Thursday, March 18, 2010


Several years ago, events in my life and the world at large started me on a journey away from organized religion and the accepted Judeo-Christian interpretations of the origin of creation. More and more, it seemed to me that the God that humankind had created in its own image was one huge contradiction. An all-powerful Entity which desires a personal relationship with each and every person, yet mandates that this relationship be based upon a slavish desire (on the human being’s part) to curry favor with It (to avoid being squashed like a bug?) A celestial Parent with limitless knowledge and capacity to heal the plagues of mankind, whom we are called upon to love and serve, even while It withholds or capriciously bestows incomplete bits of wisdom and inadequate doses of healing upon Its “children”? The Architect responsible for the creation of every wondrous atom of our incredible planet (not to mention the rest of the universe) who then hands it over to mankind and says, “Here. Do what you want with it?”

I don’t think so…

My most recent discovery in my journey away from traditional religion is an increased awareness of animals and their roles, not only in creation as a whole, but in my life specifically. Lately I’ve noticed that a particular animal will walk (or fly) with me for a stretch of time, and then…go away. Just as I begin to miss and mourn that comforting presence, I’ll realize a new animal has appeared beside me.

First, there were the eagles. While I grieved the deaths of my sister and my father, and puzzled out how I fit into the new dynamic of my family and my own life, it seemed that eagles were “my” animal. I encountered them so frequently and so closely that I eventually became convinced that the eagle must be my spirit guide. Or the essence of one of my departed loved ones returned to comfort and direct me. That conviction was so strong—and so consoling—that when the eagles stopped appearing, I felt sad and abandoned. I still scan the skies and the unleafed spring trees for them when I travel along the river, but if I see one, it is high up and far away. Not close and comforting as they once were.

Last summer, as the young songbirds in my back yard enchanted me with their new-to-life antics, I wondered if perhaps they had taken the eagles’ place. No doubt, they had something to teach this reluctantly aging soul about life renewing itself. But they, like the spring, were soon gone. Not a new spirit guide at all. Just a quick, important lesson.

Yesterday, I drove out to the ocean, down along Highway 30 which roughly follows the Columbia River. As has become my habit, I scanned the skies and the trees for, what I realize now is my former animal guide. All the way out, and all the way back, I looked. No eagles. But I did see…

A herd of elk.

And suddenly I realized that I have encountered elk with increasing frequency lately. On a road to a new beach, we came upon a herd browsing in a sandy scrub forest just off a golf course. Cresting the top of a pass a few miles from home, we were surprised by elk feeding in an open field. Last night, peering through the trees searching for eagles, I didn’t see a bird, but I did encounter a herd of elk grazing in a cow pasture. Elk. What does it mean?

So I googled. “Spirit Guides.” “Shamanism.” “Elk Spirit Guides.”

This was my favorite of what I came up with, from

When Elk appears it often comes with a message to stand strong with pride and to use ones gifts to show others of its power.

Main Attributes:
• Stamina
• Strength
• Freedom
• Agility

Once again…what does it mean?

Applied to what’s going on in my life right now, it could very well be a sign from the Universe that I do indeed have the stamina and the strength to work as hard as I need to in order to keep that restaurant open. Not only open, but thriving and moving forward. A point which, incidentally, I have been particularly doubting lately. Too many hours, too much stress, too many challenges…perhaps the Universe is saying, “You can do this.”

I’m listening…

Monday, March 1, 2010


I’d rather do anything than housekeep on my one day off every week. I carry out little sneak attacks on the mess in my few free hours on work days, so that I can have my day off OFF. If nothing else, I just need to get out of this little Dodge once a week. So we get in the car and go somewhere every Sunday.

This time, the husband and I made our getaway to Portland proper; more specifically, to the Home & Garden Show at the Expo Center. I got to drool over a $35,000.00 screen room addition for the back of the house; and then scale that dream down to the $3500.00 plywood and fiberglass greenhouse. In the end, we spednt $35 on box of plants—three geraniums and a begonia. Things I’m pretty sure we could afford and am reasonably certain will find their way to pots on the back deck as soon as the danger of frost goes away.

The attack of the Impossible Dreams wasn’t the only thing that put a kink in my day. There was one other experience that has been bothering me ever since.

Making one's way up and down the aisles of these shows, one learns to amble along at a speed just fast enough to take one out of range of the less aggressive vendors' greetings. And you swing your head from side to side as you go, studying each booth surreptitiously, to see if they're peddling something of interest, without letting your eyes linger long enough to make eye contact with the person in the booth.

But any truly motivated vendor is going to try to catch your attention anyway. One such woman called out to me as I glided past her kiosk:

“Are you over fifty?”

“NO!” I called back, startled. Annoyed. I jumped sideways as if something had bitten me, and shifted into high gear to get away from that hideous query, as far and as fast as my arthritic feet could shuffle me.

Well, of course I’m over fifty. But nobody can tell from just looking at me. Especially not from twenty feet away. They have to get pretty close to see the lines around my mouth and the saggy skin on my neck. Don’t they?

At the end of that aisle was the door to the rest room. On the pretext of needing to wash my hands, I ducked inside and hightailed it—slyly—to the closest mirror. I had to have some reassurance that that ridiculous harpy up the aisle must be blind or stupid to have so accurately honed in on my age just by means of a casual glance.

The mirror…merely added insult to injury. Staring back at me in the dim, unflattering light was…an old person. My hair looked like my grandmother’s bouffant on a “big” day. My outfit appeared amazingly similar to something I’d seen on my favorite octogenarian customer on Senior Night. My face was puffy and pale with big dark rings bruising the tops of my cheekbones below the rims of my not-quite-stylish glasses.

Hard to believe I looked older than I felt.

All my life, people have told me I don’t look my age. I got carded for liquor until I was nearly 30. When I tell people I've been married for twenty (twenty-five, thirty) years, they say, “How old were you when you got married? Twelve?”

But now, I’ve got vendors at trade shows picking me out for a fifty-something from across an auditorium.

I have to say, that probably wasn’t the most engaging opening line a salesperson could have come up with. So I’m thinking our age-Nazi sales lady might not have had a very good day if she continued to use that as her “go to” break the ice line.

Still, I am not going to pretend that it didn’t bother the crap out of me… Whatever she was selling, I felt a burning desire to collect it in large piles and borrow the blow torch from the booth across the aisle…

Next Sunday I'll stay home and scrub the bathroom.