Summery Summary

July5 fireworks 1

Picking up firework garbage in a Seattle park on July 5, I wondered if I was being delivered a sign as I noted the top firework names. Was this some kind of barometer of the USA?



Zombie War

Hell In A Handbasket

Ypo are loved

Gone Bananas


Turning Heads

Adults Only


Sexy Girl

Wassup Homie


Seattle crawfish


Banana slug


We Want You



Of course, many of the familiar wrappers reminded me of wallpapering the old Cookhouse. It’s such a shame it fell into the ocean. Those “Pissed Eagle” fireworks with the eagle chomping the head of Osama Bin Laden would really be collectibles now.

Now, more than ever before, my life is ruled by water. This is not a bad thing, but it does require both time and planning to work in Seattle, an hour across. The ferry beats the hell out of driving in traffic. My car is set up as both bed and truck.

              ferry front

Seattle is now a few good people and some exotic food marinading, like tender vittles, in a rolling boil of inequality.  The “Let Them Eat Cake” mandate is horrifying, and it feels good to have gotten out. But, of course, that’s where the money still is. I don’t recognize the place where I spent half my life.

For the time being, I’m enjoying being back at my park. There’s an old guy who likes to go  tearing around on a rusty old bike, cane attached to the handlebars like a battering ram, shouting, “OUTTA THE WAY OF MY CADILLAC!”

“Are you cleaning up the park?” Cadillac asked me.

“I’m trying,” I said.

“There’s no such thing as trying!” Cadillac said. “There’s only succeeding! There’s no such thing as trying.

I’m lying, I’m dying.”

Driftwood menagerie

At a Parks Department retirement party, the guest of honor noted, “I want you to know that I’m standing here today because I had both knees replaced by the City of Seattle.”

There’s a staffer with a coveted gig who has cultivated quite the persona. His car is painted with a folk-art flair best described as “Pull Me Over, I’m Insane!” His license plate is a derivative of “SNUGGLES”, and his car is full of very large stuffed animals. I’m told he shaves, shirtless, in the Men’s room at Headquarters while grunting impressively.

No one can deal.

“Hollywood couldn’t make up a better serial killer,” a coworker noted. “What if it’s all a really good act? He gets to roam around freely, like the Sasquatch.”

It is a beautiful time at the beach, the islands forming that I call the “turtles” smooth and round under bare feet, the inland waterways warm enough to swim.


spooky tree blur

Things everywhere feel very Washaway these days: perilous, precarious, a slippery creature writhing out of control. I continue to try to remind myself of the importance of savoring: delight, frolic, laughter, the natural world, my garden, and the joy it brings to love and be loved. Just as the ferry, while time-consuming, is preferable to driving, these things seem, while fragile and  needing some tender cultivating, vastly superior to the alternative.

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“You know, you’re looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks, but there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.”

-Meat Loaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”


“There’s a growing trend among property owners along the north side of Willapa Bay,” proclaimed the Daily World . “Hope!”

Maybe hope can be one of my eccentricities, like liking crows or Meat Loaf. Certainly we go through this march every March, don’t we?  Spring scratching at the heart’s door, the songs of the froggies, flowers bursting through the scorched earth, my thinking my bone marrow would save my Mom, the promise of regrowth. And any good news is welcome these days.

So I am trying to figure out why I’m being a hater about the rocks.

“She prayed to no saints, but she believed in steadiness and luck.” -Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace.

Bye Chicken

Hope comes in the form of rocks. There were big trucks moving them around next to the highway in January. I stopped and chatted with a guy in a big truck. He talked about “four-man rocks” and explained the theory of “dynamic revetment” to me. Dumping rocks, or, officially speaking, “cobble” of different sizes, will “redirect the wave energy” and stop the erosion!

“That’s the theory, anyway,” he said.

“The ocean is a slippery creature,” I said. (Like hope.)

You will have to take my word for it that there were photographs of trucks and rocks that I took on my roadside photo safari, because I tried to upgrade my computer’s operating system and almost everything I shot in January went POOF! as surely as if the pictures had fallen into the ocean.

But, back to being the curmudgeon of cobble. I’ve been trying to read up about the project and it is pretty clunky reading. Essentially, cranberry growers, one of whom is the irrigation district director, the Shoalwater tribe, Pacific County, the North Willapa Harbor Grange and assorted citizenry banded together to get the state to spring for some rocks. $300,000 was “earmarked” for Washaway. Supposedly “dynamic revetment” has worked in California and Oregon. Why wouldn’t it work at one of the fastest eroding places in our hemisphere?

It is widely agreed that doing something is better than nothing. And, you know, I made a patio one time and I put 5/8 minus crushed gravel underneath it and it compacted very nicely. I was doing dynamic revetment before it was cool. But my little patio was not the ocean.

Erosion control techniques


So, back to me, because it’s all about me, my selfish Nope On Hope doubts are as follows.

#1: Why would it work?


You will recall that the town of North Cove has been falling into the ocean since the late 1800s. Millions of dollars have been spent, there have been wild ideas like dumping the car bodies in the ocean in the ’60’s. (See my post “Erosion Control Techniques”). There is the dubious “success” of the Rockpile Peninsula Project, where the ocean just carves around to where the rocks are not, and the guy has switched from rocks to chunks of broken concrete. I picture him sitting there with his mouth shut and his checkbook open, like the Mother of the Groom. I also will hypothesize that the past three winters here have been pretty mild, so the true test of a real storm has not yet occurred. We are about due.

I was chatting with Vern at my favorite hardware store and he thought a better and cheaper alternative would be to sink an old warship out in the channel, creating habitat for fish and pelicans AND a tourist attraction. “Maybe the Bremerton shipyard could spare one,” he suggested. “Maybe the Nimitz.”

Pelicans. I like pelicans. That’s how I roll.

#2: It’s too late for me! Like closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Like putting on hearing protection after using power equipment for ten years. I am not proud of myself for saying this, but Waaaahh, boo hoo, I miss my compound so much!

Vagabond and foxgloves

The cookhouse.

It does also seem as though the rocks’ placement favors the tribe, the cranberry bogs, and the highway. It is a work in progress, I suppose. Other areas, like my former street, Blue Pacific, have such laughable rock piles that I would not build a half-assed patio on them.

Of course, it would be great for other people if this really did work! Like my friend Ken, who is the likeliest candidate for Willy B. Next. It would be really nice if he didn’t lose his home. Or my friends Marcy and Bob, on whose property my Airstream resides, and abides. Or my friends Roberta and Dave. Or my nice friends who let me stay in their cabin sometimes. Or anyone else who loves this enchanted land, our boneyard of guests and ghosts.

#3: The shirts need improvement. (As does this photo). As they used to say at art school, “I’d like to see it taken further.” I think it would be so much funnier to use Pacific County’s own logo! Nothing says “Wash Away No More” like “Don’t try to outrun a tsunami while concurrently getting clocked on the head with a boulder!”


This could be silkscreened onto wife-beater tank tops, a la The Lusty Lady. I would totally “rock” one!




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In the Land of the Blind, a one-eyed artist is King. But who wants to work in the Land of the Blind?

Eclipse/Ray Charles

Not this girl. The protesters would gather outside the gates, chanting their poems into a bullhorn. They loved the rhyming couplets, those Union poets:

“Monuments to corporate greed! That’s not the kind of art Seattle needs!”

But no “Guest” ever failed to spend their 25 dollars, nor did any iffy labor practices ever change. All it did was irritate the Gardener, and there were many other irritants there.

So, in May I quit the corporate sideshow of the One-Eyed-One and His Incompetent Do-Nothing Clown Hyenas (*new band name!*) and got myself a nice “Seasonal” job with the Seattle Parks Department, one of the nicest things I’ve done for myself in a while. It seems that I am not cut out for the corporate environment. Which is a problem, because Seattle itself has become corporate, but we’ll get back to that.

I set my work pants on fire for Marcy Merrill’s photo series, “Formal Wear Worn Inappropriately.”

When I was scheduling my interview with the Senior Gardener, we arranged to meet in the park. “I’ve got white hair and a big white truck,” she told me, and my heart began to sing. Because some things, like a lifetime’s work, cannot be faked.

Allow me to express the sheer delight of working with knowledgeable, capable, talented, experienced landscape professionals, who had things to teach me, who were respectful, helpful, and who always had my back. For all the bullshit “Team” talk over the past few years, it finally came true.  It has been a very long time since I’ve had such a privilege.

So I set about to having the best summer ever, in what would turn out to be my last summer in Seattle. My commute from my house to the lake took nine minutes. There, I worked on restoring a weedy, overgrown wetland salmon habitat.

Of course, there were still bullies and crowds.

Every day I would find clothing, especially socks. I decided the park was like the Ganges River in India, the holiest place for socks to die. I took it seriously, a steward of sacred ground. Yet I wondered how so many people made it home without pants. One time I found a lone go-go boot in the lake.

One morning someone dumped five bunnies and a chicken in the park, and Animal Control came to help rescue them. “I’ve herded cats. It’s harder,” the guy said. Catching a bunny bare-handed was one of my proudest accomplishments this summer, a true resume builder.

Be vewy quiet! I’m hunting wabbits!

On the fourth anniversary of my Mom’s death, I saw a turtle laying eggs, so Moms were present. A coworker told me that they are a sacred animal to the Sioux because the turtle is always home. Later that morning, I jump-started the vehicle of a nice young man who had moved to Seattle from Texas and was living in his car. He wanted to buy me coffee, give me money. I declined and told him, “She would want this.”

I liked the Parks Department very much, and they liked me, and tried to keep me! But the decree came down from on high: Seasonals Are Seasonal.

Eclipse moonshadows

But that turned out to be OK, because meanwhile, I was delivered a sign.

“To construct a four-story, 50-unit apartment building in an environmentally critical area. Parking for 18 vehicles to be provided in below grade garage.”

It was not a complete surprise, as I’d gotten a letter from the City addressed to “Resident” that I thought was some malfeasance with the electric bill, and was in fact about the “Urban Village” coming to my back yard, with its “high liquefaction soils” notwithstanding. The blackberry brambles had always made it very private. But the ‘liquefaction” is no joke. I made a dock out of rugs and doormats from Ross Dress For Less for the months of standing water in the rainy season. With all that concrete, how would my place not flood? Never mind the um, lack of privacy of the cranes and the Urban Village?


Against all common sense, I posted in the Columbia City Facebook page, a notorious pit of vipers and trolls. “Does anyone know anything about wetland preservation?”

“That’s the perfect place for some urban infill development!”

“Yay Urban Density!”

“Oh, the poor endangered blackberries!”

“Yes in my back yard!” Which is easy to say when it is NOT ACTUALLY YOUR BACK YARD.

So Seattle is Washaway now. Seasonal. I don’t want things to change, but nothing will ever be the same. I have been here for 25 years, half my life. (You do the math!)

When I moved here from Virginia in October 1992, it was raining, and the neon, ‘”fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green, shone smokily through the tranquil rain,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the “blue hour” in Paris. Everything seemed so clean and fresh, so full of hope and promise, Mount Rainier rising over it all like a mirage. My friend Ed told me, “Move here, just move here. You can make a mark on the world because the lines are shorter.” And, for a glorious time, it was true.

As you have surely heard, Seattle has since been bought by a rich and powerful man who promised Fulfillment delivered by flying monkeys. But it turned out to be the Devil’s bargain,  The Monkey’s Paw:

” ‘Bring him back,’ cried the old woman… ‘Do you think I fear the child I nursed?’ ”

Rents skyrocketed, homelessness exploded, every piece of property became a gold mine.

The very businesses that made it quirky or funky or unique or fun in the first place got  developed into big box luxury apartments. Yay Urban Density! We have sold the soul of the city I loved, its beating heart. I am not the only one looking at all these cities humping the corporate Leg, courting to be the “HQ2” and thinking they are total dumbasses.

The only viable option is to get out now. But how, and to where? So my love sold his condo and we got a beautiful, tiny place together on the Kitsap Peninsula. Once again I moved in October, except this time it was dry, which was handy for moving velvet furniture and countless plants. It was the most beautiful Fall in recent memory.

Here, there is a view of sparkling, shimmering Puget Sound, which I’ve always thought is much cooler than the lake. There are soaring mountains and a peekaboo view of Mount Rainier. We are on Nipsic. I like to think that’s an acronym for Nothing In Puget Sound Is Cooler. It’s very quiet. My neighbors are older, which is glorious. You can hear the seals barking, which is my kind of barking.

So there has not been much time to go to the beach. It is with great sadness that I report the loss of one of my favorite former beach neighbors, Ray Miller, whose cancer returned.

He called me Kiddo and was always helping me out. “Anything you need, Kiddo, just holler.” He had drills and ladders and could fix a cheap chain saw. He taught me about Bar Oil for the chain saw and gave me some. He got me out of plenty of messes, roaring his raucous laugh all the time. He would honk at me as he drove by, openly laughing at whatever project I was attempting. He always had a spotless car and wore a gold watch. He was utterly devoted to all the beings in his care: two good wives and several good dogs.

Ray and Chuy

So I hollered and arranged to have Ray cut my grass on his riding mower for $10 and a six-pack of Bud Lite per service. What a rewarding investment that turned out to be! One time my car broke down and I was surviving off the dubious provisions of the walkable convenience store, the Minit Mart. Ray brought me, in installments, a piece of Chinook salmon, two Yukon Gold potatoes, and two beautiful ears of Yakima corn.

“Where’s my dessert?” I asked.

Ray Miller, 2007

Ray had three properties at Washaway over the years and they all fell into the ocean. He had a sign on his last place that read, “We Hope Our Ship Comes In Before The Dock Rots.”

Next month, December, will be three years ago that Ray, all my neighbors and I lost our properties when they fell into the ocean. I still miss my sanctuary terribly. Why did Ray have to be Seasonal too? Why does everything, and everyone? I think it sucks that “nothing gold can stay.” I find it very upsetting to let the good eggs go. As always, now is the time for savoring, if you can still breathe. As my friend Regnor pointed out to me while he was going through chemo, laughing is the best oxygen.

I remember asking my beach neighbor Stanley, “Don’t you want this to last forever?”

Stanley and Ray

“It already has. Today,” he told me.

But change does bring some of the old pioneer hopefulness, and hope is currency right now. There’s an excitement to new frontiers, the unknown. Things will be different, the only certainty.

As soon as I get these boxes handled, I’m going to the beach to unpack my head.


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“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


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.



Posted in Beach Access | 5 Comments


“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



“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



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



“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.



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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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.



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,


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.



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



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