Springheart

“But even inside his hermetically sealed office, he could feel the wild call of the spring night. He could hear the scratching at his heart’s door of a dog that needed to be walked.”    -Jay McInerney, Brightness Falls

You would think that, by now, I would’ve figured out that worrying does not change the outcome.

I can’t stop the carnival ride gone mad, so what I’ve been doing is limiting my exposure. I am on a strict diet with the screens. Bill Moyers tells me the eight to ten things I need to worry about every morning. That’s enough to last all day.

My new job is to be the drug dealer of my own joy, and it’s no slacker gig, believe me.

At night, instead of falling into the abyss with my phone, I read fiction and pet my cat. Exciting stuff, I know. I feel like I have all kinds of time now.

I listen to music that lifts me up: jazz, soul, funk. True American greatness. Hymns of genius, composed during times of ignorance and its resistance. Patti La Belle’s cover of Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow”, with its five-part gospel harmonies, tore through my heart like a hurricane. “If I ever lose my eyes, I won’t have to cry no more.”

Coastal flooding

It’s 7 p.m. and I throw open the door of the Airstream after monsoon rains all day to listen. For once I am paying attention. How do I keep forgetting this? The songs of countless frogs in the swamps reveal, in their chorus, the hopefulness of Spring.

I go to the beach so I can be the Supervisor of my own joy. Unfortunately, as we’ve discovered, Supervisors can be kind of lame. And the drive back home through nasty Tacoma traffic has its own power…what is that drug that makes you forget everything you just experienced?

It is so very boring to dumb oneself down all the time. Like women, like weeds, like wildness itself, you stomp the spirit down here and it blossoms over there.

I take an illicit joy in our corporate Garden being pillaged by rats, squirrels and bunnies, while overpaid, underworked middle managers ask, “How much money does it take to smack down the natural world?”

Weed it, or let Nature do it?

“LOLOLOL,” says Nature, and Her amused Team snickers along silently, yet with a funky groove.

But you, meanwhile, are here because you are interested in Doom, and in this regard, though I hate to disappoint you, I am pleased that it has been a Slow News Day kind of year.

The one voted Most Likely To Fall Into The Ocean, my former con-man-neighbor, Tweaker Tom, is still hanging in there, while being neither here nor there.

Les Strange is hanging in there too, due, no doubt, to his elaborate Bering Sea tie-downs.

My joy broke into an unscheduled percussion solo when I saw that Les Strange had built a gangplank featuring my old wicker couch from my beloved, departed Vagabond trailer.

Yet sometimes it is worth telling the artist their work is great, and sometimes you just have to hope they know it for themselves, true as a heartbeat.

Bear hugging tiny animals

Textiles

Rumor has no place in news.

Return of Razor Clams

For Rent

Long ago, a friend told me that when he was a kid, growing up in Canada, at canoe camp they would pretend to be Indians, the First Nations, paddling silently in the darkness.

Sometimes, when I had my beautiful woodsy path to the beach, near my now-vanished property, we would drunkenly play “Indian Guide”, moving silently through the forest at dusk, striking the ground with our heels in the darkness, so as not to trip over the tree roots, or make a sound.

Now, more than ever, I am convinced that it is this very quietness that will ensure our survival.


 

 

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Messengers

“Let’s consult the oracle,” my friend Val said, whipping out her phone to look something up. This is not the time to stop seeking. Truth, answers, kindness, love, hope. I am looking for messages, and their messengers.

1-5-pointSo I decided to “Reach Out”, as the corporate phonies like to say, and ask the tribe: What are you doing to calm your mind?

fragmented-branches“I need a reset.” -Samantha

2-downward-facing-arrow“Headspace: Meditation Made Simple. ” -Brecca

3-fern-in-moss“Yeah, I don’t know, man.” -Miles

Flooding by Ocean Spray, 2/9

Flooding by Ocean Spray, 2/9

“Sudoku distracts my brain for at least a bit. Walking, and verbally naming everything you see in detail. You may look like a crazy person, but it helped me when I was at my worst. It helps separate mind from thought.” -Harmony

Sleeping Lady mountain, Leavenworth

Sleeping Lady mountain, Leavenworth

Icicles, Leavenworth

Icicles, Leavenworth

Leaves and ice, Washaway

Leaves and ice, Washaway

“Take walks. The O2 helps reduce anxiety. Xanax works for me too.” -Heidi

8-forest-bridge“Brain science says we literally can’t process it all. Pick one thing that both feeds you and feeds a part of the movement you are about.” -Rebecca

9-totem-and-blue-house“Today it’s comfort food: my favorite gf pesto pizza, a glass of wine, and strawberry ice cream for dessert, which I really only crave when stressed out. Other days it is deep breathing, cuddling with my cats, listening to energizing or more positive music, going to bed earlier, reading more, and talking to friends about it.” -Suzanne

Lifelines.

Lifelines.

“Hot tub and swimming. And sitting in my car listening to the music helps me. I love the cat. I’m sure he is helpful. And a good friend always helps.” -Connie

Helpful.

Helpful.

“Smoke some good marijuana. Maybe some Quaaludes!” -El Topo

Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis

“Bath bombs are the bomb!” -Janet

13-sunset-1-17“Don’t let the Mangled Apricot Hellbeast get to you. His spectacular implosion is inevitable and imminent.” -Sean

14-unstableAnd from Resha, my former Washaway neighbor, until we fell into the ocean: “Don’t neglect the basics you already know. They never change in their ability to calm and center even though the pressure mounts. Increase your trust in them to to do the job. Breathe, walk, music, holding and being held.”

15-sand-footprintsSo, it snowed in Seattle last week. This is a rare enough event to bring an otherwise resilient city to its knees. I thought I’d take the bus, to keep my car unwrecked for beach purposes. A nine mile trip took two hours.

16-snow-signAt work it was scenic, if messy.

17-snow-teardropI waited for a bus home for 25 minutes past its scheduled time. An older man in a brown puffy ski jacket said, “I’ve been waiting at least 40 minutes.” When he spoke, I could see that what few teeth he had appeared to be filed into points. “I’m walking,” I said.

18-snow-pacific-sunI set off at a brisk clip. A half hour or so later, at the precise moment I arrived, on foot, at 3rd and Pine, the #3 bus pulled up and the brown-jacketed man got off. We exchanged a vampire nod in passing.

19-snow-cattailsThe next day, there was an old woman wandering around the Space Needle grounds. In her impeccable flowered wool coat and style-not-warmth ribboned hat, she could slay at any Queen Mum lookalike contest.

Raymond

Raymond

She was pained that all of Seattle’s attractions open at eleven, having only half a day to do them all, before catching a flight back to Glasgow. “I have no problem approaching strange men,” she told me. “When you have grey hair you can do whatever you want.”

Declining fortunes of snowmen.

Declining fortunes of snowmen.

Dream: I’m on the light rail, and I have lost my shoes somewhere, but I am wearing, as always, a most excellent pair of Smartwool socks. A man hands me a tiny, naked baby girl and walks off into another car.

21-another-doomed-viewThe girl is missing an eye, and one of her cute as hell, miniature tiny feet has six toes. She starts to pee on me. Naturally, my foremost concern is my beautiful socks. I hold her at arm’s length. Eventually her Dad returns and I hand her off.

23-cobalt-night“My girl has one eye,” her Dad says.

“She is going to be sassy,” I say. “Always winking.”

24-giant-eI have a friend who has been both a lover and enemy, and, while forgiveness is not always my jam, humor helps.

25-ice-1He messaged me that “Space” Ace Frehley was coming to town to perform. (I was fully smitten with KISS by the age of ten. This suggests to me that if I was not born bad, I would at the very least “like to see it taken further”, as we used to say at art school.)

28-sky-waterI said that I thought makeup was probably a friend to Ace, that it was probably better to keep the mystery, after all these years, what with Time marching on.

27-tree-shadows“Mystery is a true cuddle-commodity against the internet’s static-cling blanket,” he replied.

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Cherries

Life is just a bowl of cherries

berries-in-forestDon’t take it serious

apple-in-forestLife’s too mysteriousblue-pacific-treesYou work

you-work-you-saveYou save

you-saveYou worry so

you-worry-soBut you can’t take your dough when you go, go, go

go-go-goKeep repeating, “It’s the berries.”fern-and-sun-breakThe strongest stoke must fallorange-tumbleweedThe best things in lifesand-points-and-sunsetTo you were just loanedbacklit-mossSo how can you losepyramidsWhat you never owned?dinosaur-log“Hard times call for furious dancing,” Alice Walker tells us. And, in my case, also Judy Garland. A revisit to the “Wizard of Oz” was in order. (And “A Star Is Born.” And “Cabaret.” It’s been a bit of a bender).oz-treeTwo years ago December I lost my friend Regnor and my beach property at the same time. Every ceramic plate I eat off, every salad bowl I use, every mug I bring to my lips, Regnor made, so he is present. But although I can vividly recall my property, the magnificence of my Alder trees, the smell of moss, the songs of frogs, the feeling of both frontier wide open-ness and privacy, the immense quiet, I cannot conjure it up.

RIP

RIP

fall-kelp-2When I first got my property, my first pictures looked like this,  Celtic knots of sea kelp. Now my place is gone and the kelp endures.kelptextile-4Would it not seem that everywhere is Washaway now? The bank on which our comfort sits, undercut. The concrete foundation is broken and jaggedly hanging over the bank, waiting to drop into the ocean. Of course, we’re veterans, old pros to Doom and Impermanence. When does this cease to be scary?

whipple-12-16Do You Hear What I Hear:

ice-on-pondWind. Rain spattering on the tarp, on my trailer that I still get to stay in. Consistent, repetitive outbursts from the rooster several blocks away. Dawn was several hours ago, but he’s at it all night long anyway. He may be blind.sneaker-12-16Crows.  My humming of my little fridge from Home Depot. The two dogs that live on the neighbor’s deck (aka The Deck Dogs) who bark furiously anytime someone walks down the street to the beach, which is all day long. Hugo, my cat, snoring.seagulls-riding-cloud-wavesA song, a song, high above the trees, with a voice as big as the sea.truck-lightsOh, Christmas, stop, just stop it! My Mom loved Christmas, and I miss Mom, so every song is a dagger. Until now. As I sit here writing this, an all-tuba ensemble is performing in the Armory. The low vibrations, felt as much as heard, are helping.spooky-war-canA frog has shown up to redirect my negative thinking. The call and response between frog and crows is percussive and charming. And the rooster, what time signature is he following? I’ve been in a corporate environment too long. I want that rooster to Do Less. He is working way too hard, making everyone else look bad.september-mossy-treeI want you to know how grateful I am for your wise counsel, readers. I lean on you to make sense of the senseless. At least we have each other. Season’s greetings in uncertain times. “Courage in the dark days ahead,” as my Dad used to say.e-darth-stormySomeday, I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me.

Posted in Beach Access | 7 Comments

My Heart Belongs To

October 3, 2016   Dear Erika,

1-e-beach-scan

At the close of our telephone conversation I wondered how much you were aware of the impact of some of your earlier activities and decisions on your relations with your family.

Southeast Alaska, August 2016

Southeast Alaska, August 2016

If you feel alienated and sidelined it might be helpful for you to review and reconsider some of your past history and its relationship to family values and your parents and your apparent disregard for both.

Iceberg

Iceberg

Let us start with your high school years. Your mother and I both thought that you would receive a better education at O’Connell than at the public high school. You were apparently not happy about it but agreed to try O’Connell for a year. While you were there you became a cheerleader and evidently enjoyed some of the environment.

4-seals-on-floatBut you also associated with students who used drugs and and subsequently were expelled for using them. (Editor’s note: Marijuana.)

So from your parents’ viewpoint you did not give Catholic school a fair try as you promised.

5-seal-getting-expelledYou then attended the public high school and did not like your classmates or the teachers.

6-crazy-chickenBut instead of focusing on learning as much as you could in that environment you got involved again with students who took drugs.

Alaska State Ferry

Alaska State Ferry

This time such activity led to an investigation by local police and and you narrowly missed getting a jail sentence.

Anan Bear Observatory

Anan Bear Observatory

I talked to the judge involved and convinced him to give you another chance.

9-bears-on-rocksIf you had received a jail sentence it would have seriously affected your employment opportunities for the rest of your life.

10-bear-in-waterI think that this near miss convinced you to renounce your involvement with drugs.

11-alaska-bear-ass-2If I recall correctly, you then had a teacher friend who got you interested in photography. After you graduated you wanted to study photography in college. So with that in mind you went off to college.

12-alaska-state-ferry-selfie-2

This was a great eye-opening experience and you apparently enjoyed your time there as well as the courses you took at Brown.

13-icebergs-1In retrospect, i wonder what your life would have been like if you took English as your major and photography a minor but important subject. I think your job opportunities would have been much better. You might have ended up as an editor for some publishing house.

14-blue-icebergsOne sad outcome of your college years was that you gave up your Catholic religion. This is not an uncommon thing for people of all religious persuasions.

Glacier

Glacier

But after they graduate and are working, the more thoughtful people explore other religions and some pursue advanced scholarship in order to better understand Christianity and its teachings.

16-glacier-and-wakeAs a result some  Catholics emerge with a better appreciation of their religion, and some Protestants become Catholics. We used to see a lot of that at St. Stephen’s and its association with students from George Washington University. Apparently you never had any desire to do any research on Catholicism.

17-alaska-hollow-2

I believe that it was during a summer vacation from college that you talked to some of the people in the photography division of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and were surprised that none or few of them did anything with photography outside of their employment.

18-landscape-and-raindropsIt would have been interesting to see how widespread this attitude was among other trained photographers. It might have made you think about a fall back vocation.

19-mossy-alaska-treeWell after working for an Army newspaper and one of the suburban papers you decided to take a job with a newspaper in Seattle. But as things turned out the job was filled when you got there.

20-space-needle-seattleThere were friends from college on the local scene and you decided to try to make your career in Seattle.

21-seattle-pike-place-marketLater, apparently out of desperation, you got involved in an establishment that catered to males that wanted to view naked females behind glass.

22-mannequin-and-flowersAs I recall you were also involved in some exotic paintings that were on display in a local museum. One of your mother’s friends saw this exhibit when she was in Seattle and told her about it. (Editor’s note: my Lusty Lady photographs were exhibited at Seattle Art Museum).

23-magnoliaIt was all very embarrassing for both of us. Where were the family values in such involvements?

24-torso-logHow did we go so wrong that you did not know such activities were morally wrong?

Morally Wrong.

Morally Wrong.

Of course for us the longest and most painful interlude in your life was your living with a man who was not your husband. 26-todd-alaskaAll this came to an end because HE had a change of heart and eventually rejected you.

27-trees-near-missMeanwhile you had lost opportunities to meet and marry someone more suited to you and to lead a normal life.

Alaska State Ferry

Alaska State Ferry

So it has seemed to me that in rejecting family values you also devalued the things that were important to us and governed our life styles.

Seal skull, Washaway

Seal skull, Washaway

Naturally this weakened family ties.

30-weakened-ties-crowYour long involvement with Seattle made it difficult to visit us or to play an active role in our life. But you did respond heroically and with great dedication when your Mother needed you during her treatment at Johns Hopkins.

32-alaska-e-and-moose-2So there are still some family values in place, but we don’t see them reflected very much in your later life.

33-road-alaskaI hope that the above reminiscences help you to better appreciate the factors that eroded your ties with the rest of the family.

Erosion.

Erosion.

It is now time to try to restore them. I hope that you agree.

35-crab-totem

Love,….

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Inventory

I’ve had landscaping jobs where we kept track of the stuff we used, to bill the client later. Soil, fertilizers, plants. Now I work in the same place every day and there is no one to bill, so I keep track of what’s still there, while noting what’s gone.

Lately, in my life, I’ve been doing a little of both.

beach through branchesYou can probably guess where I went for my birthday. It’s been the same story for the last 22 years. And birthdays are a time for inventory. What’s been lost, and what remains?

Wealth.

Wealth.

In the past six years, there have been major losses. My Mom. My Grammy. A relationship that lasted ten years and a house full of stuff, gone. A beach property I cherished for twelve years, trailers, trees, and more stuff, gone. The best job I ever had, that raised me and taught me invaluable life lessons, closed down, gone. My friend Regnor, the most playfully disciplined artist I’ve ever met, gone. Holes blown in the world. Now all that’s left are memories and pictures. I can conjure these apparitions up until they haunt me, but they are not available for comment. Which is too bad, as I have some questions for everyone.

silvery runnersWhat terrible, hateful, stressful times, right now. The old problem of being an artist and feeling things. The horror of that nightclub, young and out dancing on a hot summer night. I try various breathing techniques. Smell the flowers, blow out the candles. I try not to click on stories about majestic gorillas and jaguars getting senselessly shot, never mind the unending stream of people. I break out in tiny, painless maroon constellations of bruises, my spots, sympathy for the big cats. I hold a smaller one close and try to breathe.

Hugo w- mouth open KnutsensBut the beach rewards, surely as it robs. I was able to spend my birthday at Washaway in the beautiful cabin of some friends.

fallen shadesThere, I did everything I wanted. I went for walks in the enchanted forest, recharging the Wood Nymph batteries, or, if you will, “Forest Bathing” or Shinrin-Yoku. This is a Japanese movement from the ’80s that is said to “engage the senses, maximizing health benefits and being present. Mindfulness is open to all.”

wood nymph rechargetrail and bridgefiddleheadsmossynessferns in forestI walked on the beach  in beautiful sunshine and enjoyed the territorial views of the Fort.

fort 1fort 2fort loungefeet, fortIs it wrong to rejoice? Inventory-wise, this is the best of times. I still have my magnificent Hugo, my love Todd, my sweet Dad. The dead would want us to savor things, right? To be Washaway about things? That’s what I think when I drink green tea from the rim of a perfect ceramic mug Regnor made for me on a beautiful morning. Or maybe they don’t want anything, but I like to think they’re kicking around, wishing I wouldn’t preoccupy myself with things I can’t change.

red arrow on tree

Erosion control techniques (Les)

Erosion control techniques (Les)

wheelsxmas lightsroof and siding

Spruce and Whipple streets

Spruce and Whipple streets

Tamerack Tweaker House

Tamerack Tweaker House

So there I was, taking inventory on a birthday stroll, and I came upon what appeared to be some massive buzzards, which didn’t seem like a good omen, but then upon closer inspection, they looked like first-year eagles, which is lucky. Birds of prey, like art, are so subjective.eagle 2eagle 1eagle and sideways treeThe only certain thing is uncertainty. What will happen to my Seattle? As my friend Evan put it, “we lost the war.” Like Washaway, it is not if, but when. And the only thing to do is to try to create beauty in uncertain times.

 http://www.youtube.com

Like an old car, there is maintenance that must be done. So it came to pass that I found myself at the dentist getting my first crown, that I might rule as your Queen. I switched to a fabulous new woman dentist in Burien who has TVs on the ceiling. Here are the things I learned while on nitrous at the dentist, watching Cartoon Network:

“Just because you’re scared doesn’t mean you’re not brave.”

silvery water“All new Ninjas, including the feared Gardener Pirate Ninja!” (with watering can)

e shadow 1“It’s magical destiny practice.”

e shadow 2“You don’t need any special powers to be my friend.”

fire“No time to play with dolphins, I’ve got a race to win!”

sand point and mussels 2“That’s not corn, Chicken! That’s gold.”

mussels detail

Posted in Beach Access | 10 Comments

Frog Songs


Where do the old trailers go to die? Not the ocean, not this time. A miracle has happened.

vagabond outside 1-16

vagabond bedroom 1-16I got to have one more nice last visit with the Vagabond. It was somewhat trashed, of course, but still retained the character of its old self. And, like the Giving Tree, some more of my stuff had miraculously returned to it.

vagabond front room 1-16

One year, my friend Will went to the Army surplus in Fort Lewis and bought brown, scratchy but truly warm expedition weight polypropylene long underwear for me and all   our female friends who were working outside or in cold warehouses that winter. Reunited with the old Poly Pro!

vagabond sink 1-16There was also an orange floor mat depicting a cowboy on a bucking bronco that my friend Sue got me years ago.

vagabond roof

And, most amazing was the return of the fabled Chicago Sweater. Many years ago, before I was born, probably, my Dad went to Chicago on a business trip. It was cold. So he bought this blue wool turtleneck sweater. Somehow, the Chicago Sweater became mine, then got relegated as beachwear. It is riddled with moth holes the size of quarters. Hugo thinks it is the cat’s pajamas.

I could not believe my good fortune in being able to retrieve such priceless artifacts! After everything is gone, all relics have sentimental value.

Chicago sweaterNext visit I was not so lucky. My old friend was getting completely destroyed. Lights smashed, siding peeled off.

trashed vag 1

They even took the Vagabond signage. I should have snagged it myself. What was I thinking? I guess I never wanted to destroy it.

trashed vag 2So that was all rather disheartening, the inevitable, pointless destructiveness of people.

I was ready for it to go in the ocean.

rainy drive

Also, it must be noted that I am pretty sick of the drive here by now, after fourteen years. The night driving. The “smart” phone’s Weather setting that does not differentiate between “Rain” and “Coastal Flooding.” The demure signage of  Grayland: “Water Over Roadway”, which should read “Prepare To Hydroplane.” The inevitable Tacoma traffic.

rainy drive 2Why do I keep coming here? I stayed away for a long while, only focusing on the drive, the arduous means, not the end. But one night I drove down, and after the record-breaking rainfall, all the drainage ditches were full of high, brown water.

high swampFrom these swamps, in the darkness, rose the reverb and grooves of some truly magnificent music: the songs of frogs in Spring. That is the sound of hopefulness, of  promise. I had forgotten something critical.

mossy groveCurrently I’m trying to practice what I call Zen Tai Chi. Embracing my powerlessness. I can’t control what happens, only my reactions. This is the supreme lesson of Washaway!

little fishSpring also marks the third sad anniversary of donating my bone marrow to my Mom. I know, the point is that I tried. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as she would say.

windswept beach
And all that Serenity business of accepting the things you cannot change. Isn’t that an Irish proverb? I should have paid better attention. It actually means “Lower your expectations.”

tree and tail

I have recently been told, by separate people, that I have “bad energy”, and that I’m a self-absorbed ass. Oh, yes, you’re right, I’m sorry!  Talk is cheap. Zen Tai Chi!

1979The only way to counteract such foolishness is to practice extreme gratitude. There is no better location than Washaway for this practice, in my view.

me & marcy shadowsI have excellent pals, a wonderful man and kitty, beautiful gardens at home and at work. My health. I still have my Dad. I still get to come to Washaway!

Todd in wind

airstream w- socks 4-16

airstream w- socks 4-16 detail

airstream screen door

And so, it came to pass that while out on a stroll with Marcy I noticed that the Vagabond had disappeared. An Easter miracle! Neighbors, I learned, asked Pacific County that the whole assortment of derelict trailers go away. Infinite blessings.

no vagabondIn the course of a few hours, I sped through all the phases of grief. Denial, sorrow, mourning, acceptance, relief, joy. It was a mini Jazz funeral, all in my head.

real fruit flavorThe old ocean keeps eating this place, but slowly, at the moment. It would sure be nice if my friend Kenny got another year.tree 4-8-16There is a nice fort on the beach right now, which contains a plastic Fisher-Price house from the ’70s. I had one just like this!

fancy fort

fisher price 1fisher price 2It seemed all very Washaway, its rooms filling with sand.

fisher price 3You know what else I’m thankful for, dear readers? You, who have let me bend your ear, all these years. You have offered me sage advice in my times of need that has really, truly helped me. The perspective of strangers has felt like family, when family has felt like strangers. You comforted me when I lost my place, and you comfort me still.

Someone recently asked me if blogging pays. Well, no, not money, but yes, it absolutely does. Your feedback is currency. It’s worth keeping this thing going, just to spend time with you. I’m a selfish ass, after all.

fisher price 4P.S. I’ve updated my Washaway website to reflect my own story of doom. Check it out! http://www.washawaybeach.com

Posted in Beach Access | 6 Comments

The Bad Seed

“Good morning, Princess,” the Storm Trooper says. He calls all women Princess, yet it never gets old. His sidekick, Darth Vader, is a glorified hand truck.

Stormy and hand truck“Morning, Stormy,” I say, and fist-bump his glove.

It’s unfortunate that one of my arts is dread. I am a master of a useless craft. As a well-intentioned but truly crazy lady I once worked for used to say, “Ooooh, that’s up in my Wheelhouse!” Dread is up in my Wheelhouse.

ladder, sideways tree

 

“Family is the most awesome thing ever!” Facebook is always telling me. “Share if you agree!” But the truth is closer to what my coworker Man once told me on a bad day.

“Be courageous, Erika. Only God knows.”

Indeed, I find current circumstances so bewildering that I’ve been asking myself, “What Would Grimm’s Fairy Tales Do?”

I like to imagine I’m at a banquet where karma is about to be served.

Dad birthday portraitThere once lived (LIVES!) a King who was both handsome and very wise. His passion was writing books about history, so the people of the future could know what transpired before them. The King was beloved by all, for he had a gentle, gracious manner, and was that rare combination of great talent and no pretense. If he had any weakness, it was that he was sensitive and felt things, and thus was dismayed by the shortcomings of the world.

Dad at partyThe Queen took excellent care of the King. So that he might enjoy a life of the mind, she tackled more practical pursuits like running the household, while also working as a lobbyist to help families in need. But the Queen fell ill and died. She was thirteen years younger than he, and this was not what he thought would happen. In fact, he is still pretty pissed about it.

Mom and Dad 11-11Though the King’s joy was diminished by her passing, he made every effort to adjust to the new reality, cooking for himself and all the rest. But the King is getting up in years, or “long in the tooth,” as he likes to say.

Dad w-watchThe King and Queen had two children. The eldest, a daughter, grew up near a beautiful forest and was always reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales, each experience fostering an appreciation of the other.

EL silhouette

When she grew up, she moved to where some of the most enchanted and ancient trees can be found. Unfortunately, it is on the opposite side of the country from the King.

forest ripplesThe youngest, a son, was an obstinate type. He had an arrogant and selfish manner, imagining that the world owed him something, while never creating anything more substantial than an excuse. He had trouble holding jobs and was always broke.

DL silhouetteThe daughter had an idea! What if the son moved into the family’s nearby 3-bedroom rental house, where he could get on his feet while being close at hand to keep an eye on the well-being of the aging King!

blurry tracksAnd it came to pass. But within a few months, it became evident that there was a Broken Agreement. The son’s one assignment was to check on the King daily, to provide aid and conversation and help in case of emergency. You know, drive 10 minutes to check on the nice guy paying all your bills. But the son could not be bothered, as he had no conscience.

spooky forestThen, quite by accident, one day, the King went to the bank which contains the money of the dead Queen. To the King’s great surprise, he learned that the son had made up an ATM card in the King’s name, so that he might conveniently steal her money through the Machine.

spooky path end treesThe King, ever genteel, wrote his son a letter, criticizing this turn of events. But since the son  will not abide any criticism, now or ever, he simply stopped taking the King’s calls.

motor vehicles sign and raindropsIn Grimm’s Fairy Tales, loyalty and integrity are a big deal. Actions have direct consequences. Those ducks you won’t let a hunter shoot? They’ll show up to retrieve the ring of the Princess when she  tosses it in the lake for you to find.

fake ducksThat ant colony you won’t let the horses stomp? They’ll gather every last pearl of the necklace the Princess scattered throughout the forest for you, arranging them into a tidy pile while you sleep.

cinderblocks

And the hive of honeybees, for whom you chased off a bear because you “will not suffer them to be harmed?”

When you have to determine which of the three identical Princesses has had honey for dessert, the Queen will come and land on her sleeping mouth. (“The Queen Bee”).

honeycomb and spoon

All those years I fed the crows at the beach. Saving Baggies of all my crappy uneaten Seattle Center French fries for them, plus the occasional chicken neck. It is about time they threw down a cloak of invisibility for me, the quintessential spying tool.

crow silhouette group

 Or what about the always-beautifully dressed older woman who sits on the ground in Seattle Center, constantly rocking back and forth?

crow and mexican hat“Help me out,” she says. I give her my last three dollars, hoping to change my luck. She carefully tucks it into an elegant pocketbook.

crow in alder“Go to the Machine,” she says. “It’s my birthday. I want a hot chocolate.”

The Machine is a nearby ATM which dispenses twenties. I wasn’t having it. It’s been her “birthday” since before Christmas.

purple crabBut now I see my short-sightedness. If I had only followed instructions, she might’ve given me more instructions.

seattle center crows“Hark ye. I will make you a present because of your good heart. Go on your way and you will come to a tree on which nine birds are sitting. They will have a cloak in their claws, over which they are fighting. Take aim with your gun and shoot into the middle of them. They will drop the cloak and one of the birds will fall down dead. Take the cloak with you. It is a wishing cloak. When you throw it round your shoulders, you only have to wish yourself at a place to be there at once. Take the heart out of the dead bird and swallow it whole. Then you will find a gold coin under your pillow every single morning when you wake.” (“The Salad”).

dead birdAs the real artists will tell you, sometimes you have to go through some nasty process to get to a lasting reward.

periwinkle footstepsBut what is the fate of those without a good heart, who would neglect AND take advantage of the old King, who provides everything? Steal money from the dead Queen? Hmm, let’s see here.

toppling giantIn all likelihood, you’ll have to “forfeit your life.” That’s pretty standard operating procedure. But there are worse outcomes.

bruno's 1-16“Now hear your sentence. You shall be turned into a black poodle with a gold chain round your neck, and you shall be made to eat live coals, so that flames of fire will come out of your mouth.” (“The Pink”).

dog calligraphy“The old King put a riddle to the waiting-woman. ‘What does a person deserve who deceives his master?’

magic dusk smudge

“The false bride answered, ‘No better than this: he must be put stark naked in a barrel stuck with nails, and dragged along by two white horses from street to street till he is dead.’

bruno's outlets“‘That is your own doom!’ said the King. ‘And the judgment shall be carried out.'” (“The Goose Girl”).

surf unsafeI go to the beach, yet I cannot escape my mind. I am exhausted by the dread of worrying. What, and when, will something happen? I cannot bear the thought of anything happening to the King, or the sheer jackassery of neglecting him.

mossy clump and branches

Yet here at Washaway, there is an unrelenting message of impermanence. Probably I should be taking trips to L.A., instead.

sideways tree

Alas, dear Rock Hound, there thou hangest!

sideways rockhound“Alas, Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest. If thy mother knew thy fate, her heart would break with grief so great.” (“The Goose Girl”).

spooky rockhound front view

Rock Hound, you wrote me some years back. You said you’d never return to Washaway, and so I should find and avail myself of your pile of special rocks. But I went to the wrong trailer.

rockhound interior 2Last summer, local legend Les Strange tripped and fell onto the overgrown, tarped pile of geodes. He gave me two 5-gallon buckets’ worth. Some are in my garden, but my favorites are in my kitchen.  No houseplant can live in my cave, so I heaped the best rocks on the scorched earth of a dead plant.

fossil rockThe very best rock is on top of the pile. While it it is not colorful, it is bejeweled with tiny fossils, the exoskeletons of ancient sea creatures.

No one can tell me there is no magic.

hugo and alder reflections

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