This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting to Blogger with such a large archive has become unwieldy. Also, your blogista, who is sewing a kesa, is not writing much at present. She has ceased adding new posts. Still-active links are here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Icy journey

Cormorant Jamboree this morning.

I spent more than three hours on the Reservoir today (or yesterday; I'm up late), paddling until my left wrist gave out and I had to paddle by "curling" (underhand) on the left instead of "pulling" (overhand). I covered about three miles, stopping twice for "restroom breaks" in the woods. I had to shift my body constantly, curling my fingers and toes whenever possible.

I was dressed as warmly as I could manage, but it was barely adequate. This is fairly challeging kayaking weather, but it does provide solitude (!!) and a chance to spend time with coots, grebes, geese, and cormorants.

A special treat was Bufflehead ducks, which I don't remember seeing (at least well enough to identify) before.

The fog remained low over the water, and temperatures hovered around thirty-five (F.). I brought home one landlocked Coho for the freezer, but the paddling itself was the best part of the trip.

--risa b

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Family Member


Beloved, who has "never been sick a day in her life," as the old saying goes, has been dealing with an issue that required intervention, and so this morning we went off to the Big Hospital -- the one where I have so much experience -- kidney stones, gallstones, pancreatitis, and life-threatening infections -- for her first experience, at well over fifty, with, among other things, anaesthesia.

I found dealing with the place unnerving -- again. They have crucifixes everywhere, which means, at least to their upper management, that people like me should not exist, and will not be "heir to eternal life," or words to that effect. So when I went to pick up my "family member" pager, I was understandably a bit tense as the clipboard-wielder got to the parts about relationship.


"Okay, and the patient's name is?"

I told her.

"Oh. Partner." And she started erasing "spouse."

It was nice that I wasn't being tossed for being a partner, something these hospitals have been known to do, but I felt like pursuing the matter.

Yes, all committed LGBT people should have civil rights like everyone else, and don't, but this was, technically, a legal right already in my possession. I could feel the curiosity of the family-member-of-a-patient next in line right behind me, and was in the mood to be informative.

"No, actually, that's spouse. I had full sexual reassignment surgery this year. She stayed with me."

"Oh! Oh." She reddened a bit, then erased "partner" and put "spouse."

I felt I should make a conciliatory gesture at this point, and added, "And we have three beautiful granddaughters."

This seemed to be the right thing to say.

As she handed me my pager, she smiled. "I have two grandsons -- and a granddaughter on the way. We're so excited."

"You're going to love it. Boys are great, but granddaughters are where the action is." I turned away, smiled to the bemused onlooker, and clicked off down the passageway on my smart new heels.

They only spent half an hour on Beloved, so there had been no need for a pager. As soon as I was settled back into the waiting room at Short Stay, the highlight behind her status on the monitors went from pink to orange, meaning Family Members OK.

And Family Member went in to see the woozy patient, and took her hand and held it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Stray socks

Fir branch done up to look like a tree.

Oldest granddaughter was here for a week.

I set up my tent, a pop-up model that has been with me to the wilderness many times, in my bedroom and we camped out on a mattress that stuck out of the tent door like a gian't tongue. Camping is what she likes to do when here, but with the torrential rains on most days of the visit, and the clod clammy conditions generally, indoor camping was indicated and it was a roaring success.

Most of the time we did pretty well together, though I think she's being raised in a culture of -- well, not as much respect for adults as we're comfortable with.

I think the purpose of respect, when it hierarchizes age, is safety. You want to be able to tell a small child to stop -- and they stop -- and the truck, or whatever is coming down the street, doesn't run over them. That kind of command-driven safety is lacking sometimes, with the result that we are very tired grandparents after these visits. The kid does try, but she's got years of helter-skelter behind her already. It's not easy for her, or us.

That said, the old lady (me) and the young lady (she) went up to the park by the boat basin and had a pretty good day. At her suggestion, we went fishing, and she hauled in an undersized kokanee, which we carefully released after a bit of a petting session. Then we moved up to the playground, where she practiced on the monkey bars for a while, and then discovered some sprouted acorns.

The acorns were a big hit. She dug holes all over the park, and basically planted a forest. We also collected mistletoe, lichens, and moss, which had come down in the big storm, and brought these home to add to the greenery on the mantel. A few extra critters appear to have been added to the menagerie -- mostly small tree spiders -- but the effect is quite cheering.

A particulary rewarding aspect to this visit is that Granddaughter has become a very good audience since the last time she was here. We went through the Sendak-illustrated Nutcracker that has Hoffman's entire, weird, but worthwhile story, with all the chapters that are missing from the ballet and the board books. Beloved would read a chapter, then later in the day I would, and when Granddaughter knew we had had come to the chapter called "Conclusion," she placed a bookmark in it and saved it for the morning of her departure. As Beloved rounded up Granddaughter's things to drive her back to the Big City to the North, we came at last to Marie's wedding to the Prince, and were all three quite emotionally affected.

After they left, I cleaned house, and kept finding stray socks and toy people, and such. I didn't realize I so much missed having children in the house.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The howling wind

A brief respite from the storms

We heard there was a storm coming -- with winds of fifty miles an hour. Lots of storms here gust to fifty, but when fifty is sustained, that can mean trees down and power lines lying on pavement, crackling, and the like.

One of the venerable pseudo-cypresses framing the front of the Library was shoved over, and had to be cut up ignominiously and hauled away in a dump truck. Houses and parked cards in various areas were serving as resting places for trees both large and small. One man died when his pickup hit a patch of black ice; three experienced climbers have disappeared on Mt. Hood, and sixty people can't find them. A catamaran has washed ashore upside down, and bodies are appearing on the beaches. So it's been kind of a rough week here.

As I was driving home from work during some of the worst of all this, I saw three explosions of blue light against the black sky, and the neighborhoods around me went dark. I drove the twelve miles to our place through rain and an unaccustomed lack of illuminated windows. Even the country mall and its usually brilliantly lit gas station were out cold. Nothing glittered except for the headlamps of other cars.

As I reached our place, I found, at last, some light -- for Beloved had got out the candles and lit the kerosene lamps.

These lamps were passed down from my grandmother's mother. They're no-nonsense nineteenth century lamps, with a fluted glass base sweeping up to a champagne-glass shaped reservoir, a brass fitting for the wick and chimney, and the tall chimney itself. Regal in bearing, these lamps can keep a room fairly well lit. Thanks to the wood stove and the lamps, we had dinner, hot cocoa, and a good book. It was almost a let-down to have the power come back on just as we were going to bed. What had been a romantic interlude ended in a clock frantically flashing "12:00 -- 12:00 -- 12:00 -- ."

Snow did not come down to the valley floor, as they say, but it has dusted all through the hills amid the upper elevations look like a winter scene from a New Hampshire calendar.

This morning I had a kitchen frenzy, making creamed sweet potatoes, whole wheat onion-garlic bread, steamed beets with honey and vinegar, mixed vegetables with Jerusalem artichokes, and veggie soup with garlic blossoms (from the freezer).

There was a hard freeze, and the roofs in the neighborhood were all white. This meant that the chard, bitter in warmer weather, would be edible, so I hopped out to the garden, you see, and one thing led to another.

After all that cooking, the weather moderated, and I felt a yen to go fishing. I pulled out the kayak and drove over to the reservoir. No one there, as is usual this winter. This place had been popular over the last decade or so, winter as well as summer, or even more so in winter, as it's known the trout will bite here in the cold, when they seem sulky elsewhere. But not as many have been stocked in the lake as in the past, and the regular season was so poor that all the men have either gone elsewhere or hung up their rods, leaving it to one old madwoman in her little cockleshell and about fifteen cormorants.

We're not complaining.

The bite was on, and the trout, as has been usual for the last few weeks, have been heavy holdovers, fish that have survived the motorboats and sonar over the last couple of years. They have lots of fight in them, too, as they no longer remember the hatchery, and the cold water holds more oxygen in it than in warmer seasons.

The surrounding hills were all white with snow, and the sky was quilted over with that thick, dirty cotton that says "snow coming." There was a biting northeast wind, against which I was well muffled, and a heavy swell running from the other end of the water. Sunward, the swells glittered wanly; elsewhere there seemed little difference between light and shadow. Cormorants dove, then popped up elsewhere, fixing me with their unblinking stares.

I had to divide my attention between the trout, who were certainly active, and the wind, which drove me toward the dam at a spanking pace. I might hook a trout and start reeling, only to find myself too close to shore, and then switch to paddles and make for open water over the grey peaks and troughs, almost shipping water, towing the fish behind me.

When I had had enough, or about an hour and a half, of this fun, I put in to the boat ramp, packed everything away, used the jiffy johnny, which was actually invitingly warm out of the wind, and went down to the boat basin for a glance around. The rich people's boats live here, lonesomely gathered together, clanking against their moorings, the wind howling through the stays, unvisited by their owners for months at a stretch. No one was home but a handful of gulls and some fifteen cormorants, sulking in a row along the breakwater.

One of them turned his head to run an appraising eye over me, then dismissed me with a bird's equivalent of a shrug. The others didn't bother to look.

It was a place where one has no name.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Up and down

Up and down weather and such. I made it over to the reservoir again in a grey hole and brought back three largish trout, one of which was one of those landlocked jack salmon that are stocked in the upper lake. You only find them in the lower lake if they got through the turbines intact and then grew up. This one had to be at least four years old; towed the boat in a circle before I got the landing net out.


I made a soup on the same day, using leftover water from steamed broccoli, some red chard, beet greens, a garlic clove, a green onion, a leaf of red cabbage, black beans, and tomato sauce, We didn’t grow the black beans. I’m happy about the extent to which we are using our own garden through the winter. Beloved also thawed out some of our diced apples to use with oatmeal and such. I’ll probably put the last of that into a loaf of bread.

In two days the Library will have its holiday potluck and I’m so apathetic; haven’t made anything or even thought of making anything. Sigh ... Should maybe pick up a couple of sweet potatoes and some walnuts ....


Local Granddaughter is coming to stay next week, so I need to find the tree trimmings for her to use; I should also have repaired the creek bridge so that she can safely get to the playhouse but I have put that off due to the cold and my diminished strength and resistance. So instead I have wrapped everyone’s gifts; Beloved will add her contribution to the various heaps and pack and mail them next week.


Spare time, such as has been available, has been divided between napping and revising old poems. The poems were written by a former self. I kept about two thirds of them and have changed the pronouns in more than half; otherwise they are fairly recognizable, I think. So I’ve taken down thin links to the original books and replaced them with a set of Collected Poems.

Here's one of the earliest of them:

she sells books

She sells books from nine to six. They are
good books, well bound, well written, colorful
to the eye, and children love them, but

the town is poor. She sits waiting for hours
for one grandmother to come in and buy one book
for a favored grandchild. The owner of the store

is her friend; she cannot leave her just now, but the store,
she knows, is not her place in life. All
she has ever wanted is to farm: at evening,

when the dinner things are cleared, and the hot sun
drops behind the cottonwood, she farms.
Food for the ducks, and soapy water for broccoli;

old lettuce gone to seed comes out; the hay
is rearranged, and fall peas go in. She stops
only to hear the geese pass overhead,

then bends among her plants until the stars,
first one and then another, leap and are caught
in the hair of approaching night, so like her hair.

She comes in, soiled to the elbows, leans against
the table, extending an open palm. "Look,"
she says, her eyes afire. "Marigold seeds!"

I’m not writing poems now; haven’t since I began HRT. I have no idea why; perhaps it might make a good thesis for a budding biochemist sometime.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Coffee shop

The weather has been a bit harsh, though nothing like what they have gone through east of here. We get ice, a little snow, then sun, then rain, then more ice. Today, freezing fog. A few days ago, an inch of snow, hence the photo.

I thought I would be spending the day productively, as I did yesterday, but have crashed in front of the wood stove, unwilling to do anything but eat, read, and fetch firelogs. Nothing pulls the heat out of this sixty-year-old house like these icy fogs.


A man friend, one I'd worked with long ago, took me for a break from work in the coffee shop.

"How is it going?"

"Work? Good."

"Well, I mean, your new life and all that?"

He's almost the last one still asking. Most people are pretty much over the bursting-chrysalis thing by now. Risa is Risa.

His curiosity is personal, though. How I'm doing, not on the surface, but at heart, at soul, matters. There is a fire running around the edges of the room. Crystals are growing in the flourescent fixtures, sending unknown colors into the walls. I really don't know what to say. The answers change when he asks the questions. When did this start? Around him, that is.

I sense danger -- more from me than from him.

"Gunga Din, following me all the way to the bottom of the hill to let me know I've just cut a swath through an acre of poison oak," is what I say.

Meaning, you've always watched out for me.

"Hey," he says, "When you speak like that it spooks me. That was someone else I knew, he was a nice guy, a friend, and a hell of a woodsman; he was in trouble, though, and here you are, this shining, vibrant, happy woman, and you're here one hundred percent. I want to know more about you as you and and how you happened."

"Why?" I'm picking at the edge of the table with my fingers, unable to meet his eyes when he looks at me like that.

"Well, most people don't just up and become themselves, and with very little help from the outside at that. I knew you were strong, but this is almost unaccountable." He pauses. "I'm interested because most of life goes downhill, and you've managed to turn around and go uphill for awhile. Maybe there's something in it to learn from."

I don't really have an answer for him. He's not a girl, for one thing. He's sitting on something, sure, but digging at it maybe wouldn't be good for the choices he's made.

And if it's me that interests him right now, I'd have to ask myself where that's coming from. I wouldn't want to be attractive because of any link to my past. And very few men are able to overlook such a past in forming relationships. They either want a girl-girl or a guy-guy. Not something they may perceive as in between.

Anyway! How did I get onto that train of of thought?

I'm not available and neither is he. We're both well taken and well cared for, and promises have real meanings, as I once learned to the sorrow of nearly everyone around me.

But sitting here with him is unnerving. I can barely breathe.

"Ummmm, well, I don't know, really. One day I just looked in the mirror, and, like, well, okay, this has all just got to stop."

"Meaning the self-deception thing."

"Well, yah. There's almost no more in it than that. You've read the book."

"Most of it." He waves his oh-so-very-male hand. It's definitely his gesture. Not dismissive, not anything definable; a kind of acknowledgement that life is made up of narratives, and we select among them as best we can for those things we choose to call truths.

"Can you," he asks, eyes glinting, "really remember all that, the woods on fire, carrying that big saw over your shoulder and telling us all what to do?"

"Gah, no. I mean, yes. Or, umm, no." I'm twisting the fingers of my hands around each other, a thing Beloved says I do when cornered. "It's like being stuck with somebody else's life in my head. Waking up from a coma, you know, and I'd had my head and body used by this other character for, like, forever, and, and, I'm gonna cry..."

Like I did in the bar in the Big Country town, when the interesting, handsome and very married man who'd bought me a drink asked, "So what was you name before?"


His eyes soften. "Pushed you too hard. You're all girl, Risa, and you were always all girl. Thing is, that's what was so interesting about how you made such a success of that other life."

I'm dabbing at my eyes with a wet hanky.

"Well, a lot of good that did me. I went through five counselors before they gave up on that -- that other person. Hnnnnnnh-uh." Sniff.

He pats my other hand, the non-hanky one. "There's some things you could teach us. That book is okay as far as it goes, but you've seen more than you let on."

"Maybe we're better off not looking too far into it." I roll up the hanky and stuff it back into my purse. "I'll tell you this much, though."

He leans forward, so as not to miss anything.

"What I've got, everyone has it."


"Everyone. We're all like blazing stars in a galaxy. There's no limit to what anyone can be."

"Even me?" he's grinning, reaches for his cowboy hat.

"Mmm-hm, even you."

"And what do I want to be?"

"Couldn't tell you."

I'm recovered enough that I'm getting coy again. He gives me a shrewd look.

"Better be getting you back to work, huh?"

And, ever the rough-hewn gentleman, offers me a hand up from my chair.


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