Category Archives: Blog

Roz, Fred and Randi

Roz, Fred and Randi was published in the Willamette Writer, a monthly newsletter in July 2015.

She was my best friend. I knew she had other best friends besides me, but that was okay because I had my sister. She was my best friend and her mom, Roz, was my mom’s best friend. My mom would drive up the long graveled driveway and we’d enter the house, ranch style I think, not too tall and spread out lengthwise. I’d enter the front door, there was big living room to the right hand side that we never played in. There was a huge painting of game birds with big breasts that hung over the fireplace. I didn’t know until later that it was an Audubon engraving, I just thought it weird to see breasts on a bird. I’m glad that we didn’t play in that room. Instead I would head to the left into the smaller living room that had a couch and stuffed leather chairs. This room held a coffee table with a piece of glass on it. Under the glass were rows and rows of arrowheads that Fred had collected. They were grey and pointed and chipped up. Sometimes he’d let us touch them.

Behind this room was a kitchen and to the left was a long, long hallway that had a guest bathroom on the right and a guest bedroom across from it. I know this because sometimes I got to be the guest and sleep in this room.

Then down the hall on the right was another bathroom. This was for Fred and Roz and Randi to share. I loved this bathroom because it had two drawers in it. The first one that I pulled out was filled with little glass bottles of pink, orange, and red nail polish. Sometimes Roz would paint our nails. But today we went to the second drawer that held lots and lots of lipstick tubes. I really liked to play in this drawer in front of the mirror. There were even eyelash curlers, mascara, and black and brown pencils. My mom didn’t have any of these kinds of drawers at all. We stood in front of the mirror and put on red lipstick, curled our eyelashes, used the mascara, gooey blue eye stuff, and to top it off red rouge after the pink powder on our cheeks.

typewriterAcross from the bathroom was Randi’s room. She had a big bed that she didn’t have to share with anyone and lots of toys scattered around the walls; dolls, doll houses, clothes, books, and big light filled windows. But today she had a new toy for us to play with—a typewriter. One that had plastic round keys with an alphabet letter on each, attached to a metal bar. Somehow she knew how to roll the rubber round bar to make a piece of paper go in and then we started typing. We took turns. Hit. Plunk. Type. Push down. Splat of ink on the paper. Fast slow. My turn. Her turn. Back and forth, pound, pound, until we got lots and lots of lines of black ink on white paper. She yanked the paper out of the typewriter and we raced out to Roz, our bright red lips glowing waving our prized piece of paper. Kindly Roz of the curly gray hair, took our paper, held it in her hand, and miraculously started reading to us from that piece of paper. She said there were two little girls, each of brown straight hair, one wearing a red sweater and one wearing a blue sweater. (I was wearing a blue sweater, and Randi’s was red that day) and that the little girls looked so pretty with their blue and green eyes and smiling red lips. Wow! I was floating. We had just written a story. I don’t know how because I hadn’t learned the alphabet yet, but we skipped back to Randi’s room to compose our next piece. And as I glided through the hallway I repeated Roz’s words in my head. I am a writer. My first memory of writing, my first memory with my best friend. I tucked that memory away, the way one does, with happy moments. And then those moments resurface later, at various unbidden times, to be reviewed from an older, more mature perspective. This memory, tucked away, surfaced sometime when I was in my forties, and that’s when I realized the magic of that moment. Kindly Roz had made up that story for us— but I was still a writer.

Forest Fire of the Past

forest-fireA kaleidoscope of images: an open field filled with smoke so heavy it just hung above the ground, acrid smell of burnt wood and hay, the harsh, almost choking me taste at the back of my throat, the D-8 coming towards the car, its blade taking up the whole road, but I never saw the fire in full flames. I only saw its start. The forest fire was an initiation, truly a trial by fire.

The woods were dry—very very dry that July. Crackly dry. We couldn’t walk in them. It was too dangerous. Chain saws were not allowed. The air was bitter, needle tasting. And that day at the lake it was windy. Hot and dry.forestfire

Chris and I, along with baby Clare, had joined our friends at the lake to swim. My nose flared with the hot air. The woods prickled with heat. We were cooling off. As I got out of the lake I looked up at the sky and saw a dark ominous roiling cloud in the west horizon. I pointed it out to Chris. Time to go. Now. Just like that. All of us there at the lake moved fast; gathering up towels, reaching for belongings, kids, dogs. I scooped up Clare, the blanket, and got into the truck. We headed home. We did not say fire to each other, but that’s what we were thinking. I squeezed Clare tight on my lap, my breath held. We drove up the gravel road, came around the bend, near our yurt, and then I saw the fire cloud that was on our nearby neighbor’s land. I could feel the hot wind that was pushing the fire towards our place.

helicopter fire

A dead tree had had been tipped by the wind and it crashed onto a transformer to the west of our land. The woods were tinder dry, sparks flew, and the hot summer wind drove the white-blue arcs in a whoosh. Orange flames erupted, and the wind fed the fire energy pushing it forward towards our land, and our neighbors’. It was coming in a swath that burnt 1000 acres. We didn’t know that then—we just saw the black haze and smelled the pungent smoke and knew that fire was coming. I could smell burnt wood and hay, an almost choking me taste at the back of my throat. It was 1977.

I wrote this as our friends in Chewelah were experiencing and surviving the Carpenter Road Fire of Stevens County, 2015. This fire burnt over 27,000 acres.

©Katherine Boyer, 2015

Deer Walk

deerIn the evenings we’d put the children to bed in the tent, and if there was a chill we’d keep the cookstove going from the dinner fire by adding another log or two. We’d just sit, me and Chris, and listen to the hum of the woods, the quieting of the day. There’d be an occasional howl, maybe a whoo, whoo, whoo, if we were lucky. The dogs would barely raise their heads. We’d just sit and be quiet together. Resting from our day. I glanced over to the makings of our new house, seeing the boards draped over logs, the walls half built, ladders locked into place, tall in the air.

It was an evening of full bright moonlight, the large-silvery-orb-in-the-sky-kind when I noticed the deer. Moonlight lit up a doe and fawn in what was soon to be our front yard. I stared at them. I nudged Chris. We both looked. I could see the white spots on the fawn’s back, spots which hid him in the dappled daylight of the forest. I looked into the dark eyes of the doe, all attention and alertness. She didn’t move. Just stared at me with gentleness. I could see her dark nose, white rump, soft ears spread out in the moonlight. The dogs, quietly asleep, hadn’t noticed their smell yet. The magic of deer. They give their lives to us so that we can survive; a gift of food and warmth and compassion. I could see the gentle curve of her arched neck. She was so quiet I thought I could see her breathe. Then I heard a dog sniff, Sheba raised her head, and before her barking started the deer took off leaving a flash of white tail as a reminder to look within at our own beauty and grace.