Astonished Barb Blog

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

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 →

Marion’s Casserole

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 →

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 →

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 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 →

Poison Oak: In It Up to My Elbows

When I chose to study the ecology of western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, also known as Rhus diversiloba), I knew I would have to learn how to minimize the risk of “getting poison oak” and of causing other people to get it (11, 12, 13, 14). Here I describe the nature and seriousness of the... Continue Reading →

Let’s Hear it for Being Ludic

ludic (adjective): (Of play) spontaneous and without purpose; (of behavior) undirected and spontaneously playful. I need the occasional ludic break to get through the day. Ludic is running through the park with a young son. Ludic is playing tug-of-war with the dog. Ludic is arranging blueberries on the rim of my plate; it’s humming or... Continue Reading →

Spring Breaks Through

Great glory, wonderful day! I’m astonished how good it feels when the sun finally shines, when grasses show as mounds in unmown lawns, and cherry petals start to grace the ground, reminding me to look up. Dogs walk faster, squirrels linger with more derring-do, college kids talk louder as their masses move up sidewalks.  At... Continue Reading →

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