Sometimes the sound of the rain pelting the roof at night feels like an assault.
Watching it slosh off the roof edge and into the gutters all day is cause for more frustration.
Where are the sunny days? Or even the sun-breaks?–those moments of reprieve that turn the lawn into a glittering green shag carpet and paint the skies with shimmering rainbows, like promises.
Another good day to stay indoors and try not to fidget too much.
Checking in on the Mt Rainier web cams is a study in black and white. The mountain is invisible behind its curtain of clouds. The snow is a soggy blanket clinging to everything but the black pavement. It’s a colorless and cheerless sight.
The perfectly plowed roads and parking lots at Paradise remain deserted. No one wants to climb those hills and risk those switchback roads today, only to be greeted by heavy wet snow, bitter winds and still more rain.
I know how Charlie Brown felt every time he threw his head back and yelled:
So it’s a good day to take stock of blessings. The things that make me comfortable on days like today:
A warm home with fresh white walls and trim.
A newly painted and organized kitchen pantry, full of food.
A silly love story of a novel set in the Cinque Terre, a great place to dream about on a day like this.
Thick flannel sheets straight from the dryer and fluffy pillows to lay my head on.
You tube tunes that comfort, distract and drown out the rain tones.
This evening I will crawl between those dry, clean sheets on a comfortable bed under a sturdy roof and be exceedingly grateful for the blessings of this home, this husband, this life.
Later on, when the door hinges squeak as Cosmo noses his way into the room, at his leisure, like he always does, and takes his place on the rug at the foot of the bed, I’ll grin, like I always do, and snuggle down deeper into this life, with even more gratitude.
It’s a good life. The rain reminds me of that. So I’ll take it for now.
That won’t stop me from hoping for things:
A little sunshine.
A break in the weather.
A good meal, a dry place to sleep, and a reprieve from the struggle for those who are out in the rain tonight.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
the power of mankind–how terrible it can be in it’s destructive power, how incredible it can be when used constructively,
For a time we lived near the Puget Sound.
We would ride the shore roads into town, winding through tall trees and small neighborhoods with views across the water to the city. It floated there, a beacon of creative energy and industry and motion. It’s light at night cast a glow even we could see in the sky, from our five acre spread in the middle of the woods.
We frequented Seattle for it’s energetic markets, noisy waterfront, museums, book stores and live music venues, and almost always approached it from the water.
Boats the size of small factories make up the fleet of car ferries on Puget Sound. We rarely drove a car on the ferry, preferring to walk on and hoof it around the city.
En route we would walk the decks of the ferry from front to back and take in all the various views along the way.
The grays and rusty browns of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard receded into the background as we pulled away from the Bremerton Docks.
To the west the blue line of the Olympic mountains ran like fine threads from north to south in the tapestry that was the West Sound environment.
We studied the beach houses–some quaint, some conspicuous–lining the shorelines of Sinclair Inlet, where children played, running from the waves in the ferry’s wake.
To the South, the great Tahoma–Mt. Rainier, with its snowy cap and icy steel-blue glaciers, filled out the view over Vashon Island. We passed close to shiny black seals, clinging to buoys or noisily hanging out around the fish pens.
As we rounded the curve of Bainbridge Island the view opened up to the city, the Seattle skyline dominating as you got closer to the ferry terminal. It’s really one of the most stunning cities when approached this way. I was quite taken with it from the first sight.
Sometimes we would take a ferry from Southworth to Vashon Island, and drive around the island stopping at parks, the light house, the coffee roastery and small shops in the center. We frequented a little restaurant there with tables that quite literally sat in the garden, among Lupines, Delphiniums and Rudbeckia. Across the street was a funky nursery with a good assortment of seeds and lots of flowering perennials and shrubs.
I never got tired of visiting the Island, small as it was, and often dreamed of what life on Vashon must be like, surrounded by water, trees and mountain views. How could it possibly be a bad life?
When we decided to unplug from the rat race, we sold our five acres in the green forest, and moved to the east side of Oregon. We felt ready for the change, having explored the arid landscapes and studied the real estate market for four or five years prior.
It’s an isolated region– a land of ranches, rock formations, hay fields, horses and cows.
And very few people.
It was a very big change. One we thought we needed.
Some of the towns there felt like Mayberry RFD. Some felt like a movie set from an old western. We used to comment to one another that it was like going back in time four or five decades.
But just like in the movies, going back in time proved to be problematic. It’s a jolt to your psychic equilibrium. When the big gossip in town was that the new surgeon at the small hospital was black, I knew I was maybe not going to fit in well there.
Couple that concern with the deep sense of grief I felt over leaving the region I had dearly loved for the two and a half decades I lived there, and you have a prescription for some misery.
We lasted about six years. They were not the easiest years of our lives.
It was a little too dry. A little too cold. A little too backwards. A little too far from the ocean. And a bunch of other little things that added up to a lot of longing.
I think we both look back on it as a failed experiment–a costly mistake. Were it not for the good friendships we forged there we would be quite bitter, at ourselves, for making such a misguided choice.
We are back on the west side of the cascades again, and feeling more at home. We live fairly close to Mt. St. Helens. Mt. Rainier is an easy day trip, as is the Pacific Ocean, or Portland, Oregon.
It’s green here, and quiet. We enjoy being back in the forest.
But we both miss that big, blue, inland ocean we so happily settled near when we migrated from the east coast for a Boeing job. There are not a lot of environments in America that have so much to offer, if you are inclined towards mountains, salt water, forests, wildlife, and incredible views. The coffee’s pretty good too.
I don’t know if I will ever get to live near enough to Puget Sound again to regularly explore its shores or troll its waters by ferry. I’d like to think that I might someday.
For now, it’s good to sit and remember what a nice life it was, living across the water from the Emerald City. Everybody should be so lucky, to have such fine memories. It’s the stuff daydreams are made of.
© all text 2018 by Ilona Elliott
…whenever I try on clothes, I wish I had a swiveling head like an owl or that girl in The Exorcist.
What is this new joy that surprises my days, as fresh as the grass and as precious as a new born calf?
What is this wanderlust that makes me want to hit the road and drive for days on impossibly bent roads through rolling hills, green as a dragon?
What is this new found fascination with bombastic blue jays, suddenly quiet and stealthy as a mouse, building their meticulous nest in the rhododendron beside the porch?
What is this private revelation of the twilight hour, that captures and holds me by the window, quietly bearing witness to the subtle change of pace with which darkness descends?
What is this sense of possibility, hope and new life, premised as it is on little more than nearly imperceptible changes–a flash of yellow in the garden, a slash of green on the ground, a hint of violet in the brush?
Could it be Spring?
I love this time of year. Longer days, later sunsets, a bump-up in the sense of value on each day’s returns.
I don’t mind changing the clocks. It gives me something to look forward to. It seems like a proper ritual to make in hopes of hastening Spring along.
Come on. We’re waiting here. This is how anxious we are for your arrival–
We will give up an hour of sleep for you.
Daylight Saving’s Time. It’s a great little moniker really. Who doesn’t want to save a little daylight?
Put it in your coat pocket, perhaps, and save it until Winter. Take it out at 4:17 PM on Wednesday, December 12th, as you drive home from work. Like an early Christmas present.
It’s odd how it does kind of feel like a savings account we dipped into to finance these longer days. A Certificate of Light Deposit.
I look forward to it every year. Like a tonic.
Like big fat red rhubarb stalks.
And the return of the robins.
And the bumble bees.
It’s not Spring, really, but there are days that can fool you into thinking it is.
I’ll take them. Make them mine. I can stay in on the cold dark days. But not on the bright ones.
I’m considering getting the old man a medic alert device. When he is out of my sight, there is no telling what he will get himself into.
Today is a perfect example. Beautiful day. Warmest temperatures and bluest skies we’ve had this year.
I’m in the kitchen peeling potatoes.
He is tooling around on his tractor in the back yard where I can keep an eye on him from the kitchen window. All is calm and bright. He is spreading soil with the tractor, driving back and forth from a pile behind the shop and then into the back yard, where I can see him again, dropping the soil from the bucket, moving with the grace of a swan. Nice, normal stuff. Sigh.
Then my little Evil Knievel and his green machine disappear behind the shop and are AWOL…for a while. I can’t hear the tractor anymore. That is usually a bad sign. I visualize him ever so slowly trying to drive that machine off the end of the earth, otherwise known as the giant wooded ravine at the edge of our “maintained property.” He is creeping along, barely moving, sure this time he will make it without incident. He never learns.
That is where he always gets stuck.
I’m still standing at the kitchen window straining my ears for any sound of him, when he comes stalking up the driveway. He gets in the car. I step away from the window because I don’t want him to see me spying on him…and I don’t really want him to know that I’m not tremendously busy at the moment or I can’t act put out when he asks for help.
I hear him backing the car out, pulling the truck forward to the shop, throwing heavy trucking chains in the bed and driving out behind the shop.
None of this is mysterious behavior. I’ve witnessed it before, more than I care to consider. I can foresee my future:
In ten minutes I will be in the truck stealthily maneuvering the gas peddle and the brake with two feet as I attempt to back the truck up without getting stuck in the spring earth.
There will be several lengths of chain, hastily cobbled together, running from the hooks on the front of the truck down to the backhoe arm of the tractor, which looks like it’s reaching out for someone to deliver it from the clutches of the mad man who relentlessly pushed it past it’s humble limits until it was hopelessly mired.
Save me! the pouf pouf of the engine seems to whisper.
I will try my best…to pull the tractor out of the woods, where the old man was apparently attempting to roll a whale sized stump down the ravine and got stuck. I mean, really, how could he know? Right?
He will have to be on the tractor as I do this, to control the throttle and stuff, regardless of how precariously unbalanced it has settled, sitting on the precipice of doom such as it is.
I will be praying, sweating and perhaps swearing like a soldier as I sit in the truck trying to read his hand signals and hoping the tractor doesn’t tip over on top of him and make me a widow before we get the yard work done.
And that is pretty much exactly what happened. After he disappeared with trucks and chains and that determined expression he wears at such times, I couldn’t stand the suspense very long and walked back there to see what he was up to.
“Oh, you’re just the person I want to see”, he says…ever so casually.
I Don’t Say A Word.
It’s over within fifteen minutes.
I walk back to the house to cook the potatoes.
I consider the medic alert. What if I’m not here someday and he’s on his tractor and he just can’t resist the hypnotic call of the evil sirens who live down in the ravine, and the tractor really does tip over on him?
At least he could press the button and call them.
I can hear it now:
Yes Mr. Elliott, this is medic alert. Are you having a medical emergency?
No, no, not really. I was just lying here under my tractor and wondered if you could possibly call my wife on her cell phone?
…pouf-pouf-pouf whispers the tractor.
We can do that…are you sure you don’t need any professional help Mr. Elliott?
No, don’t be silly. Just tell my wife to get the truck, the chains, and a couple of BF band aids, and meet me out behind the shop…
Happy Spring Everyone!
© 2018 by Ilona Elliott
Great Joy. Great Pain. This is life.
Most Friday evenings I make sure I watch Shields and Brooks on the PBS News Hour.
I know, my life is pathetic.
I love these two guys–A Democrat and a Republican discussing the issues of the day in a respectful, intelligent fashion! Say it isn’t so.
Even when they disagree, it’s done with the utmost regard for the other person and their perspective.
I don’t remember everything that they discuss every time, but I always come away with something valuable to turn over in my mind.
A few weeks ago, Mark Shields commented on how the Democratic party did a good job of representing our rights as Americans, but failed to balance that position by representing equally our responsibilities to our country. He quoted the famous words spoken by JFK: …ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Shields continued by saying that he supported the idea of some kind of national service program for all citizens. Basically a requirement of our young people that says you need to spend some time in service to your country when you reach a certain age. Serving others–what a concept. I’ve heard support for this idea from both progressives and conservatives and I am intrigued by it.
There are myriad civil society service corps that could use the help. Peace Corps, Job Corps, Americorps, and military organizations are just a scant few. The possibilities for development of new programs to address our societies needs are endless–conservation, senior care, child care and education, literacy, parks and recreation, etc. etc.
Every community in this country has needs. Participants could hook up with local schools, churches, libraries, arts organizations, social services, first responders, law enforcement, museums, manufacturing facilities, state and local parks and municipalities, etc., to serve, and in return gain valuable experience and training in specific skills and environments.
And there could be travelling corps to address labor needs for infrastructure in our national parks and monuments and urban areas across the country. Think of the accomplishments of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps–over three billion trees planted as well as the construction of road and trail systems, dam and erosion control projects and the building of park structures that are still in use today in our National and State Parks systems.
Think of the opportunities for personal growth and the broader perspective this could provide to young people who are increasingly isolated from social interaction outside their own carefully curated cliques.
I agree with Mark Shields. We need to balance our rights as citizens of a civil society with our responsibilities to that society in order to truly thrive. This is one way to approach that model with boots on the ground and give it legs.
Maybe next week, when I am not exhausted and heart sick from another gun massacre of innocents, we can discuss the same concept in regards to gun ownership rights vs. responsibilities. I’ve spent the last four days dealing with raw emotions and trying to wrap my head around the realty that is the new norm in my country, without much success.
Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott