Sunday, January 14, 2018

I walked the length of a very small beach along the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon yesterday. In the space of about a hundred yards and less than five minutes I passed a young family speaking in Arabic, a pair of men walking together chatting in Chinese, a couple in their thirties complaining to each other in a Slavic language, a very young man and young woman strolling closely and whispering in Korean, and various people rich to homeless whose language is mine. I also saw a very white young man fishing peacefully right next to a very black young man who had just emerged from a chilly swim. I saw and heard these things in view of Tilikum Crossing, a lovely new bridge that joins the west and east banks of the river. A few minutes earlier, I saw the rock in this photograph. Why anyone would feel a need to declare anyplace in the world a ****hole is a great sadness to me.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

On a sunny day in late spring mom buckled me up in the backseat of our Ford Fairlane and motored out with a friend to a mountain meadow. I'm guessing from my memory of wild grass up to my waist and how much taller mom was than me that I was about five years old. Our target that day was wild native iris which mom loved and coveted for her garden. Later on in life I learned she had an interest in genetic engineering, hoping to cross breed a certain wild strain with domestic plants and create a whole new breed, hopefully in a perfect true blue that so far had eluded everyone in that line of work. But on that bright day I just remember being set free to poke about on the alpine fields with the instruction to look for little blue iris flowers. I found one! In my excitement I picked the blossom and carried it to mom and her prospecting buddy. Her eyes lit up and she smiled when I presented the flower, sky blue with unusually wide petals for a wild iris. Then she asked me to show her where I found the plant. I didn't remember where it was, exactly. And it turned out this particular plant just had one flower, I had picked it, and so we could not find the plant, though we searched for a long time. This little story feels typical of my mother's life -- lived with deep dreams that sometimes seemed just a lost glance away from coming true. Regardless of setbacks, though, she kept working at it, and this is, I hope, is a good trait I learned from her. I think I've been luckier, as many of my deep dreams for love and happiness have come more true than hers. When mom died after a battle with cancer I offered to do a drawing for the folder for her memorial service, which I modified to be engraved on her grave marker. The image is my memory of that little blue iris flower I found for her, a promise that dreams exist and are worth pursuing. She died on January 4, 1992, and I miss her today.