Thursday, May 31, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/07: Flowers, Fellow Feeling, Photos

1. It was really fun to take some time and look at the flowers at Lane Community College more closely and to photograph some of them.

2. I think we did a pretty good job in Shakespeare class today seeing how Prospero becomes more fully human by learning fellow feeling.

3. I haven't been very good about writing file names for my pictures on my hard drive. I started doing that tonight and will continue, even though it is tedious and a bit arduous.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Leaving LCC Today: Photos Tell the Story

On my way home from work at Lane Community College today, I snapped a variety of photos.

I love this sculpture, especially on our campus where so many students are working to stretch their wings and take off. I am not, however, pleased with my photos. I just couldn't seem to get the angle I'd like:



I haven't photographed the boy in the chair for a while. I like how he looks in the rain or under gray skies. I also like how he looks with the trees around him bare. But, I compromised today. Here he is with leaved trees and under a cloudless sky:




I'm such an amateur and often ineffective photo snapper. This sculpture is a fish (a snapper?) inside an oval. It looks so wonderful when I walk by it and around it, but nothing I do with my little digital camera seems to work in portraying it. See what you think:



Rhododendrans and azaleas thrive in the Eugene/Springfield area. I love the white foliage here:


I suppose since I had held a Shakespeare class this morning and because Shakespeare loves the ways opposites co-exist in the same moment, that I was drawn to this new iris side by side with a dead iris.

This solitary iris attracted me:


I decided to draw closer to it:


And, a little closer still:

When I gardened more, I was, in my own way, kind of lousy. I always thought weeds as well as diseased leaves had a distinct beauty:

And, lastly, it's kind of hard to resist these tiny yellow suns shining out of a halo of petals:

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/07: Stories, Sam, Molly

1. More family stories in ENG 257 and WR 123: it's absolutely amazing what students have faced and overcome to be at LCC.

2. I was glad to find out that the magazine stuffed with great CD's belongs to Sam.

3. Molly has moved back in with me and the Deke. It'll be lovely having her around and I look forward to meeting her man, Hiram, when he arrives in the near future.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/07: Photos, Two Columbia River Basin Beauties

1. As Mom and Silver Valley Girl's family and I all got ready to leave InlandEmpireGirl's house, we had a morning photo shoot:




2. The drive from Martin's Creek to Ritzville is a gorgeous blend of hills, pine trees, farm land, and the Columbia River. It's one of my favorite drives anywhere.

3. Dusk on the Columbia River as I drove between Arlington and The Dalles on I-84 was gauzy, pastel, sublime.

Monday, May 28, 2007

MarmiteToasty's Janet is Everywhere!


Everywhere I turn at InlandEmpireGirl's house I see another chicken or rooster! Salt and pepper shakers, dish towels, knick knacks, chickens hanging near the sink.....unlike MarmiteToasty who has a live chicken in her house, these chickens are all works of art....but, I thought I'd post a tribute to Janet, the chicken in England who lies down with the cat and comes in the kitchen through the cat flap!

Three Beautiful Things Plus a Bonus 05/27/07: Smores, Sloth, Kind Julie, Family History

1. InlandEmpireGirl and her husband built a gazebo in their front yard, using an old satellite dish as the roof. It has a fireplace, comfortable chairs, and a picnic table. Just before dark, with a spring rain pelting the roof, two of my nieces, Mom, JEJ, IEGirl, Silver Valley Girl, and I made and ate smores. I'd never had one before. I could only eat one. They are really rich. For a picture essay of our smore fest, go here.

2. It has been sloth day for me. I enjoy so much having nothing that needs to get done and I rested, posted pictures on my blog, read other blogs, and enjoyed the company of my family and Snug, as well as InlandEmpireGirl's dogs, Annie and Shelby. It was a quiet and relaxing day.

3. My student Julie made my day. She asked what the deal was with "Raymond Pert" and after I told her she then wrote me back and kindly told me she dipped into my blog and couldn't stop reading. Her email was heartwarming and gratifying.

Bonus: After dinner, InlandEmpireGirl, Silver Valley Girl, and I read our blog posts remembering our Grandma West to my mother. Grandma West was her mother. Mom really enjoyed hearing what we wrote and then she answered my question about how it was that her family moved from the ranch into town, in Orofino, when her father deserted their family, and how her mother came to own the house she lived in for many years, and the house where so many of my memories of her are stored. It helped me put a lot of pieces of family history together and helped increase my sense of respect for my grandmother and my sense of outrage as to what a scoundrel my grandfather was for deserting his family.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Marmite Toasty's Beautiful Thatched Roof House and Garden

Marmite Toasty was so kind to send me this picture of her lovely house, taken at dusk, and the lovely garden surrounding it. Where's Janet?


Three Beautiful Things 05/26/07: Mom, Uncle Bill, Snug

1. Mom relaxes on InlandEmpireGirl's deck, with Lake Roosevelt over her shoulder and Annie nearby:
2. My uncle Bill was killed on the USS Selfridge at the Battle of Vella Lavella in October of 1943 and I spent time early this morning and on into the day learning more about the Selfridge, its missions, and the battle when the Selfridge was torpedoed and my uncle lost at sea.




3. Snug has travelled with me for about fourteen hours in the car since Wednesday. It was good to see him relax at InlandEmpireGirl's:


I've Never Seen a Fast Dusty Road

Sign posted several times around InlandEmpireGirl's neighborhood:


Welcome to InlandEmpireGirl's

InlandEmpireGirl is very welcoming to visitors, as you can see here:



And here:



But, deeper into her property, the message becomes mixed!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Exaggeration and Confusion: Sunday Scribblings

Photo: Jim and Jan McCorison, here

Today's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "simple". To read more, go here.

As I've written before, my experience with depression has been that it's not sadness it's madness. A large portion of that madness is suffering from anxiety and the exaggeration and confusion that accompanies it. I always thought, before I knew I was ill, that my anxiety was a profound way of caring deeply about things: money, a dropped and broken plate, dinner preparation, following the right directions while driving, or the comings and goings of our kids.

I didn't realize that my worry and my exaggerated yelling or gritting my teeth or jumping up and down with agitation was out of whack, and to my wife(
ves), my overwrought reactions to such everyday things could be frightening and certainly surreal.

It is much more simple not to behave this way. The help I have experienced through medication has not only helped me remain calm (I joke and call it apathetic because I thought thought these outbursts meant I cared so much), but it has made dealing with money and broken dishes and preparing food much more simple.

The picture I posted is a visual depiction of my more simple mind. Rather than turbulent, piling anxiety and worry upon anxiety and worry to create mental gale force winds and driving rain and thundering ocean waves in my mental landscape, my more simple mental landscape is like the more placid ocean. My mind and emotions feel expansive, with few swelling, sudden tides, and the picture is less dramatic and much more simple.

In the same way that storm chasers flock to the ocean to watch the irresistible power of a gale storm, these storms of anxiety had a kind of magnetic appeal. I thought they made me more alive, with
adrenaline coursing through my veins, simple aspects of my life experienced at high pitches, everything, rather than seeming simple, had the excitement of crisis.

Being simple, and in clearer perspective, the events of my life lack the melodrama they once had. Being simple, these everyday events seem smaller, more trivial, easier to shrug off.

Seeing them as simple affords my mind to see the larger picture in the whole complex of time and events, rather than seeing each thing that happens as the big picture itself.

It's a relief. Experiencing things as simple has relieved me of the racing of my mind, of visions of my life caving in, of fearing that at any moment all that I have known will fall apart.

Simple is not easy. It is not shallow. It is not simplistic. It's been hard earned. It's given my life a sense of stretching out, of being spacious, not claustrophobic. It feels like standing on the Oregon Dunes and seeing the Pacific Ocean extend for miles, beyond the eye's reach.

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/07: Graves, Slots, Snug


1. Mom, Silver Valley Girl, and I visited my father's grave today and laid flowers on it and on his next door neighbor's grave, Paul and Nadine Taylor. The cemetery is undergoing ambitious renovation and we saw the changes for the first time.

























2. Ed and I had a fun trip down to the Cd'A Casino and played for a few hours and came home with no new money.

3. Silver Valley Girl's former next door neighbors had a German Shepherd that Snug barked at through a hole in the bottom of the fence. Snug charges outside and sprints to the fence, ready to do barking battle with the dog and hasn't figured out yet that the dog's not there. I love watching him sprint the length of the yard and be undeterred by the dog's absence.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/24/07: Nap, Ed, Soup

1. The day after I drive to Kellogg from Eugene, I always need a coma-like nap. Got it today.

2. I went out to Ed's and got the skinny on his new job hauling garbage for Shoshone County to Missoula. Lots of laughs about funny things on his job.

3. Mom's homemade chicken soup.

Remembering Grandma West: Sibling Assignment #22


InlandEmpireGirl and Silver Valley Girl and I wrote remembrances of our paternal grandmother (here, here, and here) and now we are writing about our maternal grandmother, Grandma West. Silver Valley Girl's remembrance is here, and InlandEmpireGirl's is here.

Grandma West died in 1990, four years shy of her 100th birthday. Our family came home from the dedication of Silver Valley Girl's first daughter, Princess, on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and received the news. I had a sort of mystical experience during the dedication service. I started to hear the song, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and especially the words "comin' for to carry me home". It made me think I had had some other wordly connection with my grandmother's death, as if the song was singing her home and I listened to it being sung.

Grandma West and I had a mutual birthday. That was a coincidence, of course, but it meant that if our family was in Orofino over Christmas, we celebrated our birthday's together. The most memorable of these birthdays was when she turned 80 and I turned 21 and Grandma's family held a nice party for her that was partly mine, too. It made turning 21 seem not insignificant, but a very early part of my life.

It's unusual how these connections existed between me and Grandma West only because she was the grandmother I spent the least amount of time with, primarily because Grandma lived in Spokane and, being closer, she visited us more often and we her.

When we visited Grandma West every summer in August, we had a lot to look forward to: raspberries over cold cereal with half and half; Grandma had a shower and we only had a bathtub and it was especially fun to shower after an afternoon swimming and playing in the sand at Beaver Dam, a swimming hole on the North Fork of the Clearwater River, now hundreds of feet under water, behind the Dworshak Dam; Grandma lived in a neighborhood with several kids our age and we had plenty of fun playing hide and seek, Monolopoly, and going swimming; and Grandma's house smelled good -- I don't know exactly what she kept in her bathroom or in the bedrooms that was so nice smelling, but I often wish I could go back to her house and smell it again.

My mother moved to Kellogg when she got married, but Grandma's other two children lived in Orofino, as did two of her grandchildren. Grandma West's house was where my aunt and uncle and cousins often came to see us. My favorite part of staying at Grandma's was when Bob and Lila and Mom and John and Lura, in differing combinations, would sit around and tell stories about "the old days" living in the country, across the Clearwater River from Peck.

They'd laugh about things that happened. They'd try to get all the stories straight. My favorite story is a little vague to me, but it something to do with a bull snake swallowing an egg and getting stuck in a knot hole. Now I might have that all wrong, but it's what's stuck with me.

I didn't know the work "matronly" back then, but looking back, I now think of Grandma West striking an unassuming, but matronly pose as she sat in her chair and listened to her children and grandchildren tell stories.

She spoke, too, but was not in any dominating. She enjoyed listening and I always liked it when a story made her laugh. I have this memory of her saying something like, "Well, yes, I guess you're right" and laughing at something Bob or Mom recalled that was funny. I would sit on the piano bench in front of the piano and I'd always want one of those moments to come when Grandma laughed. I suppose it's because she was not demonstrative. Her demeanor was quiet, dignified, and proud.

She had a lot to be proud of. Her husband deserted her. She was left to raise three children on her own. She moved to Orofino into a modest and handsome home and worked hard at the Helgeston Hotel and raised a beautiful garden and kept a very tidy and well-kept lawn.

I don't know the details of how she came to Orofino from the country. I don't know how she found and purchased her house. What I do know is how its orderliness reflected upon her strength, a quietly determined strength, that was with her until she died.

I've written about my mother's determination (here). I think it came from my Grandma West, from the Walker side of my mother's family tree. Could I be more grateful for the dignity and strength of my Grandma West whose character still lives in my mother, and, I hope, to some degree in my sisters and me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Back to the Beginning

Silver Valley Girl's Tree

Yesterday, as I was driving the rolling hills between the Tri-Cities and Ritzville, I thought back to the first post I wrote when I started this blog, here:"Kellogg is My Paris".

The farmland and tumbleweeds got me wondering why I have lost my desire to travel to Europe or other places outside of North Idaho or outside of travel to see members of The Deke's family in Chicagoland or West Point.

It's been twenty years since I last travelled outside of North America and for years I wanted to go back, I wanted to go back to England and Scotland. The Deke went to France seven years ago, but I didn't go because of the fatigue I was suffering from having had meningitis six months beforehand.

Now, if I have time to travel, I want to come here, to Kellogg. I think I'm less interested in broadening my experience and more interested in deepening what I have.

If I go to Paris or London or Copenhagen or Stockholm, places I used to want to go, it takes time away from seeing my mother and my sisters. It means time away from having a chance to see my friends here in Kellogg and finding out what's happening around the Silver Valley or from playing cards or going to Worley to play some slots.

In going to Worley or playing cards, the gambling is fun, but the real payoff is the bullshit, when we drive to Worley or when we are dealing cards and calling games. I've learned more about my friends on drives to Worley or playing poker than I ever had before and this deepens our friendships.

I also have a relationship with this place, Kellogg. I move more deeply into it when I walk Snug around the streets or take him up to the high school. I understand the spirit of what Kellogg has been to me and what it is becoming as I watch new buildings go up, listen to the construction machinery build it, and as I know Silver Valley Girl's former house is rubble.

I've never wanted to romanticize this place. My history here is so rough and the character so real that romanticizing it isn't really an option.

Kellogg is my Paris. It doesn't have the museums, art galleries, cafes, cathedrals. high cultural energy, and opportunites to see new things or to walk in a certain kind of world history.

But, world history is here. Ore was imported to the Zinc Plant from zinc mines in South America. The economy of this Valley has always relied, in part, on mineral prices which are part of a world-wide economy, not just the United States.

Many of the people I have known here were Italians and Slavs and descended from other European countries. They kept European traditions alive. Much of the character of Kellogg was shaped by the working class immigrant population here.

I always thought, when I was younger, that if I wanted to know the world, I had to get out of the Valley. To a degree that's true. But more and more I am realizing that the world is, in many ways, not where I go, but what I pay attention to.

If I get to go back to Chicago again, and do as I did last time, spend ten days or so with The Deke's brother-in-law and family, I'll probably do what I did last time. Enjoy them. I only went to the city once, to see a Bears football game. The fun part of that was not being in Chicago.

The fun part was riding with David and a fireman friend of his and drinking beer and whiskey on the train and bullshitting. The fun part was taking the train back and jumping in David's friend's truck and going to Denny's and eating pancakes and eggs and potatoes and drinking coffee and talking about the hurricane Katrina and coming back to Arlington Heights and being given a walking tour of fires they had fought in different parts of town.

I tot to know them better. The same happened at a birthday party at David's in-laws. The same happened when David and I went to a casino in Aurora and he drove me on a little history of his courtship with Muffy, his wife.

What I want from life is here in Kellogg or in other parts of the country where family lives. What I want from life happens Thanksgiving weekend when my friends come to Oregon and we spend the weekend together gambling, golfing, telling stories, laughing about the present and the past, being there for each other as we lose our mothers and fathers.

So, here I am, in Silver Valley Girl's guest room, Snug sleeping at my feet, waiting for my mom to get back from the doctor, so I can go see her, looking forward to going to Kingston and shooting the breeze with Ed, and looking forward to Saturday's drive to Lake Rooselvelt to spend time with my sisters and my mom at InlandEmpireGirl's house. I'll do the same sort of thing this summer.

I would be foolish to take time away from this to go to Paris.

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/07: Sunset, Kennewick, Vin

1. I have things back-assward. It is common for people to travel to Oregon and go to the ocean to see the sunset. I prefer travelling away from Oregon and see what I saw today: a soft sunset between Ritzville and Sprague, with ribbons of pink and pale orange circling the sky, illuminating horses, grain elevators, and hillocks, endowing them with delicate light.

2. I was fiddling with my XM satellite radio receiver and missed the Kennewick exit and went on I-82 to Richland and caught the Spokane exit later. I enjoyed this route more than my usual one. No stoplights. I'm wondering why I've always thought I needed to go through Kennewick.

3. Nothing makes a long drive enjoyable like baseball games on the radio. I elevated the joy of today's drive by listening to the Red Sox and the Yankees and the Brewers and the Dodgers. Neither game was close, but the early innings of the Dodger game featured Vin Scully, the dean of baseball broadcasters, and a master at comfortably and effortlessly filling in the space left by baseball's slow pace.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/22/07: Stories, Teeth, Anarchy

1. Our working class literature students are writing family stories after reading China Men and it was enthralling, not only to hear the gripping tales students read aloud today, but the writing was superb. Really superb.

2. I have never enjoyed going to the dentist that much, but when a good hygienest cleans my teeth, I find it blissful and my dentist hired Tricia not long ago. I think this was my third cleaning on her watch and I think she's first-rate. What a relief...

3. I watched the 1983 documentary film "Anarchy in America" tonight and it was the kind of film I like the most. It took an idea, anarchy, that is widely misunderstood and abused, and looked at anarchism in a historical as well as contemporary context and helped explain how deeply committed to freedom and liberty the anarchist movement is.

Straddler Goes Home

Part of our collective bargaining agreement as faculty at Lane Community College is two personal leave days. I have failed to use these days many different school years in the past. This year I am going to take them on Thursday and Friday which means I have an extended three day holiday and have enough time to go home to Kellogg.

It feels really good anticipating the beautiful drive I'll have with Snug tomorrow. Once I escape the Willamette Valley, the world of expanse opens up, especially when I hit The Dalles and am in the great expanse of the Columbia River on up to the Tri-Cities and then the vast Palouse on to the open territory from Ritzville on in to Spokane.

I feel such relief in all the open area. I relax. I enjoy being able to see to my eye's limit and love the different skyscapes as different weather patterns develop at different points of the compass, all visible in the vast canopy of the sky, without huge mountains as barriers.

Once in Kellogg, I'll spend a couple of days there and then another gorgeous drive as I head up to InlandEmpireGirl's house on Lake Roosevelt. I love the drive from Spokane to Kettle Falls and am eager to take in the grandeur of Northeast Washington again.

I look forward to some kelloggbloggin' from Kellogg!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Limbo

My mind has been occupied by Alfred Lubrano's book Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar dreams. It's just the kind of book I enjoy most. Rather than approaching the question of class and class mobility from an academic or theoretical perspective, he writes as a journalist and goes across the country interviewing different white collar professionals in business as well as in academia, writers as well as executives who grew up in blue collar households and neighborhoods and asks them about what it's been like making the transition out of one class into the other.

I was interested in this book because nearly every day I deal with my own feelings of being out of place in the life I lead. I love teaching. I think what keeps me going as a community college instructor is that I am dealing all the time with students who are unprivileged, who have either grown up in the working class or who have been living as people of the underclass, deeply impoverished and fighting to survive.

I also am comfortable with the fact that many of my fellow teachers also grew up, like me, in working class homes and in working class towns and approach their work with an ethic that is decidedly working class: hard driving, unpretentious, upfront, with gratitude to have the work they have, and with suspicion of those who run the college.

Nonetheless, I have entered a world where I had to change who I was to become what I am. I refined my way of speaking. I became a man making my living on the seat of my pants rather than by the exertion of my body. I studied fancy books, had to assume the language of literary and rhetorical criticism, which is decidedly nuanced and specialized. It's not language I can or want to use when I go home.

I am, as Lubrano describes those who have left the working class and moved into the middle class, a Straddler. Like so many of those he interviewed, I did just what I was encouraged to do in Kellogg: I left. I got the hell out of there.

And yet, like many of the subjects in this book, I never did leave and never could leave. I go through my days with a double consciousness. I am aware of what I must do and how I must act to adhere to the ways of talking and behaving in a white collar environment, but I see my world at work through the eyes of a blue collar guy and often feel alien, out of place.

For many of us Straddlers, it's a double bind. We find ourselves in a world that is, at one level, very satisfying. But, we have left behind a world not only that we loved, but that we are rooted in. Like many of the Straddlers, I love what I do, but it's not where my roots are.

This was especially true in graduate school. Graduate school was as much about learning and being assimilated into the culture of the university as it was reading and writing. It was about learning to pad comments, speak indirectly, to qualify what we said with a paragraph or two of "now I know your very admirable point of view is such and such" or "while I respect very much how you see this or that" or "while your point is a very compelling one" before saying what we had to say.

We learned in graduate school not to call bullshit bullshit, but to call what stunk sweet and then carefully and in a measured way slowly get around to the difference of viewpoint one person might have with another.

Lubrano's subjects talk about how unsettling it is coming out of a blue collar background and learning that many people in the white collar world grew up with these indirect ways of crushing one another. In the blue collar world, these disagreements tend to be out in the open and expressed loudly.

One of the first things I had to learn as I moved into the academic world and entered, on occasion, the social world of the university, was to quiet down. In Kellogg, we were loud. We shouted across rooms. We expressed ourselves with gusto. In the academic world, gusto was acceptable as a teacher in the classroom, pretty much, but to present oneself as refined and cultured, one spoke quietly, cleverly, subtly, with wit and intelligence.

Lubrano's book explores all of this. It explores what happens when white collar men and women return to their homes and their neighborhoods. It explores how education, the passport out of the blue collar life, separates the college educated blue collar person from the very people, whether in family or neighborhood, with whom they've had years of close connection and formative experiences.

It's not a self-pity book. It's a book about struggle, of the difficulties of refashioning one's life and not being sure who you are or what you've come to do with your life.

It's about limbo.

Many of us know what this limbo is all about.

Three Beautiful Things 05/21/07: Walt Gaby, Prospero, Voracious

1. Walt Gaby, KHS class of '46 sent me his book of memoirs containing a ton of history and memories of Kellogg along with details of his fascinating career and other things. He also sent the booklet he put together for the class of '46 sixty-year class reunion. He graduated with friends of my mom and dad's and it's a wonderful document as well.

2. It was really fun today in Shakespeare class to enter the world of The Tempest and to begin discussion of the relationship between art and nature, knowing we are laying the foundation for Prospero's huge insight into himself in Act V. I can hardly wait until my students see Prospero's progress to this life-changing realization he has.

3. I bought Snug this long beef strip of treat that you'd think he could chew on for hours and he devoured it in about twenty minutes. His voracious joy was remarkable!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Moscow, Idaho Shooting


(Ingrid Lindemann/The Spokesman-Review)
Last night, a gunman opened fire on the Latah County Courthouse, killing a police officer and retreated into Moscow's First Presbyterian Church where he killed the church's sexton, that is, building and grounds caretaker, and himself. The gunman's body was found on the sanctuary with his weapon and spent ammunition.

Pictured here is Rev. Norman Fowler, the church's pastor. You can hear his comments to the press today here. You can see his shock in how ill at ease he is and how he is trying to
maintain an almost relaxed composure with the press. Watching him is unsettling.

Personally, I think he's in a terrible position. How can he possibly talk about such a terrible loss? Paul Bauer, the murdered sexton, lived in the church. Before talking publicly, I'd think he'd need some time to recover a bit.

The congregation worshipped this morning in the Lionel Hampton School of Music building. I wonder how they will adapt to returning to their church building.

I keep thinking that their place of worship has suffered a terrible violation. Their sanctuary is stained with the blood of a murderer, a man who killed himself at the place these people come to be safe and to pray and sing hymns and to be instructed.

I know they can and will pray for the family of the police officer killed and for the welfare of the civilian and other office who were wounded.

I know they will pray for the killer. They already did this morning. I know they will pray for their own congregation and to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their grief.

I keep thinking about the sanctuary. How long will it be before the congregation can come into their church and not feel the chill of knowing that a terrible deed transpired in the safe haven of their sanctuary? The physical stains of the killer's blood can be cleaned and removed, but can the spiritual and psychological damage? Won't it be spooky? Can this violation ever be redeemed and a sense of sanctuary ever be restored?

I find it impossible not to think of how sacred a sanctuary is and how churches have seen sanctuaries as a place of protection, a place of refuge, even for the criminal.

I'm out of my depth here. I don't know what Pastor Fowler will do or can do to sanctify this place of worship, to restore its sense of safety. Crimes always carry with them different levels of violation. In this case, a neighborhood, a city, the families of the dead and wounded were all terribly violated.

And so was this place of worship. As the story has been reported, it's the sanctuary I've thought the most about.

It's hard for me to believe that worship in this sanctuary won't always be accompanied by the ghosts of what happened last night. I think of a santuary as a place to temporarily be free of such ghosts.

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/05: Li Po, Wucky, Taco Bell Memories

1. I worked all day on student papers and enjoyed them a lot. I especially enjoyed their insights into the Chinese poet Li Po and his drinking wine to the moon and dancing with his shadow cast by the moon.

2. My old buddy, Wucky, and I shared pre-game thoughts about the Yankees across the country and emailed a few comments about their performance against the Mets as the game proceeded.

3. My brother-in-law made a comment on one of my blog posts that made my day. It made me with we could spend more time together like we did a couple of summers ago. All that Taco Bell.....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/07: Masks, Slob, Kurosawa

1. I'm appreciative and gratified that quite a few readers from Sunday Scribblings have responded to what I wrote about masks. (Sunday Scribblings is here. My piece is here.)

2. The Deke has told me repeatedly what we had for dinner tonight. It's French. It's from the south of France. It's a warmish salady dish: tuna, little tomatoes, green beans, baby red tomatoes, marinated in herbs and olive oil. Spectacular. If you want the name of it, ask me and I'll ask The Deke. She's the French speaker in our family. I'm the slob.

3. Have you seen Kurosawa's 1962 film noir movie "High and Low"? I watched it today. I'd seen it once before about twenty-two years ago and the memories of enjoyment flooded back. It's a fine study of moral conflict, class resentment, and the Americanization of Japan. It runs almost two and a half hours. If you've seen it, I'd love to know what you think.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Love of Reading and Writing: Sibling Assignment #21

My friend and regular kelloggbloggin' reader Jane King wrote me an email not long ago. She told me that she had also been reading my sisters' blogs (links to come) and wondered how the three of us had all come to love reading and writing so much. Her question creates the framework for sibling assignment #21. You can find Silver Valley girl's response here and InlandEmpireGirl's here.

I first learned that a book could make me cry when I read Where the Red Fern Grows in the fifth grade (the impact was diminished some when I got kicked out of class while giving my book report to the whole class...Mrs. Denlinger didn't approve of my description of a scene when a bubble of blood comes out of a character's mouth).

I first learned how books could transport me to another world when Miss Kero read us both The Hobbit and A Wrinkle in Time in the sixth grade.

But I didn't really do much about these experiences. Through junior high and high school, I was much more interested in playing basketball and baseball and being active in other activities. I read school assignments and read sports magazines and books, but that all changed at North Idaho College.

During the second semester of my freshman year, I began to experience something I never had before. The poems we read were putting thoughts and insights I had had into words. I'd never known that others saw the world in ways similar to my own. I'd thought I was alone.

Suddenly the wall of isolation broke.

T.S. Eliot was the first. When I read the opening of his poem "The Hollow Men", I couldn't believe that someone else had thought or wondered if this is what people were:


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with
straw


It might seem like an immature-freshman-boy-from-Kellogg-discovers-existentialistism
moment, but those four lines have fueled my reading ever since.

What is a human being? Are we hollow? Stuffed with straw? Or is there more? If there is more, what is it? Is it up to me to fill the hollowness with more than straw? Where's God in all this?

My desire to explore these questions has never been satisfied. It's what led me to read and study the theater of the absurd; it's what led me to read more poetry and to find I needed the poet Richard Hugo.

It was these questions that led me to see that Shakespeare was not an antiquated writer of popular plays, but that this very question regarding the nature of human life and what gives life meaning is at the heart of this plays. I have never discovered a writer better than Shakespeare in exploring these questions, so I devoted my life to studying and teaching Shakespeare.

I also discovered that the Christian faith is more than obeying rules regarding behavior. When I began, at Whitworth College, to discover that the Bible wrestles with these very questions of life's meaning and the nature of human nature, I became ingnited with enthusiasm about the Bible and living a Christian life. I even discovered that biblical characters had times when they wondered if humans were hollow men, empty, and had to work out those questions.

Seeing passages expressing uncertainty and raising questions about existence in the Bible drew me to a faith I had always thought was a faith of certainty.

So I read more. I read stories, poems, plays, theology, philosophy, works from religions around the world, history and other books and articles that helped me wrestle with the fundamental questions of meaning in human life.

This reading led me to become a spiritual and intellectual wrestler. I dove deep. The deeper I dove the more questions I had. I read more.

For years, I rarely read for entertainment or escape, except when I read Sports Illustrate or another book in my futile attempts to learn to play golf.

My wrestling nature fueled my graduate studies. I never read anything in graduate school just to get it out of the way or to jump through a hoop. I read everything in my serious pursuit to learn more about the meaning of life.

My graduate studies in Literature and Composition could be seen as secular seminary studies. I was very serious and demanded way too much of myself.

I demanded so much that I found writing very difficult because I could never write to the level of insight that I thought a piece of writing ought to express. In my dissertation work, which I failed to complete, the way I researched was so intense that I didn't know how to forge it into words, let alone chapters, or a book.

My seriousness in reading stifled my writing.

Once I quit graduate school, I couldn't write. I read. But I couldn't write.

Then I had a breakthrough. One day I visited a Yahoo chat room called "Professors Chat". I began to engage people in conversations about Shakespeare and other matters. I did join in some of the silly talk, but I really tried to write serious insights about things and when people came looking for help with papers, I wrote out help for them.

My writer's block ended. Writing fast in the chat room loosened me up. I was invited to give sermons at church. I wrote a couple of lectures for a lecture series I had put together. I published some articles. I published three poems. I found reasons to write and it kept getting better.

Then I started this blog and began to write something every day, even if only Three Beautiful Things. Writing has become a habit and I've relaxed about being profound, as if there is such a thing.

That's my story, Jane. It all goes back to T.S. Eliot and four lines of poetry and my introduction to Shakespeare.

It all goes back to trying to figure things out.

Credits: The artwork is "The Hollow Men" by sanithna phansavanh. To see the pieces as they appear online, go here.

Post Script
: Soon after I was introduced to "The Hollow Men", I suffered a serious industrial accident which left me blind for five days. This accident fueled much of my passion for reading and trying to figure things out. I wrote about it and the impact in had on my search for meaning in a seven part series in this blog.

If you'd like to read my series "On My Blindness", you'll find Part 1 here, 2 here, 3 here, 4 here, 5 here, 6 here, and 7 here.

Masks of Depression: Sunday Scribbling

You know if you suffer from clinical depression or from bipolar disorder that when you are ill, you are a misfit. No one wants to work with or socialize with or be intimate with a person suffering the symptoms of mental illness. No one wants to endure the rash outbursts of temper, the sudden accusations, the paranoia, the inertia, the hyperproductivity followed by spells of exhaustion, the meltdowns, the sincere apologies which seem hollow, or the multiple personalites.

Depression is an illness of masks. Most of the masks are troubled ones as you can see in Bill Brukner's 1999 oil painting "Mask of the Depression". The illness manifests itself in a variety of facial expressions so that the sufferer has many masks to show the world.

My own most common mask is gray. My wife can always detect when I'm about to go into the abyss or when I have descended by the gray mask that takes over my face.

The masks I am most familiar with are the masks of happiness or of competence that cover the sadness, madness, or feelings of inadequacy I am actually feeling.

Again, in my work as a community college instructor, my workplace is like any other. No one wants to see a sad, slightly insane, or deeply self-doubting teacher. Students don't. Colleagues don't. I assure you, department chairs and other adminstrators don't.

So I wear masks. I mask my sadness, madness, and feelings of inferiority behind masks of passion, competence, and sanity. No matter how I'm feeling inside, I have become highly skilled at wearing the masks I know I must show the world, especially in my work, if I am to survive.

In the moment, in the classroom or in the hallways with my colleagues, these masks are good and necessary.

In the long run, though, they exhaust me. When I am in the grip of mental illness, I sleep a lot. I sleep in my office. I sleep as soon as I get home from work. I have spent whole weekends either lying down or sleeping, trying to get my batteries charged for another day or another week of expending the energy it requires to mask my illness and put on the proper masks for my work and for what social life I have.

Medication has helped me dearly. Medication has helped level me. When I'm on a more level mental plane, I don't need the masks. I don't have to exert the extra energy required to face the world behind masks that hide my true emotional state.

This is a relief. Medication has helped increase my energy. Moreover, it's helped relieve me of the confusion of showing the world a variety of masks.

With medication, my masks of happiness and competence match much of what I feel within myself.

Such continuity energizes me. It's the incongruity that leaves me exhausted and only partially functional.

For other pieces on masks in Sunday Scribblings, go here.

If you'd like to read other of my reflections on depression or secret identities, go here, here, here, here, here.

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/07: Tardy, Brit Lit, Laptop

1. I lay back down this morning after being up and around and fell asleep and was late for my office hour at school. Nan came to my office hour on time. She returned and found me there and she was most gracious in forgiving my tardiness.

2. After a department meeting, Anne, Jeff, Pam, and I talked for a while about restructuring the British Lit Survey, which I haven't taught for ten years, and our discussion too me back to some really wonderful times in the classroom and some of my favorite students. Now that I think about it, the classroom I taught that classroom was among the finest facilities ever, and it's gone now, destroyed in a remodel. I loved remembering that whole scene, though.

3. K-doe came by the house on her way to the Oregon coast to pick up my old laptop to see if she can make it work well enough to work on a paper while she's there. It felt good to have a machine to let her use and I enjoyed her meeting The Deke. She looked very happy to be getting away for a weekend.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Whitworth College Dreams

I'm not much of a dream interpreter and welcome anyone who reads this to offer their insights

I graduated from Whitworth College and then taught there twice, first as an adjunct instructor of composition and then as a full-time instructor on two consecutive one-year contracts.

I loved teaching at Whitworth and until I failed to complete my PhD, I often wished I could return as a professor.

I often have dreams at night about returning to Whitworth. It's a recurrent dream. In it, I'm asked to return again as a one-year full-time instructor and teach a variety of courses. I never dream about students. I dream about my colleagues. In my dream, the professors I taught with back in 1982-84 are still there and I am giddy to be back with them and be a part of the English Department again.

I live near Whitworth in this dream and see myself walking on to campus, often in snow, and enjoying the tall pine trees and aromatic environment. It's beautiful.

But my colleagues are always gone. I arrive at my office in Westminster Hall and Leonard Oakland is gone. So is Laura Bloxham. They still teach there, but I never see them. In the dream, I teach my classes, hold my office hours, but it is as if I am the only member of the department.

It saddens me.

Last night, when I had this dream, it ended with me visiting Gloria Johnson, my dissertation advisor. She lives in a building with several stories. I go up to her residence and greet her and her husband Gerald.

Gloria and I go downstairs and the first floor of this building is a wonderful bookstore, stocked with volumes of books focused on Renaissance studies. It's the area I focused on in graduate school.

Gloria and I sit in a comfortable couple of chairs and she asks me how my work went at Whitworth. I tell her that I had a terrific time teaching, but it was unusual.

I tell her I never saw any of the other professors. I worked a whole school year, I tell her, and never did I see my colleagues. She shakes her head.

Then I wake up. Last night was about the fourth or fifth time I've had this dream.

The dream has a pleasant tone. Whitworth is idyllic. I'm happy with my work in the classroom. But I'm alone. I never see these professors I loved so much.

They are always gone.


Three Beautiful Things 05/17/07: Needing Hugo, Sunshine, Vitality

1. In October 2002 I gave a public lecture to commemorate the twenty year anniversary of the death of Montana poet Richard Hugo. I've reworked this lecture several times and presented my newest version of "On Needing Richard Hugo" to our students in Am. Working Class Lit/Research Writing. It went over very well.

2. I also showed the video "You Are My Sunshine", featuring interviews with miner who survived the 1972 Sunshine Mine fire and others. A deep hush came over the room.

3. I loved working with poems exploring what gives life vitality in my Lit of Comedy class tonight. I hope my students are understanding better how poetry works and are losing the idea that poetry requires deciphering and looking for hidden meaning or reading between the lines. I hope they are learning to let the poems work on them rather than always working one the poems.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/07: Hugo, Never, Flash

1. I gave a written lecture on my indebtedness to the poet Richard Hugo in October, 2002, to mark the twentieth anniversary of his death. I reworked it tonight to deliver to our students in the American Working Class Lit/Research Writing class.

2. Reid claimed he had never written poetry before and presented a most insightful poem to the Shakespeare class today, built around King Lear's utterance of "Never, never, never" as he grieves over his dead daughter, Cordelia.

3. It's a small thing, but it felt really productive and good today to consolidate three flashdrives of files into one. I have a much better sense of where things are!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/07: Tech Man, Rant, Grandpa

1. I am advancing in my use of classroom technology. For the first time, I projected the world wide web on a screen in the classroom to demonstrate research possibilites on the internet and from LCC's website. It all worked out perfectly. I think only two or three students yawned!

2. K-Doe is angry about trying to take a midterm online that her instructor failed to make available for her. She sent me a delicious rant....oh, do I love a good rant...as long as I'm not the object of it!

3. I read a beautiful essay by Sarah. It's an homage to her grandfather who died in January. She told me she laughed out loud and cried while she wrote it. I see why. It's a touching and hilarious piece. He was quite a story-teller and lived a full and eccentric life.

Regret


One of the most popular sentiments I read and hear is "I have no regrets". I don't understand it. Is it true that those who say they have no regrets do not feel sorrow or remorse or disappointment for deeds in the past?

If not feeling regret is as popular and as common as I perceive it to be, I am really different.

I feel a lot of regret.

I think it's a good thing.

I have treated people badly in my life. I've said thoughtless things that I never should have. I've been selfish, callous, impertinent. I've made poor decisions. I've not acted on things I should have done something about. I've cast bad votes. I've been destructive. I regret these things.

Some nights before I go to sleep, the ghosts of my regret visit me. I see the former lover I carelessly tossed aside, walked out on. I hear the mean things I said to my mother. Drunken nights involving property damage revisit me. The broken window, the damaged furniture, the shattered wine bottles hover over me. I feel sorrow and disappointment.

These ghosts keep memories alive. It hurts. I've cut corners ethically. That hurts. I left things I promised I'd finished, unfinished. Sometimes the ghosts of those unfinished projects visit my dreams and demand to be completed. I can't complete them. It's been too long. All I have is the regret and the insistent ghosts haunting me.

The ghosts don't visit me every night. They come often enough, spectral reminders of moments, days, girlfriends, family members, things I've neglected, decisions, and other people and events breaking out of the prisons I've locked them in, coming back, reminding me they won't go away and want to even score.

I read and hear people say that they have no regrets and I wonder, first of all, why they would not want their regrets. Regrets are seasoned and persuasive teachers. Without my regrets, I could imagine myself continuing to repeat doing those things I regret having done. While some of those ghosts want me to take care of unfinished business, others come back to instruct me. They take the form of those whose hearts I broke, needlessly, heedlessly; they take the form of friends or family members I was callous with; they take the form of those I've disappointed. I relive the pain I saw on their faces at the time. I see those faces again.

I wonder, second of all, how they keep the ghosts from visiting them. I don't do anything to invite these ghosts' visits. I might have had a perfectly wonderful day, lie down content with how my life is going, turn a jazz station on the radio, listen to Snug snore in bed next to me, and suddenly, without warning, a ghost visits. It's not a matter of will. It's not like I can keep them away.

Regret is a dark feeling, a painful one. Regret, like other forms of suffering, deepens compassion. My regrets and sorrows deepen my understanding of the pain others feel. Put another way, my life is enriched by my regrets. Regret feels honest to me. It's a feeling that pushes me to regularly inspect my present life in light of what has been dark in my past. It's a reckoning.

Ghosts hover as I write this. I knew they would. I almost didn't write this to keep those ghosts away. For the last ten or fifteen minutes I've been writing my father has been here with me; so have two women from the past; my dissertation advisor paid a visit; so did the foolishness I took part in on the streets of Kellogg at a good friend's bachelor party; needless harshness with students returned.

Now the ghosts are going away.

I think I'll read a book.

I'll give the ghosts a rest.

They'll be back.

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/07: Straddlers, Lear?, Giddy

1. I have nearly finished the compelling book, Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dream by Alfred Lubrano, a book of over 100 interviews plus Lubrano's excellent insights into the way people feel who have moved out of the working class into the middle class. I don't know when I last related so deeply to a book.

2. Is the conclusion of King Lear nihilistic? Inspiring? What do we learn from King Lear? These questions anchored today's thoughtful discussion in class.

3. Snug goes jumpity, yelpy nuts when Molly comes home because she often takes the dogs out back to play "ball".

Monday, May 14, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/07: Snug, Tears and Chuckles, More Acrobatics

1. Snug and I had a fine spring walk and then went to Suds 'em Yourself and he enjoyed being sprayed, lathered, scrubbed, rinsed, brushed, dried, and brushed some more.

2. I got the word from Silver Valley Girl that Mom was a little choked up and had some good laughs when the tributes each of us kids wrote to her for Mother's Day were read.

3. I put together a nifty handout for my research students using Adobe Acrobat 8 to help them with Lane Community College's library's online search tools and hope all the little message boxes and arrows and directions I wrote into the files of the library website print. If they don't, I have plan B ready to go.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/07: Even, Adobe, Hair

1. I'm caught up at school. Books read. Papers read, graded, commented on. I spent today writing blog posts and

2. Learning Adobe Acrobat 8 and messing around with documents and

3. Finally getting a haircut and beard trim. I love watching all that excess hair fall on the apron I wear at Perfect Look.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Depression is Madness, Not Sadness: Second Chance: Sunday Scribbling


It's hard to say what the worst part of suffering from chronic or clinical depression is. One of the worst things, though, is always asking for a second chance. It happens most often when Mr. Hyde comes roaring out.

My otherwise generous and accepting personality gives way to a paranoid, quick to anger, jealous, accusatory personality. I say mean things. I can't believe I'm loved or accepted. I put great strain on my loved ones, especially my wife, or in earlier days, a girlfriend or lover.

In many ways, the worst part is the calm after the storm, when I feel terrible guilt for what I've done or said, and say over and over again after incident after incident, "Please. Give me a second chance. I won't do it again."

It's all terribly confusing. When I'm the person I want to be, these outbursts are unthinkable.

Even worse, for years and years, I thought I could control these mental breakdowns, as did the wife or lover/girlfriend I verbally levelled. Thinking it was all a matter of my will, I turned the anger on myself and berated myself, either out loud or with my demeaning, accusatory, self-loathing inner voice.

Getting help was very difficult. When I'd go to a therapist, I was always at my best. I couldn't replicate these episodes. I'd see someone for a while and get sent home after a while. The therapist couldn't really see what the problem was.

I had a total breakdown just over two years ago. I went into a paralyzing depression. I couldn't go to work. It wouldn't go away and finally I went to the hospital emergency room. This led to going back to medication and I've stayed faithful to my medications ever since, suffered some relapses, but overall things have remained steady.

My wife tells me again and again that I seem like a normal person.

Consequently, the episodes of erratic behavior, of lows and highs, have almost disappeared.

I enjoy feeling so much more under control.

Most of all, I enjoy not always asking for second chances. I really enjoy not asking for a second chance and saying, "I won't do it again" and having that promise be hollow and meaningless.

Luckily, with my third wife, she gave me several second chances, hung in there with me, and I'm almost never asking for a second chance again.

It's a profound relief.




To read more Second Chance Sunday Scribblings go here.

Mom: Assignment #20


Silver Valley Girl assigned InlandEmpireGirl and me to write a tribute to Mom for Mother's Day. Silver Valley Girl's is here. InlandEmpireGirl's is here.

When I think about Mom, my mind always goes back to about 1963-67/8. In order to keep her teaching certification, Mom had to finish a four-year degree. The state of Idaho would no longer allow her to teach with her two-year degree.

As life would have it, about the same time she started going to night school and summer school, and about the time she had to go to Moscow to complete her residency, and study on the University of Idaho campus, she had become pregnant we had a baby in our house, the very girl we call Silver Valley Girl.

Mom had about 100 things going at once those days: she was teaching grade school at Siver King, where not only was the day to day preparing and teaching demanding, but so were the things outside of the classroom like PTA and Christmas pageants and keeping current with all the different ways to decorate her room.

Mom went to night school.

She had hired Mrs. Price to care for Carol, so she had an employee to pick up in the morning and take home and night. She also had to make sure that Mrs. Price was happy in her work.

The stress of this was all magnified by Silver Valley Girl's difficult first month. She was very sick. Most of her first thirty days were in the hospital and she nearly died on a couple of occasions, including once at home. She was very healthy after her first month, but the traumatic first month was always a memory and the fear she might relapse was very real.

I really cannot capture how busy Mom was during those years. I always remember the night the baby bottle nipples melted. Mom was sanitizing them in a saucepan on the stove and water boiled dry and the rubber nipples melted. Dad was probably bowling. InlandEmpireGirl and I were probably too engrossed in Gilligan's Island or Lost in Space.

The rubber nipples could have been a last straw. Mom could have said, "That's it. I can't do all this."

But she didn't. She was determined. It's the same determination she uses when she goes up and down the basement stairs, one foot on one step, the other foot on the same step, slowly and carefully, to compensate for her sore hip and knees; it's the same determination she uses in her garden, fiercely yanking weed after weed from the ground, her face red in the sun, or as she removes dead head after dead head from her hundreds of flowers around her house.

I can't say Mom is stubborn. But she's determined. She's a cancer survivor. She's widowed. She's a very involved grandmother. She's determined to keep up her yard and garden for as long as she can.

I've taken a couple of Mom's strengths into the world with me. I think every student of mine can learn and excell; I think the best of people until they give me reason to think otherwise.

But, Mom's determination. I don't have it and I have rarely seen it in anyone else. It's what I admire most in Mom in paying tribute to her this Mother's Day.

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/07: Blood Draw, Confidence, Acrobat

1. When I was younger, and if I had to produce a urine sample, I got all nervous, and couldn't produce. That's not true any more. Today I had my blood drawn and produced a urine sample on the spot. It was beautiful!

2. Jan has been struggling with migraine headaches and is behind in her research work and we had a conference today and her headaches are better and she left my office confident that she had direction in her work and could do it.

3. My 30-day trial version of Adobe Acrobat 8 arrived and I spent time today figuring out this and and that and learning what I can do and wondering if the things I can't do I just need to figure out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/07: Conferences, Art Projects, Self-Reliance

1. I held individual conferences with my research writing students and they were a joy to work with as they tackle subjects ranging from generational poverty to the tolerance of injustice in the workplace in the USA.

2. The laughter and good cheer as my Lit of Comedy students worked on pictorial representations of odes by Pablo Neruda.

3. I had a wonderful talk after class with Mindy as she worked out her complicated feelings about her admiration of self-reliance and her deep feelings of commitment to the necessity of collective action.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/07:Beauty, Lear, Limbo

1. Jane King wrote me a lovely email. It included the following passage:

I'm a part of this little group that meets each Wednesday to discuss
the lectionary texts for the week. This is a comment for this week
in connection with Psalm 67 that I read this morning in DISCIPLINES,
an Upper Room Publication. I believe the author is Rene A. Perez:

"Many years ago I heard about a high school teacher whose husband
unexpectedly died of a heart attack. About a week after his death,
she shared some of her insight with her students: "Each of us is put
here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate, and give of
ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end.
It can be taken away at any moment. Perhaps this is God's way of
telling us that we must make the most out of every single day. So I
would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to
school or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It
doesn't have to be something you see, it could be a scent--perhaps of
freshly baked bread wafting from a house or the sound of the breeze
slightly rustling the leaves in the trees or the way the morning
light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground.
Please look for these things and cherish them. For these things are
the "stuff" of life, the little things we are put here on earth to
enjoy, the things we often take for granted. It becomes important to
notice them, for at any time it can all be taken away."

2. I received the kindest email from my student Katy who had done a fiercely beautiful painting of King Lear during the storm on the heath. She was grateful that making art was a project option.

3. I listened to a superb radio interview with Artur Lubrano, author of Limbo: Blue-collar Roots, White-collar Dreams. He discussed how his book explores the difficulty of blue collar family kids making the move out of the working class into the middle class. I have written about this about myself and his work more than validated some of my insights about the limbo people like me feel having made this move.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/07: Wobblies, Shennanigans, Wrath

1. We watched a stirring film on the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, today in American Working Class Lit.

2. I had a whacky chat online with K-Doe and got to be really silly about a range of things.

3. I always enjoy it when my sister's sister-in-law writes me about something she enjoyed on my blog. Today she enjoyed my random habit regarding wrath.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Meme:Seven Random Facts/Habits About Me

Here are the rules for the meme:

Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves.

Those who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules.

You need to choose 7 people to get tagged and list their names.

Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them that they have been tagged and to read your blog!

Seven Random Facts and Habits About Me, Organized Around the Seven Deadly Sins:

1. Lust. Every day I take a poll within my mind and give a mental award to the loveliest woman I have seen that day.

2. Gluttony. I have many, many doughnut eating memories and each of them is wonderful.

3. Greed. As a smart ass, I cannot stop myself trying to turn every situation into one to laugh at. I am greedy for other people's laughter, often quipping beyond the bounds of appropriateness.

4. Sloth. I love going as many days in a row as I can wearing pajama bottoms or sweat pants and a sweat shirt or T-shirt and devoting myself to doing nothing that could be called, by any definition, productive, including showering. These days are best experienced prone.

5. Wrath. I reserve a special and unabated wrath for those with whom I share political views and religious faith, but who are such asses in their expression of both that I cannot imagine wanting to share their company.

6. Envy. I envy smooth-faced, well-rested, calm, fit, well-dressed, confident men who manage money well, drive sporty cars without dings, play expert golf, and give the appearance of being unshaken in the face of difficulty and speak in unrattled, even voices.

7. Pride. I refuse to read student evaluations of my teaching. I feel I have reached a point in my career where I know best what is working in the classroom and how I need to improve.

Since this meme is about randomness, I have used the Next Blog function to select the seven people whom I will invite to continue this meme.


My Online Collections

Old Willow Farm

Tennis Babes

Slow Way Around

Damn Near Perfect

Thus So Far

A Space to Breathe

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/07: Grace, Relief, Lilacs

1. I've seen my former student Grace twice before today in 2007. Both times, seeing her made my 3BT's for that day. Today, she was on a walk and happened by our house just as I was arriving home from grocery shopping. Once again, talking about her studies at the U of O and telling her about the time I had a gun drawn on me by a Eugene SWAT team* near where she lives, and telling her what I thought about the current budgetary difficulties at Lane Community College, made for a beautiful passage in my day. She's a remarkable person.

2. Getting things done: money deposited, bills paid, caught up on paper grading, prepared for tomorrow.

3. InlandEmpireGirl's meditation on lilacs. Her lovely words made me feel a sweet ache to be back home where lilacs thrive.

*One day I'll tell this story: harmless Raymond Pert and his harmless good friend are misidentified as armed robbers.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/06/07: Ball, Essays, The Bell

1. I played "ball" with Snug this afternoon and he's very energetic and clumsy, falling over himself as he tries to pluck the ball from the air and springs to the spot of the ball, as if he needs to leap ten feet when, it fact, he only springs three. It's a riot and he loves it.

2. I read student research papers all day and fully enjoyed the variety of ways my students see the world of work and freedom and class status. It was invigorating and finally wore me out about 9:30. More tomorrow!

3. A dinner plan with K-doe and Daisy fell through so, for the first time in almost two months, I treated myself to a bag of Taco Bell and a bucket of Diet Pepsi. If I eat this crap reguarly, it gets less and less satisfying, but if I just do it once in a while, I don't know, but I really like it. Weird.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Gardening Disasters: Sibiling Assignment #19


Inland Empire Girl cooked up this assignment. You can find her piece here and SilverValleyGirl's is here.

I'll begin with a confession. My most successful gardening occurred when I wasn't married. With wife number two, we never really gardened, but after she and I divorced, I decided to take it up. When the Deke and I got married, gardening just didn't work for me any more. I really think the way I lean toward autonomy, wanting to be left alone, and a streak of stubbornness makes me very difficult to garden with.

I don't want to follow planting plans. I want to the opposite of what books say to do about where to put things. I try to be different. I always liked the way my yard looked. Things were unbalanced, colors were not coordinated, and I liked putting flowers and herbs and bushes in peculiar places. Once the Deke and her kids moved in, this approach didn't work any more and I lost my interest in gardening. Contracting meningitis also injured my gardening spirit as did the accompanying bouts with depression and fatigue.

When I did garden, I planted daffodils, tulips, lilies and other flowers near the public sidewalk in front of my house. I refused to use a roto-tiller. I shoveled well below the depth needed to plant bulbs and brought the soil from deep in the yard to the the top and put the soil near the top below it.

I loved doing this. It looked like I was digging graves, but the results were magnificent as I worked organic fertilizers and bone meal into that soil from below and my flowers were gorgeous.

The problem was that many people who walked the streets at night also thought they were gorgeous. I mean, maybe it's not much of a disaster, to have flowers stolen, but I grew those flowers to brighten up my yard and to possibly provide passersby some beauty to uplift their spirits.

Neighbors complimented my work again and again. But, each year, I'd lose more and more flowers to flower thieves.

One morning, I was sleeping in the living room because I felt like it. At about six a.m., the phone rang. My next door neighbor told me that two women were out front mowing down my flowers. They didn't have a power mower or anything, but they were cutting everything they could get.

By the time I pulled on some jeans and put on a T-shirt, the women had finished denuding my beds and had moved to my next door neighbor's garden on the other side.

I confronted them. They both had an armful of my flowers.

One of them said, "Oh! I'm so sorry. I didn't know they belonged to anyone. Here. You can have them."

I muttered the Lord's name in vain and few other profanities under my breath and accepted their offering.

I pulled out every vase and glass I needed and put them in water. I kept some in my house. I gave them away to friends I knew enjoyed flowers.

My garden looked like hell.

The women who robbed me wore the tracks of hard life on their faces. I'm sure their plan was to sell the flowers.

In every single case where someone cut my flowers, I knew that if these people had come to my door and asked if they could have some, I would have happily grabbed some scissors and selected flowers for them, or told them to come back when the timing was better.

But, it's not how flower thieves roll.

Friends often suggested that I not plant flowers in the front yard. They reminded me that I had a lot of room in back.

I didn't want flowers in the back. I wanted to drive or walk home and see all the color in the front. I wanted to be welcomed home by my flowers.

But, that was then. I keep thinking that one of these years, I'll go back and start over again and plant flowers again.

I loved bringing them to life and into bloom.

Three Beautiful Things 05/05/07: Uncle Bill, Jbelle, Essays

1. I know very little about Dad's older brother, Bill, killed in the Pacific theater during WWII. Walt Gaby sent me this tender and heart-warming story about my uncle today:
Your Uncle Bill also worked for the Kellogg Reminder. Among other things, he ran a printing press in the basement – the kind where one had to feed one paper at a time as the ink roller moved up and down over the type face. My father’s haberdashery and tailor shop was right next door. The wall between the two basements was nothing more than vertical slabs of wood – often with a one inch space in between. I had a small room on my side where I spent millions of hours building model airplanes – Bill and the printing press was right on the other side of the wall. The great pleasure for me was that I could hear Bill singing as he worked – most often a song entitled Maria Elena.
2. Jbelle and I chatted on gmail today and when the world awakens tomorrow it should find all of its problems solved. It wasn't that hard, really. Jbelle did most of the heavy lifting, I'll admit.

3. My students' papers on Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and the American Dream and the American Spirit were stellar, a pleasure to read and comment on.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/07: Snug, Deke, Big Tracks

1. Snug at my side on the bed with a large bone living in the moment with pure concentration chewing and loving this bone.

2. The Deke arriving home from a visit with a very good friend and reporting the important things they have talked about. It's confidential, but good things are happening.

3. I've been listening this evening to XM Satellite Radio Channel 49 (Big Tracks) and it's been a wonderful diet of Motley Crue, Guns and Roses, Van Halen, .38 Special, Van Halen, Electric Light Orchestra, Sting, REO Speedwagon, Billy Squier, Billy Joel, Joan Jett, Alan Parsons Project, Golden Earring, and other post-Classic Rock music, taking me back to graduate school and the two years in 1982-84 when I taught full-time at Whitworth College.

Eugene's Virtues

Good morning, JK!

Back on January 18, one of the 3 beautiful things I wrote about was seeing Jane King on campus and I had the pleasure of seeing her again yesterday at the Dan O'Brien reading in the main theater of the Performing Arts building. She sat next to me and she reminded me that she reads my blog every morning, which thrilled me.

Jane told me that she enjoys reading my posts about Kellogg and the Silver Valley, but wondered why I don't write about Eugene. I told her he truth. I have lived here since 1979 and have never felt at home here.

I thought more about this conversation and decided I would write about what I enjoy here. I mean, I don't have to feel at home in Eugene to enjoy its virtues. So, here I go:

I love working at Lane Community College. When I began teaching at LCC in 1989, I remember that immediately I felt a deep satisfaction that I was exactly where I wanted to be working. The student body at LCC is made up largely of students who are making some kind of comeback. It's not true of every student, but a large proportion of my students have had difficult lives, whether they have lost jobs, suffered abuse at home, abused drugs, been in jail, suffered poverty, been on the outside of the cool kids in high school, been (or are) homeless, are transitioning out of an industry that's depressed or disappeared, or, well, the list would be long.

A majority of these students have intellectual gifts that have been ignored or that they have squandered. Discovering and using their gifts helps them turn their lives around.

Eugene's schools and its social structure has large cracks. Many people fall through these cracks. I teach at a college that catches them. LCC has cracks, too. I see students who go back to falling. My fellow teachers whom I spend the most time with and I do all we can to close the cracks and help our students tap into their intelligence and feelings and find purpose in their lives.

In other words, I am most drawn to places in or around Eugene where things are unpretentious. A large majority of my students are unpretentious; they are grateful; they work hard and try to juggle the demands of school, work, children, probation officers, and a number of other pressures away from LCC.

I appreciate that Eugene is a hospitable city for dogs. Snug and can go to one of three nearby dog parks where Snug runs unleashed and where the city maintains the grounds and where a large majority of the dog owners have control of their animals. Vet care is very good. I deeply appreciate "Suds 'Em Yourself", a clean, well-maintained self-service dog bath business.

I don't get to Mac Court very often, but when I do, it's the best place to watch basketball I've ever been. I love how ancient Mac Court is and even more, I love the big brassy sound of the U of O band and their music selection. They play 25 or 6 to 4, All Right Now, and other tunes perfect for their instrumentation and perfect for getting me excited for basketball.

If, or when, I move back to North Idaho, I'll miss LCC and my superb fellow instructors. I already miss many of my students because they move on and disappear. I'll miss the dog accomodations. I'll miss Mac Court. Even though I don't get there often, it was a romantic place for me before I moved to Eugene and I always think of how I loved Mac Court games on tv when I watched them in North Idaho and eastern Washington--I'm always, even to this day, dumbfounded that I'm actually seeing a game there!