How To Saunter

(For Owen)

Forget what you left behind if possible; think ‘wander’,

Look ahead, nonchalantly, toward the path,

Only as far as the flowers and

the birds that have nested near the climbing hydrangea.

While we’re on the subject of birds,

study them quietly — let them teach

you about what’s important; notice

their priorities (do they spend time worrying over small things?).

Sauntering requires that you dismiss

the minute, mundane worries of life

and remain free to inhabit

the joyful moments of life instead.

To enjoy life, even the slightest bit,

one must saunter.


The Color of Your Heart

(Written for my art students at Howard Street Charter School, 2012)

The color of your heart is deep and wide–

It gathers all around me

And fills my days with laughter rich

And teaches me to be

More colorful myself, spilling all

My deepest hues

(Those I tend to hide inside)

Instead of showing them, like you.

Together we can paint the world to

Create a masterpiece

Of love and harmony and then

Our world can be at peace.

Some of Us Crawl

“It is legitimate to crawl after the wings are broken.” William Stafford


To have wings is to have hope.

So much like a bird,

hope soars overhead, urging

us all (those of us broken and hopeless)

to look up; look out of ourselves.

But it seems too easy to look in

and see the ragged absence of wings.


Though some of us do crawl.


I crawl, dragging myself forward.

The shadow in my path, gone first,

then returning.

I look up–

There is a surge of joy in me!

To see hope like this is to see the future.


Tobogganing When I Was a Boy

East of Salem there is a small community called Pratum. This is where I grew up. About 1/2 mile East of Pratum there is a river called the Pudding River.

One Winter day it snowed a lot–12 inches–and it was cold, as the snow did not melt.

A group of boys, including my older brother (6 years older than I), had a toboggan which would hold about 5 fellows. We got it out and started going down a nice hill toward the Pudding River. There was an old rail fence made out of wood at the bottom of the hill, next to the river.

When we went down the hill we would stop approximately 100 or 150 feet short of the rail fence. “Oh, what fun!” We were having a great time when the older boys came and took the toboggan. When they got tired of it, we were back at it again.

That evening they got buckets of water and put it on the hill. The temperature was cold, so the water turned to ice.

Well, the next morning was Saturday, so no school. Us little guts got up early and beat the older boys to the toboggan. We were having lots of fun and would stop before the rail fence. The older boys came and took the toboggan away from us. We thought that was so mean. They got on the toboggan and went down the hill just zooming. When they got to the bottom of the hill, they couldn’t stop. They went right through the rail fence and onto the ice on the river. The ice was not thick enough to hold all the weight and they broke through the ice. All the boys went in the river. The water was only about three feet there, but they all got sopping wet.

Well, do you know what? Us little guys were able to toboggan the rest of the day. The older guys had had it. This happened about 1940. “Oh, what fun!”

–John Wenger


Conner Community

“My name is Dee Chambers. I moved to the Conner Community with my parents Elmer and Jennie Chambers and two sisters when I was in the fourth grade. We moved into a shack of a house with only one light bulb and  no running water. The toilet was out back of the house. The house was a board and bat construction. That is: wide boards were nailed on to the frame vertically and narrower boards were nailed over the cracks between the wide boards. The house was situated in the place where Larry Langmade now lives at the East end of the Dever-Conner overpass. The walk to Conner school every day was about a mile each way.

“My closest friends at that time were the Miller boys who lived North of what is now Higbee Drive. The house they lived in had to be moved when Interstate 5 was built. So Lynn Hoefer purchased it and moved it to its present location where Lynn and Claudia Hoefer still live. In the summer we used to go swimming at the bluff on the Santiam River. More about the bluff later. We only lived here for about a year, then my parents bought a farm in the Jefferson area so we moved to Jefferson. After we were there for about a couple of years, World War II ended and a young fellow (his name is Dale Turnidge) came home from the army and wanted my parents’ farm so they sold it and bought another one back in the Conner community. We moved back there across the road from the Davis family. The Cook family was just down the road a short distance as was the Pesheck family. It was back to Conner School again and it was a mile walk each way. And that’s where I grew up.

“Conner School was a two room school: 4 grades in each room. I graduated from the 8th grade at Conner then went to high school in Albany. I finished high school and started farming. Many years later, when my parents quit farming, I purchased their farm and moved into the house they had built in 1951. Many years later I sold the farm to my son who lives there now with his family.

“When I was going to school at Conner, the school was heated with a wood stove, so the older boys got the job of going to school early and took turns one month at a time to start the fire in the stove. That way the school would be warm when the teacher and the rest of the students got there. We got $5 a month from the school board for this chore.

“A couple of things I remember about growing up in the Conner Community:

“We went swimming at the floating bridge. The Turnidge family had a farm on both sides of the Santiam River on what is now Don Turnidge’s farm in Linn County and Keith Johnston’s farm in Marion County. They build a pontoon bridge across the river. It was just  a couple of big logs with boards nailed across it. It was anchored to each bank with heavy cables so that you could drive on it. It was a great place to swim–we had a lot of good times.

“Another thing I remember is the ball games. The community liked to play softball. So much in fact that Albert and Walter Harnisch built a ball diamond for us just South of where Craig and Beth Christopherson now live on a piece of ground that was though to be too rocky to farm. It is now planted to blueberries. The Harnisch men even put up lights for us so we could play in the evening after work.

“Back to the bluff: it’s where the Santiam River and Bluff Road meet. It has always been called The Bluff by everyone in the community. I don’t know this for a fact, but I was told this by some of the old timers who would have known. Many years ago, sometime in the mid 1800s, across from The Bluff, on the Marion County side of the river was Syracuse City. There was a ferry there that hauled people and their goods across the river. This was before there were any dams and flooding was a regular occurrence. One winter a real bad flood happened and washed the town away. The people living there decided that perhaps it was not a good place for a town. So it was not rebuilt. Instead they built a new town up river on higher ground and named it Jefferson.

“Having lived in the Conner community now for almost 60 years I can say it’s been a good place to grow up, live and raise a family. A lot of changes have taken place in the period of time. A lot of people still think of us being out in the country, but the city is getting closer all the time. Why, city water is only three miles from our farm now. It’s certainly not the country I remember as a kid growing up. By the way, I forgot to mention that I am Abby Chamber’s Grandpa. I can’t help but wonder when she is my age and looks back at the Conner community what changes she will see; what memories she will have. I trust they will all be good ones.

–Grandpa Chambers


“In the late 1920s and early 30s, Jefferson was quite a town. Sometimes I would ride in Bob Terhune’s Star Car when he delivered milk and cream to Jefferson. The Terhune children, Bob, Betty and Ruth were my age and I got to go along. My favorite stop was the ice cream parlor. It was the in the old Jones building that burned. It was a long room with candy counters up front. Lots of candy! I believe for 1 cent you could get your pick of two pieces of candy. Then there was the ice cream bar with high stools where you could get an ice cream cone. In the back was the ice cream parlor with little round tables with glass tops and cute chairs made of heavy gage wire. There you could sit and have ice cream sodas, sundaes, etc. Oh what a treat that was.”

–Louise Looney Cox

Continuing The Walk, 4

The view from my apartment window is mostly dusted in large, dry snowflakes today, though this rain that is nearly ice might change that. I am deciding when to venture outside with Pearl, my terrier mix. She would choose to go out now, but there are things to consider that she doesn’t consider: it’s cold out there on little feet and a little low rider like her is going to get wet, no matter how many jackets we put on her, especially a low rider that explores like she does. One look at her, pointing at her soccer ball, convinces me that I need to take her out for the air, even if it’s only a short gallivanting walk. We suit up in our cold weather gear together; I have learned to put mine on first, otherwise Pearl’s patience wears thin as she stands, stiff in her two jackets and harness, watching me go through my own process.

We step out the door, looking both ways as we’ve learned to do in order to avoid foot traffic and threats, such as skateboards and wanderers with hard-edged dogs without leashes. Today, the sidewalk is empty and calm, though evidence of the Saturday evening crowd at the Peacock (the infamous bar across the street) is littered in stark contrast with the white snow. Small patches of yellow mark the places where the last customers relieved themselves after 2:30 am, when the bar closed. Corvallis, according to on poll, ranks the 20th/22 most drunk town. Pearl is checking everything out by sniffing every new scent in her path.

This morning, we walk to the left. There is a fire hydrant Pearl enjoys sitting next to in warmer weather. I think she might like to check in with it today. We walk past the parking lot, a place I rarely use because the parking patrol pays particular attention to it. I get my hair cut at Salon 101. Garrett, my hair guy, does a great job and he happens to have a terrier named Oliver that looks a lot like Pearl. Oliver is one of the Downtown Dogs I painted last year; one of my favorite paintings. We walk on to the end of the block to the hydrant, covered in at least an inch of snow, right outside Squirrel’s Tavern (another fixture of downtown Corvallis). Today there are no customers sitting in the outdoor area, but usually there are humans and dogs dining together. Pearl has learned to walk on by, even if growled at by either.

Pearl hasn’t an interest in the hydrant today, and requests that we turn right, toward the Julian Apartment building and the river. Just last week, Pearl learned that Gettu, her best dog friend, lives in the Julian Apartments with her human, Michael. Gettu and Michael are sometimes enjoying a romp in the grass swath at the river park at the same time we are, which always means at least 15 minutes of playtime/entertainment for passing pedestrians. Even though Gettu is much bigger than Pearl, she doesn’t spare Pearl from her best wrestling moves, often taking Pearl to the ground and waving her open mouth playfully. We don’t see Gettu or Michael today though, so Pearl busies herself by checking in on “the morning news”–all the scent messages left by animals along the river. She leaves her own message for the next dog.

After playing in the grass together for awhile, we begin the amble back to the right again, toward home. It’s cold out. Kicking the soccer ball ahead helps keep Pearl going in the right direction. We pass Flat Tail Brewery, Bellhop (THE place to get chocolate pie), and Tried and True coffee shop. Usually Pearl and I stop in at the door to say hello to the Barrista, but we don’t know this one and she is busy. We walk on, across the street after sniffing the corner garden in front of Irenes’, where I work some days. Pearl lets me know she would like to walk left, toward the dog park, but I enforce a right turn. She takes it all in stride.

We’re back at the front door of the apartment building. Pearl has done her job–getting me outside. Now she’ll continue doing her job as we go in, by just being her companionable, lovely self. I’m happy to share an apartment with this little dog. She makes me very happy and I think I’m not the only one she makes happy.img_0790