20 April 2008

Wonky Weather

April 20 and there is snow on my tulips and violets.

There hasn't been so much weird weather like this since the first year I was here - 1995. That year there was ice on the Columbia River, a windstorm to rival some 1950-ish record, and snow. Then a flood that ultimately breached the Portland seawall and flooded the train station and the international airport. The city was cut off by mudslides in the Gorge and both north- and south-bound I-5.

I remember calling my parents from my basement apartment during a power outage just to reassure them that all was well. All my friends told me it was "unusual." I suppose it was, but for all I knew, winter was one chaotic natural disaster after another.

Five years ago, we had an ice storm that shut us in the house for 5 days. No work, no school, no groceries. We could get out in our 4-wheel drive but not safely. The little birds trying to land on the feeder in the back yard were slipping right off. The heating bill that month was over $1000.

This year, we got the tornado in February, snow in March, and hard frosts and snow in April.

It just proves we pitiable humans are not in charge. Thank goodness.


13 April 2008

Writers Night

Last night was the 6th Annual Writers Night at the Springwater Grange presented by The Estacada Area Arts Commission. Reading were my mentors, Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose, along with Jackie Shannon-Hollis, whom I adore as both peer and teacher.

I rode out to the grange with my friend Mary Milstead and her husband Nathan and baby Solomon, who were most engaging travel partners. We got to discuss all things llama, bbq, and grizzly bear and swap stories about when you first met the parents of your significant other, since my daughter was that very afternoon meeting the parents of the boyfriend. Solomon mostly listened.

The theme for the evening was The Elephant in the Room, an open look at those things we don't talk about in polite company, things like politics, race, religion, sex, and mental illness. Except that Mary, Nathan, Solomon and I had pretty much run the gambit on the drive, including how my darling muscular husband would be the Donner Party first-choice should his Mazama climbing class become stranded on their climb this weekend.

Keeping with the theme, Stevan tackled racism, Joanna religion, and Jackie mental illness. "Writers," said Stevan, "have the task of addressing these issues with grace and wit, so that the unspoken can be heard and discussed in a way that is intelligent instead of threatening."

Joanna opened with part of her novel in-progress, Ruby's Roadhouse. Jackie read her short story, Her Own Special Touch. And Stevan closed out the evening with the end of his story, As Men Will Do Unto The Least Among Us; he read the beginning last year, but there were so many requests to finish, he had to comply.

The stories were engaging and poignant and thoughtful. The language beautiful. Cecily Patterson showed up and we both laughed at Stevan's reference to atheists, although Cecily may have just been laughing at me.

I'm sure the party-after was no less than fabulous - I have been to one before, with oysters on the half-shell, an unlimited supply of wine and drink, and a troupe of belly-dancers. Stevan is admirably committed to throwing a good party.

Alas, it was a party we would miss this year. Solomon was well past his bedtime, and I had to pickup the teenagers from VSAA Spring Fling and get the scoop on the parent-meeting. Thanks to Nathan's keen ability to avoid deer, we made it home without incident.

I always love to experience to the greater community of writers. To hear those who are ahead of me, my mentors, read in their own voices, their own works. It was a night to remember.

Sherri H. Hoffman

12 April 2008

Road trip!

Yesterday Rick and I drove north to Seattle to hear His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speak at the Seeds of Compassion conference. Thanks to Barry Anderson for the tickets (thanks Barry!!). Even from our seats in the rafters of the Key Arena, when His Holiness walked across the stage to start the session, I burst into tears. It was the first time I have ever seen him in person, and I was so moved by his presence and his joy.

The focus of the conference session was about raising compassionate children. The result of which, if we succeed, will bring about world peace. So says the Dalai Lama. He undid his own boots and then pulled his feet up to sit lotus-style in his chair during the session. Listened with intent as each of the panel presenters were introduced with all their pomp and resume.

When asked to speak, he outlined in simple terms the practice of daily compassion and its far-reaching consequences. Ending very matter-of-fact with, "That's all."

I am pressed to put words together at this point. It opened up an unexpected awareness, and I am better off for the experience. I wondered at those panelists who got to share their stories and ask a question of His Holiness. What would be my question?

Ever amazed

03 April 2008


Poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles has published my short-short "With the Surety of a Revelation" online in the April 2008 edition.

Marie Lecrivain, executive editor of poeticdiversity, quotes Wm Shakespeare:

"Once more, unto the breach, dear friends, once more. . ." - Henry V

April is National Poetry Month. Visit www.poeticdiversity.org and celebrate a poem.


01 April 2008


Ah, the cruelest month. I have lived and died and lived again in Aprils past. I am a true April Fool.

This year, March went out with snow and a hard frost on the daffodils. April must be in like a lamb - if the lamb had pneumonia and spent most nights of late coughing its lungs up. My darling husband actually suggested we try out the new medical coverage. ha.

When I was in high school, I contracted some kind of infection around my heart. I'm sure my dad and all my other doctor-siblings and sibs-in-law could easily provide a medical latinate for its infectious identity. I only recall that it felt as if I was stabbed from inside with every breath. For the duration of the infection, I bedded down in the reading nook of the basement family room where I could sleep sitting up. Sleep and weep and read. Never able to do just one, I read Tolstoy and Tolkien, Asimov, Heinlein, James Joyce, George Orwell and Thomas Hardy. A plethora of human suffering. Plethora - I've heard Chris Berman use it successfully on ESPN. Goes with "Whoop!"

My point? Long gone under the haze of Advil and Dextromethorphan HBr extended release.

The beauty of some down days as April opens up in all its glory is that I have started a new book(s). John Dos Passos, Sherwood Anderson, and Grace Paley. An April plethora.