Simple gifts

It’s raining sideways on the Oregon Coast today. Fierce winds sailed the cover off my hot tub across the grass last night and mangled the rack on which it rests when in use. The exposed water steams and churns like an angry ocean. Deck chairs went flying like toys, and fallen branches cover the lawn. Annie the dog and I are both feeling a little put out by the weather, but we do have some things to be thankful for.

Yesterday a friend used his only day off to clean out my gutters. They were jammed with dirt, pine needles and unidentifiable smelly junk. When he couldn’t reach it all by ladder, he climbed up on my mossy roof, working in the rain. I kept saying, “You don’t have to do that,” but he insisted. So now, the rain pours smoothly into the gutters and through the downspouts to the ground.

A few days ago, after another grueling visit to my husband in the nursing home in Albany, I received another gift. I was watching TV, all wrapped up in a blanket, with Annie on my lap, when I heard what sounded like gunshots. Now, I live out in the forest, and it’s not unusual to hear one or two shots, but this was continuous. Pop, pop, pop. I jumped up, spilling Annie onto the floor. Holding her back, I stepped cautiously into the moonlight. Oh my gosh. To the southwest, I saw fireworks through the trees. Red, green and gold firebursts sparkled against the black sky, falling gently to the ground.

It was like Fourth of July, but it was March 27, and I didn’t have to leave home or fight crowds. I advanced to a clearer view and stood there marveling. I assume someone was celebrating a wedding, anniversary or something else on the beach. I can’t see the shore through the trees. But it felt like such a gift, like those dreams where a parade comes down your street, only it was real. Thank you, God.

Now if somebody would materialize to help me get the cover on the spa . . .

Ah, Warm Again

Here in the forest, the difference between being warm and being miserable depends on the state of the pellet stove. If I run out of pellets, brrr. And if one little wire decides to short out one little fuse, I have to put on my long underwear and ski jacket just to be warm. In fact, these days it’s warmer outside than in.

It happened on a Sunday, of course, and in the winter, when the area’s one guy qualified to fix these things is booked solid. Turn up the thermostat. Nothing. Push the reset button. Nothing. Play with the plug. Nothing. The stove was cold and so was I. The little electric heater barely warmed a square foot right in front of it. The cold laughed at its puny efforts. I cursed. I thought about moving to a house with a real heater. I daydreamed about warm air coming through vents at the flick of a switch.

I dreaded having the stove guy out, not just for the expense and disruption of my day but for the lectures he inflicts on his customers. On and on. “Now, Sue, take a look at this. . . ” I know. Just fix it.

It was the worth the lecture to have him come out this morning and fix the stove before the walls started to mold. He rearranged his schedule and gave me the “poor woman living alone” discount (not that he said so, but I can read). Now a yellow-orange flame burns hotly in the newly cleaned window as the fan pours out heat. Annie the dog and I jostle for space in front of the stove. Ahh, warm again.

Another birthday survived

I did it. I made it through another birthday. For once, I didn’t cry. It’s all Mom’s fault. She did this Queen for a Day thing where I woke up with my bed covered with gifts, went to school wearing something new, got to eat whatever I wanted and always had a family gathering with cake and more presents. She set a precedent. Now I want every birthday to be like that. As an adult, I got in the habit of taking off for the day to the coast, the woods, or a historical site. But I always knew we’d be celebrating in the evening. Except for the year my dear husband misunderstood and didn’t get me a cake because he thought I was on a diet. Diets do not include your birthday. Never.

Now, however, I live up here in Oregon’s coastal forest with my dog Annie. The dog does not do birthdays. She wants to play keep-away with the stick, go for walks, sleep on my lap, eat lots of “cookies” and chase invisible invaders in the dark.

I have had some lonely birthdays up here, and I thought this might be the loneliest. But no. I dragged my slightly older body to yoga class, where I proved to myself that I’m in darned good shape for my age. At the end of class, a friend asked what I was doing for my birthday. “Not much,” I said. “Well, how about if we go out for dinner?” she asked. So we did. She brought her husband, and another yoga couple met us at the Noodle House on Newport’s Bayfront. Great food, great conversation, a great ocean view, and they even gave me presents. No cake. But we did have these interesting cinnamon noodle rolls with a candle in the middle of the plate.

When you do yoga together, you create a bond. How can you not be friends when you stick your rear end up in the air in downward-facing dog, fall down trying to balance on one foot, and twist your arms and legs in ways they never intended to go?

Thank you, Lin, Jackson, Fran and Bill. It was great.

P.S. Don’t let me drink champagne next time.

Namaste.

Did I really see that?



On my long drives to and from Salem last month, I saw some amazing things. One of the wildest was a guy dressed up like the Statue of Liberty. He was advertising a tax preparation service. I had stopped at a light on Lancaster, and there he was. By the time I got my camera out, he had almost moved out of frame, but if you look closely, you’ll see him all in green.

Another guy nearly caused an accident. I was just driving onto the Yaquina Bridge here in Newport on my way to church, when I saw a group coming out of the Seafood and Wine Festival. One of them, a young man, had his pants down so low his entire butt cheeks were showing. He was clutching his pants in front. I don’t understand what was going on. Were his jeans severely damaged? Did he do it on a dare? Was he that drunk?

Sometimes I just see beautiful things, like a great sunset. As I came up over the hill and down into Newport, there it was. I changed course and drove straight to Yaquina Bay State Park where I snapped this shot.

Keep your eyes open, folks. There’s always something to see.