I’ve been walking almost every morning, part of the effort to lose weight.  (So far, in 6 weeks, 13 pounds.  But that’s not what this is about.)

I start by walking up the garden paths toward the “future” neighborhood walking path above our house.  As for now, it’s a muddy track.  Erosion is on my mind.  A month or so ago, a big chunk of the track broke away and slurped and gushed down the seasonal creek along the edge of our property.  The developer hung a big piece of black plastic over the new edge of the track, anchored at the top, but not the bottom.  When the wind blows uphill (which it does with nearly every storm), the black plastic lifts up its skirts, turns itself inside out, and covers the track instead of the eroding bank.  Several times, on my walk, I’ve heaved the black plastic back over the edge, not sure if it makes any difference anyway.

The problem, of course, is all the water coming off the hill above, which wasn’t properly channeled or otherwise accounted for when the developer added fill to make the track (and utility ditch), long before we were on the scene. That problem continues, although we have assurances that in the dry season all will be made right.  The uphill neighbors just a few weeks ago cut trees and stripped nearly all the other vegetation off their property.  It can’t help the erosion.  They presumably did it to preserve their Mt. Hood view.  Hmmpf!

Walking on.  Elk tracks in the mud.  Wild cherry trees in bloom. Frogs signaling their happiness in the wet.  First wild iris.  Trillium blossoms, turning pink/purple as they near the end of their bloom.

A few weeks ago, I saw the first trillium.  The next day, it was gone.  There were footprints in the wet grass, so obviously someone picked it.  That made me pretty mad at the time.  My mother said (and she learned it from her mother) that when you pick a trillium blossom, you kill the plant.  Folklore, you say.  No, I googled it, and indeed, when you pick a trillium blossom it can kill the plant (not always).  I think, in retrospect, that it was my grandmother’s indignation I was channeling.  There are lots of trilliums (“trillia”?) in the woods.  It was probably a child who didn’t know better.

A new mushroom (a sort I’ve never seen before) along the path.  Wild lupines (just the plants so far), with a raindrop pearl in the center of each leaf cluster.  Back to the front door.  The day lies ahead, full of possibilities.

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Thanksgiving

November 25, 2009

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m thinking a lot about what I have to be thankful for.  We have a tradition in our family for Thanksgiving dinner: we go around the table, and everyone says one thing that they are thankful for.  It shouldn’t be something that you thought up on the spur of the moment, but instead something that is well-thought-out and highly meaningful.  I’m always so thankful to have friends and family around the table that it’s hard to move beyond that and find the things in my life that are not at the forefront at that moment.

We live in a time when we have plentiful food, state-of-the-art medicine, clean and warm (or cool) houses to live in and many more advantages of modern life.  When I compare that with how people lived a thousand years ago (just read the book “The year 1000″) or even 100 years ago (shortly before my parents were born), I am grateful to be living in this time.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement – how many people in the world don’t have the advantages I just mentioned?  How might we improve health care delivery (don’t get me started!)?  How can we eradicate grinding poverty?  I’m thankful for the opportunity to make dents (however tiny) in those problems as well.

My family is a joy to me.  Even though Ian and David live relatively far away, I take extreme pleasure in communicating with them, and hearing about their daily lives.  Facebook is both a curse and a blessing for that purpose.  (I spend too much time on it.  I feel I have to be so careful about saying anything that might offend someone, or be taken the wrong way).  Craig is a constant loving presence in my life, supporting me in every way, and creating happiness.  That’s not to say that every moment with family is wonderful – but what would life be without some down times to contrast with the good ones?

I am so fortunate to have a good and rewarding place to work.  It’s a way to get money, and assure our future, but it’s also a place that supports me intellectually.  Even though I don’t agree with every position taken on a case or every opinion expressed by a colleague, my brain likes to light on fire with the challenge of it.  I worry a bit about what I’ll do for intellectual stimulation when I retire (which I hope – or maybe fear – is very soon).

How can I go any further without mentioning music?  There is such pleasure and reward in making a beautiful noise and conquering new challenges, and hearing appreciation from others.  My cello has been my close friend since I was a child.  This particular instrument – which I’ve had since I was sixteen — is my cherished companion.  It will live longer than I.  I wonder about its history, since William Forster made it in 1790, and I wonder about its future.  Who has played my cello before me?  What luthiers have made the repairs that I see evidence of?  Who put those scratches in the back, and how?  What does that wax customs seal on the scroll mean, and what kind of traveling did it do? Who will play it in the future?  Will the next person get 50 or more years out of it?  Lots to think about.

I’m thankful for individual musicians I play with – my quartet – now in some kind of unfortunate hiatus, but hopefully to spring to life again soon – Lori, Cynthia and maybe Tatiana.  I’m thankful for a relatively new relationship with Kristy, and the wonderful cello/piano music we make together.  We come from such different lives, but find a commonality in music.  I’m thankful for my musical times with Craig’s sister, Deb, and the new musical heights to which she challenges me.

Then there are the groups I make music with – Newport Symphony, Columbia Symphony, Sinfonia Concertante, and other, less frequent ensembles.  Full of good people and a willingness to overcome all sorts of difficulties.  We do extremely strenuous and difficult music, and achieving a good performance level is so important.  If only there were more hours in the day and more days in the year, and I could do more.  But would this aging body be willing?  Perhaps I have only so many notes left in these shoulders and arms, and I should portion them out carefully.

I’m thankful for the people around me – extended family, close friends from past and present, work colleagues, other musicians.  And not just the people I see every day, but people who are far away and not so often in contact.  I remember, and am grateful, for past contacts and friendships, and wish for them to spring to vibrant and constant life again.

People from my past who are now gone are also in my mind and thankfulness.  Most especially, that includes my parents, who gave me life, and gave me such a rich and nurturing upbringing.  (“Rich” doesn’t mean money.  Anything but.)  I hope to share my remembrances of them through writing and sharing.

So, what, among all these things, will I say as we gather tomorrow around our Thanksgiving table?  I’ll probably think it up on the spot.

Niuatoputapu

October 1, 2009

The earthquake near Samoa and resulting tsunami has me thinking.  We stopped at Niuatoputapu for a few days in 2003, and thoroughly enjoyed this very out-of-the-way island with friendly people, beautiful singing and a placid way of life.   http://www.svsequoia.com/niuatoputapu.htm    Now, the news says, they’ve experienced a four-meter-high tsunami wave that has wiped out two of their three towns, 10 people are dead (out of a population of 1000), their telephone service is gone, their health clinic is gone, the airstrip is unusable, the government buildings are gone …  It does make me want to figure out how I can help.  It’s interesting how the instinct to help is so much more pronounced when you have been to a place, or you know people who are affected.

I’m also wondering how the cruising sailboats in Samoa and Tonga fared.  It cannot have been good to have been anchored in any of the harbors affected by the tsunami.  When we anchored in the Pago Pago Harbor (American Samoa), the holding was not good – strong winds, and a bottom that seemed to consist entirely of discarded plastic bags.  http://www.svsequoia.com/american_samoa.htm  I think any anchored boats would have been flung up onto the shore.

Audiences for classical music

September 29, 2009

Last weekend the Newport Symphony had a sold-out concert.  Not only that, we had lots of fun, making music with friends.  So the question is:  why is Newport able to do this, when it doesn’t seem to be a possibility in Portland?  Newport has a population of only about 10,000.  There is no music reviewer who writes for a newspaper or even a music blog (as sometimes happens for Columbia Symphony in Portland).

The audience in Newport is fairly gray — but I don’t think we should despair about that, because there’s a constant new supply of retirees moving into the community.  And with the NOAA West Coast headquarters moving to town, there should be a new supply of younger educated folks that might be interested in “culture”.  I think part of Newport’s success lies in the fact that we’re the only game in town.  We have a charismatic, friendly conductor with a world-class musical talent.

My one or two readers out there should come out to Newport and see what’s happening!  (I actually had a friend say he has read this blog — Amazing!)

Music weekend in Newport

September 21, 2009

We just returned from one of our whirlwind weekends in Newport – three rehearsals over two days, learning lots of new music, reconnecting with friends, and enjoying the beautiful beach weather (didn’t actually get out onto the beach).

5:00 a.m. Saturday morning is the start time.  Bleary eyed we eat breakfast and load up the van, hoping we haven’t left anything critical behind.  Like an instrument.  Or the music we’re about to rehearse (these things have been done, in the past…)  (One source of anxiety dreams – you know those dreams where you’re in college, suddenly facing the final exam in an obscure language, and you haven’t done the last six weeks of homework…  Only my anxiety dreams are about musical disasters.  I think the most memorable such dream of mine involved a locked concert hall, I could hear the musicians inside warming up; I finally got in, went to the stage, only to discover the orchestra was set up in the third balcony.  I make it up there, get my cello out, the end-pin somehow comes out, escapes over the edge of the balcony, falls down to the hydraulic pit, and between the edge of the pit and the wall, into the dark depths below.  I run down to the basement, which is raw mud, pilings holding up the building, rats running across the mud, water – perhaps from the Thames? – lapping up against the pilings, I can hear the orchestra starting to play up there in the third balcony…)

But I digress.  We head down the freeway, taking turns driving and napping.  We listen to all of NPR Weekend Edition-Saturday, then it starts again – if you were lucky, you were asleep when that part came last time.  We have our usual stops for changing drivers, getting coffee or a snack, finding a bathroom.  We pull into Newport about 9:15 for a 10:00 a.m. rehearsal.  We haven’t seen most of these folks since July or earlier.  The cello section (yay for us!) is all in place by 9:35, as other people straggle in for the 10 am rehearsal.  Craig unloaded just two timpani this time (a two-timpani gig – we could have done it in a smaller vehicle if ….)

This time, we’re doing Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony, two Ives pieces, Vaughan Williams Greensleeves, Jubel Overture (C.M.von Weber).  Most people seem to have practiced, we make good progress, Adam (our conductor) is happy.  But there are plenty of nasty bits to work on.  We work through the day – morning coffee at break, lunch midday (brought by wonderful NSO volunteers) and on through mid-afternoon.  By then we’re ready for a nap.

We stayed (as we usually do) with Buck & Sioux.  Sioux and I went to a play at the Performing Arts Center (very funny) while Craig and Buck dealt with their football addictions.

Today was another lovely sunny day at the beach, and we were inside struggling with Charles Ives, who seems determined to confound us with his rhythms.

This evening, after we got back home, we watched “The Soloist,” rented from Netflix.  Some of the scenes of homeless street squalor in LA, and the voices talking to Nathaniel as he descends into his schizophrenia, remind me in a perverse sort of way of some of my music anxiety dreams.  Perhaps it was the rat that appeared in Nathaniel’s sleeping spot in the freeway tunnel – apparently located nearby or maybe even underneath the Disney Concert Hall where the LA Phil plays.

Disappearing bloggers?

September 19, 2009

Ian wrote a comment on his Facebook page that all the bloggers are disappearing – perhaps being sucked in by the perfidy of Facebook or even Twitter.  I’ve never blogged – I’ve been lamenting the disappearance of the letter written on paper with pen-and-ink.  Maybe I need to move up a notch (from the letters I wish for but never write) and down a notch (from the Facebook that draws so much of my attention, for no apparent reason), and try writing a blog.  Or a journal.  Or whatever.  So this is the initial blog entry.

I’ve been writing all day, frantically, no let’s make that all week, on a project at work.  Great volumes of words – now up to 31 pages, single spaced – all to be picked apart by others, and then smashed back together again in a slightly less coherent (but more to their liking) way.  Working with the wonders of Word Perfect’s “review” function (which I pretty much get) and internal page cross references (which I don’t get yet), and trying to stay with the flow of the writing.  Try to stay consistent, so it’s always “Mr. So-and-So” rather than simply “So-and-So.”  Even if you detest So-and-So, you always have to give him the honorific.

So why is there so much work for lawyers (or at least my kind of lawyer) these days, when everyone else seems to be losing jobs right and left?  I figure it’s because, when times are hard, people start looking around for where they can get some money.  “That sleazebag doctor that makes so much money, let’s sue him.”  “That lawyer who didn’t get us the result we wanted – let’s sue him.”  If the lawyers and doctors get sued, then we (who defend lawyers and doctors) have work to do.  I don’t think all these plaintiffs ought to be so suit-happy, but I can’t complain too much, because it does provide work for me.  But politically, it’s not the right thing.  We are generating words on paper, eating trees and spewing carbon with our photocopy machines and printers, all for the promotion of the big pay-off for the plaintiff with the best lawyer.  How about we redistribute the wealth a bit, by capping liability awards, and redistribute some of the legal costs and liability pay-outs into a health care fund for all of us?  The plaintiff who is so badly injured – he shouldn’t get the giant pay-off, but should share the wealth with a national health care system that will provide for his care along with everyone else’s.

Saying “cap” of course, makes me a traitor to the liberal cause.  Saying “national health care system” gets me in trouble with most of my legal colleagues and conservative friends (do I have any conservative friends?)   So the truth is that I keep pretty quiet and don’t say any of these things, because I’d rather keep all of my friends, and not offend anyone.  (A definite character flaw!)

Is a blog supposed to be a coherent essay, or am I allowed to ramble, like I just did?  Will anyone read it if I ramble?