Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tangential Tuesday - Off to the Oregon Coast

Tomorrow, Mark and I are going off on a Tangent.  This trip is a little tangent to our 'get up and make the coffee and turn on the computer' lives right now.  Mark has been having an affair with his new job these past few months, staring intently at his computer screen for hours on end, whispering sweet nothings to his new trophy wife - the gleaming and angular Mac Book Pro with 14" screen.  Oh, I occasionally get a wink or a peck on the cheek now and then, but usually it takes the smell of frying sausage from the kitchen to pull him away from his mistress.  

He needs a little vacation, and though I feel a little guilty for saying it, I think I need one too.  Not as if I've been working the 9 to 5 racket very much these days... but I have been working.  The click-clack of my computer can be heard fairly loudly at 8am, when I'm dashing off cover letters to jobs.  When I haven't been calling and networking and job searching, I've found other ways to feel like I have some purpose on this earth, proving to myself that my life IS in order... really.  So I straighten and clean and reorganize the closet.  I wash linens that haven't been washed in ages, I water the tiny garden, and every 10 minutes between activities I check email. God forbid should a response come in from Dream Job when my back is turned, dusting the salt and pepper shakers!  

So maybe I need a vacation from my neuroses.  

When Mark suggested a getaway down the Oregon Coast, there's no way I could say no.  I tore through my books and binders and pulled out the travel article, ripped from the Seattle Times last summer, chronicling an adventure full of sand, suds, and surf.  We'll camp and do morning runs on the beach, hang at the local pubs and sample Oregon's famous microbrews... follow lunch with a beach hike and then eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the campfire.  I so need an adventure.  Getting away and getting some perspective wouldn't hurt either. 

We've decided, ahem.. okay so maybe I've decided to tack on some time with the grape juice at the end of the trip.  He gets his brews, I get my grapes.  The Willamette Valley just outside of Portland is home to some famous Pinot Noirs, so why not jog over and experience the wine life?  If you've ever been to this area and have some must-see suggestions, I'd love to know your thoughts.

We'll be back from our crazy Tangent on Sunday, and I'll be sure to post some photos and, of course, tell you all about the brews and the grapes.  Oh yeah, and maybe I'll mention the sand and wildlife too. 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Berries and Life

Life is like picking thimbleberries.  Or maybe, my life has felt like a bowl of thimbleberries lately.  Until about a month ago, I had no idea what thimbleberries were, and now I think I can find in them some sort of metaphor for what life feels like right now. 

This spring, in the vast expanse (for urban living, we consider it vast) of our yard, out perched on the cliff-like edges of our little private hilltop, are seemingly hundreds of bushes that cling on for dear life.  With leaves that look like maple, and berries that could pass for raspberries to some girl who doesn’t know the difference, they reach up and up the hillside, climbing and growing, toeing their way onto the lawn.  Every few days I have to pull thimbleberry starts that spring up in random places, green, happy and defiant in the middle of patches of brown prickly grass.  Plants thrive where they’re meant to, they grow best where they’re supposed to.  The grass is obviously misplaced, but the thimbleberry, well, they know where they belong.  Somehow I’ve managed this past month to plant a tiny patch of vegetables right next to those monster knots of thimbleberry.  In the sandy soil, I put down a few heirloom tomato plants, a few basil and six dinosaur kale.  I couldn’t tell right away if they too, were going to feel misplaced… because the sagebushes next door are smiling, the oregano is a wild little beast, but what seems to grow best in my sandy little patch are thimbleberries.  I pull a few thimbleberry babies each day, reaching up from beneath the soil to take up residence in this benevolent place.   

I go out to pick the thimbleberry’s little red dome-shaped fruit.  Each one I pick yields easily to my fingers.  They are perfectly round, and hollow inside, like thimbles.  Their soft structure collapses as soon as you drop it into your picking bowl.  So small, a half hour’s work is about two cups.  Now I know how the saffron gatherers must feel.  Slow progress, and your fingertips stain fuschia red.  Leaning in to pick the biggest ones, they easily rub their redness into your shirt, your forearms, the color of fake Halloween blood.  Coming back into the house after picking, Mark takes one look at me with wide eyes and begins laughing hysterically.  “I know” I say with a sly smile, “I look as though I’ve come out of a thimbleberry horror movie.” 

The berries were a mound of mush in my bowl, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with them, so I plopped them into the blender with some vanilla ice cream and milk, and made a thimbleberry shake.  It was so sweet and a bit tart, with thousands of tiny seeds, crunching like poppy seeds, and the color was bright party pink (Mark said it looked like I was drinking Pepto-Bismol, but I ignored him.)

This past month, I have found myself fighting pretty hard.  I’m the kind of person who, when faced with certain circumstances, either thinks her way out of them with creative problem-solving, or else fights her way out with sheer pavement-pounding hard work.  So when I find myself these days with circumstances that require both creative problem-solving and sheer hard work, I put myself to the task – and it is all-consuming.  For weeks I was running on overdrive, juggling assignments and job hunting and working and with help from some divine force, keeping us both well fed.  I felt overwhelmed as I ended one part of my life as a dietetic intern and entered another as a job hunter.  I worried, and fretted, and worried some more, because I think sometimes that worrying is what I do best.  I began fighting against what was put on my plate, feeling pressure to find a job and pressure to find a job to hold me over until I find a real job.  I wasn’t doing much berry picking, and downtime never felt like anything other than time when ‘I should be doing something productive.’  But now, after my fight has fought itself into exhaustion, and I’m finally beginning to accept what life is giving me, I’m picking thimbleberries.

They grow best where the soil feels right to them.  Their presence on our hillside is neither good nor bad, it just is.  They are there because they grow best there.  Unlike my little patch of struggling vegetables, the thimbleberries aren’t fighting very hard against their circumstances.  I’ve been given what I’ve been given, and I can either smile and work it out, or make life hard, resisting and struggling against it.  Being upset about this part of my journey is like being upset with the berries as they stain my fingers with their juice.  To get what you want, you have to get your hands a little dirty. 

We all somehow feel as though it’s necessary to judge things and people and situations as either good or bad, but maybe it isn’t.  Maybe it’s all just berry juice.