Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Every two weeks, I go to philosophy class here at Terwilliger Plaza. The class is taught by Hugh Harcourt, an elegant, erudite, eloquent retired professor of philosophy who encourages class discussion of philosophical topics by giving us snippets of famous philosophers to read and by being graciously willing to take any side of any argument to keep class conversations going. He is generous with his deep understanding of the people he introduces to the thirty or so of us who gather very fortnight. The class, titled "Inquiring Minds", is one of the highlights of my time here.

I joined the class as we were discussing Thucydides. We've done several weeks on Plato (whom I liked and am reading "Plato at the Googleplex" to get more about) and several more on Aristotle (whom I found rather distasteful with his "take everything apart" approach and "ethics as community median" ideas of how to live).

But today's class was exceptional. We are talking about the Stoics, reading Cleanthes' Hymn to the Sun and a couple dozen excerpts from Epictetus. Toward the end of the class, we started talking about the Stoics and death. Epictetus compared life to the experience of a ship's passenger who has debarked for a bit to wander around on land. He advised the passenger to keep always one eye on the ship, awaiting the Captain's call to reboard, lest the passenger be trussed up like a wayward sheep and carried back against his will when the ship again set sail.

The underlying idea was to keep the idea of death always before you so that when your time comes, you are ready to accept it. Someone in the class cited "Thanatopsis", the poem by William Cullen Bryant, as agreeing with the Stoic view:

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which move
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Someone else cited Dylan Thomas on the other side:

Do not go gentle into that good night. 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And someone asked, "If we're going to end up dead in either case, what difference does it make?"
This led to a discussion of the idea of a "good death", which in turn led to remembrances of the recent
death of someone many people in the class had known, and how his death had been a good death.

This is a wonderful place, where people for whom aging and death are not mere theory can talk 
about what it means to have a good death, citing great literature amid consideration of great thought.
This is a place where I can learn how to age and how to die without the lessons being in the least
morbid or sentimental. Moving here was definitely a good move.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Way to go, Pineapple Express!

And having complained about the orange box polluting my view, I now find that the windstorm we're in the middle of has blown it to the foot of the hillside behind some ground cover. It's still very orange, but it's no longer very visible.

This is apparently an extraordinarily lucky event. Earlier this week, I was complaining to one of my neighbors on the sixth floor that I didn't hear any of the thunder that was forecast a couple days ago. (I like thunderstorms. They are one of the few things I miss about St. Louis, where I went to high school.) He responded that nothing ever happens around here. "All hell can be breaking loose all over Portland, and we get nothing," he said with a smile.

We're huddled up against the east face of the hills, and I guess they serve as a shield against most weather, which tends to come from the west, swoop up over hills, and not come down to earth again until a few miles away.

But the Pineapple Express, which is currently soaking northern California, comes at us from the south, so the windstorm came right through. Electric and phone lines are down, light rail is on-again-off-again, tree branches are being blown into the streets, but my orange box is gone.

Thank you, Pineapple Express!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Orange Box

It may not yet be December 21, but my hillside is pretty much into its winter visage. A few sere brown leaves are still on the big leaf maple branches, but I can clearly see the half-dozen or so grey stalks that aspire eventually to be tree trunks with their finger-thick branches splayed out in all directions. The dark brown-gray stone of the hillside is visible again, beribboned with ferns. There are a lot more of them this year than last, which is great visually, though it makes me wonder whether the ferns have found more places where water is seeping through the rocks, which, in turn, makes me wonder whether I will awake some night to the roar of the hillside crumbling into the side of my building. Small rockfalls are restrained by long veils of fencing that the maples and ferns grow through, but if the whole shebang comes down, the fencing will come with it.

The only discordant note to the dour winter color scheme is a bright orange box that someone tossed over the side from the street above. It might have held Dunkin donuts or fried chicken or Reese's peanut butter cups if someone decided to eat 16 or 24 of them as he walked up the sidewalk. The orange is a color not found in nature except perhaps for a few days each year in satsuma groves. I think the box is waxed or otherwise rendered resistant to moisture because it is not fading. At all. The glue that held the box into its rectangular shape is rapidly giving up its hold, and the box itself is moving a bit down the hillside from day to day, but it's found a relatively stable place at the base of several maple trunk-lets, which puts it almost exactly where my eyes fall when I gaze out the window. It offends the Thoreau in me -- a sign of decadent civilization amid my big leaf maples and basalt hillside! -- but that's a bit silly, since my sense of being in touch with nature happens through double-glazed windowpanes from a heated room with my computer and Christmas chocolates easily within reach. So I guess I will just be glad there's only the one bit of trash to remind me of fallen human nature and go back to admiring the ferns.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Big-leaf Maple in November

Finally, at age 71, I'm watching leaves change in November.

I've seen autumn trees before, of course. I've admired autumn trees as washes of color in the background as I drove from hither to yon. I've shuffled my feet through fallen leaves along park paths. I even have a memory of the dry, crisp smell of leaves burning -- do people still burn leaves anywhere?

But until this year, I haven't actually watched leaves change as trees economize by casting them aside in preparation for winter. Having the big leaves of a big-leaf maple grove right outside my window is a real blessing. I can see each leaf individually splotch yellow until the green looks more like a blush than a base color. Then, surprisingly briefly, the leaf is bright yellow, even under Oregon's grey drizzly skies. And, finally, the yellow gives way to brown in a pattern that looks like disease, and, in the next breeze, it clicks off its branch, dancing for a while in the air, but ending up flat against the wet asphalt below or caught momentarily in last year's dry grey blackberry vines.

And each leaf goes by its own schedule. By now most have at least started to turn, but maybe a quarter of them are still as green as they were in July.

How is it possible I never took the time to admire this process before? And, if not for my big-leaf maple grove, I wouldn't have seen it this autumn either, and would never have known what I wasn't seeing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maple leaf aerodynamics

The big-leaf maple grove in front of my window has not really turned its mind to autumn yet. Almost all leaves are still deep green. But a small cousin clinging to the hillside a bit to the north is almost half bright yellow, which means I get to watch the leaves take off.

Because maple leaves don't actually fall so much as soar. I watched one moving horizontally on a brisk autumn breeze until it started moving upward, seeming uninterested in actually ending up on the ground at all. It disappeared past the top of my window on its way toward the roof.

Even without the assistance of wind, maple leaves take their time to get from branch to earth. Something about the broad, irregular shape and the protruding stem permit them to dance once they are free to do so. I'm envious. With my aching back and knees and shoulders, I doubt I will be able to make so free-spirited an exit when the time comes. And I'm almost sure I won't turn brilliant yellow to make a final bright flash on my way out. So I guess the best I can do is to applaud those who know how to go out with a flourish. And the show this year is only beginning.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An unexpected gift

Every once in a while, somebody will give you a piece of their life.

I'm not talking about the intricate sharing of long-time friends or lovers or partners. This kind of thing comes from a stranger, who, for whatever reason, decides to open up to you.

I got one of those gifts just now as I bought tangerines and yogurt at a Trader Joe's. I was wearing the T-shirt I got as a thank-you after giving one of my children (the one who always knows Exactly what I can buy her for her birthday) tickets to a Tina Turner concert. The T-shirt has Tina seated on a simple chair looking out at the world with an expression of cheerful triumph. It was from one of her several "farewell" tours and has the dates and places of the concerts on the back.

The guy ringing up my purchases admired the shirt, then, after a brief pause, told me he dresses up like Tina and performs her most popular pieces. My immediate response was profound envy. I could no more imitate Tina than I could fly to Mars. "Can you do her voice?" I asked. "No, I lip-synch," he answered. "Just doing the dancing in high-heeled boots is plenty of challenge."

He bagged up my purchases, and I left, smiling. I smiled all the way home.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mirabile dictu!

I have forgiven my ex-husband.

I state this, not as an accomplishment, but as a discovery. We were married for ten years and have been divorced for 40, and until today, whenever I have encountered him in the course of interactions with our mutual children, it took only the sound of his voice to draw up around me armor that would be the envy of any medieval knight, containing within a turgid mix of pain and anger and odds and ends of longing and need. I knew that, as a Christian, I had to forgive him ("...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us ..."), and I could almost always manage to behave as if I had forgiven him, but inside here, on the tarnished side of the armor, I couldn't manage to feel as if I had forgiven him, indeed, couldn't manage to feel as if I really wanted to forgive him.

Let's be clear. He is/was not a monster. We're not talking Simon Legree here. But people can do damage to one another in intimacy. We have three children, and it seemed best to me not to make them too cognizant of just how happy I was to be divorced from their father, how angry and confused any contact with him made me.

Until today. We were both at my son's house to watch the University of Oregon/Michigan State University football game. And I realized that the armor wasn't there, and I didn't miss it. I ate one of the relatively tasteless cookies he'd brought, hugged him good-bye, exchanged trivialities about our shared history, and drove home feeling only elated that Ducks won after a really good game 46-27. No "thank God that's over", no scurrying retreat into my inner sanctuary, no obsessive rumination on "how could I have made such an abysmal choice of life partner?"

I wish I could claim credit for the change. But it is a gift, plain and simple. I feel like I've lost 40 lbs.

We'll see, maybe it's just a passing whim, an after-effect of the Ducks' victory (they were down by 9 at the half! MSU was their first serious challenge of the season!), the kind of thing that feels meaningful, but actually comes of a happy digestion and  a good night's sleep.

But it feels like actual forgiveness.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Benefits of old pulp fiction

I mentioned a couple posts ago that I'm on a Nero Wolfe binge. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Wolfe, he's the hero of several dozen detective novels written by Rex Stout starting in the 1930s and continuing for decades. His plots are marvels of elegant complexity, his narrator, Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's assistant detective, is a Humphrey Bogart type who is excellent company. His characters are unpredictable the way actual people are unpredictable, and the bad guys always get caught in the end. Great literature it ain't, but sometimes just a well-told story is more than sufficient.

One side benefit of reading the early ones is running into thought patterns that were unremarkable at the time, but now seem amazing.

For instance, in "The Rubber Band", the one I'm reading now, written in 1936, we have a cantankerous old coot who doesn't trust Wolfe and is about to refuse to do what Wolfe wants him to do. Trying to convince him, Wolfe says, "You called me an idiot, Mr. Walsh. I return the compliment. What is worse, you are hot-headed. But you are an old man, so there is humanity's debt to you."

Humanity's debt to him just because he's old. An unthinkable concept in current society. But then, in the late 30s, Social Security had just been put into place, and people were thinking in terms of what we as a society should do to protect our elders from grinding poverty in old age. I'm not going to insist that the world owes me just because I have survived to 71, but the idea that I've contributed to humanity and might expect at least some respect in return has its appeal.

Of course, there's the other side too. In "Too Many Cooks", written in 1938, I bumped right into the casual ethnic slurs of the time. There are several African American characters, whom Archie refers to with the N-word, and some Italians who are described as "dagos". The plot manages to wind its way through the unthinking racism of the time, coming down against it, but, as someone who really does think the Washington football team should change its name, I was shocked to see the words in print. But one of the minor characters was a squinty-eyed West Virginia sheriff whose behavior reminded me that there's more to racism than non-PC language.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I've been snubbed

My orb weaver spider apparently took offense at having her web destroyed twice in a week. She's gone. Now, come October, I'll have to find spider webs to admire elsewhere than on the roof.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

new neighbor on the roof

A small orb-weaver spider has taken up residence between my tomato plant and the one next to it.

I am not afraid of spiders. I am, in fact, a bit fond of them because I think their webs are beautiful and I am awestruck at their ability to create them. I mean, they somehow manage to anchor long support wires off in three or four directions, then make them meet in the middle where they spin nets. I couldn't do that. And on a cool fall morning, when the dew drops make the web easy to admire, it is a great wonderment and worthy of thanksgiving and respect. Not that I want a spider crawling up my arm or anything, but I have no desire to assault any spider who is just going about her business creating beauty.

Unfortunately, this particular spider creates her web such that I can either respect her art or pick tomatoes off my plant. She's little at the moment, having just chosen her web site (spiders did that millenia before we did) and set up waiting for small bugs to stick to it so she can eat them and become larger.

But I want my tomatoes. So I broke through her web. She scurried off onto the tomato plant as I grabbed the two ripe ones. My guilt at the destruction did not interfere at all with my enjoyment of the tomatoes. It probably should have.

Two days later, I went up again. And there she was again. And there was her web again. And there were my tomatoes. I tried to find ripe tomatoes that were not on the other side of her web. I found one, but two more glowed through the delicate netting, and I had to swoop down like the ravening hordes again.

I don't know how long she can put up with this. While she weaves beautifully, I suspect she is not very flexible about where, plus which the space between tomato plants is probably ideal for catching bugs as they swoop over the roof. The tomato plant looks ready to keep producing for weeks to come. I wonder if there is a way for me to get her to relocate about four inches to the southeast back past most of the tomato plant. Or even down six inches so I could reach past. Anyone know how to negotiate locations with an orb spider?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

healthful side effect of my tomato plant

There are two elevators in the main lobby of Terwilliger Plaza. One goes to the roof. One goes only to the top residential floor.

So, now that my tomato plant is producing, I frequently need to get to the roof. Earlier today, I stood at the elevator doors on the sixth floor waiting for transport. The wrong elevator came. I stood back, let the doors close, counted to 10, and pressed the call button again. The wrong elevator came again, this time with people in it who looked quizzically at me as the doors closed.

Now I was embarrassed. I know I can't climb the six floors of stairs, plus the flight to the roof. Well, OK, I could, but my knees would explain my error to me all day tomorrow.

I pressed the call button again. The wrong elevator came again. And then I had the "Eureka!" moment. I may not be able to climb seven stories, but I can certainly climb one. So I took the wrong elevator to the 12th floor and the stairs to the roof. Not only did I get healthful, nourishing, delicious tomatoes for my lunch, I got one more floor of stair climbing than I would have otherwise, plus I got that smug sense of accomplishment I get when an idea from outside the box manages to make its way into my head.

So now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go wash and cut my tomatoes, slosh them with some balsamic vinaigrette, and have lunch, with a side dish of self-satisfaction.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

my tree

Outside my windows is a maple tree. Well, OK, a collection of young maple trees, since there doesn't seem to be a main trunk to it anywhere. It, or, more properly, they grow out of the steep hillside and present to my view several hundred maple leaves that frequently toss in the breezes that stream up and down the canyon between my window and the hillside, probably as a means for the air over downtown to the north to adjust itself against the air in the park and garden area to the south.

Daily, I have had the pleasure of looking at the trees -- it's what I do while I brush my teeth. It's a very refreshing view. A study found that patients whose windows showed them trees recovered from surgery faster than patients whose windows showed them buildings. I can believe it. In the condo I moved here from, when I looked out my window, I looked into someone else's window, and I tended not to look out very much. I really like having the maples outside my window here.

Another benefit from my brief conversation with Bryan, the new gardener, is that he has told me the name of the type of maple tree I look at: big-leaf maple. Wikipedia says you can make maple syrup from big-leaf maples, though its flavor is inferior to that of New England's sugar maples, and a posting from Oregon State says there are lots of industrial uses of big-leaf maple wood. But the revelation for me is that my trees have really big leaves, some the size of dinner plates,each an exaggerated maple shape with finger-length indentations.

One would think that, looking daily at my trees as I have for the past five months, I would have noticed that their leaves are really big. I didn't. I noticed that they were dark green with a light-colored underside. I noticed that a few of the individual branches seem to have died -- leaves all shriveled and brown. (Bryan says it's probably because of the drought conditions we've had for the past few months, with the tree cutting sustenance to a few branches to save fluid for the other branches.) I admired the grace of the leaves' motion and the way, after a rain shower, some leaves stayed temporarily turned over so that they looked almost white against their compatriots. But it never occurred to me that my trees have really big leaves.

How is it possible that I never noticed how big the leaves are? Well, that's just how complex reality is. You can look and look, and there are always details or configurations or interrelationships that you just don't see that someone else sees immediately. Which is why we need to talk to one another, so that we can each have the delight of discovering something new in what we thought was completely familiar. Like honking big maple leaves..

Monday, July 28, 2014


Picked my first tomato this morning. Or, rather, Bryan the new gardener picked the first tomato off my plant on the roof. He thought it wasn't quite ready, but we agreed that, left in my window, it would gain some color, leaving the plant to put its energy toward ripening the other eight or ten green tomatoes it currently bears. ("We agreed" is an overstatement. He said, and I nodded.)

The reason Bryan picked my tomato is that there is a technique to picking tomatoes, of which I was, of course, completely unaware and which I was unable to acquire by instruction. There is this little knuckle just up the stem from the tomato. You put your thumb against the knuckle and press and presto! change-o!, you've got a tomato to carry off. Probably everybody but me knew that, but now I know it too.

I actually carried off my tomato and a few mini-tomatoes from a flat Bryan was filling from ripe tomatoes on other people's plants that they have neglected to pick themselves. He plans to leave the flat opposite the elevator door for people to help themselves to.

Bryan is a recent graduate of plant-tending school. He lacks Steven's gravitas, but he has a youthful energy and kindness (he didn't laugh at me for not being able to press the tomato knuckle), and he clearly cares a lot about plants, not just professionally but in his heart. I like him.

It just now occurs to me that my writing is sounding a bit like the voice of Archie Goodwin, assistant to Nero Wolfe. This is because I'm re-reading Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. The early ones are interesting for the cultural slip between the 1930s and now: no one could accuse Archie of being an early feminist. But the plots are sufficiently byzantine and the byplay sufficiently crackling to keep me happily ensconced. And my Kindle allows me to snap my fingers and get another one. I think my moral fiber is being undermined.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

6th story hummingbird

So I was hustling together crackers and cheese for a mid-afternoon snack, gazing vaguely out the window, when a hummingbird zoomed up to the window. He/she hovered there for several seconds, then zipped off to do whatever it is that hummingbirds do on hot Saturday afternoons.

I can understand a hummingbird coming to the roof to sip nectar from deep pink flowers. But to have one come to my sixth floor window just as I am looking out it is a Sign. Definitely a Sign. (It is also two more hummingbirds than I saw during the 17 years I lived in my condo and the 20 years I lived in my house in Beaverton.)

Now if I could only find someone to Interpret my Sign. I'm sharing raspberry shakes tomorrow with a friend who is a Wiccan, maybe she'll know what it all Means.

Friday, July 4, 2014

On not going to see the fireworks

It's the Fourth of July, a couple hours before midnight. On the roof, my neighbors are watching fireworks go off down the river at Oaks Park and up the river in downtown at the Blues Festival and, if it's clear, across the Columbia in Vancouver, not to mention all the do-it-yourself sparkles all over Portland.

I'm not. I can barely hear the explosions, so I know that fireworks are being set off. (At my old place, the fireworks went off practically overhead, so I definitely knew when they were happening. My current cat, a courageous soul, was never freaked out about it, though my previous cat ran and hid under the bed.) And it's satisfying to me to think there are people enjoying them, looking up at the bursting fiery flowers overhead, going "Oooo!" and "Aaaah!". There is in me history of having done that. And it is enough. It is as if I could reach into my own past and touch the wonder and excitement and enchantment with burning blues and reds and golds and whites -- and,more recently, greens and purples -- and feel the appetite for them satisfied, knowing that the same experience is happening again right now.

Which means either I am gaining depth and resonance in my old age, or I am too damned lazy to put on some shoes and walk down to the elevator that would take me to the roof.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

the 13th story hummingbird

So there I was sitting on the roof. Terwilliger Plaza has a great space for residents on the roof, up on top of the 12th floor apartments. There's Tomato Alley off to the right as you get off the elevator (my tomato plant is growing leaves like crazy, but, as yet, no tomatoes). And off to the right is the door to the space on the roof with plants and flowers and places to sit and look out over Portland, admiring Mt. Hood to the east and Mt. St. Helens (what's left of it after the 1980 eruption) to the north, the Willamette River flowing past beneath the half dozen bridges that join the two halves of Portland, the sky tram swinging up and down to get people to and from Oregon Health Sciences University, aka Pill Hill, just south of where we are.

If you are so inclined, you can go look over the edge down to the park and the lilac gardens. My knees tend to wobble when I even think of that, so I usually don't. There's a great flat disk that hangs over the edge with arrows pointing to six or seven of the mountain peaks visible in clear weather, but once I get that close to the side, my eyes kind of go out of focus with terror. There's a barrier, of course, but it's waist-high, not nearly high enough to disguise the fact that I'm over 100 feet from the ground in a radically downward direction.

But the roof is a great place to sit and just Be, particularly now when it's usually sunny and cool and gently breezy, and you can gaze out over treetops and buildings and foothills and feel spacious.

So there I was, sitting on the roof, feeling spacious, when I happened to look over at the rooftop flowers. And there was a hummingbird dipping his beak into some pink trumpet-shaped blossoms, cool as can be. He did a leisurely tour of the plants that had that particular kind of flower, then zoomed off.

How the heck did he find those flowers? You know there's not a lot of forage for hummingbirds at the 13th floor level of the stratosphere. Sure, the West Hills rise up behind us, but you'd think, on a breezy day, any scent that might have attracted him would be entirely dispersed within feet of the flowers. Yet there he was, brazenly suspending his tiny self 13 stories up, browsing potted plants as if they had been put out specifically for his nourishment. I should ask the gardener, maybe they were.

He certainly was a high point, absolutely no pun intended, of my day. I wonder whether hummingbirds have a regular route, revisiting flowers that hospitably regenerate nectar for them on a daily or weekly basis. I think I'll go sit on the roof some more.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Elevator conversations

Yesterday, the philosophy class was scheduled to discuss Plato's views on women (amazingly advanced for a guy writing 2500 years ago), but Prof. Harcourt's discussion of the table of contents of "The Republic" got such good conversations going that we didn't get to the women discussion. (You know a guy can teach up a storm if he can make a lively class out of a table of contents.)

I shared the elevator after class with a couple fellow students.

"Where was Plato when I was fighting for women's rights?", one woman said.

"Yes, I really like his idea that women have the same capacity to be Guardians as men," said another.

And they began to talk about their experiences in the struggle for women's rights back in the 20th century.

It got to be my floor. I didn't want to get off. I did, but in future I won't. Why trade getting back to my apartment a few minutes sooner for a lively discussion of Greek philosophy and women's lib? Next time, I just ride the elevator. Not like I'm going to miss my exit eventually.

OPB has its "driveway moments", programs so good people sit in their cars in the driveway after they get home to hear the end. Terwilliger Plaza residents provide "elevator moments", casual conversations so good they make it worthwhile to ride along for another few floors.

Dang, but I like it here!

Ochi has fans

My cat, Ochi, got admiring fans this morning from two sources.

Vera, who cleans my apartment every couple weeks, brought her friend Svetlana to admire him. We spoke Russian -- well, OK, I sort of mumbled through my rusty vocabulary and fading memory of grammar, and they encouraged and corrected me, since they are both from Ukraine and speak Russian like natives. (Putin, of course, would say Ukrainians ARE Russians. Many Ukrainians would beg to differ.) Ochi was, naturally, the center of attention, and Vera and Lana let me explain in English why his fur has been shaved away while they petted and cooed and made an entirely appropriate fuss over his gorgeousness.

Then John Wittwer, who lives down on the fifth floor, called to say he had a couple hard-boiled egg yolks he thought Ochi might like. I had just filled the food dish, so I declined the offer, but I'm sure egg yolks have lots of good protein. Anybody care to comment on feeding cats hard-boiled egg yolks?

Monday, May 19, 2014

new parking spot

When I moved to Terwilliger Plaza, I brought with me my aged New Beetle Gumdrop (vanity plate: GMDROP). I was assigned a parking spot beneath my windows in a space along the alleyway to the loading door. This spot had several advantages. It was very close to my apartment -- probably two minutes walk total, including waiting for the freight elevator -- and I could look down and see my bright yellow car from my windows, which I did kind of by habit as I prepared for bed each night.

Then, about a week ago, I got an "inside" parking place. It also has several advantages.

It's inside, which doesn't matter all that much now that it's spring and summer, but it will matter a lot when it's unpleasant outdoors.

It's at the far end of the building, which may seem like a disadvantage, but anything that gets me walking instead of sitting has to be counted on the positive side. (Look up "sedentary" in any dictionary, and you will find my picture there.)

It's on flat floor. The outdoor space was on a slight incline side-to-side, which made opening the driver's side door more of a challenge than it needed to be, and which brought rain in onto the driver's seat if I forgot to roll the driver's side window up.

Getting to the new parking space is somewhat labyrinthine. One elevator to the first floor, then a hike along past the mailboxes, library, and restaurant to another elevator, which takes me down to the ground-level parking. But that has a charm of its own. When I think about it, it reminds me of some of Mervyn Peake's descriptions of Gormenghast Castle, which is really unfair, since there is nothing whatsoever to tie Terwilliger Plaza to Peake's accretive, gloomy monstrosity of a building. But one takes one's literary references where one finds them.

The new space is almost right next to the garage door, which means it took me a couple tries to figure out how to head in westward and do a hairpin turn so I could enter my space facing eastward. Turns out what I wanted was not a hairpin turn, but a kind of preliminary swoop northward so that I would have the space to reverse directions without having to back and fill. I am pleased to see that concrete columns here are buffered with plastic foam so I won't be able to scrape any more paint off the sides of my car while parking. If I win the lottery, I may consider having Gumdrop repainted.

Now, as I go to bed, by habit I look for my car, and she's not there. It makes me much sadder than it should. I guess I'm still defining myself as a Terwilliger Plaza resident, and seeing Gumdrop under the alley streetlight was an affirmation that I miss.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

getting to know my neighbors

Tonight was the floor dinner, a monthly event that gathers most of the residents on the sixth floor in the private dining room to socialize and get served a dinner arranged by one of the residents with the Plaza chef, Klaus. (My daughter works as a cook, and says that all chefs are crazy. Klaus apparently fits the stereotype. But he certainly cooks a superb apple pie.)

Anyway, after dinner, I was walking back with my next-door-neighbor-to-the-north Betsy, who invited me into her apartment to see the layout. She is a photographer and water color artist. I hadn't spoken with her husband Ray before, but I learned this evening that he too is an artist -- pencil drawings and water colors. Their work is admirable -- they're not hobbyists, they're Actual Artists. I wish I could include some photos of their work so you could enjoy it too. Their apartment is both elegant and welcoming.

Then Betsy came over to meet Ochi, my cat. She got along well with him, even eliciting a purr or two. I apologized profusely as we walked in, because my apartment is an inelegant, unwelcoming mess. "Nonsense," Betsy said, "it's where you live."

I think I'm going to like having Betsy for a neighbor.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dr. Proust

I don't actually know her last name. But we were riding up to the roof in the elevator together, and she came with me to admire my tomato plant, which, unlike some of its compatriots, seems to be flourishing. We got to talking, and she told me about going with her husband (one of three) because he wanted to support the Spanish Republic before Franco grabbed it by the throat. They ended up in Paris, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on "Involuntary Memory in Proust". Apparently it wasn't just the madeleines. She says the whole book is about involuntary memory (hence, perhaps, the title: "Remembrance of Things Past"). We had a wonderful conversation about the workings of involuntary memory, and I am feeling a probably transitory desire to read Proust. We agreed that Terwilliger Plaza is a great place, full of lively, interesting people with energy and generosity of spirit.

Wow. Just wow.

Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm a tomato mommy

A couple weeks ago, Terwilliger Plaza had a signup for tomato plants. The Plaza gardener, who gave me that great interview a while back on English ivy, does all the work -- planting, watering, fertilizing -- and individual Plaza residents get to enjoy the result, picking fresh tomatoes off their "own" plant on the roof for a mere $8 fee.

I missed the signup. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that excited about the possibility. There are people who are revivified by getting their hands in dirt. I am not one. I believe we have discussed in the past my geek nature, which kind of counteracts any tendency toward earth mother-tude. And plants know it. I believe I once managed to kill a cactus through either neglect or over-attentiveness, I don't know which, this is really not my thing.

But a couple days ago someone told me that the gardener had actually planted more tomatoes than he had sponsors for. And I thought about it again. There they were, orphan tomato plants sitting up there in Tomato Alley with no one to care whether they produced anything or not. A clipboard opposite the elevator door on the roof lists the unclaimed tomato pots -- #141 through #145.

Stepping out onto the sunlit roof, I found them. Most pots around them have both numbers and names on their labels. These have only numbers. In each pot is a little hard plastic label telling the name of the planted variety and describing its characteristics -- how fast it grows, how long it keeps producing tomatoes, how big the tomatoes are and what they will taste like. The one I chose, a perky, vivacious little plant, is a momotaro tomato, described as a good slicing tomato; according to a seed catalog, "...its flavor is an intricate and harmonious combination of sweet and tangy". Momotaro, I discovered through Wikipedia, is a figure out of Japanese folklore, a child who floated down the river inside a giant peach, to be discovered by a lonely and childless couple who raised him as their own. He later heroically conquered a tribe of demons, brought back their treasure with his talking animal friends, and he and his family lived happily ever after.

So Pot #141 is now Pot #141 Taussig, my diet will be vastly improved by the addition of fresh produce all summer, and I get the rewards of gardening without actually having to, you know, garden. Here's what I can expect in a few weeks.

Anybody know how many tomatoes one plant can produce? Am I going to end up like all the zucchini growers begging friends, associates, and total strangers to PLEASE take some home?

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Had the medical procedure this morning. No aftereffects, and I'm not dying this week, at least not of what they were looking for.

But the experience of anesthesia was amazing. There I lay amid probably eight or ten medical people talking to one another in medicalese, not very comprehensible, but at least I could recognize some of the words they were using. I had met most of them -- Debra, Susan, Drs. Mehta and Chen (they told me first names, but I've forgotten them), Tyson, the tall thin woman who looked like a rancher's wife -- and I felt included and informed and cared for.

Then someone, probably Susan, the anesthetist-nurse, said, "We're going to start giving you the anesthesia now, it may sting a bit." I waited for the sting. No sting. Then, for about three seconds, I found it very difficult to make sense of the words I was hearing. I closed my eyes.

And the next instant -- I mean, the very next instant! -- I was back in the recovery cubicle deciding whether or not to open my eyes. No fogginess, no confusion, no disorientation. Just wham! It was an hour later, people had been poking around in the innermost of my insides, even chopping off small bits that they didn't like, and I hadn't been there. For an hour, I just wasn't there. Like a light switch. Click, I'm gone, click an hour later, I'm back.

It feels like there's a very interesting conversation to be had now about life after death, in which I could make arguments on either side. But I didn't sleep very well last night and I think I'll take a nap instead of philosophizing about the persistence of the soul. (I think the philosophy classes here at Terwilliger Plaza are luring my mind into unaccustomed weird paths.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

on following medical instructions

On of the less delightful aspects of growing old is the panoply of medical tests the AMA has decided it needs to inflict on me to make sure I'm not sick in various specific ways. Next week, I will undergo one of the least fun pleasant, a colonoscopy.

In preparation for this ordeal, I have been given instructions on how to make my insides as cleanly visible as possible to the probing gastroenterologists. For the seven days before the test, I am directed not to eat anything with seeds: no corn, popcorn, cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, berries, poppyseeds, sesame seeds, or nuts. I am appalled to realize how difficult I'm finding that simple direction.

Yesterday, my son Jeff took me out to lunch. I was very good about not ordering anything with tomatoes or corn salsa or nut garnish, but when it came time for dessert, the cabernet blackberry cheesecake slipped right past my (not very alert) guard. It was delicious, but it was garnished by four or five actual blackberries, which I ate happily before realizing I shouldn't have.

Well, OK, there are directions for what to do if one's guard is slipped past, just drink more fluids, apparently to sluice out the offending seeds. I figured, "How much harm can five blackberries do?" and grabbed another can of ginger ale.

But then today, I decided to treat myself to an Easter Dinner at Burgerville: a pepper bacon cheeseburger. And I was good: I had it without tomatoes and felt enormously virtuous. I like tomatoes. It was mostly devoured  before I realized that (a) it came on a sesame seed bun and (b) it came with pickles, direct descendants of seed-bearing cucumbers. And it was the first day for Burgerville's fresh strawberry shakes, which are delicious because they contain fresh strawberries, which are, you'd be elated to learn, the only fruit that carries its seeds on the outside.

So in four days, as people peer deep into my inner self, there is a possibility that they will see little chunks in there looking like pre-cancerous polyps when they're actually just evidence that I can't do as I'm told. I wonder how many cans of ginger ale are required to wash them all through.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

blogging at April TUG

And here we are.

Which is all I wrote during yesterday's Terwilliger Users Group (TUG) meeting. My talk was brief and somewhat babbly, and no one had any questions at the end. We'll see whether it results in anyone taking up blogging.

my readership

One of the features of blogger (the platform on which this blog is published) is that it keeps track of who reads each blog -- not by name, but by what browser they use and where they come from.

To my amazement, I had a reader in Alaska, four in Germany, and four in Russia. Russia! How in heaven's name did someone in Russia find my little Terwilliger Plaza blog? Probably a hacker looking for someone on the web who gives away their bank password or has a nephew who works for the CIA and tells his dear auntie about the top-secret stuff he's doing. But still. Russia!

And for that matter, how did someone in Alaska find me? It's spring there, they don't have the excuse (at the moment) of being stuck with 24-hour nights or daily high temperatures below freezing. Still I suppose there are people all over who spend their days trolling the web looking for someone they can sell something to or steal something from.  Or, to be a bit more optimistic, looking for something interesting.

But still -- Russia!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

condo sold!

The place I moved from has been on the market for about a month. There has been only tepid interest -- one offer at $20K less than my asking price, and the buyer bowed out when I made a counter offer. 

Suddenly this past weekend, THREE separate buyers made offers, one of them slightly over my asking price. Electronic documents have zipped back and forth for electronic signatures (much less intimidating than the inches-thick piles of paper I remember from the last time I did anything in the real estate market), and we have not only a pending sale, but a backup buyer in case anything goes awry with the first folks.

A month or so until closing. So only one more month for me to pay home owners association dues and electricity bill on the old place, only one more month for me to pay interest on my bridge loan, only one more month for me to carry around too many keys to too many doors. 

I'm happy.

a very Terwilliger laundry story

So this package shows up outside my apartment door. It's from the laundry service, it's labeled "Taussig 629" in two places, and it contains a purple flannel sheet set I have never seen before. I sigh, imagining the package sitting on a laundry room shelf for the next two years waiting to be redeemed by its mysterious owner, and take it down to the laundry service.

I was expecting the conversation to go, roughly:
Me: "This isn't mine."
Laundry guy: "But it says your name on it."
Me: "But it's not mine."
Laundry guy: "Well, where did you get it?"
Me: "It was left outside my door."
Laundry guy: "That's probably because it's got your name on it."
Me: "But I've never seen it before."
Laundry guy: "Well, what do you expect me to do with it? It's got your name on it."

Etc., ad infinitum.

But no, this is Terwilliger Plaza. The Hispanic man on the other side of the counter thought for a moment, then said, "Oh, I know whose this is. It's the woman who had your apartment before you, she's in the medical treatment center now, I'll make sure she gets it back. Thanks for bringing it down." 350 people live here, and he knew me, the woman who preceded me, where I live, where she lives now, and what her sheet set looks like.

Things like that (and the fact that the class on Socrates this morning almost didn't have a chair left for me to sit in) make me really glad I live here now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

the problem with research

Researchers studied a group of 86 women between 70 and 80 to see the effect of twice-weekly exercise on intellectual function. Turns out aerobic exercise resulted in bigger hippocampi (a part of the brain associated with memory) but worse verbal learning.

How the heck do you parse that? Yes, I should definitely get set up to connect with some of the many opportunities offered at Terwilliger Plaza to get regular exercise. Yes, I'm sure it would benefit me in all sorts of ways -- healthier heart and lungs, trimmer body, more energy. And, according to the study, a bigger hippocampus. But worse verbal learning than if I had just sat and stared out the window (which I do a lot here, since I have a mountainside and burgeoning greenery and birds to look at).

But aerobic exercise (the kind that makes me pant and makes my heart beat faster and makes my blood vessels work harder and makes me sweat and makes me ache the next day) might make me stupider.

Or maybe the experimental result was a statistical anomaly. Maybe if they did the study again, the decrement in verbal learning would disappear. Or maybe the hippocampal size increase would disappear. Or maybe they'd all turn bright blue and fly away into the cloudless sky.

Dang. I am a geek. I believe science is the best we can do to move slowly toward actual new knowledge about the world around us. But it seems to work more reliably on things than on people. How often have you read "New Study Reveals Secret to ..." ... to eternal youth, to better orgasms, to losing weight while eating chocolate, to curing acne or cancer or underarm odor? And yet still we suffer.

Probably the problem has to do with reading news reports about specific studies on populations of less than 100,000. That's it. The problem is verbal learning. So if I just get going on the exercise, I'll be physically healthier and less likely to believe in news articles about small studies.

See? It all works out in the end. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

a card catalog!

So I was riding in the elevator with a woman resident, and we got talking about a book her husband had written about the history of Portland. I had tried to find it on without success. "Oh, there's a copy in the library," she said. "At least we donated a copy, so it should be there."

I had not been to the Terwilliger Plaza library. It makes no claims to completeness -- it's mostly mysteries and thrillers, with a sizeable collection of large-print editions. But the Portland history sounded interesting, so I dropped in. It has a card catalog! An actual card catalog, with little stiff-paper cards for the books, organized by title in one drawer and by author in another. You tick through them with your index finger, looking for the card for the book you want, then going from the information on that card to the actual shelves on which the physical cardboard-and-paper books rest.

It has been a Very Long Time since I dealt with card catalogs and searching through shelves and checking books out by writing my name on cards from the pocket on the inside of the cover. (I couldn't find the book I wanted, but I found another one that looked interesting, as one always does.) Oddly, it took me back to college days and the peculiar whispery echoing spaces in the main reading room of Carnegie Library at Oberlin College. This resurrects a general sense of historic guilt because I was never as thorough or as deep in my researches as the topics deserved, in part because there was always this other book that looked interesting.

But a card catalog! Wow!

looking together into the void

I'm now attending a second class besides the one on Greek classics. This one, called "Brainstorming 101",  is following a Teaching Company DVD of lectures on neurology. The class has been going for over a year and is almost done. It's led by a man who seems to have credentials in neurology (come in late and miss the professor's self-introduction, but he keeps referring to his work at OHSU).

This week, the class was on Alzheimer's. Talking about Alzheimer's with people who are my age and older is a very focused matter. The topic is not theoretical. Some of my classmates have been or are currently caretakers of Alzheimer's patients -- one woman this afternoon spoke feelingly of the burden of being married to a man who is no longer anyone whom she knows or who knows her. And all of us in that room worry that we are hearing our own future described.

Some people wanted to insist that there are ways to avoid it -- eating Indian food was mentioned, since apparently the incidence of Alzheimer's is lower in the Indian subcontinent. (The professor tried to quickly explain the difference between correlation and causality, but those who want to believe were not deterred.) Others wanted to discuss extending Oregon's "Death with Dignity" act to allow people suffering early stages of Alzheimer's to specify how far they should be allowed to deteriorate before they are allowed legal suicide: "When I can no longer spell my own name ..." or "when I can no longer remember my own birthday ...".

It was a fairly grim class but one blessedly free of euphemism or the imagined invincibility of the young. The professor was not feeling well, so he asked that we postpone our discussions until the next class in two weeks. My mother died of Alzheimer's. This is live stuff for me. I'll be there.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Live-blogging blogging!

So in a couple weeks, I'm to be on the agenda of the monthly meeting of the Terwilliger Users' Group (TUG), a gathering of people using or otherwise interested in computers at Terwilliger Plaza. My topic is to be "Blogging", and I was asked to keep it short -- five minutes or so. This morning, Scott Phillips, who is in charge of the group, called to ask if I'd be willing to make a blog entry as part of my talk. I'm more than happy to do so, since otherwise I'll be darned if I know what one says about a blog other than "I write about whatever I feel like and post it to the internet." With as many interesting people as there are here, it seems criminal that there are only three blogs listed on the Terwilliger Plaza page. Maybe I can coax a few more people to take the plunge.

Liveblogging will let me show off the Blogger interface, plus be a good source of questions about the mechanics of blogging. All assuming I don't get prohibitive stage-fright and find myself unable to recall the link to my blog. I'll write it down somewhere.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ivy: War of Attritiion

"When I first came here, I thought I was going to be able to wipe out the ivy," said Steve Price, Terwilliger Plaza groundskeeper. "But after a couple years, I realized that I'd be doing well if I could fight it to a standstill."

I asked whether the ivy did any good stabilizing the rock face. "See that triangular hole in the rock up there?" Steve pointed up at my mountainside. "A chunk of rock came out of that and smashed a car in the parking lot flat. That's when we put up the fence to protect residents and their cars. And it was ivy roots that pried that rock loose."

"Look up there," he said, pointing at the nearly vertical rock face between the parking lot and the street that winds by at the top of the cliff. "I had professional ivy-killers come in to try to kill the ivy up there. But the only way they could spray herbicide on that stuff at the top was to rappel down the rock face. We couldn't afford to pay them that much."

Steve fights the good fight as best he can, digging out roots where the slope permits, spraying herbicide carefully when weather permits, cutting finger-thick base stems and disentangling dependent vines, trying to keep Terwilliger trees free of the clinging marauder during spring and summer.

He is not above using propaganda to fight the good fight against English ivy. "Some of the residents thought the ivy was so pretty, they wanted to leave it alone. I got somebody from the Ivy Eradication Team to come in and do a presentation. That convinced them."

Steve is retiring in about a month, and Plaza residents who care about the grounds are very sorry to see him go. The English ivy is probably rubbing its leaves together in delight.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Villainous neighbors

Want to get a snarl out of a mild-mannered Oregon environmentalist? Just walk up to her and say, "English ivy".

If you are not in the know, you may think English ivy is a hardy, reliable, esthetically pleasing ground cover with glossy green, white-veined, three-lobed leaves. Even people who don't know many plants recognize English ivy and may have a vaguely romantic sense about it from an obscure Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy".

But in Oregon, English ivy is an invasive plant that destroys habitat for other plants and kills trees -- yes, kills trees! -- by climbing all over them and smothering the tree's own leaves and adding considerable weight to the tree, making it more vulnerable to wind. It crowds out native plants, robbing small animals of their normal food sources (nothing, it seems, eats English ivy on purpose), and, left unchecked, will eventually Conquer the World. It's Oregon's version of the South's kudzu vines. (Actually, we've got two of those, English ivy and Himalayan blackberries, but Himalayan blackberries provide a delicious street-side snack every August, so it's hard to feel quite as much hostility to them.)

So why am I inflicting all this militant botany on you? Because the mountainside I have been celebrating since I moved in here is increasingly covered with -- you guessed it, English ivy. I went out this afternoon to examine the problem more closely, and there's a whole lot of the stuff clambering up the mountainside between the Terwilliger Plaza parking lot and the street that runs by above at about the ninth-floor level. Several trees already wear thick coats of English ivy, which is turning them into big broccoli spears where only the leaves at the very top of the trees manage to unfold. English ivy doesn't care about winter, at least not here, and its glossy green leaves and clinging vines persist year-round.

So where can I get more information about this, I was asking myself as I wandered beneath the cascades of English ivy? And voila! a fellow resident was pruning back dead fern fronds and had the answer for me: Steven Price, the Terwilliger Plaza groundskeeper, who is about to retire at the end of next month, but will be able to tell me probably more than I want to know about the local infestation of hedera helix (easier to think of it as noxious by its Latin name). Now it may be that we're leaving the clingy villain where it is because it's holding the mountainside in place. Someone characterized the rock constituting the mountain as "crumbling basalt", and I would prefer not to have to wear a hard-hat to walk to my car. Or it may be that the English ivy is serving some other arcane function other than coating the rocks with bright green leaves.

But if not, I'm curious to know what we're doing to get rid of it. It's on the state's list of noxious weeds, and if it's on our land, we're responsible for it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ominous shadows

Twice now, looking out into bright spring sunshine against my mountainside, I have seen the shadow of a big bird. Not robin-big, hawk-big. Being slow of foot in a messy room, I was unable to get to the window fast enough to see exactly what was casting the shadow.

But I had assumed that my mountainside was a great refuge for small birds against big birds. It's covered with a rough-grained wire-mesh screen to protect people and cars below from falling rocks, and the mesh is covered and interwoven by a spectacular tangle of old blackberry vines and ferns. If I were a small bird seeking a fairly hawk-proof nesting site, the mini-caves in the mountainside behind the mesh would seem ideal. I, being a small bird, could happily fly in and out through the mesh with worms and insects for my chicks, lacking only fingers with which to give one-finger salutes to the hawks, swooping in frustration behind me.

Still, these shadows are worrisome. It occurs to me now that small birds in transit from nest to insect hunt and back are just as vulnerable as they ever were. Which leads to soppy thoughts of orphaned chicks cheeping "Where's Mommy? Where's Daddy?" I like watching National Geographic TV shows about Nature, red in tooth and claw, but I'd prefer not to see her immediately outside my windows.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How do you know when you're over a cold?

Thursday, it was real clear: I had a cold. I was plucking Kleenexes out of the box every few seconds, I felt achy and droopy, my sinuses ached, sleeping was not only easy but inevitable. I was sick.

Friday was a bit better, but not great. Still snurfly, still droopy, still clearly sick.

Yesterday? Well, maybe. Kleenex frequency was way down, daytime sleep was optional and brief, low energy, but I can do low energy when I am in tip-top condition. I believe it is referred to as "sloth" in the list of seven deadly sins, and, if I only had one, that would be it.

So today, though I hadn't slept particularly well, I arose feeling refreshed, determined to get to church. Ate breakfast (a healthy bowl of oatmeal festooned with raisins and raspberries), drank my coffee, and wham! Suddenly my nose is running, I'm coughing, and my energy level is back at the bottom of the scale. Isn't caffeine supposed to pep me up, make me MORE energized? Wasn't I cured just minutes ago?

So am I sick (stay home, don't spread the germs) or am I lollygagging (lazy, good-for-nothing wants to watch the rest of season two of "House of Cards")? And am I blogging about it so that, by the time I post this, it will be too late to go to church and the decision will have been made? Or is it all a diabolical plot to keep me from the communion rail until my soul is so steeped in depravity that Satan won't even have to nudge to put me onto the path to eternal damnation? No, I'm pretty sure that last one is not an option. In the first place, God loves me whether or not I take communion, and in the second place I'm just as easily seduced by that bag of Lindors truffles in the cupboard as by taking an extra day to baby a cold.

Oh, and look! The cliffside tree opposite my windows has what look like buds on the ends of its bare branches, Maybe it will bloom! Maybe the whole mess is allergies to spring pollen. Where's that Kleenex box?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

if it's good enough for Krugman ...

"Regular readers have noticed a certain ... thinness ... of blog posting this week." So writes New York Times economist Paul Krugman this morning. "Too many commitments came due at the same time, and I'm swamped."

Me too, Paul. Of course, my swamp does not compare in depth and breadth to his. He has international speaking gigs, classes to teach, and promises to take part in nationally significant panel discussions. I have overdue financial data entry to do at church, "new kid" events here at Terwilliger Plaza, and a felt need to have some staring-into-space time, which in future will masquerade as bird-watching.

And sometimes, one finds one just has nothing to say. I don't know what people who get paid to blog do about that. I've found it's most convenient at such times to just not say anything. (My apologies to those of you who are sensitive to split infinitives. Sometimes the flow of the prose demands an artful awkwardness. Hmmm. Maybe "... just not to say anything" would work, but I really want the "not" closer to the "say" than the proper construction will allow. Feel free to disagree.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

A peculiar kind of lost

I've been here nearly a month now and find that I'm suffering a peculiar kind of lostness. I want to move into the Terwilliger Plaza space, but my pre-Terwilliger life keeps pulling me away. Example: I was to give a brief talk about this blog to the Terwilliger Users Group tomorrow, but the timing conflicted with a meeting with my realtor to move my prior residence onto the market. Example: I wanted to attend a class in an ongoing series about the brain, this one focusing on sleep and dreams, but my work as treasurer of my church overflowed into the class time despite my best efforts. "I really do need to leave by 2:00," I affirmed. Then it was " 2:15", then " 2:30", and when I finally left at 3:00, I realized I hadn't eaten lunch, and by the time lunch was attended to, the class was over.

If I had moved here from more than a few blocks away, of course, I wouldn't feel this kind of lost, I'd feel another kind -- maybe missing old friends and the rhythms of old networks, maybe looking out at the Oregon weather and missing a different light, different winds on my skin. But I'm in a new place in an old place, and I am suspended as if in mid-leap over a river with my feet definitely having left the near bank but not yet firmly planted on the far bank.

Maybe it's just daylight saving time stamping the wrong numbers on the shape of my waking time. Springing forward is always disorienting.

Or (my anxieties suggest) maybe I made this move just before Alzheimer's started unraveling my mind and what I'm feeling is the first dissolution of who I am. Old age has so many possibilities, very few of them at all appealing. Except, of course, when compared to the alternative.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

one upside of smaller space

I've got slightly more than half as much space here as I did in the condo. And it's stretched out so that the long side of both rooms is windows. I'm sure I could have watched it rain in the condo, but I very seldom did. (Of course, in the condo watching the rain would also involve staring into the windows of the condo across the way, a definite social dissuader.)

Here, I can't get away from the windows and so I can always watch the rain mist or pour or or pelt or dribble down against ferns and blackberry vines on the basalt cliffs. I know there are those, my son Jeff among them, who would consider that a downside. But it cheers and soothes me to watch the rain fall. I'm not particularly hoping for more snow this year, but, should it come, it too will be beautiful and magical.

Jeff, how could you possibly want to trade the peaceful gray and damp of Oregon for the alligators, swamps, humidity, hurricanes, and general craziness and corruption of Florida?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

in-house eats

Here's last week's specials at the restaurant downstairs. I may have to use my free dinner coupon soon. I'd go today, but it's Sunday, and there's no dinner serving. (Sorry about the dead space, I don't know how else to move it past all that stuff on the right side of the page.)