Trust is Possible: a Thanksgiving Blog

Over the last four and a half years, I’ve written here about the beauty of the broken heart, some painful, enraging truths about the patriarchy and its toxic effect on the 51%, lots of self-reflection, and different stages of my own journey through the tangled woods. Sometimes the tree branches seem to come alive and grab at me, darkly, as if I were none other than silly Snow White looking to be saved by tiny, ineffective fictional creatures. At other times sun dapples the forest floor and shows me the way through, so I can make my own story.

Looking back, most of what I remember about my life is having a hopeful, joyful heart. The bubbling gratitude that returns to me again and again. Not despite the bad stuff of life, but because of the deliciousness that fills in all the spaces around it.

But I still trip and stumble on my way. Identifying my own internal roadblocks remains part of why I’m here.

This year on the day of giving thanks, I am most profoundly grateful for a recent shift inside me.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I lit a small fire in a micro-pit (loaf pan) by lighting baking soda and rubbing alcohol. (Life hack if you need a ceremonial fire and don’t have a fireplace or outdoor firepit.) As the fire flickered on the coffee table, we quietly released into it things that we could identify that were clearly not serving us, and invited into our lives the opportunities, attitudes, beliefs, and people we wished to see manifest. Releasing fears, sorrow, limiting beliefs, and welcoming in joy, transformation, and most of all, love.

As we did this familiar ritual, in companionable silence, I had a serious epiphany. You know how epiphanies can be. A sudden “woke” moment when what you have “known” all along is suddenly clear. For me, it usually means that words appear, elucidating the truth so I can look straight at it. What was an unidentified feeling or belief becomes a statement. The words give the belief visibility and shape. If it does not serve me, the words cause it to lose some of its power so I can deal with whatever it is. If it is an epiphany of empowerment, I can own it and consciously, affirmatively accept it into myself.

On this particular day, these words formed in my mind: “Men always disappoint me.”

Harsh. I might have winced (literally) as the thought formed words and opened up inside me.

Though these words were never spoken by me or even in my head before that moment, I realized that my body lived them. The belief, like a miasma, filled the little innocent spaces in me so that as I opened myself to love, experience, and the men in my life, I was sabotaged by it.

“Limiting belief” is an understatement. This belief was a threat to my happiness and well-being.

Lucky for me, I have a toolbox I can whip out at a time like this to begin the uprooting process. But I knew instinctively that I might need to bring in the big guns this time. I called upon a fellow traveler and dear friend, shaman and healer, to guide me through the discovery, the releasing, and the healing.

Knowing where this belief originated was not technically necessary to expunge it, but I’m a curious sort. I like to know, and, for me, knowing with my head is usually (though not always) a key to a door that allows healing through to my heart and the rest of my being.

My experience, in any particular lifetime (choose one), of being silenced or abandoned or assaulted by a man or men in power, is hardly unique. It is the story of women. We all take these lessons into ourselves in our own ways. But they are just stories and can be rewritten.

The individual men that I love or have loved, from my father, to my son, to my brothers-in-law, cousins, friends, lovers, are inside me. Some have brought me nothing but warmth and love, others have done their worst. But what I realized is that society as a whole, going back to almost the beginning, is so infused with the unbridled, unbalanced energy of the yang, so dominated by the male of the species, that attempts to silence or squelch, deny, ignore, oppress, force, or disempower the yin are all around us. They are the overwhelming, overarching reality for all of us. In some countries and cultures, this energy is more intense and unavoidable than in others, but let’s be honest. It is unavoidable until things change for good.

Those sweet, gutsy, humble, strong men who see the forest for the trees, who understand the toll our world’s way of doing things takes on half the population, they are the ones we fall in love with, right? The ones we want to surround ourselves with. The ones we want to raise, marry, hire, elect, along with the women we also raise, marry, hire, and elect, obviously.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with Thanksgiving? Gratitude, of course.

This year I am grateful that I have transmuted my belief about men to an understanding of my own journey through the eons, and an understanding of something even deeper than that. That though it is difficult to trust, trust is possible. And it is still and always has been, for me, easy to love. Love can heal the harshest ache, and I am grateful for love.

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

He gave me a ride home from a party. He was older. Maybe eight or nine years older. He was a friend of the guys my friends and I were hanging out with that night. Pot-head frat types who played great music and had a big room for dancing in. In our first year of college, my nerdy writer friends and I quickly figured out that going to a few of the less mainstream frat houses was a cheap, jolly way to have fun on a Friday night. At this particular place, we felt comfortable. The guys were not grabby or patronizing. We could hang and dance. We felt safe. They were chill, ya know? And we were innocent. Naïve. Very, very smart, but… not really that smart.

Forty years later and I am still friends with one of those guys, someone I dated for a while, thought I was in love with, maybe even was. But I never told him this thing that I’m now going to post publicly on my blog. I never told anyone until the day in marriage therapy when it bubbled up. I said the words out loud for the first time and my then-husband looked at me, incredulous. Twenty-five years together and I had managed to avoid mentioning that I’d been raped. By a trusted semi-stranger in my own apartment at eighteen, a week into my third semester at UVA.

I spent most of my life telling myself a version of the story in which somehow it was “my first sex” and an inevitable, even normal way to “lose my virginity.”

Normalizing sexual harm, male aggression, female powerlessness—yes. I did that. I participated in the massive cover-up that is our male-privilege normative society. I did not want to admit I’d not had power in that moment. I wanted to believe I chose those offensive eight minutes, because what would it mean if I had not? So, feminist that I am, I did not say the word rape to myself, let alone anyone else, for decades. Years of therapy in which I dealt with a lot of crazy shit did not excavate that little artifact of experience from my subconscious. So what finally did?

Don’t know, really.

Fast forward to 2017. The grossest kind of misogynist is in the White House. The entire government seems hell bent on disempowering, disenfranchising, and just plain dissing women and anyone else they don’t want to give up their white male privilege to. And yet none of us who sees what’s going on seems willing to go gentle into that horrific night.

And now, this month, October 2017. A worldwide movement of saying, “Me too.” Me fucking too, ya bastids. It is a huge problem, okay? And you can’t shove all nine zillion of us under a rug.

Many are embracing “me too.” Some question it. Some think it does not do enough to create change or real dialogue. Others ask, “Why is it always on women to tell the hard truths?”

As for me, I don’t even want to analyze it or question it. Instead I’ll simply wholeheartedly applaud the countless women who are saying, not just to their sisters and friends, but to everyone who cares to read their status on Facebook, their blog, or their Tweet: ME FUCKING TOO.

Are people surprised? I don’t know anyone personally who is shocked that women are routinely, daily brutalized in small and huge ways. If people are surprised, I simply don’t want to know that. I would be too angry. Seriously. Enraged at the stubborn obliviousness people hide in, like a closet of privilege that protects them from uncomfortable truths. Because think about all the times that (let’s face it pretty much every) woman has been catcalled or assaulted. Shoved into a corner with a leer and a wink. Groped in the empty hallway and then silenced by shame, threats, or feigned innocence (“Honey I didn’t mean anything by that!”). Blamed by society for her experiences of harassment or sexual violence because of her clothes/attitude/choices. Propositioned by employers or superiors, or just treated like shit for being smart, sexual, ambitious, tough, emotional, or badass. And raped. Violently or quietly or multiply or repeatedly. By the stranger, the trusted friend, the uncle, the boss, the neighbor, the husband, the priest, the therapist, the teacher, the guy who is just pissed off because she did not acknowledge his right to possess her.

And these are not “bad experiences.” These are not “experiences” at all. Experience is when you go outside and there’s a rainbow. Or when you spend the day in the museum. Or you have an afternoon of glorious sex with the windows open. Or jump in the car for an impromptu road trip. Those are experiences. We participate in them. They occur. They can be sought or they can be serendipitous. But no one is perpetrating them.

Assault, sexual intimidation, rape—these are not things that “happen”—they are done by men to women against their will.

So given the reality of “me too”—what about the men? For every me too there is a man who took action. To grope, grab, hold down, threaten, penetrate, bribe, intimidate, belittle a woman. To order her to get on her knees, or fetch him a beer, or smile, or shut up and enjoy it, or just plain shut up.

What about the men who know about it, see it, hear it? How dare men be surprised or “taken aback” by this long-overdue public awareness announcement from all those women on their social media feeds. Where have they been?

I don’t remember much about that semester, after that “ride home.” (“Your friends want to stay. I can give you a ride home if you want.” “Really? That would be great.”)  I remember spending Thanksgiving at a friends’ house in Philadelphia. I remember nothing about Christmas. I know I was not completely in my body. That feeling of not “being yourself?”—that’s when part of you leaves and the rest of you feels incomplete. School—always my happy place—had lost its luster. I did not want to go to class. I did, of course, being always more than adequately “good” at doing what needed to be done. But, you know. The thrill? It was gone.

I left school that second semester of sophomore year. I went to visit my dad for a couple weeks. Returned to Charlottesville. Got a job. Went back to school. And, not sure how, but I gradually regained my optimism, my desire to go outside and see a rainbow.

These experiences take a toll on women. Women survive and “move on” because they have to. These women—so so many women—may, briefly or for decades, have their inner knowing knocked out of them when men steal their power and rob them of…so much. Women may be set back—literally—and need to catch up yet again, to prove that “WE TOO” will persist and all the shit you do to us won’t keep us down.

But it’s hard. It’s exhausting. And it is absurd—a folly, a civil wrong—that it is still on us to fix this mess not of our making. Men? Grow the hell up and stand up for your sisters literally EVERY TIME. In the board room, the classroom, the bedroom, everywhere. If you are not one of the perpetrators, prevent those who are from getting away with it and joking about it later. If you are one of those dudes—if you rape or insult or beat or catcall or belittle or grab or assume—STOP. Just stop now and live with honor for the rest of your days.

And as for me, the rape on the hallway floor of my apartment was one of several catalysts in my youth that prompted a lifetime of self-reflection and an insistence on growth and forward movement. A refusal to accept any status quo. A refusal to stay hidden.

The Narcissistic Lover—a Trump Allegory

When they met, he was a self-proclaimed “enthusiastic suitor.” He found her to be just fabulous. And just like him, in so many ways. How could they not be together? A match made in heaven. They both believed in magic. In love. In the triumph of love over loneliness—isolation itself. Finally, they would have what they both deserved. Each other. And the world as they envisioned it.

But she didn’t get it at first—that all those perfect things he said were calculated to make her want him. At this point in his life, the calculations were so embedded in his very being that he was no longer aware of making them. He was keenly tuned in to “people like her” – women of a certain age who long to be seen, acknowledged, loved for who they are. Women who have kept themselves under the wraps of motherhood, wifehood, the double life of domestication and career, for so long that they just want to break out of the restraints and let their true selves shine forth for all the world to see, without apology. He seemed to give her permission to do that. Why did she feel she needed permission from a man, from anyone? Even she wasn’t sure why. But the world doesn’t always see women through a clear lens. Now maybe the world would see her through his eyes, and accept her, and she’d be empowered.

He knows her, or people “like her,” just well enough to know exactly what to say so she’ll want him. And accept him in spite of any red flags that may poke up. Because, after all, he accepts her fully, so shouldn’t she do the same for him? Doesn’t he see her “greatness” as he calls it? He seems to understand that she has gone too long unrecognized, and her disillusionment in the system of love will be swept away by the fulfillment of all that he promises.

Is she so predictable, she sometimes wonders? Is it so easy for him to see how much she longs to be courted, wanted? Just acknowledged? Her needs have been unmet for so long. And he seems to have lots to offer such a woman. He is like Barry White—he has ALL the words to say to make any woman feel that IT is about to happen at any moment. That union. That revelation of the perfect joining.

She waits for that. She waits for…so much.

Like the call “in ten minutes” that doesn’t come. Or, when it does—two hours later—never seems to feel as good as she hoped it would. Wasn’t she going to tell him about her day, and that awful thing that happened, and wasn’t he going to help her solve the problem, see it in a different light, soothe her with kind and loving words? Instead, she listens to him talk about a woman at work who wants him. A girl at the pharmacy who was way too young for him but really seemed to want to talk. His secretary and how much she loved his jokes this morning. Then it is always too late to say what she had on her mind. They’d have perfunctory phone sex and hang up. She would lie in bed, with the song, Where is the Love? running through her head.

When he does offer his support, or try to help her through tough times, he gets angry. His advice is always, “You should quit that fucking job!” Or: “I’d punch her in the face if she talked to me like that.” These suggestions are not that helpful to her. Still, she finds she is more short-tempered, more likely to succumb to her basest impulses—at work, in life, even with her friends—because she knows he would, too, and that he loves it when she “goes low.” He finds it (weirdly) sexy. When she told him about calling her assistant a moron for printing the wrong labels, he laughed and hugged her. Kissed her darkly, with cruel passion.

I ask her, “Does he actually show up when he says he will? Does he deliver on those promises? Is he really leaving the hamster wheel of online dating behind him or is he still shopping on Bumble and Tinder?”

“Don’t you want a man,” I ask her, “who will always see the best in you and help you be that person? One who won’t egg you on in your worst impulses. Who will remind you of the kickass woman you are and that he fell in love with. The way you are. The way he will always see you: truly.”

“Don’t you want a man,” I go on, “who won’t capitalize on your fears and lie to you to get you to cling to him? A man with the self-confidence to let you make your own decisions and hear the truth? A man who will show you his best self and admit when he errs? Who will help you find the right path and ask for your help in return?”

“Don’t you want a man, who will go into the bathroom with you at night when you’re taking off your makeup? Who will put his hands on your hips as you wash your face and, not only will he not care about that pimple on your nose or the crow’s feet by your eyes, he’ll find you beautiful still. He won’t fan the flames of your hidden insecurities. He will nuzzle your neck and pull you by the hand into the bedroom where he will respectfully and lovingly adore your body, mind, heart, and soul.”

 

Anticipation in the Now

Ever the questing soul, anticipation is my default state. Thus one of the in-the-process lessons I am constantly learning is to live fully in each moment.

(When I’m writing fiction, I never proceed with an end in mind. Interesting, considering that is literally the ONLY time in my life when I could reasonably be expected to anticipate an outcome.)

In my actual, non-fictional life, I regularly wonder about, look forward to, fantasize about (and sometimes dread) the future. The power of thought, I believe, can manifest real results. I also strongly believe in road trips—life’s superfun way to teach me how to be in the now while thrilling to every next moment.

There is no moment in life that is certain—I’m certain about that. So aside from those concert tickets, a dinner date, planned vacation, my children’s visit at the holidays, and other such events, I cannot anticipate what will come next for me. But I feel certain (despite being a week away from yet another birthday) that I am young enough, brave enough, and have enough to offer the world that much is possible. Maybe not absolutely anything, but a helluva lot.

The more I travel (it’s still not enough), the more I think, as I explore strange new worlds: I could live here. Or here. Or even here! Who made up the rule that I have to stay in one part of the country? Turns out that was my stupid rule, so I can veto it from now on and pack my bags at any time.

Though I have not (as far as I know) met the man with whom I’ll spend the rest of my life (after looking with serious intent and (mostly) an optimistic heart for 11 months and counting), I realize that seeking love is a common practice among both women and men my age and that the odds are not at all hopeless. I will find that connection with a man, someone I will recognize as somehow familiar and yet thrillingly new. And (the other key element) he’ll find me. This fact is something I anticipate and, one day, will make real.

I am a productive person. I generate. I create. And I work my ass off. Secure in a career I really enjoy, I still often wonder if I might yet take a new road. Not necessarily an entirely new highway heading in an entirely new direction, but an exciting tangent, a path, that uses my skills and experience in some tantalizing new recipe. Something to anticipate with curiosity and confidence (and a dash of caution).

Being happy in my now is the goal. Being excited about the (unknown) future—that’s a good place to be too, as long as I don’t become mired in fear or lose sight of my current blessings.

 

Rauschenberg at MoMA: Inspiration, Collaboration, and the Turned-on Mind

Winter Pool, 1959

I’ve been thrilled by visual art most of my life. A combination of blessings, like where I grew up  and one particularly inspiring teacher when I was still very young, created me, a person who is literally vibrationally activated when I’m in the presence of exciting, great art. And there is a lot of great art in this world.

So on August 12, 2017, as my beloved Charlottesville was under attack by domestic terrorists, I was having a very good day. This hurts a little, in that place inside me (a vestigial mental construct left from my odd, if art-infused, childhood), but the bigger, better place inside me knows that it was okay for me to spend the day at MoMA with a friend, renewing myself by visiting the Rauschenberg exhibit called: Robert Rauchenberg: Among Friends.

You can read about it. You can (aka should) go see it if you are within a few hundred miles of New York City. There are great pictures and video clips on the MoMA site (linked above). I’m not going to describe the exhibit for you, or review it, or narrate what was in each room, elucidate each chapter in his artistic journey.

Rauschenberg’s work as stage set for dance.

Just want to say a few things. Like this: the exhibit is a window into a great and thrilling mind. Rauschenberg’s openness and his seemingly endless flow of ideas and “I’m going to try this now” moments, his humor, his relationships, his appreciation of fellow artists from composers like John Cage to choreographers like Merce Cunningham, and visual artists from Jasper Johns to Sue Weil to Cy Twombly. All of these things added to his inspiration. An angsty life of isolation, darkness, competitiveness, bitterness was not for him. He was an effluence of joyful creative pollination.

Rebus, 1955

His life and how he chose to live it, devoted to his art, to his ideas, to the ideas and art of others, inspired by the ideas and art of others—that was as much a thrill as seeing the art itself—both the majestically large pieces and the small pieces, all of it both conceptual and very real and glorious.

I mean he tried things. Nothing was “not worth” his exploration. He’d have an idea and bam. I have no idea how his “Erased De Kooning Drawing” was received critically. Who cares? He went to visit the great De Kooning himself and said, hey, I want to try this thing. I want to make a piece of art that is an erased drawing. How about one of yours? De Kooning was like, okay cool. Here is a piece I actually like a lot so have at it. Rauschenberg gave it a shot. He doesn’t seem to have started an entire phase of his art based on erasing drawings, but it was a thing he did. Jasper Johns came over and said, cool. Let’s frame it.

Canto II, the Descent (from Dante series 1958-60)

The drawings of all 33 cantos of Dante’s Inferno. I could have spent the entire day just on those. My God.

Charlene, 1954

His florid, red pieces—gorgeous assaults. I want to fill a house with them and then never leave it.

Automobile Tire Print, 1953

The tire tracks—John Cage’s Model A, one tire dipped in black paint, Rauschenberg’s 20 pieces of typewriter paper stapled together.

Hiccups (not as it was displayed at MoMA), 1978

Hiccups, the 97 zippered-together pieces of handmade paper, each an explosion of color and each a unique assemblage of transferred items run through a lithograph press.

Grapheion, 1988

His lithographs and silk screens. I mean those ALONE….

Gold Standard, 1964

His use of all media from toothpaste to old clothes to rusty nails to glue to film to silk to tossed out shipping boxes to canvas and paint and about a thousand other things.

His 9 Evenings combining an incredible mix of artists and audience-participation and lights and performance.

Monogram, late 1950s

His humor. The stuffed goat in the tire. Majestically itself. Having gone through several versions. I mean, how can you just have one version of a stuffed goat in a tire?

Bed, 1955

His incredible fabulous combines, (most of the pieces shown in this blog) a term he made up to make people stop asking him “WHAT IS THIS?”

Some of his pieces are statements, some of them just… something excellent to look at. Well, no, I take that back. They are all statements, aren’t they? Statements of an aesthetic and a consciousness and a will to create.

I love how being in the presence of a lifetime of art—his or any artist’s—Van Gogh, Renoir, Pollack, O’Keeffe, Kahlo, Rothko, Nevelson, whoever it is—invites you into the soul of that artist. I guess it’s like that with reading someone’s writing, seeing someone’s dance, hearing someone’s music. But the difference is that you can be inside a room with ten visual creations at once, in an exhibition with 500 pieces, maybe. You can’t simultaneously watch 500 ballets or read 500 poems or listen to 500 sonatas.

So this experience of visual art is like an immersion, a flood. You open yourself to it and you are filled with it. If you let yourself, you almost become that person for a moment. Or maybe for a lifetime, because you have so fully experienced that outflowing of another human, one so willing to commit her or his ideas to the plane of perceived reality (I’m being very careful here). For some that is a risk and for others, maybe for Rauschenberg, simply an imperative, like reproducing, or an instinct, like breathing.

As haters come out of the darkness, I will not let myself forget the light that is in us. Spend a day with art—every city has a place you can go, a gallery or museum with a room you can sit in and feel the flood of ideas and— beauty or not beauty—artistic spirit. Some say that is the very thing (not brutality, not hate, not rage or selfishness or the lust for power) that defines humanity.

Bathtub, 1973

PNW Part III

My kids being awesome

After a final day of experiencing the coolness of Nevada City, CA and Grass Valley, CA (where Win did find the most amazing fanny-pack for outdoorsmen and the Salvation Army and I bought some geological artifacts (aka crystals such as witch’s broom) at a local shop called The Cult of Gemini), Maggie and I said a temporary goodbye to her brother and we headed north again.

Fanny pack for fisherman

En route to Etna, CA (which seemed to be mostly a crossroads with a few houses and a school) for a halfway point/overnight, we drove towards Lake Shasta, Mount Shasta, the Shasta Dam, and our vision was filled with the huge snowcapped 14,179 foot high semi-dormant volcano. We got rather excited by the human story of the building of Shasta Dam during the Depression. Not to mention the beauty of the dam itself, a testament to some badass engineering and a lot of really hard work. The lake, created by said dam, looked pretty delicious on a 99° day. It seems many of the lakes in California are created by humans, not ancient glaciers or springs or meteors—not even god-like creatures with big feet and magic jazz-hands.

Shasta

Below Shasta Dam

Biggest (not tallest) dam in the country

Yet another amazing Mexican meal here at Joe’s Giant Orange Cafe in Shasta Lake

We also went to the headwaters of the Sacramento River—where the water percolates, freezing cold, from a spring. The spot felt very sacred to both of us. We lingered for quite a while, breathing in the ozone-infused air and dipping our feet into the water until numbness hit—in less than ten seconds. We set some intentions, let some things go. And moved on.

the headwaters

The further we got from our time with Win and Heather, the more we looked forward to seeing them again soon, as goodbyes are not as much fun as being together. Nevertheless, we pushed on towards Portland.

The last few days of our trip—Saturday to Monday in Portland and Monday to Tuesday back in Seattle, were glazed ever-so-slightly with melancholy as the sun and crisp air outlined every sweet or inconsequential moment and beautiful thing with dazzle.

Mostly these last days were about people, not places. Examples:

  • On our first night in Portland, two dear friends (connected to me through a board on which I serve), took us out to dinner on the Wilamette River (not pronounced Wilamĕtte but WilAHmette) and talked long past the setting of the sun… which happens very late out there on the first day of July, on the western edge of the furthest west time zone in the country.

    Breakfast at Lianne’s … comfort and love!

  • We visited the largest new and used book store in the country: Powell’s. A full city block, several stories high, and requiring a map to navigate. Um… some advice: go to Portland, OR immediately if you have not been to this store.

    One floor of 6, one room of a million

    Powell’s Books Forever

  • The next day, Win arrived, sans Heather, having driven a total of 9 hours just to spend 24 more with his mama and sister. We spent some time just chatting as we wandered around heading into stores like Patagonia and Icebreaker.

    #FlyFishingGeek

  • Another happy former teacher-former student reunion took place while we were in Portland. My children, Win and Maggie, plus Alison, her husband Tom, and John, all gathered one afternoon at the Rogue Distillery and Public House (a good place to geek out over Oregon beer). John was the oldest (class of ’91), then Alison (’98), then Win (’04) and Maggie (’07). I was almost giddy with the excitement of such a gathering. Nothing would make me happier than having a chance to sit and have a drink or a meal with every student I ever taught. That afternoon, we talked about academia, real estate, the school, music, their children (John), upcoming birth (Alison and Tom), jobs, plans, and whatever came to mind. It was perfect.

    Teacher Love

    14 years apart and so much in common (John on the left, Win on right)

  • Breakfast with friends (at Gigi’s—another delish breakfast spot), dinner with friends, and a chance to wander the city by car but no chance to park it and take a walk through the Japanese Gardens or the Holocaust Memorial because it was July 4 weekend and tourists just like us got up earlier and were far more organized. So my kids and I just tooled around. Found a coffee place. Found a lunch place (honestly it was pretty amazing—called Fat City Café and basically you need to go there). There is never a shortage of talk when we are together, in a car, on a trail, or sitting at the counter at any given restaurant or coffee hot spot anywhere, any time.

    Fat City fun

Eventually, we had to say goodbye to Win. He drove off towards Bend and a meet-up with Heather, and Maggie and I drove back to Seattle where we spent the 4th with our friends, Anna and Louise. This fun included an afternoon in the sunshine on Lake Washington, and a long, joyful, speed-boat ride around one end of the massive lake.

Last night with Anna and Louise!

Lake Washington and me, chillin’

Louise is a badass boat driver!

Ranier was supposed to be behind me but I failed at this pic.

As the sun headed towards the horizon, we were at the airport again, waiting for our redeye. As we flew, we felt sleep deprived and a bit sad. Also a bit happy. Maggie was going home to her girlfriend, her cat, and a new job. I was going back to summertime-as-I-know it. Some work, some play, more work, a little more travel, if I’m lucky, and maybe a few good dates with a few good men.

Final photo…of my kids being together, with me, which is the best part of all.

 

 

 

 

PNW Part II

The first installment of my PNW travel blog left us off in Olympia, ready to head southward towards California, where we were to meet up with Win, my son (and Maggie’s big brother), and his girlfriend, Heather. We road-tripped down Rt. 5 making several stops along the way. And no, not all of them were for espresso drinks.

  • Key gustatory stops included:
    • Fabulous and unexpected Mexican lunch in Eugene, OR. Mama Mayra has 5 stars on Yelp, all of them deserved. Definition of hole-in-the-wall, suffused with fragrant cooking aromas, smiling diners chowing down at worn linoleum tables.

      Lunch in Eugene.

    • More coffee. (So not all our stops were for coffee but, I mean, we made stops for coffee.)
    • Bricktowne Brewing Co. in Medford, OR. Don’t hold the “e” at the end of “Bricktowne” against them. The beer was good, and Maggie loved their dry pear cider.
        

      Maggie’s list of high points (cough) would include: “it’s legal!”

    • The best breakfast place ever in the history of history— Morning Glory Café in Ashland, OR. This place had a menu so delicious and creative, a décor so campy and cozy, servers so sassy and efficient, that we are seriously considering a move to Ashland for the duration of life.

      The glories of Morning Glory cafe.

We arrived in Placerville, CA by evening of our second day of driving, after stopping for groceries. Our arrival, and the much-anticipated bear hugs from the bear-of-a-son (I was prepared for his bear-like-appearance), took place in 109° heat.

But the heat was incidental. What mattered was the warmth of being with both my children at the same time for a whole week. Slipping back into the on-site mother-groove and letting the flow of talk and laughter fill me up. The Maggie and Win show is always fun to tune into….

I felt blessed to be able to see through a small window into the life shared by my son and the woman he loves (beautiful, vibrant Heather). For three of the days I was able to stay with them and see firsthand the easy, intimate rhythm of two people who love and support each other. The fact that one of them is my grown child made it especially meaningful for me.

  • Here are some of the superfun things we did together:
    • Visit Lake Tahoe. I’ve been collecting possible words that I can use to convey the impact of Tahoe on my brain/psyche/soul. I came up with this one: WOW. The three of us (Heather was working) had a little picnic, took a short hike around (part of) the lake’s perimeter in the 100° heat (with lots of looking-at-the-view stops), then went somewhere to drink a cold beer.
       

      This was the “cold beer” part of the day.

    • Wine tasting. Heather was not having a good day that day. It got notably better when we started puttering around to a few nearby wineries and tasting their honorable wares. Turns out that Napa is not the only county in CA with a zillion superb wineries. Within 5 miles of where we were staying there were 20+ we could visit. We checked out about 5. Our favorite was Jodar. Of all that we visited, the people were the most real, the wine the most delicious, and the atmosphere the most jovial. Plus, geeks that we are, we learned the most and liked that. Side note: as Heather, Maggie, and I sipped wines and nibbled cheese, Win hung out either outside or in a nearby arm chair, depending on where we were, reading fly fishing articles on his phone.
    • The Haircut. When we first arrived in CA, we saw firsthand what no scissor and no razor looks like on my son for 7 months. Remember Jeremiah Johnson? Or maybe Forrest Gump on his cross-country trek? Like that. And in temps pushing 110°. Win: “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to get a cut.” ENTER MOTHER (wearing imaginary cape, hovering five inches off the ground with hands on hips): “To the rescue!” So, the day we visited Nevada City, CA, we stopped off at a barber shop on the outskirts of town. When the four of us (all rather tall humans) poured into the little shop (we left the dog outside), the barber was unfazed. She proceeded to cut an elegant swath through my son’s hair collection, moving it from his head and face to the floor at her feet.

      Pre-cut, in car with the gang of us including Stella the bestest dog ever.

      Mid-cut with the unflappable barber.

    • A woods-walk on the Deer Creek Tribute Trail near Nevada City. Beautifully maintained by locals and with gorgeous retaining walls, artistically designed, including niches where people have created community altars to nature.

      One of two altars with additions by us.

      Suspension bridge on Deer Creek Tribute Trail.

    • Geeking out about gold rush history. The “kids” and I headed to Coloma, CA, location of Sutter’s Mill, the site of the first gold nugget discovery by James Marshall (1848). The South Fork of the American River flows gloriously by the spot where a saw mill was created. Soon the non-existent town, and the area of CA that was home to around 150,000 Native Americans, was flooded with white men fixated on quick wealth (a tale as old as time), and about 120,000 of the rightful residents were utterly wiped out. The blip in the road that is now a few historic buildings and a little museum was, for about 8 years, a thriving metropolis.

      Highly knowledgeable and skilled blacksmith at Coloma.

      Super cute lunch place in the heart of this “birth of the gold rush” area.

      Surveying the North Fork.

      Recreation of Sutter’s actual mill.

    • Having a beer with a former student of mine at The Club Car in Auburn, CA (forever memorialized for me now). He and his wife are ranchers dedicated to sustainable animal husbandry. We sat at the bar, sipping local beer and talking about ranching, the environment, the school with which we all share a history, Gareth’s kids (small, lively, and brilliant and whom I’ve not met), my kids, who were in 3rd grade and kindergarten when Gareth graduated. It was joyful. An hour and a half passed and we parted with hugs all around.

      Maggie, Me, Gareth, Love.

The best part of any trip can happen between the “things we do.” This mother-daughter trip was across the country but we also logged over 1700 miles getting from Seattle to our meet-up with my son, plus about 2-300 additional miles exploring together once we got there.

The hours in the car included some of the most beautiful views imaginable.

Casual driving view….

Pull-over view American River.

Plus lots of fun scoping out coffee shops on Yelp and going out of our way to hit them. And then we read one and a half books (I read to Maggie while she drove –neither of us ever outgrew read-aloud). When we were tooling around with her brother, and Heather too sometimes—plus don’t forget Stella the dog—it was like a magical car-based opportunity to … well, talk. Then there was the talk-while-walking-around-random-towns, the talk-while-exploring-nature, the talk-while-eating, talk-while-cooking, talk-while-shopping, talk-while-sitting-around-and-forgetting-what-we-were-supposed-to-be-doing, and so forth.

Walk and talk. (This took place later, in Portland, but you get the idea.)

Not at all sure that wasn’t the best part of the whole trip.

But eventually daughter and mother headed back north, with plans to meet up with Win (and maybe Heather) again in Portland just before July 4th and our flight back. The last chapter of my PNW blog will be posted very soon….