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I always assume the best when I find broken robin’s eggs like this. I imagine a fat baby bird in a nest somewhere, getting stronger each day.

I came across multiple nests this spring. I have learned a few things while watching them. Most excitingly, I can now identify the species of parents of those gorgeous blue eggs with brown spots. All three nests I found belonged to Dark-eyed Juncos. I see the Juncos all the time at my bird feeder. I also learned that Juncos have a habit of building their nests on the ground, and that it is just as bad of an idea as it seems to be.

I told you about the first one: I was cutting very tall grass with the trimmer and accidentally exposed a nest that had been built into a blackberry bush inside the grass. I realized immediately that I had exposed it, and picked up the tall grass and stacked it all around with only a tiny entrance hole. But it didn’t work. Three days later the branch was bent over and the egg was gone. It looked like the work of a raccoon.

The egg I accidentally exposed while working one evening.

Same nest, the next morning. I couldn’t tell if the parent had come back or not at this point.

Next I was pulling weeds by hand beside the house and vaguely aware of an angry bird flitting from the rooftop to the ground, to the garbage can, and back to the roof, all the while chirping angrily at me. The bird was on all sides of me, harrassing. I was getting closer and closer to a great big burst of weeds and tall grass beside my house when the bird finally got through to me, and it dawned on me that I was being scolded for my behavior. I stopped just in time, and peeked carefully into the weeds I had not yet pulled. There was a beautiful nest.

Perfect nest with gorgeous eggs, right next to the foundation of my home.

It was my opinion that building a nest on the ground in this forested area was simply not a good idea. But of course, Mother Nature is most times wiser than me. I gave the spot a wide berth from then on. For the next several days I tried to stay away, but sometimes had to be in the area and that’s when I would see the Dark-eyed Junco fly off the nest and resume scolding me. The Juncos are very common here.

The ground below my bird feeder. Two Juncos are there, with the black heads.

Sadly one day, not even a week later, I saw all the weeds trampled. I hurried over to check and there were no more eggs on the nest. Again, it looked like evidence of raccoon. So sad. I really had hopes for her, or him, whomever had been scolding me anytime I came near.

The worst nest location choice of all was the nest I discovered on the ground while mowing the lawn on my riding lawn mower. I happened to be looking at the ground beneath the mower as I was backing up and turning around in a wide open area. Somehow, I had driven right over the top of a nest twice – once forward, once backward – and it had survived. But now the freshly cut grass exposed it completely.

See the nest in the bottom left, out in the middle of my lawn?

I picked up the nest, trying to decide what to do with it.

There were no trees above that it had fallen from – it had been built right there on the grass. There were no trees or bushes close enough that I was sure the parents would find the nest if I moved it. It was a very bad location with no camouflage. At a loss, I laid the nest back exactly where I had found it. The very next day the egg was gone. I had known it would be.

It’s always a fight out here in the country. We are all battling each other for the same piece of land we believe is our own land.

While everyone else is battling for their lives, I have the luxury to sit here, sheltered from the rain, and think about it.

I’m most aware of my personal battles. I fight the deer that eat everything I plant, the raccoons that eat my chickens, the worms that are building webby nests in my apple trees, the moles that tear up my grass, the rats hoarding chicken pellets, termites in the wood pile. It’s not just me though. All I need to do is look around and see that the fight for a safe and comfortable life never ends. The heron eats the fish in my pond. The raccoons eat the Juncos. Opposums eat the frogs. The cougar eats the deer.

It isn’t personal; it’s just what life looks like.  It’s all about the battle to make a home and keep it. The critters aren’t targeting me, just doing what they can.

This is one of the best ways I remember Grandma Trulove: camping.

While I was in New England, my Great Aunt texted to let me know that my Grandma Trulove died at age 99 on May 16. It wasn’t entirely a shock because she had been declining, but still came with the regret at not having visited her more often, and a discussion about whether to cancel my vacation and go home for the service. I decided to stay in New England. It was a lucky choice, since I never heard any information about a burial or funeral. That wasn’t entirely a shock either.

Grandpa Trulove married Margaret Louise after divorcing my other Grandma Freda. This happened before I was born, so I grew up knowing her as Grandma Trulove, and no amount of understanding legalities made her less of a grandma to me. She was loving and welcoming and fun to visit. Grandma loved creating with her hands, and all the grandkids benefitted from her hobby of sewing stuffed animals for us. My favourite was a large purple stuffed rabbit, and my brother’s was a stuffed green dinosaur.

My earliest memories of her are from hunting camp, when I was a child. The family, and a few friends, would all camp together during deer hunting season. The kids would play in camp and most of the adults would go off in search of deer. Grandma would stay in camp to hand out Kool-aid or in case we needed a bandaid. We rarely reached out to her, busying ourselves with digging holes in the dirt, stacking rocks, hurling pinecones or playing in the creek, but it was good to know she was right there.

At home in Klamath Falls, Grandma Trulove presided over the kitchen. She would ask me to help set the large table, and then I helped carry serving dishes to cover the whole table in comfort foods. She liked to paint, and crochet, and by combining her talents and special finds while shopping, she filled the bottom drawer of a dresser in the spare room with gifts. I was allowed to peek into the drawer, where already-wrapped gifts waited for birthdays and Christmas. It seemed magical to me at the time, a reminder that holidays were coming, and that Grandma would never forget.

Grandma Trulove in a Christmas outfit. Look at those shoes!

Here she is posing with the Thunderbird. It was probably the day she and Grandpa bought it.

She also loved to write, and we exchanged hand-written letters all my life until her last few years, when shaky hands made the writing too difficult for her. Once she got older, Grandma always apologized for the shakiness of the cursive writing and the lack of more interesting things to say. Of course I was so pleased to receive one of her letters that I never noticed the things she thought were flaws.

When I was a teenager, Grandma and Grandpa begged for me to come and live with them and go to Mazama High School, only a couple blocks from the house. When I married Tara’s dad, they were proud to make the trip and attend the wedding. Their love was undeniable, and I adored them both.

The best times we shared were when she lived in Sandy, Oregon, which was only 45 minutes away from my home in Portland. I enjoyed our visits so much. In minutes she would begin telling me stories of her life. She told me about when she left home in the 1940s and went to live with her sister in Portland, and how the two of them worked hard to pay the bills and loved the handsome military men that would come into Portland. She told me about the hard times too: her difficult marriage while struggling to raise her babies before she met Grandpa. Most of all she loved to tell me about Grandpa Trulove, who had died in 2002, how he was the best friend and partner she could have wished for, how he always took care of her, and how he gave her a comfortable life with vacations and friends. She loved traveling with him, particularly to Hawaii.

“I don’t know what it is about you,” she said on more than one occasion. “As soon as you get here I just start talking and talking. I tell you things I don’t talk about with anyone.” I told her it was my superpower: people just talk to me. And I asked her to tell me more.

Grandma hated having her photo taken, but I begged for this one and she acquiesced. This is with Tara in Grandma’s place in Sandy, OR in September 2007. I gave her that clock as a Christmas gift many years ago. She gave it back to me when she had to downsize. It’s hanging in my living room right now.

She loved to tell me about her kids and her other grandkids – estranged from my family for some reason. Maybe because they were from a different marriage. She was so proud of them all and excited to show me their artwork and family photos. She told me stories about my mother and father when I was a baby.

She was very proud of her life, and not the typical mooshy grandma stuff, but her individual adventures and accomplishments. When she was in high school, she and her best friend used to stop by the local courthouse on the way home from school, just to sit and watch the hearings. She said it was the best entertainment in town. She got jobs to support the family when she needed to, and she got good jobs, taking over secretarial and financial posts for companies and delighting in the well-earned praise that she received. One of her favourite jobs was in Shasta Lake, California and to the end of her life she marveled at her great luck in getting that job. She talked about creating a whole filing system for Crater Lake National Park in Oregon when she and Grandpa lived and worked there as full time residents. The system was effective and efficient, and she became a valuable resource for the Park offices, being called back now and then to help them on a temporary basis, even after her full-time employment had ended.

Grandma Trulove was a voracious reader, even with poor eyesight. She went through books like meals, eating them up and gaining sustenance from them. She kept bookshelves with her favourites as long as she could, and loaned me some of them: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Gone With the Wind, and anything by Louis L’Amour.

Because of her sharp intellect and subtle wit, she was frustrated with her counterparts while living in the retirement home in Sandy, and later in Lebanon, Oregon. She was 92 when she complained to me, “Everybody here is old. All they want to talk about is babies, and their sicknesses and which medications they take. I want to talk about interesting things. There are so many more interesting things to talk about, but they don’t want to.” When she did find close friendships there, it was when she found someone who shared her fascination with the rest of the world.

Grandma’s optometrist was far away in Portland. She needed a good eye doctor because she was legally blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other. “I’ve got to take care of my good eye!” she pronounced. Once I found this out, I took advantage of my employer’s generous family leave policy that allowed me to take a paid sick day to take care of my grandmother. I looked forward to our long days together: the drive to the eye doctor, the waiting room, the visits themselves (she invited me in so I could help explain anything, if necessary), stops for prescriptions afterward, and the long drive back home. She was exhausted by the end of those days, and I was able to keep her spirits up because I was having so much fun.

Grandma and me March 2013 in the waiting room at the optometrist’s office. This is the very last photo I could get her to agree to.

I was broken-hearted when she moved to Lebanon, separating us by 3 hours instead of 45 minutes. That made it much harder for me to visit, and the frequency dropped dramatically. I am sorry about that to this day. My Great Aunt and Uncle live just a few minutes away from the assisted living home, and as a pastor and pastor’s wife, insisted to me that it is part of their church work to visit the elderly in their community. They offered to visit Grandma Trulove, and soon became an active part of her life.

On a visit not too long ago, Grandma was talking about my Great Aunt and Great Uncle, her relatives who had been to visit. I tried to correct her. Grandma was in her nineties and of course things were hard to remember. “No, Grandma, they are from my side of the family. They aren’t actually related to you, but they love you!” Oh my goodness, the look I received. Grandma was almost never angry with me, but that time she made her anger evident. It was as though I was talking trash about her beloved family. She let me know that she was my elder, and she knew more than me, and those two were her family and there would be no further discussion on it! Well, I laughed about it later. But what better compliment than for someone to love your visits so much that she decides you are related!

For at least the last decade, Grandma Trulove wanted to die. I think it was mostly because she missed Grandpa so much, and also because of all the “boring old people” she lived with. She had wretched arthritis and her crafty hands were always in pain and not flexible, so all the hobbies she most enjoyed: painting, sewing, crocheting, and crossword puzzles, were lost to her. She was not interested in computers. Television bored her, and though she always had a set, I never saw it on. She told me without hesitation that she wanted to die, every time I visited. With dry humor she would say, “Well, I was at the doctor on Tuesday. He said I’m in good health as usual.” She would sigh. “I’m ready to go any day, but my body won’t let me: I’m just too darn healthy.” She tried to take it into her own hands by not eating, but her care providers at the home were required to make sure she ate every day. That frustrated her too. She just wanted to sleep and never wake up.

Well, Grandma, finally your battle is over and you won. Thank you thank you for loving me, trusting me, and sharing so many of your stories with me.

Mom and me enjoying an afternoon by the river, in Hood River, Oregon.

I think Mom has been reaching out to me the last couple days. I keep accidentally stumbling onto memories of her. In the last few days I have found old photos of her, remembered that things in my house (and plants outside) were gifts from her, laughed at the memory of her ferocious opinions about things (all that emotion packed into her tiny Mom body). These things have happened while I wasn’t even thinking about Mom. Then boom, she was right there with me.

Today, a blog post popped up in the sidebar that I probably haven’t read since the day I posted it, in December 2010.  She died a year later, December 2011. It’s a message I clearly needed to hear then, and oh my gosh I needed to hear it today. I wish I still had my Wednesday morning calls with her: my ally in absolutely everything.

I’ll reproduce the post without edits below because the way it touched me is important. Thanks, Mom. I needed you today.

 

NEVER BE CONTENT

 

I just got off the phone with my mother. Our hour-long Wednesday morning phone calls are practically a given. God love her.

No, really, my mom is awesome. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep her happy, but it is so worth it. On this morning’s phone call, for example, she brought to me a perspective that I had not considered, but needed to hear. She said that when her mother taught her never to be content, it was a gift.

A gift!

I have battled, BATTLED, with my inclination not to ever be content. I’ve considered it a curse, not a gift. Never being content has led me through drastically changing career paths, shattering relationship changes, embracing and discarding those I call loved ones and family, moves moves moves through 11 different states for gods sake, poverty and wealth, humiliating recanting of public outcries, mountains of self-doubt…. Of course I could go on. The end result is pain – as change brings a measure of pain in all cases.

Never being content is emotionally devastating with no hope of an end.

And.

It’s also the reason I have traveled, continued my higher education, and raised an incredible child. It’s the reason I have had the opportunity to work through so many relationships, romantic and otherwise. My lack of content inspires my constant searching for knowledge and understanding, and it’s behind my pure love of humanity (tempered mildly by my raging disgust for humanity). My lack of content explains why I am an atheist and why I can’t imagine a world without religion. It explains why I am ravenous for more information about governments and governance while remaining mystified by them.

Without contentment, I am constantly on the lookout for new friends, new jobs, new homes, and new skills. And thus, why I am bombarded with new fabulous information every single extraordinary day of my life.

In fact, not being content turns out to be one of my very favourite things about myself. I LOVE that about me. Go figure. I guess maybe I’ll make peace with that battle, and move on.

Here’s the original post.

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Before the show starts is often the only time we are allowed to take photos.

Somehow, the culture people of Portland got my email address, and now I’m at their mercy. I get periodic emails that show up with special price offers at irritatingly convenient times, like Just In Time For Christmas Gifts!

I’ve mentioned before that Tara is crazy about Broadway shows. I sent them a text last Fall. “Hey, Finding Neverland or RENT?” The response was 19-year-old appropriate: “Duh.” I should have guessed that they would want the classic show inspired by La Boheme.

“Classic” sounds kind of funny, because I actually saw RENT not too long after it came out, and that wasn’t terribly long ago. Right? Ahem, the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour is what we went to see. Apparently, I’m old enough to be classic.

The first time I saw the show was in rural Arcata, California, in the late 90s. I remembered that the storyline addresses AIDS, which was still a national scare in those days. And racy for the time and location were the homosexual relationships on stage. Most of all, I remember Angel, the dynamic cross-dresser who was the voice of love and reason for the group of young, desperately poor New York singles.

Arcata is a college town, but most of the audience was made up of patrons of the arts in their 40s or older, who didn’t know the story. And don’t forget that I said “rural.” The audience first sees Angel dressed in masculine clothing, when he meets and falls in love with Tom Collins. But soon comes the big entrance as *Angel!* with glitz and glitter and makeup. Angel pranced out on stage in a white and silver skin-tight costume, ruffles, high heels, red lips, and a dazzling smile that lit up the theatre. She came right up to the edge of the stage – so close I had to tilt my head – and struck a pose.

You could hear a pin drop.

I think I could actually hear people snapping their mouths back shut when they realized they were gaping. There was no cheer, no laughter. Total paralyzed silence. Maybe a muffled sneeze in the back. I had been just about to give a “whoop!” but then realized something was wrong and held it in.

This time the show was different for a few reasons. Notably, I’m in Portland, which is like a baby San Francisco, for all the tolerance we’ve got. And furthermore (it’s apparently 20 years later, and) concepts like homosexual love, drug use, diseases that kill you, and breaking into empty buildings because you’re homeless are not as shocking to find on the stage anymore.

This audience was fully on board. No, not just on board, but cult followers or something. The scene when Angel comes out in drag was preceded by raucous cheers before I even knew what was happening. The outfit was different this time, but the people went crazy for it!

The production still uses telephone answering machines to bring in missing characters (like parents) and to make connections in the story line. And it still works. The difference is that the first time I didn’t pay it any mind, and this time, it caught my attention every time. Answering machines! I remember those!

The first time I saw RENT, there was one relationship that carried it for me. The interactions between Angel and Collins are lovely at every stage, from the joy in the beginning, to their successful negotiations to unite their friends in times of trouble, to the heartbreaking hospital scenes when Collins takes care of Angel. Their love is pure and immense – big enough for all of us.

This time the relationship that carried it for me was between Roger and Mimi. He’s a musician struggling to be true to his art. However, his bigger struggle is with self-worth. He doesn’t really believe he’s good enough to be a musician, so he never finishes a song. And then he and Mimi fall in love and he suspects he’s not deserving of her either, so they break up. She’s an addict and really really wants to quit, but just can’t admit to herself or to Roger that she is weak, and she wants to be loved and forgiven despite that. They wrench apart, and fall together, and wrench apart again.

It was just awful, watching their pain, and knowing we so often bring our pain upon ourselves like that. We are happy or satisfied or loved purely based on our perception of who we are. Arggh, humans!

The ending is sad and hopeful, and Tara and I were still wiping the backs of our hands across our cheeks when the actors bowed. I wonder if art is supposed to make its audience find a truth? Maybe that’s why the same story hit me two different ways at two times in my life. When the artists don’t use direct words, we have to give it our own meaning, and then, it has a distinctly personal message for the most dramatic impact. Oooh, those artists. So clever.

Columbine in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

Columbine in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

Second big hike in a row with no mountain goat sightings. Do you think it’s me?

I hiked into the Goat Rocks Wilderness for three days and two nights with my boyfriend. Our timing was uncanny, and we were up there during the only three rainy days in between sunny weeks either side. Though I went up into the mountains seeking profound vistas, thankfully I was able to see the beauty in front of me when the vistas were obscured by fog.

We began at the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead and hiked to a bypass trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). At the trailhead it was pleasantly warm (in the 60s) and there was a beam or two of sunshine. I photographed a lake and crammed my mouth full of ripe huckleberries that loaded the bushes on both sides of the trail.

I am standing at the junction of Snowgrass Flats Trail and the Bypass Trail.

I am standing at the junction of Snowgrass Flats Trail and the Bypass Trail.

Reflections in a tiny pond near the trailhead.

Reflections in a small pond near the trailhead.

Candy!

Candy!

Several spectacular falls are near the trail as it switchbacks up the mountainside.

Several spectacular falls are near the trail as it switchbacks up the mountainside.

We were treated to a couple of sunbeams on day one.

We were treated to a couple of sunbeams on day one.

The trail climbed about 2000 feet to the place we chose for our campsite. The rain set in as soon as we unloaded our gear, and it gradually picked up as the night went on. Since everything was wet, we were comfortable starting a fire. We hovered over the warmth that night and during the next couple days. Temperatures cooled to near 32 at night (0 Celcius) and warmed to the middle 40s during the day.

As is my tradition, I brought the fixins for delicious meals and was so delighted to have a climbing partner to share the weight. It’s amazing how much of a difference that makes! It was so light, my pack barely caught my attention. The first night we had Salmon Curry Couscous, a new meal I tried out that turned out great and was a snap to put together. We set down our dishes and within minutes a mouse arrived to investigate. The mouse left right away: not a fan of curry, I suppose.

For breakfast we had hard boiled eggs, bananas and homemade oatmeal cranberry cookies. Another meal was Bacon Carbonara (with angel hair so it cooks quickly), we had Margaret’s famous baked brie in brown sugar and red wine with dried apricots, and on the final day we had burritos that I had designed as a cold meal to eat on the way out, but since we were so cold I cooked the refried beans and D toasted the tortillas. Tortillas are packed flat against the back of the pack to keep them in one piece on the trail. We enjoyed fresh avocado of course! The trick to bringing produce is to bring it unripened. The firmness protects the fruit and after a couple days it’s ready to eat!

Preparing the pasta

Preparing the pasta

Mouse finds the entrance

Mouse finds the entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campsite the first night

Campsite the first night

Bear grass was everywhere!

Bear grass (Xerophylum tenax) was everywhere!

A lightening of the sky reveals a meadow and pond.

A lightening of the sky reveals a meadow and pond.

The second day we climbed north on the PCT toward Old Snowy Mountain, which I climbed a few years ago. However, the rain and cold slowed us down and there were no views to be had. I couldn’t even tell which direction to look for Old Snowy; it was likely right above us. I was discouraged. The last time I was on this trail, the weather was much more cooperative, and no matter where I hiked or which direction I faced, the views of mountains blew me away. It was the most impressive thing about being here. So on my return trip, I sort of had it locked into my brain that unless I saw a view, I was not really at Goat Rocks. Often our visibility ranged from 20 to 100 feet, and I remained disappointed until the splendid and rare scenes in front of my face got through and slapped me around a little bit: LOOK! Look at this!

Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, and Bear Grass blossom profusely.

Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, and Bear Grass blossom profusely.

We wandered through meadows and found scene after scene of astonishingly beautiful wildflowers in full view despite the fog. We discovered a huge spring where water literally bubbled up like a fountain, and in other places poured out of cracks in the earth. At the trail there was no creek, but twenty feet down the hill was a creek bigger than the one on my property. That’s how much water burst from the lush green hillside.

It was fun to talk to the through hikers. Those are the ones who stay on the PCT for months, doing sections and sometimes the entire length of it. We met several of them, as August is a good time of year to travel through this section: recently cleared of snow. You could spot the through hikers because they were dirty and seemed weary. Or, maybe, not as thrilled with the wildflowers as I was, having probably seen them for a month already. They were consistently humble, the ones I met, downplaying their feat of endurance, insisting that they had “only” been on the trail six weeks, or that they were “only” hiking the Oregon and Washington sections.

Foggy blue and green meadow.

Foggy blue and green meadow.

Looking down the PCT as it climbs north toward Old Snowy Mountain.

Looking down the PCT as it climbs north toward Old Snowy Mountain.

The shale rock here allows for some of the most astonishing cairns I have ever seen. They look like ancient human ruins.

The shale rock here allows for some of the most astonishing cairns I have ever seen. They look like ancient human ruins.

In enjoyed this phenomena very much: the leaves of Lupine collect water.

In enjoyed this phenomenon very much: the leaves of Lupine collect water.

The fog lends an otherworldly quality to each scene.

Here, spring water simply gushes from the hill. Fog lends an otherworldly quality to the horizon scene.

We didn’t stay out long, and were tempted to go back to camp where we could have a fire and get warm again. Upon our return, we found that other campers had vacated a great spot on the edge of a cliff. If we were there, even if the clouds only lifted for 2 minutes, I would get a little bit of a view. Hee hee. We moved our camp and had a new fire roaring in no time. Typically I try to avoid fires in the mountains in August. As you all know, wildfires are nothing to mess around with and I never want to tempt fate. But on this occasion, everything was soaked and I was supremely confident that the forest would not burn due to a flying ember.

That evening a troop of Boy Scouts came in and were considering a camp site right next to ours. We promptly and “helpfully” directed them to the campsite we had vacated the night before, which is up the hill and completely out of sight from where we were. “And it has a stream!” added my boyfriend, trying to sell it while he had the chance. They took the bait and moved on. The Scouts brought a mule named Sadie, and we spent a lot of time talking with Sadie and her elderly master, Bob, who had been hiking this mountain for 30 or 40 years. It was interesting to hear him talk about changes that had occurred. He referred to the trails by their old names, and I had to mentally scramble to keep up with which trails he was talking about.

Our new camp site on a ledge, and D getting the fire going.

Our new camp site on a ledge, and D getting the fire going.

Sadie poses for a photo in the meadow.

Sadie poses for a photo in the meadow.

Bob took Sadie out to the meadow next to us to let her graze, and right then the sun came out. Such a lovely gift for the evening. (Isn’t it a sign, when I can clearly remember each time the sun came out?) We went out to pat the mule and let the old man talk. He was a heck of a talker. In among the words though, he mentioned a nearby waterfall that sounded impressive. We got directions (south on the PCT, instead of north, as we had traveled that day) and decided to hike there in the morning.

The theory was (well, at least this is the Pollyanna spin I was giving myself) that a waterfall is going to be entertaining in the fog. Sparkling, loud, exciting, wet, interesting…waterfalls are always a win. So in the light morning rain we packed our day hike gear again and traveled and chatted and made our way through the fog. My boyfriend is almost obsessed with Trump news, and we enjoy sharing our theories on what in the world is going on here in the states. How does Trump come up with the crazy stuff he says? How can so many Republicans say “Yes, his comments are often out of line and intolerable, but I’m going to vote for him anyway.” D can’t stand Hillary, like much of the country, and I harbor bitter thoughts that America is misogynistic as hell, and suspect that as racist as some of us can be, even a black man is a better choice than a woman. But I don’t say that out loud.

And before we know it, there’s the waterfall! And it was just what I had hoped for: large, loud, exiting, beautiful.

Large and lovely waterfall splashes over the Pacific Crest Trail.

Large and lovely waterfall splashes over the Pacific Crest Trail.

We climbed around on the rocks and talked to through hikers for a half an hour or so, and suddenly the skies opened up. I gasped out loud “Oh!” And we spent another hour there, watching the clouds lift up and sink down, revealing a different piece of paradise each time. I found myself thinking of the story of Heidi, who goes to live with her grandpa in the mountains. This was a final and perfect gift from the Wilderness, before it was time to hike back down the hill.

The headwaters of the Cispis River. The PCT arcs around the entire valley, then crosses a saddle to the other side of those mountains.

The headwaters of the Cispus River. The PCT arcs around the entire valley, then crosses a saddle to the other side of those mountains.

You can spot D heading down the trail.

You can spot D heading down the trail.

Looking back the way we had come, down the Cispus River Valley.

Looking back the way we had come, down the Cispus River Valley.

Tara with the TARDIS blanket and hot cocoa, and the good things jar.

Tara with the TARDIS blanket and hot cocoa, and the good things jar.

A year ago I read a blog post from a friend who had a “good things jar.” (A quick browser search shows that many bloggers have touched this topic before my friend and I.) All year long, when there were notable events or thoughts or accomplishments, it was written onto a piece of paper and put into the jar. The post I read was about the day my friend pulled all those notes out of the jar and read over them.

Our jar

Our jar

I was so inspired by the idea, I put together my own good things jar!

I chose one of the large, old-fashioned jars my mother had given me. She was in love with anything old, and particularly loved the old canning jars with glass tops instead of the new metal ones we use today. This jar remains fully functional, with the metal ring still able to tightly hold the glass top. If I were to replace the hardened seal with a new rubber seal, it might be good as new.

Tara chose a piece of artwork, a block print made in art class, to decorate the jar. We screwed on the metal ring lid and then rested the glass piece on top. That way, any time a good thing needed to be added, it was easy-peasy to lift the glass, drop in the note, and put the glass disc back into place. Tara cut up a small pile of scrap paper and put the blanks on the shelf next to the jar. (I have to make things easy for myself – good intentions are not enough to keep me motivated for a whole year!)

Our pile of good things

Our pile of good things

Tara and I both added to it all year long. Though we never discussed this in advance, an unspoken agreement grew that we never told each other what we had included, and we never looked into the jar during the year. On New Year’s Day 2015, we pulled out the jar and sat on the floor in the living room, and took turns removing the pieces of paper, one by one. We read the papers we selected out loud to each other, even if the other person had written the note, and then spent a moment remembering the event that caused us to write what we did. Sometimes we didn’t remember. Sometimes we disagreed today (with 20/20 hindsight) that the thing we wrote was a good thing after all.

"My ballet has drastically improved. I am skilled and beautiful."

“My ballet has drastically improved. I am skilled and beautiful.”

Some of Tara’s:

  1. (written on part of a score sheet) “games with Mom, particularly Scrabble”
  2. “living in an open-minded home” & “welcoming online communities”
  3. “Daddy got a house”
  4. “The kind of lonely where you know exactly when you’ll feel better.”
  5. “the ability to forgive and be forgiven”
  6. “henna”
  7. “Dungeons & Dragons” (new group meets at our house Sunday evenings)
"I'm glad we have health insurance and that Tara is healthy." We have only had health insurance for a couple of years - previously couldn't afford it. This note after talking with a pediatric cardiologist about the state of Tara's heart. Yikes.

“I’m glad we have health insurance and that Tara is healthy.” We have only had health insurance for a couple of years – previously couldn’t afford it. This note after talking with a pediatric cardiologist about the state of Tara’s heart. Yikes.

Some of mine:

  1. “I had a wonderful conversation with Javie this week.” My sort of father-in-law, my ex-boyfriend’s dad, was in the hospital. We visited for a long time, I went on a walk in the halls of the hospital with him, he told me Navy stories, we laughed and cried, and he told me he wasn’t scared. He died two days later.
  2. “identifying birds in my back yard” I’ve become a total bird geek.
  3. “Thanksgiving. I am grateful that Dennis is the father of my child. I am grateful that we shared this holiday together.” Dennis could not afford a hotel room, so he stayed with me.
  4. “Tara and I trust each other.” & “Tara and I have a great relationship.”
  5. “Arno (ex-boyfriend) and I are perfect when we’re not afraid.” Aren’t we all?
  6. “The AC is not cranked at my workplace anymore!” Now that I work at home, climate control is all mine.
  7. “Every time something expensive happens, I can afford it. (Malware on computer.)” Yeah, I’m still recovering from the trauma of financial ruin in 2007-2009. Makes me grateful every time I have the money I need. As it should be.

We both wrote about how much we love the cat, ha ha! I wrote multiple times about daffodils and my ability to recover from setbacks. Tara wrote multiple times about having a best friend, and about macaroni and cheese.

Powell's is a local famous bookstore. If you have ever been there, you will agree.

Powell’s is a local bookstore. If you’ve been there, you’ll agree it’s a good thing.

"the ability to forgive and be forgiven"

“the ability to forgive and be forgiven”

In the beginning, I thought it would be a nudge to help us remember to think of the good things in our lives, day to day. And I was right. Every time I’m in the kitchen and see the good things jar, I ask myself, “Is something so good right now I need to record it?” Now that we’ve gone through the whole process, I see that there is also value in looking back and reevaluating each thing with a different perspective. I also got to know more about the secret life inside my child’s head, and I am more in love with Tara than ever before.

Obviously, the jar is already back in its place, waiting for new slips of paper in 2015.

Well, the good news is: I no longer own property in Massachusetts.

Other good news is: I have some pretty awesome friends…

And on top of that: My man is my very best friend, and the best guy I could ever imagine being with (and he’s hot)…

And: somehow, even though I was very recently arguing with a bankruptcy attorney about why I *should* file bankruptcy, and even though I did not make my September mortgage payment on the Mass house because I finally came to terms with the fact that in order to buy groceries I would have to cut something out, and the house was my first choice of the place to default – even with that, somehow in the end my credit is still excellent…

And: in an America where so many, many people are suffering with unfortunate real estate decisions, and the inability to unload their burdens – I sold my home…

And: Even though it sold for a gigantic loss, it only took 4 thousand to close and make it a done deal…

And: Even though that 4 thousand was almost the very last penny we had – we had it…

Yes, when all is said and done, there is a lot of good news to think about. My friend Deb-B said I should fill my cup. “Think of all the good things,” she said “and fill your cup with them.”

In several ways!

Patience and perspective are always the order of the day. Right now I worry about money and that just seeps into everything else. I am not sleeping well, I feel pressure and I’m afraid of the future. My growth is in resisting panic, maintaining my happy spirit, letting go of things I have no control of, believing in myself though I am not getting validation in the form I wish for.

I am still unemployed, and it’s hard to keep my demons quiet. In the midst of persistent mortgage payments, mounds of educational loans, and the need to get my daughter equipped with all her school gear, I ask myself, “What was the point of going back to school? I should have just stayed in that job where I was miserable, and worked rotating shifts and had no chance of advancement… At least I had a paycheck to take care of my family.”

Icky dark thoughts. They do nothing but promote more dark thoughts. Perspective helps me remember what a beautiful life I have, which is full of so many gifts: my daughter, my partner, my family and friends who love me. Though I whine about the cost, I have a home. Though I whine about dipping into my retirement fund, at least I have one to dip into. The things that bring me the most joy don’t cost anything at all, so what, really, have I lost by being poor? I’m not keeping up with the Joneses.

Well! If that’s all it is… I guess I’m just fine after all. Thank goodness!

Comment from the old blog:

Hello my beautiful friend, First, thank you bunches for my birthday gift! It’s so lovely and perfect for my altar. Second, I know how tough this has got to be for you so I’m happy that you’re focusing on the lesson of patience, staying in the beauty of the present moment (perspective), and faith/trust in being supported by the Universe. The whole job hunting process is so hard (even when employed like I am). The job I’m being considered for right now is $10,000 more a year than I’m making and since we’re barely scraping by, with a car that’s about to fall apart, that could make a huge difference for us. I keep telling myself as I go to interview after interview that it’s like dating–it’s about the chemistry, not my worth as a person/employee.  Love you and thinking of you…Ophelia

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