Reflecting ponds provide year-round interest at the Oregon Garden.
Walking Through Oregon's Garden
"We have 80 acres of gardens," the woman at the
counter said as I paid for my ticket to the Oregon
I'm not going to be able to walk all that in an hour,
I thought. And who would want to?
Past the gift shop and the snack bar, through the
door into the gardens, one enters another world
where deadlines and traffic fade away. Themed
gardens of all sorts await, each with sculptures,
fountains, and places to sit. One can look out
over the Willamette Valley to the north, south and west and snow-capped mountains to the east.
In winter, not much is blooming, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to see. Every kind of pine and fir tree flourishes in the conifer garden. Crocuses and daffodils add dots of purple and yellow everywhere. The flowering apricot wears pinkish blossoms. Blue jays and hawks flash blue and red overhead. A "rain curtain" softly splashes a continuous stream of water near the sensory garden where one can inhale mint and rosemary and touch lacy, furry and knobby plants.
In a garden designed to be pet-friendly, a realistic sculpture of a Labrador retriever begs to be petted. Dogs are welcome in the gardens, as long as their owners clean up after them. Kids are also invited to their own garden with a kid-sized Hobbit house, a tree fort and a garden of "weird plants" to admire.
Located off Highway 213 in Silverton, Oregon Garden strives to rival other Oregon Institutions like the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Tillamook Cheese Factory. A large crew of volunteers works in the garden year round. Frequent special events, such as next month's Earth Day (April 17) and Oregon Garden Brewfest (April 23-24) bring people in. Vacationers can relax at the new Oregon Garden Resort. Those who don't want to walk 80 acres can ride a tram around the gardens. The website, www.oregongarden.org, stresses the commercial side of things, but the plants speak for themselves. The last couple months I have been teaching at Chemeketa Community College in Salem and spending the night there before driving to Albany to visit my husband Fred. The joys of Motel 6, city traffic, and snack bar pizza quickly wear thin. Oregon Garden and the lush drive through the Valley's agricultural land offer sweet solace. I intend to return when winter's brown sticks turn green and flowers paint the gardens with color.
Visits to Fred are getting harder. Alzheimer's is a heartless disease that takes so much away, not only from the person who has it but from the people who love him. I see it progressing in all the residents at Timberwood Court, including Fred. As of February, he doesn't know who I am, and that hurts, but we all must continue to love him because in his heart he is still Fred, a wonderful, sweet man.
My dog Annie turned two years old Feb.16. She's full of energy and but a good friend. We walk, we talk, we snuggle. If I cry, she licks my face. If I laugh, she wags her tail. When I lie in the sun, she lies down next to me and puts her head on my chest. And when I use my serious voice and bellow "Sit!" she does.
I have been busy teaching at the Catholic Writers Online Conference, which runs Feb. 26 to March 5. It's absolutely free, with lots of good workshops and chats. Registration is closed for this year, but it will happen again in 2011. The Catholic Writers Guild which sponsors it also hosts a live conference in Pennsylvania in August. See www.catholicwritersconference.com for information.
My courses at Chemeketa end March 4 with the last session of Creative Nonfiction. Then I plan to focus harder on practicing what I've been preaching. It's time to write.
Oregon Coast Writing Events
By the time you read this, the March meeting of the Willamette Writers coast branch will probably be over. Ariel Gore, founder of Hip Mama and author of Atlas of the Human Heart, is our speaker, discussing nonfiction. On April 6, Jessica Lamb will present a poetry workshop. We meet at 7 p.m. at the Newport library, corner of Olive and Nye. Admission is free, no reservations required. Writers on the Edge wecomes novelist Jon Raymond to the Nye Beach Writers series March 20 at 7 p.m. at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Admission is $5. The 7 p.m. program is followed by an open mic.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, Little, Brown and Co., 1961. This is a classic I grabbed off the shelf because it looked easy to read. It's strange yet clever. Salinger gives a stage play in the form of a novel. It's really three acts with dialogue and actions, mostly cigarette smoking, playing with the cat and a marvelous bathtub scene. In Act I, Franny meets her boyfriend Lane to attend a football game. Over lunch, she is "out of sorts" and ultimately faints and takes to her bed. In Act II, we find Franny's brother Zooey reading a script and smoking as he takes a bath. His mother Bessie comes in. She is upset about Franny, who seems to be having a nervous breakdown. Their dialogue goes on and on, leaving neither satisfied. In Act III, Zooey talks to Franny and ultimately does something that seems to bring to bring her out of her stupor. Or does it?
Salinger is so gifted with the telling detail, the precise bit of business that takes me back to the 1950s and makes me see the scene as if it were being played before my eyes. Plot? Not much, but again, maybe it is there, and perhaps some of those details come to mean more than I thought at first. Take a trip back in time and try on some Salinger. They don't write 'em like that anymore.
Crazy Love by Leslie What. La Grande, OR: Wordcraft of Oregon, 2008. The book fits the title. These are love stories with crazy twists. We have vampire love, ghost love, wereslut lesbian love, and more. The story that sticks in my mind the most is about the Jellyfish Man. We're somewhere in the future with this man who cannot die, who has no limbs and no real skin. He rolls through life on a gurney and sucks up discarded food from the ground through a tube. He wants to be loved, but who can love a jellyfish man? It's such questions that inform these Bradburylike stories. Leslie What asks "what if" and lets her imagination run free.
Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen, Writer's Digest Books, 2009. One must ignore the typos sprinkled throughout this book and enjoy the poetic wisdom on every page. Cohen offers a bible for readers and writers of poetry. Everything is here: finding ideas, poetic forms, imagery, line breaks, voice, memorizing and reciting poetry, readings, workshops, marketing and so much more. The 80 short chapters include instruction, examples, and exercises. This would make a terrific text for a poetry class, and I have already used it for my class. Indeed, my poor copy of the book is already looking a little beat-up from being carried around so much. The simple art by Gregoire Vion that graces most of the pages gives it a freshness that I love. Cohen, a Portland, OR, resident, continues the discussion at her Writing the Life Poetic blog.
Spring is coming. We have had some gorgeous days here on the Oregon Coast, and everything is starting to bloom. With the Seafood and Wine festival over, we can reclaim our coast until Memorial Day. March is a big month for birthdays. Mine is March 9, and I invite local friends to join me at the Chalet where I plan to eat my free piece of chocolate cream pie. Happy birthday also to Arlene, Teresa, Mary Lee, Roy, and everybody else born this month. Happy belated 25th anniversary to my brother Mike and sister-in-law Sharon. Join me in praying for peace and for better days for all the earthquake victims.
All contents copyright 2010, Sue Fagalde Lick
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