Yellowstone Days

We’d never been to Yellowstone National Park. Long ago, reports of the summer crowds daunted me. Hubby and I talked about going many times until, finally, it was time. I left the DSC_7354planning up to him. And he shone with leadership. He did on-line research of the park geography, mileage, nearby RV parks, routes. He reserved a space for us at the Yellowstone Holiday RV Park outside the little gateway town of West Yellowstone, Montana. We left Coos Bay in late August pulling our “newer” 5th wheel RV with an old Ford Diesel truck.

It took a few days to cross Oregon and southern Idaho and arrive at the RV park, located on a lovely lake 8 miles from West Yellowstone. There we headquartered for a total of sixteen days, enjoyed leisurely mornings, packed lunches and drove thirty miles to the DSC_7394park, then decided which sights we wanted to pursue. Hubby left the daily choices to me; maybe by that time he was tired of decisions.

In Yellowstone, we drove and walked to view animals: bison, alone and in herds; elk  by two or threes; deer, even a glimpse of swans.

We saw mountains, rivers, streams, waterfalls, took a boat ride with twenty other DSC_8294sightseers on Yellowstone Lake.

The highlight for me were the geysers, boiling mud pots, steam vents, hot pools of blue or yellows or gray bubbling water. These rare (except for Yellowstone) geothermal features are the compelling reason to make the trek to DSC_7589Yellowstone. Their steam, bizarre appearance, distinctive sounds and sulfur smell awakened my awe and delight.

At the park, talking with from folks from around the U.S. and the globe made me realize how fortunate we are to have this marvel relatively close,the first national park in the world, available to all who choose to make the visit.

So don’t wait: if you haven’t been–go! Stay as long as you possibly can. We visited the DSC_6943park daily for fourteen days (we took a couple of days off to square dance, but that’s another blog) and still did not exhaust the riches of Yellowstone. This unique place is worth the time and expense of getting and staying there.

“Issy Bradley” and me

A Song for Issy Bradley  by Carys Bray tickles your sense of humor, nudges your heart with compassion for these struggling characters, and reveals the inner tickings of the Mormon faith. A close English family knit to the church by their enduring faith and the father’s function as a Mormon bishop, the Bradleys suffer a huge loss. Each family member: Mom Claire, Dad Ian, sons Al and Jacob, and daughter Zippy, mourns in his/her unique way.

This book gives insights into Mormonism, its strengths and weaknesses. IzzyThe great humanity of the characters shines through Bray’s luminous writing. One memorable character is Jacob, 7 years old, who plans for, then waits for a miracle, providing the reader with both humor and fascination at the twists of a young mind grappling with the unknown.

Taking us into Jacob’s mind, Chapter 1 begins “Jacob wakes up early. He isn’t sure why at first then he remembers it’s his birthday, which makes his stomach tip like a Slinky. It’s still dark, the thick kind that hides your hands from you. He lies quietly for a few moments, willing morning to get nearer.”  The reader also enters into the thought processes of the other family members. This is the author’s first novel, and Ms. Bray quickly establishes that we are in the hands of a master.

And, the first line of the author’s bio, “Carys Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the Church and replaced religion with writing,” tells it all.

Being brought up in a strong faith marks one indelibly, even if one later replaces or abandons that religion. I speak from experience.

Don’t miss this one.

P.S. New Year’s Resolution: blog more often.

Thanks to the Friends of the Bandon Library

Drove to Bandon to talk about my novel Spy on Clinton Street for Author Night  at the lovely Bandon Library. Thanks to Megan and Maureen for publicity, prep and clean up to DSCF6293make my visit lively and enjoyable. Thanks to Darwin and Marilyn for their gracious hospitality.  We wore leis for fun and some folks returned them, so I could use them to celebrate again. I had fun, nobody fell asleep, and there were cookies. Perfect.

Recent memorable reading: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. Set in South Africa, the novel is the story of David Lurie, a divorced college professor who becomes sexually involved with a student, loses his job, and moves to the countryside to stay with his daughter on her farm. David’s experiences there change him profoundly and for the better. The novel highlights many types of disgrace, including the disgrace of death. It’s not always an easy read, but that’s probably true for those works which have the biggest impact on us. Disgrace won the Booker Prize, Britain’s top literary award, and Coetzee was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2003. I first read Disgrace a few years ago. It’s well worth a second reading. This work expands our understanding of the human psyche. Thank you, J.M. Coetzee.


Travel South – Joys and Sadness

Husband doesn’t like to stay in motels, air travel is too expensive and frustrating, so we loaded up our old (2000) 22ft Nash trailer with everything, including the cat (Peaches, 10 year old hairless sphinx) and headed south to make family connections and see about selling our desert home.

First stop – Crescent City, Ca. 3 hours south, for the annual North Coast Redwood Writers’ Conference, a small, cosy gathering of and for writer types. Kim Wyatt, Stella Pope Duarte, IMG_1375and Lawson Fusao Inada were especially compelling speakers, presenting thoughtful ideas on poetry, biography and the power of place.

Most writers need regular injections of fresh looks at their craft which the ideal conference provides, to keep ideas gushing. I’ve allowed sloth to dominate; it’s time to hoist myself out of my non writing rut and jump back on the wordsmithing express.

After the conference we headed south to wine country, Calistoga, lively little town,  but not as hectic as Napa or St. Helena. While camped at the fair grounds on the edge of town, we

French visitors and us

French visitors and us

saw a Cruise America camper parked next to us. Husband visited with the newcomers, a couple from France. Husband not fond of the French because of a long ago trip to Canada where road signs began to appear in French, just to confuse him, he surmised.

That evening we sat with wine and visited with Eugenie and Sebastien from Paris, young, beautiful, fluent in English and friendly. We heard of their journey, beginning in Las Vegas, on to Death Valley in the extreme heat, and almost done now. They were headed for San Francisco for a couple of days, then back to Paris. The next morning we all took photos. Thank you Eugenie and Sebastien for a lovely visit. Husband now adores the French, especially the women. It’s the people you meet when traveling that make the journey memorable.

We rolled on to Landers, a non-town in the California desert near Yucca Valley. It was hot, in the 90’s for the first days. We made plans, executed them and put the house up for sale after some intense cleaning and sprucing efforts.

We entertained relatives, packed up the trailer, an old desk, and three plastic barrels of photos and got on the I-5 north. The return trip was quicker, no conferences or lovely French folks to visit with.

We arrived home after a month, happy to be back in the Oregon rain. Even the cat smiles more. California was sad to see so dry, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. I wish we could send some of these clouds south to revive the languishing drought-lands.

The Secret of the Redwoods

Nephew Mark, visiting from Indiana, has never seen the redwoods.  We drive three hours south to Crescent City, consult the experts, and find our way to a nearby grove for a drive then a stroll among the giants. The coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) stand tall, some DSC_5750of them young and slim, some older and thick about the waist like their human counterparts. A few lie prone, uprooted by wind and weakness. The sheer perpendicularity of the standees transfixes us. They do not lean.

They are among the tallest and oldest life forms on earth. Their beauty, strength, size and posture inspires.

A volunteer appears and tells us that the roots of the coastal redwoods are unusual, growing only about six feet down into the earth. It is the trees’ lateral roots that are its strength, extending as far as 100 feet, meeting, then co-mingling, entwining with the roots of its fellows DSC_5885to form a network which supports each tree as pushes its way aloft, enabling all to reach far and straight into the heavens. These trees cooperate instead of compete, to the benefit of all. What a wonderful example for us.

We would do well to visit the coastal redwoods, to admire and learn from them.

Electronically Challenged

Personal technology arrived late in my life. I do not embrace it, although we do own and use three computers. The oldest, an antiquated HP (circa 2006) now disconnected from the internet, I use as a word processor and game machine (Spider Solitaire & Scrabble). The  man of the house uses a less decrepit Dell laptop (2009) for e-mail, the internet, and his games of Spider Solitaire.

The newest and fastest device, a sleek but scratched MacBook Pro purchased second-hand, refuses to yield its magic to our weak attempts to command it. Thus its use is restricted to rapidly reaching Google. We are too apathetic to do the work required  to awaken this sleeping giant.

It was my husband who introduced these devices into our lives, and I am grateful–up to a point.

Smart phones seem enticing, until I see those tethered to these devices unable to navigate a street without consulting them. I avert my eyes from this sight, relieved to be free of requiring electronic help every waking moment, happy that our primitive, unintelligent cell phone rarely strays from its resting place on the desk at home.

Electronic reading devices especially repel me. I am unable to make the leap from user-friendly print book to slick e-reader that, for me, mutates reading into a pale and sickly sidekick of technology. Hearing a friend say she’s read “45%” of a book is off-putting. I relish turning the pages of a “real” book, moving my eyes across its lines of print, then visiting our public library for more. Reading is a primal activity for me, providing, among other things, a vital feeling of connection to other human readers from Chaucer to current 1st graders.(I believe 1st graders still use books in school–or are they all given electronic readers now?) Perhaps today’s moderns prefer the idea of connection to devices and other device readers as well as to words on the screen.

Of course I realize the irony of writing and presenting these thoughts to you via computer and the internet. Yes, I do value technology for advancing the ease of writing and getting stories and ideas to readers. It’s just that I don’t feel the need to go beyond this minimum level, pulled deeper into what I see as an endless morass of  electronics.

Pity me, deplore my ignorance, or ignore me–here I stand, hands relatively free from electronic devices.






Sand Dunes and Sail Boats

A few Saturdays ago friend Jan and I hiked a bit on the sand dunes at the John Dellenback Dunes Trail off Hwy 101 near Lakeside. The parking lot connects to a path that winds through scrub growth to the dunes, huge white sculpted sand piles dotted with small animal footprints and decorated by the  wind with sand-wave necklaces. DSC_5136Many of the dunes wear crowns of scrub pine forests. Tiny valleys between dunes sport incipient shrubs and foot-tall trees, forests in the making. Far in the distance we glimpsed the sea, teasing us to make the two mile trek. We declined for then, but the trip to the dunes was worthwhile, reminding us of the varied scenery of the amazing Oregon coast. Only hikers are permitted on the dunes at this locale–nothing motorized, no bicycles, so the silence is immense, the trail the one you create.

The next Saturday was my first sail in a small boat. I am one of twenty-two in the community ed. class, Beginning Sailing, conducted by Skipper Tom Mills and wife, Anjo. We met two Wednesday evenings before our first day on the water. Being of mature years and never before on a sail boat, I was not happy at the idea of going overboard. I packed up two changes of clothes–in case. You’d think I was going on a six-week cruise, with my gear, most of which I did not need. I expected to be cold on the water,and the wind did howl for the afternoon portion of the sail, but it wasn’t cold. TheDSCF6261 sail took place at the Coos Bay Yacht Club on Tenmile Lake, and members of the club were kind enough to let us crew on their boats so we could learn by doing. And there’s a lot to learn: the equipment on the boat, using it safety, how to move self and boat correctly, and of course, wind knowledge: where’s it coming from, when the puffs (gusts) are approaching, trimming the sails to get to a destination and remain afloat. Nautical terms are evocative and creative: lines (not ropes), mast, main sail, jib, starboard, bowline, halyard, telltales, boom vang, cunningham, luff, outhaul, clew, and my favorite: playing the yarns. I have much learn; I’m a baby beginner at this fascinating sport.

I was lucky enough to go out with Tom Kyle, a national racing champion, on his 21 ft San Juan sailboat. Classmate Joanne, and later, Katherine and I were his crew, but I was pretty worthless, not knowing what to do, and then not strong enough to pull the jib DSCF6263sheets by myself. I hope they forgive me my shortcomings. Watching for puffs, we tacked and jibed, heeled and leveled and I loved it all. I could not have been in more competent hands.

Thanks to all who made it possible for me to feel the beauty and excitement of this elegant sport.

We’re going out on the boats one more time. I can’t wait.

Willy Vlautin’s novels and a knock on my door.

Willy Vlautin, Oregon novelist and musician, has published four novels, all of them dealing with characters in bad situations, especially economically. 41Fs+IngloL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_-2They are not members of the elite class, or even (most of them) the middle class. These are trailer park citizens or homeless people or people living in run-down motels, just squeaking by, or not even. Reading of the trials, challenges, hard times, but also the good will and love of these characters has given me a new appreciation for people enduring life as a constant battle.

Last week a young man came to my door who reminded me of a Vlautin character. Sixteen years old, his transportation a skateboard, the boy wore dirty jeans and a scruffy tee shirt. He introduced himself, told his story, answered my questions. He wanted to earn $15 to pay off the remainder of the restitution he owed for stealing food from the local big box store. Very well spoken,he was not hesitant or reluctant in relating the facts of his life. He leanand his mom live in a welfare motel. Mom has a broken back; can’t work. But he was earning the money to finish paying off his debt to society. He’s too young for a “real” job; instead he knocks on doors, tells his story and folks respond with work for him. He attends continuation school and wants to be a welder. He gave me his name and the name of his probation officer and told me to call and check his story.

Noting our weed-choked yard, he said he’d pull weeds to earn the money. Okay, I thought. Why not? I gathered a trash bag, garden gloves, a trowel and a weed puller tool and presented these to the young man. He asked for a bottle of water which I provided. I left him to his work. About a half hour later he knocked on the door and showed me the half full bag of weeds. He had to leave to meet the PO with his payment. I paid his fee and told the young man, if he liked, he could return and we’d have more work for him in a week or two.northline

The next day I called the probation officer and he verified the information the young man gave me.

 The boy reminded me of the main character in “Lean on Pete”. Thank you, Willy Vlautin for making me aware how harsh the world can be for so many. Your work inspired me to help out the young man. What more could a writer ask?

It’s been a long time since I’ve been as moved by a novel as I was by both The Free and  Lean on Pete. Northline and Motel Life, are also well worth reading. Vlautin’s a genius at creating characters who live on the edge of disaster and often plunge into it. They make bad choices and suffer from them. But they keep going, with resilience and hope.  Vlauntin’s people haunt me. I guess that’s why I recognized one when he came to my door.


Protesting to Save our Bay

Saturday I joined a group of protesters downtown in our little Oregon coastal town, displaying our discontent with proposed Jordon Cove project, a facility to bring in fracked gas, mostly from Canada, liquify it, load it on huge LNG ships and export it from DSC_4856here. The facility would be sited on a sand spit in a tsunami zone, and has numerous safety issues (earthquake danger, pollution dangers to humans, fire dangers). This site is 2.8 miles from my home; experts recommend these facilities not be built near populated areas. The proposers of the project, Veresen, assure us we are unreasonable to worry about these concerns. Other issues such pollution of the bay by the release of toxins from dredging needed to accommodate the huge LNG ships, toxins catastrophic to marine life, the destruction of the habitats and the lives of numerous bay species, air port safety, are again ignored or dismissed as of no concern by the proponents of this bad idea.

Part of the project involves building a 243 mile pipeline from our town to the California border to bring in the gas, another bad idea for the land, streams, forests in danger of being desecrated by this pipeline. If that isn’t enough, eminent domain may be used to force landowners to give up their land for this scheme to make rich folks richer.

DSC_4910Endangering ground water by fracking for natural gas, then piping it hundred of miles to become liquified and sold to foreign entities to enrich a few is WRONG. DSC_4863Thanks to all those who came out Saturday to demonstrate our commitment to preserving what’s best about our town: the beauty of the sea, sky, air, and bay that surrounds us.  Hurray for the people willing to fight against those who would take those away and leave us with a polluting monstrosity.

Enough of my upset. Go online to Citizens against LNG for the facts.

Thanks to Writers of Kern and Port Orford (again)

I enjoyed a recent wonderful trip to Bakersfield. Even the San Francisco airport was an adventure. Thanks to the Writers of Kern for an enjoyable visit and the opportunity to talk about my favorite stuff: Reading and Writing.Thanks especially to Annis Cassells for all she did to makie it possible for me to be part of the event.

Annis Cassells and friend at the Writers of Kern Writing Conference, 2014.

Annis Cassells and friend at the Writers of Kern Writing Conference, 2014.


Also, what more can the folks of Port Orford do to show their hospitality?  Had a joyful hour discussing books and writing at the Port Orford Poets Round-up. Many talented, creative poets and prose writers shared their delightful works, too. Heaps of praise and thanks to Toby Porter, Gary Carter, and all others who contributed to this weekend celebration of words and those who manipulate and configure them to create their art and expand our literary world.

More photos to be added, as soon as technical difficulties are resolved.