, too. The lively conversation made the dinner a delight. (So did the barbecued burgers: three days, four burgers!)

8. After the casino, Ed and I took a little side trip Sunday to the Black Rock development near Rockford Bay. We ranted about the sheer ugliness and conspicuous excess of wealthy people's houses overbuilt, redundant luxury houses.

9. My nieces mocked me with looks of feigned fascination as I pontificated at the dinner table tonight. It was fun to remember my own mocking personality when I was their age and would listen to adult know-it-alls.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 08/31/07: Helen, Lila, Resurrection

1. Family day: Mom and I drove to Moscow to have a birthday lunch with Helen, Mom's ninety-two year old cousin and Helen's sister, Joan. Ninety-two years old. She was born the year former Governor Frank Steunenberg was killed, bringing the mining wars of the Coeur d'Alene Mining District to a climax. I can't explain quite why that stops my breath.

2. Family day: After lunch, Mom and I drove from Moscow to Orofino to visit her sister Lila. We had dinner at the Ponderosa with Lila's daughter Lura and her husband Lyle. The Ponderosa was abuzz with happy customers dining on prime rib, club sandwiches, chicken fried steaks, reuben sandwiches, weak coffee, and, in my neck of the Ponderosa, a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a two ton Diet Pepsi.

3. I'm staying at the Riverside Inn across the Clearwater River from Orofino. It's a shabby looking place with tiny, porchless units. But, inside the room, evidence is everywhere of an effort to clean up this place. The room is freshly painted, the bathroom has new fixtures and a new linoleum floor, the bed is made with crisp white cotton sheets. When I returned to my room after dinner, the electricity was out because of a might wind storm that blew down trees that snapped power lines around seven in the evening. I made my way around by light of my cell phone!