This is why we moved to the Oregon Coast

Yesterday was one of those days when it was easy to remember why we left Silicon Valley for the Oregon Coast. The day had its challenges (rejections, home repairs, computer woes), but it certainly had its consolations. Let me share a quick list:

  •  The weather was spectacular, in the 70s with a sky far brighter than so-called “sky blue.” More like royal blue.
  • A screw fell out of my glasses. Within a half hour, I was able to drive to the optometrist’s office without traffic, get it fixed immediately and have a nice visit with the ladies there. Add a stop at the South Beach post office and a trip through the drive-through window at West Coast Bank and I was still home in less than an hour. That would never happen in San Jose. I’d still be sitting at a stoplight.
  • Annie and I went to the dog park and met a great group of friends with terrific dogs who played until their tongues were hanging out. A dog named Buddy adopted me and rested at my feet. Instead of being jealous, Annie adopted Buddy’s owner. 
  • After a great pasta dinner, I headed out for a meeting of the Oregon Coast chapter of Willamette Writers and saw the most spectacular sunset, with layers of red and yellow and white that had me fumbling for the camera on my phone.
  • At Willamette Writers, which branch I co-founded a few years back, I was asked to tell about my new book, Shoes Full of Sand, and welcomed to sell copies. The guest speaker, Valerie Brooks, remembered me from other WW events. They don’t call Newport “the friendliest” for nothing.
  • Fifteen minutes after the meeting ended, I was home in my hot tub looking at a sky full of stars.  

This is why we moved to Oregon. 

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Serendipity

Saturday was one of those days when my husband wanted to be anywhere but the adult foster care home where he lives now, so I pointed the car east, not sure where I was going, only knowing that the weather was warmer in that direction. I remembered an antiques store in Toledo, OR was selling off its inventory with 50 percent discounts. Why not? So we had wandered down Main Street and were on our way back up to the car with a pretty blue candle holder when I saw my friend Loie approaching with a glass in her hand. I had seen Loie twice that week already, at the Central Coast Chorale concert Sunday (fabulous!) and our Willamette Writers meeting on Tuesday.

“Sue Lick!” she shouted.

“You’re everywhere!” I hollered back. Not another soul was on that street to hear us. In fact, most of the businesses were closed. Toledo can be eerily quiet sometimes. As Loie got closer, I asked if that brown liquid in her glass was iced tea or something stronger. She just smiled.

Then she explained that another friend had seen us through the window of the Pig Feathers barbecue place and she’d come out to fetch us. “All your writer friends are there having a party for Trish’s birthday,” she said. “Come join us.”

I looked at my watch. Fred was due back at Graceland for dinner in 45 minutes, but I could make a phone call . . . “Okay. I’m going to go down and get the car.”

“Tell me you’re not just going to drive away,” she nudged.

“Oh no.” God no, a party where I didn’t have to dress up, entertain, or bring a potluck dish? Save me a seat.

A few minutes later, my confused husband and I walked into the restaurant to a rain of applause. Soon we were eating barbecue, drinking Hamm’s beer, laughing and making far too much noise. When I had arrived at the care home, Fred had been sitting in the dark in his room doing nothing, just looking angry. Now, for the first time in weeks, he was smiling, and so was I. It was exactly the right medicine for both of us.

Most of the folks there used to meet monthly, ostensibly to critique each other’s writing, but we spent more time eating and socializing, and nobody’s work ever got negative reviews. On Saturday, we decided to start meeting again, but this time it would be purely social. Cheers to that.

God is good.

The ghost of William Stafford was there

Last night, nobody came to our Happy Birthday William Stafford poetry reading and that was fine with us. We three women watched the clock tick past 7, realized we were the only people coming, kicked off our shoes and gathered around the boom box to listen to a CD of the former Oregon poet laureate at his last public reading before he died in 1993.

Host Marianne Klekacz, who had optimistically set about 30 chairs in a circle in the Newport Library meeting room, couldn’t understand why all those folks who had said they’d be there weren’t. Their loss. Marianne, Dorothy Mack and I, co-coordinators of the Oregon Coast Branch of Willamette Writers, munched cookies and listened to this down-to-earth poet read and talk about his work as if he were right there in the room. His voice and style reminded me of Woody Guthrie.

Most Oregon poets are crazy about Stafford, whom I had never heard of before I moved here from California. He was American Poet Laureate in 1970 and Oregon Poet Laureate from 1975 to 1993. He published 67 books, including Traveling through Dark, which won the National Book Award, and Stories That Could Be True: New & Collected Poems. For all the Stafford facts, visit the Friends of William Stafford site.

What impresses me most about Stafford is his work ethic. He got up before dawn to write a poem every day, including the day he died. Considering he lived almost 80 years, that’s a lot of poetry.

Last year we had a big crowd at the Stafford reading, including people who had known him in life. This year, we were competing with a big literary event in Lincoln City, plus the inauguration of President Barack Obama. So we sipped our tea and ate our cookies and listened to Stafford. Weary of the hard blue chairs and tired of staring at the “state flowers” quilt on the wall, I slipped to the floor and did some yoga stretches on the turquoise carpet, keeping my body busy while my brain followed the poet’s words. I have a feeling he would have approved, saying, “Go ahead. Make yourself comfortable.” It was a well-spent evening.

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Our Willamette Writers chapter usually meets on the first Tuesday of the Month. On Feb. 3, we will welcome Samantha Ducloux Waltz, who has written essays for many magazines, newspapers and anthologies, including A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s, which has one of my stories, too. She’s going to share how to write and sell personal essays. The program is at the Newport Library, 7 p.m., free as always. Snacks will be provided, but no ghosts.