Eastern Oregon Gothic (additions 22)

Health and wealth are on the decline while meanness is on the rise, showing the zombie in some people instead of the soul.

Drive on smaller highways and byways, see all the empty buildings calling out to be captured in your camera…careful you don’t get lost in the holes looking out…

It snows it April now, but doesn’t stick in the bowls & valleys that dot the landscape.

It rains on the east side the way it used to on the west side, but the ocean still beats at the shores…

Yetis have been welcomed by their Sasquatch kin in the woods high in the hills and mountains…other cryptids have been spotted on small-town streets late at night, from the corners of eyes.

Teenagers have stopped sneaking out at night; instead they surf the digital waves, becoming pixilated which makes life tougher when they can’t connect back to the analog reality.

Books have started moving in the library and the computers look like they’ve been taking hits—a war of words and information that’s bleeding into the day.

Poetry is on the rise. Teenagers who dig deep into words without sound around them to stop the magic from coming in…

All the colors are bleeding and the desert is drinking them in, changing the landscape something fierce: will the Courts know where they are when they come back?

Music is a language again. All on its own.

Celilo Falls is still there, under all that water…

Waiting for the fish & the spear-fishers to return.

Someday the concrete will be gone…

And the water will be free.

The Columbia calls to people in Boardman…they don’t always go to the home they came from.


For My Students…

This is a quick and dirty version of basic information for those reading The Epics

Patrons are people who pay money to artists or storytellers or actors, so those people can make a living, travel safely, and have time to focus on their (not so paid) “art” rather than paying jobs. Without Patrons, in older times, artists and the like would spend most of their time working on farms, in forges, as slaves or servants, or other such things.

Today, Patrons do similar things when we support various writers, bloggers, podcasters, lesser known actors, or such on Patreon or YouTube or such websites. We fund people while they do things we appreciate, because most of the people doing that aren’t making enough money to support themselves or the people who help them off a regular paycheck (if they get a regular paycheck).

Leaders in general…As civilization was developing, people would gather together under the leadership of a charismatic warrior-leader. The leader would make sure people were kept safe, would make sure that arguments didn’t break up the group, and would make sure that everyone contributed to the group (tribe or clan). As civilization started to take hold these leaders would be known for giving out conquered land, slaves from wars, wives, and lots of pretty presents or goods (horses, cloth, clothing, etcetera). Eventually, those leaders became kings and queens or politicians…

Into the bright shadows…

I’m so happy to have actual students in my classroom again—in a normal schedule. The last two years were so chaotic for my students; I saw far too many of them suffer emotionally from being isolated or feeling closed in or trying to balance work, family obligations, and school as non-adults. This year, the freshmen class and the sophomore class are both really hitting high school for the first time. The juniors and seniors are trying to figure out what they want from their futures while being told what they are supposed to want, while realizing that they may not have all the skills they’ll need for their next steps…

Yes, we have a lot of people in our community who are not vaccinated or who hate masks (just like every other American community). We have parents and students and, occasionally staff, who rail against feeling singled out for not being vaccinated. Some of them struggle to follow the mandates for mask wearing. Frankly, our recent annual celebration didn’t help as it brought thousands of folks who weren’t wearing masks into small spaces—something is going to spread from all that closeness even if it’s just a cold variant.

Everything is part of the current political minefield—what we wear, where we eat, who we acknowledge, health & wellness, the weather…

Yet, I get to come to work every day and talk about history as it relates to stories; I get to talk about philosophy as it relates to stories; I get to discuss all sorts of sources of information, because it relates to critical thinking and communication skills. I get to see them dip their feet into discussions and debates. I get to encourage them to ask the “stupid” questions (the only way to get answers sometimes). I get to be frustrated when they are too loud or excited when they reach interesting conclusions.

For twenty-five years, the reason I kept coming back every fall was my students. In year twenty-six, I’ve already had the “Yeah, I’m a very different teacher now than when I had [blank]. The stories you might’ve heard don’t reflect who I am now.” I’ve also had conversations with students about what their parents or cousins or siblings helped me learn in my never-ending attempts to do a better job. Few thing in my life have given me the joy of watching my students move toward adulthood and embrace the struggle to be their better selves.

I know there are plenty of teachers who want to make sure others know this is just a job. I”m a lifer. It’s my vocation. It’s my honor to help my students improve their skills sets while preparing them for the hundreds of ways life will throw them curveballs. I’m here to prepare them for the whirlwinds that will blow through their lives changing everything—not always due to their own choices or actions. I’m here to help them learn to deal with what happens not what might be.

I’ve had to learn all the lessons I teach.

I also learned very early on that there is more than one way to teach. Just like I don’t want someone judging my methods just because they are different—I can’t judge those who take a different approach to students or to teaching. We all need objective outside assessments (no matter the job). We all need to hope for and to extend grace. Ultimately, we need to be effective while the world and the bar keep changing.

For the students who find this year, welcome. I’m planning on answering questions with more depth than I can in class. I’m planning on digging into topics that fascinate me, frustrate me, and inspire me.

For those who have been waiting and supporting my stilted efforts at thoughtful writing, thank you.

A Sonnet

My seniors are reading sonnets and trying their hand at writing one. They’ve had a couple of good discussions. I don’t think they realize that we will be reading sonnets for a couple of weeks. We will be digging into the rhythm and flow, into the meter, into the structure as we jump around the centuries. For now, we are dipping our toes in.

My effort shows how long it’s been since I’ve written a sonnet. I’m asking them to put themselves out there, so I shall do the same.

The world is topsy-turvy;
The monsters all got out.
They took to television with their worry
And led everyone in a huge group shout.
Don’t look under beds;
Don’t look inside closets.
These monsters got elected
By pretending to be hobbits.
The monsters wear suits of gray.
The monsters wear suits of white.
They are the old folks who say
This is wrong. And this is right.
After all, the scariest ones
Have human daughters and sons.

Title ideas are welcome…

Shadow Paths

My brother and I were recently discussing Frank Herbert’s Dune. I read it first in middle school and was utterly enchanted by the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear—it wasn’t their strange religion; it was the fact the I had recently started to always feel The Fear and I didn’t know how to handle it. Many rereads over many years have left me aware of “flaws in the vision”. I could absorb, but not apply The Litany any more than I could apply my favorite Bible verses to help me control my increasing anxiety. I still love Dune—it is the best book in the series.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death
that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass
over me and through me.
And when it has gone past
I will turn the inner eye
to see its path.
Where the fear has gone
there will be nothing.
Only I will remain
Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)

I’m not sure if Octavia Butler was a natural move or not, but I remember Patternmaster and Mind of My Mind; I don’t really remember the last two books in that series, so I’m rereading them. In high school, I read Lilith’s Brood which made me look at aliens and relationships in new ways. I just loved the way she has clearly had such a different “American experience” from me; it suffused her characters. Her stories were so enchanting. I was fascinated by her characters and their choices because the most alien personalities were often the human ones which fit with how I sometimes felt in social and school situations.

Of course my hands and eyes and mind found a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and what a story for every girl coming of age in the late 1908s/early 1990s. The novel was a standout, much like Dune in the Herbert canon; I didn’t fall into all (or many) of Atwood’s other books the same way (although I keep trying). I did fall right in love with the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. The world has always been a dark place for women and some of us are lucky we have the freedom and liberty we do have—but if all women, if all people, don’t have those same opportunities to succeed and fail…

I never got into the whole Earthsea thing. I like fantasy. I love magic. I just don’t get those Earthsea books, but I do love Ursula LeGuin’s science fiction and her essays. The way all of these women spin out a current theory just to see what might be is a gift. The Hainish Cycle is just a series of silken threads spun into the far future with fascinating results. I have loved every one of those books. Even the “boring” ones have something fascinating to say. The world building for each story is incredible and so is the way the larger universe is carefully connected.

I stumbled upon The Armless Maiden and Other Tales For Childhood Survivors in the fall of 1996 just a few months into my first year of teaching. It shifted my perspective on teaching, students, and stories in ways that I’m still learning to understand…The Armless Maiden and Other Tales For Childhood Survivors introduced me to Charles de Lint. I fell hard down the Newford rabbit hole and I’ve never regretted it. I absolutely loved the way he updated and used the folklore and myths of where he lived with “modern” life. I suppose that’s why I keep seeking out other authors who have their own modern takes on myth and folklore.

From de Lint I fell into Neil Gaiman. Oh, his stories are dark and bright and live in forest shadows. His stories often feel like liminal spaces. And his descriptions are sometimes too much, but rarely not enough. It’s so interesting to see what else inspires some writers via their blogs or social media feeds. His current photographs from The Isle of Skye are stunning.

NK Jemisin actually reeled me I with The Ones Who Stay And Fight. It is a great story on its own, but when paired with LeGuin’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas—well, it’s a great set of discussions. Then I had to start reading her other stories. It must be obvious by now that I am a little fascinated by brilliant people who tell stories well. Especially, world builders.

Along the way I heard an NPR story about a man who taught at a university, who had an MFA (a degree I’ve been debating for a decade since I’d only be in it to become a better teacher). This man was writing a trilogy he’d mapped out with his daughter. I devoured Justin Cronin’s The Passage when it first came out. Vampires were scary and the trilogy was massive. The world Cronin built was as fascinating as the people who inhabited it.

Dot Hutchison writes about a identity in a way that reminds me of the way Hawthorne constantly weaved “being true doesn’t mean don’t change” throughout his stories; he was only really obvious in The Scarlet Letter. Hutchison , however, levels up the idea of truth by exploring identity through the lies we tell to survive. She also brings to life “the blood of the vow is thicker than the water if the womb” as she intertwines her character with each other in supportive, painful, and true ways. The found families in her books don’t (always) replace the families of childhood or blood, they expand and strengthen the safety net.

Seanan McGuire (under every name) not only embraces and explores monsters, but she has the ongoing motif(?) regarding softness that I’m just now really noticing. The amount of research she puts into her books to make the science work, to give the magic rules, to honor folklore blows my mind in the best way. She is a true thief of knowledge who wraps information up in layers of story and it put me in awe.

I’m about out of words, but I would be remiss in not mentioning an author who captured me in a descriptive net with her Binti novellas. Nnedi Okorafor is a gift. Her other stories are just as vivid and engaging. I’m working my way through them in my massive pile of books to be reading. So far, each one has been a little breathtaking and enchanting. I’m also grateful to have learned about Africanfuturism and that not everyone in this world accepts that their gods or spirits are myths.

I don’t know that more than a few people will read this and I don’t even include any of my favorite nonfiction writers or poets. These authors have given me stories I can reread and sometimes teach. They explore truth, trust, affection, friendship, and sacrifice. They allow pieces of themselves (small pieces) to be shared with their readers.

Thank you all for sharing.

I Have Thoughts…

Ruth, Esther, and Job are my Old Testament heroes. They risked life and limb, gave up everything they knew, went bravely forward, asked for help when they needed it, took advice when it was offered, took responsibility for things they didn’t have to—they were early existentialists and they were faithful in their beliefs.

Ecclesiastes is my Book of Wisdom. It is about balance. It is about loyalty, affection, asking for and accepting help, offering help, listening…and did I mention the balance? It gives such solid advice. If we listen at doors and we hear people say things we don’t like—well, haven’t we don’t the same ourselves?

Sometimes we get more than we can handle. Ask for help—accept help. That’s the lesson.

John is my Gospel. It comes from a totally different set of sources than the other gospels. It has so much in common with the other gospels. For me though, “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” The universe was created with God’s will and chaos was tamed with words—it appeals to me on every level.

I don’t really care about people who say I have to take the whole Bible. Why? The Old Testament was put together as the theological history of the Jews. It’s got some great stories. It’s got a lot of darkness. In the end, God can use anyone—absolutely anyone—to further its purposes. God is beyond human understanding and The Bible is just another way humans try to confine God in the hopes of understanding God. There were once many gospel; each one was The Bible for its group of churches based on the disciple that founded them or the disciple’s followers. Those gospels were written to hold the knowledge of what Jesus did, said, taught. The miracle is how much they share in common—they weren’t meant to be side by side by side.

The Letters.

Oh, the letters.

Why are the letters taught as if they apply to every situation?

Why is Paul taught as though he hated women?

Why are the disciples preached about as though women had no place among them?

Jesus talks to and about women. Paul talks to and about women. If the churches that came out of The Reformation wanted to truly diverge from Catholicism, then why do they still teach Original Sin or Paul as misogynist or a thousand other pieces of doctorine straight from the Latin lectures of pre-Reformation Catholic priests?

I have questions. I’ve taken classes. I’ve read books. I’ve read The Bible, more than once and more than one translation. I don’t read Latin or Hebrew or Sanskrit. I don’t think it’s something my brain will be able to master. So, I have to rely on people gifted in languages and trust their translations. I think I’d have the same questions even if I could read The Bible in its original languages.

Not everything happens for a reason. How I choose to handle things is what matters.

My faith is pretty simple.

  • Jesus was the divine son of God who lived and died and lived again.
  • Jesus taught that the first commandment was love God through our actions and interactions
  • Jesus taught that the second commandment was to love others and to love ourselves through our actions and interactions
  • Jesus lived his life by helping the poor, befriending the “sinners”, opening himself up to the unloved, teaching people how to be their best selves
  • Jesus also lost his temper once at a tree, but most of the time at people trying to take advantage of the economically poor or the poor in mind
  • I’m supposed to follow what Jesus taught. Sometimes I fail. I learn and I keep trying.

Then there’s prayer. I pray often. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking of people and I’ll pray for them. Sometimes things will be going terribly and I’ll pray for myself. Sometimes I send up prayers of thanks. Sometimes I pray for family. Sometimes I pray for strangers who are suffering.

Prayer is tough.

I don’t think God cares about my dishwasher or my garbage disposal or the leak in my basement.

I know God cares about me.

I also know that my choices, my decisions, my indecisions have a direct impact on my life—good and bad. Other people’s decisions or choices ripple near and far, impacting my life and the lives of others. Everyone suffers. Everyone gets lucky (or blessed). That’s living. That’s life. I don’t think God exists to make this life easier, but I think God can help me do a better job getting through this life. If I live my beliefs, I will be living as a better person—I will be sharing God’s love.


My students have come to know my four rules for life and everything else over the last few years. It started with an activity in my 2011-2012 English 4 class (my penultimate run of When The Legends Die by Hal Borland). We came up with some rules for life Tom learned and it got me thinking. A few years later I was using Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Legal…it took me a little while unpacking those with a few new groups of students to settle on The Big Four—exception may have a fifth thanks to The Year of Mess (I’m trying to be appropriate and apolitical).

Be Smart. Live and learn or look for the lessons from success and failure because life and personal choices will litter our history with both. I’m firmly in Aristotle’s camp on this one. The greater reality, the great hereafter, doesn’t matter; how we live our lives and what we learn along the way does. We cannot divorce ourselves from uncomfortable realities. This is the time and place we were born into. Learn how to navigate the world of children. Recalibrate and learn to navigate the world of teens. Recalibrate and learn to navigate the forest of adulthood. Use it all to help others as elders if we survive that long.

Having grown up white, mostly middle class, in the Pacific Northwest granted me certain privileges. Growing up female granted me certain dangers. Growing up with my father in the sights of some unscrupulous folks (look through my older posts *cough*Rajneeshis*cough*) granted us a certain level of implied danger for several years. So, my parents stealth taught us to Be Safe. We learned what to look for, basic ways to defend ourselves, why groups are important, why loyalty among friends is vital. We learned about trust.

Be kind was a natural outgrowth of something my earliest students were already passing onto their siblings and children. Take care of each other. Exercise compassion. Put your religious love into charitable action. See something wrong? Step in to stop it or find someone who can. See someone who needs a friend because they a different? Be that friend. I’m just sorry it took me a minute to believe the sincerity of a couple of my biggest smartasses.

The fourth I talked about all the time. I stole The Scarlet Letter from English 3 so I could teach it to English 4 and moved it back again as my teaching assignment changed, because I’m the only one who loves slogging through the old school fairy tale starring Hester Prynne. I’ll give up Huck Finn and Dead Legends any time to dig my teeth into the bleak, savage beauty of Be True.

I’m helping shape the next generation of critical the miners and communicators. It is brutally hard sometimes. I have to keep learning. I have to listen when a teenager or adult tells me I’ve screwed up & I have to fix the problem. I have to try to get my students to connect with fiction, nonfiction, & poetry the way they connect with video games or their favorite TikTok creator or Instagram influencer or YouTube vlogger.

I’ve learned how to accept help over the years. I’m quick to offer help. We all need help from time to time. We all need forgiveness too. We need a chance to actually grow, to implement change, to become our truer self. This is where Grace comes in.

Grant yourself grace.

Grant others grace.

Don’t be a fool and make yourself a doormat. Don’t walk all over others. When you see someone trying to be better accept that backslides and mistakes are human. That’s where grace comes in. We are living in a time when screaming and extremism makes the news. Maybe the rest of us can tip things a new direction through truly granting a little grace to those on the edges who don’t like what they’ve become. Maybe we can be a moderating influence that makes America more than it has been…maybe we can make the world better one neighborhood, one classroom, one community at a time.


Maybe some writing will clear my mind.

I can’t seem to let go of my worries or fears or failures again tonight.

I’m so tired that my eyes watered all day.

I’m so tired that I couldn’t really nap, but I couldn’t really be awake either.

Everything feels fractured and laced in the wrong kind of darkness.

The night is full of miracles and stars; the moon whispers through the trees until it gets so big and bold it’s shouting stories into the windows. Critters rustle the leaves just enough to keep the cats at the window and it’s just cool enough to keep the windows open so fresh air can flow through the house. Nighttime prayers sometimes drift out more easily—especially the ones for those we love or for those we don’t trust at all.

Unfortunately, as the darkness deepens so do our thoughts. Our fears rise as our need for sleep creeps closer. Our worries find fertile ground in minds preparing for dreams. This means that for some of us elements of depression and anxiety fight to overtake our sleepiness and good sense. Some nights, the battles are won by sleep and peace and love. Some nights…not so much.

I always know I’m not doing enough…

I’m certain I’m not enough…

The taunts of childhood and the failures around me are confirmation enough.

Fortunately, I am not only my failures.

I am my compassion.

I am my hopes.

I am what I pour into my classes.

I am the person who listens (& who sometimes needs a listening ear).

I am my bad jokes and momentary wit.

I am my stories.

I am my ability to learn and to do better.

I am living my faith instead of waiting for death.

I am able to live love.

I. Am. Still. Here.

And I am so grateful…

Don’t give up when the world feels like it’s crushing. Don’t let go of yourself when the water is above your head. Don’t be afraid to reach out, to ask for help—yes, it’s easier to give help, but it’s strong to accept help. We all need to be brave and reach out from time to time.

Sometimes, this is what reaching out looks like…throwing words into the night.


I don’t really know where to start today or what to hit upon. I thought about doing a list, but I’ve been so ADD and migraine-brain today that my thoughts fly as fast as they form. Eh. Let’s do it anyway—

  • The world smells like cut grass and the cats are in the windows looking at my unkempt back yard (it’s a valid choice)
  • It’s easy to forget how blessed I am to be upright and breathing
  • It’s strange to use scifi technology to do my job and have it be The Standard
  • I bought stickers today for that future moment when students are back in the classroom
  • I love running into old students
  • There’s so much I’ve let slide and I’m not sure how to level it all out, because it is OverWhelmIng
  • My head HURTS
  • I wore a pretty dress today and it was nice
  • I just woke up from a much needed nap
  • I’m really grateful not to have cable television
  • Twilight is such a lovely time of day…the world brightens or fades and I can just watch, breathe, be…
  • I have a seriously deep love of drama dots ellipses (especially, misusing them)
  • I don’t think I ever believed I would have an RLP or PLP—I always knew I’d never have a someone
  • I have the cats
  • I have some good friends
  • My family cares as much as they can

Please remember that you aren’t totally alone. In this chaotic and stressful and depression (anxiety) inducing time there are people willing to help. They may take an internet search or a social media plea, but they are out there.

Is it really such a big deal?

The older I get the more I start to think some of the things I grew up learning were sinful and wrong are really a big deal, let alone anyone else’s business. I’ve written before about the relief of learning about gray-sexuality, about how much it meant to know I wasn’t broken. For some reason I’ve been noticing more people speaking about bi-erasure or bi-discrimination in the last month. People who are bisexual aren’t greedy or unable to choose—they are not broken. So why is it okay to treat them badly?

Looking back on things I’ve read or watched or heard I see real parallels to how many in society treat the overweight. As though these groups of people are still safe to pour misplaced anger and angst onto. Fuck that!

I sat in one of my favorite restaurants alone (I usually am) eating and reading and thinking. I realized how much I appreciate bisexual energy. There’s something soothing for me who has only felt sexual attraction once or twice in my life about people who feel it more often and more freely. I appreciate the affection that’s offered by people who are comfortable with men and women. I’ve also noticed that not everyone who gives off this energy would label themselves as bisexual or biromantic (which means they aren’t) but they still have a level of comfort with physical affection and verbal affection that wasn’t common in my community growing up and that I most often see in bi people.

I’m not sure why today or this weekend I feel compelled to put this out into the world. As extremism rises, why are the small things or the old “sins” such a big deal?

People engage in premarital sex often and few really take the time to condemn it unless they are being particularly creepy and patriarchal. People infringe on the ability of others to live in safety all the time and if they are white or wealthy they often get away with it. People practice unbelievable cruelty every day and it’s waved away under many guises—gotta be honest, it’s not what my God or my savior actually taught.

So why do we make such a big deal out of people who are just trying to live their lives in love and make the world a kinder place?