Women Veterans Writing Workshop

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The Women Veterans Writing Workshop will be held twice a month on Wednesdays, August 2 through November 8th from 6 to 8 p.m. The workshop is open to women veterans who are interested in writing their life stories–both past and present.

This is a class where you can write about your life experiences and also develop new skills on your writing journey.  You will meet other veterans within a positive and supportive environment. Kristine Mietzner is the instructor and she will be available to offer individual feedback.

Concurrently, a children’s program, “Exciting Evenings @ the Library,” will be available for youngsters from 4-18.  Advance registration is required. Visit the library or the website to register: www.saclibrary.org/events.

This project is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

Finding peace

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Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. —Dalai Lama

 

Key West, Florida. On Key West’s Duval Street, I meandered past the trendy boutiques, seedy bars, and an array of restaurants, including Jimmy Buffet’s original Margaritaville. This was American kitsch at its best.

When I noticed something different — a banner outside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church announcing the “Drepung Gomang Tibetan Monks Sacred Art Tour” — I turned away from the steady stream of winter visitors and stepped inside the sanctuary.

Monks - Outside banner

A cosmos away from the outside world, Buddhist monks labored over the creation of a brilliantly colored sand mandala. Seated on a platform on the sanctuary floor directly below the wooden crosses and cerulean blue stained glass windows, the monks from southern India, applied millions of particles of dyed sand to a peace mandala.

The sand, colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera, was poured onto the mandala platform with a narrow metal funnel called a chakpur which was scraped by another metal rod to cause sufficient vibration for the grains of sand to trickle out of its end. The two pieces of the chakpur symbolize wisdom and compassion. In the sand mandala ceremony, I found threads of wisdom for life and more compassion for others and myself.

The monks dedicated a week to the construction of the compassion mandala. As I watched the monks at work, a church volunteer explained that the Mandala sand would be swept up and deposited into the sea in a few days.

According to the monks, students of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the sand mandala is a vehicle to generate compassion. The mandala’s construction and deconstruction is intended to help people realize the impermanence of reality.

As the sands journey around the world through rivers and oceans, the process  is also meant to promote the lofty goal of a cosmic  healing of the environment.

Monks 1 Flags inside

On Sunday afternoon the monks, along with spectators, traveled to the Key West harbor where the sand was ceremonially poured into the sea to spread the healing energies of the mandala throughout the world. Some of that healing energy must have reached me that day.

I mentally swept up the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I spent with loved ones who are no longer present in my life and imagined pouring the memories into the ocean.

Just as the monks intended, the sand mandala experience helped me move a bit closer to embracing  the temporary nature of our lives.

The current carried away the sands of the mandala. Some of the sand may be washed back ashore at Key West  while other particles will reach distant shores. Maybe the monks have it right and the sand will spread healing energy throughout the world.

Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. —Franklin P. Jones

 

 

 

The Brick

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Brick - Sign

 

Roslyn, Washington. Drinks have been served since 1889 at the Brick, Washington’s oldest operating bar. Arguably, other bars may be as old, but haven’t been operating continuously.  The  exterior was featured in Northern Exposure, the 1990s Emmy award winning television drama that was filmed in Roslyn.

The Brick’s customers sit on the original barstools that were ordered from Sears Roebuck. There’s a unique 23 foot-long running water spittoon flowing alongside the lower edge of the bar.

Annually in March, the Brick hosts the Indoor Running Water Spittoon Boat Races and Regatta, billed as the only race of its kind in the world.

Classes for entries include soap/wax, paper/plastic, and wood, all of which must weigh no more than one ounce. Entries in the open class for motor and experimental boats can weigh as much as 1.5 ounces. The boats can’t exceed 3” long, 1 1/2” wide, and 3” tall and may be waterproofed.

Stick around for the dancing. On the evening of the races, the Brick hosts the Nautical Ball with a live band.

Let’s say one drinks too much at the Brick, and needs a designated driver. Stan the Man give rides to Brick customers. Stan works independently and operates solely off of donations to make sure guests arrive safely at their next destination without having to face the consequences of driving under the influence.

Stan makes his rounds each weekend, so customers can give him a call for a pick up or schedule rides in advance.  One might find him at the Brick drinking coffee and chatting with folks near closing time. Stan works on a donation only basis. The Brick website enthuses, “Please be generous with your donations!  He makes a big difference in keeping you and our roads safe!”

The Brick’s pub grub is good basic bar food and the servings are large. On a recent visit with my friend Nick, I enjoyed delicious chicken quesadillas. Nick savored a generous serving of fish and chips.

All in all, visiting the Brick in guarantees a taste of history and heaping serving of fun along with food and drinks.

Need information? Pondering an entry in the Spittoon Regatta? The Brick’s website invites interested persons to call (509) 649-2643 for more information.

Acceptance 101, Making a God Box

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I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. Martin Luther

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One year when I was enrolled in Self-Pity 101 and deeply involved in my studies, a close friend who belonged to a 12-Step program invited me to a women’s weekend at the Ralston White Retreat in Marin County. I doubted that her program could do a better job than mine of addressing my top concern – myself—but I agreed to attend because the destination intrigued me.

The historic house, now a retreat, was nestled in the redwoods. I arrived on a wet, windy Saturday mooning in December. Long branches of moss-laden redwoods swayed as a storm ripped through Northern California.

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That afternoon, rain pounded against the picture windows while I sat on a sofa in a workshop on God Boxes. I listened to thirty-something Jessie, who held a cigar box covered with a collage of paint, photos, and rice paper. She said, “My God Box holds the problems I turn over to my high power.”

I crossed my legs and amused myself by rolling my ankle and counting the times it circled around. This craft project might be a misplaced belief in magic. A decorated container seemed as helpful as magic underwear. That is, not at all.

Perhaps my problems were far from one-of-a-kind. Yet I pouted privately that even so, they were worse than anyone else’s because my children left to live with their father after our divorce, leaving my nest emptier earlier than other mothers’ empty nests. I held tight to my self-pity.

As if she read my mind, Jessie laughed and pushed back her dark, curly, long hair. “Everything I’ve let go of has claw marks on it.” That caught my attention. She shared her story about leaving a physically abusive partner and struggling with alcohol, coming across happy and calm. I wanted the peace she had.

Jessie shared a quote from Martin Luther, “I have held many things in my hands and have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.

She continued, “A God Box holds that which one places in God’s hands: unsolved problems, unanswered questions, sorrows, and unrequited love—the things you wish to let go of and give to God.”

“On a slip of paper, write a sentence, please, or a single word about the relationship or any other concern that seems to have no solution,” she said. “In so doing, a ritual is created that will help you let go and turn it over to God. You can more easily let go after making a symbolic gesture of turning over the concern to God.”

I moved to the long table with magazines, glued a copy of Martin Luther’s quote on the inside lid of a box, and made my own God Box.

The words I wrote on two slips of paper were the names of my daughter and son. When I tucked the papers inside the God Box, I recalled Jessie’s words, “Life has its mysteries and I am not in charge.”

As we finished our boxes, Jessie said, “You may say it’s only a box, but it’s no small thing to make a ritual of letting go. Whatever you place in your god Box, you turn over to the Divine.”

That weekend I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about my son and daughter. They were on their own paths. I still missed then, but I started accepting the fact that their lives no longer revolved around me.

Having two incredible children who are healthy and pursuing their own forms of happiness was truly a blessing whether or not the children, now adults, visited me as often as I would have preferred.

My situation was a slice of the human condition, a drama, yes, but a plain vanilla one because almost all parents wish to see more of their children. I started seeing myself as not so unique, but as a parent among parents, a mother among mothers.

Life wasn’t all about me. After all, the children were ok; they loved me, and I loved them. They were healthy and busy following their dreams. I felt truly blessed.

Driving home, I surveyed the sun-kissed landscape and decided it was time to enroll in acceptance 101.

The Sonoma Coast State Park, Pure Bliss for Max

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Max and I found dog heaven on a recent trip along the California coast. The Sonoma Coast State Park offered a choice of more than half a dozen different beaches, all of them dog-friendly,

The seventeen-mile stretch of sandy beaches, secluded coves, and craggy rocks that form the park is located less than a two hour drive north of San Francisco. oOn our late January trip I searched for a beach with just the right kind of access. The parking lot needed to be close to the shore. Yes, lazy me wanted an easy stroll to the beach, but that wasn’t the only reason. As soon as Max exited the car and sniffed the sea, he would be prone to leaping off tall rocks to get to the water, a feat he tried some years back.

On that initial visit Max was an energetic two-year-old  who had never before seen the ocean. His enthusiasm knew no bounds. We had parked high above the sea and descended a narrow trail to reach the beach a thousand feet below. Scrub brush enclosed the trail most of the way so Max couldn’t see the water.

  • img_1408But then, when the trail widened atop a huge boulder, the ocean came into plain sight. There was also a remaining drop in elevation of twenty feet between us and the beach. The sight of Pacific Ocean triggered Max’s instinctive love of water. He flew into the air straight off the rock.

I stared at Max, frozen in shock. My mind registered the seconds between his leap and his landing as a slow motion movie. My heart pounded with fear that many of poor Max’s bones were about to shatter. To my amazement, he landed, shook himself, and raced to the surf. He happily immersed himself in the sea.

Over and over, Max ran into the waves and back to me, wagging his wet tail with joy. The ocean was his holy grail and he had found it.

img_1404But this year, Max was older and calmer. The trek to the shore was uneventful. I walked along the sun-splashed sandy beach while Max sniffed at the kelp and crab shells.

Intrigued by the magnificence of the surf crashing ashore and curling back to the sea, I failed to notice the black sand beneath my feet was wet for a reason. With little warning, one of the mesmerizing magnificent waves rumbled toward us nonstop. Foaming saltwater swirled wildly over and around my previously dry feet and legs. All the warnings to be aware of the dangers of fast moving waves are true. Fortunately, this was a fairly small wave.

While I scampered away from the ocean, Max pranced away without even getting wet. At the end of our morning at the beach, Max was sandy but perfectly dry. This year I was the wet one.

Many websites offer helpful information. This one is comprehensive:  The Sonoma Coast State Park.

The Tideline is edited by Marianna Shearer.

The Case of the Missing Alligator

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Max carried his lime green stuffed alligator to the Buick for our drive to Guerneville, California. The Russian River town is about 90 miles north of San Francisco and one of our favorite places for a weekend getaway. Our lodging choice on this trip was the Cottages by the River.

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Yes, I was told on the phone, dogs were welcome for a $25 nightly fee, even big ones. “What is your dog’s name?” asked the clerk. When we reached the Cottages, we parked outside the fence surrounding the property. Max pranced alongside Nick and me as we passed through the gate.

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We checked in and signed the pet agreement. The innkeeper handed us a rectangular box with the words, “Welcome Max” on the top. Inside the box we found a water dish, dog biscuits, and a floor towel. The clerk invited us to join other guests for S’mores at the fire pit that evening.

max-cottage-exteriorWe discovered fourteen little houses  that flanked a carefully landscaped lawn. Brightly colored flowers — hibiscus, geraniums, calendula, and an array of emerald plants adorned each one.

Inside our unit, Max slurped the water and rested on his dog towel.  After we had settled in, we strolled to the gated pet area designed for dogs to do their business.

Carrying his alligator, Max sauntered along the path. He did his job and then leisurely sniffed the plants and rocks. Later on when it was time to drive to the ocean, Max simply refused to go.  Stubbornly, he stood on the path by the cottage. Usually, he the leads the way to the car.

max-pet-areaMax’s paws wouldn’t move until I realized what was going on. I retraced the route to the pet area with Max following close behind. He nosed through the gate and quickly found his alligator on the ground right where he left it.

Wagging his tail, Max rushed past me to show Nick and all was well again. Later that evening, we joined other guests at the fire pit and roasted S’mores, with ingredients provided by the Cottages.

max-fire-pitThat night Max stretched out on the floor beside our bed.  He sighed deeply, resting his chin on the stuffed toy and drifted into the land of dreams. Chasing squirrels. Retrieving ducks. Carrying the alligator toy. Sweet dreams, Max.