My word! The Essays!

An overview of Who Cares? Thoughts on Apathy, an essay collection imagined to be much coveted by the masses.

An Essay Collection

by

Tami Richards

The Stormy Apex. Cocoa powder on a spoon. Is life fair, or is it what you make of it?

  • EXCERPT:I feel as if I have already climbed to the apex of my life, as if I have done one of the most heroic and utterly courageous things that human beings are capable of, yet as I look around the top of this mountain I don’t see the fanfare. No one is waiting with banners exclaiming, “you’ve done it!” From here, I find that the most astonishing fact is that the dense fog has surrounded me and I am unable to find the trail that leads down. If I were to give hiking the Appalachian Trail a good go, I would make sure I received recognition for that. As it is, I feel lost. My mothering is largely behind me, my duties as a wife are few, and my workday is set to auto-pilot. There are not many challenges before me, and I am celebrating alone what I consider the greatest accomplishment that I will ever achieve; I have raised four happy children.

Skewing My Perception. Homelessness and perception as reality.

  • EXCERPT: What hit me the hardest about the first homeless person that I saw as a child was probably the same initial reaction that most people have. It was when I realized that he had no family, no one who cared about him that I felt sorry for him. The fact that he had a shaggy beard, wore large, misshapen and dirty clothes, and mumbled when he spoke, were all secondary next to the horrific realization that there were people in my still-so-small world who seemed to have no one who gave them a second thought. I will never forget being a child of eight and seeing that homeless man building a fire under the same bridge that my older brother and I often played at. It was a perfectly fearful experience, making such a deep impression on me that one of the first short stories I wrote as an adult was about him, or at least the feelings I had about him. My ineptitude for writing short stories aside, I did manage to sum up my earlier observation in one sentence; “I have learned to sip the soup of humanity through the jagged edge of apathy.” Though not a brighter than average child, I must have realized at that young age that without being a person who cares, my life would have no meaning. For some unexplained reason I wanted my life to have meaning. I wanted to make a difference.

What Made June Cleaver Smile? You know you know. An essay on the tweaked hormones of our modern era causing low sex drives.

  • EXCERPT: It’s a fact that testosterone levels in American men have been declining steadily over the past two decades, according to the Endocrine Society and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. This would indicate why June Cleaver did indeed need naps and it also explains why she was so levelheaded, even-tempered and damn happy. That’s right, make no mistake, those couples of the 50’s and 60’s were getting it on more often and with more gusto than the couples of today, by far. According to the many magazine headlines, women today are not relaxed, do not regularly feel sexy, and are not on the receiving end of male testosterone nearly as often as they’d like to be. Not only were the senior citizens who are today positioned in our memories as wrinkled and hunched-over with osteoporosis doing it back then, they were doing it with relish. They were doing it with the same ferocious wild abandonment as any generation before or after them, and more often, which would possibly explain the baby boom that delivered countless builders, movers and shakers onto the American landscape, especially when coupled with the low divorce rates of that time period.

The Beauty Inside. Because when Whitney Houston died, people were nasty-mouthed, bitter, ugly, cruel <expletives>! She deserved better than that, the power and strength of her voice speaks.

  • EXCERPT: It is possible that it is the price of fame, the public being more like vultures than doves. Emphasizing a famous person’s failings over their talent becomes a vicious cycle, and how could a famous person possibly overcome the public’s negative consensus once convicted? Once a figure is owned by the public, can she regain autonomy?

Peace of Mind. Lamenting the decline of the front porch.

  • EXCERPT: The sun is painting pink silhouettes along stretched-taffy clouds and a gentle breeze is cooling my skin. Sitting on what constitutes our front porch; a five-foot by fourteen-foot slab of cement covered by the roof’s 6’ overhang, I watch my two granddaughters ride their bikes up and down our quiet street, giggling and careening down the same patch of road that their mother pedaled along at their age. I stretch my sandaled feet out to rest them atop the brick planter that has nourished strawberry plants for twenty-plus years, noting that dandelions are once again growing in the raised beds.

Low Flow, High Water. Low flow faucets getting on my last nerve.

  • EXCERPT: I have foregone the sink-of-soap-bubbles method and instead I simply use a bit of dish soap on a sponge and wash/rinse the dishes under running water. Considering that rinsing dishes under running water is a water-conservation no-no, I do not feel that my method is likely the best approach. It is certainly not the scenario that the low-flow faucet is supposed to create. From a germ standpoint, though, rinsing dishes under warm running water is a cut above letting dishes sit in germ-laden rinse water.

My Time. A foray, an autobiography of my life, written 20 years ago, before things got reaaaalllly interesting.

  • EXCERPT: The first two methods of measuring time are based on the daily rotation of the earth on its axis. One is based on the apparent motion of the sun in the sky, which is called solar time. The other is based on the evident motion of the stars in the sky, which is called sidereal time. A third method is based on the revolution of the earth around the sun, which is ephemeris time. Albert Einstein went to great lengths to dissect time and categorize all of its relations to reality, but time has lately become a concept a little more personal to me than the predictability of celestial marvels or Einstein’s theories of relativity. It consists of a relatively small chunk in the space-time continuum that I like to call my time.

Don’t Give US a king. Basically, my anti-communist manifesto: Death by power: Ze-Dong Mao 30-70,000,000 (depending on how the deaths are attributed) Adolf Hitler 12,000,000 Josef Stalin 5,000,000 Ismail Enver Ottoman, Turkey, 1,200,000 Armenians, 500,000 Assyrians Pol Pot 2,000,000

  • EXCERPT: The histories of countries all around the world abound with kings, queens, and emperors, chancellors, etc. whose biggest role has always been to take responsibility for the daily conditions of those governed. In fact, the United States began as such a country under England’s rule and turned its back on that way of life, insisting that individual persons should not be taxed without representation, among other things. Modern politicians know of the historically recorded tendency of societies to lean toward a Master caregiver and they often take advantage of it by making promises and passing laws to appease the majority of squeaky wheels: People who demand a king. From passing tax laws that actually favor a scant few citizens to enacting edicts to quell the masses; politicians are eager to appease those who would demand a king, because truly, politicians want to be kings.

Readers Expanding and Contracting. Observing how rapidly we succumb to navel gazing though the whole world is literally at our fingertips.

  • EXCERPT:One of the most fascinating things done with e-readers has been through organizations such as WorldReader.org, a group that donates e-readers to schools in third world countries. As those in the know are quick to point out, such as Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, authors of “Half The Sky,” the road away from poverty and oppression is paved with education. Worldreader.org and other organizations like it are well on their way to proving that educating the masses is the cornerstone for building a successful society. Reading through the blog posts of those involved within the schools of Ghana reveals striking evidence that the project is not only helping these students gain a foothold on the right path, but also is expanding their regional and global outlooks.

Screw the BFD. Cynicism and words.

  • EXCERPT: There was a blue jeans company about this time calling itself the BFD. I think the B was for best and the D for denim – the F was for fitting or something like that. I don’t know about anyone else, but the jeans company totally killed my joy of saying BFD, because it wasn’t long before BFD meant Best Fitting Denim. It is probably my most memorable encounter with a killjoy.

Counterrevolutionary. I wrote this biography about the June 4th incident and Baiqiao Tang, for a contest I didn’t win.

  • EXCERPT: On June 4th 1989 I was seven months pregnant with my third child. It had been a good year for our family so far. My daughters were five and three, we had just bought the house we still live in today, I had several good friends, and I was proud to live in America where I did not have to worry about suffering violent repercussions for expressing my political, social, or religious views. The Tiananmen Massacre that I saw on the news that day in June was the most foreign, surreal and shocking atrocity I had ever seen.

5 Lessons From the Greatest Generation. Buy silver, shop local, it’s up to you (do something), recycle, preserve food.

  • EXCERPT: PRESERVE FOOD. Even in the region known as the great dust bowl, people of the depression era would can food for leaner times. From rabbit meat to sagebrush, foodstuff that could sustain life was the only requisite for canning. Not only are we to preserve foods, we should cook slow food as a way to both save money and to acquire nourishing foods that will sustain us.

Virtually Overwhelming. Writerly gibberish about the internet stealing my soul.

  • EXCERPT: Like many bibliophiles the world over, I have been known to spend many hours searching store shelves for a specific title or a general idea. Though no one could ever accuse me of being a shopper, a person who browses long and studiously down store isles, used bookstores, new bookstores, thrift stores, are the one exception. I have browsed long and patiently in search of books. In these forays into the paper jungle, I have found books that I never knew existed, discovered ideas that I never thought on my own and had never seen put into words before. I have run across books that put my thoughts into plain and simple English and gained serendipitous knowledge. To run my hand along their spines, to open them up and breathe the scent of the inky paper, and to run my fingers across the name of the genius who brought characters, imagined and real, to life is one of the pleasures of book browsing.

We (me) the People. A piece on American manufacturing. Published in OUR USA Magazine, but I like it here in my collection as well.

  • EXCERPT: My appreciation for classic American-made vehicles runs so deep within me as to affect my reading choices. I have read a great memoir by Michael Perry entitled Truck, a love story, about an International Pickup, simply because the word “Truck” appears in the title. I read John Grisham’s short story collection, Ford County, just because the title contained the word “Ford”. Even though I’m not an avid reader of genre fiction, I really enjoyed Grisham’s book, I think that the title itself had a lot to do with it. I’ve also felt that the author who goes by the ingenious name of G.M. Ford would definitely be worth my time and I have added reading at least one of his mystery novels to my “must do” list.

Please, Not at the Table. When it was announced horse flesh would be sold in stores as a meat product…

  • EXCERPT: For these reasons, and many more, like a majority of my fellow American’s, I am not likely to knowingly indulge in the consumption of horse meat. The article “Horse Slaughter Coming Back to U.S. Soon?” posted on the International Business News website, opens with the statement that horse slaughter for human consumption could be a practice returning to the U.S by as soon as January, 2012. A ban on the slaughtering of horses for human consumption was enacted five years ago, partly because the U.S citizens demand that the meat they feed their families be inspected and approved by the USDA, a regulatory process that was not cost-effective by a government with dwindling funds. The author of the article at International Business News states that there is no market in the U.S for horse meat intended for human consumption. Apparently with congress now lifting the ban on the practice, there is funding for USDA inspectors of horse slaughter houses. Will this magically create a market for horse meat at our tables? I seriously doubt it. The consumption of horse meat, to many Americans, may be on a scale of eating one’s pet dog.

Hero is a Woman. My mom! And other amazing women.

  • EXCERPT: Every year in March, as we recognize Women’s History Month, we may find ourselves remembering once viewed images of legendary over-achievers such as Amelia Earheart, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Wilma Rudolph. To think of woman’s history may give us pause to consider the novels of Virginia Woolf, the accomplishments of astronaut Sally Ride, or how Clara Barton managed to begin the American Red Cross. We all have our favorite historical figures, those who have captured our attention and have become the heroes of our daily lives, women we look to and wonder at how amazing it is that they managed to make such big impressions in their time.

Building a Coon Tree. A tribute to E.B. White.

  • EXCERPT: White’s essays are so memorable not only because they are unencumbered by a dry list of facts but also because they resonate throughout with a gentle drawing-up of experiences that the reader and writer have in conman. How I wish that I could write a concise, emotion-packed scene such as the beginning of “Coon Tree” where he introduces the setting by way of concrete word usage such as temperature, humidity, a cultural reference to Carol Reed which I am slightly embarrassed to admit I do not understand, a boat, the breeze, and a bee. Apple blossoms are mentioned, and goldfinch and dandelions. Also a goose on the pond and a black fly on the trout brook. In the space of a mere nine introductory sentences, White grabs the reader’s intellect by way of their heart, for he knew, as the poet knows, that it is through the heart that the mind becomes engaged. As we effortlessly read along through “Coon Tree” we learn that not only has he remodeled the kitchen in his house, but there have been studies done which have proven that children who grow up in less than sanitary homes develop a better resistance to diseases, yes even polio and hepatitis.

Knitting Warm Hearts. Amazing hands and why don’t I have them?

  • EXCERPT: Aside from twittering away endless hours on the internet, I have never been successful with learning an indoor hobby that would keep me occupied during the long winter months. Not that I have not attempted new hobbies, mind you. Having tried my hand at everything from baking bread to completing crossword puzzles, I usually lose interest or become discouraged and end up passing the winter curled up with a few good books, throwing in an occasional long bout of tactile solitaire. While in the bookstore searching for those tomes that will carry me into sunny days, I have browsed the seemingly endless array of hobby and craft magazines, finding myself attracted mostly to paper crafts, but every winter I find myself wondering if I could learn such a thing as knitting or crocheting. Not fully confident that I can, I have yet to try.

Cut and Graft. An apple tree, my grandpa and me. Published in Oregon Home, included in this collection because I love it.

  • EXCERPT: I spent many summer days watching my grandfather who was very fascinating to me because he was always busy doing something that a city girl rarely had occasion to observe. I can remember him sawing dead branches from one of his fruit trees and watching him patch the bare spots with tar to keep the bugs out and to prevent further decay.

Dogs and Grandkids Taming the Blues. Children and dogs. Trouble and joy.

  • EXCERPT: Our granddaughters have great moments of joy in the backyard during our brief moments of non-rain this time of year. My husband has built them a playhouse out of large, wooden, machinery-packing crates, and they also have a sort of queen’s haven that they’ve built from large scraps of wood. I like to watch them play as I sit at the dining room table drinking my coffee or tea. If their friends from up the street are over, one girl will sit on the Queen’s throne while all the others are servants awaiting the beck and call of her majesty. Being girls, there is a lot of yelling and screaming and downright riotous fun that is hard not to smile at.

DIY. Don’t try this at home.

  • EXCERPT: In the aforementioned mystery novel, the main character is a gal who inherits a great, old, Victorian house from her aunt. Through the course of the book, while solving a murder of course, the protagonist undertakes the renovation of her newly acquired house. As each step of the process was described in the book, I found myself thinking about the kitchen cupboard doors that I’d taken down more than twenty years ago with the intent of refinishing them. Well, I never did manage to even get started on that project, the time and money never seemed to exist in hand simultaneously. Raising four children requires a generous amount of both time and money, rarely leaving anything to work with as far as elective home repair projects. Reading the fixer-upper repair novel was thrusting those cupboard doors to the forefront of my mind in a big way, and I began thinking the most ridiculous things as I read. Thoughts such as “I can do that,” happily danced into my mind over and over again. It was crazy, for I had never done anything that remotely resembled a home renovation project. I had experience in repairing or attempting to repair things that had broken. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention, but that was the extent of my house manipulating experiences.

WWGD? My grandpa was amazing.

  • EXCERPT: So here we are, on the heals of the outsourcing pundits who have proclaimed to seemingly deaf ears for many years that we were spending our way to joblessness and an economic meltdown. I suggest that we read their books, form a plan, and get ourselves involved in some sort of action besides sitting around and hoping someone will take pity on us. This is not a problem that happened spontaneously, it took time to evolve. Just as it will take time to fix. There is no instant fix, fast solve, or quick run to a retailer that will alleviate our economic suffering.

Sock Magnets. Previously published in Slab Journal but I’m including it here as well.

  • EXCERPT: When I was a child we lived on the edge of town. My brother and I walked everywhere in those days. We walked past storefronts, peering wide-eyed into the display windows at toy trains disappearing into tunnels, dolls lying in bassinets, and mannequins dressed in current fashions. We walked down to the creek and watched crawdads scurry out from rocks we had lifted. We walked to one of two parks, the one that had crab apple trees, or the one that had trees with propeller-type seeds that we used as whistles.

Only Write to Borrow from the Time Thief. When I get weird… I get sooooo weird.

  • EXCERPT: As far as individual thoughts becoming public domain, so to speak, is not an unheard of fear in the writing world. Along the lines of discouraging thought processes is also the reasoning that writers are merely inserting synonyms; for everything worth writing has already been put to paper. This problem has been solved by the common phrase that editors put in their guidelines: they are searching for a “fresh voice.” Still, writers do manage to become bogged down with the whole, “nothing new under the sun,” axiom.

Observations of a Retailer. Actually, no one wants to see this.

  • EXCERPT: Working in retail is sometimes much like waiting on spoiled children who never learned to clean up after themselves. I’ve gone into dressing rooms where expensive gowns were strewn on the floor, visited grocery stores where near-empty fountain drink cups are left on the cereal isle, and been to major toy stores in which the shelves resemble an air-strike zone. I’ve seen old worn-out shoes sitting in a box on the floor at a shoe store, presumably someone tried on the pair from the box and REALLY liked them, ice cream melting in the magazine rack at the grocery check-out, and people throwing tantrums when they can’t use their expired fifty-cents off coupon.

My Idiot Shirt. Goodness, someone’s sassy.

  • EXCERPT: The day before this incident, I had gone to the grocery store and had to double-check for my “Idiot” shirt. Thankfully, I had not worn it. Whoo. At any rate, I’ve noticed for quite awhile now that this particular grocery store feels the need to tell me which buttons to push on the debit card machine even before the readout prompts me. On that particular day, I think I’d had enough of being treated as an imbecile and I’ve decided that from now on I will take cash or write a check at that store. I just can’t stand to have someone tell me how to function in a perfectly navigable situation. I just hope they don’t count my cash out for me while I’m digging it out of my wallet, or offer the date when I haven’t asked them for it while writing a check.

The Road to Community. A dead end (j/k) it’s a sweet mini-bio collection.

  • EXCERPT: No matter the size or shape of the place a person lives, it has always been said that an awareness of community is an important element to acquiring a sense of satisfaction. Some have said that people need to feel needed, that giving to others is a way of belonging, of “becoming real” to paraphrase The Velveteen Rabbit. Though the temptation of hibernating to the drone of a TV may be tempting during the long rains, these people involve themselves in what can enthusiastically be termed enrichment activities.

The Shoes A semi-famous schizophrenic and a homeless person’s shoes.

  • EXCERPT: In 1948, 51-year-old Opal Whiteley was found in a dead-end London street half starved. In her tiny basement apartment was found crate after crate of books stacked upon themselves covering every possible inch of space. It is estimated that the collection contained a total of 10,000 -15,000 books. Each and every book found in Ms. Whiteley’s apartment contained underlining and notes in her handwriting. Later, it was discovered that Ms. Whiteley was working on a book of her own and that she spent every dime she could get her hands on in obtaining the research material for it.

Damming the Willamette. This probably does not belong here.

  • EXCERPT: Seventy percent of Oregon’s residents live in the Willamette Valley, most within a 20 minute drive of the Willamette River. The Valley residents live in harmony with this river all along its 187 mile journey as it travels from just south of Springfield and flows north to spill into the Columbia River. In past years, it was not unusual for flooding to occur in the valley, especially between December and February. Sometimes snow would come to the Cascade mountains, a warm spell would light on it, and the snow melt would run off into the Willamette’s tributaries, causing the Willamette to rise and send all its riverside inhabitants scurrying to higher ground. It was not long after settling in the area that the earliest Euro-Americans experienced a deluge from the Willamette’s 100 year flood tendency and learned how mighty the Willamette can be.

From Fairview to Pringle Creek What an amazing thing they did with the old state property where they used to house the functionally handicapped.

  • EXCERPT: And I imagined all that I knew about the mentally disadvantaged while I sat in that old beige Rambler of my mom’s. I knew such a kid at school who never talked to anyone He was not in my class, but I saw him on the playground every day, walking around without a connection, without a problem, without any engagement. And I think that therein lies the cause of my fear – lack of engagement, lack of him realizing my personhood – perhaps his own personhood he did not even understand, but if that were the case, why would he cry out when he fell down on the playground, or when angered?

Dorothy Anne Hobson Previously published in the Summer 2018 edition of Woods Reader.

EXCERPT: The day we drove to Valsetz was a beautiful spring day; the sun lit our way through the hour-long drive along a private gravel logging road. We drove between towering trees the likes of which I rarely see down in the valley. We drove up a mountain, back down again, and across a valley, once being very closely passed by a logging truck. We were sprinkled on a couple of times, but encountered no real down-pouring of rain, which would not have been unusual considering that Valsetz is an area which receives 140” of rain a year.

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