Scavengers

Image by Klaus Stebani from Pixabay

I like to draw parallels between we humans and the natural environment that surrounds us. This poem was inspired by my recent trip to S. Arizona…

Estate Sale
The scavengers come from near and far
reaping the benefits from the death of another
facilitating their survival 
in this harsh desert environment

the jay 
the crow 
the coyote
the vulture 
the beetle 
the packrat 

You’ve got to get there early, one resident explains to me
a hint of excitement in her voice
People show up before they open, often forming a line down the block
It’s a weekend past-time around here, says another. Great deals to be had
If you can wait until the second day everything is 50% off
I’m hoping for those lampshades she indicates with a lean of her head.
Even at Walmart lampshades are expensive

We walk almost reverently through the house 
that is no longer a home
The contents of every cupboard are exposed on the counters and tables
like the innards of roadkill on the side of the road.
Glassware, dishes, appliances, knickknacks, furnishings.
Easy pickings
My thoughts turn to my mother’s home 
soon be open to strangers
there to snatch up her cherished things I must leave
all at bargain prices
She would be aghast but she is gone

The jay waits
the crow spies
the coyote lurks
the vulture circles
the beetle crawls
the packrat scuttles

waiting to feast on what is left
to circulate among the living

                                                                                                                                                
Image by Eveline de Bruin from Pixabay

Please visit my other blog on sustainable living onesweetearth.blog

The Art of Not Censoring Oneself

I found the following post in the DRAFT department of my wordpress site. I didn’t publish it because I thought it wasn’t interesting enough, exciting enough? But thinking about it now, this experience was important to me. That’s what’s key- not second guessing what someone else may think. As I say later in this essay, it’s about trusting one’s intuitive voice. Enough of this self censoring…

The following is an essay I wrote up from a 25 minute writing prompt from from my class at Fishtrap Writing Conference in E. Oregon last summer. The prompt was something like write about a risk you took that changed you. This experience popped up in my mind so I ran with it…

TOTEM

In the photograph, I am standing by a 4-foot totem of raw clay that is constructed around a young tree.  I am sporting a broad smile with a coworker.  In another photo were several children deep in the process of constructing it.  The totem was the finished project I was assigned as a parent volunteer at my son’s 5th-grade outdoor school camp.  I signed up for the art station since I was a practicing artist.  Not only did I want my students to experience creative magic in this cathedral of Douglas fir, cedar, and hemlock, I wanted them to honor the revered creatures of the indigenous people who once occupied this land. 

This project was new to me – but my intuition beckoned me to it like a faerie whispering in my ear. I quieted the fears of all the potential pitfalls and risks and decided to proceed despite them. In preparation, I brought 50 pounds of clay the color of a threatening sky.  For details, I had blue, red, and gold paint in 2 oz. bottles, some small paint brushes, and a handful of large, colorful plastic beads.  The rest of the materials we would gather from what the forest offered.

Each group of 4-5 students had been assigned to a clan for the duration of camp; beaver, porcupine, salmon, crab, raven, squirrel, and eagle.  I had selected a perfect juvenile western hemlock standing straight in a small clearing for our blank canvas.  As each clan of boys and girls arrived at the site for their session we spoke of their totem animal.  What did they know about it?  Why did the Native Americans celebrate it? What was the purpose of totems for coastal native Americans?

To construct their totem animal I explained they were free to use all the clay and tools provided but the rest they would need to gather from the surrounding environment. I spoke about the cooperative process. They were to recognize what each clan member had to offer.  I opened the first rectangular block of clay, cut it into pieces, and let the students begin allowing them to organize themselves as they saw fit.

Continue reading “The Art of Not Censoring Oneself”

Exploring Hidden Arizona

My husband and I left the cold rain of Oregon on Jan. 10 for a week-long getaway in Southern Arizona, the land of the saguaro cactus.  For me, a New Year’s trip is a welcome change from the winter doldrums and a way to reset for the coming year. 

High on our list to see was Chiricahua National Monument, an often overlooked gem tucked away in the SE part of the state in the Chiricahua mountains.  This was the land of Cochise and Geronimo, the homeland of the Chiricahua Apache before they were killed or displaced by white invaders. The word Chiricahua in Apache means stand-up rocks. In the park are thousands of pinnacles made up of layers of volcanic deposits of rhyolite that have been sculpted by wind and weather.  It’s a forest of rocks, a wonderland that we hiked through on the Echo Canyon trail from Massai Point.  We need to go back!

Photo by Brian Calk- McCauley Library
Sycamores in Madera Canyon

Another delight we found was Madera Canyon National Recreation Area nestled in the Santa Rita Mountains, not far from Green Valley, south of Tucson where we were staying. This is a premier birding area where you may see 250 species of birds, including. wild turkeys, 15 species of hummingbirds, elf owls, Mexican jays, and if you are lucky an elegant trogon. We were not lucky in this regard BUT we did get up close to a coatimundi.

Continue reading “Exploring Hidden Arizona”

A Joyful Hat

I was perusing downtown McMinnville last Friday as part of my weekly field trip habit to spark joy in 2023.  I ducked into a new little shop on a side street full of an eclectic mix of candles, plants, clothing, artwork and the like when I spotted the hats. They were displayed on the wall in subdued colors of black, grey, and navy. The hats were wide brim with wire inside for personalized form with tops of a low, bent, wizard shape- not so high to be audacious but just high enough to evoke a bit of Gandalf or Harry Potter.  Cool- but such dark colors.

Then in the next room, I spotted the red one perched on a coat rack above a trendy wrap.  I placed it on my head.  It was perfect.  Now I am not one to buy conversation piece clothing but had to have this hat (aging gives you license to not care what people think.) It would be a bit of joy to parade around in and make me feel just a tad magical.  Plus the wool blend and wide brim were a practical combination for the cold, rainy days of W. Oregon.  It would also be a blank canvas for some pins I had collected with nowhere else to display.

I paid for my purchase and wore my red hat out of the store.  People smiled.  One lady called out from across the street, “I love your outfit!”

Maybe it is a magic hat.

Joy, my word for 2023

P.S.

When I looked for a poem that celebrated red hats I found the Red Hat Society, an Internatonal organization dedicated to women over 50 who want live life to the fullest. “The Red Hat Society is a worldwide membership society that encourages women in their quest to get the most out of life. We support women in the pursuit of Fun, Friendship, Freedom, Fitness and the Fulfillment of lifelong dreams.” On their outings they wear red hats and purple clothing.

This poem is from the Red Hats of Manitoba

A Red Hat Poem
My hat I wear with great aplomb
It makes me feel so bolder
For though I’ve passed the “50” mark
I don’t feel any older
Than when I was a sweet young thing
Just barely out of my teens
And wearing out my platform shoes
And wide bell bottom jeans.
But now I have a purple frock
It really is a shocker
all finished off with “Big Red Hat”
With ostrich feather topper.
I know the colors really clash
To me, it does not matter
I’m proud to say, I’m in the club
I’m a “50” plus “Red Hatter”



Who knew it's a thing?  Perhaps I will join.  I've got the red hat.  All I need now is some purple clothing to go with it!

Tune into my other blog about sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog

Sparking Joy in 2023

Boganuary WordPress Challenge Jan. 1

From my new Lisa Condon calendar.
Mars

The New Year 2023 Started with some good omens, sunshine for one- always welcome in my corner of NW Oregon at this time of year.  The other was my 60 lb Cattle dog mix, Mars, jumped in the shower with me.  Since I got him 2 ½ months ago he’s always seemed fascinated with the shower, sticking his head in and catching streams of hot water.  This morning, thinking he really did want a hot shower, I said “come”, and he gleefully joined me.  If you are a dog lover you would see the delight in that. Plus, it’s an easy way to wash your dog.

I gave up the New Year’s resolution tradition years back seeing it as a recipe for disappointment.  Instead, I have a word (or words) of the year that can act as a guidepost for my annual journey.  I keep them posted in my journal and day planner to deep up the intention.  Last year’s were commitment, generosity, and focus (focus was a repeat from 2021).  I am happy to report I had a decent outcome with those.

So without further adieu, drum roll, my new word of the year is JOY.  After 3+ years of pandemic and political turmoil, a knee injury, and the passing of numerous friends and family, I’m ready for some.  I have this saying, “ spend as much on yourself as you do your car and your house.”  I’m so due for a little repair and maintenance.  This includes…

  • Shopping for some new clothes and ditching my threadbare clothing
  • Monthly massage & chiropractic for my poor aching back
  • Artist’s dates, library dates, field trips, and other little self-care tidbits that put some spark back in my life.

Author and home organizer, Marie Kondo begs the question “does this spark joy?”  That will be mine for the coming year.  I hope you take some time for joy too in 2023.

A Toast for 2023

It’s the season of new

the Earth has spun through the heavens

and arrived at the place we call the beginning

a bookmark we humans have put in the order of things

the New Year, the first day of the first month of the 23rd year of the 21st century

All is new, yet all the same

a cycle in a continuum of millennia

yet a comfort that we have a fresh start in our minds

Shall we proceed then with our new slippers

virgin calendars full of exotic pictures

day planners devoid of marks

and forge on with gusto?

for we have been given another turn

a blank canvas to paint another 12 months upon

Let us mix up our palettes with new intentions

hope, faith and the unseen circumstances that will surely find us

stroke, splash, and drip with abandon

make your marks with love, touching others with color

bringing forth new memories

painting this Earth a brighter place

The Zen of the Pause

The day after Christmas there’s this cosmic exhale.  It’s like a switch flips from the hysteria of the holidays to thinking about the New Year to come and cleaning up the mess of the old.  It’s the time of not doing, not shopping, not cooking, and not decorating.  It’s a time of regrouping.  It’s a good time to read, reflect, and rest.

Austin Kleon calls it Dead Week.  I prefer to call it the Pause, the little grace period between old and new.  So as I pause, I wish all my readers, the ones I know and the ones I’ve yet to meet…

                          HAPPY PAUSE!

                                   See you all in 2023

Winter Solstice 2022

We have arrived at the Winter Solstice, the tipping point where we in the N. Hemisphere mark the point where the earth will begin to rotate back to the sun’s full exposure. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year.  While our modern calendar denotes it as the first day of winter, there are those of us from the time of the ancients that mark it as a time of hope and new beginnings as the light returns each day, bit by bit.

Winter Solstice

On this longest night
we hover on the brink of change
plants shudder in their sleep
animals dream
as do we
for the brightening of the coming days

and a poem from my friend and poet Bethany Lee

Assembling at Solstice

Every year
your soul remembers
your first time here
on the dark side of the sun
How you wondered
beyond language
at this descent into night



Your mothers sang you the songs of joy
dipped tapers 
lit wicks against despair 
Your fathers polished harnesses
by firelight, quietly
trusting in reaping’s return
These are the days for polishing
for trusting and for singing
for gathering the wisdom 
of those who make their lives by hand
These are the days for stories by candle
of lamps that stayed burning
of stars in the sky
of new life coming always 
into the unexpected places
like snowbanks and stables 
and endings and springtime 
Alone our souls remember the darkness
Together we summon and kindle the light

Bethany Lee



 
Happy solstice everyone!

Illustration and Winter Solstice poem by the author.

Check out my other blog on sustainability at onesweetearth.blog

Meet Mars

After our sweet 17-year-old Bandit the red heeler passed two years ago, we thought a break from dog care, especially that of the elder type, would do us good.  I was hoping our cats would fill the void and miraculously become lap cats, but they had other plans and demanded to be outdoor kitties no matter how much I tried to convince them otherwise.

Then come 2022 with all our personal losses, there was a wide void that needed to be filled.   I decided two years without a dog is enough.  I began a search in earnest online, Petfinder, Craigslist, and dog rescues.  Requirements- no puppies, already trained, no “fixer-uppers.” (been there, done that.)  I needed a ready-made companion that would help get me out of the house.  Finally, after several months enter Mars, a Craigslist pooch a gorgeous male half-cattle dog and half-husky or German shepherd.  His 2nd owner was moving to Maui and his first owner moved to France.  I on the other hand was settled and not budging from my home in Oregon of 30 years

.

Mars was a gift. He fit into our lives like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle with a soft satisfying snap. Mars adores going on walks, playing ball, cuddling, and being our guy. It’s amazing how much a dog can offer to one’s life.  He has brought the two of us so much happiness. Meet Mars…

Artwork, video, & home photos by the author. Beach photos by Twee Ngyuen.

Please visit my other blog on sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog

The Zen of Purpose

One of my favorite sayings comes from the bible Ecclesiastes 3:1-8…

“To everything a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…”

As the year winds down and daylight wanes with winter, I start thinking more about my purpose in life.  Purpose gives one reason to get up in the morning.  It’s a use of time that contributes to others, yourself, and/or the earth. Having purpose is less subject to change than having goals.  Goals are embedded within purpose. For example, if my purpose is to be a writer, publishing a book might be a goal.  One of my purposes is to help the environment. A goal to accomplish that is to establish a native plant garden on my property which I’m currently working on.

Purpose can be multifaceted and can change with life stages.  Before it was fairly simple- survive my middle school teaching job, be a good mother, and hang onto my creative outlets as best I could in the process.  Living a purposeful life has become murkier as I’ve retired and my son is raised and out of the house.  I am more in control of my life than before so it’s up to my discretion to figure it out rather than have it be molded by outside circumstances.  This can be a daunting task and I’ve had to be intentional about it.

Now as I age I set my purpose to maintain my health, stay connected to nature, stay connected with family and friends, help with environmental causes, and keep my many creative pursuits going while sharing them with others. I post a little diagram of purpose along with some goals on my dry-erase board so it is easily seen and adjusted if need be (I’m one of those people that needs a visual).

Life is complicated. When I feel lost my visual acts as my GPS, keeps me on track ,and my spirit grounded.  It answers that question- uh, what exactly am I doing here?

Illustrations by the author

Please also check out my bog on sustainability at onesweetearth.blog

The Zen of Sourdough

Years ago I used to bake bread frequently- until I discovered I was gluten intolerant.  I missed the bread and the process.  Then this last year I discovered I could make a decent sourdough in a dutch oven.  An all sourdough bread will consume the gluten in the proofing process making it digestable for me- as long as I use organic flour.  I’m sensive to all the chemicals in regular flour.  Now I bake bread weekly.  I find the ritual of baking bread a meditative & sensual process.  One must be very in tune with the dough to know when you have it right. A bit of biology, chemistry, intuition, and a touch of alchemy can make four ingredients so delicious!

Sourdough Bread  

Flour, water, salt, starter

Combine, then gather with your hands

sticky with dough

Let the mixture rest 30 minutes

Form into a ball, now baby soft

Let it sleep while you sleep, eight hours or so.

Wake to the white mound doubled

Gather again, caressing this living substance back into a ball,

Place in a cloth-lined proofing basket

like you’re putting it down for a nap

In 3 or so hours this colony of wild yeast will reclaim its rightful size

Gingerly invert the dough from its basket

Score your design into its skin then

carefully lower it into a hefty cast iron pot

and slide it into the oven preheated to 450 degrees

Cover and bake for 25 minutes

Remove the cover and bake 15 minutes more until browned

(Savor the aroma of baking bread wafting through the house)

When the final timer rings

remove your lovely loaf and wait one final time for it to cool.

Saw the knife blade through the crust releasing the first slice,

exhaling the breath of wild yeast

Slather some butter on the warm bread

Savor and share in good company

Here is the link for recipe I use. (I cut down the water to 1 cup for a more workable dough.)

Photos, sketch, and poem by the author

Tune into my other blog about sustainability at onesweetearth.blog