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2012 North Portland, Oregon, United States

As I was getting ready to paint, the next stage in my morning after writing, I heard a voice raised in song. I thought it might be someone in the Ethiopian family next door singing morning prayers, but it was a man walking on the sidewalk past the house, carrying a gallon of milk. It was one of those moments I write for.

2011 Phsar Dey Hoy, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, about as far as you can get from Hoquiam, Washington in every possible way and still be on planet Earth, a new friend suggested I visit the roof of her hotel so that I could see the “swimming pool,” which turned out to be teeming with crocodiles awaiting their next incarnation as belts, wallets, bags and other accessories.

Get used to it (poem)

The salmon is chilly
by the time it’s traveled
all the way across the town
from the rally at the union hall
to the downpour on this picket line,
but it tastes like freedom,
and I swallow its stubborn flesh,
suck its determined bones,

then stumble from the brief warmth
of the strike trailer
into the shock of sudden night,
the dissonance of three
big brilliant picket umbrellas
pitched like circus tents
on the long blackness
of asphalt glittering
beneath the only streetlight.

Under the rain I begin to compose
the photograph I cannot capture,
I say the words out quiet:
“Remember, remember everything,”
then dive beneath
the startling blue and white
pie slices of Al’s umbrella.
“It’s a nice picture,”
I tell him, by way of explanation.
“Well, get used to it,” he says.

Get used to it (commentary)
Twenty years ago today in Hoquiam, Washington, USA, the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers’ strike for equal pay for equal work against ITT Rayonier was ending in defeat. I had taken comfort on that picket line for the long months of my mother’s illness and on the night of her death. I knew it was time to go when we burned the furniture from the picket shack at the Ontario Street gate, then tore that rude structure down, but I wasn’t ready. I could still taste the chilly salmon, still see those umbrellas against the asphalt in the rain. I had gotten used to it, then it was gone.

2010 Hampi, India
In a couple of hours I will be heading out for a sunrise to sunset tour of this ancient landscape with a wonderful guide and a woman I hope might be my friend. We will get a little breakfast break if we want one, maybe even some time for a nap midday, but it seems that last thing I want to do here is sleep.
We saw a step well yesterday – they call them tanks here – and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Discovered only a couple of decades ago, the dark stone steps gleam in breathtaking geometric patterns. There’s an aqueduct made of light-colored stone that brings water to the step well.
I am thinking of so many wonders from yesterday: the roadside picnic spot with hollows for dishes carved into the flat stone; the underground temple, with its cool, wet darkness; and a nest of bees dangling high above our heads from one of two huge rocks that the locals of think of as sisters sitting side-by-side. Finally, we sat on the steps of Hazara Rama, a 15th century temple, and listened to as much of the story of the Ramayana as our splendid tour guide could fit in before sunset, then walked around and looked at the pictorial version carved in the walls and columns of a place I'll try to return to again and again while I'm here and then later on for the rest of my days.
We watched sweet pan assembled yesterday, photographed it, then ate it. I liked it a lot, ever so relieved that there was no spitting involved.

2009 Krakow, Poland
I wish my computer keyboard keys would light up. I can see them, but I’d like to see them better. I just checked the keyboard under System Preferences, but it’s set just as it should be. It’s somewhat lighted down there under the keys – I can work without the light on – but not as much as I’d like. Wait…
Hurra!, as we say in Polish. I found the key that brightens the keys. Doggone it, I hate it when anybody touches my computer. It must have been the techie guy, who was trying unsuccessfully to connect me to the Internet yesterday, flailing for the F5 key, which he probably didn’t realize is also my keyboard dimmer. Well, I only just now realized it myself.

2008 Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, United States
Right now
In four days I leave for Poland, so it is taking some effort to focus on the present. According to my book of holidays around the world, today is St. Agnes’ Day, when maidens eat a heavily salted boiled egg – shell and all – or herring – head, scales, tail and all – to induce a dream of one’s future mate, who is to appear offering a glass of water. I narrowly, gratefully missed reading a poem containing a guillotine in my book of poems for each day. In the daybook I brought back from Ireland a decade or so ago, I find a lovely landscape by Derek Hill. Born in England, he was awarded honorary Irish citizenship last millennium. I thought we were all Irish.

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