I am so in love with this site

Once again, I'm not really sure how I stumbled onto the site Editorial Anonymous, but I can't stop reading the thing. It's written by a children's book editor, and she completely won me over with such posts as "Creative Thinking is a Disease and Must Be Stamped Out," and "My Manuscript Has Had Puppies. Want Them?" Here's a recent post:
5 Things Not to Write Any More Rhymed Picture Books About:

1. Insurance
2. Calculus
3. IRS audits
4. Shakespeare
5. STDs

It's been a bad week in the slush.

What fun the life of an editor!

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

I have not been in a writing mood lately, or at least not one that produces blog posts. Actually, I seem to have fallen into an irritating frame of mind, perhaps one that plagues all new bloggers a few months into the game. It compels me to take every random thought, every witty self-aside, and say, "I should blog about that!" I suppose it's good to have a net catching some of these things, but thank goodness for self control. Otherwise, the world would be subjected to my innumerably strange "shower thoughts." (i.e. Thoughts whilst in the shower, which seem much wittier there than when they appear in actual text.)

So while my brain is occupied with other things, I thought I would share a few pictures from TSO's visit, which you can also read about here and here. (His version.) Mine will be shorter because, as I said, I have no current blogging abilities.

Cape Disappointment, a grand place to start a trip, waking up to a morning stroll on the beach. I love low perspective, so I put my camera near the sand and captured the North Head lighthouse. Alas, my poor camera was to suffer many near-sand experiences in the next few days.

The wind off the Pacific is relentless in these parts, so it's not uncommon to see little driftwood structures built to block it. (Hard to start a fire otherwise, y'see.) This one was surprisingly elaborate. I suspect whoever built it had a lot of hands or a lot of time. And look! They left a wee little man hiding inside!

The Astoria Column, a tower depicting the history of the mouth to the Columbia, is difficult to photograph. It's difficult to see, period. The art and text scrolls around from the bottom up. TSO and I walked around a few times to read the bottom half, but it was a dizzying way to try to get a bit of history. Much better was the view from the top and the myriad of tourist shirt colors that we watched from above - hot pink, blazing blue, all the colors of the acid rainbow. I was not excused. I chose to wear one of my eye-hurting "Aloha" shirts, cattle brand of the tourist. But since I was technically touring, I couldn't care less. (Plus, it would make me more locatable in a storm, so there was that safety aspect.) Here is part of the Column in detail, with "Before the White Man Came" on the bottom and the entrance of Robert Gray's ship "Columbia" into the river's mouth.

Indian Beach, Ecola State Park (I keep wanting to call it "Ebola State Park") where we walked up a cliffside trail to gaze out on the lighthouse "Terrible Tilly," so named, I have since learned, because of the challenge it posed to keepers. The waves eventually battered the original Fresnel lens to pieces and now the lighthouse sits dead, quite literally. It is privately owned, converted into a resting place for the ashes of the deceased. The photo is stock. (We saw it without the waves.)

And here is good ol' Cannon Beach, cooperating by finally giving us some sun (the fog had been trailing us all day,) not much wind, and balmy, BALMY 53 degree water. Balmy, I say. It was brisk and delightful, one of those sorts of wades that makes you feel good all over, like you're really alive. It was in no way cold or unpleasant. We could have spent all day wading out to sea, deeper and deeper, the cormorant bones swirling at our toes, until the steep green sides of Japan rose up to meet us. (We would have come dripping out of the water like Godzilla.) Wading the Pacific is much like biting into a lemon at a dinner party, only prettier.

Hey, here's a fun side note. A university team has recently been running scale models on what would happen if a tsunami were to hit this particular area. The fault line sits very close to the shore, so there wouldn't be much warning when the big one started to come. In their scale model, all of the little scale buildings are pretty much blasted to smithereens. It's left them scratching their heads, going "Think, think, think," since, of course, sooner or later such a tsunami will actually happen. The current idea is to try to built vertical towers that people could run to, towers which would supposedly survive the initial blow and still stand above water line. Aren't disaster scenarios fun to think about?

Anyway, I got tired of taking "pretty" pictures.
And then we were back to my home turf, Land of Many Large Sand Dunes. We flung ourselves off the highest dunes just like I did back in my school days (TSO has a video on his blog). Unlike my school days, I felt the effect of the diving for many days afterwards. What happened to my youthful springiness? I would post the video of my own dune dive, but I was purposefully flailing around like a rag doll, which I realize, in retrospect, is a bit embarrassing to watch, unlike TSO's mighty heroics. Hmm. I, too, ended up with sand in my ears/hair/nose which continued to shake out over the next week. Someday I'm going to try diving in a plastic bag, just to see if I can sand-proof myself.

The wind was extremely vicious at the top of the dunes, so much so that I in my bare legs could hardly stand the pain of being sandblasted. We were diving on the leeward side where the sand was the softest, which meant that on each climb back up there came a point just near the crest of the dune where the wind would blast sand directly into your face, and as you were already disoriented from the tumble down, you would have to clamp your eyes shut and grope around for the top of the dune, trying not to overshoot and go falling down the opposite side. (I'm speaking of my own experience here. I don't know why I'm talking in second person.) We had been dodging ATVs while we hiked - they tend to come tearing out from nowhere if you don't pay attention - but after my last dive a group of them came to the top of the dune. One fellow pulled right up to us, took off his helmet, and said, "Wow! Did you do that on purpose? I can't believe you guys are doing that! That rocks!" Or something like that. It's hard to impress hotdogging ATVers, so I took it as a nice feather in my cap. (Since the real feather in my cap had been blown all the way down to California at this point.)

A picture of dune trekking. Sepia tone is oh so a'pretty.

After this day of much blowing sand, my camera suffered greatly, to the extent that even now I am still shaking sand out of it. For a short while the lens ominously refused to open, but I think it worked that out with itself. In case any of you camera-loving folks are wagging your fingers at me, I have to say that my beloved camera was never anywhere close to the actual sand, and that all the sand it accumulated was entirely airborne. If you want to photograph the dunes without such repercussions, you may want to look into getting a bio-hazard suit.

(And again with the second person! I must not be getting enough iron in my diet.)

The next day it was back up to PDX, City of Roses, where we wandered around the rose test garden just to make sure. (The garden is literally a place where they test new variety of roses, destroying forever the ones that don't pass muster.) I have now decided that my mythical future dream garden must include a few roses. Maybe even a black one. That would be all cool and Gothic, wouldn't it?

Thanks to TSO's eyes we were able to find our way downtown. (My reading abilities are still hampered by my recent bought with infection.) We wandered around downtown borderline "lost," enjoying all the wonderful sights and sounds and posters for scandalous things. (Portland is no city of vicars.) Total elapsed time to hear an inappropriate remark from a creepy stranger - 3 minutes. Yeah... I'm not such a big fan of cities, but they have their place, I s'pose. We strolled down the waterfront park until we found ourselves in the neighborhood of Voodoo Doughnuts, and this time I discovered the delights of A) vanilla doughnut topped with marshmallow and Tang powder, and B)devil's food doughnut topped with Coco Puffs. Maddeningly delicious. Afterwards we were sucked into the inescapable pull of Powell's City of Books, one of the largest independent bookstores in the world, a Twilight Zone realm where three hours feels like ten minutes. We entered through the main doors, glanced at each other, and said, "See ya!" The rooms at Powell's are all sorted by color, each color denoting a different subject, and I gleefully trotted between the Green Room and the Rose Room and the Orange Room (and the all-important Purple Room, where the bathrooms are) trying desperately not to fill my arms and empty my bank account. It would be fun to work there, except I think I would end up tipping over one of the bookshelves and just rolling around in the resulting pile of books like a buffalo in a dust wallow. Still, a girl can dream.

The river park gave me the chance to catch this nifty pic of the "Made in Oregon" sign, a PDX landmark. The words "Old Town" hang underneath. I played around with the graphics (chrome!!) to give myself a few jollies. I still remember that sign from times waaay back when I was a little kid riding in the car through Portland, and how they used to (and still do) put a red nose on the deer for Christmas. The deer is the symbol of White Stag Sportswear, what used to be one of Oregon's prominent companies before the time of Nike and Columbia. Guess who owns it now?

(Answer: Wal-Maaaaart... and it's now made in Chinaaaa... Cruel irony.)

The longer I type, the more my urge to blog is resurrected. Interesting. But it's late and I must away, and so suffice to say it was a grand trip and good fun to play the tourist game. Anyone else care to come visit?

I just have to add...

Dear...heaven...and...earth.... Could Blogger possibly make it any harder to work with pictures if it tried???!? I feel like I deserve an award every time I finish smashing a photo in the HTML. Criminelly, that's all I have to say about that.


As a civic-minded citizen, I appreciate what the town is trying to do.

But testing the tsunami alarm at 6am? Really? Really?!?

One does not ignore such things, and so I got out of bed and staggered around until all of the clocks downstairs started to chime, at which point I realized that real tsunamis don't happen on the hour.

And so I went back to sleep and had a realistic dream that my neighborhood was flooding, and I was trying to evacuate my family, and everyone was freaking out.

(There was kite-flying somewhere in that dream too. I think we might have taken a break from evacuating to fly kites...the switch got thrown from panic to fun to panic again.)


When the Bridge Opened

A tall ship came
The green metal middle of the bridge swung open
And all the traffic stopped.
Some sat idling
and some turned off their engines.

But we,
We got out and picked blackberries.
Fat shiny berries tasting of summer
Leaning on tiptoe with our hands inside the thorns
We went beneath the bridge
...where the shipyards are...
And stained our fingers purple.

And when the bridge swung closed
When the metal creaked and complained

and clicked into its place
The traffic moved on.

But we,

We did not return.
We stayed below
and picked blackberries.

Literary War Games

A while ago I got to wondering what happened to an old computer game I used to play in college, "Worms." It was a little game where you command an army of worm soldiers and try to defeat another player with bazookas, shotguns, dynamite, and the like. Lots of explosions, good fun. I never had the actual game on my computer, but played it on my roommate's.

After a bit of searching, I finally found and downloaded the game exactly as I remembered it. (There's something a little frightening about downloading a file called "Worms" to your computer.) I played it for a while as both teams, since there is no computer opponent option, and then remembered that you can change the name of each individual soldier. So, to make things interesting, I decided I would make a team of famous British authors face off against famous American authors.

At the end of the tournament, the screen displays a summary of achievements. The soldier of the match, of course, was Mark Twain. The most useless soldier was Ernest Hemingway. (I'm not surprised. I picture him mostly drunk.) The most violent soldier was James Joyce (who seemed to get in a lot of fights with John Steinbeck, I noticed.) I thought the results were amusing, considering that I wasn't trying for them.

The best coincidence? For each of the three matches, whether because of a poorly thrown grenade or a missile blown back by the wind, Virginia Woolf couldn't stop killing herself.

Ah, I'm such a nerd.

Making the Most of a Day

I sat down with a cup of cinnamon hazelnut fudge mocha to read a book I recently purchased, but realized after the first sentence that I did not want to read, but write. And so I picked up my little cup of sugar-coma and moved into the office.

Yesterday I assuaged another trip to the eye doctor - the typical "Your eye is looking better" relief combined with the "but it may never heal completely" panic - by following the appointment with a Grand N Glorious Adventure in Coos Bay, biggest city on the Oregon Coast. Using only the phone book map, I plotted a novel route through the city, basing it mostly on street names that I liked and roads that looked, by their location, as though they might be less travelled.

First I stopped for supplies, since the hearty traveller should always be prepared for the inevitable getting-lost-for-many-hours part of the adventure. My watering hole was a sushi bar that I had never tried. I ordered up one of their "featured" rolls - crab/salmon/spinach - and a hand roll of eel, which turned out to be essentially an ice cream cone of seaweed jammed with a fistfull of eel, chunks of eel sticking out all over the place. Good eel, or "Wonderf-eel" as I call it, is the most delicious substance known to man. Bad eel, or "Dreadf-eel", I suppose, is the equivalent of a mash of cat food and substitute egg product. (You know. That liquid "egg" in boxes. Where does that stuff even come from?) This ice cream cone a'bustin' with eel was in a strange middle-ground. I'll call it "Acceptab-eel."

En route to my plotted destination I found myself in the dreaded territory of the DMV, where horrors of age circa 16 came rushing back to me. I have not driven this part of town since that time, and felt a little vindicated that now, as a well-travelled adult, those roads still don't make any sense. They include such beauties as no stop intersections, one stop four-way intersections (that don't indicate who has the right of way), and ghostly all-way stop intersections where apparently everyone knows to stop but there are only two actual signs (meaning that I sat for a long time trying to figure out why the "right of way" traffic was stopping.) Yes, the Coos Bay DMV region is a vortex of traffic nightmares, a sort of "Twilight Zone" where the stop signs come and go like shapes in the fog. It is the equivalent of placing a pilot's school in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.

But nevermind that. My ultimate goal was Shore Acres, a botanical garden farther south that was once the private estate of some rich fellow, I forget his name. He picked the most beautiful coastal cliffs he could find to build his house, and then donated the land to the state upon his death. The original grand house burned or fell off the cliff into the sea, I forget which. Now the park consists of a beautiful garden, the caretaker's house, and a series of cliff-top trails. In all the time I have lived here, I have never visited the park other than for the holiday light show, when the gardens are decorated with fantastic light displays.

The first thing that struck me on seeing it in daylight for the first time was how precariously the entire park sits atop the cliffs. It is supposed to be one of the best places in the state for watching giant waves break, and this is much due to the fact that below the observation area, the cliff cuts in, scooped out by the violent wave action, so that you are staring straight down at the jagged rocks below. I took a walk along the cliff top trail and chuckled at a sign which read "Stay in Front of Sign," which was quite clever, since about an inch behind where the sign post met the ground was nothing but air and a two hundred foot drop. In parts of the trail, the fence leaned outward towards the sea, the waves below pounding and pounding and calling "Fall in! Fall in!" like the voice of a temptress. Ah shoot, I should have taken some good precarious pictures, but my camera's batteries were dying.

The sea lions were out of sight on the rocks, but their voices were loud, carrying above the waves, the crows, and the seagulls. I leaned back on a rock wall and ate a donut, listening to the deep hoarse voice of the bulls punctuate the constant "Oor! Oor!" of the cows. That sound, ringing and melodic, continued to follow me throughout my visit, whether I was in forest or garden, a background noise much like the wind in the treetops, only more belchy.

I took a stroll in the woods, stopping to watch a Douglas tree squirrel who sat brazenly a few feet from my head, munching a pine cone with one eye turned towards me. The light in the forest was dim, and the whole of it was bathed in a mist, whether from the fog or a light rain, or perhaps even the spray of the waves being carried up by the wind. The weather is nothing like when you were here, TSO. It's gone all cold and gray like autumn, long pants weather. Melancholy weather. Hot chocolate and fires weather. I do love it.

The botanical garden itself was still covered in blooms, although their bright colors were muted by the gray light. Everything was dripping, the grass, the statues, the fountain in the middle, and fat drops of water made the roses bend down. I hopped the wet hedges to smell roses with names like "Sheila's Perfume" and "Just Joey." The only other people in the garden were elderly couples, husbands and wives holding hands and stopping to gaze together at a flower, shuffling around at an easy pace, the most pleasant little scenes to watch.

"This is good for the soul," I thought. Dripping flowers and old people bundled up against the chill and the sound of sea lions barking over the top of everything. Chicken soup for the soul, I would say, but that line's already been taken.


An accidental viewing of "The Sound of Music" has put me in a jolly good mood, and now I've stumbled across another little pleaser. I was checking out the animation entries for FlashForward 2007, since I am an incorrigible animation buff, and one of them led me to this site. If you are feeling bouncy, and if you have a computer with a good 'n' fast internet connection try this:

Go to http://www.tangoland.com/. After watching the intro - and really, how can you not? - go to the left hand margin and click on "Imagination." Make sure you've got the sound on for both of these.

It's a nice little slap of happiness.

By the by, I'm not doing the paid post thing, whatever that is, so any hyperlinks I put on my blog are merely for your enjoyment. (Or to help me find sites later, since I'm not the most organized person.)

Shift of the Season

Today I heard my first elk bugle of this year's rut, sounding far off in the valley of the river. I was roaming around the front yard hunting blackberry vines to snip, although their attempts to take over are weakening. The vines that have kept in hiding this long are putting out a peace offering, clumps of ripening berries, so I leave them alone. When the berries are gone I suspect I'll forget they were ever there and snip the vines anyway.

The summer is rolling over. This is the season of the flying termites. It is the season of falling crow feathers. The damp cold bites at the edges of a clean sky, the slugs boldly creep up the edges of the pavement even while the sun still shines. It is a time when the air feels right for the sound of both the sprinkler and the rain, and when the smell of rotting fruit hangs heavy in the fading leaves.

The sunlight is no longer crossing the places I've grown accustomed to. Because of the shortened days I have had to forgo sipping my morning coffee outside, shifting every few minutes to keep my head in the shade, and now cling to the warmth of the mug to help shake off the early chill. Ominous, the summer losing its grip. When I walk the grass in the morning it squishes between my toes, rather than sending up flurries of summertime insects. The water table is rising, grabbing at us to suck us down into the long winter months when sky and ground alike will drown in rain.

The nights have turned quiet here, so different from the earlier months of summer. I was reminded of this when I came across an old blog entry that I never put up, a post titled "Night Music." I wrote it in the beginning of July, when the nights were full of noises. One night as I lay on the verge of sleep, I thought to assign each noise an equivalent orchestral instrument, and so I wrote this:

bullfrogs = cellos
fog horn = french horn
rooster crowing = trumpet
barking dogs = trombones
lowing cows = bassoons
peacock calling = oboe
tree frogs = piccolos
the cuckoo clock downstairs = clarinet
the grandmother clock downstairs = tubular bell
ocean waves = the rustling of the audience

I couldn't make much of it after I assigned a part for everyone, and so I tucked that post away. But now I realize that while in July I could hear every one of those noises every night, these nights are eerily still. Even the fog horn and the ocean seem to keep quiet, perhaps muffled by the blanket of clouds that the cold air tosses over us when the daylight disappears.

The nights won't be still for long. A few more bugles of elk, the odd coyote yip or two, and soon October will be upon us, the sounds of the wind stripping the leaves and howling in the rafters, and the house groaning as it shifts, and the rain beating down in sheets and torrents.

But the days hear still speak summer, and the huckleberry bushes are bending under the weight of their fruit. I still see honeybees on the lavender, and so I won't think about fall just yet. Not yet.