Falls mainly on the bricks and browned-out grass and patio in the garden making mud and dirt and splash and water and more leaves on the ground to rake, rake, rake. That has been the latest installment in our continuing saga of peculiar summer weather here in western Oregon. My day? Dojo meeting, ladies lunch, blog writing, laundry washing, Divaville listening. All while the rain falls strange, out of context, and the clouds sail, drift, list, bend, move farther on down the road.
Friday afternoon in this northeastern corner of Portland, Oregon and I'm rocking out to Warren Zevon with the windows, front and back doors open, and the fresh air and sunshine pouring in.
Today's a good day to remember:
Everything that is simple is complex. Everything that is complex is simple.
The sun returned on Thursday when I went on my adventure with a friend to Astoria and the lovely, deserted-but-for-us beach at Fort Stevens Park. So today is continuing worship at its bounty and celebration of the bright, the light, the cast shadows, the warmth. I begin to totally get all those pagan rituals banishing winter dark. Today, I could paint my face and dance a jig around a campfire I feel so overjoyed to have the lit up and blue-skied finally and again.
From a great Warren Zevon song, anthem of sorts, really, called Desperadoes Under the Eaves:
Still waking up in the morning with shaking hands / And I'm trying to find a girl who understands me
But except in dreams you're never really free. / Don't the sun look angry at me?
I'll bet no one asked him to explain the meaning of that.
OK, it's been two days in a row now. High temperatures barely squeaking past 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Lows in the 40s at night. Cloudy, gray, blustery. Moods low and sinking even faster. Forget about putting away those winter layers and be sure to turn on a few extra full spectrum lights. I tried to motivate today. Did get groceries, rustle up grub for dinner, finish the vacuuming I started on Saturday, did laundry, and hauled the now-empty trash and recycling containers from the curb. But mostly, I felt lackluster and dim. The only Vitamin D entering my system today was from the cup of skim milk I had with lunch. I hate when I complain about the weather. It's so bratty and spoiled. But, honestly, even The Oregonian had words about this never-arriving spring and now what, a dozen days until the summer solstice? Sigh.
That's what we are having today. Sun, almost warm, almost to the point you don't need layers and winter fleece, and then the clouds blow in and, in time, a quiet, gentle spring rain begins. Not-yet-summer in the city.
I'm not disputing the wonderfulness of the smells. Clean, earth, dirt, driveway asphalt. And that I love living this close to the mighty Columbia River and letting it do its things re: weather day in and day out. My big issue is, really, that I had to shut every fresh-air window in the house around 4 p.m. today because it got so cold! This is June, alright, already. Still, let's not forget the something lovely that is the sound of spring rain on the blooming privet, camellia, azalea, rhododendrons, and whatever else is out there in the botanical menagerie.
It's a lazy, cloudy, rainy Tuesday here in Venice. A black skiff painted with the faces of Disney's Seven Dwarves just sped along the Rio San Barnaba canal below our apartment windows. It sets a person wondering -- what is that about? John left in search of a bungee cord so we can affix our Gimi shopping trolley (purchased at the Billa supermercato on the Zattere, on sale, cheap!) to the front or back of one of our suitcases and thus be ensured admittance onto the vaporetto when we head to Piazzale Roma and the world of cars on Saturday morning -- you're only allowed one piece of luggage apiece, backpacks not included. I stayed behind to read a few more cantos of the Divine Comedy, tidy the kitchen, and set the table for lunch as I listen to WQXR FM from New York City play Vivaldi, one of Venice's native sons, and a Telemann viola concerto after the announcer tells me that it's 52 degrees in Central Park and the Cleveland Indians lost to the New York Yankees last night.
In many ways, this life here has begun to seem not much different from the one I lead back in Portland, Oregon. Wasn't that the desired purpose when we first planned this adventure? To see what it would be like to live in this gorgeous spot on the earth for a bit, to immerse ourselves in the daily and sample just a bit beyond the view a tourist would generally get? And just like my life in the US, there are quiet days, lazy days, do-nothing, down days, hole-up-at-home and veg out days. I feel I'm fighting the undertow of the American on-the-go no-matter-what culture when I wake up and decide I'd rather sit than venture out into the streets with my umbrella and the inevitable slow-strolling, photo-taking crowds. Because this scene is definitely anti-that constant be somewhere, do something, achieve, achieve, achieve urgency that seems to have infected the United States -- well, at least the more prosperous and educated parts -- like a virus. Slow continues to be my theme for this trip, I guess. Actually my life in Portland, too, now that I think about it. I'm sure someone has already written a book about the subject. Seems everything these days gets captured, studied, summarized, turned into a trend or a commodity and sold somehow to some marketplace. It is enough to make one want to join the prisoners making their way to their cells across the Bridge of Sighs and sigh.
The rain is largely over in New York, I just learned, and the announcer got "schpritzed" coming into work but it wasn't unpleasant. Spritz is the orange aperitif you see the multitudes sipping in late afternoon, early evening at any number of Venice outdoor cafes -- Aperol, a wedge of orange, and a green olive on a skewer are some of the ingredients. Back to Dante -- soon the bells will be ringing noon.
I'm not sure if I can attribute it to being too fond of books, as the Lainie's Lady sent to me from Brisbane, Australia, by a friend says, quoting Louisa May Alcott, but today my brain has been addled by sickness and general aching malaise.
It's nearly dusk. The clouds above our stretch of houses here on this quiet NE 22nd Avenue hillock up from Lombard toward Alberta Park are a soft mauve and gray. This is peace, you know, this sitting here with Billie Holliday on the iPod, watching the light leach from the day, the blue-gray of Roy's house next door become flatter and purely gray. Even as I flail about, questioning and wondering, feeling another day gone, slipped away, out of my hands because of a body not cooperating, not allowing me to feel well enough to attend an event I said two months back I'd go to. Lots of issues with that, my feeling less-than-perfect, a party pooper, a lackluster disappointment. Planes circle, pass overhead, prepare to land.
There are pink buds on fruit trees in back yards and on the median between the sidewalk and the street. Our own garden bursts with pollen, ripeness from the giant maples. We're here barely two months in this home, this place I continue to unpack, sort, organize, and arrange.
I was surprised to hear and see that it was raining tonight. OK, it's only March and this is the Pacific Northwest. But somehow all the blooming, the bulbs up and showy, the fruit trees, the camellias and almost the rhododendrons, had convinced me that winter was over which means sun instead of rain.
I went out to retrieve a box of recyclable paper now sodden and soggy because it sat in the rain outside the locked door to the garage. Went out to toss scooped scoopable litter so it doesn't smell up the house. Went out to stuff a bunch of envelopes to return to Federal Express into the front seat of the already crowded pickup. Went out to remember, after a day of desk drawer tidying, that there is fresh air out there and somewhere a moon and now a bird bath to entice the wee chirpers to our back garden. Meanwhile, a bird has been merrily sitting on top of the nesting box outside our front door. Moved in? While I continue to putter and sort and nail and order and re-arrange and make decisions of minimal consequence here in my life on the inside.
Three miniature jonquils grace a blue glass inkwell -- early 20th century for sure. I found it at the antique store in Montrose, Pennsylvania—Mary's, I think that's the name— that day I was driving the back roads to Ithaca. It was February 29th and I was racing the coming snow, a storm that would bring the return of the gray but stopping at yet another familiar landmark along that all-too familiar itinerary from all those years slogging between family and our gypsy life in central New York. Classical music on the radio, familiar mileposts and landmarks, and yet my own life, far, far away now from all that. Can a blown glass inkwell be enough to remind me, be enough to cause me to sentimentally reminisce? Maybe it is true that objects hold the meaning to so much of everything. If only the many that surround me could talk, share their colorful pasts...
Arctic chill has blanketed our corner of Oregon. Winds are stirring the firs and sequoias, up from the Columbia River which isn't that far from our house. Even around the summit of Mt. Hood, it's so clear you can see the snow swirl. Bright blue sky by day, bright white full moon at night. The kind of brisk that makes you feel achingly good and tired after a walk. Chill that makes you glad to be able to stay in a warm inside.
A woman behind the deli counter at New Seasons is wearing a skirt made of knotted scarves, all different colors and lengths, tied to a belt or waistband and this get-up over tights or a pair of pants. A white truck spent a good part of the afternoon in the driveway of our new house. When I headed out to walk earlier, it was rumbling down the street past here. Rhododendrons are starting to bud, as well as other shrubs that I don't yet recognize along a few houses on my walk. How can it be the 3rd week of January and hinting at spring? That's what I love about living out here. The overall temperateness. Even with a few days, or a week, of temperatures that barely climb above freezing, a purple primrose and a red rosebud bloom.
...to convey the utter gray blear of this Monday afternoon. Here's all I've been able to come up with so far. Rain that's a steady drone on the roof, and every now and then the wind will blow the rain across the roof shingles and it will sound almost musical, but not quite. Another gust will slam it into the screen and glass of the window and that will be a familiar childhood sound—rain so torrential being trapped indoors was the best it was going to get. Every few minutes for the past several hours, there's been the sound of a plane taking off from the airport, the flight pattern changed because of today's weather to go pretty much directly over the house. It's hard not to want to draw an analogy to what it must sound like in a war zone.
It's a hard day to shake the blues, to feel perky and upbeat and optimistic and into creative writing. Tonight there will be music, a cappella for the holiday season from the Tallis Scholars. In an hour, I'll make a strong cup of coffee. I'd walk to get one at Extracto over on Killingsworth but I'm not sure I would survive the deluge in any way intact.
Stronger, more disciplined, more ambitious souls than me would use all this to their advantages. I wallow instead. Days like these feel like waiting, waiting, waiting for no one quite knows what.