Words to the Wise

This crazy thing is happening. My baby brother is starting college. He is installed in his dorm room, with his guitars and many blocks of cheese and mason jars of kombucha — did I mention he’s at Evergreen? As his much older sister, I potentially might be wiser, and even if I’m not, I have opinions. So here, for Aidan, is my setting-out-into-the-real-world advice.

Can you see why I had stories to tell about him?

Ready to take on the world.

1.Life is easiest when you stay on top of the details. Pay your bills on time. Do your homework on time. Don’t let the hairball in the shower get so big you think it’s a rat.

2. Listen to people’s words: Everything but yes really means no, whether the question is about if you can kiss them or borrow their peanut butter. Respecting what you hear is the essence of integrity.

3. Wear your seatbelt/helmet/condom — hopefully not at the same time.

4. You can’t talk anybody into loving you. See #2.

5. Consumer debt is enslavement to the status quo. Be wary of credit cards.

6. Cars don’t mix with texting/dancing/drinking/deep philosophical conversations/phone calls to your sister. To maximize fun, stay away from cars.

7. Don’t do things you don’t believe in: the integrity of what you do and believe and the love that those beliefs and actions embody is what gives life meaning. However, integrity is not the same as rigidity and judgment. Think of it as a supple rootedness rather than a line.

8. “I’m an artist and need to experience some things,” is not a better rationalization for doing stupid things than “Everyone else is doing it,” or “Woo hoo, freshman year!!!” In other words, lofty bohemians can still do slimy things. Be warned.

9. Speak up for what you love. It’s ok to get arrested if it is for something that matters.

10. School is not worth pulling all-nighters for. Girls are. (But see #1.)

11. Always ask for what you want. Don’t feel entitled to having it given to you.

12. Exploring altered consciousness is a time-honored human pursuit. However, traditionally it is done inside the shelter of a ritual, and in my observation that piece is important. Be picky about what you surround yourself with if you’re exploring — there can be unhealthy rituals too, like when the Mt. Si football team hammered bottle caps into each other’s biceps. Listen to yourself. Substance induced oblivion is not a sign of maturity or awesomeness. Trust me, ok? I’m right. Avoid needles. Meth sucks your soul out and makes you lose your virginity in public restrooms, so they say. Regardless, it’s gross and stupid. The process of making coke is just foul — that stuff is not just a plant. Mexican pot is fueling the drug lord insanity in Mexico. I know too many people who’ve died of heroin. Also, there are many ways to alter consciousness without substances: dancing, playing music, meditation, running barefoot in the rain….

13. Vote.

14. Buy your own underwear.

15. Remember your family loves you and we’re here for you, although you better take care of that hairball on your own.


Film Rights

Allow me a moment of shameless self-promotion. Actually, it’s more a moment of other-people promotion, because the thing I will eventually get around to talking about here was a total surprise to me.

A short story I wrote got made into a film:

Isn’t that cool? You can all applaud the folks at Quick Fictions, because I had nothing to do with it. But I like it very much.

Further Adventures in Alaskan Retirement

I hope with all my talk of reading and cards and napping and eating you don’t think Alaskan Retirement is all bucolic. I mean, Alaska is to pastoral as grizzly bear is to frolicking lamb.

First of all, there is the shooting range, where I am now moderately proficient with a rifle as long as that rifle is propped up on something still. (Trap shooting — shooting moving clay pigeons with a shotgun — was another story. Turns out, it really doesn’t work if you sight with the wrong eye.)

Second, I went moose hunting. I did not go moose finding, but that’s ok.

Third, there has been a brownie in the neighborhood. When you are retired in Alaska, a brownie isn’t a dessert; it is a grizzly. Now, a couple of nights ago, Grumpy went outside to put in the chickens, and next thing we know he’s calling for backup. Something had spooked those birds and several of them were out of their run. One had been half-plucked and devoured on the side of the driveway. Soon I am clomping around in Grammy’s clogs in the pushki and fireweed along the backside of the run, looking for a lost chicken. I’m not the first big creature to clomp around back there; everything is smashed down from the alder thicket to right up along the fence. It is getting very dark and I can’t find the chicken.

The next morning we concluded it was a bear. Black or brown, we do not know. At water aerobics, everyone had an opinion and everyone had a story about bears and other things that eat chickens. Like the one where someone’s friend finds one of her chickens half through the fence, pulls it back in, and finds an ermine attached to the other end. There was a long conversation in the locker room on the subject, while I looked in the mirror and noticed my swimming suit was getting old and saggy and maybe soon ready for its own retirement.

Which is ok, because my Alaskan Retirement and my water aerobic attendance, is over now and I am back at home where Squinchy wishes we were barking at squirrels.

Alaskan Retirement Continues

Like any retired people worth their salt, we play games. I have relearned cribbage, which I used to play with my mom, back in my youth. I’ll tell you something — cribbage is why we learn arithmetic. I must say my knowledge of numbers that add up to fifteen was embarrassingly rusty.

We also play hearts. Hearts is an excellent metaphor for life. For most people, the way to win at hearts is to be very quiet and play very safe and not take the lead too much. However, if you do that to a fault, you lose really badly. Also, playing hearts that way is pretty boring, whereas trying to shoot the moon whenever it’s remotely possible is challenging and exciting. It is also unpredictable and doesn’t necessarily help you on the score pad. What I am trying to say, is I’m someone who would prefer to shoot the moon, in life and in hearts, even if I don’t make it very often. I say better play an interesting, challenging game than win a boring one. See how wise retirement makes you? I recommend it to all of you.

And I recommend the book Living High, by June Burn, as an inspiration. She was a free-spirited lady in the early 20th century who did things like homestead in the San Juan Islands and walk across a few states with her toddler in a handcart. She and her husband had the plan that they would retire first and have a career later, and her descriptions of her consequent adventures are adventures themselves.


Alaskan Retirement

As some of you may know, I recently retired* to Alaska. I am sharing retirement with my Grammy and Grumpy. I do not yet have my own Retirement Name. So far, retirement in Alaska is pretty relaxing. We eat a lot, and take naps. We are taming some Stellar’s Jays to eat peanuts near us on the railing of the deck. Some day they may eat out of our hands. Beyond the jays is the garden, and beyond that is the beautiful view of the bay and the mountains beyond. I will post pictures some time. Alaskan retirement is very beautiful.

Yesterday we went on a walk in a wildflower meadow. It is not wildflower season, but we could see that the flowers would have been very beautiful. The remains of the flowers were beautiful, too. The stalks of the fireweed flamed every reddish color. If we had been feeling philosophical, we might have made profound remarks about Time and Life. As it was, we went back to the car and ate trail mix. Then we went to Safeway for senior discount day.

After that, we went to Save-U-More where we had special-ordered a case of jalapeno peppers. Back at home, we processed them for the freezer, wearing rubber gloves because we know what happens when you don’t. We have experienced some things in our day. Alaskan retirement, I am discovering, involves a great deal of processing things for the freezer, at least in September. This is because of the garden and the eating and Time and bears and also moose and salmon, which is to say it is because of Alaskan retirement.

We also watch the news, especially the weather. There are cats. Today, we went to water aerobics and ate ice cream and fed cauliflower leaves to the chickens. Eventually, it was time for dinner.