Saturday, December 10, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 8 - "Moon, Music & Menu"


A lunar eclipse won't happen again very soon
It's rare to have convergence of earth and the moon
A bright shining face is suddenly obscured
A lesson of life that is simply inferred
Out of darkness, light returns and we eventually attune.

There’s no better way to end a Hawaiian stay
Than to overwhelm the senses throughout the day
The surf and music set the mood
As Paradise arrived in the form of food
Thus ends a vacation of no work and all play

The alarm was set at 2:45 so we could catch the beginning of the eclipse. Unfortunately, my phone never adjusted to Hawaiian time, so it went off two hours early and after an adjustment, at the right time. The best viewing spot since the moon was overhead was from a chaise lounge near the Spa. I had the binoculars and the beginning was unobscured but clouds began to move in and we just got glimpses. The clouds parted enough so we could see full totality around 4:00 AM but not much impressive color. The irony is that Portland and Seattle probably got better views and at a more reasonable hour. Went back to bed until 8 and then breakfasted per our usual routine. Sally's son Tom was due to fly in mid-day for a week so he could ably take my place so after some burgers for lunch at Bubba's, I got dropped off and stayed back at the condo while J&S headed off for airport duty. I took a stroll around the grounds and sat out at the Point for awhile composing my thoughts and taking notes and then came back and focused on some writing and layout of my photos for my blog. When Tom arrived we gave him a chance to catch his breath and then headed up to Kapaa for a chance to hear Doug & Sandy again and pick up their just released CD "Sweet Hawaii Dreams" which is said to promote sleep. Ironically, 2620 miles away at Frog Pond Church another great Acoustic Guitar Summit was getting under way. Doug & Sandy know Mark so I thought the connection and concurrence was perfect. John and Sally wanted to do a farewell/welcome dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. The Hukilau Lanai in Kapaa and we were treated to an amazing meal. We went over the top with desserts of Lilikoi Pie and Vanilla Bean Cream Brulee to cap off a great final full day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 7 - "The Passion (Fruit) Play"

Friday arrived and the end draws near
Not just for vacation but for the whole year
Two weeks from now, Christmas and Evan arrive
Another year has passed and we're glad to survive
Surrounded by those we hold dear

Twelve months ahead with a chance to mold
Into something exciting, energized, and bold
A new year approaches with promise of hope
Of a chance to prosper and not just to cope
As we spin the straw of possibility into the experience of gold

When Dianna & Merlin arrived, it wasn't a fluke or a whim
That the whales and their tails started to playfully swim
“We're here to celebrate and not to mourn”
As you enjoy a nice sunset at Spouting Horn
A place that was quite special to her and to him.

A commemorative visit to Kauai wouldn't be complete with a visit to Hamura's for Saimen and some Lilikoi (Passion Fruit Chiffon) Pie so we headed into town for lunch and got our fill. As I partake of each of these familiar traditions now in a more solitary fashion, I can see it is helping me move in to a more accepting phase. The memories move more into the background much like Niihau on a hazy day.

A reading, writing and relaxing afternoon made the return from Lihue. I've been to organize my pictures and outline what I want to say in my blog. A big accomplishment was finishing my Limericks through Friday so my creative muse is mostly satisfied. My stream of consciousness tends to come much more easily.

We decided to end the day at Spouting Horn as the surf was up and would mean that we would have a good show. I knew this would be my penultimate destination for Dianna on this trip so I picked an appropriate spot overlook Spouting Horn while everyone was at the viewpoint. As I scattered Dianna and Merlin, two whales started to put on a show that lasted for 10 minutes with breaches and tail slapping and general whale cavorting. This is typically a slow time of the year for such antics so I assume it was just another sendoff for D&M... Another beautiful sunset was provided but clouds prevented us from watching the subsequent moonrise of the soon to be eclipsed moon. We returned to the condo and Sally used the rest of our chicken to whip up some curry chicken enhanced by some fresh shaved ginger from our Hanapepe visit yesterday. John and I had replenished our coconut ice cream supply and added a chocolate counterpoint so our dessert was doubly good. Started working on my blog entries so I almost stayed up late enough to catch the eclipse with no sleep but got a couple of hours of rest.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 6 "Sunshine & Moonlight"


A Sunshine Market on a green, grassy lawn
Isn't the Same when your sunshine is gone
Dianna & Merlin were always enthused
To sample the bounty and never refused
To find an odd fruit fruit over which they could fawn

At day's end, a comfortable moonlit walk
Allows us to stroll & pause and to gawk
At the breaking waves and the shimmering surf
That summons up gratitude for what life is worth
And leads to another appreciative talk

Thursday was always the day we would head west to Hanapepe for their afternoon Sunshine Market. Often we would detour to Salt Pond Park where we would play cards and scan the horizon for whales. We had a relazing morning in and around the resort and then headed off mid-day after fixing some sandwiches for lunch. We did stop at Salt Pond on a beautiful sunny day and got a chance to stroll a little bit although it would have been more fun if John had gotten a chance to snorkel for awhile. He's been very patient as i have lurked in the shade and barely dipped a toe in the water. I guess my Norweigian heritage is making sure I retun with my pasty complexion intact. We went over to the market and I tried to recreate the photo I had from Feb 2007 of Dianna and Merlin at the market. I realized afterward I was on the wrong side, but you still can see the play structure in the background so I'm within 50 feet of the right spot. We returned home after Sally bought a great Bird of Paradise for $5 and caught a nice sunset before finishing off our coconut shrimp. Since it was such a idilyic evening, we took a moonlight stroll over to the Hyatt and caught the tail end of their luau. The moonlight was dancing on the waves and it brought back memories of the walks we had from Makahuena to the Hyatt. One of the purposes of this trip is to re-walk along old paths with a sense of new understanding and purpose. Obviously, the journey is not over but I know I am becoming more at peace with the process.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 5 "A Day That Will Live in Infamy"


“A Day That Will Live in Infamy” is the quote
That reverberates through all that media has wrote
Reminding us of loss, sacrifice, and the quandary of war
Which never answers the the question of what war is for
Each year it is hoped we awaken more and take note

Eye of the Beholder shapes our view
Of Good or Bad, Old or New
If we hold on with sadness and regret
We never accept the lessons we need ro get
Instead find more days to enjoy and fewer to rue.

Pearl Harbor Day and the midpoint of my vacation. It was my turn to be useful, so I put together a Dutch Kekei breakfast which turned out like eating coconut cake for breakfast.

We were lounging around today so I took advantage of the Condo's BBQ and had a Burger for lunch and sat poolside and enjoyed the feast and the view. This development is much more like a resort with a lot of activities but I decided to pass on today's free ukulele lessons since I don't think they would sink in.

As dinnertime approached we decided to go out to an Italian restaurant within walking distance but wanted to catch sunset at the Point first. An intense rain shower moved in and we had to hunker down near Dianna's bush until it passed. Not wanting to push our luck, John picked us up in the car and we drove up to find the restaurant closed for a week. We figured we'd try the Beach Broiler nearby which had morphed in to Kanapali Joes, a sports bar. Despite our initial misgivings, the food was both very good and reasonably priced. I enjoyed some BBQ ribs and we all returned home happy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 4 "From the Depths to the Heights"


A visit to Waimea Canyon is always a metaphor
From the valley to the mountaintop, I know one can soar
I remember the heights of the joy we attained
Somewhat muted by the depths of despair that remain
Life is not about less but how it seeks more

Dianna, Merlin, Mary & I enjoyed this special place
Whether the sun made you sweat or rain hit in your face
The energy and spirit you gained with the view
Was something that reminded you of what you already knew
No matter the circumstance there is love, peace and grace

The weather seemed to be holding so we decided Tuesday would be our pilgrimage to Waimea Canyon. I figured this might be the most difficult part of my visit since Waimea was always such a significant part of our trip. Fueled by our usual breakfast, we headed west and made the climb up toward the Canyon .The island of Niihau which usually shimmers as a barely visible mirage stood out in bold relief which bode well for visibility at the top. We didn't stop on the way since we know how fickle the clouds can be. The view was great at the first lookout and when we reached the Kahulai Valley viewpoint the weather was perfect. I left Dianna, Merlin and Darlene at the top of the viewpoint near the Mt. Waialiale sign and was rewarded with a rainbow from the valley below. It started sprinkling as we walked away from their resting spot, but the sun returned as we headed back down the mountain. Our next destination was the Shrimp Station, a familiar feeding spot next-door to the very quiet Waimea Town celebration site. After some coconut shrimp, I walked over to the spot of many of Merlin's ukulele performances and our ice cream contests and left Dianna and Merlin at that spot.

Heading back home we stopped first at Kauai Chocolates to boost the local economy and continue research on the meaning of life and then at Kauai Coffee and finally at the new upscale development Kaualani and shopped at the natural food store and bought a roasted chicken for dinner and some breakfast options. Since Sally was buying some eggs, I got some flour and milk and since some people I had met at the Point had given my some butter and other staples since they were checking out, I decided to shop for a Hawaiian spin of Dutch Babies (Keikis..) so Coconut Syrup and cinnamon was in the mix. We had procured COSTCO sized bags of blue and yellow potatoes and green beans, so Sally put together a great meal .Watched a little TV and started a great book that John's daughter Diana has written. It's a “young adult” mystery set in Seattle and Tokyo and concerns a missing Van Gogh painting and the main character is a teenage girl who is a cartoonist, manga fan, and comic book store employee. It's very engaging with well written dialogue and lots of twists and turns. I intend to get some copies when it is published in June. I think Brad, Christina, and Sophia would enjoy it

Monday, December 5, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 3 "It's Better to Be Seen than Nerd..."


Although it may appear I only have one hat
During my vacation, I often find that
My skills as a guide, a cook, or a nerd
Often are valued more if I'm seen and not heard
As long as I don the headgear that fits the format

On Kauai, Mother Nature allows makes a big splash
As the palette of possibilities provide lots of dash
The whales appeared, the sun shone bight
The clouds disappeared and the time was just right
For us to be treated to a perfect “Green Flash”

Monday was a day to get acclimated to our surroundings. We had a nice leisurely breakfast on the lanai and eventually headed in to Lihue so J&S could get their new Apple 4s I-phones activated. I had wanted to get a patch cord so I could use my MP3 player in the car and the condo and I suggested to John that it was worth buying a wireless router so they could broadcast the signal to my netbook and their phones. With an RGB cable, we could use the LCD TV as our monitor so we could watch movies and ease the strain on our aging eyes. I gave them a tutorial on use of the I-Phone even through it was my first chance to actually play with one. I'm very impressed with SIRI, Apples personal assistant. We asked “her” what the meaning of life was and she said research points to having some to do with chocolate! I will pass this information on to Ted...

While we were out we had a COSTCO lunch date complete with hot dogs and warm chickens running around. We relaxed at home before our sunset rendezvous at Makehuana Point where we were treated to a perfect “green flash” as the sun dipped into the ocean unencumbered by clouds. I left Dianna at our favorite spot near the shelter of a giant bush that we often used as a windbreak. We came back home for a home cooked meal of COSTCO coconut shrimp, potatoes and green beans and finished the evening with coconut ice cream.

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 2 "While I Pondered for a Week, While Wearing a Lei"


As the first full day dawns we begin to accrue
A variety of experiences both familiar and new
Doug and Sandy soothes us with some slack key
After a Lighthouse visit where there is much to see
Which followed a meditation at a Temple Hindu

A McMaster Slack Key concert is especially great
We always arrive early and stay till it's late
Of course the Universe found a way
To reward Dianna with a fragrant lei
Was it coincidence or just a bit of fate?

After a restful night with the sounds of the ocean as a backdrop, I watched a partial sunrise from my room and went out to greet John and Sally. I knew oatmeal would be part of our daily rituals and I also been my regime of taking vitamins, fish oil and greens and a glass of aloe and Univera Extra and Chocolate shake along with bananas, a tentative effort with papaya and toast with the Costco Triple Cream Cheese. We had planned a full day with a visit to the Hindu Temple above Waialua and then a trek northward to the Kilauea Lighthouse and on to Hanalei for a slack key guitar concert with Doug & Sandy McMaster. The meditation experience at the temple was an amazing first time event as we sat through the chants and then the passing of various powders and liquids which we would place on our third eye. We were each given a hibiscus flower and I was the only one that received a red one, which John suggested meant a healing heart. The story of this temple is fascinating and its 45 year journey to completion is awe inspiring. This temple is the worldwide publishing headquarters of Hinduism Today which has used Apple products since the 80s to publish their magazine. The temple will be complete in 2017 when a 6 ton crystal identified in a vision in 1970. Suitably blessed, we headed north to the Lighthouse. We made a stop at Ono Burger in Anahola and were then also blessed with a gorgeous view with plenty of sun from Kilauea Point.. I left Dianna at the steps of the lighthouse and then we drove into Hanalei in time for a wonderful concert from Doug and Sandy. I bought an additional ticket for Dianna and, wouldn't you know it, her ticket won the flower lei. Doug played a slack key version of Amazing Grace in Dianna and Merlin's honor. We headed back home as dusk approached and stopped in Kapaa for a nice Thai dinner before returning home. Definitely a full first full day! After a relaxing dip in the hot tub it was off to bed with the palms swaying just outside the window.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles Day 1 "What's the Point?"


From modest beginnings 1000 days ago
This chronicle has slowly highlighted new ways to grow
Little of what has occurred was anticipated
As possibilities appear that don't just feel fated.
What was once intuition is now a new way to know.

So I return to Kauai on a solo quest
To discover my passion for what I do best
As I embark on a path to make a decision
That leads to awareness and a much clearer vision
As I practice gratitude for the ways I've been blessed

I intend to walk familiar trails
While acknowledging the trials and travails
The beauty and peace that pervades this place
Provide ample motivation to absorb and embrace
The lessons that I share as “Mike's Somewhat Tall Tales”

What follows will be a random collection of thought
That reminds to be grateful for all the events that have brought
The ups and downs, The loss and gain
And other lessons of life with some joy and some pain
For a student only learns if he's allows to be taught.


As Hawaiian Air departed to the West
We resolved to take time to document the best
Activities and reflections this trip might bring
And since in Hawaii SPAM is considered a good thing
We offer the following for you to digest

On February 17th, 2009, the above is how I began what was intended to be a light-hearted recap of our visit to Kauai with the e-mail of the S.P.A.M. Chronicles which would document the Sights, Play, Activities, and Music we would encounter during our stay. I quickly realized the intrusiveness of e-mail so I began blogging so the reader would have to volunteer to be subjected to my musings. This led to my efforts and then to my current Due to the generous invitation of John and Sally to join them at their condo next door to the place Dianna & I and her folks stayed for 4 years, I find myself in a position to walk in old footsteps with a different frame of mind. What follows for the next 9 days will help me continue down the path of understanding who and what I am becoming. As a result this iteration is now dubbed the S.P.A.M.M.I.N.G. Chronicles since I have now added Meditation, Introspection, Nutrition, and Gratitude.

As I left Caldew at 7:30 AM a thin layer of ice coated the Prius so I needed to run the defrost cycle before I headed to PDX. Parked at the office and hopped MAX and soon settled in for 5 hours of irritating my seatmate, a nice young woman from Eugene who had just moved to Oahu due to a Craigslist roommate connection and was working as a server at Duke's. After 10 times of flying to Hawaii, it was an odd sensation to be traveling alone. The welcome from Sally and John was appreciated and we headed off to the Point at Poipu. It had been 19 months since I visited the island almost everything had the feel of the familiar. I was able to get settled in a wonderful space that looked directly out to the ocean from my room and we took in our first sunset before going to a old favorite, Keiko's for dinner. I was still on Portland time so I stayed up late and thought ahead to what the next week might bring. I have begun a search for my passion and feel the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so a change of nutrition may be in order. Follow this new digest for details. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

500 Nights of Mourning

Five hundred days ago, I made a resolution
To start to ponder with prose not elocution,
A way to deal with a change
That made my world new and strange
But will awaken me to find a way make a contribution.

Six times the seasons have turned
As I reflected on what I have learned
The ticking clock has spun 600 times
While I search for the depths using appropriate rhymes
In an effort to discover what my heart has yearned.

It will take a focus on heart. body and soul
To fully tap into what makes me whole
So I move forward with new zeal, after a fashion
Seeking to discover what is really my passion
As multi-faceted health is my goal

I write these words in the midst of the holiday season as I look back on the last 17 months and marvel how different my perception of the world is. There are times in life like the first year before and after college, the first months of a relationship, or the birth of a child that immerses you in a swirling mixture of emotions. Excitement, anticipation, wonder, and even some fear and confusion jostle for attention as the path to the future heads in unexpected directions. when the path ahead crumbles away due to a loss and we stare into the abyss, it becomes even more important to stay awake and aware to where life wants you to go. As a result, in the weeks and months ahead, look for signs that my vision for my future begins to come into focus (I've already got a new pair of glasses on order...) I have no idea what this will look like yet, but I've been alluding to an emphasis on all aspects of health since more energy and enthusiasm will always be helpful.

I leave in a week for eight days with John and Sally on Kauai walking in familar places with memories of Dianna in my heart. I will bring her and leave her at Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay, our sunrise/sunset point at Poipu, Kiluea Lighthouse and other places around the island where we spent precious time, especially with Merlin & Mary. I can think of no better place to rediscover my passion than in a land that is constantly creating - although all that volcanic items will remain on the big island and just be a useful metaphor.

During this time of Thansgiving, I am grateful beyond measure for the support of friends and family during this "Voyage of Discovery". Their patience and encouragement as I launched into my extended stoytelling/reminscing mode and their interest in joining me in whatever adventures I dreamed up have been invaluable to my mental health. My intent is to speak more softly (and less frequently) and carry less of a big Schtick.

The pictures above are the last I took of Dianna, a little more than 3 weeks before her passing. The ocean was always her favorite spot as she always connected with her spirit there. I look forward to doing the same in Hawaii as I move from mourning to enlightenement.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Around My World in 80 Days

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To say my world recently has been rocked
Doesn’t begin to describe the path I have walked
Both ample helpings of Euphoria and Sorrow
Reach back from Yesterday to Tomorrow
And to process, I’ve both listened and talked.

A year of “seconds” isn’t supposed to mean
Another experience to try and glean
As my world has whirled around and around
Even back on land I feel like I'm still on shaky ground
As we grasp at something that’s remains unseen

All is not dark as some successes appear
Both far away and some rather quite near
The Cardinals and Cardinal find ways to win
And self-discovery appears when looking within
So clear thinking and cheer trump the tears and the fear.

When I last wrote, I was anticipating wonderful week with the Lesher family as we celebrating Loren & Veneta’s 60th wedding anniversary a little early and I would sail home on Dianna’s birthday ready to embark on a new chapter which I called the “Year of the Seconds”, assuming a fresh view as the second time around for birthdays and other significant events would be easier to put into my “new” perspective. I got the first part right as we had a great time on our Alaska cruise and had some amazing adventures including being in a canoe within a few hundred yards of a caving Mendenhall Glacier! This wasn’t in the brochures! All aspects of the cruise with Carnival were great including food and I’m sure I will be a repeat cruiser. I was grateful to be able to part of the Lesher “gang” and it was appropriate company to acknowledge Dianna’s birthday. We returned to Portland and had a Three Square dinner celebration for her and then I enjoyed Labor Day weekend and got ready to dive into the fall. Life took another zig when Wayne called me Tuesday morning with the news that Dianna’s dad, Merlin had taken his life in the same manner as Dianna. Brenda & Wayne and Merry and Eamonn had spent the weekend in Medford since Mary had expressed concern over Merlin’s increased depression and “awfulizing” of events. He had forgotten Dianna’s birthday and that stirred up a lot of emotion. Understandably, the next few weeks were a blur as B&W and M&E headed south while I stayed up here as I was trying to remember how overwhelmed I was last year and didn’t want to add to the mix. The first annual Hillsdale Paella dinner for 300 was on September 10th so Theresa went with me and we enjoyed the realization of one of Ted’s many socially acceptable dreams as Hillsdale was buzzing. We celebrated Loren’s 82nd on Sept 15th and the first annual Pacificorp United Way Golf tournament was successful. I headed south immediately afterward for Merlin’s celebration of life. My unfortunate choice of words, “Year of Seconds” wasn’t meant to include a second experience which remains just as unfathomable. Mary wanted the service to be a celebration of Merlin’s life not just an acknowledgement of his passing which of course made his loss even more poignant.

In the midst of all of this Merry and Eamonn were trying to gather themselves for their cross country road trip to Florida via New Orleans and they left on the Autumnal Equinox for points East. I took advantage of a nice early fall weekend to retrace some of my Ramona Falls steps with Deb & Deb and shaved 3 hours off my July trek. Merry & Eamonn made it to NOLA in time for the joint birthdays and stayed in the French Quarter thanks to a nice gift of lodging from Brenda and Wayne before safely arriving in Florida. Ted’s almost true memoir “The Varmits” about his time in Ohio during graduate school when he embraced his Appalachian Outlaw side arrived and sent thrills through the Hillsdale community and beyond. I drew the shades and finished it in a couple of sittings and realized some people lead way more exciting lives than I do…

On October 15th we once again participated in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention "Out of the Darkness" walk and were joined by Roy & Sheryll as well as Mary coming up from Medford. Obviously the poignancy of this walk was felt by all, coming just 5 weeks after Merlin's passing but it was uplifting to have a group with which to share.

I am trying to be socially active with plays and concerts so I went to see and hear Basia, Colbie Calliat Daniel Nahmod, Mark Hanson & Greta Pederson, Michael Allen Harrison, and Tracy Grammer and take in plays at Portland Center Stage, Artist’s Rep, and a comedy show at Helium Club featuring Tim Lee, a scientist turned comedian. Just last night I was able to join Donna and Theresa for dinner and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol” which was clever and fun. Daniel Nahmod is a songwriter from LA that I got to know from his visits to LEC and since he remembered Dianna, he played a song in her honor called “Last Song” from his “Water” album that he created during a solitary 3 months in Moab, Utah. I’ve been continually listening to his album since it perfectly matches my round trip commute and is much better than listening to the news. A portion of Last Song is as follows:

“If this is my last song,/If this is my final day
If tomorrow I’ll be gone/What do I want to say
If this is my last song/If it’s my time to go
If my body has moved on/What will I have to show…
Have I given hope to the hopeless/Has a hungry soul been fed
Has a child stood a little taller ‘cause of something I said
Have I left a little kindness/Have I eased a little pain
If so, then I’m glad I came/For that, I’m glad I came…”

Sports has been a bright spot as Stanford football has been very exciting except for a stubble against Oregon and for awhile gave hope to a visit to Evan for the National Championship in NOLA where Evan is working as a part-time candy maker for the Southern Candymakers of New Orleans on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. Alas the Fiesta Bowl might be the final destination but I have no problem hosting a viewing part like I did for the Stanford Oregon. The company was great, there was plenty of food, and that night the best team won. The St Louis Cardinals kept finding a way to be the best team most nights as they finished an improbable run to the World Series Championship. The penultimate game will go down as one of the most exciting every played as they twice came back from a 2 out, 2 strike, 2 run deficit in the 9th and 10th innings and won on hometown hero David Freese’s leadoff HR in the 11th. It felt like my dad must have had something to do with the drama!

I’ve also had a chance to get some exercise with some hiking and golf and though the weather may not be as conducive in the months ahead, I’ll pick my spots since I’ll have good company since Rick and Cheiko and Theresa are usually up for an outing. I’ve got incentive and some encouragement from my fellow spiritual traveler Deb as we have agreed to root for each other as we find our separate passions and purposes, so I look forward to what lies ahead.
I end this entry after celebrating Thanksgiving with Dianna’s family , talking with Evan and Merry and having time with Sean, all of which makes me grateful for everything it took to get me to this moment , as I am reminded to let go of the past and future and spend more time Knowing the Now…

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A "TRIP" Down Memory Lane...

I’m often called a “Date Savant”
And don’t consider it an unfriendly taunt
It only refers to things of the calendar
Since Socially I usually defer
Leaving other kind of dates I was rarely wont…

I've entered a time of significant dates
With a thirst of understanding that never sates
As I play back the past months and years
With the distorted reflections of memories mirrors
I’m nudged toward pondering the fates

It was with a high degree of elation
That we celebrated a multiple graduation
A Forty Year High School Reunion
Led to many acts of friendly communion
And I bade goodbye to my Sunset Drive location

The month will end with an Alaskan Cruise
Which will give me time to think and peruse
All the tumultuous events of the past year
Ending on the birthday of the one I held dear
So I will use all of these events to enliven my Muse

The time between July 12th and August 30th is filled with memories over the last 50 years and this 7 week period has brought many of them into sharp focus. For the last 39 years, I’ve always engaged in a game of “What was I doing when” during this time of year as I would bore anyone with earshot of “Tales from the Trip of 1972”, 8500 mile odyssey Ken, I, and “Dolly Dart” embarked on from Aug 18th -Sep 17th during the summer after my freshman year at Stanford. It was less Kerouac and more Kuralt (“On the Road..”) but it shaped many of my views and due to my daily journaling, seared many of my memories in place. I would have been sitting with Jay G in Dodger Stadium watching Bob Gibson of the Cardinals beat LA and tomorrow Ken and I would be guests of Teri during a day at Disneyland.
Forty years ago Dianna and I had graduated from Medford, so this years reunion had special significance since we had returned at our 30th to celebrate our marriage 4 years earlier. Larry arranged a chance for use to get together with the Fergusons so we could reconnect with our 1st grade teacher from Wilson who I credit with awakening a love of learning that I still practice and encouraging Marcus, Larry and me to realize much of our potential. It takes a special teacher to see what talents a student might have, especially when the student doesn’t see it. I’m always especially grateful for Ginny Ferguson, Denny Bateman who wrote “Go to Stanford” in my 7th grade yearbook and jumpstarted my academic career and Edna Stewart, the Transcendentalist English teacher that Dianna & I had junior year, who planted ideas that eventually would blossom once Dianna & I re-met
The reunion itself was a non-stop cavalcade of bemusement recognition, appreciation and connection. Karen G came up to me and thanked me for a valentine I had given her and said she considered me her first” boyfriend”.. I pointed out that information would have been useful in 1965 since it might have changed the arc of my dating career. The real story was I give out 2 valentines and my dear friend Scott noticed the 2nd one and brought it to everyone’s attention. At that point, oblivious to Karen’s interest, , I decided to not put myself in socially awkward situations ,and spent the rest of my secondary education focusing on academics and sports – the rest is history.. I bounced around acting like an interpreter as I overheard people wondering how they knew each other and I would tell them what classes then had together, who they dated, and other mundane details until flashes of recognition crossed faces. The mistake I made was not circulating more and connecting with more people. I did get a lot of kind comments and memories about Dianna which was sweet. We all recognized we need to get together more often since we already have too many people on our Memory Board.
PSU Graduation was the next big event as Merry, Eamonn, and Leah all walked in the Summer ceremony and made me feel like I had 3 kids graduating. I know how much work Merry put in to finishing and nobody could be prouder of her accomplishments other than Dianna. We had a big celebration at Sunset afterward with Eamonn’s parents, Leah’s parents and Merry’s dad, along with a quick visit from Evan prior to his return to New Orleans to continue his wetland restoration work now as a graduate assistant at UNO and to start the Masters program in Jazz Piano. The usual Hillsdale friends and neighbors popped in and the event allowed me to say goodbye to Sunset Drive as I will sign papers tomorrow to sell it to Nathan, who grew up with Sean and has fond memories of time spent in the house and clubhouse. He and Lindsay and their little one are eager for a Hillsdale home of their own and I can feel good about turning the house over to “family”.

I’m now on the eve of the final event of the “First Year”, the Alaska Cruise celebrating Loren & Veneta’s 60th anniversary with Dave, Brad, Judy and the girls. I look forward to rest relaxation, entertainment and closure as I prepare for the “Year of Seconds” as the cruise ends on what would have been Dianna's 58th birthday Stay tuned..

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Year of Magical Thinking - A Grief Observed

The need for closure to Year One firmly calls
Even if my brisk hike may be slowed to some crawls
My awareness and perception have sometimes lagged
As I often Zigged when I should have Zagged
So for Dianna, I will take the path to Ramona Falls

I've thought long and hard and now I reckon
It's time to grasp opportunities as they beckon
I don't know what form they'll appear
But I'm ready to shed all my fear
As I move in to the unfolding year of second

365 times the sun has apparently risen and set. My view of the moon has gone from new to full a dozen times and twice have have day and night equally balanced. I have endured the longest night and survived the longest day, our 14th anniversary on June 21st to arrive on July 12th, 2011. One year ago I left Dianna on a Monday with a kiss and an acknowlegement of love and returned 4 hours later to find her gone, taking the only path she thought she had available.

My world and the shared world of her friends and family changed instantly and forever and I've been using much of the last year discovering how to accept, embrace, and move forward into this new reality. New friends have appeared (even today), old friends resurfaced, steadfast friends and family have offered a hand or hug and acquaintances have showed patience and compassion as I have I tried to make sense of something that doesn't follow rational rules.

The title of this entry is from reflections of fellow travelers Joan Didion and C.S. Lewis who lost their spouses. Joan Didion, whose husband John Dunne passed away at dinner after visiting their adult daughter who was in a coma, opens her book with the words:

Life changes fast
Life changes in a instant
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self pity.

What follows is a raw and revealing look at bereavement and the process of grief as she describes the "magical thinking" which makes a intelligent rational person re-visit choices and play out scenarios in the hopes that outcomes will be different. If only this.. or if only that.. She also says we feel the need to "keep the dead alive to keep them with us.."

CS Lewis married at 58 and lost his wife due to cancer after only 4 years and shares his fears and doubts as he comes to terms with his experience of grief. He describes the fear and inertia that is prevalant early on and the feeling that "staying busy" and not fogetting your beloved are your main tasks. He eventually comes to terms with the ideas that bereavement is as much a stage of marriage as the honeymoon and that the relationship between the living and departed has to be established as something new, not just relying on the vagaries of memory or the vestiges of photos or writing to keep the other "alive". He felt the more he focused on what had been lost with the parting, the less he could celebrate the gifts that had come from his relationship which now become something different.

I've had a lot of time to read and reflect and many people have shared the experiences in word and deed on how they have dealt with loss and it rminds me it is both a shared journey and a singularly unique path where others advice only takes you so far. As a result and in honor of my metaphoric journey, I arose on July 12th, headed toward Mt Hood, turned left at ZigZag and embarked on an 7.1 mile hike to Ramona Falls, the first hike Dianna and I took together.

"The dazzling, picturesque Ramona Falls stands like a fountain centerpiece at the front of a wooded cathedral. The water appears as if from nowhere a hundred feet above you and fans out like a wedding veil to the creek bed below. As it trickles and ricochets off the basaltic rock-face, it gives it a glowing, almost phosphorescent appearance. This illusion is especially noticeable when the alder canopy allows the evening sun rays to pass through, like a spotlight on a great work of art."

The hike is supposed to be a simple straight forward 3 hour hike but 1/2 hour in I noticed some branches blocking my path and hopped over and continued my journey, eventually encountering evil flesh tearing plants and a path that kept disappearing and reappearing. I stayed close to the river looking for the bridge and now am an hour out walking the riverbed. As I start to tun back, an angel named Heather and a St. Bernard in the guise of a black lab come to the rescue. She had followed the same path and we found our way back although my new water bottle was lost during the return trip. Right at the pile of branches, a well marked path hairpined down to the water and the temporary bridge. Heather is a fellow SW Portlander and fan of Hillsdale and we have friends in common, so I quickly felt like I had a friend joining me on my journey. The falls appeared even more beautiful and we took a snack break and "soaked in" the view. I had time to reflect on my trips with Dianna to these falls and then I was ready to head home. The path along the river has a lush Japanese Garden feel and look to it and with gravity as my friend we sailed down the trail. We came to a horse fence and passed through to find a dead end so we made our second mistake of the day and headed toward a marked hikers bridge, made a river crossing and started climbing toward what we thought would lead us back to the main river. After about a 500 foot elevation game and the better part of an hour I ran out of gas and we reconsidered our options and reversed course. In hindsight, we realized we were heading along the Pacific Crest Trail in the direction of Mt. Hood which was stilla bout 15 miles away. Once again we returned to find an obvious trail leading in the right direction and we finally arrived back at the trailhead at 6:00. We both felt we had experienced elements of "Into the Wild" and "127 Hours" but were grateful for the successful completion and I appreciated the metaphor of getting off track even if you have a traveling companion. Once again , I thank Heather for showing up when she did.

I was supposed to meet at Judys by late afternoon for a tamale feed and I showed up bedraggled by 7:15. Loren & Veneta had stayed so I was able to spend time with them and Judy & the girls. I returned home to a reinvigorating shower and then picked up a message from Rick S to join him at Dianna's bench at 9:30. Meg was also there and as the full moon arced across the sky we lit a candle for Dianna and sat in rememberance. Onward to the year of seconds...