Memories out of Season

Memories Out of Season



I was a very serious child. 
Everyone agreed. Yes, very serious.
Perhaps too serious.
Born under the influence of Saturn
I was, well...saturnine and solemn
as if knowing from an early age
that life was serious business.
Two elementary school teachers noted
in my report cards:
Alan doesn't smile much. 
Like, though doing well in Reading,
Writing and Arithmetic, I might fail Smiling?







First posted: February 16, 2020


I came to Lower Columbia Community Action Program in 1999 as the new Community Services Director. By then, I had been engaged in the AIDS epidemic for over 12 years and had lost more than thirty friends, colleagues and clients to AIDS. I needed a change.

Friends expressed their concern for me, joking that I was moving forty miles and fifty years north of Portland, into the American “heartland” of small towns and small minds. But I had already accepted that I’d be alone.

It didn’t come up until my second week, when I was meeting each of my eighty-plus staff individually. She came into my office, an older woman looking rather stern, I thought. We’d only just started, when she said abruptly, “I heard you worked with the AIDS people.”

The AIDS people. It was the way she said it, like the Sand people, or the Pod people.

“Yes. Yes, I have,” I said. “For a number of years.”

I braced myself to get an earful of what she thought of “those people.”

Her gaze dropped, her voice falling to a whisper. “My son has AIDS.”

I got up and closed the door, came back and sat down. “Would you like to talk about it?”

And as she told me about the family secret and the family shame and the family silence, and spoke of her own terrible isolation, I realized that I had come into the Heartland.




[First posted: October 6, 2013]


It’s the quiet you first notice. 
A pristine stillness, so quiet you can hear your own soul.
Which is kind of the whole point.

Here we find the sacred,
not really in nature
as in ourselves,
like a faint homing signal
bringing one back on course.
True, one can find the sacred in the city, as well—
Mother Teresa found it among the dying and dispossessed of Bombay—
but it’s generally more difficult for those of us who are not Mother Teresa.

Here amid the stillness
comes a quiet joy,
a contentment complete.
And a sublime relief, 
of the navigator regaining the lost signal
showing him the way home.



[Biographical note: During the years in southern California (1970-76), the Sierra Nevada were my sanctuary and my sanity, and I made as many trips into them as I could. Perhaps ironic: Attending seminary and serving a church, it was the mountains where I went seeking my own spiritual source and salvation. Yet I am far from the first to sense and seek the holy in the mountains, far from the teeming city. “I lift up mine eyes to the mountains,” proclaimed the Psalmist. “From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord (the Source), who made Heaven and Earth.”]


[First posted: June 9, 2019]


Girl cousins.

You can see it in their faces.

A not-yet conscious strength in their shared sisterhood.

For them, neither glass slippers nor glass ceilings.

Capable, confident, willing to kick some serious butt if necessary, they will create a different future.

Through them, and many girls like them, shall come a new chapter for humanity, unshackled and free of the past.

And in this freedom will men and boys find their own liberation.



[First published: October 6, 2018] 

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 were at the top of the page,
followed immediately below by the questions.

I got all thirty-seven right!




[First posted:May 18, 2017]