Rendered Fat Content

June 2024



"Grace often comes unbidden and unwanted, insisting upon differences we would not have chosen. Grace seems to trade in UnwantedInsights; acceptance serves as the medium of exchange."

I claim to be seeking truth, but I prefer confirmation. I'd much rather my preconceptions reveal the truth instead of my pretensions. I think of myself as an insight seeker, though I'm just as disconcerted as the least of us when an insight reveals some suddenly glaring shortcoming in my once so proud performances. I wanted to get it right the first time, if only because that rarely happens. I thrive on misconceptions, perhaps valiant attempts destined to undermine my best intentions. I frequently find this cycle unbearable. I retire, thinking myself especially put upon. I only suffer from sometimes especially virulent cases of The Normals, for progress might have always been achieved chiefly by discovering errors. Perfection could not have ever been an objective. Seeking the more perfect seems the more realistic perspective.

I can be confident that I will be capable of writing a better story than this one tomorrow, but I'm not inhabiting tomorrow yet and couldn't possibly.

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Alfred Stevens:
Hesitation (Madame Monteaux?) (c. 1867)

"Life cannot be fulfilled by merely satisfying obligations."

I love to weed my gardens. I'd rather be on my knees digging dirt than do anything else, although I do maintain a mental list of the activities I most enjoy. Curiously, on any given day, I'm unlikely to engage in any activity on that list. I prioritize otherwise, first dispatching obligations to satisfy expectations. Then, I'm more likely to engage in hygiene activities, cleaning up messes. While certain satisfactions come from completing these, I cannot honestly report that they please me. I'd rather be weeding. Still, I catch myself making excuses that delay me from engaging in this most favorite occupation. It might be too hot or too cold. I seem easily dissuaded as if I require perfect conditions to engage in this most perfect of all possible occupations.

This might say something about how I was raised.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 6/27/2024

John Singer Sargent: Study of Two Bedouins (1905–6)

An Achingly Aspired-for Answer
We seem to be floating here and always have been floating. Nobody among all our forebears ever once experienced firm footing. They each slipped and slid, stumbled, and mumbled their way into whatever they eventually seemed to become. There were no shortcuts then, and none remain for any of us to leverage now. How will we survive? We might survive for now without any of us individually surviving much longer. The very purpose of this exercise must be rooted in its inevitable demise. We're short-lived, whatever we might devise. This means we must seek for purposes other than salvation or survival. However attractive notions of figuring might seem, we're clearly not born here to figure out anything, and certainly not for any plausible long run. We're dancing on next to nothing without the promise of transforming any of that surface into anything lasting. We enquire in lieu of knowing. We ask instead of answering. We wonder when we'd prefer to know. We might be here to inquire, not to resolve. It might be plenty and enough to manage what the best of our forebears manifested: a decent question, an achingly aspired-for answer, a hopeful presence, and a grateful denouement—a life. Thank you for following along this week!

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John Singer Sargent: An Artist at His Easel (1914)

"I was out-dated before this product was even released."

I'm terribly slow on the uptake these days. I seem to need more space and time than previously, and I find myself far less productive. Give me a deadline and I'm almost sure to miss it, usually for good reasons, but sometimes for lousy ones. For instance, I've been trying to learn how to use the new and "improved" GoogleDrive apps, and it's been an excruciating experience. They've been almost entirely redesigned, seemingly to impede performance improvement. I need to rediscover every function every time I try to use it. The passageway into the file list was hidden three or four layers beneath an unrelated link, so I often wander aimlessly. Doing anything takes longer and becomes more frustrating than I ever remember GoogleApps being capable of inducing before. I need a GracePeriod, acknowledgement that I’m typing with chopsticks, so everything will quite naturally take much longer than otherwise necessary. I am a beneficiary of this encumbering technology.

I need to forgive myself for my own unwanted trespasses.

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Charles Bird King: The Vanity of the Artist's Dream
Former Titles: The Anatomy of Art Appreciation
Poor Artist's Study
Still Life, The Vanity of An Artist's Dream

"I deserve a Humbling cup filled with a bitter brew."

The scandal had broken the Friday before the Candidate Forum. The incumbent County Commissioner had been investigated for some incidents of incivility at the prior year's fair, where she'd pushed around some underlings and humiliated herself for no good purpose. Those of us supporting her opponent quietly cheered inside to see that she had decisively stumbled. There might be no way Jenny Mayberry could be reelected with this black mark on her record. She'd already conclusively proven herself to be an inept commissioner. She'd proposed raises for first responders and hired some more without considering how the county might pay for those changes. Then, she'd steadfastly refused to vote to increase taxes, saying she'd sworn not to raise taxes when running for office. The adult commissioners voted in favor of paying for her increases, and she'd set about blanketing the county with reelection signs, insisting she really cares about the county and its people.

The morning of the Candidate Forum, Jenny called in sick.

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Lucian and Mary Brown:
Untitled [boy playing with truck in sandbox] (c. 1950)

" … the continuing possibility of these strange convergences and Grace."

I'll start this story by declaring that I do not believe in The Prosperity Gospel or the often-touted Laws of Attraction. I believe this theory and practice amount to a cruel joke, a fraud perpetrated on innocent people who probably deserve better. That this fraud is often self-inflicted is no defense and might render it even more offensive. There are plenty who encourage such beliefs.

I admit to sometimes seeing evidence that, if I was unconvinced, might convince me that The Prosperity Gospel and The Laws of Attraction could be real.

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Camille Pissarro: Self-portrait (Undated, circa 1888)

"Never get yourself so busy not doing your job that you can't properly not do your job."

The Muse and I arrived at the convention hall feeling hopeful despite the frustrating time we'd had attempting to properly prepare for the experience. After reviewing the first draft of the party platform document, I'd started before the prior weekend to influence the final wording, which I found primitive and demeaning. Our Legislative District Chair first deflected my suggestion that he invite delegates to talk through the document to identify areas needing improvement. The Chair explained that he was too busy to convene anything before finally agreeing to try to schedule a session over the upcoming weekend. He hadn't scheduled the session, so The Muse and I arrived feeling as though we'd missed an opportunity to influence anything there.

Further, the day before, we'd learned that the platform committee on which our Chair had served had unanimously adopted a plank that could tank every candidate's opportunity for election in the current race.

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J. H. W. Tischbein:
Three Beavers Building a Dam (c. 1800)

" … surrounded by the effects of our great-grandfather's profound ignorance."

All who live near the end of the Oregon Trail share a heritage. The valley I call my valley, the one they liked to well they named it twice, was once home to artesian wells. The groundwater was under such pressure that when a well was dug, the water would fountain up high into the air. That aquifer was filled with water that had taken twenty millennia to work its way down out of the mountains and under the valley floor. It could be removed in minutes on no more than a whim.

Our forebears were not system thinkers.

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Adriaen van Ostade: Saying Grace (1653)

" … the best example of graceful aging I can imagine."

There but for the Grace of some God or Gods, went I. I have lived a remarkably fortunate existence, an unbidden gift for an unworthy recipient. I could ascribe all I have achieved to the presence of Grace, the free and unmerited favor of some God or Gods I very likely would not believe in if they were identified. I suppose this attitude alone qualifies me as a heathen. Now that I'm recognizably aging, I am urged to at least attempt to accomplish my aging gracefully, whatever in the Hell that injunction might mean. The Muse complains that I have been complaining about almost everything lately, and I reluctantly admit that I have been. Was I not supposed to complain about everything that failed to work as expected? Technology grows progressively—regressively—worse with every upgrade and innovation. Is this phenomenon evidence of technology aging gracefully? It might be that my pointing out the increasingly obvious shortcomings of Google Drive Apps amounts to one sort of Grace. My complaints beat going unconscious in the face of such disgraceful performances.

Grace might be the great undefinable.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 6/20/2024

Claude Monet:
On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt (1868)

This One's No Exception
My first great-grandparents had an asparagus farm on what would become The Hanford Reservation. In 1940 or so, the War Department bought their farm and their neighbors' farms, even the nearby town. For my great-grandparents, this sale was a godsend. They bought a small house on Pine Street in Walla Walla and retired in greater ease than they'd ever imagined experiencing. My mother remembered visiting their tarpaper shack where only the parlor had proper wallpaper, the other rooms were papered with newspaper to keep out the drafts. Nobody was ever allowed in the parlor. Today, Richland, Washington, where The Muse and I stayed last night on our way to the State Democratic Party Convention, to which we've been elected delegates, is part of the third largest metropolitan area in the state, with over 300,000 inhabitants. My mom remembered before Richland existed when adjacent Kennewick consisted of a single gas station/grocery next to the ferry. There were no bridges across the Columbia River. The Army used those former asparagus fields to centrifuge the plutonium used to blow this world to kingdom come, leaving behind a permanent superfund site that fuels this city's continuing growth. When I was a kid, we referred to this place as The Dry Shitties rather than their formal name, The Tri-Cities. There were good reasons General Groves chose this place in the first place, perhaps chief among them, the preexisting desolation. It's growing like a weed because weeds always grew best here. Every prior generation secretly believes their world's headed for Hell without the requisite handbaskets. This one's no exception. Thank you for following along through my Fambly Stories!

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Josua van den Enden: Kaart van het oude Gallië
[Map of ancient Gaul] (1627)
"I might just have too much left to learn or too much left to forget …"

I introduced this Fambly Series ninety-two mornings ago, three full months. Since then, I have created a fresh installment every day. This story will forever be number ninety-three, the final one, a ragged ending and also a ragged beginning for whatever follows, a RaggedBegending. As those who follow my writing already know, I deliberately avoid deciding my route too far ahead of my present. Nature abhors tidiness even more than it abhors vacuums. It demands an uncertain orientation, a welcomed not-knowing rather than another clever plan. Life should properly feel disorienting, lest we lose some critically important facility. We can connect our own dots, thank you very much. We do not natively need anyone to tell us what their story means for that's for each witness to decide. As the writer here, I work hard to disclose what I'm coming to know. This series has been the most enlightening one I've created so far. Even now, though, I see better than when I started just how much story remains to discover and to tell.

Fambly seems everyone's proper occupation.

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Jacob Matham, After Hendrick Goltzius:
Hendrick Goltzius, a famous Protégé (1617)

" … this series comes to you due to the steadfast patronage of The Muse …"

I am a kept man. Though this arrangement should seem shameful to both my patron and her Protégé, we've worked our way into acceptance of the way our lives have become. I was The Muse's Patron for a time, encouraging her to steal what was once my consulting company if she wanted to become a consultant. She succeeded in satisfying my injunction and ultimately succeeded me in managing that firm, much to the betterment of us and that firm. When the firm went bust in the not-so-great 2008 Recession, we were both thrown out of our profession. We were a month away from losing everything when The Muse was offered and accepted a job. As I mentioned earlier, her employer had no notion of how The Muse would engage when fulfilling that position, and she remained a surprisingly resourceful contributor until after that hiring boss retired. She became the money earner and I became her Protégé, not that I was in training, mind you. Protégé is the proper term for anyone receiving patronage. Most of the greatest artists throughout history have received patronage and were also "kept," much to the benefit of succeeding generations of art appreciators.

Our economic notions lean heavily toward the Self-made Man theory of vitality, that success demands no less than economic viability.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir:
Portrait of Monsieur Choquet (c. 1875)

"She remained a puzzlingly successful handful …"

I fear that these final installments of this Fambly series might have become too confessional, though I suppose it might be acceptable to tell all in the interest of fuller disclosure. I wanted to avoid creating one of those silver-plated tin sculptures so often offered as family history. I aspired to include actual history and not simply the mysteries and highest points on the excursion. I might have shown both the best and worst of times and thereby come close to presenting as it actually was, given that we have no clear translation of the manners of living from century to prior century. I assume enough without trying to edit out inevitable dirty laundry.

That said, I eventually became an Entreprenuer.

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Meester van Antwerpen (I) (attributed to):
Christus predikt over scheiden
[Christ preaches about divorce]
(1485 - 1491)

"Some experiences just come to pass …"

The data seems straightforward: birthdate/place, marriage, birthdates of children, death date/place. Almost nobody got divorced in the old old days. The church forbade it. Monarchs would occasionally seek a pope's dispensation and sometimes receive it, though even kings were expected to show some restraint. The third time anyone pleads ignorance after they married another first cousin, even a pope might lose patience and insist that such close relatives should try harder to get along. I think of divorce as a more modern phenomenon, but it's almost as old as marriage. Several of my ancestors carried on with something like informal plural marriages, never working very hard to hide their mistresses. This practice, though, was publicly frowned upon as unseemly. One was expected to keep their dalliances private, especially when with a commoner. Infidelity among the upper classes might have been common, but the details were rarely considered to be worthy of common knowledge.

I call my first divorce my Dismemberment because it pretty much tore my life apart.

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Max Liebermann:
Dutch Village Scene with Hanging Laundry (1890)

Nearly three years later, I graduated from Portland State University with a BS Degree in International Marketing, a field I was neither qualified for nor deeply interested in entering. My University education sort of happened to me, my primary interest being to get through it in as short a time as possible and with minimal fuss. Betsy, my first wife, had grown increasingly impatient to start a Fambly of our own, and my education was standing in the way of realizing that goal. In the end, or near the next beginning, 'we' became pregnant and our son Wilder was born three months before I'd graduate with my BS Degree. The degree itself, though, worked its magic as I had already been promoted at the job I'd taken to pay for that education. I became a supervisor before I'd even graduated, overseeing a small unit of clerks responsible for processing unusual payments. I was in no way qualified for that position, either.

That final quarter of school was a challenge.

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Randolph Caldecott: A dainty dish. (Undated)

"Me, eternally ThePotWizard …"

Everyone stumbles into and back out of different personas as they proceed through life. After I left The Old Home Place, I began to think of myself as David, the single acoustical performer, complete with an agent who would book me into inappropriate venues. There might not be any better way to master any skill than to attempt to deploy it in inappropriate venues, places where the audience is not particularly predisposed toward acceptance. Most would rise no further than indifference, reinforcing that nagging sense that I was an imposter pretending to mimic myself, a common notion among any budding creative class member. I persisted so that when my to-be first wife, Betsy, finished her university studies, completed her mandatory three-month practicums, and found her first professional job—In Northeast Pennsylvania—, I had convinced myself that I was a songwriter of some prominence. I hadn't hit it big yet, but success tends to be elusive in those contexts and should not be confused with anything other than ordinary. I accompanied her backward toward an Eastern Eden at the other end of our Oregon Trail.

After years of living in shared apartments in Sleezeattle, finding and renting our own apartment back east seemed terribly grown up.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 6/13/2024

Ueda Kōchūex: Boy on a Bull (late 19th century)

Nothing Like Finished Producing

Something clicked as I worked my way into the part of this series that involved recalling my history rather than recounting my ancestors'. It felt as if I'd recovered some sense I'd misplaced along the way. I'd chalked that absence up to aging, considering that I might have been losing some cognition and had settled into attempting graceful acceptance, when there it was back again. I suited up and engaged in some chores I'd been too effortlessly procrastinating, understanding that I hadn't lost anything after all. Perhaps I'd just stalled. Maybe I'd needed a break from my routine if only to reassert some overt expectation again. Maybe I can still make my own decisions and choose to do what I probably would have expected myself to do anyway. There's ultimately never any running away from responsibility in this Fambly. I have considerable history to represent here in the present. I still have some history to create, too. I'm nothing like finished producing yet.

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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes:
Boy on a Ram (1786/87)

"I had been Becaming all that time before."

I lived at TenFifteen for thirteen years, from when I was five until I was eighteen. I did not grow up there, certainly not completely. I continued growing up there. Mostly I was Becaming. Becaming occurs as a result of aspiring to become something. While still aspiring, you have not yet become whatever you aspire for. Later, you might surprise yourself to see that you achieved that dream, or some significant piece of it. Then, the effort expended might seem as if it was more than mere dreaming. Then you notice that you've changed and that you're no longer a mere aspirant, but that you embody an actual achievement. You had been Becaming. There was scant evidence that you were making much in the way of progress until you manifested the difference as if by magic.

Those thirteen years seem absolutely magical in retrospect.

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1015 Pleasant Street, Walla Walla, Washington 99362
46.06265478666864, -118.31136536454669
My Old Home Place

" … some curious cross between Tom Sawyer and Swiss Family Robinson."

My fambly moved into TenFifteen Pleasant Street when I was five. It seemed more like a haunted mansion than a home then, cavernous and grand. The yard, almost an acre, seemed bigger than the whole neighborhood around SixFortyFour. The back fence abutted onto a neighbor's horse pasture which featured actual horses that would nuzzle us through the wire. An enormous pipe swing sat in a side yard, near a large brick barbeque. Trees covered the upper two-thirds of the lot: an apricot, a pear, and an enormous ancient crabapple. A matched pair of birches framed the front yard along with a gnarly ancient locust and a silver maple beside the driveway. Spirea anchored a wide porch that stretched clear across the front. A huge mock orange and numerous ancient lilacs framed the left of the property, along with a sharp spruce and a triangular rose garden with the sweetest Peace rose I've ever smelled. Iris beds graced the front and back yards. A Mulberry tree shaded a long pipe clothesline between the house and the large detached garage. This house would amplify my sense of living in a Walt Disney movie to some previously unimaginable Nth degree, complete with a Tom Sawyer Island in every way superior to the actual one in Disneyland, California.

This would become my birth Fambly's Old Home Place.

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Pasted Graphic
644 N Seventh Street,
Walla Walla, Washington 99362
46.07182° N, 118.34825° W
Google Maps® Street View (2012)

"An older woman who remembered pioneer days lived across the street."

I grew up in a Walt Disney movie. After all those generations preceding me, I became the fortunate son of the inheritors of all that history, Bob and Bonnie Schmaltz (nee Wallace.) They met and fell deeply in love in Condon, Oregon, marrying in 1945 amid a controversy of their own making. Bob had been born Catholic. Under the ever-watchful eye of his grandfather and grandmother, he was raised Old Catholic, the kind tempered by ample suffering for the faith. His grandfather ruled with an unforgiving iron hand. Had he not died by then, he would have been appalled when Bob agreed not to be married by a priest in the Catholic church. My mom would not consent to catechism classes. After centuries of her family practicing what probably passed as Calvinist faith, she was indifferent, even skeptical of religion in general. The priest
insisted that no Catholics attend the nuptials, which meant the groom's family could not attend. Nobody could go anywhere in such a small city without bumping into somebody. They began their married life in controversy.

They were doting parents, delighted with their fate.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: The Modern Worker (1894)

"Modernity always promised much more than it ever once delivered."

As near as I can determine, Modernity must be in the eye of each beholder. I suspect that every generation stretching back to before recorded history believed itself to be the very soul of Modernity, for how could that not have been? Each successive wave represented the most advanced one to date. There were, in fact, none more current than whichever one was present, even when The Dark Ages overtook previous pinnacles of civilization. Those apparent retreats, too, represented an alternative form of advancement. Progress only sometimes moves forward. Some failures seem like an inescapable part of success.

Most of the history I've been reporting here occurred in a world lit only by fire, an almost unimaginably primitive state for those who have more recently arrived.

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Adam Willaerts: Ships off a Rocky Coast (1621)

"One can genuinely never return home again."

Absence was always a prominent part of my Fambly's history, for even when one of my ancestors fulfilled the role of Lair of some Scottish estate, he was frequently away on business. He might have traveled to Belgium or Holland to oversee the transfer of the wool he'd raised or off on some errand for his Lord or King, for most land was held in feudal trust, and the owner paid his rent in service as well as shares of crops, just like his serfs. Throughout most of The Middle Ages, wars raged in nearly endless succession. The Hundred Years War lasted almost three generations and was fought on the continent. English lords and serfs beat a steady path through Calais to battle away with the French, their first and second cousins. Even monarchs volunteered for Crusades, which could take them away from their homeland for years and often forever. It was no sign of sophistication when people traveled, but most often, a sign of simple obligation.

In my generation, my sister and I felt the need to leave our old hometown to create our lives.

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Eleanor Beauchamp, TheStepMother's Mother
Depiction of Eleanor from the Rous Rollc. 1483

"She was not beheaded by beserver Yorkist extremists."

TheStepMother's mother, Eleanor Beauchamp, Duchess of Somerset, was a fine lady. Married three times, she bore thirteen children in her fifty-eight years. Her first marriage to Thomas Ros, 8th Baron Ros, produced three children and ended when her husband, participating in the Hundred Years' War in France, fell into the Seine during a minor skirmish and drowned. Her second marriage to Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, produced ten children, including TheStepMother, their second child, and their second daughter, Joan Beaufort. Edmund Beaufort was a polarizing figure in war and politics. Henry VI assigned him to replace his chief political rival, the Duke of York, as head of all English forces in France. Edmund became notorious as the one responsible for losing all territory won there by the English, thereby ending the Hundred Years' War. He returned in relative disgrace, though the king held him in considerable esteem. Ultimately, the king could no longer protect him, and he was captured and killed by York forces in the first battle of St Albans, the opening volley in what would become The War of the Roses. This conflict would ultimately take two of TheStepMother's brothers, both killed on the same day. Eleanor's third husband, Walter Rokesley, produced no offspring. She died in Bayard's Castle in London, a known Yorkist hangout.

It would have seemed a wise move for TheStepMother to leave Old Blighty.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 6/06/2024

Camille Pissarro: Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook (1894/95)

Must Be Worth Something
This has been an unusually cool and damp Spring here near the end of the Oregon Trail. It has been perfect weather to contemplate my place in this world. I understand that not everyone can trace their family's history back many generations and that I must be incredibly fortunate to have found traces of ancient ancestors. I admit that these discoveries have given me a radically fresh perspective on who I must be and a sobering realization that few of the characteristics commonly considered inheritable actually are. Still, even imagined inheritances might make some significant difference. The self-confidence I feel knowing I had powerful ancestors seems to be making some difference. My sense of self seems unusually elevated now. My usual sense of isolation has become a story I struggle to believably repeat. I feel less alien and more at home, neither in any way negative sensations. So, while these sensations might not result from inheritance or evolution, they still seem to make a real difference in the quality of my experience. This series has been the most enjoyable for me to write, and that enjoyment must be worth something in the larger scheme of things.

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Russell Lee:
Child of Migrant Worker in Car, Oklahoma
(1939, printed later)

"If we're fortunate, we'll stumble into another …"

After The Muse and I went bankrupt in the not-so-great crash of '08, we were exiled into an unwanted but necessary adventure. The Muse found an unlikely job that required her (us) to relocate from what had been our Eden Near The End Of Our Oregon Trail to a suburb of Washington, DC. We didn't have to worry about mistaking there for any place near any Eden. It stood about as far from Oregon as anywhere on this continent could. It prominently featured many attributes that would motivate any half-witted emigrant to head out across any hostile continent, but there we were for that time as if working off some debt to society or ourselves. We got extremely fortunate in ways that never would have found us had we stayed safely ensconced in our Eden. Back there—for it certainly seemed as if we'd taken a giant step backward—gravity didn't work right, yet things seemed to turn out all right, or all rightish, from the outset. We found as close to a perfect place in what would turn out to be the ideal suburb for us. We found decent, helpful neighbors. That most un-Eden-like place came to feel like another Eden to us, especially when we compared it to where we might have ended up.

Throughout my lifelong migration, good fortune has dogged my paths.

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Russell Lee:
Fall spinach. Willamette Valley,
Clackamas County, Oregon

"We were guilty of a tenacious innocence …"

The EdenAtTheEnd of the Oregon Trail was both everything dreamed of and a severe disappointment. Despite all the focused aspirations, nothing about the underlying human condition turned out to be any different there. People continued to be born and retired at just about the historical rate. It didn't turn out to even distantly resemble Heaven on Earth, though it seemed plenty close enough after the centuries of trials required to arrive there. The weather offered more rain than most thought necessary, though it somehow avoided the deluges remembered from the Appalachians, Tennessee Valley, Missouri, and Nebraska. Tornados were gratefully unheard of there. Snowfall was rare, and the soil ranged from fair to absolutely heavenly. Roads were muddy, but enough unwanted trees stood that they could be harvested to create corduroy roads. Resources at first seemed infinite. Salmon in the Spring routinely came in enormous sizes; one fish would be the capacity of a buckboard wagon. We complained about having to eat fresh salmon more than a couple of times each week. It was readily available for seven in season.

The natives barely noticed our arrival, and those that did either died of our diseases or were quickly subdued and moved to reservations away from the more promising of these promised lands.

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Carleton Emmons Watkins, Isaiah West Taber:
Mt. Hood and the Dalles, Columbia River, Oregon (1867)

"Those of us who were born in Eden …"

Few modern travelers could tolerate even a day's distance in a Conestoga wagon, especially on what passed for roads between 1840 and 1870. Especially in the earlier years, the so-called Trail was more rumor than actual, an asperation much more than a manifestation. The journey was challenging, even for those accustomed to traveling by Conestoga wagon. It was slow, even for those experienced driving oxen. It was dangerous, too, though not usually due to unfriendly Indians. The travelers themselves tended to be their own worst enemies. They insisted upon bringing heirlooms they could not bear to leave behind in the care of relatives. They brought too much frivolous stuff and not nearly enough of the essentials. They carried enough innocence to carry most more than two thousand miles across some of the most hostile and forbidding territory few of them had ever previously even imagined. They traveled The Oregon Trail.

Before 1880, every member of my Fambly that came West seeking their Eden at the end of TheTrail, came by The Trail.

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Print by anonymous artist: Tobacco plantation (circa 1745 - 1865)

"We Americans are nothing if not overflowing with contradictions."

The Plantation became the British means of colonization before Henry VIII's reign. He broadened and deepened the institution, employing it as the primary means for subjugating enemies and employing otherwise idle citizens. He began the large-scale use of indentured servants in the service of state-owned agricultural enterprises. Each Plantation was run like a stock corporation, with the labor considered just another commodity required for production and humanity at best a side consideration. At the time, England had laws that insisted anyone without a profession was required to labor for a better, a better being anyone of greater means. Part of the justification for chartering the Virginia Company, which oversaw Jamestown and other early Plantations, was to put idle hands to work. It was a strategy to subdue the rabble through forced employment.

All but one of my forebears arrived in this country as some sort of servant.

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G. Woolliscroft Rhead:
And last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake.
Thus came Faithful to his end.

"I feel wealthy in stories, indeed!"

In my twenties, when I was imprinting on what would become my preferences in liquor, my peers chose everything but the Scotch I selected. The other choices never tasted right to me. Bourbon tasted like Sugar Corn Pops®, and not in any pleasing way. Vodka struck me as better used as a cleaning fluid. Brandy tasted far too sweet. Tequila fully qualified as horrid! Scotch offered exotic flavors with a caché of mystery. I preferred Dewars with a twist of lemon, an order that reliably raised one of the waiter's eyebrows in response. I presumed the eyebrow signaled a highbrow sign that he suspected I must know what I was doing. Honestly, I never knew why I'd chosen that one. It just seemed proper to me. Later, when selecting a Single Malt, I gravitated toward Dewars' offering, Abefeldy, without once suspecting that fifteen generations of my forebears had lived near Aberfeldy in Lanarkshire, on the Blackwood estate there. Several had been declared Laird of the place, fer cripes sake!

My last installment of this history followed Robert Weir from Ireland to Massachusetts and Oregon through his great-great-granddaughter, my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lovelady Bounds.

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Thomas Frye:
Young Man with a Candle, from Life-Sized Heads

My Scotch-Irish ancestory stretches back to
House of de Vere, part of William The Conquerer's entourage in 1066. Scotch-Irish immigrants to the New World colonies resulted from failed immigration policies implemented by the British government in Ireland since at least Henry VII's reign in the first half of the seventeenth century. The English Civil War a century later served to exacerbate further the difficulty as both Oliver Cromwell and his successors fought to subdue the Irish and their infernal Catholicism. One continuing strategy had been the creation of The Ulster Plantation, a plan to overwhelm the native Irish chieftains by resettling their ancestral lands with Scottish Presbyterians. The Chieftains felt obligated to fight back, which they did with great ferocity, continually losing, resulting in The Troubles. Northern Ireland remained unstable and hostile, resulting in multitudes of fleeing Presbyterians. It would have to have been that some of those who would ultimately become my forbears would have come from the Ulster Plantation. No shortages of them came to this country during the early eighteenth century.

My Scocth-Irish forebears, Robert and Martha Ware, and family came to this continent under Rev. James MacGregor during Queen Anne's War to escape religious persecution in Ulster.

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