Trump Knows Just Enough History

 Donald Trump must have been paying some attention in history class. That’s where you can learn that being a bully works in America.


Image courtesy

We can’t be shocked that this is happening. It has happened so many times before that its effects are known.

Our country has a long history of allowing the bully his (rarely her) sway over the public. The public becomes a tool of hate.

Our fundamental values as a nation are spelled out in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. However, we are sold the idea that each crisis allows us to ignore our fundamental values and ignore our rule of law.

During a crisis, our victims of choice are those who represent difference and change. Only with great luck and perseverance are these unjustly accused eventually exonerated. By then, lives have been destroyed.

We must fight against scapegoating; Decry the sale of fear; Pull our nation from the abyss.

We will be accused of naiveté. Worse, we will be accused of treason, as Trump has done with our President. Let us not buckle to the sellers of fear.

We will yell down, write down, laugh down and shun those who try to fan our fears.

Let us stand up for Justice for all, and for the Rights granted in our Constitution.

Most importantly, we will vote for those who stand up to the bully.


Want to know our hate history? Here’s a summary (just off the top of my head)

Today’s demagogue/bully joins a long line of historical bullies. Our saving is that there are those who had the courage to say No and stand against these manipulators.

  1. Our history of prejudgment and fear of others began in the early colonies, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony suspected any who did not agree with the religious tenets of the colony founders. The colony leaders accused and jailed many. Many died. The lucky were expelled, such as Roger Williams (1636), who believed in separation of church and state, and the Quaker, Anne Hutchinson (1637).
  2. In New Netherlands, in 1654, leader Peter Stuyvesant promulgated a law expelling Jewish refugees.
  3. In 1732, Georgia, a colony founded as a religious haven, banned Catholics, without thinking much about irony.
  4. However, from time to time, in the long struggle of the American people toward complete religious liberty, several colonies – especially Maryland, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania – made notable contributions to safety for all settlers. These colonies worked to separate church and state, and allow religious freedom.
  5. During the late seventeenth century, during a time when Protestants persecuted Catholics, Catholics persecuted Protestants, and both persecuted Quakers and Jews, William Penn established an American sanctuary which protected freedom of conscience. Penn traveled unarmed among the Indians and negotiated peaceful land purchases. He insisted that women deserved equal rights with men. He gave Pennsylvania a written constitution which limited the power of government, provided a humane penal code, and guaranteed many fundamental liberties.
  6. Rhode Island further attempted to accept the Native-Americans as respected citizens. Roger Williams created a dictionary of the Narragansett language and held that land should be fairly purchased from the tribes. He and allies in his new colony also tried to keep slavery from taking a foothold in their area by passing an anti-slavery law in 1652.
  7. However, after the death of Roger Williams, the two parts of the Rhode Island Colony united. Subsequently, the anti-slavery law was ignored. The slave trade became an important source of income for Newport, and was accepted in those towns around the bay.
  8. Maryland’s gift to liberty and safety from bullies was the Act Concerning Religion – one of the pioneer statutes passed by the legislative body of an organized colonial government to guarantee any degree of religious liberty. Specifically, the bill, now usually referred to as the Toleration Act, granted freedom of conscience to all Christians of any sect. Maryland lived by this act for many generations.
  9. In most colonies the history of prejudice and discrimination continued before the Civil War with the long, long generations of slavery. Religion and pseudo-science became the excuses for fear and control of those we had enslaved.
  10. Prejudice again raised religious venom in the lynching of Mormon founder, Joseph Smith
  11. and later in the predations of the Know-Nothing party against immigrants from Catholic countries.
  12. Many in both North and South, insisted on denying the humanity of Africans, and held that Africans needed the control and parenting: another easy excuse for slavery.
  13. During the Civil War, the draft riots of 1863 saw wide-scale attacks on Blacks in New York City. White northern soldiers often refused to serve with volunteer Black soldiers.
  14. After the Civil War, our violent anti-minority history continued with lynchings of African-Americans, burning of Black churches,
  15. We suspended immigration of the Chinese (Chinese Exclusion act of 1882), the declaration by the U.S. Department of Interior that participation in rituals of Native American tribes are punishable by jail sentences (1883), the Massacre of Lakota Sioux by the U.S. Army (1890) and the systematic removal and herding of other tribes into ever smaller reserves.
  16. In the 20th century, this history continues unabated. During World War I, the KKK re-emerged to target Black Americans, Jewish Americans and Catholics. Immigrants from Ireland were shunned, harassed and worse. During the election campaign of 1928, the Catholic faith of Presidential candidate Al Smith played a loud role in his defeat. Immigrants from Eastern Europe were accused of treachery.
  17. In the first part of the 20th century, any of the lower classes who attempted to organize workers were jailed or killed as a threat to the great steam engine of progress.
  18. Just before World War II, a Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin was a popular radio demagogue who delivered anti-Semitic addresses during which he defended Nazi violence.
  19. And though a number of citizens of German ancestry vocally joined Father Coughlin in his race-purity beliefs, it was not citizens of German ancestry who were taken to “exclusion zones” during World War II.  In 1942 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order for the internment only of citizens of Japanese Ancestry.
  20. Since that war, systematic harassment, suspicion and assassination have been the experience of Blacks who wanted true equality.
  21. During the late 1940s and 1950s, the ease with which people could be accused of communism resulted in loss of jobs, loss of opportunities, loss of freedoms and loss of life for the victims of fear.
  22. For generations, jailing without access to lawyers has been the lot of immigrants from Spanish speaking countries in many parts of the U.S..
  23. During the Vietnam War, those who questioned traditional capitalist goals and the war policies of the Vietnam era were the victims of police brutality and killings.
  24. And, since 2001, but also before, immigrants from the Middle East, and especially those who are Muslim, have been the victims of unwarranted wiretapping, arrest.
  25. Today, deliberate prejudicial exaggerations about Muslim beliefs are given more air time by media and spit out by those who want power. Muslims donations to help others are accused of supporting of terrorist organizations, even though no one has had to prove that the non-profit organizations they support are truly terrorist organizations.
  26. I know of no Presbyterians who are accused of supporting terrorism when they donate to non-profits that help refugees.
  27. This list is just the beginning.



Mountain Climbing – Research for Uncharted Territory

One of the first question people ask me after they read Uncharted Territory, is “How do you know so much about climbing mountains?”Uncharted Territory

The answer is, I don’t know as much as is in the book. I have climbed mountains, but much of what is in Uncharted Territory is new climbing technique and the newer environmental practices of climbers. What’s in the book is research distilled, so what I learn comes out only when Jack and his friends need it.

That’s the trick for all writers. Research in depth. Know a lot, but don’t spout what you know unless the story needs it.

So, how did I do the research? Books and people. Books and people, followed by first readers who climb now.

My climbing was done in my youth. My climbing stopped because I developed an inability to see depth and then, of course, a fear of heights. Moreover, I developed a fear of watching my eldest son catapult himself off a cliff because he never moved slowly and he never (until age 20 or so) believed that gravity applied to him. Even a hike with that kid left me a pretzel of mothering arms and rising stomach contents. Climb mountains with him? No thank you.

But living with my eye problems and my immortal son have made it possible for me to write about fear. It is, I guess you could say, a part of my research.

By the time I began writing Uncharted Territory, I was out of the climbing game, but I remembered vivid incidents and particular land and ice forms from many mountains in the Northwest, and a few in my birth state of Colorado. However, climbers’ techniques had metamorphosed since my last adventure through whistling marmots and tumbling rock.

Climbing ClimbingFor research, I opened with a return to A Climber’s Guide to Oregon, written by Nicholas A. Dodge and produced by the Mazamas in 1968. The Guide once was my climbing go-to book. By writing and research time, it had become valuable for the historic names involved in its production and for the quirky descriptions of routes, sometimes involving ancient trees that may or may not survive to help mark the trail.

But, the Guide is worth a lot for its very detailed drawings of the routes up specific rocks and mountains. If you can find a used copy and want to write about climbing, those drawings and route descriptions are worth a lot. Of course, some trees have died, some pillars have become part of the detritus at the bottom of a cliff, and the mountains and spires covered only exist in Oregon. Still, the types of problems met in any climb will be among the examples of A Climber’s Guide to Oregon.

At the time of the publication, the Guide says “This guide is written for the experienced climber who is assumed to know about proper equipment and techniques. Such information may be obtained in universities or colleges or from the many local climbing groups throughout the state.”

In 1968, REI was still a small co-operative endeavor, just beginning the move to the giant co-op it has become. The publication of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, edited by Don Graydon and Kurt Hanson had not had its first coming out party. Thank goodness Mountaineering now frequently produces an updated edition. It proved the best for checking my memory of tools, knots, and especially of rapelling techniques and problem solving for too short ropes.

Non-fiction books about mountain climbs helped my fear of heights gain a vocabulary. The climb of climbs, the 1953 British Expedition when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary summited, sparked articles and books about the climb for many years. As a child, I read any of these I could find, especially Hillary’s 1955 book High Adventure.

In Uncharted Territory, Uncle Jackson’s altitude sickness was inspired by the subsequent expedition of Sir Edmund Hillary in the 1962 edition of High in the Thin Cold Air by Hillary and Desmond Doig. Books like Everest, the West Ridge, by Thomas Hornbein provided insight into the relationships and working of groups of climbers. Most of that insight remained in my head, sneaking out in a word here or there and appearing only briefly in a scene described by Uncle Jackson. The Climb Up to Hell by Jack Olsen 1962 (reissued 1998) is a wonder of characters and rescue skill.

Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void provided insight into the view from both sides of a near disaster, and also into the move-forward in-spite-of-it-all attitude that is the only way possible to save oneself on some occasions. Jack’s Dad, Mallory, is that kind of climber and can’t be faulted for wanting to impose his solution to danger on Jack’s illness. It is what Mallory knows that works.

Pavalache Stelian, Dreamtimefree

Pavalache Stelian, Dreamtimefree

My first readers included my husband, Woody Richen, who climbed long after I stopped. He helped our sons and daughter understand gravity, mortality and the need for careful planning, practice and follow-through. Scott Light is our son’s good friend, and the closest we come to a third son in our family. Scott’s knowledge of mountain climbing gear and mountain rescue practices was invaluable as I began research, and his willingness to read and re-read the climbing scenes made Uncharted Territory the kind of book where readers ask “How did you know so much?”

Good to have such resources and such readers.

(see also the blog of interview with para-rescue mountain climber Scott Light.)

The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys      By Elizabeth Strout     Review by Rae Richen

The Burgess Boys Strout cover lg

Is alliteration the only reason for a familial title that doesn’t include the sister? Thus, did the Burgess boys’ sister have to be the least interesting character in an otherwise character peppered story? Does Zach, the most interesting character in the story, have to solve his problems alone, without even the help of the author? Elizabeth Strout, you are better than this. Olive Kittredge was a lot more believable, and deserving of two reads at least.

Strout puts her fictional Burgess family in so much hot water, that only a miracle could pull them out of the stew. And a miracle is all she offers. Skinny, awkward son and nephew Zach, runs off to Dad in Sweden and nobody gets to watch what makes him come back as a solid, growing human being, and more aware of loving his family. All of Zach’s good stuff happens off stage.

The Burgess Boys is a good effort to show small town stress over immigration and the influx of people we don’t yet understand. The novel is a good effort to show the fracture lines among the immigrant groups and also within one damaged family, but too much of what happens is precipitated by coincidence and not by the characters themselves – with the exception of the self-destruction of Jim Burgess. His reconstruction, if it will happen, happens after the last page and in the imagination of his family. We sure don’t get to see any of the hard stuff occur within the story as told.

Hunting for Real Dialogue

Children’s author, Julie Blair, Woody Richen and I took the Middle School Writing Club to Colonyhouse in June. Colonyhouse is a lovely John Steiner log home that belongs to Oregon Writers Colony. OWC sponsored our weekend adventures.20140628_152933
One of our excursions was into the downtown of bustling Rockaway Beach, Oregon. I expected a few tourists and the usual contingent of Rockaway town’s people, but it turned out that “our fair city” really was in bustle mode that weekend.
Before we left Colonyhouse for our excursion, we reviewed the difference between Conversation and Dialogue. As one student summed it up, “Conversation is ordinary talk, where there is no conflict, a lot of ummm and ahhh, and nothing new gets said.”
Dialogue, on the other hand is fictional conversation where every phrase moves the story forward in some way. Either the conflict ratchets up, new information gets dropped accidentally or on purpose, or one of the characters learns something significant and revealing about another, or even about herself. The result of dialogue is an aha! or a smack in the gut for one of the participants, or, as in Shakespeare, for the surreptitious listener hiding behind the arras.
The assignment of the day was to listen to ordinary Conversation and find that little chunk that can be turned into pithy Dialogue.
The kids were concerned about eavesdropping on other people’s conversation, so we defined public conversation, available for public consumption. We weren’t going to listen to whispered private messages, or to things people said next to their dining room windows, unaware that we might be lurking beneath.
We trooped into town, an eight block walk next to the coast railway, I on my crutches from a recent foot accident, swinging along, in an effort to keep up with youngsters.
As we approached the town, we discovered many more people than on ordinary weekends. And most were dressed in the garb of pirate kings and pirate jezebels of the 1600s. Bustling was the order of the day. Plus, the pirates of Rockaway Beach are good for a lot beyond “Arrr”.
The parking lot near the railway car that serves as a Visitors’ Center was filled with booths and the booths were filled with pirate lads and lassies selling pirate booty. Everyone was in good spirits and every pirate was a town greeter.
One great sea-farer bore down on me with his velvet hat and feather, his leather jerkin and one leg pegged for the occasion. “Matey,” he says to me. “I wish I had them extry legs and not this pain of a peg like I got here.”
“These are pretty fine and fast,” says I, waving my right crutch. “You shoulda fired your surgeon and kept yer gangrene.”
“That I shoulda,” he says.
And then a voice from behind me says, “You done that and you’d be traveling with the fishies.”
One of the students says to another, “Isn’t that dialogue?”
20140628_152958“Dialogue for sure.”
Yes! They’ve got the difference, I thought.
We divided into groups of two. The division was to encourage listening and not being the conversation. The students also had a little spending money from their parents, so this was also a time for them to use part of that. Pocket money took them into all the stores on main street, Highway 101, looking for the perfect buy and overhearing the customer interactions.
Woody went to the hardware store, hoping to fix the running toilet in the Colonyhouse. The students discovered Flamingo Jim’s, the epitome of all beach stores. Julie and I crossed the street to the coffee shop where we could sit and keep track of the students as they visited stores and piratical events up and down the boulevard.
We heard the booming voice of the cannon that put wads of shot out toward the sea. The coffee lady handed us our cuppa and said, “Every hour on the hour. That cannon brings in the people, but it drives away the fish.”
We enjoyed the view of our students wandering from store to store and lingering near knots of people, evidently searching out nuggets of dialogue, rockery earrings or outstanding flavors of taffy and ice cream.
After a few minutes, a gentleman came into the store and said, “Mary, We shot Jim.”
“Jim? Your friend, Jim? I thought he died of the cancer.”20140629_102555 - Copy
“Yup. He died in May. We cremated him. And, as per his wishes, at four o’clock on Pirates’ Weekend, we gave him the gun salute, and shot him from the cannon into the ocean.”
I looked at Julie and she at me. I asked, “Can you put dialogue like that in a children’s reader, Jules?”
“Maybe the next generation. Who knows what will sell by then.”
Our students came up with great nuggets as well, but those nuggets are going in their stories, so I won’t be using them here. Hunting through conversation for gems of dialogue is a great pass time, maybe especially in Rockaway Beach, where the pirates are pithy.

Introducing Young Writers at the Coffee Shop

The Sixth and seventh graders of the Happy Valley Writing Club were invited to read at the Rain or Shine Coffee Shop located at 60th and Division in Portland, Oregon. This invitation brought with it a lot of pride and some fear.

Stephanie, Long, Emma, Amanda, Vanisa, Natalia, with Priscilla

Stephanie, Long, Emma, Amanda, Vanisa, Natalia, with Priscilla

“I’m not a good reader,” whispered one sixth grader to me.

“But you are an excellent writer, so we’ll work on the reading. Not one of us is a good reader without practice, and that includes your teacher.”

She didn’t believe me, of course. I read aloud to them a lot.

So, I had to demonstrate how I used to read in public. I stood on one leg and jingled the change in my pocket. I mumbled with my head down, gaze buried deeply into my paper. My speaking speed was ninety miles an hour. I finished with, “I guess that’s all. It’s not very good.” And then I sat down abruptly.

That very honest demonstration brought hoots of laughter from the members. “Really?” Stephanie shouted. “That’s not true.”

“Not only true, but the story was long and I’m pretty sure even my mom was asleep when I finally stopped.”

Jelena and Amanda

Jelena and Amanda

“We can do better than that,” Amanda laughed.

“And so you can. Let’s get to work and be ready for our night at Rain or Shine.”

Rain or Shine Coffee Shop has worked with mystery writer Bill Cameron, and now with Oregon Writers Colony to host readings on Thursdays. The readers who are featured are usually adults with a lot of practice bringing their audience a great story.

We needed to work toward this event. So, for a few Writing Club meetings weeks prior to the evening reading, the students practiced reading slowly and clearly. We had good laughs and realized our distracting habits. We learned to look confident. We learn to look at the audience at the end of paragraphs, (creating a chance to take a good breath).

I knew that the mike at Rain or Shine is uni-directional, so if we turn our head to read toward the right side of the audience, the mike can’t pick up our voices. We tried to practice staying on the pretend mike that we had.

We had a whole lesson on pronouncing the consonants in words. Thus, during our Thursday night reading, there were a few jokes about not going to Mill School, but Middle School.

Natalia, Jelena, Amanda

Natalia, Jelena, Amanda

Eight of the twelve students read on that night. We shared fictional stories about the aftermath of an auto accident, the breakup of a family, learning to appreciate the protective parent and some very frightening encounters with fantastic monsters. The students did extremely well. I am proud of how well they write and of how well they read. They are an amazing bunch.

We had great fun. Thanks Rain or Shine and Oregon Writers Colony for putting this challenge before us.

And by the way, I am on the lookout for a mike to use when we practice in the future. So, if any of you have an idea where to look for an affordable mike, let me know.

Jared & his lucky Pen

Jared & his lucky Pen

Every day the Preschool Passes

From my office window, two stories above my garden, I hear the teachers first, an alert that my favorite site is occurring yet again.  “Come on, Billy,” they call. “We have to meet the others at the corner.” Or “Susan, push your feet forward. Come this way.”

All Bundled Up

All Bundled Up

The two and three year olds are out for a walk. Some of the children walk purposefully. Some still finish snack time while on the move. A few arrive at the corner north of my house and impatiently wait for their buddies. One little guy is bundled up as if winter were about to make a quick return. Or is the truth that he  loves that hat and scarf?

A couple of children ride bikes without pedals, bikes short enough that they can propel them with a foot on either side. Susan has not yet gotten the idea of pushing off with her toes. She pushes with her heels and thus goes reversing down the sidewalk. She dismounts, pushes the bike forward for a few steps, then gets back on only to lose half her forward motion. Susan will get it. I expect any day to look out and see her traveling at the speed of the rest. I love her persistence.

Eleanor in Ben's swim goggles

Looking for a pool

One of the girls strides by, sporting swim goggles. I wonder if she woke this morning hoping for a different type of excursion. I expect her folks will soon sign her up for summer swimming classes.

But Billy is the child I wait for. Billy will not be hurried. Each day, he studies what others have passed by. He collects the winged seeds of my neighbor’s maple and the spikey nut of my Sweet Gums. He kicks the piles of pink petals from the Kwanza Cherries north of my yard. He watches lost worms creep their tentative way across the sidewalk in search of home.

The sun comes out, and Billy discovers a companion he didn’t know he had. By the time Billy arrives at the corner, he has been on an expedition.



From my window, I think, “Come on, Billy. Keep looking. Keep seeing what the rest of us have forgotten to enjoy.”

I know that someday, Billy will go by with the speed of others. He will have learned that friends become impatient. He will have unlearned the freedom of his curiosity. When he is grown, I hope he recalls, in the back alleys of memory, his joy in exploration.

Learn about work and money? When?

Where can your ten year old neighbors learn about the value of work and how to keep track of money? In a place called Biztown.

Downtown Biztown

Downtown Biztown

There is a whole little village that most of us will never see. Among its several stores, it includes a bank, a sporting goods store, a branch of the Humane Society, a construction company and even a newspaper. It is called Biztown and is tucked into a building on southeast Foster Road.

Biztown is the brilliant work of Junior Achievement of Oregon. In the Multnomah and Clackamas County area, many schools choose to spend a six weeks preparation time and one day of experience at Biztown.

Every child at Biztown has a job that they applied for, wrote a resume and were interviewed for. Their teachers assign them jobs based on their resume, their interview, and their ability to understand the job for the day.

These jobs range from being the mayor, the CFO or CEO of one of the businesses, to clerk in a sales venue or a reporter in the Biztown Journal. The students have learned how to do their job before they come, and, just as importantly, they have learned how to keep track of their pay, learned about depositing money to the bank, withdrawing cash, writing checks, and a new wrinkle this year, learned how to use a debit card.

They learn that some purchases they want to make at Biztown will cost them more than they earn during the first pay period. Thus, planning and saving become important if you want that adoptable doggy in the Humane Society.

Town Meeting

Town Meeting

Any area school that has the funds to do it may include preparation for a day at Biztown. There is a cost for the curriculum and the day at Biztown. The non-profit local Junior Achievement office works with area businesses to cover most of the cost, but there is a school fee of $18 per student, plus bus transportation to the site on Foster Road.

Parents and adult friends volunteer in each business to help the kids focus on tasks and to help the students understand the use of the bank deposits, how to take out cash and how to save for something they want to buy in one of the stores.

I volunteered for the third time in The Biztown Portland Business Journal and my husband always volunteers at Key Bank. It’s a kick. We find that the students come ready to work and want to succeed. At ten and eleven years old, a few might be easy to distract, but they get back to their job when reminded. Their focus is on exploring this new world that is a replica of the work-life of their parents.

The Journal editor knows her way around the simple computer layout program and she knows how to encourage her reporters to go out and get interviews with people in the town. Reporters have several pre-written stories, but the interviews are done on the big Biztown day. Each year, the reporter student’s picture of how to interview is different, but every time, they end the day understanding a little more about how to ask questions that give them a story.

The Journal has a photographer as well. Getting photos of fellow citizens can prove a daunting task. I have learned that it helps for a reporter to work with the photographer. Photos and interviews are done together and both Journal students enjoy the work more when together.

The Biztown Journal

The Biztown Journal

Each business has a chief financial officer. The Journal’s CFO comes knowing that getting out the paychecks to the staff, and paying the bills is his or her main focus. The CFO also gets the other businesses to pay for ads in the newspaper. Each year, The Journal’s CFO has done the job with great concentration.

During the second series of staggered breaks, when a third of the students are shopping, the photographer and the reporters at The Journal turn into sales people. At five cents from each customer’s Biztown pay, a copy of The Journal becomes a souvenir of their day that might end up in Mom’s memory box and be found years later. So, the students and the volunteers all want a copy.

With these sources of income, The Journal, and most of the other businesses, are able to pay off their business loan at the bank by the end of the day – a big measure of the day’s success.

For each student, staying above Zero in your checkbook, yet enjoying the various businesses is the measure of a good BizTown day. Both business and individual successes are celebrated at the final Town Meeting in the town square. And success is celebrated by the class the next day when they are back to normal kid life.

Citizens on a Break

Citizens on a Break

Junior Achievement has many programs designed to help older students also become aware and ready for career and personal finance choices they will be making as adults. A worthy addition to every student’s curriculum.

Take a look at their impressive offerings at their website: And then ask your local school what it would take to make the Biztown experience a reality for your neighborhood kids.

Fiber: an Art Form and and a Joy

Fiber: an Art Form and and a Joy


Last weekend, my friend, Melissa Blumklotz, introduced me to the Rose City Yarn Crawl, Unravel Portland.

You’ve heard of pub crawls, and gallery crawls. Those are fun, I grant, but the Rose City Yarn Crawl brings together art and artists in an exciting way, encouraging artists and craftswomen (and men) to learning from each other. Plus, it introduces fiber artists and fiber players (like myself) to shops we would not otherwise visit.

Melissa planned a Saturday morning visit to two shops she knew I had never seen. She is heavily involved in knitting, hand knits beautifully, has a knitting machine and belongs to an association of machine owners who share their knowledge with each other. Melissa also has made fiber art animals to sell at various events where people love her creations. She knits for her family, especially her nephews and niece. They now make requests which

Waiting outside of Dublin Bay

Waiting outside of Dublin Bay

send her out to the yarn shops on a quest to fulfill the imaginative wishes of little ones.

 She knows that I love to knit – some prosaic and some not so common sweaters, fun

scarves, lace shawls and Aran style clothing, so she took me first to Dublin Bay.

Here is Melissa, on Saturday morning of a four day event, waiting for Dublin Bay to open its doors at 1227 NW 11th Avenue, Portland, Or, 97209 .

Opening Morning Crowd

Opening Morning Crowd

And this photo gives you an idea of the numbers of people who waited with us, all discussing knitting, crochet, fiber art and the long distances some of them had come for this weekend.


Gloves through the window

Gloves through the window

And here is Melissa inspecting the glove samples in the Dublin Bay window.
She was right, the work inside was beautiful, samples of Aran styles for children and adults, laces so fine they seemed like mist, and this very

Whimsical Hat

Whimsical Hat

whimsical hat that uses up left over yarn while creating a great playground personality for some adventuresome child.


I indulged in the purchase of several patterns to share with Melissa and we discussed the wonderful feel of the yarns we intend to use to create these wearable art pieces. We had tea in the knitting lounge and watched others enjoy the shop, too.


And then we were off to the east side to visit Gossamer Fiber Arts and Crafts at 2418 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214.


Felted Art

Felted Art

I had heard of Gossamer from a friend who creates wonderful felted hats. However, I had never been there. Gossamer specializes in very different art than Dublin Bay. They feature felted paintings like this majestic heron, as well as exotic felted sculptures.


I have a son who once sewed fiber flames for the façade of our fireplace. He designed them to create warmth during times when the fireplace was unavailable for real flames. Owyn, you would love this place.


So, I looked at Gossamer yarns and patterns, and I also indulged in the fantasy of bringing

Felted Dragon

Felted Dragon

family children to take classes in the art of doll making and felted painting. I also imagine bringing them for the opportunity to pet the baby dragon who resides in the window, staring out at the modern world with ancient calm.

 Thank you, Melissa, for a wonderful day and for your artful friendship.

 Below are some beautiful examples of non-knitted creations that I found in Gossamer.

Wool Roving Princesses created at Gossamer

Wool Roving Princesses created at Gossamer

Waldorf Dolls created at Gossamer

Waldorf Dolls created at Gossamer








And finally, some gorgeous patterns that stole my heart. I hope to see these move from pattern to something wearable soon.

Cabled Irish Sweater purchased at Dublin Bay

Cabled Irish Sweater pattern purchased at Dublin Bay

Brick Sock Pattern purchased at Dublin Bay

Brick Sock Pattern purchased at Dublin Bay

Winter Blooms

On a recent walk, friends and I saw several winter-blooming shrubs which we thought we knew, but which, it turns out we only sort of knew. A few days later, the most unknown of these plants appeared the Saturday in Homes and Gardens as the Chinese Paper Bush. If you don’t still have the Saturday homes and Gardens section, here is its address in the internet at Oregon Live. Chinese Garden in Winter

Chinese Paper Bush

Chinese Paper Bush

Chinese Paper Bush

Chinese Paper Bush



Photos from The Oregonian


According to the internet, Chinese Paper Bush is also called Yellow Daphne and also Edgeworthia. Here it is in the Portland Nursery website: Portland Nursery: Chinese Paper Bush


Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

After discovering the Chinese Paper Bush, I explored neighbor gardens and found very different winter flowers. Witch Hazel (which comes in several flower colors), and  Winter Hazel (lovely tubular flowers in a soft yellow-green) are some others you may want in your garden. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) can be found at Portland Nursery. I have also seen yellow and orange versions of this plant in neighbor yards. Portland Nursery: Witch Hazel




And here is Winter Hazel which has wonderful contrast between the flower color and the chocolate stamens. Winter Hazel can also be found at Portland Nursery. Portland Nursery:Winter Hazel

Winter Hazel

Winter Hazel



So now we can keep these winter bloomers straight – maybe. And if we find a space for one or more of them, they will give us joy in late winter, even before the crocus are up.

Hunting Trees

Hunting Trees

Bear & Deer

Bear & Deer

Two and four year olds work hard to hike over tree farm land, but they get to see bugs. They get to run around pretending to be bear and deer. They get to pet the trees and the wild grasses.

Ben at tree farm 2013

Learning to Saw

And this year, our ten year old got to use the saw. That’s my saw and pruner tool-belt he is wearing. And his sawing tutor is with him.

This December, as in most years, our family went Christmas tree hunting on our tree farm. Hunting is the exact word in our situation. We have to scout to find a tree that might be suitable.

Walking over such uneven ground is not easy for short legs. It is a lot of work for adult legs on a tree farm where some of the unevenness is old tree branches and the sleeping hollows used by wild animals. One of our tree farm animals is a burrow-builder. His tunnels cave in under-foot. The hike is not at all a groomed trail in a national park.

We hike over hill and dale and are happy to find a tree which may have five natural leaders or a tree that leans to one side, but not too much. We rarely find symmetry. Some trees have three-foot leaders that would bend under the weight of a paper angel. We’re glad to see them gain that much height in a year. How else are they going to get above the browsing animals?


Mountain Beaver

Hidden among our lumber trees, we plant special Christmas trees each year – just enough to give each household in the family a tree as each year’s planting comes of age. That means, we plant five times as many Christmas trees as we’ll need, expecting that we’ll lose some to the predations of deer, elk and the little varmint known as mountain beaver.

Mountain beaver, Aplodontia rufa, are not tail slappers with ponds and large dental frontages.

They are little chipmunky sized vegetarians who love tasty tree bark. No bark equals tree death. At least the deer and elk leave most of a tree as they nip away.


Grand Fir

Grand fir is the number one pick of the family. Douglas fir, a close second, is wonderfully bushy and full of character by age twelve, but it loses its needles sooner indoors. Noble fir grows better at higher elevations, and doesn’t have enough branches to hold all the child-made ornaments we collect. Grand fir stays dark green and glossy all during Christmas, has many branches and is not loved as food by deer, elk and Mountain Beaver – at least not so far. Your kids will love it too. Especially if they step in a Mountain Beaver tunnel on their way to discovering the perfect, imperfect tree.

On the rest of the tree farm, we plant 400 trees per acre, lots of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock, and usually some types that may never bring in any money. We just want to know more about them – coast pine, spruce, madrone, an occasional fruit tree near our water source. Over the years, nature and pre-commercial thinning open up the growing trees to more sunshine until, as they mature, we end up with 250 trees per acre on the average.

That is, our children and their children will end up with those 250 trees per acre. And it is for their sake that we love to take them to the farm, for any excuse. One of those excuses is the annual hunt for a Charlie Brown tree to help celebrate Christmas.

The Whole Crew

The Whole Crew

Here is our four-year-old with her own bedroom tree. She found it. Her brother cut it, and she hung her self-made ornaments on it that afternoon.

Her Own Tree

Her Own Tree

Photos by Rae & Stephanie Richen