Category Archives: Place and places

Where are you? Where is home?

Persecution: a chilling reminder of the Holocaust

Persecution: noun. Hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race, political or religious beliefs

Today I hiked up to Portland’s amazing Japanese Garden. Close by is the small but extremely poignant memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

Almost 25 million civilians perished in Europe in World War II, almost 6 million Jews and millions of others [homosexuals, liberals and intellectuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, labor leaders, etc.] fell victim to racial hatred and premeditated murder carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators…  Hitler blamed these people for the country’s post- WWI woes and promised stability.

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At the memorial are bronze castings of the things that the men, women and children had to leave behind as they fled for their lives (only to die of starvation or gassing soon after). A doll, a broken violin, a book, a boot and some spectacles, a teddy bear.

These were people who lived and loved, worked and played, just like you and me. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe. But enough hate has been unleashed since the election of DT that we see America’s underbelly. The man himself is a narcissist and sociopath with zero compassion for others. Nor do the people he wants to appoint instill any faith in me.

Someone named Elliott Lustzig wrote about Hannah Arendt’s book on the rise of totalitarianism what  a couple of days ago:

Decent liberals in of 1930s Germany would “fact-check” the Nazis’ bizarre claims about Jews, as if they were meant to be factual. What they failed to understand, she suggests, is that the Nazi’s Jew-hating statements were not statements of fact, but declarations of intent. So when someone would blame the Jews for Germany’s defeat in WWI, naive people would counter by saying there’s no evidence of that.

What the Nazis were doing was not describing what was *true*, but what would *have to be true* to justify what they planned to do next. 

Did 3 million “illegals” cast votes in this election? Clearly not. But fact-checking is just a way of playing along with their game. So… Trump may be saying that 3 million illegals voted, but what he means is: I’m going to steal the voting rights of millions of Americans.

This has already happened in several GOP-led states where they’ve used voter ID laws, restricted voting sites and restricted voting hours, to make it very difficult for minorities, immigrants, students and the poor to vote.

Fact-checkers are exhausted trying to keep up with the blizzard of lies coming from Trump and his representatives. And they don’t give a fuck.

Yeah. I’m upset.

Les petites palmiers – treat from Trader Joe’s

Petite: adj. French word for small

Palmier: n. a crunchy, buttery, slightly sweet multi-layered French pastry

Deux petites palmiers et un rose

Deux petites palmiers et un rose

I am addicted to these little pastries.  Although they’re wonderful with coffee, I prefer something more healthful for breakfast. So I have one (two? they’re small…) for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up with a cup of Earl Gray tea.

TJ’s sells them in a box of ten (twelve?), and they stay fresh for at least a week – maybe more – but they don’t last long enough around here to test that hypothesis.  Fortunately for my waistline, TJ’s is all the way on the other side of town, so I only get over there occasionally.

In the regular grocery store I never buy prepared foods because I do a much better, healthier and safer job of cooking from scratch. But I always find myself succumbing to TJs treats.  Have you had their cashews coasted with a spicy Thai lime seasoning??  Their little cookies … like the triple ginger, or the lemon wafers. They have the best canned tuna anywhere (in olive oil). Don’t get me started.

I always leave TJs happy, feeling like I’ve been on a great hunting expedition and scored!  This guy’s illicit TJs video “commercial” pretty much says it all:

Panorama of paradise: Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge

Panorama: n a complete or unobstructed view of a wide area

Paradise: n. a place or state of bliss, felicity or delight

Eat your heart out. This is where I was on Saturday:

Columbia River Gorge from Dog Mountain trail

Columbia River Gorge from Dog Mountain trail

The Dog Mountain trail is one of the very most beloved in all the Gorge – particularly when the wildflowers are at their peak, which was this week.

Everybody and their brother (and some of their dogs and kids too) were on the mountain, but rather than seeming crowded, it was like a jolly meetup. Everyone greeting each other, encouraging each other, sympathizing with each other.  The encouragement and sympathy gush forth because it’s a dog of a hike.  Pretty much unrelentingly UP – like 3000′ in 3 miles.

Slow slogging... only halfway there

Slow slogging... only halfway there

Most people use hiking poles (land version of ski poles) to take some of the burden off the thighs and knees, and on the way down to brace you lest you slip on little rocks.

Any excuse to stop is a good excuse. Water, photograph, shoelace adjustment…

Photographing a hillside of balsam root in bloom

Photographing a hillside of balsam root in bloom

It was a glorious sunny day and you could see way down the river both east and west. At the top you could also see Mt. Hood poking up behind the Oregon palisades, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier off the back sides of the mountain.

Mt. Rainier, looking north from the top

Mt. Rainier, looking north from the top

We got to the top around noon, and joined a happy throng having lunch and savoring the opportunity to sit. Problem was… how to get up again.

About half way down my legs got so shaky I was afraid they’d just give way, so I stopped often to admire the flowers:

Balsam root, lupine, indian paintbrush, snow-in-summer, buttercup

Balsam root, lupine, indian paintbrush, snow-in-summer, buttercup

Truly the Gorge is one of the most awesome places in the world, and this hike on this lovely day was something I’ll never forget. My quadriceps won’t either.

Peacock picnic in the Columbia River Gorge

Peacock: n. the national bird of India, related to the pheasant. The male peafowl, or peacock, has long been valued for its brilliant tail feathers. The bright spots on it are known as “eyes”, and inspired the Greek myth that Hera placed the hundred eyes of her slain giant Argus on the tail of her favorite bird.

Picnic: n. a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors

Peacock's personal table

Peacock's personal table

I spent the entire day exploring the spectacular Columbia River Gorge with four friends. We left the gray weather behind in Vancouver and drove 100 miles east to the the Maryhill Museum of Art.

This former mansion of tycoon Sam Hill was built in 1907  on a hilltop overlooking the Gorge near Goldendale, WA. He bought 5300 acres of land there in the hope of establishing a Quaker community, but it never really caught on.  His buddies – the avant garde dancer Loie Fuller and Queen Marie of Roumania – convinced him instead to convert the place into a museum.

Fuller was friends with Auguste Rodin, so there is a sizeable collection of Rodin sculptures and sketches. His collection of Indian basketry is impressive, and other exhibits come thru regularly.

I was taken by the gorgeous gilt furnishings from Queen Marie:

Queen Marie's throne

Queen Marie's throne

Queen Marie's table

Queen Marie's table

But I digress. After museuming we went outside for our picnic with the peacocks.

I couldn’t get over the stunning colors… like jewels. In one direction the tail looks coppery, in another green, in another silver.

Peacock's back

Peacock's back

Tail - silvery angle

Tail - silvery angle

Our next stop was the replica Sam Hill built of StoneHenge, to honor local soldiers who died in World War I.

Center area of Sam Hill's Stonehenge

Center area of Sam Hill's Stonehenge

Columbia River from Stonehenge

Columbia River from Stonehenge

The Gorge isn’t as steep near Maryhill as it is closer to Portland, where the east side of the Columbia boasts some wonderful waterfalls. We stopped and hiked up one, gawked at others from below.  So much beauty on all sides!!

I think the Gorge is one of America’s most awesome scenic treasures. It’s 80 miles long and in some places the walls rise 4000 feet!

Pure pleasure: artist’s date at Tacoma Museum of Glass

Pure: adj. being thus and no other; unmixed with any tainting substance

Pleasure: n. a state of gratification; a source of delight and joy

Part of ceiling on Glass Bridge by Dale Chihualy

Part of ceiling on Glass Bridge by Dale Chihuly

To celebrate my birthday, my best friend took me up to Tacoma on Friday for an “artist’s date,” a concept introduced by Julia Cameron in her best-seller, The Artist’s Way.

An artist’s date is when you take time out from your ordinary life and usual artistic pursuits to do expose yourself to or participate in some other creative endeavor for the sheer pleasure of it.

An artist’s date can be as simple as dumping your button collection onto a table and playing with them. If you’re a writer, you could go into the yard and attempt to sketch a flower. If you’re an artist you could immerse yourself in a book of poetry.

Or it could be a real museum outing, as Judi and I  did Friday.

Tacoma is a two hour drive from here.  To get to the Museum from the parking lot, you cross over the highway on the magical Bridge of Glass, designed by the wildly creative glass artist Dale Chihuly.

On one side of the enclosed mid-section is a wall of crazy “vases”.  The roof  looks like someone dumped the three-dimensional phantasmagorical contents of a dozen super-sized kaleidoscopes onto a glass plate above you.

The glass pieces vary in size from balls about 4″ in diameter to trumpet shapes 3′ long and scalloped “flowers” 2′-4′ across.  The shimmering backlit shapes of brilliant colors can only be called ecstatic art. I could have permanently cricked my neck taking it all in.

Here is some more:

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Chihualy ceiling closer view

Chihuly ceiling closer view

Here’s a portion of  the side wall:

A family in front of the wall of Chihualy "vases"

A family in front of the wall of Chihuly "vases"

Looking up at one of the two glass spires on first part of the Bridge. The chunks are BIG, like 2-3′ across:

icepile

Here’s a Chihuly chandelier:

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The museum has much more than Chihuly, including a huge glass-blowing shop, where you can watch art glass being blown. There’s a terrific exhibit about describing glass art, beyond “I like it; I don’t like it” but you can’t take photos inside. (This exhibit closes in November; worth the trip if you live close enough.)

This is a museum for kids of all ages, and it’s in a part of town with two other fine museums, the handsome U. Washington Tacoma campus, the refurbished train station (now courthouse) with an enormous arched window with orange Chihuly “poppies” floating across it.

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Closeup of Chihualy poppy window

Closeup of Chihuly poppy window

Can you tell I LOVED this place???

And PS – we ate lunch in the museum cafe: YUMMMMMMY.

Portfolio of Port Park Pictures – Picnic at Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Portfolio: n. a set of pictures; a selection of a student’s work

Port: n. a place where ships can take on or deliver cargo; a harbor

Park: n. a piece of ground in or near a city or town kept for ornament and recreation

Picture: n. a transitory visible image or reproduction; a photograph

Picnic: n. an outing with food usually provided by members of the group and eaten outside

Peaceful: San Francisco from the Port of Oakland

Peaceful: San Francisco from the Port of Oakland

I am back at home after five lovely days visiting my kids and grandkids in Oakland, California. I could have been in Portland, for the gray skies and rain we had, but Saturday the sun came out and we took off for a picnic at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, which I believe is Oakland’s newest and as yet still undiscovered park.

OMiGod, what a fabulous place – especially for young un’s learning to ride bikes and needing safe wide-open trails – and parents wanting fresh air, natural beauty, and a novel perspective. More than two miles of pathways encircle and crisscross the edges of the Middle Harbor Basin and acres of rolling grass fields ask for games of frisbee, catch, or flying kites.  It’s like having a front row seat on the San Francisco Bay – you can poke around the beach while watching boats and barges  or you can lift your gaze to the spectacles of the Bay Bridge and the city of San Francisco. Look behind you and watch the seemingly robotic operations of a busy international trade hub.

This 38-acre park opened in 2004 as a joint venture between the Port of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District. Originally it was the Oakland Naval Supply Depot, an important part of the WWII war effort.   Extensive community involvement went into the park’s planning and development, with the goals of creating a place  for learning about local history, ecology and maritime activities.  Here are some more pictures:

Port "ponies"

Port "ponies"

Picnic Tables

Picnic Tables

Picnic: pretzels, salami and Nadja's oranges

Picnic: pretzels, salami and Nadja's oranges

Perfect paths for pedaling

Perfect paths for pedaling


Pedal-pushing Mama Poppies and pine tree

Poppies and pine tree

Palm trees (native??)

Palm trees (native??)

Palm trunk patterns

Palm trunk patterns

Poking thru the dirt: signs of spring

Poke: v. to pierce, jab or cause to project

The temperature has been hovering around 32 degrees for more than a week, and it’s that damp chill that makes you want to stay indoors with a cup of hot chocolate. (Shouldn’t have written that… it’s giving me a hankerin’.)

But aside from getting the sludge out of your veins, it pays to take a walk in late January. We’ll start with my own yard. Daffodils beginning to poke thru the dirt:

daffodils poking up

Then on this morning’s walk at Salmon Creek I noticed the hazelnut catkins were emerging:
catkins

And here the late afternoon sun shines through the Douglas firs in Whipple Creek Park:
Whipple Creek Park

“How can I keep from singing…”

To be a Paige: place and people of kin

I am a member of a family that has coalesced around one name, Paige. No matter that many of us were born with non-Paige surnames – we all consider ourselves Paiges. (We’re like the Kennedys — except for the Irish Catholic part, the political dynasty part, the dogged-by-tragedy part… oh, and the money. If you’re a Joe Kennedy descendant you’re a Kennedy, even if your name is something like Schriver.)

Right now I’m paying my annual pilgrimage to our family home, Pine Haven, on Cape Cod. My great-grandfather Timothy Paige bought Pine Haven in 1911 as a summer home when he came into some money from his uncle who had earned a bundle during the California Gold Rush selling pickaxes to the miners. Tim and the other Paiges had been farmers in central Massachusetts (Hardwick) for generations, so the inheritance was quite a shock.

Pine Haven -Paige haven since 1910

Pine Haven -Paige haven since 1911

Some of the money went for infrastructure in the village of Hardwick and some was spent on Pine Haven, the house next door to it and the house across the street. Pine Haven’s current owners are my second cousin Patty, who was born a Paige, and her husband. The house across the street also remains in the family and other cousins have bought or built homes within a block or two, so you could almost say we have a family compound – although it’s hardly grand.

Patty has taken it upon herself to organize family reunions every few years. We come from all across the country to participate and celebrate our Paigeness. We make a day trip to Hardwick to see the Paige Library, the Paige pew in the Universalist church, the modest Paige Agricultural Center, the statue of gold-rusher Calvin Paige.

Paige Library, Hardwick MA

Paige Library, Hardwick MA

About ten years ago Patty’s husband instituted a suitably fake-solemn ceremony when their daughter Paige married. With a ribbon, certificate and pompous pronouncement, he inducted the groom into the “I married a Paige” clan. Since then, whenever a member of the extended Paige family marries, their spouse is inducted at the reception, witnessed by growing numbers of the in-law clan, and cheered on by the “birth” Paiges.

So here’s the question: why am I a Paige, and not a Kimball, Bachrach or Keyes? Although my dad’s mom was the Paige, I carry equal shares of genetic material from my other three grandparents. I’m just a quarter-blood Paige by that reckoning.

But if my grandpa had been the Paige instead of my grandma, my Dad would have carried the name as a full Paige and I’d be a half-blood. If I was my dad’s son my name would still be Paige and I could also consider myself full-blood.

At each generation, the blood of one family line is diluted by each new family into which the children marry. Over time the dilution of a particular family’s genes could be considered only homeopathic in strength. And yet, if the family has sons at each generation who pass the family surname to their sons, the name continues at full strength, no matter how many generations have passed.

When does a bloodline begin then? Who is the most essential Paige, or Smith, Jones, Epstein, Kennedy?

Why am I a Paige? Because we say so. Because the Kimballs, Bachrachs, and Keyes never got their familyness acts together the way the Paiges did.

The regular gatherings of the clan and sub-groups of the clan reinforce our Paigeness. Patty’s collection of Paige photos going back more than 100 years and her unstinting hospitality to family members reinforce our Paigeness. The wedding ritual certainly celebrates Paigeness. And finally, we are blessed with a connection to Place. Pine Haven is the place we’ve been coming to for a hundred years, and there are more of us across the street and down the road. We can also go back to a village in central Massachusetts and see our name on various plaques on buildings, headstones in the graveyard.

We are literally grounded, and in today’s quickly changing world I find this solidity comforting.

Poet’s prescience: pleasure takes a vacation

Prescience: foreknowledge of events

The poet Billy Collins has a droll sense of humor and often mirrors the pulse of the people. He wrote “Consolation” several years ago when America was flush, gas was cheap, and the dollar was strong against the euro.

Now he seems prescient. We don’t know why he didn’t travel to Italy that year, but we know why we‘re not going to Italy. We’re poor, fuel and fares are costly, and the dollar is in the doldrums. So enjoy:

Consolation by Billy Collins (enjoy him reading it on YouTube)

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

Plastics pandemic

From “The Graduate” 1967.  Mr. McGuire’s career advice to the young Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman):

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.
Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That’s a deal.

Oh how right Mr. McGuire was.  From various websites I’ve culled a few of the dozens of terrifying facts about our love affair with plastic.

When I was in Vietnam and Cambodia this spring I saw what happens when everybody uses plastic and plastic waste management is virtually non-existent.  This photo is from the Phillippines, but I saw the same thing in Cambodia:

Plastic Bags

Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.

Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.

Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.

Plastic water bottles

Americans bought 8.3 billion gallons of bottled water in 2006.

Producing PET bottles uses more than 17 million barrels of oil and produces over 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.  For each gallon of water that goes into a PET bottle, two gallons of water are used to make the plastic bottles and purify the water . 462 million gallons of oil are needed each year to transport water bottles from the factory to the point of sale.

Plastic residues

In the North Pacific, an enormous gyre (slowly circulating spiral of water) is now known as the “Eastern Garbage Patch. The currents here tend to force any floating material into the low energy central area of the gyre where it stays in the gyre, in astounding quantities estimated at six kilos of plastic for every kilo of naturally occurring plankton.  This tower of trash covers an area the size of Texas. This is only one of several gigantic gyres in the world’s oceans.

Larger plastic items are consumed by seabirds and other animals which mistake them for prey. Many seabirds and their chicks have been found dead, their stomachs filled with medium sized plastic items such as bottle tops, lighters and balloons. It has been estimated that over a million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement.

This poor albatross must have had a horrible stomach ache before he died.

Dutch scientists have counted around 110 pieces of litter for every square kilometre of the seabed, a staggering 600,000 tons in the North Sea alone. These plastics can smother the sea bottom and kill the marine life which is found there.

For more information see Green Sangha – Lots and lots of good stuff, including a Powerpoint presentation  you can use to spread the word.

Also see Reusable Bags

Best of Life magazine on the ocean gyres.

And this video on the Garbage Patch:

I’ve been using cloth bags when I shop for a long time. Now I’m washing and re-using the plastic baggies that I seem to accumulate regardless.  Your ideas welcome.