bohemian

The worn cover of Carole Kings 1971 Grammy Award album “Tapestry”

bohemian

So, a while back a friend said she could finally afford to buy that bohemian coat she wanted.  The use of the word “bohemian” spurred memories. I’ve considered myself a bohemian ever since my aunt gave me a turquoise & silver ring when I was seven.  My aunt lived the bohemian lifestyle and getting that ring from her, in my simple-kid mind, meant I was in the club. My contributions to the movement were growing out my long straight black hair, wearing a bandana when I mowed the lawn and, as often as possible, sit on our couch in an incorrect manner.  

Circle of pipe vibe

Before the pale blues and mauves of the ’80s made their appearance into my childhood, I was surrounded by beatnik leftovers from my parent’s first home; my mother’s early ’60s style contrasted with her sister’s  ’70s experience melting together into a sweet avocado green.  Of course, I had no idea what either of those lifestyles was about! Our living room was crowned by a 3-foot round metal, astrological chart wheel hanging above a black and white leopard print flop couch, adjacent to a row of mahogany stained bookshelves and dad’s tobacco pipe cady. In my room, Barbie was living clean in her shoebox and lego “Dream House”.  Literature in the home included encyclopedias, LIFE Book collections, sci-fi books and poetry by Kahlil Gibran.  Music was predominately 60’s jazz albums, Bill Cosby, Helen Reddy, and Carole King.

But it wasn’t my stuff, it was the life and home that my parents built for us.  It was warm and happy.  As an adult, how do I recreate a modern art of living? Somewhere along the way, I lost it.  I need to get out of survival mode and find my faux-bohemian again.

Get Small
For $110 you can own this view, hang it on any wall, “Mount Corcoran”, by Albert Bierstadt

Turn those dreams of the high retired life down a couple notches.  First, be honest with yourself.  Instead of a dream retirement cabin on the lake, you can be just as happy in a studio apartment that’s 30-minutes away from a lake.   Just visit the lake.  You don’t need the whole lake. This isn’t the 50’s.  No lake for you.

The west coast of Washington and Oregon offer a high quality of life, clean air, water including water in the shape of lakes that we can all visit.  In WA we have all four seasons, mild winters, besides the scratchy track of volcanoes down the middle of the Cascades, we’re doing alright…except for the cost of living.  According to the site costofliving.net the cost of living in Washington is higher than the national average.  They report,

“Our cost of living indices are based on a US average of 100. An amount below 100 means Washington is cheaper than the US average. A cost of living index above 100 means Washington, Washington is more expensive.  Washington’s cost of living is 118.7.  Housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference.  The median home price in Washington is $381,300.”

D.I.Y. Life

How do you add quality to your life on a tight budget?  Of course, defining “quality” is person-specific.  In this economy, in this city, I am trying to live a good life but I feel like most efforts bring me down, and I am starting to take it personally. This American Life has it out for me.  I pissed it off somewhere along the line and it’s not giving me anything, no living income, no happily ever after, no satisfaction except in a sunrise, no joy but in my neighbors blooming trees, no love but when that orange cat comes by and rubs its cheek against my doorway, no peace but the ocean that tells me it’s always there—it goes out, but it will come back, it always comes back.  No glory but a rainbow around the moon and my childhood friend the Big Dipper and Orion chasing each other in the sky. The world is a big and resourceful place if you are a tiny red ant working with a million other clones.  It’s all about perspective.

photo credit http://pyreaus.com/inspired_manifestation/2015/pyreaus_inspired_manifestation_It%27s_an_Ant%27s_World_Order_Discipline_Unique_Perspective.htm

 

 

Poem: The Back of My Hand

 

The Back of My Hand

By Shannon P. Laws

It was that time of
the day when the light
gave away the distance
of each hill

The twilight swarm of gnats
and wishing cottonwood seeds
bounce off the windshield
in a rush to live and die

The dark sun wanting to set
took a rest over the last ridge

It was that place on
the highway where lines

solid white
double yellow
solid white

bend in unison to
show off its curves
like a lady in a corset

It was that time, that place
when you wiggled in your seat
turned a shoulder forward
looked at me and said

I love you. You know I love you, right?

Your hand hugged mine
as we came to that point
in the pass where the
road is visible for miles

I saw it worming down around
ending with a sharp left
I knew it continued into
the Skagit Valley, pass a cafe

I knew we’d find the freeway
and reach our street by ten tonight
We’d both go to work in the morning
and the week would continue

into more weeks, months and years…
and when you said
you loved me
it was a lie

 

 

Pit Stop

 

birds-ocean-shores
Sandpipers at Ocean Shores

Pit Stop

Early morning air whistles past the plant on the dresser, kicks at a scarf hanging on my bed post, then finds the place in my mind holding childhood trinkets.  I surprise myself, reacting in song.  I sing an old folk song handled and dusted by time, passed down generation to generation.  An oil cloth recalls the brass plate, treasured like a trophy discovered in the attic, reveals the words “Oh My Darling Clementine.”

Wearing boxes without topses

Wind and song send me away.  I’m sitting in the back of my dad’s big green truck, singing with family; brother, cousins, Aunt Jo and mom.  Camping gear stacked strategically around us and beneath. Weather report checked in the morning Seattle Times, large blue tarps folded in squares under the red cooler.  The cooler is full of four days worth of food including butter, milk, cheddar, baloney, and beer, of course, beer.

I-5 smog blows through the broken floorboard near the tailgate, the only bare spot on the floor; it’s a leak to the outside world.  It looks like a tiger bite or a claw ripped at the wood.  I want to stuff a kitchen towel in it to seal the room.  Our only source of light comes from the long rectangular canopy windows.  Classic layout, men in the cab, women, and children in the covered bed with the other commodities. We sing to pass the time, the men listen to the radio.

It’s 1977, summer vacation, and mom has cut off our worn school jeans to mid-thigh. All our church clothes left quietly resting in the dressers at home. Anything ripped or stained is allowed to go to the beach

At the half-way point, we stop to refuel.

I do not know how I must have looked to the clerk at the gas station as I walked up to the counter with a handful of wrinkled dollars.  Did I resemble a poor latch-key kid abandoned by working parents or perhaps a tourist who lost their luggage, forced to purchase a salvation army wardrobe?  The back of my long black hair teased out from a short nap. Maybe she saw many kids buying Bubblicious and a blue slurpee that warm week in June.  She saw so many a day that she didn’t really see me, I blended in with the neighborhood kids, whatever that neighborhood was called, wherever we were.

ocean-shores-scott-sean-shannon
Enjoying the cold Washington State waves

The night air brings it back to me.  I don’t know how.  Does memory ride the current like evergreen pollen, stains the skin with a fine yellow dusting?  Like that afternoon the San Juan woods seduced me to take the wrong turn, bending me towards a grove of pine in heat?

I travel a bit…

At the end of my childhood block is a field of sweet grass. Pull a large stalk, slowly, straight up, out of its hinge and you have a treat, chew the white sweet end for its nectar. One bite is all you get per blade. Take the flat half, place between your thumbs and blow.  We sat all afternoon chewing on sweet grass and whistling.  Why should I remember that?  That quiet moment found in a field, in South King County.

A few trees still stand there, ask them, they might know.

Remember.  Forget.  Remember again.

More wind. I am 10, I hear it all again. That vacation one summer…

The forest behind me, the constant waves crashing just over the dunes, the violent sound of a bag of ice thrown to the ground to break it up, the repeated clink of a male metal pump tapping rapidly along the female rim of a full tank.

“Kids, time to go!” An adult performs the last chore, drains the melted water pressed behind a flimsy white stopper at the cooler’s base. A solid stream of water hits the dusty oil ground with a poof!  Water skates to the lowest point, rainbows wiggle along the ground.  It’s pretty.  A fresh bag of broken ice opened, poured over the perishables.

The cooler, our snacks, ourselves tucked back into Big Green for the last leg of the trip.

ocean-shores-gray
A gray Ocean Shores day

 

Guest Poet: Denise duMaurier

Snowdrop

A daystar opened in my row
of dead leaves pallid from the wind
a golden center ready for the slug
that finds it blind and eats it whole.
Feet that feel no miracles will
stomp on it thinking it a weed
in the way of clearing fallen bark
and broken twigs that quit the tree.
January snowdrop white as milk
glows like fairy-light on the foggiest
morning of the week frosted in the
polar vortex, born again.

~Denise duMaurier

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Poet Bio:

Born in Pennsylvania and educated in England, Denise duMaurier worked as a stage actor in character roles for more than 50 years. Her love of poetry began with wonderful roles from the “SH-guys:” Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw. Her latest book, Follow Me Down, contains poems of tribute, remembrance and aging, most written in Minneapolis, MN, before moving to Bellingham, WA, in the spring of 2010, to escape Minnesota’s winters.

Village Books is pleased to carry copies of Denise’s poetry books Follow Me Down and Abandoning the Raft. Please call 360-671-2626 to obtain copies.

***

~Thank you Denise for allowing me to post this beautiful, fresh new poem on my blog.  When you shared it with me the other day at our Saturday brunch, I was moved.  If it wasn’t for the noise of the cafe, people may have heard me sniffing tears away.  It touched my heart as your poetry often does.  
Great stuff!  –Shannon


***

Vicarious Vacation

A year ago I was on my island enjoying the salty air.  Here’s a blog of mine from summer 2010.  Wishing you all a good vacation season! ~Shannon

The phrase “summer job” leads most people to picture a student making pizzas or serving burgers during the long three months off from school. If you live on an island it has a completely different meaning to a whole other demographic. A summer job(s) here is what the working class or retired folks do to make some extra money. Storing up cash for the economically slow months riddled with higher heating bills and expensive gift giving holidays, people in small tourist towns act much like ants gathering up food for the long winter. Jumping on an opportunity to help a friend with their tree pruning business, or ironing sheets for the Bed n’ Breakfast down the street are good ways to supplement your income. Being opportunistic is apart of island living.

Since I’ve moved to the island I have been fortunate to have summer job(s) that fill the week. I say fortunate because since the winter of 2008 one out of ten people in Washington State are unemployed. This summer I’m averaging 90 hours a paycheck and as expected, I find it difficult to do anything BUT work.

Writing has been pushed to the side, so has cleaning the house, and appointments are being moved into September. Instead of working on articles or my book, I am writing only poetry. My poetry however has not been of posting quality, but rewarding just the same. I write about how much my body aches, the way the sun shines through the trees, and about how angry I was at the moon; the crazy ramblings of an overworked woman to be sure. I DO think about my story lines, usually in the morning. Something will set it off. I’ll see an object or hear a phrase that ignites my imagination; it’s another refreshing creative escape, even if it only last a couple of minutes or so.

Until September rolls around I’ll just live my vacation vicariously through the other tourist. As I shuttle around the grounds of the resort where I work I pass and interact with all types of tourist. Three skinny boys in their tweens, bundled up in towels, dripping wet returning from a long swim in the lake. Seemingly numb to walking barefoot on gravel road, their only focus being “What’s next?” Planning up all sorts of things to do, see and eat. My feet hurt watching them walk on the gravel, but their excitement was contagious. Another day a sleepy couple, still in their flannels, come in for coffee and share with me about their wonderful yesterday of sight seeing, the super pod of Orcas off shore, the kayaking, the hike. Just listening about their day tired me out! What a day!

Later that week I met up with a friend for coffee. She was as exhausted as I was but from friends and family visiting her. In one months time she had five visits, each time taking folks around the island, cooking, cleaning, and going out for dinner, seeing movies, then repeating it all over again with the next group. “It’s wears ya out having a good time” she joked. We both sat there exhausted and thankful for a peaceful cup and visit in a quiet house. I swear for a second our sighs were synchronized. We were rotationally at two different poles but, exhausted just the same.

Too much fun!