Journalism, Photography

Postscript: November

Dirt collects on my windshield as I approach Mount Hood.

Dirt collects on my windshield as I approach Mount Hood.

I’ve been doing some interior decorating.

The new touches are subtle, but they fit with my place’s motifs. Think: a cross between “recent grad shedding hand-me-down furniture” and “young adult for whom Ikea will still suffice.”

They’re a series of pastel notes sticking to my mantel, each marked with sentences worth saving.

“Relentless work can be admirable in many ways. But it will never be romantic.” — Bejamin Moser, in a New York Times Book Review column

“No, we’re never as lost or as found as we think we are.” — Tyle Lyle, in his song “Lost & Found

“I’ve decided I’m going to be a writer. Like, a real one. With my life.” — Marina Keegan, in her book “The Opposite of Loneliness

“The greatest gift we can give to anyone else is empathy — the attempt to imagine what their life might be like.” — Ellen Urbani, in a discussion about her novel “Landfall”

The quotes, picked without a central organizing theme, say a lot about my state of being.

The first notes that there’s nothing sexy about hard work, and the second is a reminder that levels of comfort/discomfort aren’t as extreme as they seem. The third speaks to a writer’s commitment to her craft. The fourth opines wisely about a trait to be employed while practicing that craft.

Keegan’s quote, and her body of work, is particularly applicable to this blog.

One of the things I appreciate about Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness” — a collection of the young writer’s works compiled after her death at 22 — is that she wrote through the lens of a college student. She didn’t gloss over the fact that she was young, didn’t seem to want to infuse her sentences with experience she had yet to acquire.

One could critique Keegan as prone to cliché. But that critique doesn’t detract from her writing: It’s compelling because of, not in spite of, her youthful point of view.

One “Opposite of Loneliness” commenter described Keegan’s essays as leaning “toward platitude, because, hey, 22 and in awe of the world.” In rereading my posts on this blog, I notice many can be critiqued similarly.

Despite anything I might write on this blog that suggests otherwise, my personal work is still of that persuasion. There’s no use in skirting the fact that my musings here are, at times, nothing short of naval-gazing.

Part of the reason I started posting here again seven months ago (after an extended hiatus) is that I think it’s important to be able to look back at life in, say, June 2015, and remember what my life was like then.

That value may be largely insular, but I think it’s valuable, too, to share reflections with others. As a friend recently told me in an email exchange, stories are the connective threads that keep our friends together.

He’s right. And though my reveries are hardly a worthy literary contribution, storytelling is important. The sticky notes on my mantel — small stories within themselves — are a good reminder of that.

Sticky Notes


Travels

My November travels began with an up-and-back trip to Seattle to attend a University of Washington football game with my friend Bryan. We hit the road early, drove through a light rain, wandered around the city a bit, and made our way to Husky Stadium a few minutes before game time. The seats we purchased we much better than anticipated, and we watched the game from only several rows back from the sideline.

The next two weekends were spent hiking in close proximity to Portland.

One weekend was predicted to be a washout, so I didn’t make plans. But the storm we were expecting didn’t materialize here, so I was able to get in a quick several-mile hike in Portland’s Forest Park. (Funny story: Looking to get a better angle for a landscape photo, I walked onto a thick pile of underbrush and downed tree branches, which — of course — didn’t support my weight. It’s a good thing no one was around to see my fall; my flailing attempts to free myself from the tangles of the branches weren’t especially flattering.)

The next weekend was crisp and sunny, so I traveled into the Mount Hood National Forest for a 10-miler to the summit of Tumala Mountain. At a modest 4,700 feet, the summit offered a pleasant surprise: views of Cascade mountains St. Helens, Rainier, Adams and Hood.

I capped the month with ski days at Mt. Bachelor and Timberline Ski Area at Mount Hood. It felt great to get back on my board after almost two years away from snowboarding, and I had the best guides out there for during my first runs at Bachelor: My cousin Packy (who used to work there) and his wife Leslie (who skied competitively through college.) Weather permitting, I’m hoping to snowboard once a week for the next couple months.


Reading

He loved her. He would have married her and brought her to America had she let him. But that was not to be.
Two young lives – briefly connected by war – took separate paths once the fighting was done. Now, in their twilight years, their paths have converged again.
— The Virginian Pilot, on a rekindled WWII romance

Her head lay on her husband’s chest and she listened to his heart beat for the last time. He took his final breaths, his body pressing against her cheek. She held his hands, still warm, in a room full of doctors and nurses and the love of her life.
— The Kansas City Star, on a football player who died in 2013 and was found to have an advanced case of CTE

In Albom’s books and his work for the Detroit Free-Press, where he’s been a columnist for 30 years, there’s a longing for a simpler time, a world where internet commenters don’t exist, where children respect their elders, where everything is slower, more thoughtful. It’s not surprising that he has a flip phone.
— Buzzfeed, on Mitch Albom and his Haitian orphanage

“I was walking on the blood. I didn’t realize it. I was looking ahead of me all the time.”
— The Washington Post, on doctors’ responses to the Paris terrorist attacks

Then, in one spellbinding instant, Nagbe collects the ball on the left side of the 18-yard box, bursts past his defender, and lashes a curling laser off the right upright and into the net. Around me, the jaws of the assembled media hang open.
— The Guardian, on Portland soccer play Darlington Nagbe

The last student to arrive for fatherhood class was the only one holding a baby, and a dozen men looked up from their desks to stare.
— The Washington Post, on a father’s initiative

Being alone when surrounded by so many others holds a different appeal from being alone in a cabin in the woods. It’s less about being a hermit and more about being a chameleon.
— New York Magazine, on how to be alone

The only athlete this year to have accomplished more, and at a younger age, than Ko, 18, was a 3-year-old named American Pharoah.
— The New York Times, on up-and-coming LPGA star Lydia Ko

***

I’m reading David Sedaris’ “Holidays On Ice” this month. I also (finally) read Marina Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness,” which I’ll admit to reading entire chapters of at the bookstore (over the course of two visits) before bringing it home. If you don’t have time for the whole book, which I recommend, read the title track: The Opposite of Loneliness.

You should watch this time-lapse video of Pacific Northwest nature. It’s beautiful country out there, folks.

I recently reported on a retired teacher who’s running his wife’s toy store after her death and a comic book artist who’s staring down an eye disease that has changed his career.

***

As always, thanks for reading.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Postscript: November

  1. I love your passion for the written word. You are inspiring.

    Posted by Sherri Ryan | December 3, 2015, 12:36 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Ohio to Oregon: 20 photos for 2015 | Jim Ryan - December 15, 2015

  2. Pingback: A year of reading: 20 stories for 2015 | Jim Ryan - December 23, 2015

  3. Pingback: Postscript: January | Jim Ryan - January 31, 2016

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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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