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:
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.