Now I’m understanding genocide. People were deprived of life. Families were deprived of these people. And the world’s cultures lack the entire sector of what the dead and never-borns would have helped to shape.
Astonished Barb Blog
Exactly six months ago, a “collision” forced me question the rest of my life. “Ka,” the event: me, who I thought I was, against a new reality. “Lizion,” the gradual diminution of its effects, like the reverberation of a bell. I didn’t post what I wrote back then. It was too earnest, too afraid. I... Continue Reading →
When Life Gives You Nettles . . . Make Nettle Soup
Stinging nettles—yowch! See those glassy hairs on the stems? They break off if you touch them, pushing histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and several types of acids into your skin, and giving you—“nettles.” At first it stings, then you might get welts where they went in, and then they begin to itch, an insistence that may come... Continue Reading →
Nudge Me Back to Center
During COVID, I shied away from people. I knew what to do, but just didn't get that nudge.
What in the world caused this? Early in my career, I followed an older colleague through a dark forest. He’d been telling me highly suspect stories of Sasquatch sightings in that very forest, when suddenly his voice quieted. “We’re almost there,” he whispered. We slipped into a light-filled gap. Looming above us was a white... Continue Reading →
Free Association, Starting with Black
A Tribute to my Brother Charlie Dad, Rog, and Charlie; then Mom, Palsy and me Black white chalky marbly butterscotch swirl bowling ball the sound of a bowling alley the sound of a powerful waterfall falling lacy waters flying insects in the breeze deep blue sky of summer deep lead clouds of summer wet and... Continue Reading →
Tell Me About Your Rescue Dog
Tell me about your rescue dog. Tell me about your pandemic experience. I’ll tell you about my fridge. Tell me about the fort you made from pillows and sheets as a kid. Tell me about the time you made an entire meal from new recipes, trying to make it special. Tell me about your favorite... Continue Reading →
Old Sleeping Bags and their Store of Dreams
Shortly, I will take Mom and Dad’s sleeping bags to the homeless shelter. With a bit of a heavy heart, although I know it will lighten when the deed is done. These bags were well-used over the past 65 years. Mom and Dad used them as blankets in their Quonset hut during their two years... Continue Reading →
Cloud (COVID) Nine (-teen)
Cloud COVID-19 has many forms. Our connectivity means disease can amplify far and wide. As can acts of kindness.
Dancing Forks and Cheese Fondue on Valentine’s Day
Our Valentine's Day tradition started on a whim, but took on meaning of its own--I think.
Sometimes a Girl Wants . . . An Infrared Thermometer
My IR thermometer: it's like I purchased a new sense, something beyond color, smell, and feel.
Coming Up Flowers
My esoteric ticks that take me into the woods in winter.
My Writing Journey: An Update
Here’s an update on my writing journey, a sort of status report. The scenery has been varied, and I’ve done a lot of miles. What I have to show for it is much better writing skills than before and a few polished projects that must be getting closer to publishable! After seven years (not full... Continue Reading →
In the Swim Again
I'm swimming again. In the water, I feel capable. Why not? I’m doing it. My body feels the stretching it is undergoing and the pulls I have accomplished. Currents and eddies pummel my surface. My knuckles graze the lane line more times than I would wish. When I reach the end of a lap, either... Continue Reading →
Waiting for Coho
There’s a truly absurd play in which two people sit on chairs waiting for Godot to show up. We wonder why they are waiting or if he will show. Spoiler alert, he doesn’t. Sometimes that’s what it feels like to wait for the salmon--the chinook and the coho--to appear. I walk along the bank to... Continue Reading →
Logging our Land: My Mental Journey
I had to own it. We were cutting down 60- and 70-year-old alder, Douglas-fir, bigleaf maple and a few hemlocks and western redcedars, and as we did that, we’d be killing a lot of whatever else lived there in the forest--ferns, lilies, meadow rue, baneberry, and non-green things that couldn’t fly or crawl away. Who... Continue Reading →
Plants are the True Alchemists*
Long ago, alchemists concerned themselves with refining base materials like lead into substances with higher spiritual value, like gold. I argue that alchemists still lurk among us and that the alchemists are the plants.1 Plants take air and water, combine them using energy from the sun, and make a substance holding energy that powers life... Continue Reading →
Legacies of a Housewife and her Scientist Husband, February 1963
February 18, 1963. In less than a month, my family would move from Palo Alto, California to Hanover, New Hampshire where Dad would teach a term at Dartmouth College. Art Lachenbruch was 37, Edie was 35, and Roger, Charlie, and I were 8, 7, and 6 years old. At that moment, Dad was on a... Continue Reading →
A Memorial Party for My Brother Charlie
These stories went from somewhere to somewhere else. And now released, they spin into the lives of those who brought them back and those who sat and listened.
Write Your Life Story
How about I take a writing class at the community college, I thought. Actually, I didn’t think that unprompted; an old friend suggested it. I’d already tried finding a writing community a dozen different ways, and nothing was a fit, so why not? The community college offered two classes that I could ride my bike... Continue Reading →
Walk a Mile in My Boot
I’m on Week Five with a walking boot for a stress fracture in my foot. I ice, I take Naprosyn, I go easy on it, and I fall into a rhythm of living with it. It’s not a bad handicap. I’ve had much worse, even in the last year. But a boot is an odd... Continue Reading →
Water Eases the Soul; Its Surface Tension Has Much to Do With It
Water drop on lotus leaf I slip into a body of water--a tub, hot tub, creek, lake, or ocean--and the water supports me, buoys me, and makes intimate, surrounding contact. It releases my tension. But that's not the surface tension I'm talking about. The bathwater's contact isn’t too intimate, the way a bath in rubbing... Continue Reading →
Retire, the Word
I retired. I’m retired. I’m a retiree. Is there a less appealing word for such an appealing status? Literally, retire means to pull back or withdraw (think of tire on doors in France, meaning pull). That isn’t even what I’m doing. That definition makes me think of a horse who is trotting along doing its... Continue Reading →
Gilgamesh Didn’t Care About the Ethics of Travel
Tikal, Guatemala According to an epic poem written more than 3000 years ago*, Gilgamesh, who was the ruler of Uruk, and his opponent-turned-best-friend, Enkidu, decided to destroy the Cedar Forest where humans were forbidden to enter. Gilgamesh and Enkidu, both of whom had super-human strength, traveled across seven mountains before they came to the forest.... Continue Reading →
The Raggedy Months of the Year–and Joy beyond Grief
Last weekend at the cabin, everything was raggedy: trees were down, nothing was blooming, appliances were acting up, and roads, boots, ditches, and even our faces were running with cold rain. But, or, as Butt the Hoopoe says in Salman Rushdie’s playful Haroun and the Sea of Stories, “but but but.” But but but for... Continue Reading →
Love and Joy We Share
My friends, how do I love you? I love you as the vibrant pulse of life. I love you as a wild ginger. A bleeding heart. As cactus, cloven, we know not why. And staghorn ferns, as well . As nettles, with their spines we learn to live with. Veronica seed--a heart that follows bloom.... Continue Reading →
Why Do Maples put Sugar in the Sap in Winter?
[Note--here is a webinar I made on this topic, plus how to make maple syrup.] You may know I’m a tree physiologist and that my research has been in how a plant gets water to go up the tree, but it wasn’t until I started making maple syrup that I started thinking about maple sap.... Continue Reading →
Make Maple Syrup–or Your Equivalent
How we make maple syrup from bigleaf maples in Oregon and why we even consider it, when it's a lot of work for the syrup we get!
The Halo of Hindsight
We walked farther than the dogs needed to because I needed to keep going. In the illumination of a streetlight, I saw concentric circles in the knobby twigs.
Common Sense After My Brother Has Died
People believed we did not have common sense. We crawled through the chaparral over sharp rocks barefoot and in shorts. We stayed out exploring until we could not see where our fingernails ended and our fingers started. We asked too many questions and pushed ourselves in environments that were dangerous and mental realms that were... Continue Reading →
Shutting it Off: Thoughts by Day and by Night
Here’s how you shut it off. You leave town with your husband. You rent a place that has kayaks. You concentrate on figuring out how to pull yours through the sand to the lapping ocean, then on how to get into the plastic shell. Then you row, or paddle, or whatever it is that you... Continue Reading →
“Who is Bob,” I Ask, while Learning of Charlie’s Cancer
This story is about three of the people on this solid earth. This story is about them in the middle of September up until now, and it is about them before that time and after. It is about the people they knew or know or will know, too, and indirectly, it is about the ground... Continue Reading →
This story is not about Marion’s casserole, but that is where I have to start. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Partially brown a pound of ground beef, then pour off the grease. Scrape the ground beef into a lasagne pan, then pour in a few cups of elbow macaroni. Find the can opener and... Continue Reading →
The Memory Stick of Life, and Why it is Important to Me this Very Minute*
One night on the way to visit my father, I heard about a crime that was allegedly committed by a twenty-year-old man. My first reaction was to be upset: it was none of our business how old he was, or even that it was a “he” and not a “she.” I remembered my reaction when... Continue Reading →
Our Beach Getaway—Insignificance and Significance
My husband, the dogs, and I spent last week at his family’s beach cabin. It’s a modest structure with a flat roof and a lot of history—his family’s history; I married in relatively recently. The cabin sits on top of a cliff above a long narrow beach. The beach’s upper terrace is a strip of... Continue Reading →
August: Flickers of the Fall to Come
Today there were flickers of fall. I spied them in the curled leaves beneath our cherry tree, its crown still green. I smelled them in the air, both brisk and sour. I felt them on my feet which brushed against the dew. I wore the flickers in my spine, which hunched today to force the... Continue Reading →
Weeds Happen, Part 2
I like our little tractor, a lot, although I like what it does more than I like operating it. All the bits about pre-warming the coils and managing controls in the right order unnerve me. There are clutches, hand-levers, and foot pedals for going forward or backward, going fast or slow, lifting (or dropping) the... Continue Reading →
Weeds Happen, Part 1
I have to grease our little tractor. That means I have to skootch on my back, grease gun in one hand and manual in the other. I will concentrate on my three hopes: That the tractor won’t roll. I know it won’t because it can’t: it’s parked on the level and has both of its... Continue Reading →
Mother Cross-Trains for Old Age; Daughter Pulls Ahead
I think of the eye tests where the ophthalmologist says, “Which one’s better, One or Two?” and I ask to see One again. I try to keep Two in mind as it blinks off and One takes its place. “I can’t tell you,” I say. “It’s all right. Let’s try this,” she says. “Which one’s... Continue Reading →
The Flowers That Bloom in July, Tra La—and Why We Monitor Them
With our monitoring of first flowering date, we have a feeling of belonging to the world, rather than resistance to it; of concordance, rather than shock.
The Proper Use of Spanish When Visitors Arrive*
When visitors show up, you need to remember these two words: igualmente (likewise, but easier to kick around) and tampoco (me neither but casual, like uh-uh.) Just say them over and over, and then get ready to drop them as your guests began to talk. “I’m so glad to be home,” someone says. Actually, I... Continue Reading →
We Organized, We Came, We Conquered: A Conference Organizer’s Chronicle of Emotions
I’d like to start my closing remarks by telling you about a pleasant symmetry. In 1975, during winter break of my sophomore year of college, my friends in Pennsylvania took me skiing for the first time. I had much trepidation. It was here they took me: to Mount Snow, Vermont. Now near the other end... Continue Reading →
Dogs: What Are They Thinking? Sundance Joins our Home but Holds his Mysteries
Dogs: what are they thinking? What keeps them in check, what lets them break loose? Who are they, each of these canines who live beside us, who we live beside, who drive our love machines? We got possession of an almost four-year-old dog* about five weeks ago, named Sundance. His personalities are as varied as... Continue Reading →
Musings on Retirement and Transitions on the Occasion of my 40th College Reunion
In the weeks leading up to my 40th college reunion, I started musing about Barb now and Barb back then. I collected my few mementos: a yearbook, the freshman book with all of our high school photos in it, and a set of peach-colored towels that we are still using. I considered the astonished Barb... Continue Reading →
Manroot Gives Windows to My Understanding of “Truth”
Last week I attended a symposium on Environmental Arts and Humanities. I listened with creeping discomfort as three speakers talked about “truth” as if it were subjective. One speaker talked about her research on photos, not what is in them, but what observers of the photos take away. These takeaways were the big feelings like... Continue Reading →
I Never Learned Their Names: Understanding Implicit Bias through my Habits of Plant ID
I’ve known that feathery plant with tiny green bobbles for so long. It grows between the flagstones. I’ve known the wide leafy thing that isn’t a mint, and the tiny-leaved tiny-flowered spike that grows through lawns like miniature garlands. Bear with me here: I have a point to make. I’ve known weeds and their patches... Continue Reading →
Back Then, We Had Stubbed Toes
Letter to my boyfriend after my junior year of college. I had just returned to California for the summer from Pennsylvania by Greyhound bus, May 29, 1977. My kids don’t know what a stubbed toe, a stubbed heel, or a scraped knee is, really. They understand the concept, but they aren’t even sure how you’d... Continue Reading →
The Joy of Edges: How Limits Keep Me Unbounded
Edges hold the world in, so I can live here. And yet the pursuit of edges pulls me out of my world to see what else there is.
The Perfect Throw
I’m in position. I’ve rocked forward, left leg in front, body planted on the right. Now I’m rocking back. My left knee rises, my right should cocks back, my elbow, and then my right hand follows. Now I explode like a spring, hurling every joule of available energy—from my leg, torso, shoulder, biceps, forearm, wrist,... Continue Reading →
Springs, Harmonic Motion, and the Zen of Recording First Flowering Date
Some time last year, the plants around our cabin started grabbing atoms from the air and soil. They jammed them together, then used solar energy to stick them into molecules that were no longer gas or liquid, but were solid. For the rest of the growing season, the plants doled out those molecules to whatever... Continue Reading →