Monday, September 18, 2017

Priests



By Fred  Owens

This week's installment features sketches of our three parish priests when I was ten, that being the first part. The second part of this story was an embarrassment for Judy Muench in the third grade and later on it was a greater embarrassment for me. The third part describes Miss Marshall, our lay teacher in fourth grade. Not a nun. You could see her legs.

The cemetery was a key component of my landscape, being right up the street from our house. Dead people lying under slabs of marble with their names and dates chiseled. You could walk in there anytime and wander around. You didn’t have to be respectful like in church. You could run up and down the grassy aisles. And if we hit a ball into the cemetery we just hoisted ourselves up and over the cement wall onto the grounds and searched for the ball. You didn’t have to cross yourself or kneel or make an Act of Contrition.  Maybe teenagers wandered in there at night and did things we never even thought of. I don’t know. I only know it wasn’t spooky.
Up the street from our house on Forest Avenue, two blocks to the convent, then the cemetery, and on the same block was the playground and the grade school, and across Lake Street was the mighty, towering, brick church of Saint Joseph. The church was too awesome with stained glass and divine majesty.
Next to the church was the Rectory where Monsignor Newman lived with his bull dog and two assistant priests. Monsignor Newman was somewhere between  God’s best friend and God Himself.  Either way he was a most elevated person, and not a mean fellow.  Even in admonishment he did not strike terror into the hearts of small children. It only seemed extremely important to do what he said, if he actually spoke to you, which he did several times a year when he came into the class, with the bulldog, and handed out report cards from the sister’s desk in the front.
I always got a check mark for “practices self control,” meaning I was behaving like a whippersnapper, not totally out of control, but possibly subject to closer disciplinary attention. Monsignor  Newman would kindly point that out as he handed you the card, “Owens, it seems you have another check mark after your name. What can we do about that?”
I was too respectful even to answer back. I just took the card and walked back to my seat. Fortunately my parents didn’t care. It was times like that when I knew I had a good mom and dad. Or they just knew that I didn’t “practice self control” too well at home either. However, they also knew I didn’t torture stray cats and I was not headed for the penitentiary.
Back to the rectory. The other priests were Father Sauer and Father Bosen. We never, ever went inside the Rectory. It was a grand brick edifice, about the same size as the convent which held twenty nuns, while the Rectory held three priests plus a housekeeper who cooked and cleaned and fussed. Those three priests never had to lift a finger except they had to wear a black dress – cassock – coming down to their ankles – and hear confessions two or three times a week in a dark cubicle on the side of the church. Can you imagine how boring that might have been for Fr. Sauer, who enjoyed playing golf,  to sit in the dark confessional booth several hours a week and hear the same old petty sins over and over again -- I stole, I lied, I cheated, I had impure thoughts?
Impure thoughts was the good one, when they taught us to go to Confession in the second grade, because if you didn’t kick your little sister in the nose, or steal candy bars at the grocery store, then you had to come up with  something.  I had no idea what impure thoughts were, but it came in handy to fill out your quota of sins for the past month or so, because they made you go to confession. It was not like you had a choice.
So there was Fr. Sauer, dreaming of the golf course, but now hidden from view and sitting in the dark. You stepped in the door into this cubicle black as night and knelt down on the kneeler, and the priest slid open the wooden little door at the chin high opening, and then you had to confess something. You must have done something wrong.
“Bless me father, I have sinned. My last confession was two months ago. I was mean to my little sister although I didn’t really hurt her. I stole a candy bar at the drugstore, and I had five Impure Thoughts.”
That was good enough for a pass. Fr. Sauer, if it was him and you surely couldn’t know which priest it was sitting in the dark, would say, “Make an act of contrition and say five Hail Marys.”
Out the door and into the light. I knelt down on the padded riser in the pew and said my prayers of penance. I was willing to accept the general case of doing something wrong. I once said to Fitz Higgins, who read books in his leisure time, who played baseball poorly and didn’t even care that he played poorly, who began slouching even before fifth grade, who became an altar boy and seemed to enjoy that task, I said to him, “I know I did some bad things, but I can never remember what they were, so I just make up stuff when I go to confession, and then I think that’s wrong too – to make up stuff in confession. So what do I do about that?’ I asked  Fitz like he would know the answer. He didn’t know answer.
Fr. Sauer was dreaming about the putting green at the Evanston Country  Club. Par four and a whiskey sour after 18 holes. He was a handsome man and athletic. In summertime, on his day off, one time I saw him come down the Rectory steps from the front door, wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt over shiny pressed slacks.  I bet he had a girl friend somewhere.
Father Bosen was older and bald and not athletic and a bit detached from rambunctious school children. He had a smile which he put on his face for the children, and a warm chuckle.
He was probably gay, and probably celibate too, and cerebral. A private man, although he gave a good sermon at Sunday Mass.

I’m not done writing about the priests in the Rectory or the nuns in the Convent, or the school and the playground in between the Rectory and the Convent. Or the drugstore across the street from playground which was next to the cemetery. The drugstore where I bought candy bars for a nickel. And not, to be perfectly honest, where I stole the candy bars. I stole the candy bars from the grocery store.  Does it matter that I didn’t tell the literal truth to the priest at confession?
Look, I had to come up with at least three sins. Stealing, being mean to my little sister and Impure Thoughts. Years later I began having Impure Thoughts by the bucket.

By fifth grade we were still making jokes about Sister Beatina, the principal. She was enormously fat. Fifth grade boys can make a lot of fat jokes.
Another lunchtime classic that kept us laughing from third grade on was the Judy Muench disaster.  In third grade we had Sister Laverna. She was a small-sized bundle of energy who almost danced around the classroom. Such a lovely and lively women, we all adored her. Which was good because there were 63 kids in our class. This was a St. Joe’s school record that we took some pride in – the most kids in one class. It was a split class, the outer two rows by the window were fourth graders, and the inner four rows were third graders. It was controlled mayhem.
Judy Muench was a perfectly pretty little girl. I kind of liked her. She had brown hair in pig tails and a bouncy, hopeful smile. She wore a red and green plaid dress that day when Sister Laverna called her up to the front of the class for a recital. She came up to the front, a little nervous. She turned and faced her class mates in a rigid posture with her arms tensed. And she began peeing. Right through her dress and making a noisy puddle on the floor. “Sister, I’m going to the bathroom!” she cried with anguish, loud enough for the whole class to hear, and then she ran out the door and off to the girl’s room.
We dared not laugh. This was very awkward. Sister Laverna fetched a towel and wiped up the small puddle. Wasn’t this awful?
Little boys are not kind creatures.  Put four of us at the lunch table in the cafeteria, four trays, four cartons of chocolate milk. All the children laughing and talking. We told the Judy Muench joke for two years. Over and over again. “Sister, I’m going to the bathroom!” Laughing till we snorted. But at least we never teased her to her face. I always liked her. I walked by her house on the way to play with Fitz Higgins and if I saw her outside I said hello.
Just to balance this embarrassing episode, I will recount my own folly. Years later, in our senior year at high school, me and Doug Serwich and Nick Marsch got drunk on Country Club malt liquor. We broke into a duplex apartment under construction, just howling and throwing stuff around. The cops came and took us in to the station and called our parents. It was very shameful. Doug’s parents and Nick’s parents decided that I was the bad influence in this trio and forbad me from social contact with their precious sons.
My parents did not blame some other kids for my stupidity. The figured I was smart enough or dumb enough to make my own mistakes, so they said nothing about my choice of companions.
Truly, it was Nick Marsch who inspired this mini-crime spree. Nick was the second oldest of ten children from a very wealthy family. His Dad rode to work in a limousine. But Nick, who was smart enough to know better, became a midnight vandal, cruising the public junior high school near his house, breaking windows and tipping things over. Nick invited me and Doug to join him the night we got caught. Nick was basically responsible for the vandalism. Me and Doug could take credit for the drunkenness. Malt liquor – ugh!
But this was high school, many years after the Judy Muench incident in third grade, which was never mentioned but not forgotten. The Muench family was large. Mr. and Mrs. Muench were warm friendly parents. I really liked them.
So it was our turn to be embarrassed and ashamed.  We got hauled into the police station in Winnetka. Our parents collected us. Two weeks later we had a juvenile hearing, and our lawyer was Mr. Muench himself, in a grey three-piece suit with rimless spectacles on his nose and speckled grey hair around his ears, the epitome of dignity, standing before the judge, like a ritual repeated often enough in these leafy suburbs.
“These are not bad boys, your honor, but let this be a lesson to them, let them seriously consider how wrong it was that they acted. How careless it was to bring this shame on themselves and their families. We ask the court to be lenient because this was a first time offense. I know these boys and it will not happen again.” So we got off easy.

The other topic at the cafeteria lunch table was Miss Marshall the fourth grade teacher.  She had legs. This was astounding. She had legs because she wore a skirt and she wasn’t a nun. She was a lay teacher, the only one in the school, and you could see her legs. This was a matter of great fascination and discussion at lunch time.
She did not wear a habit. She didn’t live in the convent. She had her own home somewhere nearby and drove to school in her own car.  This was unusual.  Her dress  came down below her knees, and there they were – legs, bare legs, which was no different than what our mothers wore or what our older sisters wore, but at St. Joseph school, with all those nuns, Miss Marshall was different.  She wasn’t pretty, none of the kids said she was. But she was likable, far less stern than the average nun. I could tell her I needed to go to the bathroom and she would just nod her head, and then I could hang out in the john with my friends, because she didn’t keep track of how many boys had gone to the bathroom and didn’t come back. We had a way of making water balloons and throwing them out the window from the second floor. The nuns would never have let us get away with that, but Miss Marshall wasn’t strict and we liked her for that. And nobody talked back to her, because she stayed calm, and because the nuns would have found out and murdered us for that. Talking back was not done.
I loved the cafeteria. I loved the food. It was down in the basement. When class started at 8:45, the sisters took the milk order in each class room and everybody always wanted chocolate milk. It was a ritual – who wants chocolate milk? Everybody.
Down to the basement at 11:30, in line to check off our lunch cards, then grabbing a tray to go up to the steam counter.  Mrs. Tallman ran the kitchen. She never smiled like she was having fun or like she was glad to see us, but her heart was in it. Feeding all those kids, she was a saint, a stout woman in her late forties in a print dress, brushing a loose hair off her face, near to perspiration with running back and forth into the kitchen and coming back out with steaming trays – spaghetti, hot dogs, chicken, beef stew, grilled cheese sandwiches. I loved the food except for the beef stew. I loved the heaping trays of buttered French bread. They cut the slices on the diagonal from fresh-baked loaves and smeared them thick with butter and you could take two or three pieces. I ate a lot of French bread.

My life at ten was bound by Green Bay Road, Lake Street, the Ridge and the boundary with Kenilworth, another village.  I became geographically fixed on the grid. All the streets in all the towns and cities of the Midwest are fixed on a grid of even rectangles and squares. There are no hills to go around. No curves and very few diagonals. It is literally plane geometry and I always knew where I was. Being lost was not conceivable. As far as I knew the grid went on forever, out to the square corn fields to the west, and to the plane shore of Lake Michigan. In 1956 I had not yet become bored with this landscape.
To the north was Kenilworth, only three blocks that way, but a different town, not off limits strictly speaking but way, way uptown rich.  My little sister Katy went there to visit  Molly Packel. The Packels were  a large parish family and lived in a huge house with an expansive lawn.  Rene Packel was in my class. Rene was an exotic name for one thing, not Susan or Mary or Ann. She was Rene. And she was big and bulky, not fat, not stout, but just larger, so I liked her that way, plus she was smart. Like you could say something to her and it was all right, and she didn’t look back at you like you were stupid and stop bothering her. No, I had actual conversations with her, and I never tried to tease her. She was too big for that.
Those were my boundaries in 1956. Kenilworth, Green Bay Road, Lake Street, and the Ridge.
If you lived in someplace with mountains or even hills, you would not notice the Ridge because it was scarcely a rise in the landscape. Not higher than a two story building. You couldn’t even notice it was there, except everywhere else it was so flat. To me, at age ten, that was the hill and you could ride your bike down the hill without pedaling, even going a little fast. I never saw such a thing as a hill or mountain except in books or on TV.
The Ridge was a water divide. Water to the west flowed down the Desplaines River, which joined the Illinois River, and on to the Mississippi River and then  all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.  Little rain drops flowed all that way to the ocean. And then if the rain drop fell on the other side of the Ridge, then it flowed into Lake Michigan only one mile to the east, flowed into Lake Michigan and then slowly flowed through the straits of Mackinac to Lake Huron and then south to the St. Clair river past Detroit with Canada on the other side, and then to Lake Erie with Cleveland on its southern shore, and then over the Niagara Falls thundering to Lake Ontario. From there, past  Montreal, through Quebec, down the St. Lawrence River, always going east and trending to the north, that little drop of water flowed in to the Atlantic Ocean in the cold north country.
But the divider was the Ridge in our village of Wilmette, and one way flowed to New Orleans and one way flowed to Quebec.

Thank you for reading this little story. Next time I will write about Leroy the class bully. Leroy was his name. I'm not making this up. He was a large kid with a big wicked grin like Ernest Borgnine in From Here to Eternity.

thank you,

Fred


--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Charlie Swanson's Bland Angelic Face

FROG HOSPITAL -- Sept. 7, 2017

By Fred Owens

But first the news. Harvey has been surpassed by Irma. Houston is off the media radar as Irma comes swooping down. This is actually kind -- to let the people of Houston work on their recovery without the harsh glare of national press.

DACA and the Dreamers......Trump will lose this one in a big way. Never mind the legal and social arguments against him, Trump loses on the optics. Just the name makes them winners -- the Dreamers! How can you be against them? The Dreamers are earnest young men and woman who speak English as well as you and I do.  They clearly don't belong anywhere else but here. They know and love this country. We gave them the keys long ago. We gave them this gift of American freedom and there is no taking it back.

Charlie Swanson's Bland Angelic Face

By Fred Owens

This an excerpt form a book I'm writing about when I was ten years old.


I rode my bike up Forest Ave, past MacGregor’s red brick house, past where the Mays lived in a small wooden house with a large number of blonde-haired dimwitted children with runny noses, if they were young, or hot rod autos under repair if they were teenagers, past Mr. Schaeffer’s house, who worked at the post office and who hired me to help mow lawns in his part-time landscape business – but that was years later in high school. Past Schaeffer’s house and right across the street was Mr. Linke’s house.  Mr. Linke had a wife and one or two children. They must have loved him because he was exceedingly ugly, like he got a bad case of acne when he was a teenager and every year after that it got worse until he was fifty and his face was scar-ravaged like a tropical disease, and his watery blue eyes, and his misbegotten rotten teeth.
But he smiled so much. He always smiled and laughed when he pushed the mop and bucket down the terrazzo floors of the school. Mr. Linke was the school janitor. And the house he lived in came with the job.
Past his house because next was the convent where the Franciscan nuns lived, must have been twenty of them. They never came out and you could see nothing through the closed windows with drapes and shades pulled down.
There was a street entrance to the convent with concrete steps leading to a formal front door with a knocker and a door bell. I never saw anybody come in or out that door.  That was the convent made of tawny brick, two stories, built in the mid 1930s.
Past the cemetery, a small cemetery, where my older sister Mary Elizabeth was buried in 1974, but I am getting ahead of myself now, because in 1956 she was alive and well and the oldest of five children.
Past the cemetery where the American Legion soldiers fired their guns with blank ammunition after the Memorial Day parade.
Past the cemetery to the Drugstore to buy candy bars.  They cost a nickel. I threw my bike on the sidewalk, took two steps up to the door, entering the drugstore, and then two more steps up to the counter where the candy bars were. I picked a Snickers or a Milky Way often enough. Three Musketeers was bigger but not as tasty. I liked Clark bars now and then and sometimes tried a few others, but most often it was Snickers or a Milky Way.
And you gave her the nickel, her being the tall grey-haired woman behind the counter, who never smiled or frowned. She just took your nickel. It didn’t matter to her. I got orange popsicles for 8 cents, the kind with two sticks. I liked root beer popsicles the best, but they were often sold out, and so I got orange and sometimes cherry.
I don’t know where I got this idea because nobody else did it. Or nobody told me about it, but I started stealing candy bars. And not from the Drugstore. I was dimly aware not to crap in my own sweet spot and leave the Drugstore for honest candy. Besides that, the tall, grey-haired lady was always watching behind the counter.  No, I stole from the grocery store over across Lake Street. I could put a couple of Milky Ways in my pants pocket down the aisle where no one was looking and just waltz right out of the store. Free candy. I kept stealing candy bars and I never told my friends, just ate them myself.
Charlie Swanson lived two houses down from the grocery store in a tall and narrow wooden house, lived there with his older sister and his parents.  He was an altar boy with an angelic pose. He had this kind of bland personality, not too much fun. I didn’t play with him. But there he was one day just standing outside the door of the grocery store when I came out with pockets bulging with Milky Ways, and I made the mistake of bragging – that’s how you always get caught – “Charlie, look what I got, and I stole them. Just took them. Do you want some?”  
If Charlie was shocked it didn’t show on his bland, angelic face. He said, “That’s wrong. That’s stealing. You shouldn’t take candy bars like that. I’m going to tell the manager you stole them.”
I turned red as a beet and got really scared. I knew it was wrong, and now he knew, and pretty soon the manager would know and then my parents. I was scared. I ran off, around the corner to the front of the Drugstore. I ate the candy bars quickly.  I never stole candy bars again after that.
It was not like Charlie Swanson was my best friend or anything. He was just someone in my class and I went over to his house a few times. But this kind of put a strain on things. Telling on me!
Two years later, Mrs. Swanson was getting out of her bathtub. She slipped and fell, banged her head on the side of the bath tub and died, just like that. We all went to the funeral. Charlie followed his mother’s coffin with his bland, angelic face. Of course he was sorrowful but it didn’t show.  I wasn’t mad at him anymore for telling on me.
My whole life changed because of Mrs. Swanson dying in her own bathroom, a perfectly healthy mom, and then she died. I became an adventurer and risk taker. I roamed the world as a man and took my chances, some very foolish chances and all because of Mrs. Swanson -- because why play it safe? Why stay home? You could die in your bathtub.

We here at Frog Hospital would love to hear from our readers. Just dash off an email. Did you like the story? What kind of stories would you like to hear? And the news. Do you want more news or less news?  And what is going on in your life? Tell us your news.

thank you,

Fred

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Friday, September 01, 2017

The disaster you plan for is not the disaster you get



By Fred Owens


The disaster you plan for is not the disaster you get. Plan for a flood and you will get an earthquake. The most important thing is to be resourceful. Stay calm. Look and see what you have and see what you don't have. Improvise!
Think of people in Houston coming home to the mud and the mold. If a vehicle has been fully submerged in flood waters, can any parts be salvaged? Surely the tires and rims might still be good. The front and back bumpers. The windshield.
...... would the spark plugs be corroded?
Supposing your old 1986 Ford 150 was parked in your back yard and it got flooded. What could you do with it?
Imagine being in Houston in August  --  95 degrees every day and high humidity. Your house isn't flooded but the electricity will be off for a few more days. You have candles and flashlights -- no problem. But there is no AC  --- NO Air Conditioning. Do you realize how awful that is? To be in Houston in August with no AC? And yet you can't complain, because  your home didn't get flooded and you're pets didn't drown and and you still have a working vehicle and you can get to work on time.
You live in a three-bedroom ranch house in a pleasant suburb, and you're high and dry. All you have to put up with is your cousin Bob, his wife Helen, her mother Rebecca and several children sitting in your living room. They got flooded out, so you invited them to stay. "Don't think anything of it, you can stay as long as you want. We're glad to have you here. After all,we're the lucky ones and we still have our home and the electricity could get turned on any moment."

Six extra people sleeping in your house. They came last night wearing damp clothes. They woke up this morning wearing damp clothes. Bob says, "We're doing fine, all hands on deck, at least we have our family, but I was wondering if you have a spare toothbrush? Just one will do."

So you rummage in the extra bathroom and find two unused toothbrushes. "I've got two," you sing out.

The electricity is off. Do not  -- DO NOT open the refrigerator -- it is bound to be disgusting after four days without power and the electric stove doesn't work so there is no place to cook. But you have a BBQ with a full propane tank, and you can make coffee on it.

"Bob, we can make coffee."  Coffee! Halleluljah!  Life can go on if we have hot coffee.

"Did you hear the news from Beaumont? Their drinking water is cut off. They have it much worse than us."

Imagine living in Houston right now. You're going to be okay. The electricity will come back on soon enough. Bob and his family won't stay forever. You're whole and healthy and you know other people have it a lot worse.

This is what I have imagined. I have been to Houston a half dozen times and I have to admit that I kind of like it. The weather is so awful that you almost laugh. The traffic is insane and there is no plan. No plan!  But there is a good spirit and we saw it this week. For all the disaster there was no contention or confusion or riot or crime. People who normally can't stand each other were lending a hand. Like the man hosting his cousin Bob. "Normally, I wouldn't be caught dead in the same room with Bob. I never liked him at all, and I know he doesn't like me either. But for now, we can put up with each other, and we do have the hot coffee and he does like it strong and black, just like me."

Good for Houston. It's going to be all right.

Why was I born?

This is an excerpt from a book I am writing.


Why was I born? I was born and at first I couldn’t remember why. What was I doing there? What was I supposed to do? There must have been a good reason. I was sure of that good reason even if I couldn’t remember it. I was very glad to be born. I remember that. I was the fourth child and my parents needed more children to love. My brother and my  two sisters needed me to love. My friends needed me to play with. The teachers needed me to be their student. I was very welcome and much needed. But still I didn’t know why it was me?
Just being born was incredible, no wonder I couldn’t remember anything. That took time. To find that reason. To say hello and meet the new people. To find a place.
It was in the Owens family. I was the fourth child, the younger brother. We had a dresser in our bedroom. My older brother Tommy got the top two drawers. I got the bottom two drawers. I never thought of it being any other way. Younger brother, bottom two drawers. Older brother, top two drawers.
We each had a twin bed with patterned bed spreads. We each had a window to look out of on the second floor. Tommy could look out into the back yard and the huge oak tree right in the middle, then the white wooden fence that marked off the alley. I could look out at an angle and see the street and I especially liked the cast iron street lamp that twinkled through the leaves of the trees. There were lots of trees, elm trees and oak trees.The house was big and tall, but the trees towered over the house and formed a summer canopy of deep shade.
I was status conscious. I don’t know where I picked that up. I liked to think I thought it up myself, like it was my own invention.  We were well off in St. Joe’s. St. Francis parish was even better off, as I already said. And going west  you saw where the new houses were built, one story ranch houses in converted farm land, where there weren’t any big trees, just new planted little trees. I thoughy those were the poor people -- no trees, only one story in a house. Not poor like going hungry  -- they had good clothes and good cars -- but they didn’t have big trees, mighty oaks and elm trees like a cathedral. That’s what we had. That’s what I could see looking out the window in the bedroom.
This story is about when I was ten, which was the pinnacle of boyhood, when the world changed, changed for the better and changed for the worse. But before that tenth year nothing had ever changed, not since I was born.  I played, I watched TV, I went to school. We had really great food. My mother let me eat two big apples a day, in season. I could drink a coke on Friday. It was a pretty good arrangement all around in my neighborhood. The kids went to school and played. The moms were at home. The dads wore white shirts and left for the office every morning.
Nothing ever changed. I can say honestly that I did not know there was such a thing as change. Because it was always that way. Aunt Tessie and Aunt Carolyn sometimes came for a visit. Uncle Ralph came too. They didn’t knock, they just opened the front door a small way and peeked their heads in and said “We’re here.” Then they walked into the living room and mom or dad came out to greet them.
Aunt Tessie and Aunt Carolyn were spinsters. They never married. They didn’t have boy friends either. They lived together their whole lives. Older sisters to my mother. It was like having extra moms, although they were not the least bit maternal. Mom had to clean up messes. If you threw up, your mom had to clean it up. And mom did laundry. I put my clothes in the laundry chute, and the dirty clothes slid down the chute from the second floor down to the basement, where they piled up on the cool cement floor
Then, as if by magic, they appeared folded and cleaned in my dresser drawers. Not entirely by magic. I was dimly aware and even dimly grateful that my mom did this magical work. You could see her down in the basement doing stuff in the laundry room.
When I was small, she dried clothes on a clothesline in the back yard and in the basement when it was winter. But we got a drier before too long and she dried clothes in there.
My mom was generally in a good mood. She went about the house doing things, I didn’t pay too much attention to her except I noticed she didn’t walk too fast or walk too slow, or sit down for coffee or talk very long on the phone. Mostly she just kept moving. I bet there were a lot of things she did that I never noticed. And I wasn’t curious.

But it was always like that. So what made it change when I was ten?

thank you for reading this little excerpt, and see you next time,

Fred








Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Nelson Mandela tells a story about sour milk



By Fred Owens

Nelson Mandela told this little story somewhere in his writings. This is my adaptation.
African people like sour milk. Amasi,as it is called in some African languages, is a product of fermentation. But it comes naturally in a hot country with little refrigeration available. Fresh milk does not keep, but ferments or becomes sour and many African people prefer to drink it that way.
When Mandela was a young activist in apartheid South Africa many times he was wanted by the police and had to find places to hide out.
One time, with the police in hot pursuit, he contacted some wealthy white people who supported his cause. They said he was welcome to stay in their extra bedroom in the back of their very nice home in a suburb of Johannesburg. No one would look for him there, he would be safe as long as he stayed inside the house.
So he settled into this comfortable bedroom and his hosts brought him a tray of food at mealtime. The food was more than adequate, but still Mandela missed his favorite beverage. He especially loved amasi or sour milk.
So he took a fresh glass of milk off the tray and put it on the outside window sill on the window that faced the sun. By next day it would be sour, he knew, and he would enjoy his amasi.
But the police heard a rumor that a black man was hiding somewhere in this plush white suburb. So they began driving up and down the street. They spotted the glass of milk going sour on the window sill and that's when they knew they had their man. Only an African man would do that.
Mandela was caught and arrested. Not for the first time or the last time was he arrested and jailed. But this time Mandela could blame his weakness for sour milk.
Don't get this light-hearted tone wrong. Mandela was a very angry man, but he was angry for good reason. And he channeled his angry for good purposes. And with his anger harnessed like a mighty engine, he was also able to keep his smile and tell a joke about the sour milk.
I admire him very much for that quality. One time, in February of 1997, I was in Capetown, South Africa on a tourist trip. It so happened that the parliament of South Africa was about to open for its yearly term, and a ceremonial parade was planned for the opening day.
Thousands of people gathered on the streets for the parade, the marching bands, and Mandela himself would be riding by in his limousine.
We waited and waited, but everybody was happy and talking. The marching bands played their martial tunes. Then the limousine came by driving slowly and here I was disappointed. The windows were mirrored, so that all we could  see was our reflection. Mandela was riding inside, he could see out, but we could not see  him.
I was disappointed. I wanted to see the great man, and yet I realized that he surely saw me. Mandela looked out the window and saw me and smiled. I cannot prove that, but I know it's true.

Tommy Reinart had a club footJerry Lewis died. He was 91. I used to laugh at him and Dean Martin when I was a kid. We saw them at the movies, at the Teatro del Lago as it was called. This was in Wilmette, Illinois, a leafy suburb of Chicago. And the movie palace was called Teatro del Lago because it was right across Sheridan Road from Lake Michigan.  The Teatro was a faux-Spanish-Baroque masterpiece. I especially remember the plush carpet, so thick. You could walk to your seat and feel your sneakers sink into the plushness. The pattern was ornate Persian.
The movies cost 25 cents. It surprised me to learn that grownups had to pay fifty cents just to get a ticket – that was too much, and it wasn’t fair. Why would anyone want to be a grownup if they had to pay twice as much just to see the movies?
I went with other kids in the neighborhood --- Al Versino, Billy Anderson and Cary Ross. Someone would drive us – down Forest Avenue, which had fired red brick for pavement and had cast iron hexagonal  light poles painted green – painted thick green like they put on a coat of Rustoleum every year or so -- down Forest Avenue and cross the Northwestern railroad tracks, then five more blocks to Wilmette Avenue and then turn left six more blocks to the Teatro Del Lago Plaza.
Crossing the Northwestern RR tracks meant leaving the parish of St. Joe’s and getting into St. Francis where the rich kids lived. We were a long way from poor ourselves in St. Joe’s with our  parish kids having new sweaters and our Dads buying new cars, but St. Francis parish had even bigger houses, country clubs and skiing trips to Colorado.
We were ten. This was 1956. Country clubs didn’t matter too much. We just knew there was a difference when you crossed the tracks. Past the tracks and right there, too close to the tracks was  Tommy Reinart’s house. It was so much smaller than all the others. So lonely, like no one would ever go there and knock on the door. We would drive by,  maybe all four of us – Al, Billy, Cary and me sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s Buick—and not even notice that brown  wooden house. It was only one story with a small attic.
Tommy Reinart lived there. He had a club foot and wore a special  leather shoe. He limped when he walked. Nobody else did that. Nobody else was different that way. His shoes were specially made with leather soles two inches thick and he never wore sneakers and he sure never went barefoot like I did.
Al, Billy, and Cary, they hardly lived a block away, and Tommy was three blocks away and across Green Bay Road and across the RR tracks and into the other territory – St. Francis territory, so the distance and the boundary saved us from actually including Tommy. We weren’t against him. We never made fun of him.
In fact, it was a puzzle – if he  lived in St. Francis territory, how come he went to St. Joe’s with us?
I pondered questions like that because I was a kid with a brain and the ability to think. They said I was absent-minded. I was. I had this blank, vacant stare, staring into space with my mouth open, mouth breathing, wondering why Tommy went to the other parish, and why we didn’t play with him and why grownups had to pay fifty cents for the same movie we saw.
In eight years of grade school, not counting kindergarten, and in all that time I never asked Tommy about his foot. You didn’t talk about things like that. And he lived only three blocks away but we never played with him after school . All the kids were nice to him, but nobody played with him. I felt a little guilty about that. I mean, I was ten, but I knew better and felt a little guilty. Like we could have done something.
Anyway, to give him honor, in the status that really mattered in my life at the time, Tommy Reinart was a good hitter. His club foot and tilted posture transferred into a graceful corkscrew batting stance like Stan Musial. You could see that. And he hit that softball into the cemetery for a home run as often as the best of us. That gave him respect.
After eighth grade, Tommy went to New Trier, the public high school, and I went to Loyola, the Catholic high school. I never saw him after that.

thanks for reading all of this. I hope you liked it.

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Confronting Racism


Confronting Racism
I didn't go to the demonstration today but I confronted racism and anti-Semitism in the person of Charlie Krafft. He is a confirmed white nationalist and Holocaust denier. He would claim that he does not deny the Holocaust, he only wants to point out some discrepancies in the historical accounts. Sure. Charlie once told me he practiced a "genteel anti-semitism."  I kind of understood what he meant, like your law firm has one Jewish partner, "but we can't have two Jews because you know how they are when they get talking to each other, they're close talkers."
I understand that. My friend Bobby is Jewish and he talks too close to my face. If he could just back up a few inches. But this isn't a strictly Jewish tendency. I think it's more Middle Eastern. Like the time I befriended an Arabic-speaking tourist on the quay at the Santa Barbara Yacht Harbor. We began talking and he kept getting closer and closer and then he practically climbed into my lap. Close talkers!
Anyway, my little bit for making the world safe for diversity is to confront Charlie Krafft once again, and to give him a chance to overcome his disease.
"Charlie, you don't have to explain or apologize for what you've done, but just stop doing it. Throw out the books and the Nazi memorabilia. Stay away from those dark websites. Get some fresh air. There's a better part of you waiting to come forth."
Charlie reads this newsletter, so Charlie, stop doing it! We don't hate you, we just hate what you are doing. Stop staying up late at night watching Nazi porn!
Charlie is well-known in the Seattle arts community and he is celebrated as the "mayor of Fishtown." We would like to forget and overlook his dark side, but maybe it's time for intervention. We all need help.
Well, that's my part on this very active weekend.
I  speak lightly of Charlie's condition, but it is a disgusting disease, and  a contagious disease -- it rubs off on you when you are exposed to it. You can feel the seductive, addictive quality.
If you don't know Charlie Krafft, look him up on Google. You can find his website. Contact him and be nice. He's getting old, past 69. Ask him about Fishtown. Offer to buy him dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the International District. Charlie would like that.

Total Eclipse
I saw the total eclipse of the sun in southern Mexico on March 7, 1970. The path of totality crossed the isthmus of Tehuantepec and we were there to observe.
Dozens of tourists -- not thousands -- dozens of tourists pulled off to the side of the lone highway to stop and stare at the sun. It was very quiet. The corona appeared, and shimmering, quivering light raced across the fields, and all the birds began to sing. The local people hardly seemed to notice.
So I have this one already checked off on my bucket list.
But if you get a chance to see it -- the totality -- then it's worth the expense and the crowds.
We will have 62 % totality in Santa Barbara, on Monday morning. I will be working in Lulu's garden at that time. She lives down the street and will be celebrating her fifth birthday very soon. Her mother hires me to weed and tend her garden.
Dr. Berkowitz Deals with Depression

I can’t even brag about how bad it was. I never went to prison, or fought in a war, or battled a disease, or overcame an addiction. I just screwed up on a small scale and I felt lousy. I remember talking to Dr. Berkowitz about this in 1993 at his clinic in Somerville right outside of Boston.
Dr. Berkowitz was a small younger man with a tight black beard like the Smith Brothers on the cough drop package. He made a good living as a general practitioner, but he could have made three times as much if he had taken up a specialty in cardiology. As it was he owned a nice home in the leafy suburb of Newton.
But he worked in Somerville and served the food stamp clientele that needed walk-in service with family aches and pains, and he liked talking with people.

So it was the winter of 1993-1994 and the winter was dragging on with frozen piles of dirty snow in parking lots and sidewalks. By March half of Boston was suicidal and I was one of them not, not suicidal, but in a very blue funk. Plus I was lonely since I broke up with Louise – which is another story, a long pathetic, embarrassing story – but I broke up with her and money was short and winter lasted too long. I thought maybe to get a medical solution to this.
I said to Dr. Berkowitz, I’m depressed. He took a deep breath, looked me right in the eye and almost laughed. “You’re not depressed. You know I have patients who are actually depressed. They sleep 16 hours a day. They don’t leave their apartment for weeks at a time. They are afraid to even say hello to the mailman. They don’t bathe. But they drink and find pills to take, and they don’t get those pills from me, but they get them. These are people who are clinically depressed, if I might use a clinical expression, and I treat them as best I can, although some of them need extensive psychiatric oversight and perhaps sheltered housing and sheltered workplaces.
But these people are depressed. You, on the other hand, are not depressed. You got the blahs, you got the blues, you need a good fuck and if you can’t get that you need a good kick in the pants. Get out of here and come back when you have a real problem.”
I was taken aback by Dr. Berkowitz’s unusual vehemence, but I had to admit it was a healing experience, because what he said in so many words was that I did not have a problem, not in his experience. I was okay. Maybe all I needed was a week on the beach in Florida, failing that I might go see the afternoon showing of the Marx Brothers film at the revival house in Harvard Square….. This was in 1993 when they had revival theaters in places like Harvard Square -- and film buffs who memorized every line of Ingmar Bergman’s dialog of death and doom and destruction and despair and disappointment.
Bergman was Swedish and those people understand depression. The masters. But Dr. Berkowitz was Jewish and those people understand laughter. “You’re suffering? You’re dying? And I’m laughing my ass off.”
I walked out of the good doctor’s clinic. It cost me $45 to find out I wasn’t really depressed. And he’s laughing all the way to the bank for ten minutes of work. Except he didn’t have to work in Somerville with his food stamp patients. He could have been a specialist with a tony office in Back Bay. He really did like us better than the uptown folks.
But I am not supposed to dwell on the past, but to just go to the past, find something there and bring it back. Today I found Dr. Berkowitz, and this being the present tense in August of 2017, while Confederate statues are being smashed with ball peen hammers like they were peanuts or pumpkins -- I looked him up on Google.
Guess what! – he is still there, now 80 years old and I said he appeared younger than me but he was only smaller and shorter than me – but today, this year, after 54 years practicing medicine he is still doing that, still dividing the truly depressed from those who just need a fast you-know-what and a kick in the pants.
I should write him a letter. He might remember me. I will say one thing about myself – that part about being idiosyncratic – which is distinctive. People want to put me on a shelf and file me away in some forgotten drawer, but I don’t fit in any drawer, I stick out somehow, and for that reason they tend to remember me. So I will write Dr. Berkowitz and show him this story. He might like it.
thank you for reading this, have a calm and productive weekend,
Fred

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Suppose you're a cop in Charlottesville


By Fred Owens

Suppose you're a cop in Charlottesville

Suppose you're a cop in Charlottesville, twelve years on the force. You lived here all your life, and you know half the people in town. You daily experience is handling domestic disturbances, pinching shoplifters, and hauling drunk college students to the hoosegow. You have never drawn or fired your weapon on the job, although you are prepared to do that.

Comes now the KKK to hold a rally in your quiet city of 47,000 -- some 500 seriously disturbed and dangerous young men looking for a fight. Comes now the national media, some hundreds of pushy people pointing cameras at you. Comes now the counter-demonstrators, some peaceful, some angry and shouting, some wearing bandannas to cover their faces.

And all of these people -- the KKK, the media, and the counter protestors are from out of town. Nobody you know.

You're a local cop used to dealing with local people. What you wish more than anything is that these people would just leave, all of them.

But your August vacation days were cancelled. No golf. No fishing. You have to face down the mob, only how do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?

Imagine yourself as a cop in Charlottesville, facing this situation. Would you know what to do?

Friendship in America

Much has been said about the American family -- the family is the strength of our nation, the values of a family are so very important, and we need to keep and cherish those values.
Not to defend or define those values here, but to mention something equally important -- friendship.
Friendship is not unique to America, but we might compare our society to the undeveloped world where the extended family is the norm, in Latin America or Africa where a man counts his relatives in the dozens -- large families that depend on and care for each other. In countries where the government is often rapacious and confiscatory, where social services are nonexistent, the extended family is the sole tool for survival.  Care of the elderly falls on the children and grandchildren -- there is no choice in that, and less virtue because there is no choice.
The extended family, this large and warm unit, is also the main source of corruption in poorer countries. If you have a government post, and your cousin needs a job, you will take care of him. If your business prospers, all your relatives will line up with their hands out. It is your duty to care for them above others.
It’s not merit, but relation, that allocates the rewards of society in those countries.
America is different. We send our cousins Christmas cards, but we don’t expect to feed them. Even a brother, applying for a position, would be subject to close scrutiny. “Sure, if he’s qualified,” we would say, but not for a favor.
Blood is thicker than water, and many of us would make a great sacrifice for our close kin, but the sense of fairness, and of equality for all, is so strong here, that the corruption of family ties is at a minimum.
What we have instead is friendship -- smaller, nuclear families and a web of friendship that unites and levels the country. Friendship is freedom. You choose your friends. Friendship is responsibility, because the friends you choose are a reflection on your character. Friendship is voluntary, even a long-standing friendship must be earned from time to time in small or large ways.
We might do a favor for a friend, or even surrender our lives, we might support them in illness, or go their bail, but it is always because we choose to. That’s freedom in America.
The family is good and essential, but it has never been enough.

Shannon Moon is going to be a nurse, maybe

Shannon was sitting at the dining room table scratching her head. I said what's up, and she said I’m just trying to figure it all out…… Oh boy, do I know that feeling….. You get overwhelmed, you can’t decide what is important. Everything matters. Nothing matters. Shannon is a mid-thirties woman with a future  -- I’m sure of that. She’s going to become a nurse. I know she has continuous self-doubts about that, but she has completed the science prerequisites – those boring courses in anatomy and organic chemistry. Right now she is figuring out what nursing school is best for her. The options for nursing  school are bewildering – that is clear. But what is just as clear is that Shannon will make a good nurse. She has that combination of toughness and compassion.
A good nurse wants to take care of people and wants to make a good living too. You don’t want a bleeding heart who wants to sacrifice her life, and you don’t want someone who just counts the dollars.
You want a balanced person, with a strong heart and a strong mind. Being a nurse is a tough job. If you can handle the stress and pressure, then you can make a difference in the lives of the people you care for. And you will always have work.
But sitting there at the dining room table trying to figure it all out….. Nope, doesn’t work. You make a decision, and you make a plan, and then life happens.
She left our house in Santa Barbara and flew to Taos, New Mexico to do volunteer work at the Lama Foundation.  She will make up her mind about nursing school when she comes back in a few weeks.
Shannon is my Laurie’s younger daughter.

*************

I am learning to write in a new style that I picked up from the Norwegian author, Karl Ove Knausgaard. He wrote a six-volume autobiographical novel called My Struggle. I am reading Volume Four which is about his youth. In the story he has just turned 18 and left home for the first time to take a teaching job in a remote northern village.
It’s not that his life is so special or different. This is not a man who flies to the moon and jousts with dragons. This is an ordinary man who writes about his life and he makes it interesting.
That’s the trick, to make it interesting. I mean, I already knew that, but I needed some re-enforcement for my writing. Everything is interesting. The four remote controls on the coffee table in front of me are interesting. The stack of firewood that has been sitting next to the fireplace for several years -- there’s a story.
I'm writing a book called The Quotidian which will have some of these stories. And I will put excerpts in the Frog Hospital newsletter from time to time.

thank you,

Fred

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Monday, August 07, 2017

tree blessings


 By Fred Owens

I am late with this issue of Frog Hospital because my daughter had a baby boy and that was quite a celebration to greet the infant and see the mommas be happy and the infant well fed and happy. He was born at 12:48 a.m. July 29, this year, at a hospital in Seattle to Lara Rogers and Eva Owens. They own a home in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. Lara works at Amazon and Eva works at SEIU. I suppose they have parental leave, but I don't know the details.
Laurie and I will visit them in early September. That gives them a chance to get settled with the new infant, if it is possible to be settled with a new infant. My daughter says the little guy sleeps well and feeds well too, so his prospects are quite good.
What is his name? We have a pretty good idea about that, but they are still refining the choice, so we will know his name fairly soon.

He weighed eight pounds.

Now here is the story:

Tree Blessings

Enjoying a long neck Budweiser, sitting on the couch, watching the news, and watching Gary Cooper in High Noon on my laptop at the same time. Gary Cooper rides off into the sunset with Grace Kelly. That is so cool.
We’re going to have tacos for dinner – got the fixins – got fresh cilantro, avocado, salsa, corn tortillas and a left over piece of pork loin. All is well in Santa Barbara.
I have a title for this week’s story. Tree Blessings.  That sounds about right. First I write down those two words, then I discover what I meant. Do we bless the tree? Or does the tree bless us?
I immediately veer to Catholic school guilt. Going around blessing trees is a religious scam. A way to avoid the necessary work of planting, watering and pruning. To be really honest with my own motives, I thought of blessing the trees as a non-strenuous exercise, a way to avoid honest labor. I could start an earth religion. There’s a lot of money in religion. I could publish a book of tree blessings. I could establish rituals and sell tree ornaments, …. Now I have ruined a perfectly good impulse. Why not just love the tree and let the tree love me back?
Tree blessings. Just love the trees. Jesus loved the trees. There must be something in the Bible about how Jesus loves the trees.
Tree Blessings and Garden Vigils. Prayers, songs, chants and dances. Things to do in your garden besides work. Garden work is highly over-rated. Get out of the way and let the plants grow.
Garden Vigils. Healing, Watching. Sitting. Reading. Napping. Walking. Visiting. Eating. Talking. Hard work in the spring – sure. But not now in late summer. Let it be.  Time for a vigil, all night watching in the pale moonlight. Night critters coming out of their burrows to say hello. Late at night in the garden – when the gophers party, and coyotes come to catch gophers. Late at night in the garden when the dainty skunks sashay across the street, and walk  so pretty through the hole in the fence and find some juicy insects and sprouts to dine on.
Spring is for hard work in the garden. Not late summer. Let the ripe fruit fall on the garden. Pick the grapes, but let some of them fall on the ground. Be generous. Be lazy. Don’t pick all the fruit. Let it fall. Breathe. Look at the sky. Sit and watch the garden. You can’t see things unless you stop working.
Last week I wrote about Illabot Creek and people liked the story. And I said I would continue the story….. but that would be too hard.
Illabot Creek – the most beautiful place I have ever camped, and I was so unhappy. It was just bad timing. That’s when I broke up with Gail Murphy in the summer of 1971. I was camping at the creek, in the beautiful sunshine and I was utterly broken-hearted.  The pure sparkling water. The fresh breezes. The long northern twilight.  And me suffering. The irony was too painful.
Why couldn’t I find a campground that maybe wasn’t quite so pretty, but where I could be a little happy?
Not possible. So I bought a saxophone. A Selmer tenor saxophone, a beautiful soul-ful instrument. I taught myself to play it and I played it very well. Howling, screaming, moaning. You can’t beat the tenor sax for emotional complexity. Picture me sitting on a very large maroon bean-bag pillow, sitting next to the stream, playing my heart out. And loud. But away from the other camps. Maybe one hundred yards upstream.
That saxophone got me out of Illabot Creek. You just don’t do wilderness with a sax. You do city. I needed to get out of this camp and go to town. So I went to LaConner, all 600 people living there, and no jazz musicians to play with, but more urban than Illabot creek.  I slept in Charlie Berg’s chicken coop and worked in the boatyard sanding vessels, and got the money I needed to buy a car. I bought a pristine green four-door 1951 Chevrolet  for $125.  I loved that car. I needed it too, because you just can’t hitchhike with a backpack and a tenor sax  -- too odd. Either go to the woods or go downtown.
I left Gail Murphy at Illabot Creek, bought a tenor sax and a 1951 Chevrolet and drove to Taos, New Mexico, far enough way to forget her and the creek.
I could not forget her. I forgot nothing. Taos was no help. This is not a happy story which is why I don’t want to tell it. I don’t want to remember it, all the details, the way she looked …. No.
Better to be Gary Cooper riding off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.
Charlie Berg and Beth Hailey did not yet live in the house on Fourth Street with the large chicken coop where I slept while I worked to make enough money to buy the car and leave. At the time of this story in late summer of 1971, the chief tenants were a couple known as Truman and Mary. They were an odd pair. Truman played the Violin. Mary was a Ditz. Forgive my movie metaphors, but picture Katherine Hepburn playing a ditz in Bringing Up Baby. That was Mary. She didn’t have a clue, but I liked her. A lot of men liked her. She was friendly in that way. I think that’s why Truman always had such a sour look on his face. He had two negative choices. Either pay closer attention to Mary and endure her ditz-itude. Or let her be free to share her favors with the gang.
One day Truman changed the flat tire on Mary’s truck. When he was done Mary and I hopped in for a journey up to the Old Day Creek Road commune outside of Sedro-Woolley.
We got as far as Clear Lake when a loud clunk and clatter banged around the truck. The left front wheel had fallen off. The brake drum hit the pavement and threw up a shower of sparks.  The old truck came shuddering to a stop and the errant wheel rolled into a ditch.
The wheel fell off because Truman had not fully tightened the lug nuts when he changed the tire.  He forgot to tighten the lug nuts? I didn’t want to go there. It seemed I was getting between Truman and Mary and maybe I should not be in that place. I don’t know what happened to them, but I expect they did not stay together very long.
Meanwhile me and a dozen hippies were sleeping in the large chicken coop next to their rented house. The house where Charlie Berg and Beth Hailey came to live for so many years before they moved out to Pull and Be Damned Road on the Swinomish Reservation.
New people moved into that old house after Charlie and Beth left. They strung up aluminum foil all over the attic in an attempt to grow marijuana with grow lights. Their hare-brained wiring system and grow lights caught fire and the place burned down.
So the owners bull-dozed the wreckage and installed a double-wide trailer. Life goes on.
But I only brought up the story about Truman and Mary as a diversion. I was miserable, unhappy, depressed, and broken-hearted because Gail Murphy didn’t want me back. This is overlooking the fact that it was my idea to break up, a decision I regretted after only a few weeks, but a decision that she embraced as final and conclusive….. making it my fault, or at least not making it her fault.
Who cares about all this stuff? People are no smarter now than they were in 1971. I did not get any smarter, I just got older. And Illabot Creek still flows. It’s flowing right now, not older or younger, or smarter or dumber, but melting glacier water in the summer sun and flowing down to soft gravel beds where the salmon spawn.
The humpies spawn in odd-numbered years. Thousands of humpies spawned on Illabot Creek in 1971. This year of 2017 is odd-numbered so they should still be there, to love and die and feed the eagles. It’s an awesome natural drama, to sit by the stream and watch the now dark and tattered fish go for their last dance, waving fins over gravel beds, spreading eggs and milt. Tree blessings. Salmon blessings. It goes on forever.

She wasn’t pretty, but she had a voice like silver bells.

Quisiera llorar, quisiera morir de sentimiento
--- words from a Mexican folk song. “I am like a leaf on the wind, I want to cry, I want to die, because of my feelings.”

It was sad for me but good things happened for other people at Illabot Creek. In 1971 Katy came to the creek wearing nothing but a guitar, striding into view like a goddess. She liked Steve Philbrick and they camped together. They camped seven years at the creek. Saved money, bought land, built a house, had four kids, raised them all and now in sweet elder years they have grandchildren running around all over. They had it good, God bless ‘em.

If you got this far, I thank you for reading this. Please send me a comment, critical or otherwise. I would love to hear from you.


--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital