Poem for February: February

Margaret Atwood

Go here* to read it. Then come back.

From the first line I loved this poem. As stated repeatedly, I’m not the biggest fan of winter and February happens to be my most hated month of the year. It is the shortest month in days, but in actual “time served” time it is seemingly 6-8 weeks worth of freezing cold weather, dark and drear, all packed into 28 “short” days. When I lived in Massachusetts it was even worse because the very long month of February was followed by March which was another seemingly 8-12 weeks of snow, ice, cold winds and no sign of spring all packed into 31 very long days. My mother used to call from relatively balmy Idaho and talk about the crocuses popping up and I would shrivel.

So comparably, February in Portland is lovely, but of course I have acclimated, so it seems still miserable. Will it ever stop raining? Can the sun come out maybe for more than 4 hours? For me, February is a very dark time, both in terms of daylight hours and internally. This poem captures my mental state perfectly, from the need to stay in bed longer to the incredible amount of fortitude it takes to get me through the day with any measure of cheer. And I know I’m not the only one. One of my workmates was having a miserable time at the same time I happened to be committing these lines to memory:

February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.

I recited them to her dramatically one day before school started and we both laughed.

I also love how this poem mirrors the journey through February. In the beginning, the days are short and dark, the rains come heavily and we are all still paying off our Christmas bills. By the end, the days are longer, the spring flowers have popped up and there is hope that perhaps the easy living of the summer months is something that isn’t terribly far away. The poem moves through a black period that ends on a note of hope for spring. The month of February ends the same way. Unless, of course, you live in Massachusetts.


Three sentence movie reviews: Crazy Heart

Let’s just get it out of the way and say that Jeff Bridges was fabulous in this movie. Having said that, I can spend my two remaining sentences telling you that the lack of good development of a female lead made this movie incredibly weak. I spent so much time questioning her motivation that it detracted from the movie and perhaps if they would have given a good fifteen minute chunk over to her character development, this would have been a good movie.

p.s. It was really nice to see the desert in the middle of a cold, wet and green Portland winter.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2009/crazy_heart.html


I’m a “retired” high school youth group leader, but one of my youth from last year was playing with a small Jazz combo with other high school students at Jimmy Macs. I went to see him with Dana, who runs the religious education program for youth at my church.

It had been so long since I’ve been to a club I had a strange moment with the bouncer. I stepped inside and he greeted me and we engaged in small talk. He was very friendly and smiley but he seemed to want something. Eventually it came to me. Right! Cover charge! I paid it and walked in.

Dana arrived and we both enjoyed the set. I was a below average high school musician, who enjoyed the ensemble factor more than actual practice and craft. So I’m always impressed by incredibly musical talent, which Tristan has. The energy of the group was high and they all enjoyed taking solos and were excited to play. They sounded tight and brassy and vibrant and I had a lovely evening.

Corn Snake

One of the moms at school works for OMSI giving presentations to classrooms. Today, she brought in the snakes and lizards. I’ve never handled a snake, but this corn snake was mighty friendly.

It liked to knot itself around things and also tried to crawl up my sleeve.

Tara also liked the corn snake and soon we were joined.
In some cultures, I think we’d be married by now.

Savings Bond

Back in November of 1974, someone was excited about my birth and bought me a $25.00 savings bond. I’m 35 now, and that savings bond matured some time ago. It is worth about $130.00, which is a lot, but that weird amount, where I don’t want to cash it and spend it on something like groceries, but also it needs to be spent on something special, so I can point to it and say, “my savings bond bought that.” I’ve been hemming and hawing for years as to what to use it for.

It has finally come to me: I’m going to use it to renew my teaching license. The total cost is around $200 dollars, so I will supplement the savings bond with some birthday money. But I think I finally hit on a fitting reason to cash this bond.

2010 Mardi Gras

As stated before, the Unitiarian Universalist church isn’t so into Lent. Which means that I can do fun things with Lent, like revamping my wardrobe. This year, I am going to revamp my eating habits a bit. I am going to only eat dessert or junk food that I make myself.

I got the idea from Michael Pollen in the book What to Eat, which is a delightful book to check out of the library. It is full of fun advice such as: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. The idea is that if we all had to fry up the french fries or donuts ourselves, we wouldn’t be that into eating them. If we had to bake the cake or the cookies, we wouldn’t make them that often.

Helping me with my Lenten goal is my go-to book of tiny desserts. When the mood for cookies strikes me, I don’t have to make four dozen. I can just make six. If I want a layer cake, I can make a tiny one. Because I learned long ago that when I bake a whole cake, I eat the whole cake.
At this point, the thing I don’t have the ability to make myself is ice cream. So on this Ash Wednesday, I had my own Mardi Gras and treated myself to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with hot fudge. Delicious.

Requiem: Kienow’s Bag

I was in Portland for Christmas in 1997 and I convinced my mother that I needed reusable shopping bags beause the plastic bags from ‘Friendly” Findleys in South Boston were piling up in my apartment. We were at Kienow’s and she bought me four of their shopping bags.* The one pictured is my second-to-last, I have one lone survivor. We shall see how long the handles hold out on that one. And yes, I could fix that handle on this one, but I’m winnowing my bag collection.

During my three days of librarian school in Boston, I was waiting in line and carrying one of these bags and the woman behind me recognized the Kienow’s name asked if I was from Portland. It turned out she went to Gresham High School and we had a lovely chat. Today, that same Kienow’s location is a New Seasons, but I will always remember running over there to pick up some milk for my grandmother. I sometimes wonder where that Gresham High School turned Librarian is today.

*side note: I remember these bags costing something like $4.95 apiece. That seems crazy now that you can buy Fred Meyer reusable bags for $0.89. Of course, I think the canvas shopping bags are much nicer, but still. Demand in action! Economics, baby!

Requiem: Black Backpack

It was April, 2001. I began my stint as a summer park ranger on the Boston Harbor Islands and realized I was completely without a backpack to carry five days worth of clothes, books and food to the island. Roommate Felicia took me to Target where I bought this guy for something like $35.00. It was worth every penny. This backpack was much like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag in that I could keep putting things into it even though it seemed full. After my short career as a park ranger ended, this backpack went to Hungary and Romania twice and was fabulous for my walks to the grocery store. The checkers were sometimes amazed I didn’t need additional bags. When Matt took over the grocery shopping, he used it too.
In the end, two things landed this in the donation pile. The strap, which I bought black duct tape specifically to repair, sometimes made me feel like a scroungy person. Also, lifestyle changes (I ride my bike to the store now, and the bike setup means I don’t need a huge backpack and Matt is getting a car) mean that its large size works against it. I’ve acquired another backpack (from Matt? Aunt Carol? I’m not sure) which is of normal size and it gets used more often than this one. It absolutely killed me to donate this, but I can’t hold onto every unused thing I’m attached to, or this house will fill up with detritus. So I bid it a very sad farewell.