In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Killer Behind Me


The salsa music is on and I’m ready to write. The sun has set and just the faintest color of blue lies behind my madrona tree outside my window. In a few moments the window will completely frame “black”... Just total blackness -click- standing up I turn on my desk lamp and now see my own reflection in the glass now turned mirror. Instinctively my eyes look at what is behind me. Perhaps I’ve seen too many movies? The killer stands quietly behind the unsuspecting.... writer, spy or innocent lady washing the dishes... Where did we get that instinct to always check what's behind us?

Now the killer only moves slowly and quietly for the voyeuristic crowd sitting in their seats with ICEE’s in their hands. It’s meant as a suspense builder in the movies. I mean, there is always this agent, just hanging out where there's some good lighting, with her back to the whole room, getting ready to die. She’s calling her boss to tell them she’s bringing in the stolen super scientific silver tube of doom. And there's that bad guy- or good guy depending on your political position on tubes of doom- he’s swirling the knife handle in his palm, arms stretched out like a praying mantis ready to strike. Honestly in real life I’m sure a bad guy would run up to the victim quickly to perform the deed; catch them by surprise. Walking slowly from across the room really doesn’t make much sense. I mean what if the bad guy gets tripped up on something in route to the target? There have to be at least ten different things that could happen from point A to point B. Perhaps he knocks over the lamp, trips on a shoelace, the floor could squeak, or he steps on a pile of newspapers. (Newspapers can be really noisy you know). It’s just stupid to think they would move so slowly in real life.

I looked behind me and there was no creepy person standing there. For some reason I feel a little disappointed. Then, without warning, two sharp objects pierced my right leg, just above the ankle. My cat had jumped me from the side- bit me -then ran off with the skill of a true ninja warrior! Scared the living crap out of me. “God dang you cat!”

The cat… it’s always the cat. No one suspects the cat.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mother




written January 2010

This story is about a woman who is a lab created cyborg, in the way far away future. Humans are trying to perfect human and cyborg technology, and Abigail is their first success.
The DNA for this project needed to come from a pure source. Archeologist had uncovered a vault full of human DNA collected from a site dated in 2011 before human DNA made a major shift due to an epidemic. The DNA was buried and the vault’s power was able to keep charged all these years.
Unknown to the discovers this vault of DNA was a collection from people with super auras and proven skill at ESP and supernatural abilities or heighten senses. It was collected by a mega billionaire who was trying to improve himself using gene therapy.
This story will mainly be about the power of genenitics and love. The future humans don’t have an aura anymore. The spirit has left them they are only souls. Too much machine in their bodies has caused them to loose so much of their natural instinct and auras. Our hero has been “created” and has spirit and the strength to bring the human spirit back to its people. She will rise from the lab to become their MOTHER….


The night shift: The Lab is quiet, a large group of windows on the side of the room frame views of Earth and part of the space station. Two scientists walk out of their lab for a break.
“When Abigail wakes up she'll have a mature body of a 25 year old. God, wouldn’t that be nice.”
“This one is our hottest model yet. Cybernetics are riddled through out her body, all the latest stuff, but they are INSIDE unlike this crap hanging out of me.”
“When are you going to get that fixed?”
“Next payday. It ain't cheap either. But it’s mandatory for this pay grade.”
They both chuckle.
“You know the biggest difference with this one, Charles, is that she has a fully functional libido and womb. What would happen if she joined with one of us? A modern human? Would the nano organisms duplicate and carry into her offspring… creating the first naturally born cyborg?”
“I have been thinking about that a lot lately. And you know who else has? The Blue Coats.”
“Upper management?”
“They are frothing at the idea and have started to consider various “mates” for her. But the naturalist from C Wing refuse to see her bread like a dog and claim that "she will know him when she sees him". As if her spirit will automatically hone in on the one that will "complete her" and be compatible to her DNA? Like natural selection or some shit?
“I say let’s let her choose, but insist that the companion be confirmed, by us, by the coats, before they reproduce.”
“I saw in the station news that hundreds of rich and famous people from the surface have ask for meetings with her only to be turned down. Even the station president has tried to earn favor with her handlers.”
“Ass holes. All of ‘em”
"I mean she’s just got out of the CGM last week. It’s all too soon."

Down the hall Abigail awakes. She stretches and flexes her aura. A blue light faintly shines around her like a solar eclipse. She stops and stares intensely at the wall.
Abigail emits a signal like an AM antenna. Low frequency ground waves. The metal in her body amplifies her emotion and transmits. The signals are increased when she walks along the floor building up static. Abigail lifts her chin and concentrates; the signal shuts off.
She is walking through a section of the lab that is guarded by an invisible field. A bubble like wall connected to a different part of the space station. It’s like one way glass. She can see out but they can not see in. It’s the internal loading dock for the lab.
Military and maintaince crews are busy with their evening chores. She watches them in sadness; she’s not allowed to leave the lab. Then something catches her eye. Three men, large and strong, lifting and giving orders, working together, smiling joking. Her “signal” is turned on and sends out a “message” or feeling like a pheromone smell to these three men. Which one would respond? These three guys drop what they are doing and walk towards the glass bubble where she is standing, like sailors to a siren.
“What is it?”
“It there a crack in the glass?”
“I don’t know it seems to be vibrating. I’ve never seen that before.”
“Ya me neither.”
They reach out and touch the glass- it’s like they are touching her somehow.
“This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I wonder what those lab nuts are doing in there.”
“I don’t know. It’s warm… nice.”
“Shhhh just listen to it…”
The scientists come back from break and immediately notice Abigail is out of her room.
“Hey look! There she is…”
They watch this interaction on their security cameras. All of their gadgets and gizmos and they can’t understand it. Love and emotion bringing four people together. Like moths to light, love attracted these three to her position- she called them to her.
A blue coated man walks in with his two assistants.
“Show me the footage.”
“One of these guys is the one. Her natural selection.”
“Find out who they are. I want complete DNA and genealogy reports downloaded to me before the end of the day” said the blue coat.
“Abigail. What were you thinking? Was this a game you were playing?”
How could you want one of THESE men? They are ordinary.”
“Who said I wanted one- I want all three.”

NEIGHBORS


Written: December 2009


This short story is based on a dream I had.

Seattle, Washington
It was mid afternoon and Heather should have been at work. Getting a mid day list of items to finish for her boss to be ready for tomorrow was the most she accomplished. She worked at an archives agency and spent most the day filing, organizing and sitting at a computer. Three times a week she went to the gym during her lunch break. Once in a while she would go for a jog after work around her Seattle neighborhood. Dogs would bark, crows would crow and the seagulls would squawk. It was very relaxing a beautiful. She loved to jog until she came around and saw her home. Her home was recently famous. A picture of her house had been taken from that very street corner by a reporter nine months ago, and plastered all over the papers. Her husband had lived here. And the arrest took place just on the sidewalk in front of the home. “How could he of done that?” she thought. She discovered after moving here with him that she was his 8th wife. That he wasn’t who he said he was. He was a liar. She didn’t know him after two years of marriage- she didn’t know him at all. She was living a lie, a player in play, and he was the director. Her identity was kept secrete but most people recognized her name. “Hey are you that lady…?” NO! I mean, not me. Just a strange coincidence. But that poor woman right?” “Oh ya – If that was me I would of beat the man to death I’m telling you! Eight wives!? I mean what the hell right?” *sigh*
And so it was. His identify was false, and now she told everyone that she was not the person whom she really was. Everything was upside down and backwards. But at least she got to keep the house. It was a fun little house nestled amongst the trees with a short little path to the front door. It used to make her feel happy to pull up in front of it. But lately it was just this strange BLANK. No feelings. No emotion. She stopped going to the bars with friends from work. Sometimes she wouldn’t go to the gym at all. The run was the best thing, and attending the local theater.
At least you know when you go to a play that you are entering a reality that is based on people pretending to be other people. It says so right on the ticket: “These people will be pretending to be these people tonight. Pretend costumes by this person and the pretend world was created by those people. Hope you enjoy it! Best play of the year!” So with eyes wide open she would enter the small theater and hope that the broken down walls and ceiling would somehow keep her in check. That the acting no matter how well it was that night would not transport her completely into another reality, but with a simple glance up at the water stained tile, she could be brought back to reality and breath a sigh of relief. Ahhh this is just a show and I’m really not in Kansas.
This is the condition that we find our Heather. Staying close to the ground, trying to find her feet again. Appreciating the support of friends and the city provided therapist, but somehow knowing that Heather will have to fix Heather. …Am I really broken? Did he break me? Perhaps I’m just in shock and all these feelings will go away soon. Melting like a lemon drop in your mouth. “It’s important to know that he was wrong. That it wasn’t my fault.” She would think to herself. And then just keep on jogging.

Jogging around the corner, and this time instead of looking at her home like a newspaper photographer, her eye was drawn to the street corner. She noticed a man on the corner… starring at her. He had that look like he wanted to ask her something. “Just keep jogging Heather. He’s not there”
“Excuse me...’”
Jogging in place “Yes?” She looked at him and it was as if for a brief moment he was lighting up the whole block. Shake it off girl. He just wants to ask directions.
“Yes what?”
“Hi. I’m new here and got lost. How do I get back to Magnolia?”
“Magnolia?! Magnolia. Well just turn left at any of these streets.”
“Any Street?”
“Yes. It’s the main street that runs parallel with the water. You know THAT water. (Using her head in a jerk to point to Puget Sound) Magnolia is the main drive on the water.”
“Oh yes. I was just a bit direction turned. So I could turn left here…”
“Yep- on Dravus.”
“Dravus. Ok. Thanks.”

“So this was the first time you met him?”
Her therapists sat there trying to show no emotion, but Heather could tell she was concerned.
“Yes, it was fall; lots of leaves on the ground. So perhaps October?”
“What was your first impression?”
She thought about that moment. How his faced shined in the light. How alive and happy he looked. How incredibly inviting of a man he was. Dressed nicely, clean, friendly; and just for a second her heart jumped.
“Well he was like just a guy on the street. Perhaps a guest staying with a neighbor somewhere… that got lost. or something.”
“Tell me about the second time you met.”
“I was downtown at the public library getting some micro files for a client. And I noticed him. Then I was at the market and we met at the same booth. Then I saw him next at a fund raiser for the theater.”
“Had you seen him before?”
“No. It was like he had just moved to the neighborhood. We talked that night. And he told me, “I’ve just moved here and can’t help how I keep bumping into you. What’s your name?”
“Was that the night you first started to have an affair with him?”
“An affair? I’m not…really married remember.”
“Oh I’m sorry Heather, I mean did your physical relationship start that evening? I’m just trying to establish a time line.”
Time line? Are you working with the police? Because I thought we had a confidentiality agreement. What are you trying to pull?
She looked to the ceiling to take her out of this horrible play.
“No worries Heather. I’m just trying to figure out what happened. I’m a little confused. We’ve been working for months to help you establish safe boundaries with others, and yet this man who you’ve only met twice…”
“Four times...”
“Ok, Four times just seems to walk into your life and completely seduce you. Much like you husband.”
“He was never my husband.”
“Right. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just I thought we were making progress here. This stranger could have hurt you. And honestly I’m not sure WHAT he did to you. As soon as he’s found, perhaps we’ll get more information from him.”
“You’ll never find him.”

The therapists looked at Heather, over her glasses. Wondering how such a gullible little girl of a woman has ever made it this far. Again hiding her true feelings, the therapist’s started to concentrate… Heather is a very pretty woman- with or without make-up. She’s a trophy wife, no brains, just a body to hang on someone’s elbow. And yet a bit of a square. How can I help someone who isn’t even a real person? Someone who is this shallow?
“Why won’t the police find him Heather?”
“Because he’s gone home.”
“You said he lived in your neighborhood.”
“Well… I really don’t know where he’s from. Mt Olympus maybe?”
“Mt Olympus? You mean like the Olympic Mountains? Like in Port Angeles? Or are you talking Greece?”



Heather looked out the office window, and saw the Olympic mountain range in all its glory. Snow covered and the sun shinning on it. She was done. This woman would never understand what she went through; this was a waste of time. Somehow she knew she didn’t need her anymore. That Dravus cured her of her broken heart and healed her mind of anxiety over meeting new people. He helped her. But what did she do for him? …A smile crawled up her face and her feet twitched a bit.
“Thank you very much for your time. I’ve been very grateful for your help. But I think we’re done here.”
“Wha..? Heather wait we’ve just scratched the surface. You still need much more therapy.”
“Sorry, I don’t think so. I’m done with the pills, sleepless nights. You did help me to figure things out. And I’m ok now. Really.”
“Well the mandatory visits by the state ended 2 months ago. Of course you can leave at any time. I can’t force you to come here. But Heather, you need to look out for yourself and protect your inner space. Remember not just anyone can come in there, right. Call me anytime if you need to talk alright.”
“Ok”
“Protect yourself”
“Alright”
“Please- oh the police are meeting with you on Thursday. Would you like for me to come with you?”
“Ummm… sure. That would be fine. Perhaps we could have lunch afterwards? Don’t worry, I wont let you into my space.” –she laughs. “I’ll see you Thursday then.
Yes Thursday.”
Heather leaves. The therapist walks over to her desk and pushes a button.
“Stacey?”
“Yes?”
“Please open my schedule for Thursday morning. And get Josh from channel 5 on the phone please.”
“Yes.”
She sits down in her chair, swings around to her view of the mountains and scratches her head.
…How could one man, change a woman THAT much?

***


Commuting for "Life"


written: Saturday, November 14, 2009

After a hard day there is nothing like heading out to the beach for some wonderful Beach Therapy. This is free therapy time for anyone; you don’t need to contact your insurance company to see if it’s covered by your plan, ya just go. It was hard to believe while skipping rocks with my husband yesterday that we use to spend 90 to 180 min. a day commuting. It’s been two years since we’ve made that major life change. We moved to a small island 2 hours from Bellingham, Washington. Commuting is only 5 minutes to work and school. I’m continually amazed at how much more free time I have. We now spend and average of 3 hours a week on beaches.

According to 2008 statistics there are 128.3 million commuters in the U.S. and 46.9% of the commuting is city related; suburbanites driving to the city. In 2005 the U.S. government reported that Americans spend 100 hours a year commuting. “At a nationwide average drive-time of about 24.3 minutes, Americans now spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Yes, that's more than the average two weeks of vacation time (80 hours) taken by many workers during a year.” For over 10 years my average commute time was two hours a day- FOUR times the national average! …and I wasn’t the only one.

Road Rage Queen
The longest commute I ever had was Port Orchard, WA to Seattle. Sometimes I would have to drive 60 miles through Tacoma via I-5, a 90 minute commute on average. If there was an accident on I-5 it could add 30-60 minutes to the commute. Normally I would take the Washington State ferries in. Two boats and a bus. One little boat took me to Bremerton, there I loaded onto a larger boat to cross Puget Sound, and once docked at Seattle I would take the Metro up to Mercer Street.

I had to get up at 4:30am, and would arrive at work by 7:30am; I came home around 7pm. It was insane. Why did we live across the sound? Because, we couldn’t afford a nice house in King County. A nice home in a neighborhood that also had a low crime rate and good schools. It was amazing that thousands of other commuters joined me on this “oceanic migration” every morning and evening. At times I felt “trapped” without my car. When the 6.8 2001 Nisqually Earthquake hit it was almost impossible to RUN home. The port authorities halted ferry service so they could inspect the docks. I was home about an hour later than normal.

When we lived in Tucson my husband and I commuted from the suburbs to the city. Although it wasn’t the longest commute I’ve ever had it was the most stressful. After about a year of commuting I realized that my body was in the sitting position for more than twelve hours a day. I sat in the car for 45-60 min in the morning, I sat at my desk for 8-9 hours, and then I sat in my car going home for 60-80 minutes. When I got home it was around 6 o’clock at night. I was just beat down every night. Kept in a constant zombie like state of fatigue, I made that drive for 5 years. By the time my husband was offered a job to this little town, we were MORE than ready to leave that insane lifestyle. Why would we drive that far for that long? Ironically it was because we both had good jobs in the city that offered excellent health benefits. Health benefits that we would surely need considering the mass exposure to pollution, road rage, bad drivers, fatigue, weight gain and stress.

Now after all those years of commuting hell, we are so happy to be 15 minutes from everything including the beach. My jaw hits the floor when long time islanders say things like, “Oh I don’t want to go ALL the way to Roche Harbor for that. It’s on the other side of the island.” This whole island is only 55 square miles! But then again I’m happy that they don’t understand first hand what real commuting is all about. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’ll just silently nod and am thankful that we all escaped “living in our cars”, to well... just living. It was the best move we’ve ever made.

How long is your commute, and HOW long have you been driving it? ...or has it been driving you??

Seattle I-5 traffic



***

Ides of March and 2012

Written: March 10, 2009
Edited: March 27, 2011

The Ides of March, per the Roman calendar is March 15th. In Roman times, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was assassinated, in 44 BC. .

Poor Caesar. In Shakespeare's play he was warned by a soothsayer, "Beware the Ides of March!" Caesar visited with the seer who had foretold that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone." Despite this warning he chooses to appear in court and face his fate. I often wonder when he went to “work”, what was he thinking? Perhaps, he thought, whatever happens I can fight it and live, or maybe he was so full of himself he thought no harm could come to him? Regardless, the senators knew he was a mortal, could be killed, and so proved it to the world with each stab.

In Roman times the expression “Ides of March” did not evoke a dark mood- it was simply the standard way of saying “March 15.” In my life I see many warnings. Soothsayers, or talking heads, are on the news every night trying to predict the future. There are even some conspirators that believe the exact day of a new age for the earth will be December 21, 2012!

If you Google “2012” you’ll find all sorts of sites that talk about this doomed day. One site sells books and T-Shirts, another gives you tips on how to survive it, there is even a “2012” movie coming out November 13th! What the heck is going to happen? Is December 21st our Ides of March? I decided to do some research.

The Long County Calendar of the Ancient Mayans ends on Monday, Dec. 21, 2012. There isn’t much information regarding what the Mayans thought would occur in 2012, but the consensus of opinion is that there will be a great change. To some people this means a positive, spiritual change, to others the end of the world. Ian O’Neill, in Universe Today, wrote that the Mayan calendar is just ending; the next day (our Dec 22, 2012) would start the year “0000” and thus the Mayan calendar just resets, much like a cars odometer rolling over. Astrologers say that the stars tell us: “The date December 21st, 2012 A.D. (13.0.0.0.0 in the Long Count), represents an extremely close conjunction of the Winter Solstice Sun with the crossing point of the Galactic Equator (Equator of the Milky Way) and the Ecliptic (path of the Sun), what the ancient Mayans recognized as the Sacred Tree. This is an event that has been coming to resonance very slowly over thousands and thousands of years. It will come to resolution at exactly 11:11 am GMT. According to the Mayas the center of the Galaxy is the cosmic womb: the place of dead, transformation, regeneration and rebirth.”*

So the modern day soothsayers have said their part. They have thrown out this information and their interpretation to the public. And like Caesar, we are faced with a decision. Should we go on with life as normal, go hide in a cave until it’s all over, or maybe purchase more camping supplies and guns? Caesar was brave enough to face his fate, will I do the same?

This upcoming “event” reminds me a little of the Millennium Bug scare. In the years prior to 2000, experts advised that our computerized life as we knew it could end just one second pass midnight on January 1, 12:00 a.m. Anything that ran on computers including Air Traffic Control systems, banks and security system etc, would all fail us. This time around I’m going to choose to be strong like Caesar. I’ll just walk into that fateful day three years from now with my head held high. What happens will happen. Nothing is worth living in fear over; besides, I don't have a bomb shelter.

*Mayan Calendar site:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/time/cal/mayacal.htm
http://www.greatdreams.com/2012.htm

A Thick Ring Year


Written: Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Living on an island that is only 55 square miles is starting to work its magic into my mind and heart. If I was a tree this "ring" year would be a thick one, meaning that there was more than enough nourishment, sun, rain and love through out this year to keep me healthy. Not everyday was all sunshine & butterflies! But the storms in life can help keep us strong and alert; and there were many storms in 2008!

For me the material part of my life took the biggest hit ever this year! 2008 hurt my pocket book, my pantry, and closet. I wasn't able to buy the items I wanted, and had to settle with JUST the items we needed. I felt poor and a little pouty but really- a bad year in America is still better than one in many other countries. If my suffering means I cant get a new couch, (needing one because mine has a busted spring), or a new set of towels (because the old ones are getting frayed), it's still not as bad as needing say, food or shelter. So no maintenance purchases, just what is necessary. But real happiness shouldn't come from material items, right?
Washington State winters are gray, cloudy, rainy, and windy. It sounds depressing. However, growing up here I've found a natural high every time I take a walk in the muck and come back to a warm home. Coming through the door is a refreshing reminder that not everything is cold and dark.

Just came back from town. It feels wonderful to walk about and say "hi" to the people I pass, "Thank you very much! Have a good day!" to the store keepers. Does it help that the Christmas lights are up all over and there's that special good feeling in the air this time of the year? It does a little.

A couple of signs that I'm starting to become an islander is how many new sounds I recognize. While walking to the grocery store one day for example, I heard a truck coming up behind me on the road and a single dog "bark!" I knew right away whose dog that was and what truck would drive by me… and I was right. I almost didn't take note of that moment, until I said to myself, "What's next? Someone behind me will sneeze at the drug store and I'll say "Bless you, Nancy."?
Is familiarity needed to feel comfortable? I would argue yes it is. However I don't think you need intimate understanding of the things around you before you're comfortable, but perhaps just faith in the reactions, systems and relationships. If you are going on a journey this holiday season, you'll know that some things never change no matter where you are in the world. That's as comforting as a little rum in the eggnog!

The Sand is Lava!


written: Sunday, November 23, 2008


Was at the beach today with my husband.

Washington State beaches are littered with logs. The waves and storms throw the logs up onto shore in a kind of tiddelie-winks sort of mess. As we were jumping logs to get 'round from one beach to another I had a thought.

As a kid growing up here you're "baptized" by the oceans and beaches! Most good Washingtonians will take their kids camping on or near the beach. Kids have to learn how to walk on the logs, negotiate good places to step, ask themselves, "Is that log stable?" After many trial and error jumps you learn quickly. This was my childhood every summer. My parents would take us out to Ocean Shores (near Forks & Aberdeen) and we did jumped logs and even made forts out of them.

I was deep in thought over this childhood skill and asked my husband how he thought that affected us as adults. Did it give us better judgment? Did the experience cause us to be more circumspect when making a decision? He answered with a question.
What about a child who lives in the city and has to figure out the bus system or subway schedule? What sort of enhanced sense of judgment did his environment produce?

I immediately thought about my mom and her mid-west upbringing. Living on a farm, getting up before the sunrise to milk cows, feed chickens then get ready for school. My mom and all of her sisters grew up to be hard workers. They have strong work ethics.
What experiences did you have that you feel where a positive influence on whom you are as an adult? What shaped you into the person you are today?

Blueberries and Veal

The Puyallup Valley with Mt Rainier
Date Written: 2006
This was one of the first rants I had ever written, on purpose. 
I kept it in it's original form for posting here:


I grew up in Federal Way, a small city 45 min. South of Seattle, Washington. Thanks the volcanic activity the state is extremely fertile. As a child we very seldom ventured to the dry, hot eastern side, mostly due to fact that there is not much to do there. After I was married, my husband and I wanted to explore Washington. He was also raised in Federal Way; however we didn't meet until 2 years after graduating.
My brother was working as a forest fireman in eastern Washington the summer of 1991 and we decided to go visit him. He had found a house to rent on an apple orchard. Our week was wonderful! I remember walking out to the porch and watching the bats swoop over head eating at all the flying bugs that come out right at dusk. I had never seen a bat until then and was fascinated. The lakes in eastern Washington are so clear and cool. Apple, peaches, wheat, all kinds of fields full of life!! I wondered “Why didn't we visit this side of the mountains more often?”

Migrant Workers Live Here
During the week we took a little trip on a scenic route we randomly choose from an auto club map. Since it was the first part of summer the apple trees were green and there were small apples growing on them, all different colors and shapes. As we drove around one orchard, I noticed 7 white shacks, that reminded me of the tool shed my dad built in our backyard to house the lawn mower and other yard tools. These shacks were all white with a little window. They were placed in a row directly next to the orchard. “Why don’t they face those sheds towards the orchard?” I asked. “Why would they do that?” “ Isn't that where they keep on the watering tools, hoses and whatnot for the trees?” “No honey,” my husband answered, “that is where the migrant workers stay.”  ***!POP!***
...That is the sound of my “reality” bubble popping! “People STAY, LIVE in those shacks?” “Yep. It’s a hard life.” “Well why can’t the farmer give them a better home?” “Do you want to pay $5.00 for an apple?” Some questions don’t have answers. I have many questions, but I am still looking for answers.

Two memories came to mind, right then. There are plenty of cow fields in Western Washington. If you get lost a few times trying to find a way around traffic you may stumble across a few. There was this one farm, way off the beaten path next to the Green River. Rows and rows of little white boxes were on this farm. I immediately assumed it was a bee farm. I rolled up my window to make sure no bees would get in my car as I zipped by this “beautiful bee farm”. I saw a gate, and a sign. It read “VEAL FARM”

Veal farm? I later learned that those little slits in the front were the breathing holes for the baby cows. They place them in those little white boxes to keep their meat tender.
The little white veal boxes reminded me of these migrant worker homes! Are the migrant workers just as trapped in their “box” as the baby cows? Do they have any other options?

I never ate veal again.


Berry Picking
Blueberries
My other memory was from my childhood. For about two summers my brother, and my two cousins and I were told we would pick berries for money. My mother had found summer jobs for us that provided transportation and paid cash at the end of the day working for local farmers. A big yellow bus would take our little “suburban bottoms” to the Puyallup Valley and place them in the middle of the berry fields. Berry fields and tulip fields are predominantly in the valleys all along the west side of the Cascade Mountains. We picked berries for 6 hours a day. We felt like we were being punished! The bus rides were long and hot. Let me tell you, the kids on those buses were tough. They were the brats parents didn't want to look at. So, the four of us stayed close to each other, for protection more than anything. Somehow sending us on a bus to pick berries would install the value of hard work and money earned.
A flat equals 12 pints

It will not be a big surprise to you, but young teenagers are not naturally good berry pickers. You made about $1.50 a flat, the flat was wooden and heavy and you had to FILL IT UP. After carrying it to the truck, if the boss didn't like it he would send you back to fill it up more. If he liked your flat he would punch your card. At the end of the day you would hand in your card for CASH! COLD HARD CASH!



The Koreans
I can’t remember which one of us was the better picker or how many I could pick in a day, but I do remember seeing the Korean pickers. We would rotate from one field to the next, not out of choice or strategy but because of bad behavior. It seems even old dusty farmers have standards in the work place. Berry fights, eating the berries and playing tricks on the boss like filling the flat up half way with dirt and claiming it’s full are reasons to get “reassigned”. One year we picked at four different fields: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry. Every field we picked at Korean immigrants would be there. They picked four times faster than we could. I tried to race one once. We both started the rows at the same time. He would visit the boss three times for my one! Did their moms make them pick also? Why weren't they on our buss? One day we were talking about it around the house and my mother informed me that they pick berries for a living. FOR A LIVING?! That seemed amazing to me. I guessed if I HAD to pick berries for groceries and a roof over my head I would have taken it all more seriously.

I remember looking at a family of Koreans one morning. Fog on the ground, sun coming up, hundreds of rows of berries lay before us all. Because of their hard work and determination they would pick more berries, work longer hours, and make more money. I have much respect for people that work in the fields. It’s hard work, but it feeds many people in different ways.