Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Spot or Two of Rain

At last a day of clouds willing to weep a little on our parched land. Though the morning began with dribbles, sufficient rain fell throughout the day to refresh my spirit -- and, apparently, enliven the swarming white flies (not native to Oregon, as best I understand the situation) -- they've hatched in numbers not known here. In fact, this is the first year of the thirty-four I've lived here that I've seen any white flies--period. They're a nuisance and small enough to fly into your eye, but they apparently don't bite, don't appear interested in landing on people -- just fly and fly like white dust covering the air.

But, this morning, in that morning dribble and drizzle, I had the honor of walking my granddaughter to school. Brought back fond memories from my own childhood and encourages me to consider offering to walk her to school every day. That tune might change once the real rain and cold arrives, but for today, walking her to school was a gift I treasure.

Laughter and Umbrellas

We walked in the rain today,
granddaughter Riley and me,
she beneath her pink umbrella
me covered by a stately black & white
borrowed from her parents

Not a proper rain
where silver drops splash
in wild patterns, attach wetness
to legs and clothes, when boots
prove more appropriate than shoes;

No, this was a gentle rain
of dribbles widely spaced,
like tea-time with all the fine china
at grandma's house,
not THIS grandma, but back when
such would be considered
a proper afternoon gathering,

a bit like this rain that breathed in
before we were halfway to the school,
our umbrellas retreated, folded
as we crossed at the light,
crossing guard's flag raised,
added insurance
all cars must stop, as if the red light
won't be enough (and sometimes isn't).

Walk & Bike to school day today
and I earned the honor of walking
with my granddaughter Riley
in the rain, proper or not,
smiling, laughing, chatting non-stop.

What better way to start a day
than with rain and chatter
laughter and umbrellas
walking Miss Riley to school.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Seventy Years Married

Today in 1945, in a Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois, my parents laughed, smiled, dressed in their finest, and, surrounded by family and friends they exchanged wedding vows. This poem honors their marriage of 70 years.

Seventy Years Married

I remember the photo
stark in black and white,
young promises exchanged
before God and family,

held steady for seventy years
and counting.

On that day, he wore army issued
olive-drab, wool garments, pressed
shirt, polished shoes and a peaked cap
over a full head of thick black hair

his face covered by a boyish grin
ready to conquer the world.

She wore white, her wavy brown hair
cascading across shoulders caressed
by soft fabric, bodice angled to reveal
a silver cross draped around her neck,

face tilted towards his, deep dimples
enhanced by her joy-filled smile.

Sisters, brothers, parents, aunts,
uncles and multitudes of friends
gathered in the church, tossed rice
afterward, celebrations of family

long-life, many children, they danced,
drank, laughed, sang until night called.

Seventy years of marriage, a maze
of fascinating corridors, dead-ends,
children, camping, financial struggles,
long hours, sickness, health, disruptions,

arguments, forgiveness, shared adventures,
memories made, memories kept, faith

or something akin to that deep commitment
kept them together while all the marriages
of their children dissolved, steadfast
in their desire to help and assist others

and now, bonded in difficult times, stroke's effects
stealing her from him but he won't leave her side.

Seventy years and counting. Not many marriages
manage a promise this long and strong.

by judy Beaston
September 29, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Poppa Troll

My grandkids love a Nick Jr. show titled: Paw Patrol. I watched it for the first time this past week on an evening when I was playing my Nana role with my grandson.

"What shall we watch?" I asked

"Poppa Troll!" he sung out, quite clearly to my ears.

Baffled by the title, but certain such an odd title could fit a child's fantasy animated show, I searched the numerous lists of shows available via cable television. Nothing similar was found on the pre-recorded and saved list. Nothing remotely close was found among the "On Demand" selections. I searched "KIDS" and then Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoons. Nada!

Meanwhile, I kept asking my grandson to repeat the title of this show, certain now that my hearing loss was playing tricks on me. I considered alternate possibilities, such as "Paw-Paw Troll" and "Paw-Paw Toll" and though the first makes sense, the second doesn't and neither currently exists as a show for kids.

And then I stumbled upon it, on the Nick Jr. channel: Paw Patrol. Lights brightened and I laughed. "Oh! PAW PATROL not Poppa Troll!" 

My grandson looked at me as if I'd grown a set of horns. Then we settled together on the couch and I soon understood his pleasure in this show where dogs play a role in rescuing other animals. Both of my grandkids love animals, though so far, in their young years, most of their encounters are with the stuffed-animal and at-a-distance zoo variety.

It still sounds like he's saying "Poppa Troll" when he calls out the show's name, but at least now I know what he really wants.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Too Many Wildfires

When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Wind shifted overnight
no onshore breeze
pushes marine air
across Portland
summer's heat;

air storms in
from the north and east,
wildfire-filled zones
air thick with smoke,
thick enough
my nose samples
of backyard burning,

smoky haze so dense
particles are visible
floating in the heavy air
hanging at ground-level.

Eyes struggle, tears form,
lungs cloud with congestion,
heart fills with sorrow
for the losses
of forestland,
animals, too many
houses, ranches, lives.

And the sun lingers
in a cloudless sky,
fire-smoke red-orange
all day long.

by judy Beaston
August 22, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Sizzles and Other Notes

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After reading a post by a writing friend, one I know only via writing classes and Blogs, I realize my summer slips steadily past, my Blog page sorely lacking attention. I set an intention for a once-a-week post, but I seem to need more than intention to become close friends with my Blog page.

I could blame it on the heat. This has been a year for the record books in the northwest. We're not unique in our weather reflections of Global Warming. Elsewhere storms rage with rare intensity and quantity. Elsewhere, like Europe and Alaska, soaring temperatures out of proportion to even non-average years has become the norm for 2015. And here, in the Pacific NW, we've broken records for lack of rain (driest in 23 years), HOT months, HOT nights and now a new record number of days at or above 90 degrees in one year. And we're not done with summer yet.

Being quite more adapted to clouds, cool, and intermittent rain to break up the monotony of blue skies, I fought through the early parts of this summer. My muse fled for cooler climes, but left me behind and my lack of true creativity proved it. By mid-July, my system had acclimated to the relentless blue sky and HOT climate. I'm not yet the happiest camper, nor has my muse returned (though she sends me ideas and encouragement from her much more comfortable locale), but I'm composing poems and stories again.

What I've enjoyed about this summer includes more involvement with my grandchildren (5 and 8 - almost), mostly as Nana-taxi, but I also get to watch a little bit of their summer camp experiences. My grandson (5) gets to play little Ninja warrior twice each week in his pre-school Taekwondo class. He's learned to ride his bike, improve his water skills, and he taught me how to set up and play Skylanders (video game). Ah, clueless Nana! I never have been a video game player.

My granddaughter has been involved in theater camps, gymnastics, wilderness camp (called Trackers), studying environment and biology including her first river canoe ride, and something with dance. I think her return to school in September will be her "vacation" time.

And now I've just returned from ending the life of a mate-seeking giant house spider. Normally, I play catch-and-release with spiders, even these big ones. Between my family and me, we've caught and released more than six of these big ones. With the high proliferation of spiders (of every size) this year, my spider anxiety has been tested again and again. I had to knock tonight's big guy off the ceiling first. I'm shaking from the adrenaline, but maybe I'm knocking the fears into oblivion, too.  (Spider photo on the way)

I'll stop here for today. I HAVE been busy writing and taking classes since the first of the year. Maybe I'll bring some of that into the light of these NW Notes.

Giant House Spider Under Glass (not amplified)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring Poem

Spring's Sultry Mood

I considered morning
snugged in her gray wool winter coat

noticed white fur curled like thick lace
or scrollwork woven in random lines

north to east to west and south, some
folded back upon itself, bunched

in likely anticipation of late morning
opportunities for dispensing

with all this winter heaviness, an exchange
in order for Irish dances, blue sky;

but I erred on the side of optimism,
her sultry mood predicting instead

an afternoon sob-fest, a good soaking-in
for all the new spring growth.

by judy Beaston
April 23, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mail Call

Mail Call

My dad received an invitation
for an all-expense-paid flight
to Washington, D.C.

He and many other elder statesmen
long-ago dressed in military uniforms,
journey soon to visit
the WWII Memorial built
in their honor.

Upon their return
to Midway Airport in Chicago,
a familiar though long-gone sight awaits:
Mail Call
the same kind of Mail Call
woven into their days
during the war.

My dad and I exchange communication
as a rare event these days,
most of my news
about him
or my mom
reaches me via my sister,

but I would not miss this opportunity
no matter our distance
to share my gratitude
for his bravery
and commitment to freedom
that I embrace as matter-of-fact
every day of my life.

To all of our servicemen, past,
present and--unfortunately--future,
though I detest war
in all forms
consider none worth the bullets,
deaths and ruined lives
still I
thank you for your service
to this country.

by judy Beaston
April 25, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Snow Days


I remember winters as a child growing up in Chicago and later in a suburb northwest of the city. Snow seemed ever present for much of my younger years and built hills perfect for sledding from the back of my family's home, down into a large parkway that fronted a creek. I remember hours of sledding and building snowmen and having snowball battles, laughing and loving all the white winter fun.

Of course, I remember these events through a child's eyes, a skewed perspective affected by a child's main focus: play. This is the opposite of the adult forced to accommodate boots dripping near the back door, wet clothes to dry, kids to bundle up again and again, hot chocolate and possibly extra kids in the house adding chaos.

Beyond the kid-side, adults were also in charge of shoveling driveways and sidewalks again and again. They had to navigate slippery streets, keep food in the house, continue the normal daily chores along with all the extras winter dumps without regard for anyone's schedule.

I don't remember much about this side of life. Not until I became a parent could I comprehend the seamless weaving of joy, work, play and discipline that comes with the role. By the time I brought my first child into this world, I'd left the cold Midwest for the warmer climes of northwest Oregon. We still had snow, but with less frequency, generally less depth and almost always gone within days, no lingering gray slush waiting for spring's arrival.

Playing in the snow with my kids and their friends was a delight for me. I loved having the chaos of a house filled with young voices, making hot chocolate, pizza, popcorn, and more for these winter-wrapped youngsters. I didn't mind the wet clothes and boots. I loved when schools were closed so we could enjoy a rare treat - rare for this part of Oregon.

And then it would be gone. We had to embrace whatever we received as soon as it arrived because it often began to disappear by the end of the day. A few storms lasted longer, but most were a very temporary affair.

Watching the winter wildness affecting much of the Midwest and East Coast states right now, I have compassion for their dilemma. And though I miss the fun of the pure quiet that sometimes arrives with a fresh snowfall, I don't miss the mess of prolonged winter weather.

Come to think of it, our weather has been skewed in the warm direction for several years. Snowfall times have been more occasional than I remember enjoying when my children (now adults) had the pleasure of experiencing snow right outside their front door. My grandkids haven't enjoyed near the number of snow days their parents did, and it takes driving into the mountains before that pleasure can be found.

I miss it, but don't miss the ice and other driving - or walking - hazards. This year, I'm vicariously enjoying everyone else's snow.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thinking About What I Want

Thoughts Float On By

My focus directs my thoughts. My thoughts direct my focus. What I find more of in my life also reflects my thoughts and my focus.

While this reality can be a good thing, it can also lead to an increase in what I really don't want.

This has been demonstrated for me in my attempts to halt habits that annoy me or aren't healthy for me. By concentrating on ways to NOT do something, I've managed to increase my focus on that something I wish to halt. My focus brings more of it into my life and I'm stuck on the wrong side of the tracks.

Alternately, I cannot just focus on what I want with mantras and affirmations. The problem with those methods rests in the layers behind the spoken words. My unconscious is silently adding comments about those items I am hoping to change and thus my focus remains on what I don't want.

However, when I latch onto what I really want with a link to my heart and my emotions, I uncover multiple paths to visualizing what I want with a passion and conviction that overrides all other views. Eventually, the old becomes dust and the new becomes reality.

Next time you feel a shadow floating into your awareness, just sigh and let it float on by without thinking, "I'm depressed." Because sure as the sun rises in the morning, with that thought you'll be depressed before the day ends.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Being Mindfully Aware

Being Mindfully Aware

We all have pet peeves, those little annoyances that have a tendency to balloon into something ready to sail around the world. I know I harbor a few that, try as I might, cannot be suppressed without conscious awareness.

Awareness: that's one of my themes for 2015. Mindful awareness--taking my awareness to a deeper level, one where I connect consciously to what happens automatically from my unconscious.

Over time, I've developed the ability and practice of shrugging off most of those little annoyances that come into my awareness. Perhaps a little bit of a huff of black smoke appears, but this is harmless to others. Not so much for me.

When I walk with mindful awareness through experiences that annoy me, I notice how each triggers sludge development. This, in turn, invites the presence of shadows and dissonance. Without mindful awareness, by the time I'm aware of feeling disquiet, the source is long gone leaving me baffled by my situation.

The key to inner harmony, it seems, rests in determining what makes some incident annoying in the first place. Why is some action by some other person so bothersome to me? And if what bothers me in others is a mirror of self, what behavior of mine mimics what I'm seeing?

For example, one of my pet peeves rises when others leave cabinet doors or drawers open. Seems a low-effort task to close them after the item sought has been removed. Or is it?

It seems that way to me because I have lived well over fifty years with people who demanded adherence to certain conventions. I learned that the best way to maximize peace and minimize discomfort was to adhere to their perception of perfection.

By forcing my self into the expectations of others, I buried connections to what I always wanted for me: freedom to breathe.

When others do something that annoys me, what I feel is the whip others flung at me. It's a variant of PTSD, mild in this type of situation, but still a variant of PTSD. I'm reacting and not responding. I'm in automatic mode from an unconscious perspective shaped, colored and tainted by others.

When I take time to reflect on what annoys me, I remember that I also behave in ways that annoy others, no matter how much I try to conform to all those rules and restrictions others have demanded.

Then, by stepping back, pausing, considering, I can be realistic. Every individual comes to this day colored and shaped by a lifetime of experiences. They've developed habits and behaviors that suit them just fine. I can't make them change. I can voice my thoughts on what seems dangerous to me or unsanitary or annoying. We can work on solutions and compromises.

In the end, for some of these annoyances, my best path is gratitude for the life I have and, with open doors and drawers - just shut them. Then smile.