Three Summers-TheresAnn Bosserman

Memoir:

  1. Roses

The light that evening slanted across the porch through the white sun blinds and between the posts of the gray porch railing in golden streams. The rare roses caught the rays of sun and glowed hues of burnt to vivid orange as she spent another gorgeous summer evening sitting in her rocking chair, contemplating her roses and the moving sunlight.

The senator sat near her, regarding her with his usual alert, intelligent face and observed the stream of neighbors passing the house.  The fun interactions were with the pedestrians who stopped to admire the roses, usually with children or dogs in tow– sometimes both.

It was a languorous, golden, serene passing of those long northern evenings filled with such rich, life-enhancing light. This light enchanted all things it touched, from the flowers to the watered emerald grass, to the heavy laden plum trees, to the exploding roses and the glistening white hydrangeas.  And the light fell on her too, warming all corners of her being with a feeling of deep connectedness, belonging and oneness.

The light reached towards the senator as he purred contentedly, and continued to swish his glossy black tail in a slow, friendly arc, regarding their friendship quietly, in certainty of common affection and the enjoyment of the bounties of a beautiful evening.

  1. FISHING

I barely remember that one fishing trip you & me went on Daddy.  I remember it was just you & me.  It was our one golden time together overnight in a pup tent, with a breakfast of orange-y pancakes with a strange tangy taste since you forgot the milk.

You tried to help me tie a fly on my line and pick a safe rock to perch on with my pole in the rushing gurgling stream. I was so awkward and scrawny with my coke bottle glasses glinting fiercely against the sun-drenched stream and my bad eye.  I couldn’t really see anything, and I didn’t catch anything, but I wanted to be with you, and to please you, and to succeed.

You were so strong, and big, and powerful, and smart.  Mommy said you came home from two wars with medals and did a bunch of dangerous stuff — spying and all.  I couldn’t even see well enough to swim or catch a fish, and the pancakes were terrible, but I wanted another fishing trip with you up by Salmonberry Creek so badly!

And all I have is that one fading 60-year-old memory of that last summer, and the knock at the door that ended it all, with Mommy falling to the floor wailing, and me falling asleep on Linda’s bed, because you and she never made it home from that farm auction.

III.  Blooming

How would I blossom?  Is it like breaking through a membrane into a greater beauty, a different knowing, a new experience?

Would it be like a butterfly breaking out of a chrysalis?

Does a caterpillar know it is metamorphosing through the seasons, into a spring butterfly?

How would I feel if I could spin myself into a cocoon, encasing my lumbering, painful body into a shell, only to awaken, seasons later, breaking through the swelling bud of my chrysalis into an unfolding butterfly?

I used to dream of flying as a child, using my human body.  As I grew, I continued to dream of flying.  But now, with the encroaching aches and pains of my older self, the dreams have stopped.

What would it feel like to bloom out of my body, and all my grief and pain, into a beautiful, delicate, lacy butterfly, perhaps as my favorite blue copper here in the valley?  Oh how glorious it would be to soar weightlessly on the summer breeze and flit from sunlit flower to vine ripened berries!  Color and scent, nectar and pollen embracing me in such an evanescent, shimmering season of blessed fulfillment.

 

Bio: I love the north Oregon coast and have vacationed here for many years. I have a home here and have been full time at the beach here in Rockaway since Covid arrived. I walk the beach in all seasons. I never tire of the magnificent sea.

 

 

Mr. Hobo Risin’-Tom Lackaff

Memoir:

The first time you jump on a moving train, it feels like flying.

Many of the elements of flight are there: steady forward motion, exhilarating wind in your face, the world zipping by below you. Adding to the illusion, in my case, was crossing a towering train trestle almost immediately after hopping on board the westbound Union Pacific out of Spokane in June, 1994.

I had just graduated from high school and was feeling my oats. A lifelong train nut, I spent a great deal of time on the elevated railway running through downtown Spokane. Eventually, I dared to jump on a train as it lumbered through town, riding for a few blocks before jumping off in giddy, rebellious ecstasy.

Before long, the short hops became as casual as catching a bus, and I needed a bigger hit. I found it when I saw the perfect score: four big yellow engines hooked to a mile-long train, waiting its turn at a stoplight. The patient giant pointed west across the Latah Creek Bridge, a massive span towering 200 feet above its namesake. As the four iron horses began to whinny in four-part harmony, spewing hot diesel exhaust skyward like jet engines repurposed for terrestrial toil, I saw my chance for adventure start to slip away. Suddenly seized by a sense of purpose I had yet to encounter in my 17 years on Earth, I ran up the gravel hill, grabbed an iron handhold and hopped on a hopper car.

The initial high was substantial, keeping me buoyed for hours as the train chased the sun west across the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington. I barely noticed the deafening noise or the relentless wind—it was all part of the deliriously novel experience.

As the lengthening shadows gave way to twilight, however, the novelty started to wear off a little bit. When I jumped on, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, standard issue gear for a sere and searing Spokane summer. As night fell, however, the wind chill created by the train’s 70 mph speed no long felt like summer.

In daylight, I recognized enough landmarks to have a general idea where I was. As night fell, not so much. With no clue where I was, it got colder and colder. I tucked my arms inside my t-shirt and curled up in something of a seated fetal position.

Sometime before dawn, the train just stopped. No fanfare, no parade, nothing—it just eased up by a field and stopped. Shaking from the cold and bleary-eyed, I unfurled my stiff legs and hopped to the ground, trying to stay out of sight from the engineers, brakemen, and other would-be captors.

I scampered along a dirt road by a field like a rabbit, finally running into to a real road. Feeling less paranoid but still weary and bleary, I ambled along until I hit Highway 395 near Hermiston. Only then did I realize how screwed I was. Hermiston is in Oregon, a three-hour drive from my poor worried mother in Spokane, Washington.

To get home, I would have to revive another long-lost art: hitchhiking. Positioning myself on the shoulder of the northbound highway, I gamely stuck my thumb out like I had seen in the movies. To my amazement, a pickup truck stopped. A group of young Deadheads, they were headed to Seattle for what turned out to be the Grateful Dead’s penultimate summer tour. The only trouble was they were headed toward Ellensburg, adequately north but several hours too far east. Still feeling adventurous, I rolled the dice and hopped in, soon exhaustedly nodding off to the pleasantly ordered chaos of Jerry Garcia’s guitar.

When this sunshine daydream inevitably came to an end, I was more or less back where I started, only standing beside a much bigger highway: I-90, my hopeful ticket home. Again, to my surprise, my thumb nabbed a ride, this time a middle-aged man in a van (I know, red flags). Luckily, he was a cool dude who used to hitchhike and was glad to repay the karmic favor. We talked about music the whole way back to Spokane, he proselytizing for Jethro Tull and Deep Purple, and I campaigning vigorously for Ice Cube.

Before I knew it, I was back in Spokane. I don’t remember if I told my mom the truth about the trip (I like to think I called from the road with a cover story), but I sure as heck couldn’t wait to brag to my friends about my adventure. I stumbled the familiar walk home from the train tracks like the strung-out hobo I would imitate for years afterward. Unlike this stereotypical hobo, however, my addiction was not drugs or alcohol, but to the trains themselves—my preferred mode of flight.

 

Bio: I was lucky enough to be born in Oregon. Some of my earliest memories are of frolicking on Cannon Beach, Short Sands and a litany of local littoral locations. My father has lived here for over half of my life, and consequently I have grown quite connected to the area.

 

59 Days, 21 States-Laura E. Bailey

Memoir:

There is a logic, a rhythm, to a well-executed road trip.  I’ve been planning this one for years, a manila folder the repository of scraps of paper with scribbled recommendations, ideas torn from magazines, notes on places mentioned on the radio, all building blocks for the I’m-no-longer-tethered-to-a-job road trip.  My core skills are first-rate, veteran of two decades of family road trips evenly distributed between national-park-or-bust vacations and Army-family moving from post to post.  And as I hurtle toward my six-decade milestone, the notion of a long meander across the country, just me and the dog, no flights to catch, no ticking clock inside me pushing to squeeze every possible activity into every available moment … seemed the perfect centerpiece for my 2020 plans.

And then.

Yeah, well.

The upside-down-ness of the world made the open road beckon more seductively in 2021, though I’d need to modify some plans.  Spontaneous nights in crowded bars listening to local bands? Nope.  Sojourn through the most politically polarized counties on my own personal unity tour? Maybe 2022. Lesser-known national parks, county roads, obscure historical and cultural sights, tiny regional museums dedicated to whatever took someone’s fancy?  Absolutely.  Books on Audible, abundant playlists on iTunes, paper maps and Google maps uneasy partners in the role of navigator.  And a dog whose spring bouts of carsickness and automobile anxiety turned out to be 100% cured when I let him ride shotgun.  Off we go, to meander, to race, to roam.

Along the way, thrumming under the sweeping vistas and quick-pull-over moments, is a fragile sense of pilgrimage, as the trip becomes as much about connection as about freedom.  Friendly chats six feet apart across a gasoline pump were the antidote to my expectations of cold shoulders or hostile glances when my liberally bumper-stickered 23-year old Subaru rolled up on red state SUVs with The Other Guy’s slogans. Grocery store cashiers and AirBnB hosts with in-the-know recommendations for singing canyon hikes and tasty hyperlocal food trucks (Boulder, Utah) or the best chocolate silk pie in the lower 48 (Elk, Oklahoma).  Conversations with my younger self, on the lawn of the Kansas high school where I graduated 40+ years ago, and with my ancestors, on the banks of the Yellowstone where five generations ago women and men pioneered. Mostly, and most importantly, the tear-inducing sweetness of touch, skin on skin with the more than two dozen family and friends who I am able to fling my fully vaccinated arms around, and squeeze.

After weeks of reuniting and reconnecting, back on the road for the northerly route westward and home.  Long morning shadows dance ahead of the car as we swoop along curving country lanes, the rising sun at our backs.  Mid-day record-breaking heat drives me to the nearest green space as respite after every fuel stop, the dog and I both thirsty not only for water but for the feel of grass under our feet, vulnerable and tender as humans pay a fraction of the penalty due us for our disregard of the planet.  Hours exploring wildflower meadows and mountains raucous with life.

Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana. Miles and miles with no one else on the road, and then, as other vehicles approach—mostly local, mostly trucks, in this world of ranches and farms and tiny towns—I remember where I am, and without thought my hand lifts off the steering wheel. Sometimes the whole hand, maybe two fingers, sometimes just one.  Always, a greeting.

Hello there. It’s summer, and it’s good to see your face.

 

Laura E. Bailey is a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, and is a happily active member of the volunteer team at the Hoffman Center for the Arts who believes that Manzanita is a magical place for a writer. Laura is currently at work on a novel that grew out of a Hoffman workshop.

Along the Way-Gary Albright

Memoir:  Jim and I had been canoeing through Canada for years and, in fact, Jim had been doing so since he was a child.  Every trip to Canada was precious, and the past only encouraged more of the wonder that has always been Canada to us.  Jim planned the trips, bought the supplies, and organized the logistics.  My contribution was basically to build fires and decide which way was North.

Somewhere in our travels, Jim had landed on a map that claimed the Missinaibi River was the last undammed voyageur river to the James Bay.  In order to avoid waiting until this river was developed, we decided we should go soon.  Late that summer, we did just that.

We drove North and East in Ontario to the town of Mattice.   We stayed for the night, and left the next morning.  We dropped our canoe with our gear in it into the river at the edge of town, and the current took us North.  It was warm, beautiful, and still.  Small rapids propelled us forward with minimum paddling or corrections.

By afternoon, we decided that this seemed to be an easy trip.   As we were discussing this, a sudden wind spun our canoe around, and then we were going backwards.   We corrected and then waves of rain began to fill our canoe.  The sound of both wind and rain was deafening.  We paddled for hours, but ceased to make any real progress as the wind and rain gained strength.

We began searching for a campsite.  Such sites are rare, and both sides of the river have small and densely joined spruce and birch.  There is almost nowhere to land.  Based on river flow and direction, Jim found what might be a campsite on the East bank named Isabel.  We ran ashore, and began looking for a clear spot for the night.  Jim and I blundered among the tightly woven trees, got separated, found each other again, and then found the campsite.  It was under water.

We secured the canoe and pitched our tent at the edge of the clearing just above the water line.  Finally, as nightfall arrived, we decided we should make a fire.  Because the rain continued to pound, Jim assembled his seveya to see if we could start a fire with white gas.  But the seveya would only flame gas rather than mist the gas for a fire.  A part was missing.  We fooled around with the stove for awhile, ate some M&Ms, and went to sleep.  Before we gave it up for the day, Jim pointed out that if this was an easy trip, everyone would do it.  Further, Jim found hope in the wind and rain because still, dry weather brings out literally millions of mosquitoes.  By morning, our tent and sleeping bags were in several inches of water.  All of our gear was soaked.  We dressed in soggy clothes and I went in search of any firewood.  In a little while, in an outcrop of tree roots, I found birch bark and some kindling.

The rain continued.

As I carried the firewood back to our campsite, I saw Jim outside the tent standing in shallow water.   He had given up on the seveya, and was now trying to light the gasoline in the fuel container.  Initially, I could see blasts of fire as Jim adjusted the nozzle and flow.  Then it seemed that the nozzle was open too far as a large and long flame of white gas shot into the air.  Jim simply realized that holding this canister of gas was not a great idea, and now he had to get rid of it.  His next move was one I would have never guessed. He gently tossed the flaming canister about two feet into the air, and, as it started to fall, he drop-punted it high into the air.  The canister spun end over end.  When it landed about 30 feet from our campsite, the flame of gas spread across the flooded site that was Isabel. For a while, the flames moved around the little lake, and Jim and I were simply witnesses.

When the fire finally died, I dropped the firewood.  We simply pulled the tent pegs, piled all our gear and the tent into a single soaked pile in the canoe, and set off paddling North.  Over the next week, we paddled 200 kilometers North to the village of Moosinee on the James Bay.  The weather improved, and three days later most of our gear dried next to campfires.  We had a wonderful trip, and we have told endless tales of the Missinaibi to anyone willing to listen.

Because the best part of these ever-growing tales is that the only witnesses are the fools telling the tale.

 

Gary has lived in Barview for 20 years and it is his favorite place in the world. He has travelled over much of the world with his favorite person, Carla. Together they spend a great deal of time with their dog Emily. She is not a good dog, but someday they hope she will be a great dog.

Summertime-Gail B. Frank

Essay:

Summertime and the livinis easy. So the song from Porgy and Bess goes. Even though most of us, like school kids, consider those bookends of Memorial Day and Labor Day to contain summer, the first day actually begins on the Solstice around June 21.

For those on the Oregon coast, summer brings people, lots and lots of people and lots of business. For others, it brings crowds, a hard time finding a place to park and a longer wait at stop signs. Regardless of how one feels about it, it’s hard to pass up the sheer beauty of summer on the Oregon coast. There’s nothing like a sun-splashed summer day when the ocean sparkles beneath a brilliant blue sky and everything in the natural world seems as if it’s been freshly washed. The hard work folks put into their gardens in the spring pays off with brilliant blooms. The wool socks come off and the sandals come out as everyone heads outside to eat.

As a student and then a teacher for many years, my life revolved around the school calendar with summer long-awaited for its endless possibilities. By the 4th of July, it seems summer is half over, and it’s time to cram in whatever one can before “real” life begins again in the fall.

People used to tell me, “As a teacher, it must be nice to have the summer off.” There is nothing “off” about it. The first month, most teachers are in a catatonic state trying to recover from the school year. The second month is vacation time and all those fun activities for the family. The third month is getting the kids new underwear and school supplies and planning bulletin boards and attending  in-service teacher training for a bright new school year. The euphoria of that dream lasts until about Thanksgiving and then every teacher and student is counting the days until summer comes again.

For me, a child of the 50’s, growing up in a small town in Michigan,  summer meant riding my one-speed bike to Huron River Park with a baloney sandwich wrapped in wax paper squished into the wicker bike basket. Paired with a ten-cent bottle of Coca-Cola from Sinclair’s Gas station, I was in heaven. There was no such thing as pizza, unless you counted Chef Boyardee made from a box.  And certainly there was no pizza delivery. The A & W drive-in, at the edge of town was a favorite hangout. Girls on roller skates brought Coney dogs and ice-cold mugs of root beer to the car window.

Summer was a time of hopscotch, Red Rover, Jacks, and Hula- Hoops. It was a time of June bugs flitting around the porch light at night and the sounds of crickets. It was fireflies in a mason jar and an ice cream cone from Joe LaRosa’s on a warm summer night. It was a time of magic, a time to picnic in the back yard, pick raspberries or sleep on the screened-in porch. Always playing outside, we kids drank water from the garden hose, played softball until dark and got excited when the fire hydrant was flushed and we could play in the puddles.

At the beach on the Oregon coast, a friend remarked, “Everyone here becomes a kid again.” She’s right. Children and adults alike play in the ocean, jump the waves, and squeal in delight if one catches them. Most people are continually bent over investigating what they have found on the sand, perhaps a jelly fish or an almost whole sand dollar.  Others throw sticks for their dogs or play ball or create a sandcastle with a child or grandchild. Smells of hot dogs and burgers on the grill mix with the fresh salt air of the mighty Pacific. People arrive at the beach laden with coolers, lawn chairs, kites, frisbees and blankets.

On the Nehalem River, kayakers paddle quietly at dusk as the cormorants come in to roost.  Fishermen drift along the river hoping for one last catch.

And there’s always that gorgeous hike up Neahkahnie Mountain, often translated as “the place of the god,” with its spectacular view of Manzanita and the coast. One can top off their hike on a Friday evening with a trip to the Farmer’s Market for a fresh bouquet of flowers and peaches, maybe some smoked salmon.

It’s hard to not find something appealing to one’s sense of summertime. Or maybe all you want to do is lie in the hammock, read a good book, and let the garden grow. It’s all here. The fish are jumpin’. It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

 

For more than 20 years, Gail Frank lived in Nehalem, wrote a column for the North Coast Citizen on the joys of life in a small town and taught writing workshops. She now lives in Arizona, but spends summers on the Oregon Coast where she says her heart resides.

Hurricane Lamps and Survival Crackers-Amber Jarvis

Memoir:

All the cracks have been filled with a mixture of dust and motor oil and spider webs. The hot sun is stubborn and persistent. You can smell the gravel and grass just outside the door and the cool darkness of the garage is a kind companion as you wait for him to return. His jacket hangs from the rung of an upended rocking chair, a jacket stiff and filthy with necessity and last-minute rescues and pet projects. It smells like sawdust and grease with faint traces of Brut and looks half-inflated by the raw energy of his work.  Here baby food jars nailed to the underside of the shop table are filled with small treasures of purpose – circles to separate, circles to connect. Feel the small jar in a small hand, grip it tight with both to feel the tension build and crack the jar open, bang and scrape small knuckles on something metal and mysterious. The pain rushes hand to mouth. Somehow this helps – the blood and muck mix into a metallic tang that makes a face. A tiny copper spring looks like a magic spell among the dutiful washers. Keep looking, even though you know right where to go. This is where you go when he’s gone away, when you get that feeling and holding onto trees isn’t enough.

You remember how it is to go to the landfill – journey to the end of the world with no one else but him. The truck smells like his jacket plus gasoline, and that broken spring in the seat pokes with every rise and fall. You can see the straw stuffing peek out of the searing black vinyl and wonder how grass grew in the darkness. Jim Croce on the 8-track sings a song to a telephone operator and now he’s whistling, both hands gripping the wheel. You stare and feel that this is how it is to travel in time. He turns and smiles and checks your seat belt. You think of the things you wish you said then and can’t say now.

He tells you to stay in the truck but you get out anyway. The hot stench is a force, and you imagine that birds can’t smell. Their screaming mocks your small body and heavy feet. This is where things start to make sense — in the land of the broken and abandoned. This is where things finally become what they really are, not defined by purpose or expectation. The toaster doesn’t toast anymore, but it is anyway. You wonder how that would feel. You want to see the dogs now and it’s the next stop.

You can hear the barking as the truck pulls into the lot, even over the engine. This is where the broken and abandoned dogs go, but dogs are built for purpose. The fear and love and craving are pooled in limpid pairs, above quick searching tongues. This one is scared of brooms now. This one lost a life-long love to cancer. This one has a crooked ear. You imagine how it would be to take each one home and become their world. There is not enough time. You know he feels this too because he speaks to each dog like an old pal. You are proud of him.

But he’s not here now and it feels good to be still in the quiet cool of his workspace. You know right where to go, to the shelves behind that old sheet stuck up with thumbtacks. There’s an open box of medical supplies that looks like a magic kit. It’s been scavenged for school projects and surprise scrapes, the tongue depressors spilling from torn paper. Brown bottles with strict labels that inspire comfort and awe. Don’t touch that – DANGER.

It’s a big shiny box and when you push on the side you can see your twisted image jump with the metal arpeggio, feel the bounce pop deep under dirty fingertips. Reach inside, avoiding sharp edges with thin wrists feeling fragile and sneaky. You can touch the thin waxed paper crinkle. The box says, “Civil Defense All Purpose SURVIVAL CRACKERS.” They look like they are made of cardboard and smell sweet and bready. Crouch down in the dark and nibble at the corner. Imagine you are in that place at the end of the world, where things become just what they are, where food is for survival. You wonder why you crave this place. You wonder if it feels like romance.

 

Amber Jarvis was delivered to Manzanita one year past her first visit, after verbally musing about how seeing the ocean every day might shift her psyche. Frankly it was beyond her shadowy imagination to be so fortunate. She’s been walking around in a general state of blissful disbelief for 7 months now, and has grown quite comfortable with that being her permanent state of being.

Heaven, Take Note-Ellis Conklin

Fiction:

On the afternoon of June 29, 2051, Ted Falconer, director of the Pearl Sector Homeless Pavilion for the city of Portlandia, stood atop Neakahnie Mountain and stared down on what once was a small bustling village.

“My father used to speak fondly of this place. He brought us here as children, each summer for too many years to count. It was called Manzanita,” Ted informed his traveling companion, a female robot he had purchased the summer before and named Melania.

“Today would have been his hundredth birthday.”

Melania nodded, in her usual mechanical fashion, up and down, like those oil rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara, which Ted saw as a college student from his small room in Isla Vista. She said nothing, but then, she rarely spoke, and Ted was becoming exhausted with her predictability.

“Perhaps, that is why you named her Melania,” a co-worker and friend at the Pavilion had recently remarked.

Ted recalled the comment, coming as it did on the very same day that the Mars Relocation Committee’s point man, the great-great grandson of Alan Shepard, had told him that he hoped to soon jettison at least 100,000 of his homeless residents at The Pavilion to the Red Planet by the summer of 2054.

Though the late-June day was exceedingly warm, as most days were now – even near the ocean – a coldness filled him. Ted regarded his robot with a crinkled squint and said, “It is quite unforgiveable. Heaven, if there is one, will take note.”

Melania seemed confused. None of this computed. The poor darling, thought Ted, useless as a white crayon. Finally, she muttered, “What do you mean, my sir? What do you mean by this?”

“I mean, look at it, damn it! Look down and tell me what you see? It’s gone now. Nothing of value remains. The fires have taken it and now Mother Nature, so steady, yet so intractable, is reclaiming her land with a steady, implacable persistence.”

He pronounced each syllable with articulation so sharp you could have sliced bread on it.

“And do you know why, Melania?”

“No, my sir. I do not.”

They two of them returned to the car and climbed into its rear seats. Ted commanded the vehicle’s invisible pilot to continue down the mountain.

Standing on a rutted road that used to be called Laneda Avenue, Ted surveyed the surroundings. He’d heard that Manzanita had was nothing but rubble now, but so were many smaller communities up down the Pacific coast.

Nearly 10 billion people now occupied the planet. Clean water was scarce, the air fouled, the oceans warmed. Great boundless fires had ripped across western American with an ugly vengeance.

On the plus side, Donald Trump, that howling dog of an ex-president, had finally died at the age of 91, after spending his final years rattling around in mental hospital in Middleton, Connecticut.

From the roadway, if you could call it that, Ted noticed that there stood a few wood pilings where once the San Dune Pub’s barroom was busy with meaty people in baseball caps. Old faded flyers for the Little Apple Market were pressed against chain-link fences. The new City Hall was burnt to the ground. The Ocean Edge hotel was a ruin, as was almost every inch of the town.

Ted sighed, and in the dusty sunshine, he turned to Melania and stared at her for a lingering moment.

He looked out then upon the vast and moody sea and remembered how his father so adored this place and their one-week-long sojourn to Manzanita every summer, smitten anew each time he saw the silvery beach from the mountain above.

“There was once a time, Melania, many, many summers ago when this place was magic.”

“Was it, my sir?”

“Oh yes, it was magic.”

 

Ellis is a longtime journalist who worked primarily as a political reporter at the Anchorage Times, UPI, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He retired several years ago and, after decades of vacationing on the Oregon coast, finally settled in Manzanita with his wife Lynn and Piper, their ocean-loving Australian Shepherd.

All You Need is Glove-Tom Lackaff

Memoir: I was not an athletic kid by any 7th inning stretch of the imagination. As an only child, I lacked the opportunity to compete in the physical arena on a regular basis, whether through sports, roughhousing and the like. Consequently, I was weak, contact-averse and both physically and emotionally fragile. Furthermore, my divorced-yet-still-amicable parents espoused a hippie philosophy in which zero-sum competition was avoided at all costs.

Despite coming of age in this nearly sports-proof incubator, I found myself increasingly intrigued by baseball. I began to watch it when nothing else was on during the doldrums of summer reruns, bored at first but gradually seduced by the inexplicable ritual.

Always supportive of my interests, my mom took me to a few minor league Spokane Indians games. It was like a drug, an effect amplified by my mistaken belief that I was watching Major League games. (Cleveland? Spokane? Close enough.) I scrambled for foul balls like they were treasures which only by extreme fortune had somehow escaped from a divine realm, one with which we can only communicate by an alchemy of leather and hardwood.

If securing a foul ball was a thrill, it was nothing compared to asking the seemingly godlike players to autograph it. Although I am a Mariners fan, to this day I hold a misplaced affinity for the Oakland A’s because one of the Northwest League’s visiting Southern Oregon A’s players was especially kind as we indulged our shared delusion of his grandeur.

Soon I was collecting baseball cards, poring over stats I scarcely understood. One day when I was about 11, my dad surprised me with a new baseball glove—new, that is, to me, for it was clearly not new but seemingly decades old, an antiquated artifact he had found in a pawn shop. The dark brown leather was soft with a good grip, ideal for its intended purpose. Although it was a man’s size, my little hand had no trouble controlling it, my index finger sticking outside like the pros. In short, it fit me like a… well, similes fail me, but it fit me perfectly.

When my dad would come back to visit, we would sometimes play catch, accidentally upholding one of the few classically American traditions observed in my otherwise decidedly countercultural clan. Short-handed, we called up an old tin watering can from Triple-A to play catcher. With the glove perfectly balanced splayed open on the spout, it formed an inarguable strike zone for my dad to pitch while I took BP.

To everyone’s surprise, especially mine, I could actually hit a little bit when it was time to play baseball in PE. Not with any power, mind you, but I was a decent contact hitter. Of course, it helped that I was short and had a strike zone about the size of a postage stamp. More often than not, I would either draw a walk or leg out a single. While no one would confuse me with an athlete, I still had a junior high PE Hall of Fame on-base percentage.

Of course, such glory days could never last. Due to a variety of circumstances, I soon entered a very dark phase which I have spent the ensuing decades struggling to escape. There was no more baseball for me. The glove and the baseball cards got packed away.

Still, I kept the glove. Every few years I might dust it off for idle recreation, amazed at how it still somehow fit me perfectly. The glove had been with me for so long, it had become a part of me, something I imagined I would pass on if I ever had kids.

Then, one day, I learned that I had already lost a part of myself and not known it. During a painful breakup (you know, as opposed to one of those fun, easy ones), struggling with sobriety, I was packing up my belongings from a damp Portland basement. I recoiled from a pile of solid mold, and my disgust turned to horror as I realized that I was looking at what used to be my glove. As I struggled to scoop it up and throw it away without getting sick, the internal mechanism that allows one to process pain through crying simply broke.

As I stand somewhere past the statistical halfway point of life, I know the game is not over. While my one true glove is lost and gone forever, I know it would have wanted me to play on. Now that it is spring once again, perhaps it is time to find another glove, the next link in the leather chain which runs through America’s adulthood as it ran through my childhood.

I’ll just have to take a watering can along to make sure it fits.

 

Tom Lackaff was lucky enough to be born in Oregon. Some of his earliest memories are of frolicking on Cannon Beach, Short Sands and a litany of local littoral locations. His father has lived here for over half of Tom’s life, and consequently he has grown quite connected to the area.

Two Religions-Lorraine Ortiz

Memoir: There were two religions in my family, Catholicism and baseball.  My Dad was a life-long fanatic of both. Devotion like his came from a deep indoctrination in faith.  Faith that Catholicism would keep you out of hell and that baseball would give you direct access to joy.

As a girl growing up, I was encouraged to dive deep into Catholicism but wasn’t offered much access to baseball other than being heir to the fact that my father had been a professional baseball player. I always cherished this mythical aspect of him even though he had ceased to play while I was still a tot.

Being raised Catholic meant that I spent a lot of mandatory time in our local parish cathedral. During mass I would focus on the grandeur, the opulent beauty and the colorful people. Admittedly, I rarely paid very much attention to the content of what was going on, but I was truly enamored with the spectacle and rituals of it all.

Similarly, every time I was taken to a baseball park as a kid, I had the same sensation of grandeur, beauty and being surrounded by fascinating, and often fanatical people.  When the cheering and jumping and booing occurred, I would turn my attention to what was happening on the field, but mostly it was the visually stimulating surroundings that captivated me.

Now whenever I travel, I always make sure to visit churches in the great cities and small towns of Europe and Mexico. That moment of walking through a cathedral door is much like seeing Yosemite Valley for the first time—unimaginable beauty everywhere and not quite knowing where to land my gaze.

In one particularly grand Italian cathedral, visitors were encouraged to come behind the altar to pay homage to a prized artifact.  As a girl, I did not have access to the church’s stage; that honor was reserved for altar boys.  But that day, standing on the altar in that Italian church, I turned to look out at the pews.  From this vantage, everything was even bigger, grander and even more beautiful. It was powerful; it was a rush.

The few times I have made it to a major league ballpark over the last several decades, I have all of those same anticipatory feelings of going inside a beautiful, holy place and then pausing in visual wonder to try and take it all in.  From my seat in the stands I try hard to pay attention to the game, but mostly I simply love being immersed in the rich details of this cultural cathedral and its rituals.

A few years before my father died he was inducted into the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame. My brother and I accompanied him on that trip to receive the honor.  When it came time for the ceremony, we helped keep my Dad stable as the three of us walked through the long tunnel under the stands and onto the field. The stands were packed, the lights were on and the colors were vivid.  It was a powerful rush to see the grandeur of the ballpark from the field.  I could hearing the cheering for my dad and looked around at all of the smiling, devout fans. My dad was so happy to be back on his stage, his altar, overcome and basking in his deep love of the game and faith in joy.

 

Lorraine Ortiz relocated to the Nehalem Bay area in 1990 and opened the first kayak shop, Annie’s Kayaks, on the Oregon Coast. She is Development Director for North Coast Land Conservancy, plays cello in the North Oregon Coast Symphony, and teaches yoga at NCRD. She is inspired by Onion Peak.

 

The Ballgame-Julie Young

Memoir:  My father played baseball once a year. No glove, no cleats, no practice, but a deep affection for family. On a grassy field he played with brothers, cousins, and a handful of young bucks eager to show the old guys how to do it. It went like this.

Every summer of my childhood, four generations of Peterson’s gathered for a Sunday afternoon picnic in the town park. Some of us were local, others came from towns and farms 60 miles away; the rare out-of-state relative was an immediate guest of honor. Long tables were quickly draped with mismatched tablecloths from two dozen kitchens, then obscured by roasters of beans, meat casseroles, vegetable side dishes, fruit pies, and cannisters of cookies. At the center was a heaping platter of Aunt Lizzie’s homemade buns, slathered with butter and packed with thick slices of ham. A rainbow of Jell-O salads was displayed at one end of the table, with sliced bananas in the cherry Jell-O, and shredded carrots in the lime. The children wisely avoided the latter.

Families filled plates to overflowing and ate on blankets spread in the shade. Camp chairs had not made their way to our neck of the woods, but a few webbed folding chairs were reserved for the most senior Peterson’s, eight siblings, all past 80, my grandma among them.

Appetites satisfied, younger kids ran to monkey bars and swings while older siblings lounged in open cars, listening to the Top Forty and flirting with cousins twice removed. Mothers in cotton dresses rolled Sunday nylons down to their ankles, and murmured among themselves as they nursed babies and corralled toddlers. Mothers without these duties shoo’d away flies and wasps that by mid-July were fat from picnics such as ours.

The fathers, after eating, fell asleep under trees, notably the farmers who were up at five to milk cows. They slept as if drugged, but once revived, they were ready to play ball. It was the only day of the year they played.

Growing up on farms in the 1930’s, sports were a rarity for my father’s generation. An exception was Uncle Carl, a natural athlete who as a young guy was an amateur boxer of some success. He was likely the one who summoned that it was game time and enlisted help in staking out home plate, bases, and a sketchy pitcher’s mound. He brought forward a wooden bat, a well-worn hard ball, and a mitt. Other mitts appeared, then a longer bat, and a softball that soon gained favor. None of the players wore sneakers, none wore breathable slacks or shirts that wicked moisture. Two wore brimmed caps that advertised seed companies; one, a striped engineer’s cap. The rest were bare headed.

As a child I paid no attention to how teams were chosen or assigned, but I know it was done fairly, each team with a potential star, three capable hitters, at least one utility player, and many volunteers for outfield.

Despite hereditary similarities, as ball players there were obvious differences. My father was the oldest, nearly 50, and disinclined to prove anything to those decades younger. Dad was stocky and slow; his brother Roy was lanky, quick, and played most innings with a cigarette in his mouth. Their cousin Kenneth, wearing bib overalls, kept his knees locked as he swung the bat, and when he struck out, smiled, “Aw shucks.” His 18-year-old son, Gene, his hair curly, his eyes sparkling, made up for the old man, reliably powering the ball to the outfield and tearing across bases like he was showing off for a lover.

The game had started with affable bravado and some jockeying for role of Alpha Male, but any rivalry was easily sedated by the sultry, July weather — humid and 90 degrees. At the end of two innings, players on both sides leaned into second chances and two-run, at-bat limits. With no umpire, decisions on balls and strikes became an entertaining sideshow. Players randomly walked off mid-inning for water, for shade, for a check on their stamina. Yet through it all, there was no letting up of full-throated banter, for kidding and family nicknames, and the razzing of the young bucks by the old guard.

This was the point of the game. To be with family, to draw forward old stories and to write new ones. To pass forward traditions, not of a ballfield, but of generational respect, support, humor, and how life is best played without keeping score.

The game over, the men slapped sweaty backs, mopped their brows, and put their faces under a park spigot, guzzling the cold water until they gasped for breath.

 

Julie Young is an early childhood advocate, outdoor enthusiast, and writer. She and her husband no longer have a beach residence, but maintain an enduring bond with the North Coast through many short stays throughout the year. Julie’s stories have been published in The North Coast Squid and The Timberline Review.