Sunday, December 27, 2009


A few images from a bright, blissed-out morning at my house; family in black & white.


Double holiday happiness: Oscar & Grayson at Nana's house.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Tree-hunting was a success on Friday, as was shopping for baby-visitor supplies (the Philly Phamily is coming for Christmas!), and much-needed bed linens suitable for the uber-cold weather we've been having. But the best news is the return of my repaired 50mm lens!! FINALLY, I can find an interesting depth of field and set my aperture for macros.

I experienced a terribly painful flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis on my 59th birthday last week. Um, yes... 59. It's a particularly significant birthday for me as it's the age my mother was when she died; her mother and her mother's mother died at 60. To be approaching the age that my foremothers' lives ended makes me feel simultaneously vulnerable, anxious and curious. And to have been given a fairly serious diagnosis at this age--my mother's diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) was at 59--gives me a lot to think about at night when the world is silent.

I've wanted to write about this all week, but until today, moving my swollen wrist and hand over the keys was unthinkable--if not impossible. And I want to write about this experience with a degree of objectivity--as a way of documenting my life as a writer and photographer with a disabling illness. I don't want to sound pathetic or whiney, but I do want to be honest about my feelings. Aging sucks when you don't feel good.

What's important to me about the return of my 50mm lens, is the way it makes a greater artistic sense of the world more accessible to me. I love the flexibility this modest little prism provides my eye, and it is a perfect metaphor: keep your aperture wide to let in all the available light; find beauty and meaning in the small things.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

finding light through the fog

I've started a simple yoga series at night that is decreasing my stress load, and getting my long, brisk walk in everyday again has helped me sleep better and longer at night. Turns out, our immune systems do their work while we sleep. If we don't get enough sleep, the immune system doesn't get a chance to do it's best work. Sheesh. Where was I when this piece of information was being distributed?

As someone fairly practiced at burning my candle at both ends (with a little bit of extra melt in the middle), I'm amazed at the difference a couple of weeks worth of a solid nights' sleep can do. I've hated to miss a party and been the first one to arrive at poetry events and open mics all over town, and among the last to leave for years. Now I'm finding that I'm really enjoying the increased solitude, the chance to just slow down and set limits for myself--who knew??

Thursday I wrote a new poem. Today I left the apartment very early with the camera and braving black ice, shot pictures around the foggy, frosty neighborhood before anyone but the squirrels were out. It was silent and peaceful. Tomorrow I'm meeting Miss J for coffee at Petisco.
Three day weekends rock!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Continuing List of My Best Stuff

Creosote, sawdust, and charcoal,
campfire coffee,
morning light slanting in smoke
through evergreens;
the view from Lone Pine into the sudden hot
basin of the Southwestern Desert;
ice-plant spikes whipped against bare thigh,
the sunburn blaze of Mission Bay,
the furious wriggle of small stingrays underfoot;
losing my mother’s tourmaline ring
in the clipped grass of a neighbor’s endless lawn;
river pilots hopping freighters downstream
from the Astoria-Megler Bridge, storm or dry,
the same view in the fog, Washington disappearing
and reappearing, a ship run aground on the Columbia Bar;
Christmas shopping in the snow;
swimming naked at midnight in the neighbor’s pool
when they were away;
the sweet knock of intoxication with musicians;
sex on the beach near Yachats, or was it Reedsport
in the middle of the day, in sight of the road;
laddering sixteen feet into an apple tree
at five-thirty in the morning, picking fast;
standing-room only at my mother’s memorial;
silver rings with polished stones;
the nest of my children, and then theirs, burrowed in.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday, elsewhere

I took a walk late yesterday afternoon to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. I brought the Canon XS with me, and got a few shots of the Irvington/Alameda neighborhood in NE Portland where I live. Didn't get much of a cardio workout, I'm afraid. Probably would be a good idea not to mix intentions when I head out, but at least I got some shots of this wonderfully quirky block.

Monday, November 23, 2009

tres chic!

My friend, Miss J, well-known for her stylish elan and decorating skills, celebrated a milestone birthday recently with an elaborate dessert party at her house in NE Portland. Oh, Miss J. While the treats you made us were so delicious, and the Cherry Clofouti was to die for, my favorite part was your swim cap on the window, adding that extra touch of color. The night's tasty conversation was pretty fun too!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It's cold this morning, but I threw open the windows for some fresh air. After a few weeks of rain and chill, the apartment gets so stale and even confining. Fleece jacket over my pjs, mug of coffee on my right, I'm posting a few shots taken recently that I just like. For no particular reason, in no particular order. Feels better in here already.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a little exposition

I want to write about what’s been happening to me, explain why I’ve not been as actively engaged with either my photography or the writing of poetry (or much of anything else, for that matter), and why my blog, so recently initiated, now languishes between each random and brief entry. And I hope this doesn't sound whiney or completely self-indulgent. It's true I live alone and don't always have a full perspective on what's happening to me, but it seemed appropriate to finally tell the truth about some of the stuff that's contributed to my silences.

For the past year-and-a-half, or so, I’ve noticed myself getting more and more easily fatigued with an exhaustion that never seems to resolve, while also sleeping far less because of physical discomfort, and an increasing stiffness that has not been helped by more stretching, yoga, freeweights or cardio workouts. (Lately I’ve been waking in the wee hours in excruciating pain, my wrists and knuckles swollen, inflamed and rigid. Rheumatoid arthritis is some serious shit, man. And so far, my meds are not really working, although time will tell.) That it’s taken so long to put a name on what I’ve been experiencing physically is not unusual, I guess, but can I just say that I feel a small element of vindication? I KNEW something was wrong. And I’m relieved that it’s not something much worse. I think.

Anyway, simultaneous to the onset of my physical challenges—somewhere around Christmas, 2007—my gorgeous, independent-minded daughter somehow slid into a dark descent and became a heroin addict, eventually homeless, and surrendered full custody of her only child to his father. No one close to her would have predicted such a dramatic reversal, although the signs were there in retrospect, and we were all simply, literally stunned by her change; bearing witness to my grandson's anguished confusion was just heartbreaking. Then, finally, last June my daughter began the return to sobriety, taking one carefully sober day at a time, as her family holds its collective breath. As the time passes, our sense of her dedication increases and admiration for her ongoing effort gathers strength. She spends time daily with her son, but otherwise maintains a strict silent distance from her brother and me. And I miss her. There is so much I wish I could say, so much I wish I could go back and change. I sit with my coffee, alone in the early morning before work, talking it out with her over and over in the silence, trying to make it right.

In August, the clumsiness resulting from slowly stiffening fingers may have caused me to drop my Canon XS, the D-SLR that has made photography my life’s passion and expanded creative horizons I never thought I could approach. Its strap caught on the lip of my desk and crashed so hard to the floor that the lens and autofocus became completely jammed and useless. And because I was moving to a new apartment, and then had other unplanned expenses in September, it was late October before I could get it in to be serviced. It's now mid-November and I still don’t have it back, although expect its return by the end of the month. Meanwhile, I’ve been making-do with a point-and-shoot that rather limits my options creatively.

To say that I’ve been depressed would be an understatement. Despair rides me daily, with occasional, intense infusions of pure elation and release that come in the shared moments with good friends and my beautiful, healthy, adventurous grandsons and their parents. The holidays are coming, my Philly family will be here for Christmas Eve, and I’m optimistic for time to take pictures and eat good food and just savor the company of people I love, who love me back. Sometimes when you wake up alone in the night and everything hurts, it’s enough to know they will return. Almost.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

first, the good news...

Here is the view from the exam table in my primary care provider's clinic, where I waited on Tuesday for her opinion of my (relatively) recent symptoms. I'd already diagnosed myself by checking online, so was curious to see if she agreed with my evaluation. Turns out, she did.

Turns out, the diagnostic labs confirmed it today: I am in the very early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. So no wonder I've been completely exhausted day and night, sleeping poorly and experiencing "flare ups" of swollen, very painfully inflamed wrists and shoulders.

We are waiting for my next flare up so she can aspirate some of the fluid and then begin the process of refining a regimen of medication and treatment. Crap.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder and is the kind of arthritis that causes severe bone deformity if left untreated. Fortunately, treatment regimens today are very effective at managing pain and inflammation, so I'm hopeful and optimistic that this diagnosis, while serious and chronic, will not take over my life. As a writer and photographer, I need my hands to work. Breathing deeply, this is just about as close to home as it gets.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

Celebrated All Hallow's Eve with poet friends who provided cheeses and bread for my hearty soup, apple galettes and spiced cider. And now I wish I'd brought out the camera before the party started, Miss J did such an excellent job on the decorations. But it turned out to be a great night for stimulating conversation, humor and gossip~and even a brief discourse on nucleotides~so I didn't even think of the camera until things were winding down.

Friday, October 30, 2009

rightness of place

I'm loving my Friday mornings. Started working four 10-hr days in mid-September, and am now finally settling into a routine for the longer weekends. I "slept in" to about 6:30 today, made coffee and loaded the dishwasher while the coffee brewed; made the bed, tidied up the living room, and settled onto the sofa with my favorite mug 'o joe to listen to NPR and watch the light brighten outside my window. Contentment settles in.

Today I'm posting some photos of my new apartment. There is one corner with a view that satisfies some deep longing in me where I can stand for extended minutes, admiring the light coming through the windows, the mid-century style of the kitchen cabinets, and loving my great good fortune in finding my new home. I know that may seem ridiculous--the view is modest! But I am so happy here, and it seems I have been struggling to find peace for so long. Relief floods me when I walk through the door every night, and a positive perspective is restored. [Did I mention that 10-hour days are really long? And I walk home from work every night--about a 3 1/2 mile trek. So when I stagger through the door, I'm SO READY to be home!]

Anyway, isn't it funny how we can visit gorgeous, gracious homes, or see them on HGTV (oh, yes) decorated to a fair-thee-well for incredible quantities of money, and then look around our own unassuming nests and sense the rightness of place? The yearning for belonging to a place is one of my oldest emotions, something I can recall feeling from earliest memories. This new place comforts and challenges me creatively like I've not felt in a very long time. Here are a few little shots of my latest home, two have been post-processed with a watercolor effect, just because I thought it looked pretty.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

mmmmmmm, beachy...

My weekend at the coast with dear friend, Pat, resulted in a surfeit of beachy photos and the expected sunset shots (see slideshow). But here are a couple that signify that Closer to Home ethic I'm continually working out. Both were taken a few steps from the room that was our brief home in Lincoln City. 'Cause it's personal, you know?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Northrup farms

My coworkers, Anna, Todd and Laurie, started a small urban garden on the balcony/fire escape of the building where we work in Northwest Portland. The harvest is just about over, but the view from the hall is pretty magical~kinda reminds me of the view to Oz.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Petisco~Portugese for snack~is a comfortable and inviting bistro that opened in Irvington last winter. Only a few blocks from my apartment, I've passed it many times since moving back to the eastside. Looking for a light supper in the neighborhood the other night, I stopped at the menu displayed outside the entrance patio and decided to go in for a sandwich. And a sangria.

Oh, my. I may have stumbled upon a new extension to my living room. What a lovely place! The fare is excellent, tending toward sandwiches and appetizers but owner/chef, Michael MacFarlane expanded the menu recently to include weekend brunches and entrees for dinner service during the week. It's low-ceilinged ambience was so cozy, I felt right at home immediately. And the sangria is to die for. I have been back twice in less than a week, so probably should get my budget out and make some plans for a regular Petisco expense...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


NW 23rd Avenue is exploding with color, contrasting against the usual variations of charcoal sky so typical of October in the Pacific Northwest. I sit at my desk all day facing the computer monitor, away from the window, so when I get up to make a photocopy or check my mail, the views outside are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Seriously. NEON.

This is the time of year I always wish my skills as a photographer were up to the challenge of capturing accurately what my eye is seeing. But then, maybe all photographers share that dream? Here are a few shots representative of what the lens has grabbed so far this month.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Yesterday wasn't as rainy as predicted, so I got some time outside on my break while the sky was overcast and the light was gentle, and shot around the "healing garden" of the metropolitan hospital where I work. Here is the shot I like the best.

There have been daily updates on protocols for dealing with the H1N1 virus, aka: swine flu. So far so good in the ancillary unit I work for, but other teams are reporting frequent absences due to having to care for sick kids at home. We were scheduled for a mass, hospital-wide vaccination today, but it was cancelled two days ago because the supplies could not arrive in time. There is a pervasive sense of urgency about nearly everything these days. Taking the time to go outside and concentrate on taking pictures felt indulgent, but necessary, somehow.

Actually everything feels indulgent but necessary to me lately. Paying off old debts while planning for new ones means I'm trying to find a way to make friends with ambivalence, an old nemesis. A few years ago I left a job that paid fairly well, but was soul-crushing and thankless. I like my current job better, and though it pays less, I get a greater satisfaction from my supporting role in a compassion-driven (if non-revenue generating) unit of a large Portland hospital system.

Moving from a tiny, jammed NW Portland studio apartment to a spacious, mid-century, two-bedroom apartment in my favorite neighborhood in NE Portland last month also feels indulgent and simultaneously necessary. It means that I'm budgeting even more carefully now and paying off old debts will take a little longer, but ultimately worth the delay in gratification, I'm sure. Now I have plenty of room for myself, family and friends; room for photography, cooking, books, movies, and poet/artists to drop in, and a little bit of grace to make a mess if I want to.

Speaking of messes: this month, I forgot my daughter-in-law's birthday for probably the 10th time in the 11 years I've been privileged to know her. At this point, I'm sure it's all she expects, but it always makes me feel awful. I'm getting a card into the mail today, Rachel, and all my embarrassed apologies go along with it, of course. I simply could not have asked for a better wife for my son, mother to my grandchild(ren?), gorgeous, accomplished and compassionate friend, or consistently-forgiving daughter-in-law. I adore you, Rach. No ambivalence there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meet the Neighbors

This morning I got up early to catch the light and wandered around for about an hour in the quiet outside, capturing the October harvests of my urban farmer neighbors. There were also some very arresting late dahlias and a single, gorgeous, aging rose.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

To Start With

I’ve mentioned several times to friends and in my other blog, Shots from the Curb, that I've been re-thinking my approach to blogging, and especially since my move back to NE Portland (all the way from NW Portland), I’ve wanted to center my writing and photography on more personal, even intimate subjects. Particularly appealing to me is the idea of featuring whatever catches my eye and imagination in the Portland neighborhoods I frequent.

Portland has a rich variety of distinct neighborhoods, apart from being a beautiful city to begin with, and so much of the Pacific Northwest is dramatically photogenic. Also, I’m a native to the dark, rainforested mists of the northwest and am deeply rooted here in Oregon. I’ve begun to want to express those aspects of my own nature influenced by belonging to this place. I love Portland. I love living here, love what the city offers to my creative impulses, and love my crazy collage of an extended family.

As a writer and reader I’ve noticed that the more specific the details of a story—even when far from my own experience—the more delight I have in recognition of shared perceptions. This blog has become my invitation to you to find those common elements we share while getting Closer to Home.