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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year With Puppy

How did it get to be the last day of 2008? I don't think we had Christmas yet, did we? Oh yeah, that's right. That happened while we were buried under two feet of snow up here, bermed in by the one snow plow that scraped the first 18 inches off Clatsop Road. And then I got The Puppy and of course all spare time vanished instantly as I kept track of my small whirlwind of exuberant Australian Shepherd. Actually, she -- Cricket -- who arrived Sunday evening, has spoiled me for puppies forever. She looked for the list of rules posted by the door, read them, said 'okay, sure' and that was that. Well, yeah, she still rockets around the house like that tasmanian devil out of the Bugs Bunny cartoons when she does the puppy equivalent of the two-year-old windup for a crash. And she has proved that Annie, my four year old Rottie, has a sterling temprament, considering that Cricket much prefers to swing from Annie's jowls than bite my ankels. I growl louder.

Cricket is from a very strong line of working Aussies, destined to work sheep, cattle, and ducks (actually she has already worked ducks a bit). She loves to retrieve, but I think that's written into the Aussie genetic code. And she's rottie color, of course. With white feet. Which aren't white very long, once we get out into the now-muddy pasture. My friend Trudy's bitch, Tick, had her just for me, of course.

So I'm too busy to notice that we've finished up a year...especially since I have two weeks worth of Long Ridge students, sent by Second Day Air, lost in one of what the UPS guy (who delivered THIS week's worth on time) told me is four huge semi trailers full of undeliverable stuff. Oh well, gonna be a long week, and when I come up for air, it'll be time to plant peas and hey, that means spring has started eh?

I hope so. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008


I am a bachelor. Okay, I know that's considered to be a masculine noun. But bachelorette just doesn't have the same connotation. Makes one think of someone jumping out of a cake or something. So why have I decided that a: Bachelor is a neuter gender noun and b: I am one? Well it had to do with Christmas. I do a brunch for family. Everybody arrives, I have fun food -- home made sausage rolls always, plus good cheeses, pate, olives of various sorts, something sweet and interesting, not fruitcake (although really well brandied fruitcake has been known to be on the table), you know. Eat, drink, be merry, including ME, open gifts, no kitchen drudgery required. But this involves cleaning the house. Well, cleaning off the table at least, which is my hardcopy workspace, as opposed to my digital workspace, my computer desk. So I have all kinds of orderly (yes, really!) piles of things like the financial stuff for my stepmom's estate, magazines that aren't read yet, manuscript that need that final hardcopy read, critique manuscript, and various things that need to be dealt with not now but soon. And some of these piles have been moved to other available spaces, such as the floor.

So, now it's family brunch time AND I'm getting a new puppy the day after. Well, the obvious thing to do, the one that makes me a bachelor, is to move all piles from the table to the floor, out of sight in my office would be fine. Uh, except for the puppy. So now I have to put away, file, find some home for the piles already on the floor, and then I have to do the same with the piles on the table. And on other horozontal spaces. Good thing we had a nice, week long, serious snow storm that left us all snowbound. I needed it! Cabin fever? Didn't have time. I was too busy taking care of piles.

But hey, it's my house and I'm happy with the pile system. So I'm sure that after the puppy is past the Eat Everything stage and my life once more has order, the piles will return. Good thing I do that Christmas brunch every year!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Winter Fun

Well, we're up to two feet of snow now, but today it's above freezing and ice is falling from the trees. Woohoo! Of course, right at dusk, after shoveling a path up my neighbor George's 1/4 mile long STEEP gravel driveway, I went down to feed the sheep only to find that a rafter with rot had given way and my roof was buckling. Oh joy. I could just see the whole section coming down as the rains started and the light, dry snow turned wet and heavy. But it was dark, in the twenties and I figured it would keep until morning and I could get it fixed before the thaw started. So this morning I was out there, up on a ladder, scraping two feet of snow and ice off the buckling section. Heavy stuff. I didn't dare add my weight to the roof, so I couldn't clear as much as I wanted. Gonna be a new roof this summer for sure. I was going to do it, but then the development juggernaut seemed poised on my western boundary and why spend the money if I'm going to sell and move in a matter of a year? But now...I don't know that we'll get forced off any time soon. So. New roof. Next summer. For now, I got the buckled rafter braced back into place, the weight off it. The whole thing is going to be a soggy mess as all this snow thaws and seeps but my hay is tarped and off the ground so we'll live. And after we got done...well, hey. It's above freezing, the dry snow is now damp and sticky and it's perfect for a snow man! How many times do you get to build a snow man in Western Oregon? When I take my midnight walk tonight, I think I'll bring a big rubbermaid bin and slid down the nice sled track the kids have made near the top of our street. Can't let the snow melt without at least one sled ride! Preferably at midnight. What a great way to celebrate Christmas Eve!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snowlight Magic

It’s eleven thirty and I just came in from a walk in the snow light with Annie. I didn’t mean to take a walk. I spent much of the day shoveling my truck out, chaining up, shoveling paths so the sheep could get water and I could bring them food. Shoveling a path up my 83 year old neighbor, George's, steep drifted over driveway. Done with the snow!!! All done! Blasted stuff, I moved here so that I wouldn’t have to shovel….and so on.

And then I booted up, put on my parka, the old Alyeska one from Prudhoe Bay that my friend Page gave me, the one that always feels like a warm embrace, and took my wood carrier out for the nightly ritual of bringing in the morning’s load of wood for the stove.

Only the night was bright with reflected snow light, there was no wind, tomorrow...well pretty soon now, is Christmas Eve, and the cold felt crisp and clean. I dropped the wood bag and headed for the gate with Annie bounding gleefully ahead of me. My neighbor had chained up to take his wife shopping for Christmas dinner and the tracks gave us a path in the 14 inch deep snow. Instead of floundering we could stroll.

It was beautiful. Nobody has been out, no tracks, only a single set of tire tread in the whiteness. My neighbor’s icicle lights painted the swelling mounds of white with yellow light. As we left them behind and walked along the road toward Clatsop, the paved main road, the trees took my breath away. Rimed with ice, the heavy Douglas fir branches iced with white snow, backed by low, misty clouds, the scene was right off a Christmas card. Wow.

And then Annie alerted at one of the drives that leads to a few houses on the western slope above our street. A man shoveled snow. We said hello and I made a pleasantry about being out late in the snow. He wanted to get tout in the AM. And I walked up to Clatsop, promising him a road report when I got back. Packed snow on Clatsop, no sign of asphalt or other civilized accoutrements. It might have been a cart track though the Sweedish countryside. We talked a bit more…me about '79 and the week long power outage, he about '68 ‘when he was a kid’ andsix foot drifts blocked the county roads then Annie and I walked on and took Koelhers old driveway, watching for coyote spoor. Annie found plenty, I did not.

What a beautiful night!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Well, we're over 12 inches of snow now, in a city that doesn't get snow. Even TriMet is having trouble keeping the buses running and never mind on time. Annie and I spent the day shoveling out barn doors and gates so they work, shoveling a new path to the heated water tank since the four inches of snow had drifted in the path I shoveled yesterday. Filling the feeder and thawing the hummingbird feeder so that my cold little Anna hummers didn't starve (and one Black Chin who should have gone south looong ago). As I was shoveling out the truck to chain it up for when it was finally less nasty and worth getting out, a big V of geese went over just above treetop level, staying below the very low clouds. Clearly they were flying VRF. I hope they found some open water. It's still in the low 20s. So now that my shoveling is done and all critters are fed I can go back to learning CS4, a remarkable version of Dreamweaver and a program that makes Adobe Photoshop seem highly intuitive. My head hurts!

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Snow-Sheep Convergence with Dog

Well, I need to dust off the blog that's for sure. I never have been good at keeping any kind of diary. Too bad.

We're in the midst of a rather amazing snow event. So far I have almost a foot with two foot and better drifts. Somewhere in there, a few inches down, is a 3/4 layer of ice. Very pretty, but not nearly as much fun when you have to deal with livestock. Yesterday, as I crunched my way to the barn to feed the sheep, they panicked at the unfamiliar sound (sheep really like to panic for some reason). Bounding from the barn to escape the noisy monster approaching, they hit the new ice, which of course panicked them further. Sliding, floundering, and bounding, they made it across the pasture and out into the field about 1/4 mile away where they huddled together, terrified to set foot on the slippery ground. Sigh. That's 1/4 mile from shelter, hay, grain, and warm water. So I dutifully, good sheep keeper than I am, broke a nice path out to them. Think I could get 'em to use it? Grain didn't work. Shouting and waving my arms behind them didn't work. So I slogged back to the barn and returned with some hay. To tide them over. When you get thirsty come in, I told them. It wasn't windy, wasn't snowing, I figured they'd be fine in the dry, powdery snow until they got over their fright.

Ha. I totally underestimated the stubborn fear response of sheep.

Fast forward to three PM. Freezing rain/snow is forecast for the night, the east wind is picking up, they have no water out there and it's 20 F. Time for the big guns. So I tap Annie, who is hopefully recovered enough from her knee surgery that she can work sheep without damaging herself. And frankly, I had run out of other options, short of managing to warm up the terrain and melt all the snow. And all my mental efforts to shift the arctic high to the eastward and let in our nice, warm, wet Pacific weather had failed miserably. So. Back to the Big Guns. Or Gun rather.

Annie was SO up for the task. Sheep are usually so EASY. You give them an 'I want to eat you' look and they run where you want 'em to go. Not this time. She stared, she snapped, she barked. The sheep weren't going to go back in her direction but they did NOT want to go forward. I poked, prodded, whacked hocks with a switch and Annie kept 'em from bolting past me to the safety of their trampled snow. Foot by foot, yard by yard, we made the very slow trek back to the barn. A ewe would bound forward, slip, and break through the ice. The flock would inch forward. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. But we made it. They're in the barn, they have a shoveled path to the heated water tank, they have a bale of hay in the manger, and I'm not going to go near them until I figure they need more hay! Whew! Bless Annie (who seems no worse for wear this morning). I couldn't have gotten them in without her.