Memories Out of Season

Memories Out of Season



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

 Like most apartments in the 1980s, my "aparto" did not have a shower or bathtub, so each evening I'd 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 nude neighborly camaraderie of the bathhouse.


One left one's shoes outside, along with dozens of other pairs at the entrance, entering the bathhouse, males through the door on the right, females through the door on the left. There was no worry about one's shoes being stolen. This was Japan. I left my apartment unlocked for the same reason. Why bother?


One stepped into a warm, immaculately clean locker room. Glass doors at the other end of the room opened onto the bathing area; rows of faucets ran 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.


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



Here, too, one encountered 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 careened 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.


Invariably, 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, it was 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 as part of the neighborhood.


This custom of bathing with one's neighbors struck me as eminently civilized and sensible, and years later I would warmly recall and record these experiences in Tales of Tokyo. I built the sensual ambiance and camaraderie of the Japanese bathhouse into the community life of my utopian novel, The Island (still unpublished.)

 Anyway, that's what this bird bath scene reminded me of this morning...



 [First posted: August 4, 2015]






Grandnephew Zachary and grandniece Annabelle asked their mother Robyn, a math teacher, to give them math problems to solve. This is their idea of "fun."
I do not consider this natural.

Maybe there's a genetic link. My mother enjoyed math and gave my nephews and niece math problems to solve when they were children. If so, the math gene skipped a generation. Or, anyway, skipped me.

People have said, You need to think of math as another language.
(Yeah? So say "Good morning" in math.)

Maybe if I'd had Robyn for my teacher, I'd enjoy math, too.

I might even be fluent in it.


(Australian friends: That's "Maths" to you.)





[First posted: April 18, 2015]




My niece Renee holds her niece (and my grandniece) Halley.

Befitting her name, Halley came blazing in like a comet on February 23. Jen was in labor for...15 minutes?! (Like, let's hurry and get this over with already!)

With a mother who is a geologist and an aunt working in water conservation, chances are good that Halley will be closely attuned to nature. I'm already looking into hiking boots for toddlers.

We as a family rejoice at her arrival, for each new birth is one more hope for humanity.






 [First posted: March 2, 2015]



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

I've been at CAP fifteen years, first as Director of Community Services, then Director of Development & Community Relations. A record for me--The only place I spent longer was while growing up at home in Vancouver (18 years.) Usually, I've felt the need to seek new experiences and new challenges every five or six years.

Other than giving prominent time to my writing, 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 this urge to push on into the unknown and to see what may be out there waiting.

And age is a factor. There comes a point where our lives no longer stretch unconsciously, day after day, into some seeming infinity. Infinity becomes increasingly finite.

I think 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 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.




[First posted: January 13, 2015]


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 their 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.

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'd 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's created with his life.

And yet...I miss the little imp.




[First posted: December 22, 2014]




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


















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


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

Happy birthday, Kel.

Happy memories, Ryan.







[First posted: December 6th, 2014]



It began 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 suddenly converged on his home on Thanksgiving Day.) As gracious host, he showed everyone to his or her seat--"This is your chair. Please try not to move."



 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 shows her stylish new haircut--replacing the haircut she administered to herself a day or so 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, very, um, intimate, and this card-carrying Introvert experienced only two (and relatively minor) panic attacks, and the rumor is that Aaron is going to offer his house again next year.





[First posted: November 30, 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 and conservation—
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 further into the future 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 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 and foreign future.

We are all part of one great river of human being, an uninterrupted current 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.




[First posted: July 10, 2014]



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

I 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.
Evolution on a
family scale,
as it should be.

He was always the golden child.
He is gold still.




[First posted: November 7, 2014]



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 a 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! Look, it's coming this way..."

Remarkably, there were no casualties, but quite a number of great photographs, including this one. 
(Not mine, but wish it was.)