Memories out of Season

Memories Out of Season

May 18, 2017

To honor the mountain's dramatic eruption thirty-seven years ago
on May 18, 1980, Cowlitz County's local newspaper, The Daily News,
ran a quiz testing its readers' knowledge of the event with thirty-seven questions.

The quiz appeared on page 4, the answers at the top,
followed immediately below by the questions.

I got all thirty-seven right!




I fly the flag at half mast. What does it say about my country that half of the voters chose a loud, ignorant, crude boor and con man for president? (That was a rhetorical question. I don't want to know the answer.)

For me, this is worse than 9/11. As terrible as that event was, it brought us together as a people. It was George W. Bush's finest moment--and let's face it, he didn't have all that many.

No, to come close to the sense of grief and desolation I am today feeling, I would need to go back to when I was a high school freshman on November 22, 1963.

It's not that such a person as Donald J. Trump will be President of the United States (that's bad), but that so many Americans would elect such a man. I grieve for my nation. I have lost faith in my fellow citizens.








May 26, 2016


Eighteen years ago today my father went up to the lake for the last time.

We were told he died quickly. Heart attack. Nothing could be done.


Of course. Suddenly my world was without a father--How strange was that? A new emptiness opening in my soul.

And yet, when considering the alternatives, it was a good death,
especially for a man who took joy in the simple pleasures,
who made no great demands on life,
content to see what each day offered,
who managed to have no Big Dramas--
except World War II and me. (Father, forgive me.)

It seemed fitting that he would depart this life quietly, quickly,
doing what he loved,
and much loved.




October 25, 2015

Lazy afternoon,

sprawled on my bed with book and window open,

listening to the syncopated rhythms of the rain,





wandering through mind-drifts of memories...

              of the farm at Barwon Downs,

              of hiking up Mt. Takao in autumn,

              of planting the chestnut with Dad,

while listening to the rain, reading.





August 4, 2015



 Oddly perhaps, this woodland scene reminded me of living in Tokyo.

 Like most apartments at that time (the 1980s) my "aparto" did not have a shower or bathtub, so each evening I would go to the community bathhouse, called a "sento," where,
like this tanager, I would bathe and emerge clean, if a bit ruffled, before my neighbors.


Once I overcame my Western discomfort at being naked in a foreign language--the discomfort lasting maybe all of ten minutes--I was able to relax and settle into the wet, steamy ambiance and naked neighborly camaraderie of the bathhouse.


You left your shoes outside, along with dozens of other pairs at the entrance, and entered the bathhouse, males through the door on the right, females through the door on the left. One needn't worry that one's shoes would be stolen. This was Japan. I left my apartment unlocked for the same reason. Why bother?


One stepped into a warm, immaculately clean locker room. Beyond the glass doors was the bathing area, rows of faucets along the walls where one washed, shampooed, and rinsed thoroughly before relaxing in one of several large baths. The baths were set at different temperatures, the mildest being slightly below scalding.


Here each night I observed Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man: ancient, withered little o-jisans (“O-honorable grandfathers”), the middle-aged husbands and the young men and the teenage boys just coming into their hair, down to the youngest boys and infants, who the fathers would sometimes bring with them, giving their wives a break.


Here, too, one found the happy tipsy giggly little Salarymen (office workers) stumbling back to their neighborhoods after an evening of eating, drinking and making merry with their male colleagues. Felicitously intoxicated, they’d shed their dark blue suits and careen around the slippery area, catching up with their neighbors on the day's news or sports or local gossip as they soaped and soaked together.


Some were eager to practice their night school English on me--"Ah, goot evenink, Mr. A'ran. How-are-you? I-am-fine. Shank you"--which frequently was the extent of our conversations. Still, more of a conversation than I could manage in their language. All were courteous and friendly, and, though a gaijin (foreigner,) I always felt welcomed and accepted as part of the neighborhood.


In time, this custom of bathing with one's neighbors struck me as eminently civilized and sensible, and years later I would warmly recall these experiences in Tales of Tokyo, and build the sensual ambiance and camaraderie of the Japanese bathhouse into the community life of my utopian novel (yet to be published.)