dreaming of raspberries

California raspberries in May

I'm busy finishing up OSU's permaculture MOOC, so I'll leave you a pretty photo and we can all dream of local June raspberries rapidly ripening in the upcoming heat wave. I bought these California raspberries for Mother's Day as a treat to myself. Though I'm not a mother, I could have been but chose not to for the sake of the child, making me a good mother. Really, any excuse to treat myself is a good one. I do miss the productive raspberry canes I planted in the backyard of the Brooklyn rental, thanks to my friend Sarah, now herself a mother, who had generously thinned out some of her large patch. But there will be other raspberries. . . .


melancholy yellow

English lavender, new yellow pots

As if I don't have enough to do between work, crazy commuting, and various post-cancer health-care appointments, I added a month-long online Intro to Permaculture class via Oregon State University (OSU) into the mix. It's only supposed to take about four hours a week, but they're lying—it's taking up most of my weekends. No matter: the subject is fascinating, personally relevant, and vital to a sustainable future for humanity. I only wish I had more free hours each week to putter around at home, implementing projects.

vintage yellow wool table runner

English lavender in yellow ceramic pot

I keep feeling like we're speeding towards a global meltdown, while the driver isn't even watching the road but staring down at his phone (and in my mind, the driver is still most certainly a he), checking Facebook and laughing at videos like the mother in the Chewbacca mask. What's the point of going through all this hassle—multiple surgeries, multiple courses of antibiotics, multiple-upon-multiple appointments—for one fake boob to eventually sort-of match the real one if the planet is about to combust? These are the things I think about while staring out windows on the bus between library-book pages, heading to or from a job I lack passion for.

Or maybe it's just that the rain is back in Portland, the sun on vacation elsewhere, breaking records in India. Until the blue sky and sun return, I can gaze at the lavender newly planted in bright-yellow pots, at the new thyme flowering in the old white pot, waiting for the chive seeds to sprout, thinking about planting some mint, hanging a rain chain, and wondering whether we have room in the backyard for a few chickens. This is what hope looks like.

new yellow planter pots

[F]rom space, you can’t see borders. What you see is this lonely planet. Here we all are on it, so angry at one another. I wish more people could step back and see how small Earth is, and how reliant we are on one another.
astronaut Anne McClain


update: metro-shelving dresser makeover

metro-shelving unit as dresser, rearranged

Speaking of makeovers, I recently rearranged things on the display section of my metro-shelving dresser and thought I'd show the update as further proof of how small additions and subtractions can create a bigger impact—or at least a change, which for most of us is usually welcome.

I bought nothing new for the makeover, only using items I already owned, the basic principle of Lauri Ward's Use What You Have Decorating. So the turquoise blue-lidded ceramic pot from Goodwill, for example, was in one of my black filing cabinets holding rubber bands (which it still does). The Christmas cactus (a gift from a coworker) I had repotted in my favorite little thrifted handmade ceramic planter, now that my resuscitated pothos has been moved to larger digs. The white geode used to sit on my radio across the room. And the books were switched out from my collection to include reference books that currently inspire my gardening and tiny-house planning, while the striped red-and-ochre rock bookend I've owned for almost twenty years. Over half the baskets and almost everything else on this metal metro-shelving unit, including the basket contents (mostly clothes) were purchased secondhand. And that's as it should be in a world with finite material resources.

repotted Christmas cactus

white geode on teak tray

Life's a process, as is death itself, the transformation of matter into energy into more matter. Conservatives and progressives battle fiercely over what should stay the same, and what should change. But everything changes. Maybe the only thing we can control is how fast. What you see here will not always be here. It'll be in another spot, maybe in my tiny house—one day owned by someone else.


field trip: Pink Lemonade at Menucha

sunset from Menucha Conference Center (April 8, 2016)

In early April, I spent a weekend at the Menucha Conference Center up in the Gorge for a retreat hosted by the Pink Lemonade Project. The facilitators were kind, funny, and empathetic; the food was healthy, tasty, and ever-plentiful (I was apparently unused to eating three regular meals and not having to cook or do dishes), my fellow breast cancer survivors were inspiring, beautiful humans; and the retreat felt restful and healing, though packed with activity and talk.

Menucha, an old homestead-turned-summer estate in Corbett, Oregon, built by the Julius Meier family (of Meier & Frank fame), who hosted U.S. Presidents Hoover and FDR around the time that Meir was Oregon Governor, is now owned and operated by the First Presbyterian Church of Portland as a retreat and conference center for nonprofit organizations. 

white blossoms at Menucha

We had quiet, private rooms with lovely hillside views in the Creevey Complex. Pink Lemonade staff left each of us a thoughtful gift basket full of assorted pink treats and a tiny potted dahlia, as well as scheduling relaxing Saturday afternoon massages. Although it was too early in the season for the swimming pool, I walked the labyrinth path and along a shady forested trail during breaks.

lilacs at Menucha

bleeding hearts, Columbia Gorge

In addition to watching stunning Columbia River sunsets, I spotted turkey vultures riding canyon updrafts, discovered an old, discarded glass Listerine bottle made by Lambert Pharmacal in the bushes near an old fence gate (that I left with Menucha's director), and inhaled antique lilacs. (For fun, some quick Googling will reveal a ton of blatantly manipulative vintage Listerine ads, stating things like, "He's not going to call!" Advertising tricks have since gotten subtler.)

rusty vintage metal & wire gate on Menucha grounds

hazy Columbia Gorge (April 2016)

turkey vulture, Columbia Gorge

During one meal, a bird thumped into the window of the glassed-in dining patio. When we got up to check on it, the fluffy little chickadee was already dead, a random event, tragic for the bird and its bird network, despite the brilliant sun setting in the west and people in other groups chatting unaware over their desserts—a metaphor to carry home, along with my pink dahlia.

sunset at Menucha (April 9, 2016)

(Thank you, Pink Lemonade, OHSU, and Menucha!)

Tip: If you haven't time or resources for a weekend retreat somewhere like Menucha, the Labyrinth Society's Labyrinth Locator can help you find a free walkable labyrinth near you, either solo or with friends or family. Skipping churches, I could, for example, check out the labyrinths at Marylhurst Heights Park in West Linn, the Happy Valley City Hall, the Sunnyside Kaiser Hospital, Legacy Meridian Park in Tualatin, or the Min Zidell Healing Garden at the Natural College of Natural Medicine in downtown Portland.

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