Yesterday Sang and I went with a vanful of college alumni to the dump! It was a tour kindly provided by a chemistry alumn who’s worked for Metro for 28 years. First was the solid waste transfer station, where commercial haulers and the general public bring trash. Sang and I had been there in the 90s, when we bought our house and discarded its very gross old carpets.
They sort out what they can to reuse or recycle. (Curbside recycling is collected and processed elsewhere.) This is the woodpile. Painted and treated wood is ineligible, so it’s mostly pallets and tree limbs.
Then we went to the adjoining Hazardous Waste facility. Our host worked here until recently; we saw the little lab where he’d worked his first job, testing unlabeled stuff people had brought in by dipping test papers into it and maybe adding something and setting them on fire, until it was ID’d enough that they knew what to do with it. Outside was a grove of rescued (rather than hazardous) gnomes and statues.
The last stop was the MetroPaint facility where leftover latex paint is remixed into standard colors and resold, a process paid for by the industry. The machinery wasn’t running on a Saturday, but an employee obligingly started up a giant mixer so we could go up a ladder one by one and see an enormous vat of dark brown paint being stirred. All the equipment had lots of paint on it.
Many people have worked for decades to make a five- to fifteen-percent difference in our overwhelming local (yet globalized) waste stream. It’s not nothing, but in Star Wars terms it’s a very small resistance force in the context of the empire.
I think everyone in the van would agree that change will happen, if it does, at the policy level. Yet conversation on the way back kept slipping into individual purity, like where is the one place in one suburb that you can drop off your #6 plastic for recycling, or how someone managed to find a school that wanted his hundreds of yogurt cartons for a project, or how a startup is delivering certain brand-name products in reusable containers like milk was delivered in glass bottles in the old days. I passed around some leftover trick-or-treat candy wondering if it was a faux pas because of the wrappers, but that was ridiculous no one said anything.
Yesterday I happened to see an announcement for a Paideia class to be held on the front lawn of the college, about packing with donkeys! I had been planning to take a walk down there anyway, so Sang and I went to see some donkeys. They were wonderful! Vera and Hattie, mother and daughter, did not want to be more than a few yards away from each other. They accepted as much petting and brushing as they could get and let people lead them around. Donkeys, their human Jessica said, are a good “starter equine” because in place of a horse’s instinct to spook and run, their instinct in the face of fear or uncertainty is to brace their legs and stand still until it’s sorted. They’re unlikely to buck or kick or rear, and can carry 80 pounds each pretty easily.
Vera is named after Vera Katz, the Portland mayor who signed the ordinance allowing livestock in city limits. Two donkeys per household is the limit in Portland, and really the minimum non-zero number as well, since a solitary donkey would be sad and lonely. Unfortunately, this climate is a bit wet for them– the lush green grass will give them something like diabetes, and standing on wet ground all the time is hard on their feet. They need dry quarters and hay to eat, here.
I was so glad I went! The rest of the weekend was good too– Bookherd hung around the house with us, and we watched all of season 3 of The Good Place in two days, and ate winter foods like tuna mac and scalloped potatoes.
This morning the ALA Youth Media Awards and American Indian Youth Literature Awards were announced. So many books I haven’t read! But I did know a few:
My Monday Magpie selections, geared toward writing and representation:
My morning walk took me past this little wooden shed on campus. It wasn’t open for business, but the sign says it’s called “art is a piece of cake” and is an art thesis project by Daphne Lyda. Fill me in if you know what’s inside!
I’ve been really happy with my New Year’s protocol of everyday walking. I’m currently at two miles a day, which can be split into two unobtrusive walks but is also small enough to tack onto my evening commute without a fuss. It seems so modest, but my monthly Million Mile Ultra numbers are way up.
Every year at St. Patrick’s Day, I’m like, “This soda bread is so good! I should make it more than once a year.” And we eat it all up and don’t make it again until a year later when it’s St. Patrick’s Day again.
Now, thanks to buttermilk having been sold out in every size but the half-gallon when we bought our St. Patrick’s Day groceries, I have used some of the leftover to MAKE ANOTHER BATCH of soda bread. It’s in the oven right now!
Conversely, this past Saturday was Canyon Day at Reed, when students and alumni and neighbors get together to pull invasives, plant natives, and improve trails. I was with Sanguinity when I saw the announcement and said, “I should go this year.” She pointed out that I have said that for about 25 years now, @ twice per annum. I don’t think I once said it without expecting I’d go. It’s often written in on my calendar. But I’ve never gone and I didn’t go this time either. I will now stop thinking of myself as someone who goes to Canyon Day.
Yesterday I went to see Eileen Myles at Reed.
(This photo was taken by Tom Orange in 2008, but it’s very much what she looked like.)
One of the lines that’s always in her bio and was repeated in her introduction is that she moved to New York City in 1974 to become a poet. She did become one, and everyone is still curious about it. The students were trying to figure it out: what does that mean, what does she do exactly, how does she decide what to write down and what to make public.
I don’t go to many poetry readings. I find them really awkward. When the poems are short, do you clap after each one? What I really hate is when there’s no applause afterward but a few people feel compelled to go “mm,” or “hnh,” to show how thoughtful and appreciative they are. (Okay, maybe they are doing it completely unconsciously, but IT SURE DOESN’T FEEL THAT WAY.) Eileen Myles couldn’t erase all the awkwardness, but she acknowledged it in a poem, and also did not read in Poetry Voice. She said she feels distrust when poets read like every word is important. “I go to a lot of poetry readings,” she said. “I love them. But part of what I do is not listen. So I read as if a lot of loss will occur.”
I’m going to read more of her work. Maybe even the novel with a main character named Eileen Myles, the sort of thing that usually makes me run screaming!
It’s been raining all weekend, but today wasn’t too cold. I pulled on my rain gear and walked down to the canyon at Reed. It felt great to be out.
I didn’t spot the resident beavers, but they’re around.
I don’t think of camellias as December flowers, but they look as good now as they do any other time.
In the more urban part of my walk, I listened to Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life until my player’s battery died. Both this one and David Levithan’s Every Day, which I read last week, keep making me think in the back of my head while I read, “How’s the author going to pull this off? Corner is painted…what’s the path out of it?” I sort of wish I could turn this writerly perspective off, because it’s different from wondering how the characters will solve their problems. Every Day weakened a little at the end, I thought, with a Brand New Choice taking center stage. (And the main character’s last machination? It’s in character but kind of obnoxious, I thought, a little insulting and unnecessary!) I still don’t know what will happen with How to Save a Life. But highly worthwhile, both of them.
Sanguinity and I watched Terminator 2: Judgment Day last night! I hadn’t seen it since college. Why is it called “Judgment Day”? It isn’t actually about Judgment Day. Anyway, you know what I could hardly stand? The way Sarah and John both have their bangs in their eyes. Srsly I was like, fine save the world but please get your hair out of your face! It’s no coincidence that I trimmed my bangs this morning.
Work this week, and then a week and a half off! I secretly love the budget furloughs. I’d never take this many vacation days on my own for “no reason,” meaning no extended travel, but I’m psyched.
Yesterday afternoon was rainy and I hadn’t been out of the house all day, so I walked to Yo Mama’s Coffee & Tea House for some writing time. It’s fairly new, over on 65th and Foster, and I liked it as soon as I walked in. Tall wooden booths with good lighting, laid-back music, and good food on real dishes for reasonable prices. Tasty hot chocolate, too. I will never forget you, Bubble Bubble, but my mourning period may be at an end.
I am starting to pull together my next
long project novel. Just starting. I am not really sure how to do that, without overrehearsing or overdetermining or scaring it away. But without underworking it until it withers and dies, either. I have a couple of glimpsed characters and maybe a setting, that seem like they might be amalgamated. Other things will present themselves to be added in, and the energy holding them all together will somehow be the aspect of the story that makes people say, “It was very, um…you,” when they read it.
I haven’t decided whether it will be a NaNo project. I will set up a word counter for it, but I don’t know if I am willing to risk rushing into 50k words of crap. I suppose that over the next six weeks I’ll see what the momentum looks like and how much time I’m managing to give it without NaNo to boost and contain it.
Today was my first run in the rain since I don’t know when. Warm, off-and-on rain, so it was fine. I ran down to the college track and trotted around while the Ultimate Frisbee teams warmed up for their games, and listened to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents. My September mileage as of today pulled ahead of August’s total mileage, so my plan to run/walk more miles each month is working. I hope I can keep it up as the weather turns and the days get short.
It’s been a good weekend, also featuring a leaky toilet repaired before the subflooring rotted, and a surprise visit from Evan, who was able to join in our celebratory lunch. Sang and I will finish the night off with purple peppers and jalapenos from the garden, stuffed with cream cheese and roasted in the oven, and eaten while we watch Friday Night Lights and share a beer. I am so lucky.
My four-mile run felt awesome. I’ve been running in NB790s, a minimal shoe I bought on super-sale when New Balance quit making them and then let sit in my closet. So far so good. Low mileage is fun. I think I’m going to enjoy every stage of my running comeback. Maybe that’s why it took me about seven years to get to a 50-mile event? Who knows how long it will take me to get to 100. But the scenic route is better than guilt and frustration, for sure.
Here’s something I never would have believed as a child: I’m seldom tempted by garage sales anymore. I have enough stuff…even books.
I shared my birthday this year with Reed College, which put on its 100th Anniversary reunion celebration this weekend. I actually set foot on campus three times yesterday. My run in the morning was through the canyon, where quite a few older alumni were walking in ones and twos on the trails. Just since I was a student in 1992 there have been a lot of improvements and added trails, so I gave directions more than once. They all seemed like people I would like.
Sang and I did a walk-through in the early afternoon to see what was going on. A small Ferris wheel, tethered ballon, and ring-toss stalls were set up on the lawn with a few art projects; families were playing on the grass and the vibe was low-key picnic. All very…nice. Why do alumni not set up the naked slip and slide? Why is all the music so very inoffensive? It kind of depresses me how sanitized alumni events are compared to what goes on when the students are actually there. It feels a little fake, like a simulacrum of Reed.
We went back for the fireworks, where we met up with our friend N and also finally ran into people we knew from our freshman dorm. Up til then neither of us had recognized anyone. The fireworks at Reed are awesome! I hadn’t attended for years and forgot how close up they are. I kept being surprised I wasn’t showered with burnt paper, as I have been at Reed fireworks in the past. It was fifteen minutes, but a very full fifteen minutes. I was lying on the ground and could feel all the thumps as they went up. I am grateful that I haven’t been traumatized by anything explosive and can thoroughly enjoy fireworks. As a bonus, the dog has lost enough hearing so they don’t traumatize him anymore either! (He was at home, of course–but he used to hear them going off at Reed or the waterfront before they had even registered in my awareness.)
I also happened to read yesterday about two kidlit writers whose work didn’t take off until they were about my age. That’s always encouraging. The first was E. Nesbit, who published various things from age fifteen on, but suddenly around age 40 took quite a different tack and came out with her classic children’s stories. I found this out as I finished off The Enchanted Castle yesterday. To my commenter who recommended it after I was so disappointed by The Treasure Seekers, thank you so much! I felt wholly different about the authorial asides in this one. They didn’t seem condescending at all. I liked the book.
The other author is Patrice Kindl– I looked her up after seeing on the children’s literature listserv that she has a new title coming out soon. Owl in Love was her first book, published when she was in her early forties. It is wonderful and I want to read it again soon, but The Woman in the Wall is even closer to my heart, because I am shy and because its matter-of-fact surrealism suits me exactly.