Wednesday, December 31, 2008


While Jordan and Aaron were visiting, the four of us busted out our VCR and hooked it up to one, then two, then three old TVs in the basement, finally finding a TV that works. A couple years ago, Mom had handed me a box of videos -- marked, appropriately, "Videos of My Kids" -- and said, "I know I'll stick this somewhere and never find it. Would you put it somewhere safe and let your OCD keep it on your radar?" Done. Piece of cake.

Lots of feelings washed over me when we watched the VHS tapes of our childhood. Nostalgia, touches of sadness and melancholy, lots of humor and goofiness, sweetness and kindness. Maybe the thing that struck me most -- and I do hope this comes out the right way -- is how CUTE we all looked. Growing up, I was so insecure; I was that nerdy bookworm in the back of the Catholic schoolhouse classroom, awkward and a touch clumsy and so very curious about my identity, sexually and otherwise. I associate many of my childhood memories with shame, with being picked on and misunderstood and discriminated against. But there I am on the screen, a darn cute kid who didn't look nearly as "ugly duckling" as I remembered....and during our viewing of the 4th grade play I starred in, The Three Spinning Fairies (insert your own joke here), we were all struck that -- while I certainly wasn't going to be the next Anna Paquin, of The Piano fame -- I did carry myself, acting-wise, in a way that seemed beyond my years.

Why is hindsight so much more....insightful? I suppose that's the blessing and the curse of it. Don't we all wish we could, at times, zap ourselves back to the past and say, "IF ONLY YOU KNEW!"

And Mom. Oh, my mother. We went through so much for so long with my father after he left, and Mom was sad and scared and depressed for so long....Even though she was always the most beautiful woman on the planet to me, I associate those formative years -- that bridge between childhood and adolescence -- as a dark space where family dynamics often equated melancholy, fear, abandonment. Those feelings have washed over images and faces, and I realize -- in my mind -- I'd not given nearly enough credit to how striking, how gorgeous, Janice Adele was. She just radiated sexiness and depth, sleek sweaters and lioness curls. But, like me, Mom projected onto herself her insecurities -- and those around her picked up on them.

Lemont, Illinois....Lake Geneva, Wisconsin....You were the worst and the best things to happen to me, to all of us. So much of my writing, consciously and subconsciously, has been influenced by you two. I hate you, love you, and miss you at the same time. Like you're two lovers who have scorned me, but also helped shape me. I suppose that's an accurate way of looking at it all.

Here's to 2009, everybody. Happy New Year. May blessings shower themselves upon you -- and may you shower them on others -- as we spiral into a new phase of things.

And a special shout-out to my family: People are always commenting on what a great family we are, how strong and connected and grounded, and I know it's because we chose to let the past make us rather than break us. And Mom, you definitely get the award for Best Mom Ever.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is
exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different
kinds of good weather."

- John Ruskin

Mood of the Day

This is the year of --

-- (re)discovering the definition of "Faith"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Open Letter to Quiet Light (I can't wait to read this!)

“[Francesca Lia Block] is the sorceress of iridescent language.”—Kirkus Reviews

From Amazon's description:

"Open Letter to Quiet Light
will make readers feel as if they are peering at secret writings meant for the eyes of a lover alone, but these carefully crafted lines somehow transcend the personal to touch everyone who has experienced this kind of consuming, wrenching love.

"In these fiercely passionate, devastatingly revealing, sometimes spiritual, and often painful poems, Francesca Lia Block describes in fiery detail the rise and demise of a year-long love affair. Her rich use of language infused with the power of sex and spirit finally paint a transcendent, almost mythic portrait of the way two wounded people — both searching for connection — find each other, collide, and eventually separate. The words seem to bleed onto the page and even the most graphic moments have a devotional quality filled with nuanced expression and unbridled intimacy."

Here's a link to a recent reading by FLB:

great lil' write-up/editorial on "horror" in the movies

quote of the day

"We each must become like fishermen, and go out onto the dark ocean of
mind, and let your nets down into that sea.

"And what you're after is not some behemoth that will tear through your
nets, foul them, and drag you and your little boat into the abyss. Nor are
what we looking for a bunch of sardines, that can slip through your net
and disappear, ideas like 'have you ever noticed that your little finger
exactly fits your nostril' and stuff like that.

"What we are looking for are middle-sized ideas that are not so small that
they are trivial, and not so large that they are incomprehensible, but
middle-sized ideas that we can wrestle into our boat and take back to the
folks on shore, and have fish dinner.

"And everyone of us, this is what we should be looking for. It's not for
your elucidation, it's not part of your self-directed psychotherapy; you are
an explorer, and you represent our species.

"And the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because
our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in
crisis because of the absence of consciousness.

"And so, to whatever degree, any one of us can bring back a small piece
of the picture, and contribute it to the building of the new paradigm.
Then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit."

- Terence McKenna

Friday, December 12, 2008

David Lord Paterson

While talking last night, Jordan told me that his friend Oona recently bumped into David Lord Paterson at a social gathering and ended up accompanying him to another party in the heart of NYC. DLP is the son of Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, one of my favorite books of all time -- and one of my greatest inspirations. I remember as a child being blown away by the raw truths that Paterson explores, the themes of death; loss of innocence; the melting away of childhood imagination -- and how we must fight to hold onto that imagination, re-shape it and continually use it as we become adults. DLP helped with the new film adaptation of the book, and from interviews I read while following the making of the film, I was impressed by his efforts to keep the magic and earth-mother qualities of his mother's vision alive. Did I think the film was perfect? No. But did I cry at parts, and was I impressed that it tackled some of those heavy issues unflinchingly? Yes. And you can't beat the story behind the story, how Katherine Paterson's novel is based on her son David's childhood and his friendship with Lisa Hill, whose passing sparked the muse to help Paterson write about young heartbreak and redemption.

Katherine writes in the dedication:
"I wrote this book for my son
David Lord Paterson,
but after he read it
he asked me to put Lisa's name
on this page as well,
and so I do.
David Paterson and Lisa Hill,

If you haven't read Bridge to Terabithia -- a Newberry Medal winner -- I recommend you take a trip to your local bookstore or library soon, and lose yourself in this world where death and life dance together through the poetic use of Paterson's words.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

quote of the day

"CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In California's recent election, citizens
voted to liberate poultry. Proposition 2 passed, mandating that from now
on farmers cannot confine chickens in cages where they're unable to
spread their wings. Meanwhile, in the same election, voters decided to
make it illegal for gay people to be married, a right that had previously
been granted by the California Supreme Court. How odd is it that chickens
got a measure of freedom while gays had one of their precious freedoms
cut away?..."

--part of my horoscope, from Rob Brezny's Free Will Astrology

....and yet even more peaceful holiday blessings being sent your way

Monday, December 08, 2008

Since I love rainbows, puppies, and unicorns, I thought I'd send you my version of a "Happy Holidays". Hope you're all having a great holiday season!

Friday, December 05, 2008


ahh, this brings back memories of growing up in a small town in Wisconsin....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

mood of the day

quote of the day & grandmother-thoughts

Finished reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude this morning. Thought I'd share this great quote that's in the final pages:

"The world must be all fucked up...when men travel first class and literature goes as freight."

Right on, brother.

Been thinking lots about both my grandmothers, Lilly and Nellie. Grandma Lilly would be 100 years old on December 11th, if she hadn't passed away earlier this year. Can you believe she lived on her own until about six months before she died? I think she's in a good place now, and she's much more aware of everything that transpired with my family. The veils are lifted. As for Grandma Nellie, who left this realm when I was only eight or nine, I'm suspecting more and more that she's my muse, channeling herself -- her invisible energy -- into me, through my fingertips, even through Cassandra, my Queen Diva mannequin, whom I always say is my "main muse." Sometimes I think that Luna, my Jack Russell Terrier, may even be Grandma Nellie reincarnated....they certainly have the same personality, from what I remember and from what Mom tells me, and I think maybe she came back as a white, curly mass of one-eyed pirate bliss to look out for us. Mom and I were talking about Grandma Nellie recently, about her final days when the cancer was eating her up, and how she was skin and bones and light as a feather, and how Mom had to help her in and out of the tub. Then my mind drifted to Grandma Nellie's wake and how my father wasn't there because he had "an important work golf outing that he 'needed' to be at so he could cinch the deal." And then my mind drifted to slippery slopes, how in this world we need to demand respect because if we let people start to walk all over us, they will turn us into threadbare doormats.

I write all this while in a good mood. (Granted, I am tired. Bad insomnia last night.) But I'm eating coffee cake and drinking coffee, and just got a great hug from Kay, and the sun is shining into my work space and the sky is bright and blue and briskly crisp, like an early winter day back in Chicago.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

little paw blessing

Last night, for whatever reason, Ollie starts whining at my door. I'm thinking he needs to go out, so around midnight I lug myself out of bed and open the sliding glass no avail. Turns out he wanted to sleep in bed with me, which he rarely does. Then Luna's little paws go titter-tatter on the hardwood floor, and she decides to join him (which she's never done). So there's Ollie, dead weight, hogging the bed, and Luna, curled into a handmuff-looking ball at my pillow. This morning, my alarm goes off and I think, "I'll just hang here for a couple extra minutes with my canine brother and sister...." I pat Luna's head, and -- per her usual routine -- she rolls onto her back, spreads her paws, and sticks out her chest in her "rub my belly" stance. (I always call her "Turkey Girl" when she does this, because, yep, she looks like a spread-eagled turkey....which must make her think, "Stupid human. Doesn't he know I'm a DOG?") Anyway, she stretches wide, upside down, and her little paw happens to go "plunk" against my forehead. And she keeps it there. Like she's blessing me, like I'm in a Catholic church on Ash Wednesday. Granted, I'm not Catholic, and it's Tuesday, but still!

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Twelve Months of Christmas (Part II)

Well, it's been quite a journey, but the Twelve Months of Christmas contest has come to an end. For those who'd like the full scoop on what this is, and to see the first six winners, check out the below link:

Below are winners 7 through 12, plus my thoughts on the experience.



Julie, aren't you glad that you don't have to respond to these anymore, going, "Um, Nathan, when is it MY turn? I'm waiting!" Now you can be a diva and just hit "delete" for the next five months of these:)

The lowdown on Ms. Punky-licious:
Julie Berman and I met in, of all places, St. Petersburg, Russia. We both attended the Summer Literary Seminar there in June of 2004, where we ended up in the creative writing workshop led by Mary Gaitskill, an author we both admire. (Her story, "Secretary", was adapted into the film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.) Julie and I hit it off right off the bat -- I have fond memories of checking out hot gay Russian men, taking naps at weird hours because we were there during the White Nights and our sleep patterns were totally f*#$ed up, and reading/writing together while talking about her crazy roommate. Julie's from NYC, but moved to Portland a couple years ago to get her Masters at Lewis and Clark. Funny how we met halfway across the globe, and we now live only a 15 minute drive away from one another! Life works out great, sometimes. We'd kept in touch, on and off, during the couple of years between our Russian Extravaganza and her move here, but it's been so pleasant and refreshing for us to groove, naturally, into a deeper, more intimate friendship as we've dealt with families, jobs, breakups, writing, and discussions on if Punky Brewster is dated or still holds up over time. You know, the important stuff. What I admire most about Julie is her loyalty and consistency with her friends; she's such a steadfast soul, and I sometimes picture her as an Amazon Warrior Princess willing to duke it out with a tribesman or Bengal Tiger to protect and nurture those she loves. She is a Warrior of the Pen, too; her words & writing draw me into quirky, delicate, beautiful worlds filled with love and loss and emotional danger. Julie and my mother, Janice, have also become close friends, and we all have become one giant family of dog lovers & and drama likers. Finally, Julie is my personal hero in regards to the dating world -- she is willing to just put herself out there, demand respect and attentiveness, and she ain't afraid of being attracted to men and admitting to it, something I think our Puritan culture makes us push down inside ourselves. You go, girl. You've been my role model as of late!

***Oh, and I've already made your mix CD, Julie. I was writing this morning and thought to myself, "Um, yeah, I don't want to write anymore today....I'm going to make Julie's CD instead!" And it seems fitting, in my New Age, Wiccan ways, that I would shake up the plastic pumpkin right over my keyboard (something I haven't done before), and draw your name, a fellow writer.

Love you all,


Hi everybody. It's good to chat with you again....Karla, I'm glad I chose your name! I know you've had a rough week! I am going to go make your CD right after I send this email. (And you were in my dreams last night, and it was connected to the care package, and to Charlotte Martin, a singer I love.)

Karla and I met under maybe the most powerful and bizarre circumstances. I'd received a call that Dwight, a resident at Our House, was dying, and I raced to the hospital to be with his family, friends, and other loved ones as he left this realm and entered the next. Karla was there, so soothing with her voice, her gentle touch. She and I talked to Dwight together, and we were two of the last ones with him when he passed away, just a couple hours later. I saw her at an Our House function later, and we hugged and reconnected, and we've been close friends ever since. We went, together, to Dwight's parents' wedding anniversary a couple years after Dwight's death, and it felt cracklingly-perfect to sit outside on that picnic bench, with the helium balloon caught above us in the tree, the sunlight just-right-warm on our faces and arms. Karla is beautiful, serious, mysterious, and sometimes like a diamond. Diamonds can be turned into metaphors in so many ways. Thank you for showing me your own strength, Karla, your own ways of pushing through a Darkness. And thank you for learning to appreciate my wicked sense of humor; I think it's finally won you over:) You can dish it back now and then, too -- I love that!

Until next time,
Cordially yours,
C. Nathan Buck

CARLY KENNEDY! (September)

Happy Labor Day, everyone. I'm thinking of you all as we transition from summer to autumn. It's always a bitter-sweet time of year for me. I will miss all the regular sunshine, but I look forward to leaves changing colors; I will miss the long days, but I'm excited about Halloween and hot cocoa and snuggling in blankets; the hustle and bustle of vacations often slows down, but this then allows us to have Recharged Battery Time, which I relish.

There are only three more of you to go after this round, and I hope you're all enjoying your CDs and care packages. (Karla -- yours has been sitting pretty on my desk until we get together next. I promise you'll love it!) I'm having such fun putting these together, and I hope you're having just as much fun not only receiving them but being a part of this cool ritual where you get to learn about cool folks.

Carly Kennedy and I met through Michael Faris, a mutual friend from Corvallis. I'd put out the feelers in early 2006, saying I was looking for a roommate, and the grapevine drew Carly and me together. I can say without a doubt that Carly (in stiff competition with Tara Beckham) is the easiest roommate to get along with on the entire planet. She's full of kindness and attentiveness, creativity and cute penmanship. We shared in unadulterated love of all things Felicity, left one another encouraging notes in the mornings and evenings, kept the house clean, paid all our bills on time, had regular (though by no means structured or scheduled) emotional check-ins, and got to know one another's families a bit. We talked about men. She put up with me playing my music too loud in the mornings while I wrote. She and her friends created funky, abstract art pieces up in the loft. I have a fond memory of Carly coming to visit once Mom got here, and she was sitting in a chair across from us, and the sunlight fell across her skin and face, turning her into an angel. In the end, Carly Kennedy is earthy and ethereal, tough as nails and gentle as a lamb. That's a pretty beautiful combination, and one I respect with every ounce of my being.

Love to you all. Many hugs. I'm always there (and here) with you all in spirit!

Warmest Regards,


Marieke and I have one of those connections where we met, and our souls just kind of went, "Oh, yay! We found one another again! How cool is this? Let's play in the Life Sandbox together like we have dozens of other times!" We met in graduate school down at OSU in Corvallis, and our friendship has knitted itself, strengthened, over time as we've emailed, shared stolen moments together when we're in the same time, chatted on the phone about treehouses and burled wood and wedding ceremonies and the brisk hills of Scotland. Marieke is just so....herself. No apologizes, but no harsh edges to wrap that truth up. She reminds me of gypsies, of nomads, from tales whispered around bonfires; when you chat with her you can almost just SEE the strength in her veins and skin, even her hair. She travels fearlessly; sews much of her own clothing; eats healthy; takes stunningly beautiful photographs of nature; picked up and moved to Scotland to be with Andy; hikes and wanderlusts like nobody's business; and has that gentle-strong kind of voice that sticks with you, reminding you that there are people out there who aren't afraid to throw their gauntlet down in the name of their personal truth. I love her.

Marieke,...miss you, and am sending you many visitations of spirits....

Love to all. Happy October, Happy Autumn, and Happy Peace.



Congrats, Kevin, you little diva. You deserve it!

Kevin and I met through our mutual friend, Tara Rogers (now Tara Beckham). I'd heard about K-Boi before I started working at Marsh, a corporate insurance agency; Tara worked there at the time, and she helped get me the job when I moved from Corvallis to Portland; she'd often mentioned Kevin, and I even saw him the day of my interview....We became close friends quickly. I was going through a particularly tough bump in the road -- just moving into the NE PDX home, starting the new job, the yucky breakup with Levi -- and Kevin came into my life at just the right time, providing friendship, fresh insights, compassion, and lots of time and energy. I can officially say he was my first new friend I made when I moved here. In lots of ways, Kevin and I are very different -- we sometimes see things through quite different lenses -- but because of our mutual respect we are able to gain some fresh perspectives into ourselves because of these lenses. Plus, we laugh a lot together! He's the king of making homemade pizza, and he knows how to co-host a dinner party like nobody's business -- he and Lisa Levenson just threw a huge gala for Our House, where I work, and raised lots of money for our residents living with HIV/AIDS. Kevin holds a special place in my heart, and once in a while he says or does something that makes me think he knows me better than I give him credit for. I like to keep on my toes! (Except when doing nasty Bikram yoga poses on Sunday mornings when I'd rather be home sleeping.)

One more month to go, folks! Will it be you?!?! Am I open to bribes?!?! Well, only time will tell....

Happy Day of the Dead today. Hope you all had a ghoulishly terrific Halloween!



Marianna, I think it's so funny -- and fitting -- that you would win this last go-round, since we were just chatting about the Twelve Months of Christmas contest when we last got together. I smiled and thought, "This is great."

Marianna and I met each other for the first time TWICE.... but didn't realize it right away. When I was working at Marsh, an insurance company, I would sometimes bop over to Pioneer Place, a mall in downtown PDX, on my breaks. Once in a while I'd dream I could actually afford the expensive chocolates in Godiva, and even less often I'd say, "Fuck it", and I'd buy some ridiculously priced chocolate-covered strawberry and eat up every morsel like I'd died and gone to heaven. One time I happened to get a conversation going with the clerk behind the counter. (Yes, I'm that person in line at the grocery store, gas station, you name it, who's kind of annoying because he's always like, "And how are you doing?" -- and holding up the line for everybody else.) I remember walking away from Godiva that day and thinking, "What a lovely young woman; she just exudes charisma and class!" Cut to a couple months later and my first night's training at Write Around Portland, an organization that provides creative writing workshops to marginalized communities in the area. I sit down on the couch next to a stranger, a young woman with dark hair, and our first icebreaker assignment is to have a dialogue with each other without speaking; we had to write back and forth on pieces of paper. So she and I are going along, and all of a sudden it goes something like this:

"Wait, you work at Godiva? Did you happen to have a conversation with a guy from an insurance company a couple months ago?"
"Yes, was that you?!?! I remember you!"
"I remember you too!"
"And now we're partners in this writing exercise, how funny!"
"You're great!"
"No, YOU'RE great!"

Remember, this was all written, no verbal exchanges allowed....until we had to (unexpectedly) read aloud our dialogue to the other Write Around Portland facilitators. Who all laughed delightedly at this serendipitious reunion.

Marianna knows how to embrace life to its fullest, and to learn from it. She's worked at Godiva, at a bakery, as an editor, and now she's in school for book publishing. She's whip-smart and a go-getter, two very fine qualities. I love listening to her stories about her family -- her father is a playwright in Charleston -- and I've enjoyed the safe space that Marianna creates around her. She has a way of making the air & energy around her feel safe, comfortable, and strong, which in this crazy world is so nice to be around. I always walk away from our get-togethers feeling refreshed, and thankful. And Marianna, you make a KILLER chocolate mousse -- seriously, the best I've ever tasted!

***Okay, everyone, I'm sending a follow-up email to this to say "thanks" and to relay my experiences about this contest:)

Over and out (for about five minutes, until I send the next one),
Hi everybody,

Thanks so much for taking part in my Twelve Months of Christmas contest. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started out, and I have to admit there were times when I was like, "This year is one of the craziest of my life! What a time to pick to do this!" But then, of course, I realized that it's one of the best, most precious things to come into my life this year, and has really held the months together like puzzle pieces to the mysteries of 2008. I've always been pleasantly surprised when I've pulled out someone's name, and I've thought, "So cool! What kind of CD am I going to make for them? What kind of care package?" At times, in a weird way, I also felt self-conscious doing this contest; it's hard to explain, and I don't really know what I mean; maybe it's that I felt vulnerable sharing a part of myself -- parts of all of you -- with this posse who gets this monthly email.

I've had a couple people ask me if I'm going to do it again next year. I've decided, alas, that I'm going to take a break. I've definitely considered it, and for those whose names I didn't draw, my mind & heart have paragraphs, whole stories, to say about you, too....But as we move into 2009 my main goal is to focus on finishing my novel and cocoon myself a little more than I have been. I will say this: if I ever do this contest again, those who didn't get their names drawn will automatically get a shot at this again, and all of you who've had the pleasure of being forced to listen to too many female singer-songwriters on CD, well, I'll make sure you get cc-ed so you can read up on those who have gone along on this adventure with you.

It's been so much fun to meet with you in person to do the exchange, or to head to the post office, knowing that you'll open your mailbox and find some weird little creation inside it. I also like that it was randomness & fate that decided who'd get a package, that everyone had an even chance across the board. I love the hugs, the shared words, the thank you's. Really. They're the best part: you all are bursting with love and goodness!

I hope this message finds you all settling in nicely to December and to the holiday season. My thoughts are with you as we transition out of 8-8-8 (a year of transition) into 9-9-9 (a year of spiritual awakening, however you personally may define that). I'm blessed to know each and every one of you.

Much Love,

christmas lights & prescription glasses

I've had an extraordinary few days, filled with Bikram yoga, acupuncture, and a deep-tissue massage with Ciara. Ciara is always great about checking in with her clients before the massages, and as we sat in the massage room, the overhead lights dimmed, all the white Christmas lights that twirled like vines up the wall reflected in her glasses, and she looked strikingly beautiful, truly the Duchess of Faeries (as I like to call her). She just emanated warmth and grace and strength.

Saw Milk -- the Gus Van Sant film about Harvey Milk, the "Mayor of Castro Street" -- and I haven't been that moved in a long time by a film. Sean Penn did an amazing job as Harvey Milk, and Emile Hirsch -- one of my fave actors since The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys -- was pitch-perfect as Cleve Jones. I highly recommend this movie to one and all. Go out and support it, gosh darnit!

Yesterday, Mom and I put up the Christmas tree and hung lights. Mom gets so giddy around the holidays, and even though she complains about all the work she puts into it, she loves each and every moment. Speaking of awesome holiday moments, I was more than impressed by Jerry's "turkey" he brought over to the house on Thanksgiving. He'd made up a creation that Jim Henson -- and Martha Stewart -- would be proud of. He used a radish as the turkey head, a carrot as the nose and feet, pita bread slices as the top feathers, and pecans as the bottom feathers. He said, "I know you're a vegetarian, so I wanted you to have a veggie turkey!" That was so sweet. And we promptly dipped the turkey in hummus and pesto, and ate it. Yum!