Walking the Bayfront in a post-tax haze

Almost all of the snow had melted at the edges of Bay Street as I walked the Bayfront yesterday in a daze. I had just come from having my taxes done. It was the first time I had ever paid someone to do my return. My late husband Fred was a licensed tax preparer and started doing mine shortly after we met. When he became incapacitated, I used Turbo Tax to do it myself.

But this year, with Fred having died and a trust, Medicaid and other issues to deal with, I decided I needed help. As it turns out, this year’s return wasn’t much different from the others. This would be our last joint return, but otherwise it was money in and money out as usual.

I was in shock for a lot of reasons. It was hard doing this without Fred, talking so much about him being dead and going over the expenses from the early months of 2011 when he was so sick. It was difficult having to enumerate all of my writing expenses, medical expenses, and charity deductions, to pull together a whole year of life that was often fogged by grief. And then I was gobsmacked to discover the preparer’s services would cost me $550. I have to pay $350 to the state of Oregon, less than I paid last year. But I am getting a refund from the federal government. Next year, as a single woman with a lower income and fewer pieces of paper, the whole process will be simpler. I think I’ll go back to doing it myself.

Doing taxes is a profitable gig. Tax money took Fred and me on many wonderful vacations to places like Portugal, Costa Rica, Canada, and Hawaii. Our trips, like our wedding, always happened after tax season. During tax season, Fred worked like a madman, rarely coming up for air. Our phone rang constantly with tax clients wanting to set up appointments, ask questions, or find out when their returns would be ready.

I have often wished I had the aptitude to prepare other people’s tax returns myself. There’s money to be made, and I like numbers, but they just don’t behave when I deal with them. I’m a words and music girl. Besides, tax returns are stressful. I used to feel the tension in Fred’s clients, just like I felt it in myself yesterday as I sat in the tax office, anxiously watching the preparer type numbers into her computer. Would I have to pay? Would they accept my deductions? Would I have all the numbers and forms I needed?

Coming out of the tax office, I gulped air and headed for the Bayfront. Despite the morning’s surprise snow shower, the sun was out. The street was fairly deserted, but I passed a family staring into the candy shop, men smoking outside the fish plant, and a young woman smoking outside the Bay Haven tavern. Glass art, kites, tee shirts and geegaws of all sorts sparkled in the gift shops. Late afternoon diners lingered over pizza and beer at Rogue Ale and shrimp melts at Local Ocean. I stood at the rail outside the Noodle Cafe and stared at the big white NOAA ships anchored across the bay. Cormorants and gulls glided by in the bright sky. I noticed an empty crab shell on the deck and wondered how it got there. Then I walked past Port Dock I restaurant, closed for storm damage repairs, to where the sea lions usually congregate on floating docks. They weren’t there. It’s winter on the Bayfront. I zipped Fred’s old jacket tight around me against the cold wind and walked from one end of the Bayfront to the other, the sun in my eyes slowly burning away the post-tax-appointment haze.

In my mind, I have already spent my refund four different ways. May your taxes turn out as well.

Walking with butterflies

I step out of the noise of the Bayfront on a tourist-crowded summer afternoon into what looks like a greenhouse. Pink, and purple poseys and bright yellow sunflowers bloom on shelves, their perfume blending with the scent of wet soil. Signs urge visitors to step carefully on the fake-lawn carpet. As I watch, something moves past me: a butterfly. The closer I look, the more I see. Butterflies sit on flower petals, dot the ceiling and windows, and rest on the floor, their wings moving slowly. This is Butterfly Adventures, a temporary exhibit in Mariner Square in Newport, Oregon.

The brainchild of former residents Peter and Lisa Noah, the exhibit gives visitors a chance to see free-flying butterflies up close. The beautiful insects may even light on one’s hair or hands if one is lucky.

Signs around the room offer interesting facts about the different types of butterflies and their life cycle from caterpiller to butterfly. Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?

Most of the butterflies here are Monarchs, big orange and black beauties that tend to gather in the sunniest spots. A few have bent wings, damaged by some mishap. Their lives are short and could be shortened in such a space. How easy it would be to step on an unseen butterfly. I saw a little girl do just that. It’s a risk operating such an exhibit, which is probably why it will only be open through the end of August. But it is sweet to sit with a butterfly for a while, closely studying each other.

Butterfly Adventures is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets, available in the Mariner Square gift shop, are $5 for adults, $3 for children 3 to 11 years old. Photos are encouraged.

For more information, visit the Butterfly Adventures web site or the Monarch butterfly site.

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.


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