Thursday, March 31, 2016


10:00 am Pacific Time. Portland OR_3.31.2016
Warm, sunny and brilliantly hopeful!
Sunny sky from my Portland studio skylight

Dearest Readers,

Portland and Vermont share a weather-intensive focus that envelopes the soul, and affects the conversations of friends. My mental outlook the past two years in these beautiful places reflects the abundance of precipitation and the preciousness of sunshine. I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) that I keep in check with daily “medicinal” walks in natural light, whatever the cloud cover might be. Last year it was the continual snowfalls that dominated my temperament, and which I counted in 63 facepost postings. This year it’s the blanket of rain, a near-daily phenomenon of the coastal Northwest in late fall, winter and spring. 
Neighbor on NE Mallory with a palm tree growing
The climate is warmer than I expected with a variety of woodsy and even tropical vegetation, species native to the region...
Sequoia-ish conifer along my dog walk route

Little umbrella shaped tree just before blooming 

Giant begonia perhaps, or species of hydrangea???

and lots of rain-loving moss and mushrooms. 
Neighbor's mossy, fern-sprouting rock wall

Mushroom sundaes by a mossy fence

Carpet of moss along my street 
I love the imperviousness of Portlanders to the rain. Life goes on with the proper gear, as it does in the Vermont snow.

Rarely do I see a traditional lawn with hedges around the foundation, or a totally white house. 
Fall plantings along NE Mallory St.
Neighbor Margot's house last October with a selection of shrubs and trees
Spring front yard plantings on NE Mallory St.

Portlanders in my area prefer colorful house paint in bright or muted tones with contrasting trim on homes with a variety of dormers, overhangs, and gables. There’s a creative spirit in my urban landscape.

 The sun has emerged from weeks of intermittent rain. This remarkable occurrence was the topic of conversation at my senior fitness class, with lots of jokey comments about the persistence of Portland precip, and high hopes for the beautiful summers.

My friends in the neighborhood fitness class-Senior Balance and Strength-left to right
Cindy, Deborah, Linda and Gloria

A week ago I snapped a nearly full moon on a clear night. My soul leapt!  
Night moon through my studio skylight

From the perspective of a new-bee, there is joy in the garden arrangements, humor in the house paint, friendliness in sunshine, which beats back the potential depression of this long period of somber weather. 
The plants seem to love it and blossom through the filtered light. 
Our new pear sapling in bloom last week despite the gray days

My new granddaughter Iva Mae Hazel and I take our frequent jaunts in a rain-outfitted stroller. She’s dry and content, and so am I. New life, nourished by water and now some sun quickens my soul.

On a walk with Iva Mae Hazel under the stroller's rain cover

Ready for a sunny spring walk with "Miss Hazel" in her open stroller

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Lenten Rose (Helebores) in bloom in my Portland neighborhood–Right on time

During Lent, season of discipline,
I drag myself early out of bed, ride
to Mass with Mom and Mrs. Crivello,
warm in the front seat between their
woolen coats, soothed by familiar perfume.

Headlights carve the ebony darkness.
The women talk in low tones
about people I don’t know, the thrum
of their voices reassuring. I doze
for seconds that seem like minutes.

In the half-acre lot, we park among
a small band of cars huddled near
the entrance of St. Monica’s. Inside,
stained glass windows, a feast of color
in daylight, are black. The church is barn-cold.

Candles burn, bells ring, prayers are murmured,
songs sung. The church warms slowly. I sit,
stand, kneel between the two women,
rituals washing over me like soft waves
on Lake Michigan in August.

Later, I carry the sacred mood
out on my route, dispensing papers
like Communion to my neighbors.

-Lawrence Kessenich

Dearest Readers,

When I was a kid, Lent was a time of daily Mass, denial and hope for Easter.  Like the poet Lawrence Kessenich above, I too hold deep memories of attending pre-dawn services on weekdays with my Mom or Dad. The weather was still cold in Jersey City. Nature was waiting to explode. 

These days I’ve discovered St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in my Portland neighborhood. I wrote about my search for spiritual paths in a recent blog entitled Pilgrim's Progress, as one of several necessary ingredients in getting grounded here.

St. Andrew's with a focus on Hispanic outreach, and social justice

I’m surprised at what I’m discovering in this church. Has the whole organization shifted so dramatically from stressing sin as it did when I was a child, to a worldview that emphasizes social justice, mercy and our kinship with all peoples? It's a good thing. 

My small way to help in my community is to quietly pick up trash on my morning dog walks with Etta. I carry two plastic produce bags from the supermarket–one for 'dog do' of course, and one for the refuse that appears out of nowhere each day in the neighborhood.  Seven of the eight blocks on my walk route are already looking better, and so easy to do little-by-little.

I also use the Lenten Rice Bowl iPhone app to daily ponder ways to be kinder, to pledge small amounts of alms to combat global hunger, and to offer it in a portable cardboard “bowl” on Easter Sunday.

Lent, like springtime is the season for renewal, whether you are spiritually-minded or not. Buddhists say the lotus grows from the mud at the bottom of the pond–the grit of life. Many Christians, and Catholics in my personal experience, use these six and a half weeks to consume less, do good deeds and practice charity as strategies for personal growth and the greater community good.

I feel like I’m connecting with the world as I dive deeper for the muddy root.