Tiny notes of happiness bring smiles

Three years ago, I wrote things that made me happy on tiny slips of paper and put them into a jar. The object was to do it every day and then read them when the year was over. I’m a little late. That was 2015, and now it’s 2018. But these multicolored pieces of paper still make me happy. Three years ago, I was getting over a badly sprained ankle that I injured between Christmas and New Year’s. (read the blog posts about that here and here). My father had survived his heart surgery and had not yet broken his hip. Like now, I was playing and singing at Sacred Heart and plugging away at my writing career. Annie and I walked these coastal woods most days. Her muzzle wasn’t all white then. The tree had not fallen on my fence and house. And gosh, Medicare was way in the future.

I’m thinking I’ll write little happy notes for this year, too. I can start with this morning’s beautiful pink sunrise. Or maybe last night’s full moon. Or the moment after yesterday’s walk when Annie and I visited with our neighbor Pat and the dogs Harley and Cooper. Three big dogs to pet at once and a friend to talk to: Heaven. Even in the midst of horrible times, we can still find little things to be grateful for.

Here are some of the things that made me smile in 2015.

The ankle:

* First sun in winter. First soak in the hot tub since my injury.

* Buying my own groceries despite limping in with a crutch

* Walking to the end of the block

* New ankle brace arrived. Put shoe on, was able to walk almost like a normal person.

* A real dog walk on my sprained ankle, and it didn’t feel too bad.

* Walking on two good feet.

Food!

* Ham and eggs

* Tuna melt at Fishtails

* Turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and iced tea

* Big salad with slices of linguica on top, Portuguese sweet bread on the side

* Marionberry pie with vanilla ice cream at The Chalet

 * Fresh-baked peanut butter cookies

Writing

* Kind words from an editor who called my novel a feel-good book and my writing masterful

* Reading my poems to the kids and parents in Siletz, feeling like a rock star

* I won a writing contest!

* Reading poems I wrote 34 years ago and finding them good

* Sitting in the sun writing a poem

Music

* Creating a choir of strangers for the World Day of Prayer and making beautiful music from a few pages of words and notes

* Singing full out with mandolin, fiddles, and guitar all in perfect harmony at the South Beach jam

* Feeling the power of my fingers on the keys of a perfectly tuned piano

Miscellaneous

* Laughing with Dad on his 93rd birthday

* Stunning quiet of the coastal forest in soft spring sun. Moss-wrapped fir trees

* The first perfect pink camellia blooms appear on my neighbor’s bush

* Shiny new library books

* Nice repairman makes dryer hum

* Admiring the lawn I just mowed

* Reading and dozing in the loveseat by the fire with Annie sound asleep in my lap

* Spinning out on ice and surviving

* A great night’s sleep

* Doc says I’m healthy

Instead of a jar, this year I’m using a tall, sturdy box with sayings about dogs printed on it. A gift from a friend came in that box, which makes it all the more special.

Join me in saving those little moments. When life gets tough, we can reach in and remember that there are good things to celebrate every day. You’re welcome to share your “moments” here.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Sue

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Native American party shows true meaning of generosity

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In this season when people seemed to be obsessed with gifts and kids are encouraged to makes lists for Santa Claus demanding all the things they want, an event last weekend showed me the joy of giving and receiving in a whole other way.

The occasion was my friend and fellow author Dorothy Black Crow Mack’s 80th birthday party. She had what she called a peschelt, more commonly known to us white folk as a potlatch. Instead of receiving lots of gifts, the honoree gives gifts to her guests.

We gathered at the Newport Visual Arts Center. As I walked in, I saw Dorothy in a black sweater with a big red sun in the middle, a long black skirt and bright red socks. A red bandanna barely held back her waist-long hair. The guests, a mix of Native American friends, poets, artists, quilters, and family from all over Oregon and across the country, stood in line to hug Dorothy.

Chairs were arranged in a circle around the room. Framed William Stafford poems sat on the edges of the windows, which overlooked Nye Beach. The ocean was wild and frothy from recent storms.

Stretched across the room were blankets covered with brightly colored scarves, tablecloths, pillows, and more blankets. White candles flickered in the middle. Clearly Dorothy had been doing a lot of sewing.

Tables were laden with all kinds of food, including fry bread, dips, salmon, beef, salads, desserts, rice, puff pastry and more.

Spiritual leader Johnny Moses blessed the food and burst into song. Others joined him. They banged drums and rang bells. This first of many songs was repetitive and easy to catch the melody if not the words. It went on a while, sometimes very soft, sometimes surprisingly loud, with a hypnotic feeling. A woman across from me raised her hands up like they do in some Christian churches and rocked, eyes closed as she sang.

After we ate, the giveaway began. Dorothy and chosen people distributed the gifts to everyone. You could not refuse. Soon we were all sitting with stacks of pillows, tablecloths, scarves, oranges and chocolates.

When they got down to the blankets, Dorothy picked up one end of the first one and mutual friend Teresa Wisner picked up the other. Several people fell in line behind them. They paraded around the room three times before wrapping the blanket around a chosen person. Music played the whole time, the drums, the chanting, the bells. After each awarding of a blanket, the men roared in a low voice, and the women answered in a high yipping call. They did this many times, I’d guess 10, until the blankets were gone. I received the final blanket, gray, brown, and white striped. I felt honored with a connection that needed more than words to express.

Several people were chosen as “witnesses.” A $20 bill was pinned to their shirts. They got up and talked about Dorothy. Meanwhile, Dorothy held a basket. We all lined up and circled the room to drop money in the basket for Dorothy. I wish I had known to bring more cash.

It was a reverent, loving occasion that made my Mass at Sacred Heart afterward feel flat and mechanical. People sit in their pews and do nothing. At the peschelt, everyone was singing, dancing, and giving. No one was allowed to just watch. No one demanded what they wanted. They accepted what they were given with gratitude.

I never felt so white. Back in San Jose, I went to a lot of Mexican and Portuguese fiestas, but that was a whole different thing. I’m beginning to realize that my heritage may be Latina and Iberian, but I was raised fully in the Anglo culture. It takes more than knowing a few words of the language.

It occurred to me that I was descended from the people who took the Native Americans’ lands and lives. Yet here I was sitting with a pile of gifts on my lap. So much love.

Dorothy is a gringa by birth, but she married a Lakota medicine man and lived on a reservation for many years. She adopted the culture as her own. As a sister writer, she has been my teacher and critique partner for a long time. Her novel The Handless Maiden: A Lakota Mystery came out this year. It is so good, and there are more books to come. People like Dorothy are a gift to us all.

I feel like I already had my Christmas.

Dear readers, I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a new year full of blessings. As always, I welcome your comments.