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Last week I had the opportunity to fly to Oregon to visit with family. I brought along my trusty Nikon Coolpix S6800 because I knew there would be no end of photo opportunities in what is arguably the most beautiful and ecologically diverse state in the country.

It didn’t take me long to realize that my little camera was no match for Oregon’s sweeping landscapes. Every time I tried to capture the stunning views of picturesque barns nestled among rolling pastures and pine forests, I was invariable disappointed in the results. Even the photogenic coast couldn’t be captured satisfactorily. I can’t fault the camera, though: any image is no match for the experience of seeing the beauty of the place in person.

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What I did end up capturing were just a few of the many details that combine to make Oregon the spectacular environment that it is. And when it comes to detail, my little Coolpix is king.

This friendly traveler was pleased to pose with an ocean backdrop, but I think he was disappointed when we didn’t offer a tip.

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Another coastal visitor is unaware of being photographed, but creates a great view nonetheless.

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Amazingly, these barnacles can be heard, clicking and clacking, living and breathing, even above the constant roar of the tide.

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Perhaps one of my favorite characteristics of Oregon: there is no shortage of amazing trees everywhere you look.

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Photo by Theresa Brown.

Photo by Theresa Brown.

The coastal life is nothing less than profuse.

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I feel as though I could spend a lifetime trying to capture Oregon’s details, and it would never be enough to portray the wonder of the place. You just have to see it for yourself.

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Until next time…

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New Thoughts

It’s been awhile.

Lately I have been idly considering taking up this whole blog idea again. It’s been some time since my thoughts have tended toward things I might actually want to share. (You can be assured, my private journal has not wanted for activity. By my estimates, it has grown by more than 85,000 words in the past 365 days.)

Of all days, today I decided to look up my old forgotten wordpress account and see if inspiration might strike. As coincidence would have it, today marks one year to the day since my last post, and the last time I felt whole enough to share a piece of my world. I wasn’t even sure if I still knew my password.

A year can be an amazingly long time. Worlds can shift. Mine has.

If I haven’t written in the past year, it is not for lack of having experienced anything. In the past year, I decided I wasn’t the marrying type after all, and soon after lost the relationship that meant everything to me (and sometimes still does feel that way). I left the house I thought I would like to live in forever, and I left behind my beloved neighborhood, and half my animals. Needless to say, things were rough for a while. As a consolation prize I decided to return to school and try again for that vet school thing, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I had far too much on my 31-year-old plate to get enthusiastic about memorizing heaps of expensive though useless information. Even workplace misunderstandings almost took away from me a job that I enjoy, doing work that I love. As a daughter, I have finally had to face the concept that my parents are not perpetually 47- and 48-years old, as I imagine them to be, but will naturally begin to require some measure of support as they age. I am starting to feel that this whole adulthood thing is harder than I have thought it has been for the past 13 years.

Nevertheless, some things extremely positive have bloomed from all of this. One of them is that, after lately having passed through a few romantic non-starts, I can now admit, for the first time in my adult life, to being happily single.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, I know, but for me it really, truly is. I haven’t let myself be single for much at all of my adult life, and the few weeks I can attribute to romantic independence were very far from being considered happy. And yet, here it is: I love living alone. I love doing my own thing. I love being responsible, quite completely and thoroughly, for my own moods. It may sound absurd, but I love going to bed alone, and waking up alone, and in the meantime I can sit up at any hour of the night and turn on my light to read. I love paying all the bills. I love the silence. I love experiencing outings for what they are, rather than as something to do with someone else. At long last I seem to be settling comfortably into my own skin, and into my own introverted nature. I feel like a different person from what I was a year ago, and I feel like a much more complete person at that.

Perhaps this all comes across as too much intimate information, though I think back to my first blog entries when I aspired to the appeal of openness, and my desire to get a little bit out of my head and into type for whomever might like to read it. As part of this realization of contentedness in my new lifestyle, I’d like to get back into the habit of foisting my meandering thoughts and opinions onto the worldwide web. You are welcome to read it if you like, though I can’t promise anything of any value to anyone other than myself.

And I think that’s just about right.

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Some of my most favorite moments involve spending time out in the yard with my animals. When the weather is warm, there’s typically no place I would rather be.

In today’s photo shoot Tiny Mushroom returns, and brings with her the lovable Moose and his foster brother Moose 2 (aka Slow Mo, aka Donegal). Also appearing is the three-legged wonder of Llewellyn the beautiful black kitten, and the wise old Farmer Ollie.

The other half of the family was sleeping peacefully indoors.

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Happy Caturday.

 

Happy Healthy June

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I’m not much of a resolution-maker (my 2014 New Year’s resolution was to “work less and have more fun”), but I do find that setting monthly goals for myself has been extremely helpful in gently easing into new healthy habits. A short-term commitment is not only more endurable (and thus more likely to succeed), but it gives me the opportunity to approach the same aspirations from many different angles throughout the year. Trying to eat healthier could mean giving up sodas in April, or pledging to eat two cups of vegetables every day of October, or setting up an exercise plan to keep me warm in December. I find that this approach keeps me more engaged in finding ways to make changes that I want to see. And if nothing else, it gives me something to blog about, right?

This month, I need to tackle two of my weakest spots: sugar, and the internet.

I’ve always had a raging sweet tooth. As a child I would do just about anything to get money for candy, and candy was the only thing I ever bought with my hard-earned (or craftily-swindled) money. I dreamed of the day when I would be a grown up and could eat as much candy as I wanted.Unfortunately, my inner child still calls out for that daily sugar buzz. I’m hoping she will be satisfied with as much fresh fruit and veggies as I can get my hands on.

As for the internet, well, we all know how I’ve struggled with this beast for quite some time now. It’s like the old Mark Twain quote:  ‘Giving up [the internets] is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.’

Or..something like that.

At any rate, I’ve thought up dozens of ways to moderate my internet use, and so far none of them have stuck. So if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears/eyes. As of right now, my current brilliant plan goes something like this: “I just won’t get online as much.”

In the end, it’s all about the journey. I may never lose my sweet tooth, or the desire to zone out in front of a computer screen after a hard day of work (or as soon as I wake up on the weekends and at least a dozen times throughout the day). But I can keep trying to find ways to be a better, healthier, more satisfied human being.

And I guess that’s what it’s all really about.

 

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Nearly four months ago, on a frigid evening, a tiny ball of fluff was placed into my hands. Rescued that very day from a bad situation, her body temperature was ten degrees below normal, her eyes were blinded with infection, and she didn’t have the strength to hold up her head. Already brokenhearted, I took her home that night and hoped beyond hope that she would at least make it through the night with some help.

The next morning I was overjoyed to see that she had made it. We started calling her Tiny Mushroom.

The next sixteen weeks were a whirlwind of medications, treatments, emergency trips to the vet, bloodwork, belly taps, coddling, an overabundance of hope, and to be honest, a healthy dose of resignation.

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Today, despite my best efforts, Tiny Mushroom is still sick. She has never experienced a fully healthy day in all her short life. All the tests and professional opinions have done little to explain her condition. Perhaps we will never know. What is certain is that we have poured a lifetime’s supply of love into Tiny Mushroom in these past few months, and regardless of her future she has never gone a moment since that cold February day not cherished. And she has never wasted a single moment to live her tiny life to its fullest extent.

She sits beside me as I type this, worn out from her evening in the garden chasing bugs, catching drops of water from the hose, helping me keep the garden tilled, hopping from one garden bed to the next, and in general just looking completely adorable.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoy every day that I get to spend with Tiny Mushroom. She truly is a special treasure.

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I can’t remember when exactly I sat down with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and first began to read. I know it was bitterly cold outside, and very snowy, so it could have been anywhere between Christmas and April. I do know that, when I finally put the book down, months later, I felt a little melancholy, and a little lonely, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to pick up another book for several days. I missed Edgar, and I missed his dogs, and I missed the contemplative and unhurried way in which the moments of his story moved forward with each moment I found to take another look at it.

Sure, this novel has flaws. Seen as a whole in retrospect, I can understand why many people seem to hate the plot contrivances and the frustrations of not having key elements of the story resolved. There’s a lack of closure that seems inconsiderate to the reader, and I suspect that those who are most disappointed in Edgar’s story are the ones who held the highest expectations from the beginning paragraphs. I myself couldn’t quite resolve my conflicted emotions, and I wavered between giving the novel first four stars, then three, then again bumping it back up to four, and subsequently leaving it there even though I have misgivings about my generosity in the matter.

I will say this: parts of this book deserve four stars, no doubt about it. And parts of this book are so meditatively wonderful that I wish they would go on forever. But like all things, good or bad, those parts come to an end. Perhaps that is part of the appeal: to be torn between loving the book and wishing it were just a little bit…better. Ambivalence is a big part of life, after all.

Of course Edgar is the protagonist of the novel, and we grow to trust him and love him even in his darkest moments. But the real star of this novel, in my opinion, is undoubtedly the old soul of Almondine, Edgar’s lifelong canine companion. Almondine has a few brief chapters in which she tells her side of the story, and these stand out to me as the life blood of the entire 562 pages. I’ve never read anthropomorphic literature that was so stirring and, at the same time, so convincing of a creature’s very nature. Almondine’s voice is undoubtedly canine, and touching in a way that perhaps only a dog-lover can appreciate. All I can say is that I was charmed from the moment when Almondine meets Edgar for the first time as a newborn infant fresh from the hospital.

In honor of Almondine’s words (and David Wroblewski’s genius if belated decision to include her unique point of view), I will leave you with some of my very favorite quotes from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. If you ever have an endlessly snowy winter to get lost in a quiet and meandering tale, I would recommend you give it a look.

p.194, “Places, time, weather–all these drew him up inside of her. Rain, especially, falling past the double doors of the kennel, where he’d waited through so many storms, each drop throwing a dozen replicas into the air as it struck the waterlogged earth. And where the rising and falling water met, something like an expectation formed, a place where he might appear and pass in long strides, silent and gestureless. For she was not without her own selfish desires: to hold things motionless, to measure herself against them and find herself present, to know that she was alive precisely because he needn’t acknowledge her in casual passing; that utter constancy might prevail if she attended the world so carefully. And if not constancy, then only those changes she desired, not those that sapped her, undefined her.”

and Edgar’s thoughts:

p. 457, “Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam in the river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents–the rest you let float by.”

And finally, again, the ever-delightful Almondine:

p. 461, “She slowed. The farm danced about her. The apples trees bickered with the wind, clasped limbs in union against it, blackbirds and sparrows and chickadees and owls rimming their crowns. The garden cried out its green infant odor, it’s melange the invention of deer or, now it seemed to her, the other way around. The barn swung her fat shadow across the yard, holding it gently by dark wrists and letting it turn, turn, stretch out in the evening upon the ground but never slip. Faster it all revolved around her when she closed her eyes. Clouds rumbled across heaven and she lay beneath, and in the passage of shadow and yellow sunlight, the house murmured secrets to the truck, the traveler, who listened for only so long before its devout empiricism forced it away in wide-eyed panic to test such ideas among its fellows. The maple tree held the wash up to the light in supplication and received (bright flames) yellow jackets each day, its only reply. The mailbox stood soldierly by the road, capturing a man and releasing him, again and again.”

Celebrate Caturday

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