Search: sybelia

Grief for Lost Places

January 11, 2015

I keep collecting plants that can’t survive Portland winters outside. Perhaps I’ll live long enough for the air plants, bromeliads, elephant ears, and stag horn fern to thrive in the yard and on the porch beyond their summer parole. That would be a sliver of joy in the coming chaos and destruction of accelerating climate change. As new […]

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Ignorance Is Profit

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August 26, 2012

When people learn I grew up in Florida, they invariably ask about hurricanes and alligators. They’re skeptical when I say alligators were scarce in the late 1950s and through most of the 1960s, when I was a kid. We lived on Lake Sybelia in Maitland, now part of the blob-like sprawl of Orlando. I practically […]

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No One Chooses

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September 15, 2010

Nearly a decade ago, a sudden medical problem made me afraid I was going to die on the spot. What had I done to deserve the infamy of croaking in Costco?

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A Neighbor Again

April 2, 2009

Growing up on a lake in Florida in the 1960s, I got to know the family next door. It took awhile, maybe because a vacant lot studded with orange trees separated our houses. Three generations under the same roof, they mainly spoke Italian, making them exotic curiosities.

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Mystery of the Mounds

March 14, 2009

Three mounds of black dirt sprouting droopy yellow flowers in a vacant lot. It’s raining and I almost don’t stop the car. But the sight is too incongruous in this expanse of green to pass up. The oddity warrants a photograph, I decide, and unsheathe my camera.

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This personal essay won the 2005 non-fiction award in the graduate writing program at Portland State University.

I set out to find Celilo Falls, or where it’s buried underwater. . . I wonder whether the river will reveal why the photograph tugs at me. I imagine myself, solemn, dipping my hands in the river and feeling the answer in water trickling through my fingers, like an Indian shaman divining unseen truth.

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Snow Days

December 30, 2008

No one is happier about Portland’s record December snowfall finally melting than our Irvington neighborhood Gnome. There was more than enough white stuff to fill his tree-trunk abode, so I’m assuming people kept his doorway sufficiently cleared so he could maintain his perpetual southeasterly gaze from our block.

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Time capsule of what?

October 8, 2008

I’ve made it halfway through a movie that uses my childhood home on a Central Florida lake as a main setting. One of my brother’s bought the DVD after I learned of the film and wrote about it. So far it’s like glancing around a museum I visited a long time ago, a familiar building […]

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Decades Later, an Answer

September 6, 2008

It took more than a half-century, but I finally learned why we ended up living on a lake in Central Florida during my childhood. Not one house but three as we moved clockwise around Lake Sybelia in Maitland from the late 1950s to 1970.

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Dogs back in the picture

August 3, 2008

Two dogs and water. Enough to bring to mind my dogs, not in a Portland fountain but following me forever ago as I race off a boathouse roof. A kid leaping toward a Florida lake below, the dogs airborne too.

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Fish feast of memory

July 30, 2008

The media feeding frenzy over tiny carp performing pedicures strikes me as gluttonous as the fish themselves. Then again the story’s a talker, an offbeat news morsel. (How many bad food puns can I stuff in these sentences?) At the gym today, I couldn’t escape the story. It beamed from two TV screens. But I […]

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Pirate of memories

July 14, 2008

I’m stealing a memory. It belongs to my youngest brother. The memory is about Gertrude, a row boat that Bill found submerged in our lake in Florida when we were kids. He and a friend somehow hauled her to shore, patched a hole in the bottom, and retrofitted her into a floating fort.

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Summer stars greet the sun today — freshly opened blossoms in my Portland teardrop pond. I’ll wade in and reward my babies with fertilizer pellets. But I’ll be tempted to disappear beneath the lily pads into my past.

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