9.22.2015

September sunset

pink sunset, Gladstone (September 18, 2015)

Most days since getting the Fitbit Flex three weeks ago, I've managed to meet my 10,000 steps goal, which is between four-to-five miles of walking.* And this is even post-surgery, even when the nerves in my left upper arm are tingling and burning, when drain tubes dangle from my side, and when it feels like there's a large piece of cardboard sewn into my chest. Some days, like yesterday with its multiple appointments, just get too busy, but most days I try. It's about all I can do for exercise for at least another month, when I'm not supposed to be lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk.

Yet walking alone all the time on the same woodsy paths, the same suburban streets, without a conversational partner can get frankly boring, especially when one's mind is continually running along the lines of How the hell do I have cancer? I suppose I could start listening to podcasts or audiobooks, except that they would take up so much space on my phone and require forethought. Whenever my mother calls, I've learned, I should immediately lace up my tennis shoes and head outside . . . to multitask.

But a few days ago, out walking at dusk up and down the streets of Gladstone, waiting for the Fitbit to vibrate and let me head home, the sky glowed with a most beautiful pink sunset. I happened to be carrying my camera, though it took a couple blocks to find a shot that didn't include multiple strands of power lines. (Note that in civilized places like Europe and Japan, all the power lines are underground, a safer and more aesthetic place for them to be.) That same night, my friend Carol, who lives in Portland up on Mt. Tabor, happened to reply to an e-mail of mine, saying in conclusion, "The walk home was nice tonight. The sunset was fantastic." It was like that meme of two people far apart looking up at the same moon.


*Shopping Tip: Big-box stores like Target sometimes have policies that allow them to match Amazon's online pricing. It doesn't hurt to ask. I got over $20 off my Fitbit Flex this way from City Target. 

9.19.2015

creepy Craigslist caller

for sale: black suede Vince Camuto boots

Yesterday evening, I got a phone call from a guy asking if the boots I had up on Craigslist (CL) were still available. He asked normal buyer questions, which meant he asked completely redundant questions whose answers were already given in the CL listing, if anyone cared to read closely. I just figured he was maybe calling for a shy girlfriend or spouse. (And, for the record, my feet are too small for a man to wear my shoes, unless maybe he were a midget or dwarf.)

Me: "Yes, they're available. Do you mean the black pair or the brown?"
Him: "Both. I didn't see the black ones. What kind of condition are they in?"
Me: [blah, blah, blah]
Him: "And what size are they?"
Me: [blah]
Him: "What's the price?"
Me: "I think it's [blah], but I'm not looking at the listing right now."
Him: "Why are you selling them?"
Me: "They're a little too high for me since I walk a lot. But I'm sure they would be comfortable for most people. I just have slightly flat feet."
Him: "I'm interested in the black ones. But . . . I want you to wear them one more time."
Me: [pause] "Is this some kind of weird foot-fetish thing?"
Him: "Yeah, I guess it is."
Me: "No, thanks. Bye-bye."

I hung up and immediately blocked his phone number. Ewww! Doesn't the guy realize he can buy used, variably smelly women's shoes on the cheap at any thrift store? Double ick. And it's not even Halloween yet.


for sale: camel suede Vince Camuto boots

What's the creepiest thing that's ever happened to you on Craigslist?

9.18.2015

rental backyard: the new fence (part 5)

new fence & lilac bush

My roommate, Jeff, got most of the new backyard fence up last week, with help from friends and family. On different days, they tore down the old fence, dug out the old posts, dug new post holes, and set the new posts in concrete. Then he placed the brackets and support beams, finally putting up the new slats, with help from my handy step-father (who was in town for my surgery) to speed things along.

However, only half of the yard divider is up so far because Jeff will be redoing the equally falling-down fence on the opposite side of the duplex to match, once our busy landlord brings over another set of materials. And for that, Jeff wants easy access to the neighboring yard without having to walk all the way around the house.


new fence boards


new backyard fence

I would not have chosen these beveled slats (or whatever their official name is), preferring simple flat-top fence slats like our old ones, but then again, I'm not the property owner paying for the boards, so these will have to do. 


new backyard fence, almost finished

The brackets also should have been set farther forward on the posts than they were, so the posts didn't have a facing board standing out in 3-D from the rest of the slats, but then I wasn't the one doing the construction, and certain decisions were made without my input.

But at least we now have (most of) a sturdy backyard fence. The next step will be using, storing, or passing along Jeff's remaining collection of secondhand wood, including the leftover shipping pallets. Once he decides what to do with his woodpile, then we can put in a walkway (from secondhand pavers, bricks, urbanite?), as well as a narrow patio area for his smoker and three grills (!). And when that's done, then we can finally start planting along the fence—landscaping as decoration. But will there be room? Stay tuned.


Missed the earlier posts in the Rental Backyard series documenting our backyard fix-up? Check out . . .

9.15.2015

the little things

trellised jasmine

It's the little things that sustain me through more bad news, things like the free jasmine plant adopted from the former neighbor that will hopefully flourish against the west-facing garage wall beside our mailbox, scenting the walkway next spring with small white flowers; or quick-sent e-mails or texts from friends checking in; or the potted jalapeƱos produced by Portland's early-summer heat waves, actual red peppers being a rare garden event in this temperate-rainforest clime; or savoring a nourishing meal of broccoli quiche and smoked tomato bisque soup with salad and buttered baguette that my friend Sarah dropped off so kindly over the weekend; or how much the flowers in the garden grown mostly from inexpensive seed color the yard yellow, purple, pink, and red; or the gifted hydrangea and lilac bushes waiting to be transplanted in the backyard; or the animal bones and river stones collected from the Willamette riverbank and the moss clumps and dried leaves picked up from the sidewalk, fallen off a tree, all displayed on the shelving outside the front door.

The natural world is terrifying in its indifference and magnificent in its beauty and power of transformation, the continual cycling of matter and energy through the eons that a single human consciousness can witness just once for a fraction of an instant in geologic time.


gathered river rocks


potted marigolds, hot peppers, & squash

9.13.2015

thank you

sunflowers and snapdragons

With all the floral bouquets, our living room looks like somebody died. Fortunately, I didn't, making it through surgery, if a bit lighter in tissue and blood. And I'm already mostly off the narcotic and back to walking 10,000 steps a day per the Fitbit, so there's that, too, to be grateful for. I'll continue to keep fingers crossed during recovery as the official reports come in. My surgeon says to nourish myself in the meantime—a word whose etymology literally derives from suckling, the infant on its mother. Adults, once weaned off the mother, must learn to feed themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, none of which is easy and all of which take time—even a lifetime, learning this lesson again and again.


ice bucket bouquet


yellow bouquet


purple hydrangea

Thank you to everyone sending good thoughts and well wishes across the airwaves, as well as those who came to the hospital (to see me green-tinged with radioactive dye and wearing a glowing heart-rate sensor on my index finger that looked like ET) or sent cards, meals, chocolate, or flowers. I am humbled by the love and care of those around me.

9.06.2015

rental backyard: the old fence (part 4)

falling-down backyard fence

Though I'd planned to talk about the new deck steps and giant picnic table, the entire deck is now covered not only with buckets, tools, and miscellany but also with leaf and twig debris from the recent rainstorms. It would be unfeeling to complain about rain when not just the Southwest but even the Northwest has been burning up all summer, though the impression of fall-come-early mirrors our atypical blazing start to the summer season in June. These are abnormal geographical times.

In any case, the next phase of the backyard upgrade will be rebuilding the original fence, which, as clear from the photos, is falling apart. One of the panels actually blew over into the back neighbor's yard during a windstorm last weekend and onto their vegetable patch. (Oops. Sorry!)


fence view into the back neighbor's garden (August 19, 2015)

Of course, being all about secondhand reuse, I would have preferred to salvage the weathered fence slats and only put in new structural posts and cross-beams, but the wood is 30 years old and rotting and so just needs to come down, though I'll miss the lichen and mossy bits on the silvered wood. The slats can probably be repurposed for something else.


mossy backyard fence


leaning fence with lichen

Sadly, our mellow Vietnam-vet neighbor has moved out and over to eastern Oregon (his house over there almost burned down just prior to moving in, and he did lose some outbuildings to the fire that swept through the canyon). His side of the fence is just as crooked as ours. And the divider between yards is also partway down. Who knows? We could have kids and a dog moving in next door, which would only underline the need for a stronger fence. "Good fences make good neighbors," exhorts the classic Robert Frost poem, and though the author himself questions the maxim, it's often true, if not between countries, at least in crowded suburbia, where most of us would like a little more privacy.

The plus side of our neighbor's moving out, though, is that the landlord has been coming around lately in efforts to spruce up and rent the unit. So we've been able to talk to him in person about the fence, and—maybe because he could see firsthand its wide gaps like missing teeth—he's agreed it needs fixing, even bringing us the first load of new fence posts and a bag of cement.

Jeff did volunteer for the job, which he may regret, but we just wanted it done—because until it's done, we can't do any landscaping, which would include placing some kind of pavers for the patio table and grills. So he and a friend took down the rest of the back fence the other day, opening up our yard to the neighbor's yard. (Hello, neighbors!)  Unfortunately, the showers this weekend haven't been cooperating for post-hole digging and cement mixing. So we might take care of a few indoor projects while waiting for the rain to let up.


east-side yard-divider fence


east-side divider fence with trailing ivy

While we both like the more modern-style horizontal-slat fences, there's already a lot of horizontal going on in the backyard with the slatted deck and matching picnic table. Fortunately, the landlord says we can pick whichever fence design we like, as long as it doesn't require more wood than a basic fence. As usual, simple for me would be best.


Missed the earlier posts in the Rental Backyard series documenting our backyard fix-up? Check out . . .
Part 1: The Tangled Mess
Part 2: Down to Dirt
Part 3: New Old Deck

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