Category Archives: Friends

The Little Bucket List

I was talking with my good friend Mike Sack the other day and he said he was making his “little bucket list.” I asked him to explain, and he said that after all the years he and John have been living in Seattle, there are so many things right there in the city and environs that they’ve always said they wanted to do but never done. Isn’t that the truth?

Usually, “bucket lists” are grand schemes. Sail around the horn. Fly cross country in a balloon. Raft the Colorado through the Grand Canyon… But what about the amazing little sights and events and natural wonders in our own back yards? Where I live, in Oregon, they are legion, and my eyes, thanks to Mike, have been newly reopened to them.

Al and I regularly take what we call “ExplOregon” days and weekends, where we visit a place we’ve not been before, but it’s been a while since we’ve done that. And there are so many other things that I’ve always meant to do that are right here, twenty minutes or an hour away that would take an hour or a day to do.

I don’t know about you, but long-distance travel isn’t much fun any more. I don’t mind sticking close to home for the next year or so, but now that I see the local, experiential riches that are on our little piece of note paper stuck to the refrigerator, I’m happy to be right here.

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Filed under connections, Friends, Fun, Possibilities, Travel, Vacation

Adventures in Fiction–Mexico Style!

It was an honor and a privilege to teach the fine art of fiction along side my pal John Reed for his first annual Adventures in Fiction–Mexico Style! writing retreat last week in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

The week began Sunday afternoon in the third floor open-air classroom in the Hotel Casa Celeste with an exquisite catered reception, then all of us, including spouses, went to dine on the fine Mexican cuisine on the beach, under the stars.

Monday, we got to work, writing hard and fast, having sessions on structure, character, marketing and fielding all manner of questions. The participants each wrote two complete short stories and we critiqued them all in a marathon session on Friday.

It’s always my hope and intention that with every class I teach, each participant picks up a golden nugget or two to carry with them throughout their writing career. This time, I picked up more than one, both from Mr. Reed and from the articulate and probing questions from the participants.

After a hard week of work (amidst all that is wonderful about Zihua), we ended with a celebratory dinner. Then we went our separate ways with fresh  knowledge and new friends.

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Filed under Beauty, Friends, Fun, Short Stories, Writing

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Last Sunday, I got up in the dark, dressed in mighty layers and joined other hearty souls in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. I didn’t know what to expect. I kind of dreaded the idea of sitting, freezing, in a blind somewhere, alone or with someone else, just the two of us, a bird book and a pair of binoculars. Not even a thermos of coffee.

Wrong. Four of us with high spirits set out in a car and canvassed a variety of neighborhoods, identifying and counting the birds we saw. It was great fun. We found an obscure little pond with twenty wood ducks. We found a neighborhood with a disproportionate amount of Stellar’s Jays. We saw a Peregrine Falcon in downtown Eugene. I was delighted to be able to recognize both Ruby Crowned Kinglets and Golden Crowned Kinglets. I learned the difference between a House Sparrow and a Song Sparrow. We laughed at the moving hilarity that is a flock of bushtits. We saw a Great Blue Heron sitting in a tree. I saw and learned to identify a variety of thrushes, including a hermit thrush. I saw a snipe.

Part of our territory included the riverbank, so we counted a wide variety of water fowl, including ducks, geese, gulls, and cormorants. It was all quite thrilling, actually.

Okay, so I’m a newbie at this bird stuff. I’ve always kind of scoffed at “birders” and yet there’s something really intriguing about their behavior (both the birds and the birders). After a good warming lunch, we partnered with another group canvassing our area, the head of which was Dan Gleason, ornithologist from the University of Oregon, and this kind, patient man filled us with all manner of intriguing information about birds.

A thoroughly enjoyable day. Next year I’ll wear insulated mittens like everybody else. My fingers suffered. I’ll bring my own thermos of coffee and my husband, who would enjoy an interesting day outside as well.

Between now and then, I’ll pay more attention to my bird feeders, my bird houses, my bird book and my backyard visitors.

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Filed under Beauty, Friends, Fun

Rightmindedness

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to that word: Rightmindedness.

We have a thousand opportunities every day to choose our mindset. If we get our minds right, we can choose happiness, joy, freedom, love, light, loyalty, sunshine.

Or, if something we don’t like happens, we can allow it to color our whole day, our month, our year.  A moment’s temptation can throw us off a diet, for example, and in a few days, all the good hard work that’s been done is erased. Or, we could choose to not let that happen. We could choose to put our minds right again, and not let a small slip throw our world into chaos.

The same goes for fear and anxiety. We can let it run our lives, or we can live with self-forgiveness and let old conflicts go. When new situations arise, we have the power to choose our reaction to them. If we behave ourselves, what do we care if others misbehave?

I read an article about how human minds seek out similarities. We like finding coincidences. We match up things that go together. We say things like: He looks just like so-and-so, except for…”  And that also goes for series of events. In one day, we could have a flat tire, have to wait so long at a professional’s office that we miss another appointment, get some bad news and have to deal with a miscommunication. Each of those things has the potential to ruin our day, if we let it, especially if we run down the litany of everything that went wrong to the spouse or loved one.

Instead, we should run down all the great things that happened. All the miracles that we’ve bunched together, all the coincidences, all the moments of synchronicity and delight. All the good things that people did for us, all the nice things people said about each other.

We’re not in control of much in our lives, but we are in control of our attitude. I know people who are negative, and I know people who are positive. I’d rather hang with the positive folks. The socially fragrant ones help me enjoy life.

I’m working on getting my mind right, one decision at a time, because that will make life a lot more fun. And it will also make the world a better place.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Discipline, Friends, Fun, goals, Goodness, Honesty, Joy, peace, Personalities, regrets, relationships, Spirituality

Laying Down One’s Life

Yesterday, seven women “laid down our lives” and gathered in my living room. We left chores behind, we didn’t go out into the beautiful sunshine, we didn’t go to the gym, we didn’t go shopping or mow the lawn or work in the garden.

We knitted and crocheted prayer shawls for our friends who need our prayers.

We talked of many things as we worked, but our focus was the garment we were creating, and eventually the conversation always returned to things of a spiritual nature.

We found connections. Two of the women realized they had met years ago. A different two realized that their social groups overlapped and they had mutual friends. We discovered many things that we all had in common with each other as we prayed, snacked, and talked of this and that, but mostly we knitted beautiful things intended to comfort someone who is in need.

It didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice, as it was a completely enjoyable time, gathering together, sitting and knitting, but I can’t help but reflect on all the things that were likely on each person’s “should do” list for a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. But because comforting our friends in pain is a much higher priority, we all stopped what we were doing and saw to that first.

Not everybody knew of someone in need of a prayer shawl yesterday, so their shawls, scarves or lap robes will be stored until a need arises. Some of us brought photographs of the people for whom we were creating garments infused with love and the intention of healing.

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). I believe that’s what we did yesterday, and the spiritual reverberations will echo through the generations as these shawls are worn and passed along, and the love will spread laterally through the circuits of time and space.

The next time you receive a handmade gift, take a moment to savor the fact that whoever made it, laid down their life for you.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Friends, girlfriends, knitting, peace, Prayer, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

A February Book Exchange

Well, it took place on the last day of January, but February is such a runt of a month, I think it would be a great time to host a book exchange.

I attended one yesterday, hosted by my friend Christina Lay and a book-loving friend of hers. They had tea and cookies and some delicious teacakes from Germany, and two big tables set up with books that she and her friend were culling from their bookshelves. They put the word out via their respective email lists to come sometime between 2-4pm. The deal was: you can take as many books as you bring.

I arrived about 2:20 with a half dozen books I don’t need any more. I didn’t really intend to bring home more books, as my shelves are currently groaning under the weight of textbooks, so I didn’t consider the strategic effect of timing. If I had arrived later, there would have been more books to mull over, correct? Yet, perhaps they would have been picked over by that time… Christina said the best thing is to host a book exchange. That way you get to see everything that comes in the door.

I left with a small cookbook of sauces and marinades and a novel by Jane Smiley. It was nice to pick up a book and just put it in a bag. No checkout required. Meanwhile, I stood around, munching lebkuchen and discussing our best reads of the year with people I had never met. The only thing we had in common was a rabid love for books, authors, and the need to discuss them.

The hostesses were left with three boxes of books to donate.  Perhaps a few more than the two of them started with, as most people who showed up brought more books than they took.

What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

So grab a book-loving friend and make it happen. Or organize a bigger one within your book club.

Fine (free!) literature is an excellent way to meet other readers and refresh your nightstand.

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Filed under Friends, Fun, girlfriends, Reading

Is Anything Better than Hanging with Writers?

Another Ghost Story Weekend has come and gone. Fifteen of us this time (two over the limit) showed up at Siltcoos Station on a brilliantly beautiful weekend to write the dark and horrific, and we all did an excellent job.

The Surviving Members of Ghost Story Weekend 2009
The Surviving Members of Ghost Story Weekend 2009

As usual, there were stories of vampires, of haunted places, of mysterious ghosts, of friendly ghosts, of helpful ghosts, of harmful ghosts. All ghosts were welcome, and they came in well-considered abundance.

But what could be better than hanging out with other writers for a weekend? We ate together, laughed together, camped out in cabins like the adventurous souls we are, and tried to scare each other silly. And in so doing, we became better friends.
This was the 19th annual Ghost Story Weekend, and one attendee, Christina Lay, has only missed one of these annual fests. This year she brought finger food (literally). I wonder what she would have brought to that missing weekend. Maybe we’ll find out next year.
Meantime, I can’t wait for another spring to roll around and I put out the call for all ghost story writers to converge on a hopefully-haunted boathouse on the spooky Oregon Coast.
It’ll be another great weekend, I’m sure.
Join us?

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Filed under Friends, Fun, Ghost Story Weekend, Possibilities, relationships, Short Stories, Writing, years