Tag Archives: wonder

Support Systems

Life lately has been interesting, and by interesting I do not mean easy.  It has been actually extremely difficult. Set in a backdrop of dissonance on a national and global scale, we are all expected to maintain a certain amount of strength and accountability more than ever.  It feels hard to ask for help and support, even as unavailable as things may seem, but it’s important more now than ever before to do so.  While I feel like we are awakening to a new consciousness in these crazy times, our senses are heightened, and we holding each other accountable in new ways with our own responsibilities.  But it is equally important to remember that there is magic in the minute; deeper meaning in the subtleties.  This is not so much a post about 5 things as it is a testament to people who have been important to me lately, regardless of how often or infrequently that I see them.  People who have helped me with the simplest of tasks, by mere suggestion, by a kind word or message.  Like making candles with Anna, riding bikes with Kristen, Nathan making dinner or video-chatting with Emily.  Just seemingly little things that remind me that I am part of the fabric.  That we are all part of each other, and are bound together by admiration, dedication, hardship, understanding, creativity,  joy, assistance, strength, stamina and belonging.  Oh, and Love.  There’s a lot of that too.  All of these folks have been on the higher point lately, helping me navigate my time in Portland, whether they know it or not.   Thank you.  I want to give it all back to you tenfold.

These are people and some things.  Photo credits are labeled, all other photographs are by me.  Sorry I am not very good at formatting this shit.  I will work on it.

Photo by Bloodhound Photography

Photo by David Andreko


Ice Cream Series by Larry Yes

Photo by Christian Johnson

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Examples of the Smaller/Bigger Picture

Hello!  It really has been an inexplicably long hiatus.  I have no excuses, and I will own my own part in the recent gap.  There.  I just had to get that off of my chest.  And now I feel better.

5 THINGS  for November 5, 2011 – A Saturday of Epic Proportions

  1. My radio alarm clock is so much nicer to wake up to than a cell phone alarm, so I prefer to use it.  However, since I have moved to Portland, I haven’t really been into finding a local radio station that I like, (meaning I just haven’t taken the time to spin the dials to find the stations, and my clock is old so often it feels sensitive in finding a clear station, like breaking into a safe, and I just can’t be bothered).  The only clear station I have found has literally been a right-wing conservative Christian talk-radio station, and I am open-minded.  The last couple of mornings I have been setting it in the hopes of breaking my new bad habit of sleeping too late, and so I wake to stories about finding Jesus.  This morning I woke to stories of loss, which is something I am not unfamiliar with, though I have my own methods for dealing with such things that call for a different kind of spirituality and presence.  I crossed from dreaming into waking, listening to a story of a woman talking about how she deals with her own loss of her child.  “When someone asks me many kids I have, I am faced with a choice…I decide whether I should tell half the story, or a quarter of the story, or tell the story at all and say that I have three children” (I am assuming she at one point had four).  I sleepily ponder the truth in this, and think about the many situations where I’ve had to decide just what and how much I should or feel comfortable with sharing.  I hit snooze.  In nine minutes, the radio comes on again, and it’s a different woman.  “I want to ask ‘why have you taken this child from me?’  I have many questions to ask God when it’s my time to meet him, but in the meantime I have learned that He’s telling me ‘You have a choice.  You have a choice to either be angry, or to serve Me.'”  I decided this morning that I need to find a new radio station to wake up to.  I also thought it was apropos of the day ahead.

    Gahr Farm

  2. I had a scheduled coffee date with Elizabeth, and had started driving down Fremont to meet her at her house when I realized that there was a plume, a tendril if you will, of white smoke inside of my car.  I switched the heat/defrost/off and pushed the dial to cold air all in the same motion, simultaneously pulling over as fast as safely possible, called Elizabeth.  When she picked up, I frantically and matter-of-factly stated: “I have to do coffee another time, there is smoke inside of my car.”  I practically hung up on her, turned the car around and drove the four blocks home, all the while trying to feel the dash with my hand, trying to feel where there would be heat, or smoke.  I have a suspicion that the problem is linked to the heat/defrost, as in the past week it sometimes smells like exhaust when I am running those things, but never has there been an actual plume of smoke.  This is problematic for obvious reasons.
  3. I call Alan, who is the owner of an exceptional shop in Salt Lake City called Clark’s Auto Service.  He is an old friend, and I try my hardest not to call him for mechanical advice unless I am at a true loss.  This particular incident falls into that category in my opinion, as I have Harriet’s* funeral to go to later this afternoon.  He calls me back while driving from Las Vegas.  I give him my rundown of the cars behaviors and he tells me, “Don’t drive the car.  It sounds like it’s starting to have an electrical short,” and proceeds to tell me that I could potentially start the car on fire and fry up the whole thing.  I do not want to deal with this problem on that level.  After the hypothetical prognosis, we catch up a little and he asks me how I am doing.  I tell him about my hard week, but then change the subject and ask about his happenings.  He tells me that the shop is doing great and that his family is doing well.  He tells me to keep my chin up, and that things will be okay on my end.  I know he’s right, but I have to admit I am pretty tired of telling myself that all of the time.  It is nice to hear such a warm and comforting voice though, from someone who knows me so well for the last fifteen or so years.  Hours later he sends me this text, which literally brings tears to my eyes:  Ryder, your lessons learned are carrying you well. Hold your course. You learn nothing from sailing smooth seas.   For all of you Salt Lakers with cars, go see this guy.  He’s amazing, and honest, and does good work and he gives solid, strong, and loving advice (though sometimes it will be about your carburator).
  4. I get a ride to and from the memorial in McMinnville, OR from an old friend of Thea’s named Bethe, and her husband James.  Bethe and I have known each other peripherally for a long time.  We both have the resident eldest dogs: Mine is Lucifer, a 14 year old husky, and hers is Evilla, a 13 year old chihuahua with a temper.  Evilla doesn’t really have any more teeth, so it’s nice that she can’t bite anyone any longer, though she can still angrily gum them.

    Lucifer at Gahr Farm

    Evilla under the kitchen table.

    On the way to McMinnville, we chat about Harriet and the farm and the family and the Christian Scientist traditions of death.  James admits that for a long time he thought that everyone meant Scientologist, which is the crazy religion that all of the movie stars belong to.  For the record, Harriet and Ted were NOT Scientologists.  I tell them about waking up to the christian talk-radio this morning.  On the way back, we talk about dog ailments and old-dog problematic behaviors.  Everything feels nice, albiet weighted, yet comfortable.

  5. The memorial itself was full of moments that cannot really be broken down into number 5.  Anyone who has witnessed a loss has contemplated everything that was summarized, observed, witnessed.  The sincere and the superficial, the recognition and the necessity of what it means to just be a support. Navigation.  The frailty and complexity of relationships, of the human experience, of the human body.  Specific things about the memorial of Harriet Gahr:  Sitting close between Alex and Eden.  We are shoulder-to-shoulder, my right hand holding Alex’s hand and my left arm linked through Eden’s.  The physical heat of our presence together is comforting and electric.    Bearing witness to the many people Harriet housed and ultimately adopted, many of them refugees unable to speak English, and also the local teens, troubled and addicted, she housed them all, she adopted them all, she loved them all.  Out of 14 kids who went their own ways, and/or learned English, and/or fucked up their own lives and families, nearly all came back to pay respects to this wonderful woman.  Bearing witness to the amount of people Harriet brought joy and love to: one woman who spoke said she had met Harriet in the 70’s, a man who spoke had only known her for 6 months, “but it was like we knew each other all our lives,” he said, holding his hands over his heart.  My own brief window with Harriet was only since the year 2000 and it felt like a blink, but it felt like forever.  She loved us all.  She absolutely loved us all.

    Young Harriet and Ted

    Old Harriet and Ted

  6.  After Bethe and James dropped me off I rode my bike to Mike P’s house and we drank beer and played Atari until two in the morning.

* Harriet Gahr was the mother of my dear and great friend Thea Gahr.  Thea introduced me to this family, and I’ve hung around ever since.  I’ve maintained a close relationship with Harriet and Ted (her husband) often staying out at their property usually for a few days at a time, but sometimes weeks and months at a time.  I have gotten to know many members of the large Gahr clan as well as other long-time friends of the family who’ve gotten sucked into their generous and magnetic pull.  That was just the kind of people they were.  Harriet passed away on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2011 (also Día de Muertos), after a year-long and heroic battle with cancer.  It is an honor and a gift to be included in this family, and to have been able to spend such good time with Harriet in the past decade.  www.gahrfarm.com

Thea and Harriet in 2009

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Five Things I Miss About My Mother:

October 10th 2011 is the two-year anniversary of my mothers passing, which feels like a terribly personal thing to post on the Internet.  I wonder why that is, or why I feel such a strong aversion to posting personal things in general.  I mean, we are all going to die, right?  I’ll say it to your face.  “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.”  So what?  My mom died, big deal. But it is a big deal.  There was a This American Life episode about break-ups.  One of the first segments talked about how everyone deals with heartbreak, but it has this amazing ability to feel like the most isolating thing that has ever happened, EVER.  And there is NO WAY that anyone could possibly relate to that, or come close to understanding, EVER.  Well, losing someone close to you is a little like that too.  And by a little, I mean it’s like that x10.  The feeling of loss surrounds you in a dream-like cloud.  People avoid talking to you because they don’t know what to say, and it would make you feel like a leper if you had the presence to actually notice.  And the word “sorry” just starts to sound mechanical and theatrical, acted out, scripted, and you stand numbly at the church/funeral home and shake hands and hug and cry and pat backs and touch everyone who is still alive and you wonder why you still are too.  And then, you tell everyone “thank you for coming to this/ your concern/the pie/ the casserole/the booze”, and eventually everyone goes home and leaves you alone in your own special grief.   And there is really no way to express what all of this means, and you just muddle through it.  It gets easier, but the birthdays of the deceased are important and noticeable, as well as the death-iversary, which is today.

To commemorate this occasion, this post is for her.  This is about the mother as I knew her as a recent event.  The Adult Mother who is the Friend and the Family and the Matron and the Glue.

  1.  My mom had a thing for churches.  She isn’t necessarily religious or denominational, but she was spiritual in a lot of ways.  And by saying she was spiritual, there’s some complex layering.   She

    Red doors.

    definitely liked the iconography and the architecture, and she liked the reverence.  She was raised a Catholic, but I wasn’t.  She died a Catholic, but I will not.  I actually know very little about Catholicism, which feels strange considering I’ve been around it so much.  But that is the nice thing about it, is that I am no more familiar with Catholicism than I am with being Episcopalian, or Southern Baptist, or a Hare Krishna.  She loved the feeling of a church, the history of a church, the space given to worship.  She liked candles and Saints and her house was filled with prints and paintings and little statues.  You know what she didn’t like?  Mormons.  But the only ill words I heard her say about them was in conflict with her job as a middle-school teacher, where to be the only non-Mormon was exceptionally difficult and branding.  She was hurt for being ostracized.  But, imperfectly and perfectly, she embodied what it meant to be accepting and open, and emulated what could be considered “Christ-like” love and acceptance.  When she found out her daughter was gay, she was upset at first, but then attacked the concept with a vengeance.  She joined P-FLAG and marched in parades.  She researched.  She put a rainbow flag key chain on her keys.  She told me that the key chain was a signal, it marked her as safe to approach to any of her students who may be questioning their sexuality.  This approach worked.  She not only was my mother, but she became a mother and mentor to those who weren’t accepted in their homes or families, kids around the house with nowhere else to go.  It’s easy to canonize her with all of her enlightenment and unconditional love, but she was also human, and had bouts of condition and sometimes pushed too hard.  Oh, and then there’s the part where people often thought she was nuts.

  2. She liked to shop.  And buy.  Speaking as a non-shopper, it drove me crazy, but I also kind of got over it.  We had a deal for Christmas time where she would buy something that she could “see me in” or that she wanted me to like, but knew I would not.  So she would buy it, wrap it, give it to me with all the tags on it.  I would unwrap it, and put it on so as to give her the satisfaction of seeing me dress the way she wanted me to, and at the end of the day I would take the garment off and give it back, whereas she would return it and give me the money/store credit.

    I don't know what year this was. I want to say 1998 or so.

    But sometimes we’d go to thrift stores together and she would give me good critiques, whether or not something fit well, or if the old-timey camp shirt over/under-accentuated my shoulders/boobs/butt/hips/belly.  She loved wearing blazers and had more coats than any one person should.  She wore them well.  In the middle of winter I would walk to Kathrine and Jacobs house two blocks away and borrow a large wool coat with a native american print.  It was like wearing a blanket.  When I lived with Julie in Seattle, she sent us three Snuggies in the mail.  Two for Julie and I, and then a third for “when we had a friend over so they wouldn’t feel left out” (as an aside, that friend was usually Nic.  He was a great sport about it.).

  3. She was a great cook and loved food.  She never really got into the idea of “healthy” food options, feeling fine about using Kroger-brand canned something as a base for something else, or not buying “organic”, but then the way she could combine things would make me feel like I was eating the healthiest meal imaginable and following it up with Keebler Elf cookies that were always on the shelf.  She kept Chris and I well fed.  We went out to eat once at Long Life Vegi House in Salt Lake, and by the end of her meal, she was touching everyone else’s plate and licking the sauces off the ends of her fingers in such succession that she seemed to have more than two arms, one hand in the wheat-meat “beef” sauce and the other licking the Kung Pao “chicken” off of her wrist chattering the whole time.  In the hospital she was obsessed with the cooking shows, from Paula Deen to Iron Chef.
  4. She was a weird/hard communicator, but always had a gift with people.  I mean, most mothers can be difficult, and can get under one’s skin in the worst ways that only a mother can do, but she also taught me the patience and forbearance and listening skills based on her weird way of communicating.  She would engage with strangers all of the time, which I grew to appreciate, though often the topics were often socially inappropriate.  Once I introduced her to someone I was dating and she immediately gave them raisins and compared the size and shape of the raisins to rat tumors, which understandably scared the shit out of my date.  When she was in the early stages of her illness, she would lament to the cashier working the graveyard shift (when we would do the shopping) and she would tell the poor cashier about all of her cancer drugs and side effects and how much gas she has.

    I actually really, really love this picture of her, as she was in the best mood this day. 2009.

    Her and Chris came to see me in Seattle, and she immediately took over the traffic circle in front of my house, and spent her vacation weeding and cleaning up, which made her a huge hit in the neighborhood.  I mean, people I only knew by sight were knocking on the door and asking her and Chris to dinner.  Even in the hospital, she was the favorite of all of her doctors and nurses.  She exuded light even in her weakened physical state.  She was positive and witty, even at the very end.

    The Red Tent was one of our "Book Club" books. I love that she used it in that years' class picture. 2004.

  5. I miss the hours we spent in front of the tv together, which is such a gluttonous idea to me in my adult life, but had always been used in the household, sometimes for education, sometimes for entertainment.  Sunday dinners consisted of dinner and the Sunday night episode of Felicity on the WB.  She loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, but she really, really LOVED Xena the Warrior Princess(she once told me that the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle helped her understand me better).  We stayed up countless nights watching historical dramas and all of the Audrey Hepburn movies that she ever made.  We loved Wallace & Gromit and Cate Blanchett and Saturday Night Live and So You Think You Can Dance? and most things directed by Tom Tykwer.  We didn’t always agree, and if she were still alive I would give her such shit for making me watch Yentl, which I really hated.  Even with all of the tv watching, we both also devoured books.  When I moved away, we would pick books to read and talk about them on the phone, like sort of a long-distance book club.  I miss that a lot.

And I miss her for more than 5 reasons.  It’s crazy how she’s always around, and by her just being in my memory it continues to shape me.  I want to say it makes me a better person, but who knows? I just do the best I can.  Don’t we all?

Five of the simple things I miss about her are: 1. Her laugh and the sound of her voice 2. The way she moved through the world in her physical body.  The way she walked and moved and touched things as she walked by them.  3. The way she was good at plants and loved roses. 4.  The way she had roundabout conversations, the ability to pick up a conversation back up a week later (this took years of practice).  5. The twinkle in her eyes, surrounded by the crows feet wrinkles of someone who smiled a lot.

To make a heavy topic seem a little lighter here is a Garfield comic from Finland(I think?)  It was hanging on the wall of Mississippi Records and it made me feel awesome inside.  Garfield really speaks to me these days.

(WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?)

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(5)five pictures

These were all taken by me at various times and places this summer.  All are in the PacNW, except for the second one which was taken on a blistering hot day in Emily’s backyard in Salt Lake.  We put the sprinkler out and ran through it for relief from the heat, shrieking like little kids.  -posted by Mary

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The Temporal/The Corporeal

5 things for Thursday September 22

  1.  I was a gaping bottomless hunger pit today, and grumpy about it.  I keep hoping to hear from the people who magically make food stamps happen (I somehow equate this with a Wizard of Oz type of scenario for some reason).  The government man who, in his dingy office, gives me a card that somehow equates to me being able to eat on a regular basis.  It is like a strange kind of magic.  Hopefully this can happen soon.  I also know that I am premenstrual, and quitting smoking and drinking as of late is probably adding to the desire of hand-to-mouth behavior, and general hormonal craziness.
  2. Luc has been bundles and spurts of energy lately on our walks.  We walked to Woodlawn Park again, and he was doing sprints of running across the field, which is more running than a 14 year old dog-man should be doing.  My heart bursts in affection for him when he flops on the grass and wriggles around, bending his body in half and kicking his skinny, seemingly fragile legs up into the air in powerful circular kicking motions.  I used to think that he was rolling in something gross (which often might still be the case) but really I think his fur is so thick that rolling in grass must feel really good…like a rewarding back scratch, like Baloo in the Disney Jungle Book cartoon.  Also at the park, a large fountain erupting, and a toddler with no grasp of verbal language, gesturing wildly at it shrieking “UH! UH! UH! UH! UH!” while its mother recorded with her mobile device.  The kid’s eyes were like saucers, pointing and looking in amazement from the fountain to its mother back to the fountain like it was the most mind-blowing, amazing thing it had ever seen in its life, which is possibly true.  Moments like this make me feel grateful and jaded all at once.
  3. Dropped my car off at Alamo Auto Repair, which consists three older mechanics who have carved a serious niche in the Volvo mechanic service of Portland.  These dudes are gems, the stuff of legend.  I took the car in for an oil change, but got new window switches!  A new rubber pad for my clutch pedal!  And my defrost hose adjusted!  And a list of things I should eventually fix.  All for no extra charge.  I will always suggest them for new business, but they never answer the phone because they are so busy.  Job security!  The lot that they work on is a crazy tetris puzzle of Volvos in all shapes sizes and states of broken-ness and disarray but nothing gets those guys down, I swear.
  4. After dropping my car off I bike the 7 + miles to PSU to print off some resumes and check out their job fair.  It was a lovely ride, really.  Being in Portland, it’s so nice to see all the thruways so clearly marked and easy to navigate.  And now that it’s turning fall, everything feels so temporal and corporeal.  As I passed 21st and Ankeny, I saw my friend Erin who often is known by the name “Chach”.  I stopped and hugged her and asked her about a trip she’d recently returned from.  She was heading to PSU too.  “I have my car, or I would bike with you,” she said.  She told me she got a tutoring job with Portland Schools.  Then she told me that there were something like 350 applicants and they chose HER.  This information kind of set me off on a hopeless moody trajectory.  I am stoked for her, but one can’t help but feel a little helpless at that kind of news.  I think reality is really hitting me, after months of care-free living.
  5. The PSU thing turned out to be a shit show.  Discouraged, I ended up talking to my dear friend Katie G., who cheered me on, and then called in some names for me to take resumes to, all of which I did.  Every day is a new challenge for sure, but I just keep going a day at a time, knowing that it will all work out eventually.  It seems crazy to think though, that 6 months ago, I was laying in my bed in Salt Lake City and literally thought to myself: “I AM SO HAPPY.  I AM SO HAPPY THAT I CAN’T IMAGINE THAT I WILL EVER BE THIS HAPPY AGAIN”.  But I will be.  Bring on the corporeal, bring on the temporal, now.

posted by Mary

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