Memories Out of Season

Memories Out of Season


January 13, 2015...

I have announced my intention to move on from Lower Columbia CAP (Community Action Program) at the end of this month.

I have been at CAP fifteen years—a record for me--first as Director of Community Services, then as Director of Development & Community Relations.

The only place I spent longer was while growing up at home in Vancouver (18 years.)


Typically, I have felt the need to seek new experiences and new challenges every five or six years.

I have no specific plans or even expectations; only an excited sense of expectancy.

The comfortable and the familiar can be very seductive, but there is also within us, I think, this urge to push on into the unknown and to see what is out there waiting.

And age is a factor. From the time I was a child, no matter what my age, I have always wanted to be older. And now I am.

There comes a point where our lives no longer stretch unconsciously, day after day, into some seeming infinity, and I am reminded of Tennyson’s lines from “Ulysses”—

“Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”

I hope that there is still "some work of noble note" that I may yet undertake, some contribution that I may in this world still make.

And, too, I have always loved beginnings.




December 22, 2014

Today is my youngest nephew's birthday. Ryan is thirty-two.

I gaze once again at this favorite photo: of Aaron, always the Golden Child, and Renee, the Sweet, Bunny-loving Daughter, heading out on the first day of school. And there, behind and peeking around them, is a little imp.

Imp, urchin, evil elf--according to his sister.

From an early age Ryan distinguished himself with a natural talent for mischief, seeming to take a perverse glee in it, and never passing up an opportunity to torment his older sister if he could help it.

In the way of some young children, he understood intuitively that, if he was just adorable enough, he could probably get away with murder.

He became the model for the young boy Earle in my story, The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, but he could just as well have been the model for Dickens' Artful Dodger, or Twain's Tom Sawyer.

And today, despite the predictions that he would grow up to become a sociopath (True, Renee's predictions, but supported by ample evidence she had assembled over the years), Ryan is an incredibly nurturing father, a loving and attentive husband, a considerate son; all around, a responsible and well-adjusted adult. I admire what he has created with his life.

And yet...I miss the little imp.



December 6th, 2014



I see my nephew Ryan as a small boy at the beach,
see his joy, playing with the wind on a string.


Thirty-some years later, I see his son Kelvin at the beach, deep in the throes of wonder and delight,
discovering a world that is only two years old...


Father and son. Some see a resemblance.
I see a continuation.

Happy birthday, Kel.

Happy memories, Ryan.



November 30, 2014

It started out as an Introvert's Worst Nightmare--Thirty-three or thirty-four people (we never got an accurate count) crammed into my nephew's home meant comfortably for a family of five.

When the spacious community room we normally reserve for Thanksgiving was not available, Aaron offered his and Robyn's house in SW Portland (Aaron disputes this account and has no recollection of how it came to be that our entire extended family + friends converged on his home on Thanksgiving Day.)


Annabelle with her stylish new haircut--replacing the haircut she administered to herself earlier. Quite amazing what a creative 5-year old can do with a pair of unwatched scissors!
Annabelle with her stylish new haircut--replacing the haircut she administered to herself earlier. Quite amazing what a creative 5-year old can do with a pair of unwatched scissors!

Almost-two year old Kel thoroughly checked the house to make sure it was kid-proof.


Gary and Renee discussing the number of people that could still be squeezed into the house before causing structural damage or the neighbors calling the fire marshal.

Surprisingly, it all worked out well. Aaron, as gracious host, showed everyone to his or her spot--"This is your chair. Please try not to move"--and this Introvert experienced only two (and relatively minor) panic attacks. All in all, it was very, um, intimate and enjoyable, and the rumor is that Aaron is going to offer his house again next year.



July 10, 2014

The meaning of birthdays has changed as I’ve grown older.

Today is my niece's 34th birthday. A water child. She took her sun sign seriously and has always loved water. (Her job is in water quality—A coincidence? I think not.)

I see her once again as an infant. She resembled her great-grandmother Rose. Thankfully, she outgrew that.

I see her as a young girl, a devoted bunny lover, and lover of nature and things natural. Thankfully, she never outgrew that.

I see her as a woman now with her own young niece (Annabelle is SO EXCITED to go to lunch with Aunt 'Née!)

I look yet further and I see Renee my age now. Annabelle is a young woman, and with them is a small child who I will never know.

I see a multitude of generations in the future who I will never know, and who will never know me, like those generations stretching deep into the past who I never knew, and who had no sense of me in some distant future.

We are all part of an uninterrupted current, one great river of human being, flowing before and beyond time.

I rest in the peace and knowledge of the river, knowing it will continue flowing long after me, as it flowed long before me…

The meaning of birthdays has changed as I’ve grown older. I now celebrate generations.

Happy birthday, Renee. Water child. You are part of a river.



November 7, 2014

Today is my oldest nephew's birthday. He was always the golden child.

I now see those coming after me as so far ahead of me:

Brighter, kinder, happier, ...
less tormented and driven,
more balanced and rounded and whole,
better persons...


Today is my nephew's birthday.
He was always the golden child.
He is gold still.





Thursday, October 23, 2014
Longview, Washington

Today's tornado touched down right outside our building, pulled up a couple of trees, then bounced on, tearing the roof off another building one block away.

You could tell that we in the Pacific Northwest are not accustomed to tornadoes: While sensible Midwesterners would be screaming and running for their underground shelters, our people gathered outside, clustered together on the sidewalks, all excited, pointing up in the sky and taking photos with their smartphones--"Ooh, neat funnel!"

Remarkably, there were no casualties, but quite a number of great photographs.

(Note: Not my photo, but wish it was.)





They were politically incorrect years, the fifties.

It’s Halloween, 1955, and I’m an Indian brave. Being only seven years old, I don't realize that I am politically incorrect.

I love the costume my mother has made for me from a gunnysack. It’s like buckskin, I'm sure. I feel authentic: a headdress of feathers, war paint on my face, armed with my rubber knife, bow and arrow. The arrows have little suction cups--which is kind of inauthentic--but they are also poisoned tipped arrows.

If I am a politically incorrect Indian brave, my four-year old brother is even more politically incorrect. He’s dressed as an Indian squaw—gunnysack dress, long black braids, lipstick. What were my parents thinking?

In my imagination I am Cochise. I am Geronimo, I am Hiawatha. It’s a little embarrassing that I have to have Pocahontas for a brother.

What if my friends see me? How am I going to explain that my brother’s a cross dresser?

We head out on our hunting expedition in the true spirit of Halloween. If someone doesn’t give us a treat, I will shoot them with my bow and poisoned-tipped arrows.

We first go to the Shapiro’s house. Mr. Shapiro comes to the door.

“Trick or treat!” we shout.

“Oh, my goodness!” says Mr. Shapiro, expressing true surprise, probably at the political incorrectness of our costumes, and he gives us each an apple.

An apple? Apples I can get at home. Maybe I’ll shoot him anyway.

Hiding our disappointment, we thank him politely and go next door to the Gardners.

“Trick or treat!”

“Oh, how adorable,” says Mrs. Gardner.

Adorable? I’m insulted. I’m a fierce Apache Comanche Blackfoot warrior, with some Cherokee blood. How dare she call me adorable?

She gives each of us a cellophane-wrapped rhubarb crisp that she baked herself, she tells us. The rhubarb came from her very own garden.

I want to say, what about a Milky Way candy bar from your very own supermarket? But Mom’s standing behind us.

Apples and rhubarb somethings. What’s next—a broccoli strudl from Mrs. Heinsch across the street? It wasn’t shaping up to be a memorable Halloween. In fact, I don’t remember much more about that night.

It was only years later that I recalled this experience, when accompanying my young nephews and niece on their trick or treat expedition. At least they didn’t have to worry about being politically correct. They were all little Jedi knights.




 Last weekend our family gathered at the lake to learn the gender of our newest incoming member--due in February.

My youngest nephew Ryan and his wife Jen had delivered the sealed envelope with the ultrasound results--unseen by them--to my other niece-in-law, Robyn, who would be the only one to know the sex of the new baby.

(This is the same niece-in-law Robyn who begins books by reading the last chapter to see how they end, so Ryan and Jen clearly recognized that Robyn couldn't possibly wait another 4-1/2 months to learn the baby's gender.)

For the special knowledge Robyn alone possessed, they asked her to bake a cake for the family gathering that would reveal whether it was going to be a little boy or little girl.

On Saturday, as we hovered around watching, Jen cut the mystery cake, and...A pink center!

It's a girl!--Unless Robyn was making a statement against traditional sex role stereotyping.

The family then celebrated by consuming the cake. 22-month old Kelvin took a fistful of cake, unaware of its symbolism and significance for his future role as big brother.

His life is about to change. He and gentle dog Zelda will need to make space for a new addition in the hearts of Ryan and Jen.

Fortunately, there's ample room.











January 1, 2014

I was born just a few hours before the new year of 1948, so from the start, I have loved beginnings.

And yes, yes, I know, such pre-packaging of time is contrived and artificial, based on an imperfect calendar no less (Leap year has always struck me as cheating.)

Yet there is, I think, within our humanity this love of beginnings, for each holds the potential for renewal and reinvention, possibly redemption, and getting it right this time.

The journey that is one's life has many beginnings and many endings--it's not always easy to tell the difference--and if I am granted a conscious dying, then I plan to greet Death with open arms, telling him, "It's okay. I love beginnings."