When I was little, the term OCD wasn’t in common parlance. At age 4 or 5, though, I’m pretty sure my bedtime requirements would have met such criteria. They were, not in exact order, as follows:  I needed to be covered with my kitty and doggy blanket; I needed to have Mozart’s Symphony in G played on my little record player; I needed to have the hall light on, and the bedroom door open to just the right angle to let a spear of light fall into the bedroom; and I needed to have a drink of water brought to me once I was in there and before I got kissed good night. There may have been some other ones (I’m guessing “tickle my arm” might have been one, and also making sure my sleepy baby was tucked in with me), but the reason I remember these is the parody my Dad made of it all when he was put on tucking-in duty, which wasn’t his usual beat. As I tried to instruct him on what I viewed as the natural order of things for getting a good night’s sleep, and he kept leaving certain key elements out, he exploded in humorous exasperation, with something like the following parody of my requests. “Well,” he said, “why don’t I just go get all the cats and dogs in the neighborhood and dump them on your bed,  bring in a pail of water, turn on all the lights in the house, and break a record over your head??!!” For some reason I wasn’t too worried he would actually do this, and the story got told as a joke a lot when I was growing up, mostly as a case in point about my Dad’s lack of patience with some aspects of parenting.

If it was supposed to, his outburst never had much of an effect on whatever I consider a good routine, whether it’s at the end of the day or the beginning. Over 50 years later, I’m still riding long waves of successive sameness until at some point, they peter out and I catch a new one, usually quite spontaneously. And then I ride that one for a while.

This very weird oatmeal has been my current favorite breakfast for a while now. I think it emerged in late summer, when I suddenly got tired of making myself a kale/blueberry/banana/hemp smoothie in the morning to help me absorb the vitamin D for babies my body likes best (some of us just never quite grow up all the way). After going to the beach in early August, where my son treated us to one of his delicious versions of baked oatmeal, I decided I wanted to go back to a hearty bowl of it each morning, instead of a tiny one to go with the smoothie. Perhaps it was the change of season and the cooler temperatures at the beach that weekend. Perhaps it was my willingness to experiment with how to add my teaspoon of spirulina to something other than the smoothie. . .maybe I got tired of listening to the blender in the morning. . in any event, a perfect storm of change started to brew, and before long, this oatmeal was born. And I’ve been eating it ever since.

One other influence I must give inspirational credit to is The Full Helping’s post about savory oatmeal. I thought I would try it, but in the end I was actually too lazy to make the recipe. So instead I covered my bowl of oats with lots of the same spices–a kind of “dry rub” on top of a bowl of oatmeal–and I liked it so much that I never returned to make the recipe. But if you are less lazy than I’ve been, and you want to try a truly savory oat dish, you might want to explore making Savory Turmeric Chickpea Oats instead. They look really yummy.

This is a template, which has gotten more elaborate as times goes on. I laugh at myself every morning as I get into my oatmeal ritual, but I also wouldn’t miss it for the world. Since I’ve been at my beach trailer, I discovered I could make it while doing my yoga, thus cutting down prep time and helping us get out the door for our morning walk, which has become even more germain now that I have acquired yet another Silken Windhound to learn the ropes from Romeo. Routines upon routines, intertwining, and hopefully staying just flexible enough to morph into something else when the time is right.

I don’t expect everyone to jump up and down in eagerness to make this weird bowl of oatmeal. Instead I’m posting it in celebration of the sometimes strange plant-based breakfast rituals we come to love. Here’s to the joy and satisfaction of food rituals–short or long lived–and rituals of all kinds, compulsive or otherwise–with a shout out to my old kitty and doggy blanket, which I saved so my son could use it. He called it his “mamet,” and literally loved it into tatters.

Maria (moonwatcher)





I thought I would only be here at the beach for 3 weeks before returning to Portland, but over time I began to see how strongly the forces of the universe conspired to keep me here until I catch my breath. This seems to have involved finding ways, all of a sudden, to jump a hurdle or obstacle I thought was “impossible.”

When I left Portland to set up basic camp in my new home on the ocean, I made the decision to have my mail held. This decision was based on my concern about how my current mail carrier tends to stuff all the advertisements into my mail box first, making it hard for the actual mail to make it all the way in. Since I wasn’t going to be around, and both of my next door neighbors were at Burning Man, and I wasn’t sure Mike and Kelly could come over often enough to untangle the mail from the mail chute, I decided this was the best course of action. Perhaps, too, at some level I wanted everything to stop for a while, so I , too, could stop having to field everything.

When I filled out the card at the post office down the street from me in Portland I thought I was overshooting to give myself 3 weeks. But it turns out I am meant to stay another 2 weeks more than that.

For most of the past month I have said “I’ll be back in two weeks.” Then “I’ll be back in 3 weeks.” I even made plans for when I got back. But as the time approached I noticed I was getting rather nervous about going back. That same feeling of my nerves running in high gear and not being able to stop was keeping me awake at night. Still, there didn’t seem to be anything to do but go back. The mail had to be picked up. No one else could do it but me. The bills had to be paid, and I wasn’t set up to pay them all online.

And then, as one of my friends in grad school was so very fond of saying, life happened after I made the plans. Mike was swamped with work and sudden looming deadlines, and he wrote to tell me he didn’t think he could come out to pick me up and still get his work done. As a free lance film maker and editor, he often has sudden and varied jobs with tight deadlines and clients who want to see many versions quickly before they are satisfied. So I told him I would see what I could do about the mail and the bills.

It turns out it was easy to extend the hold. It turns out it was also pretty easy to find the info on the phone that I need to pay everything that was due. Suddenly the absolutes had melted away. I didn’t have to go back to pick up mail and pay bills. Just like that, what I thought I had to do, I didn’t have to do at all. I could do it another way, and stay.

I’m glad this happened because it gave me a lesson in not locking myself into what I believe is absolute. In fact it’s funny to me now how absolute I believed picking up my mail and paying my bills would be, as if there were only one way, one time. Sure, I am going to have a lot of mail to pick up when I do go back, but so what? They are happy to hold it.

I ought to know I talked to them 4 times in one day.


I’m glad I stayed. Not only because it seems to grow more beautiful each day, if such a thing is possible, but because I’m learning something about how to sense an authentic timeline for my own well-being, something that has gotten somewhat misplaced in the last few years of moving. Selling and buying a home ends up imposing arbitrary deadlines that seem absolute and that require we live or suspend living by them. I felt that especially in the crunch to sell my place on Van Buren Street and close on the Portland condo in time. Long after my nervous system needed everything to stop so I could rest, I had to keep going on the arbitrary real estate roller coaster. I may still be recovering from that.

Buying the beach trailer was a whole different experience. There was a deadline, but since I didn’t have to sell one place to buy the other, I could give myself more time in the big picture. It’s taken a while, though, to come out of that “flight” mode. I think it’s just starting to happen. Here are some of the signs of slowing down into the present moment I’ve noticed and appreciated lately.

One of the first things is what I’ll call “the Goldilocks effect.” When I first looked online and found this trailer, I learned that most houses, condos and trailers close to the beach seem to be sold “as is,” meaning everything that happens to be in it also comes with the sale. In this case, that meant there was already a bed, a dresser, a fouton in the living room, a small butcher block table in the kitchen area, kitchen chairs, bath towels and even dishes and pots and pans. There was a poignancy to this that was hard to dismiss. The woman who had owned this before had traveled from far away to be here at the Oregon coast, and I still think of her and thank her each time I use the tiny screen that keeps little pieces of food from going down the kitchen sink drain, or when I look at the seashells on the mantle or the wooden oar on the house carved with the address, or the old buoys hanging from the porch rafters. She definitely liked lighthouses—I’ve kept a lighthouse clock in the kitchen, and Romeo and I take a nap with a lighthouse throw each afternoon.

But over the last several weeks this place has slowly come to feel and look more like mine, even though I came with a bare minimum of my own furniture and things. Yet it isn’t the batik of fisherman from Thailand or the charcoal self portrait from my art teacher of long ago I’ve put on the living rooms wall that make this so, although they do help me feel at home. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi now that somehow makes it look and feel like it belongs to me. I was pleasantly struck by this for the first time several days ago when Romeo and I approached it from the direction we often walk away from it in the morning, returning in a loop. This time I was aware that I was actually walking toward the front of the house—and it looked so cute. That’s my house! I said to myself for the first time—and I saw that it looked like mine, not the interesting property we had first driven up to.

A dear reader of mine suggested I reread A Gift From The Sea when she learned of my new adventure. I’ve read the first chapter over again, and plan to take it back to me to Portland this weekend, to remind me what I can return to when I’m ready to go back.

It’s been over 40 years since I first read it, so I didn’t really remember anything about how it started. I was struck by the fact that in the first chapter Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes of the spare furnishings in the beach cabin that will be her home for several weeks. She writes of how she drags driftwood and sea vines home from the beach, and shells, too, calling them “curious hollowed out shapes reminscent of abstract sculpture.” She goes on to say that “With these tacked to walls and propped up in corners, I am satisfied. I have a periscope out to the world.” At this point I had to put the book down for a moment and take a deep breath, because this is exactly what I have done myself.

My watercolor "Two Fish" with a really cool rock I found and a lovely agate a fellow beach comber gave me

My watercolor “Two Fish” with a really cool rock I found and a lovely agate a fellow beach comber gave me


cool rocks and clam shells in the corner near my shower


one of a few “shell nests” I have built with shells and stones


this piece of driftwood reminds me of a sea animal


This weekend I’ll return to Portland, lug my mail home, see if I have my ballot and my property tax bill, check on the winter squash I left ripening in the beds bordering our condo parking lot, and meet up with friends. I’ll also be making arrangements for another Silken Windhound to come be part of our family, too. But in my pocket I’ll carry this:



a small tide table for 2016 given to me by one of my new neighbors. I’ve seeen him a few times walking in the afternoon when he gets off work, cutting down from the grocery store to the sand. He’s lived here for many years. I treasure this “welcome to the beach” gift. I love these columns of numbers, even if I don’t understand exactly what they all mean. They remind me of a deep rhythm I’m learning to live by, to walk by, and respect. And when I am back in the city with its many arbitrary schedules and timetables, I can look at this and remember the vast elliptical mystery of the pattern in which the waves approach, recede and wash themselves ashore in accordance with the moon and the sun and the seasons. Maybe I’ll even hear them whisper inside my head. That’s the kind of timetable my heart beats to.

Maria (moonwatcher)


Two Sunsets and a Moonrise

September 21, 2016

A few years back when I still lived on the Palouse, Romeo and I were taking a walk on the trail at the edge of the University of Idaho. It was the time when my chapbook If A Sparrow had been selected as a finalist in the 2012 Open Poetry Chapbook Competition at Finishing Line […]

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I Wonder. . .

September 5, 2016

  During an astrological reading, I used to be fond of telling my clients that to access a particularly destiny-oriented point in their charts, they had to be willing to take a leap. The way I illustrated what that leap might feel like was to use Cinderella as an example. She had to be willing […]

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“Tell Me Your Story”: SOS Radio

August 18, 2016

Life has been taking me back to remember my time as a young graduate student and then writing adjunct instructor in the English Department at the University of California, Irvine. During that time, the composition program was growing in leaps and bounds. When I started, it was all run by graduate students farther along into […]

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A Watched Pot (And A Shout Out To Straight Up Food)

August 4, 2016

  It was a hot and muggy day in northeast Portland. There was no way I could prepare our sweet potatoes the way I thought I like them best–roasted or baked in the oven. But Romeo and I needed some sweet potatoes, so I fell back on my blogger friend Cathy Fisher’s simple tried and […]

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It Takes a Vegan Village: A Compendium of Quick Vegan Ice Creams

July 24, 2016

If you’re as old as I am, you might have the memory of hanging out on a front porch on a sweltering summer day waiting for the ice cream truck to round the corner. The desultory arguments about how to spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” would melt in a milisecond as we all hit the pavement at top […]

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Easy Red Cabbage, Orange and Cilantro Chopped Salad

July 12, 2016

Back when I was a smart-ass teenager, I triumphantly told my mother one day that parents most often spoke in 3 word imperative sentences: clean your room, watch your mouth, don’t be late, ask your father, set the table, do your homework, and so on. She was a good sport, and she thought that was […]

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Cauliflower Popcorn

June 22, 2016

When I was growing up, my Dad didn’t do a lot of cooking. And when he did cook, he tended to burn things. I can remember a few rather mournful weekends sitting at the kitchen booth in the house I grew up in on Fernandez Drive, while my mother was away on a Catholic retreat, […]

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It’s A Snap (And Enchanted Places)

June 9, 2016

Some of you may remember that in my post Absent Minded Gardener I posted a photo of a planter with a home made “ladder” of sticks and twine protected from slugs by copper tape and pennies where I planted some sugar snap pea seeds and waited. I’m happy to share (although pea production has slowed […]

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