12 January 2009

flooding memories

There is flooding north and south of us, the Chehalis river over I-5, the Lewis in Woodland, Salmon and Johnson creeks both out of their banks. And the rain continues.

June 1976, my dad and I were at the church for some kind of event when he got a message that the Teton Dam had broken and flooded our new home in Rexburg, Idaho. My dad and I flew from Los Angeles to Idaho Falls in a single engine plane with one of my dad's pilot friends who sweet-talked air-traffic control into letting us land at the Idaho Falls airport and then through all the barricades into the flood zone. The images of the destruction remain clear: the scoured cement foundation of our house, all structure completely gone; green strawberry plants in a muddy border around the space that once was a porch and garden shed; the swollen bodies of cows rolled up against collapsed fence lines; deep swirls of black mud crossing and re-crossing the roads; small airplanes caught in trees and tipped up against the skewed shapes of buildings, miles away from the airport.

February 1996, the Columbia River bore ice and then melted into brown water the color of a cappuccino. At its peak, the Willamette breached the sea-wall to flood into downtown Portland. I was working for a band back then, Stain, and we had played a gig in Vancouver the Thursday night that the rivers crested. In the early morning hours after packing up our gear, we took a detour on our way home, parked at the end of the closed I-5 and walked up and over the Morrison Bridge. Trees the size of train-cars were stacked up against each other on the south footings of the bridge, their yellow insides bare and splintered. The water was red and brown and foam. But mostly I remember the sound of it, the deep roar of something primal. The sound of water moving the earth.

Perhaps it is the same sound that whispers in the rain outside my window tonight. The barest hint of inherent power. Evidence of that which is greater than us all in a single raindrop.

I remain awed and grateful.


06 January 2009

16 random facts - the shortest stories

16. My favorite color is green, but when I was 11 my family moved into a house in Idaho Falls just off St. Claire and my room had purple-and-black-foil butterfly wallpaper and purple shag carpet and I thought it was the most beautiful room ever.

15. I have six piercings and five tattoos. None of the tattoos are butterflies.

14. All of the children I have birthed are girls. 100%.

13. My family lived off-base (USAF) in Taiwan during monsoon season when I was about 9. Our house was enormous with high ceilings and wood floors, and unfurnished except for our beds and maybe a dining room set. During one particular storm, my parents put wide, brown packing tape across all the windows to keep the glass from shattering into the house. When the storm had passed, my brothers and sisters and I peeled off all the tape and made the coolest, throwable balls that kicked off the mother-of-all tape-ball battles while skating through the house on roller skates. It was most epic.

12. My earliest memory is of fireflies (in Kentucky, I am told) and how I thought the riot police looked like big bugs in their helmets (in Ohio, I am also told). The next is of living in Texas and thinking that rattlesnakes could crawl up the outside of the doors in the night. I think I might have been four years old. I have been afraid of snakes ever since.

11. I got chickenpox at my first ever sleep-over birthday party.

10. Once I dropped a can of floor wax on my big toe and it got infected under the nail, so my father took me to his clinic on the military base (USAF) and sliced open my toe with a scalpel to drain it. 35-ish years later, there is still a faint silver scar.

9. My first kiss was from a boy in my 3rd grade class who then followed me home after school the next day and beat me up. I don't recall his name.

8. My first hero was Errol Flynn after I saw Robin Hood on Thanksgiving Day the year I was in the 4th grade in Bakersfield, California. My second hero was Speed Racer from the original cartoon series.

7. My first love was a girl named Stephanie. We were both in Mr. Everly's 5th grade class in Tustin, California.

6. I had a pet turtle that I regularly fed raw hamburger and lettuce. When he died, my mother wrapped him in tinfoil and we buried him next to the back porch. As far as I can remember, I have had eight dogs, innumerable fish, two parakeets, a pair of mice, frogs, a salamander, and three cats. I currently have a pair of zebra finches named Jack and Delilah.

5. A palmist at a dinner party in a remodeled brothel in Butte, Montana once told me that I was a pathological smoker and would never be able to quit when I told her that I would wake up in the middle of the night and smoke a cigarette without getting out of bed. So I didn't quit; I just haven't smoked a cigarette for about seven years now.

4. The nastiest black eye I ever got was playing basketball with a bunch of guys where I took a head-butt to the brow that knocked me clean out. The very next day, I had to get a new driver's license and appear in court on a driving infraction. The judge took one look at me, reduced my $300 fine to $25 and waved me out of his courtroom. I got a replacement driver's license not long afterwards because whenever I had to show my ID at the grocery store, the checker would do a double-take at my picture and then glare at my husband.

3. I am the same age as the Super Bowl and have been a fan of the Indianapolis Colts since they were in Baltimore.

2. There is a newspaper photo of me in a 4th of July parade, riding my horse Lucky and wearing the only tall cowboy hat I have ever owned--a tall, black felt hat.

1. I know that I cry when I am full of joy but not always when I am sad, things happen as quick as a single breath that can never be taken back, a broken heart feels like empty space and tastes like metal, and time does not heal all wounds.


03 January 2009

from the top of a rock

A year ago, I spent my Christmas "bonus" on groceries and the 3-day New Year's holiday applying for work anywhere possible. This year, my objective is less frantic as I am happy in my current job and can actually enjoy the holiday with time off to visit family and appreciate a bit of space and time.

The "new" year seems arbitrary in a larger, universal timeline. But perhaps closing out a year and starting anew satisfies our human need to count and account for things. A time to climb up on a rock out in mid-stream and look back over our shoulder to mark progress, such as it is.

2008 has provided a number of publication opportunities and additional recognition for my short stories, for which I continue to be appreciative. My thanks to any and all readers who have taken the time to read my pieces. Writing is made that much more satisfying by its readers.

Publication has proven to be about the cumulative effects of long-term sustained efforts - to write, to edit, to submit. Even the smallest effort contributes to the greater, long-term outcome - that universal timeline that does not need or recognize a new year.

With more publications, the number of short stories in the coffer are fewer as more of my time has been spent working on the novel, its own timeline stretching to completion later this year. So I continue those late-night, early-morning writing sessions, too much coffee, handfuls of post-its jammed in my purse, scraps of paper and scribbles on the backs of receipts to tell the stories of the Wildish boys that push forward in my thoughts at the most inopportune moments of departmental staff meetings, workshop trainings or random conversations.

Here's to the new year.