Feb. 2012: You Just Can’t Trust Winter

After the storms,driftwood covered the beach in Lincoln City.

Winter 2012 has been like a bully. It let us think it wasn’t coming, then beat the stuffing out of the Oregon coast.  January walloped us with snow, then rain and wind, then more rain and more wind. The rivers and creeks overflowed. The storms  knocked the power out, broke water lines, sent mud and trees cascading onto the roads, bit a chunk out of Highway 101, and generally wreaked havoc, $6 million worth at last count. At one point, all the roads east were closed, along with the Yaquina Bridge, where the wind threw a semi into a pickup truck.  Schools were closed, events cancelled. The governor declared a state of emergency. And then the sun came out. We all stared at the sky, saying, “I don’t understand, but thank you.”

Then it rained again. And blew. And rained.

On the home front, the hot tub cover was Frisbeed across the deck again. Tree branches littered the yard. My gutters turned into waterfalls. I discovered I could heat a pot of water in an hour on the wood stove. Annie got comfortable sleeping in the house.

Today, the storm bully has moved on to beat up another town. Things are drying out. But I suspect he’ll be back.

Evidence of the craziness of this winter: I spent a big chunk of my Christmas money on a brand new yellow wheelbarrow, which I can use to pick up the debris from the storms–and a big green hose for when it gets warm enough to wash the car and water the plants.  Meanwhile, I’ve learned some lessons from the crazy weather. Here are just a few:

1) If you don’t buy rain boots, you’ll always have wet feet. They don’t have to be cute, just waterproof.
2) Don’t let the gas tank or the refrigerator go empty, and stock up on toilet paper. You might not be able to drive to the store.
3) Water and electricity are not guaranteed.
4) Find that old camp stove and figure out how to work it.
5) Keep at least one old-style phone that works without electricity.
6) If the sun appears, run outside and pay homage.
7) If you won’t go outside in the rain, the dog won’t either.
8) The best coastal hairdo is a hat.
9) All plans are tentative.
10) Get a boat.  

 Sue’s News

“My Imaginary Daughter,” an essay from my upcoming Childless by Marriage book, was published in the January issue of Still Crazy, a literary magazine that I really enjoy. In the essay, I fantacise about what it would have been like if I were spending Christmas with my daughter and grandchildren.

On the less literary front, my article on local jam sessions (the musical kind) was published in Oregon Coast Today, and my story on Antique Week is scheduled for the Feb. 10 edition. Up next: a feature on salt water taffy.

In the midst of our crazy storms, I made it to Oceanview Senior Living at the north end of Newport to give a talk and reading from my books Shoes Full of Sand and Stories Grandma Never Told. I surprised the enthusiastic audience with a couple of songs, too. I really enjoyed it, and I’d love to schedule more such appearances.

 Writer Aid

Have you ever heard of “Written? Kitten!”? I hadn’t either until I read about it in one of the numerous writing newsletters I receive. Curious as any cat, I clicked on it and found myself facing nothing but a big white square waiting for me to put some words in it. I wanted to see what would happen, so I drafted a blog post for my Childless by Marriage site. One hundred words in, it happened. A big beautiful cat picture appeared on the right side of my screen. It stayed there until I got to 200 words, at which point a new cat picture appeared. And so it went until I had finished. You can set this free program to reward you with a picture every 100, 200, 500, or 1,000 words. If the muse is sitting around with its arms folded saying, “Nope. Nuh-uh. Not writing,” try Written? Kitten!

We all need incentives to keep writing. Maybe it’s that chocolate chip cookie you promise yourself if you just get X number of words done. Maybe it’s a celebratory round of computer solitaire. Maybe you’ll dive into that new novel you just bought. We all need a reason to keep going. Money and deadlines are good, but they’re not much fun, are they?

I have four blogs (see links off to the side of this post) and this newsletter, in addition to my work on books, poems, essays and articles. How do I keep it straight? I use sticky notes that I put on my calendar. It’s amazing how good it feels when I remove that Post-It with a triumphant ta-da! Done!

For me, nothing beats a ticking timer to get me going. If I promise myself I’ll only spend 15 or 30 minutes on something, just to see what happens, I inevitably get so involved in the writing that I shush the beeper and keep going. Even if I don’t set the timer, there’s always the dog to let me know my time is limited. As the afternoon moves past 3:00, she’s at my side, nudging my arm so that I have a hard time typing. It’s time to finish my work so we can go for our walk.

Book Report

Dharma Girl by Chelsea Cain, Seal Press, 1996. In this memoir, Cain’s first published book, Chelsea and her mom take a journey back in time and place to Iowa City, where they lived a wild and free life on a commune when Chelsea was a little girl. It’s a beautiful story, full of the imagination of childhood and the wisdom of growing up. Through Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska, we take the trip with them, and it is all so real that I’m there. Back in Iowa, some things have changed, and a man they both loved is probably dead, but in finding her old home, Chelsea finds herself. These days, Cain’s detective novels are best-sellers, but you could tell that was coming even in this early work. www.chelseacain.com.

The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan, self-published on Kindle, 2011. Apparently this first novel by a young and gorgeous New York attorney is selling like crazy, but I wouldn’t have heard of it if I weren’t doing research on people who live alone.  This is the story of Mary Hayes McAllister, who suffers from “social anxiety disorder,” a fear of people and places made worse by her brief marriage to an abusive husband who attacks hers and blinds her in one eye. After he dies, she remains alone in their Marble Mansion, never coming out for 60 years. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t involved in the affairs of the town of Mill River. If they only knew. We really have two alternating stories, Mary’s life from her teens through her death, and what’s going on outside her window. Father Michael O’Brien is the only one who bridges both worlds. It’s a great read, a little predictable in places. The bad guys are very bad, and the good guys are unbelievably good, and perhaps the ending stretches out a little long. But overall, we love this book. http://www.darciechan.com.

Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude by Lionel Fisher, Beyond Words Publishing, Inc., 2001. When is somebody going to write about living alone and stick to the subject? This is an interesting book, a melange of memoir, research and other people’s stories. About two-thirds of it really does address the subject of living alone, including things like loneliness, self-indulgence and sex, but then the book wanders more into philosophy and spirituality. Fisher spends many pages on living in the present, finding our true selves, and facing death. It’s well-written and interesting, but I felt cheated when he included people who don’t actually live alone. He does offer wonderful references for further research.

Newport Blues, a Salesman’s Lament, by George Byron Wright, C3 Publications, 2011. I bought this for the local setting, but it’s a fun read, kind of tongue-in-cheek noir. When longtime traveling salesman “Jonesy” drops dead of a heart attack, Sidney Lister is suddenly tagged to take his place selling gift shop geegaws at stores on the Oregon Coast. It soon develops that our hapless hero has a bad guy chasing him who wants to kill him and is discovering that Jonesy left a girl and a story in every coastal town. It’s not great literature, but it’s suspenseful, and you can’t help but love Sidney. Plus, it’s always fun to read a story that takes place where you live.

End Notes

That’s it for now. January was fast and furious. February? Who knows? My dog Annie will turn four this month. Happy birthday also to Ellen, Evelyn, and  Jessie. Happy anniversary to Mike and Sharon. All the best to everyone celebrating something special in February. May the groundhog give us good news and may all of our trees stay upright.



All contents copyrigth 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick

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