A Moment in the Garden


Even a difficult day holds a moment of joy, as the sun sits low in the sky, lighting up the brilliant color of flower petals in the garden. The brief instant of magic sets things right.

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A Poem and a Quote

Poem 133: The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.

—E.B. White

If you wonder why you see me walking around town enjoying the beauty of this magical place, idling away an hour or two roaming around taking photos, this poem and quote is your answer. I am practicing keeping my eyes open to the divine and mystical. Practicing paying attention with an open heart. Practicing enjoying and savoring this beautiful and precious life.



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Gritty, Rusty & Moss Covered – The Beautiful Patina of Astoria, Oregon

Friends laugh when we walk together and say things like, “Carol, did you just take a picture of a dumpster?” and I’ll laugh because my answer is “yes”. The weather created by the Columbia River meeting the Pacific Ocean can be relentless and brutal, creating an opportunity for an exquisite patina to emerge.

Things also look weathered because Astoria has been here a very long time. It was founded in 1811 as the first permanent American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. What survives here is rugged.

There are parts of Astoria that are picture-postcard perfect. But I’m drawn to the authenticity of the aging and weathering happening here; it has its own beauty apart from the new and pristine. In my daily wanderings I notice and appreciate the Wabi Sabi, the perfectly-imperfect.

Here are glimpses into the beautiful patina of an historic town.

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The Astoria Sky

Why I look at the sky…

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There are days when Astoria has grey skies. Some days a color photograph looks like it was done in black and white. Some days you can’t tell where the water and land stop, and sky begins. But most days have transitions from one weather system to another, giving opportunities to capture clouds, rainbows, and blue skies. The forces of nature are at work here and the resulting skyscapes are a joy. There are days when every glance out the window, or turn in the road on a walk, brings an exciting new vista.


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Murals, Ghost Signs and Vintage Signs of Astoria, OR as seen on Angora Club Walking Tour 2023

Maritime Museum Exhibit Storage Facility (an inside location not normally open to the public). 1792 Marine Drive. These large-scale murals were painted by Astoria muralist and artist Jo Brown, when this building was Astoria Builder’s Supply.




Knight Cancer Collaborative at 1905 Exchange Street. Depicts  the iconic ‘Blue Marble’ image, from the photo taken December 7, 1972 by NASA astronauts from Apollo 17. This is an interior space not open to the public. Painted by Astoria artist Jo Brown.


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Plane Tree Mural in the Healing Garden at the Knight Cancer Collaborative, 1905 Exchange Street. Referred to as a mural, this art is a 2-ton bah relief ceramic tile mosaic of a plane tree. Designed and created by Astoria ceramicist Richard Rowland to inspire healing through nature.



Custard King Mural at 1597 Commercial.


Shallon Winery at 1598 Duane.


U.S.S. Akron mural. The Airship Akron, a helium-filled rigid Navy airship, was based on the West Coast in May and June of 1932. This image is on the Shallon Winery building; view from Commercial or Duane on the west side of the building.


Fort Astoria Mural, in Fort Astoria Park at the intersection of 15th and Exchange. This mural depicts the original Fort Astoria settlement.


Lovell Auto Co. sign is a remembrance of the car dealership that was the original purpose of this building when it was built in 1922. Location is 1483 Duane Street; view on the East side of the George Lovell Showroom.


Ghost signs at Reach Break Brewing, 1348 Duane Street, view on the wall above the food carts.



Restored historical ‘Sunflower Dairy’ sign at 1315 Duane Street.


Luminary Arts painted mandalas and geometric designs. 1296 Duane Street. This business is at the Duane Street end of the 13th Street Alley Mural.


The 13th Street Alley Mural, ‘Ehkahnam’ or ‘Gathering Song’, depicts an abstract interpretation of different types of landscape in Astoria using a color palette taken from native elements. Location is the alley on 13th between Duane and Commercial. Created by Astoria artist Andi Sterling.

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’19 M.H. Smith 24′ restored sign at 1263 Commercial. There is faux brick to the left of the doorway and restored sign lettering with gold detail above the doorway.


PEACE sign painted in the front window of Old Town framing Co. at 1287 Commercial. Each letter in PEACE contains the word ‘peace’ in several languages. Painted by Jo Brown as part of a temporary holiday window display several years ago, it has remained in place.


Ghost signs for ‘Astoria Drug Co’ and ‘Donnerberg’ can be seen above Gimre’s Shoes at 239 14th Street. Can also be seen from Marine Drive or the Riverwalk in various locations.

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Mo’s Seafood and Chowder Restaurant mural at 101 15th Street. This is a 3-dimensional scene of the Columbia River inside the restaurant’s entrance.



Astoria Riverwalk Murals – murals depict scenes of workers on the historic riverfront incorporated into the building’s architecture. Painted by Astoria artist Jo Brown. View between 11th and 12th on the Riverwalk.




‘Mason, Ehrman & Co.’ ghost sign above the Astoria Riverwalk Mural. This building is now Astoria Food Hub/Astoria Brewing but used to be the Sears Building. There is an homage to this with the business name incorporated into the imagery.



‘New England Fishing Company of Oregon’ restored sign on Buoy Beer. View from the Riverwalk at 6th street. This sign is 150′ long, with 4′ tall letters large enough to be seen by ships on the Columbia. Unfortunately, part of this sign was lost when the roof of Buoy Beer collapsed in 2022.


Historic Fisher Brothers Building has ‘Fisher Bros Company’ ghost sign and ‘The Linen Thread Co. No.42 7th St.’ ghost sign at 42 7th Street.



Astoria Arts Celebration ’98 Mural. View from the Riverwalk at 11th Street. This mural of a historic photographer was created for the 1998 Arts Celebration.


Pencil mural. View from the Riverwalk at 2nd, on a vacant and somewhat derelict building.


Josephson’s Smoke House at 106 W. Marine Drive. This business has signage on all sides; the ‘A. Josephson Fish Co.’ ghost sign is viewable from the Riverwalk.


There is a mural depicting a Native American woman and child, and frontiersmen, on a closed restaurant building at 12 Marine Drive, on the west side of the building, partially obscured by plants. This location is just west of Josephson’s Smoke House on the same side of the street.



TLC Credit Union mural at 85 W. Marine Drive, on west side of the building. Be careful viewing during bank business hours as this is a banking drive-through. Mural depicts views of historical Astoria, the Astoria trolley and the waterfront. Created by Jo Brown, it is currently being restored by her (summer 2023).



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At the same location on the side of the building facing Marine Drive.


Lewis and Clark Expedition Mural next to Dots ‘N Doodles Art Supply 303 Marine Drive. This mural, just west of 4th, on the back wall of the art store’s parking lot, tells the history of Lewis and Clark’s journey to Astoria. It is very weathered.


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The Dragon Mural adjacent to Children’s Park Playground, depicts a dragon and other symbols honoring Astoria’s Chinese heritage. View from 6th and Commercial.


The exterior of Merry Time Bar and Grill, at 995 Marine Drive, depicts athletes from the 1930s and 1940s on two sides of the building.

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Galactix’s wall of ghost signs. By day there are faded signs on an exterior brick wall at 254 9th Street. At night, projection mapping shows images of the original signs that can barely be made out during the day. Portland-based light artist Craig Winslow installed his first permanent ‘light capsule’ here in Astoria. He researched the ghost signs on this wall, then created light projections of the signs as they appeared in Astoria’s past.


Imogen Gallery’s ‘The Wave’ was inspired by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print ‘The Great Wave Off Kanazawa’. 240 11th Street, on the north-facing wall of the building.


Imogen Gallery’s Tom Cramer ‘mural’. The doorway entrance to the gallery is painted in the signature style of Portland artist Tom Cramer. 240 11th Street.


Geometric Mural next to Keepsake Tattoo Studio at 253 11th Street. This is a mural of dynamic black, gray and white geometric shapes.



Silver Salmon Grille at 1105 Commercial Street has a painting on the side door facing 11th of a salmon wearing a chef’s hat.


‘Thiel Bros. Cigars Billiards Lunches’ sign on the back wall of 1105 Commercial (between 11th and 12th on Duane) has recently been restored. An homage to a business that is no longer there.


Botjoy Mural at the 11th and Duane food cart space depicts 73 tiny robots. This mural, created in 2021, is part of an international series by Portland muralist Gary Hirsch.





There are also small painted signs at this location. While not technically murals, these small art pieces serve as signage for various carts.



Hotel Elliott at 357 12th Street, has a mural seen from their rooftop garden that disguises and blends equipment into the panoramic view of the Columbia. This was restored by Jo Brown and her daughter in the summer of 2023.



The Liberty Theatre has a mural on its roof that can be seen from the Hotel Elliott rooftop garden (it was originally created to improve the view from the Elliott). It is currently weathered and in need of restoration.




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Astoria Oregon’s Working Waterfront

The waterfront in Astoria has it all — seafood, fishing, marine supply, shipping, Port of Astoria, Bar Pilots, River Pilots, beer, beer and more beer, and vestiges of the cannery past.


Excellent way to see the waterfront is to take the Riverwalk Trolley.


You can still see vestiges of the past, when several canneries operated on the piers.

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Warehousing work.





People not only work on the waterfront, they work above the waterfront doing work on the Astoria-Megler Bridge. They are somewhat protected, but sometimes not – there are times you can see workers dangle from the bridge!

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Fishhawk Fisheries. What’s stacked and piled out front varies from day to day.

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Pacifick Distillery, also owned by Fishhawk Fisheries.IMG_2883IMG_2853

Beer brewing and warehousing for Ft. George, Buoy Beer and Astoria Brewing. What you can see varies day-to-day, depending on whether warehouse doors are open or closed, trucks are being loaded, etc. When you see the size of these operations you realize beer is big business for Astoria.

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Ships and boats of all sorts are always moving on the Columbia as part of the working waterfront. On any given day you may see cargo ships, cruise ships, fishing vessels, military ships, and boats for the River and Bar Pilots that help the commercial vessels move.

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Port of Astoria.

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Englund Marine and Industrial.

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You may see indications of large commercial fishing or seafood harvesting operations.

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Ocean Beauty Seafood.

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Water treatment is part of the infrastructure of the city of Astoria.


Lightship Columbia (now retired).


Acknowledging the danger to people who do this work.


Recognition of people working the waterfront.

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Waterfront operations can change in a minute, as they did when dock pilings failed, causing the collapse of the ceiling on Buoy Beer. There have been fires, decimating multiple businesses in a matter of hours.


It is not unusual to see large cranes, at the Port of Astoria, docked on the waterfront, or on the river.IMG_3462

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Astoria Oregon Public Art & Sculptures

There is easily accessible art from one end of Astoria to another; most of it speaks directly to some aspect of Astoria’s history and heritage. These are things I’ve seen on my walks around Astoria’s neighborhoods and on the Riverwalk. This list does not include many of Astoria’s murals, which I have written about separately.

Astoria Column at 1 Coxcomb Drive on Coxcomb Hill in Astoria. A 525-foot-long mural, done in sgraffito engraving technique, wraps around the Column. This mural tells the story of Astoria’s history. Open dawn to dusk. There is a fee to park, or you can walk to the Column via the Cathedral Tree Trail.


At the same site as the Astoria Column is a replica of the burial canoe of Chief Comcomly of the Chinook Nation, who was honored by the founding Astorians. This memorial was dedicated in 1961.IMG_3582IMG_3592

Astoria Regatta Monument at 17 17th Street. The Astoria Regatta is an annual event that dates back to 1894.

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Astoria Nordic Heritage Park, at 1590 Marine Drive, commemorates Nordic culture and heritage. This site acknowledges the vital contribution people of Nordic descent made in Astoria’s history and continue to make today. If you love trolls, find them here. The arch is beautifully lit at night.

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Bronze Fisherman sculpture at entrance to the Cannery Pier Hotel.

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Ikala Nawan Whispering Giant Sculpture

This is 18 feet tall, one of roughly 75 unique Indian heads carved from big logs across the USA by artist Peter “Wolf” Toth. This one, sculpted in 1987, is named Ikala Nawan, “Man Who Fishes.” It is sculptor Peter Toth’s 57th “Whispering Giant.” It was carved to honor the Chinook, Clatsop, and all Northwestern Coastal Indians.It is on the West end of Astoria, on the south side of US Hwy 101, about a block east of the traffic circle. Easy to access from parallel Taylor Ave, but don’t stop on the highway at this location.

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Astoria Victory Monument is a bronze statue of a World War One American soldier. Also known as the Doughboy Monument or Soldier’s Monument.

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I have not determined what this signifies and who created it, but it is an interesting piece to photograph from various perspectives, in varying lighting conditions.


“Tantler” (Tree + Antler) by Keri Rosebraugh. Made of reclaimed Douglas Fir and Bronze, 12 feet tall, this work is a tribute to both the wild elk of the region and the timber industry. It is outside the Royal Nebeker Gallery at Clatsop Community College. 1799 Lexington Avenue. Gallery is open Monday – Friday, 10:00-4:00 but this piece is outside and accessible if you make your way around to the back of the building (behind the gallery).

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Garden of Surging Waves located at 1095 Duane in downtown Astoria.

This park was the city’s bicentennial legacy gift to early Chinese settlers that helped build the town and worked in the canneries. There is a cast bronze replica of an incense burner from the Western Han Dynasty, carved marble dragons, bronze scrolls, a Moon Gate, fish mosaic and more.



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Maritime Memorial Park at 10 Bay Street (on the Riverwalk). Each plaque has maritime-related engraved graphics to commemorate the individual’s maritime relationship. An anchor on the plaque indicates the person died at sea.

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Shivley Fountain was originally dedicated in August 1906 by the Women’s Club of Astoria. It was refurbished and rededicated in May of 2011.


Fish Sculpture Sign at West Mooring Basin Docks (just west of the Astoria-Megler Bridge).IMG_1972 (3) IMG_1969

Fish Sculpture Sign at East Mooring Basin (at 36th just adjacent to the Comfort Inn).IMG_3563IMG_3566

The Liberty Theatre at 1203 Commercial Street was initially built in 1925 and was restored in 2005. The theatre shows beautiful architectural details on the exterior. There is public access to the interior during paid events and tours, and there is an annual concert commemorating the 4th of July, and other concerts, that are free and open to the public.


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Plane Tree Mural – a 2-ton bah relief mosaic of a plane tree — a genus of North American ornamental trees — created by Astoria ceramicist Richard Rowland for the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative Healing Garden at 1905 Exchange Street.


This sculpture and labyrinth is also part of the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative Health & Wellness Park. The labyrinth is planted with colorful plants.



Metal sculptures at OSU Seafood Research and Education Center at 2001 Marine Drive.


Tapiola Park, at 900 West Marine Drive, across from Young’s Bay, has a Mosaic Mural that was done as a children’t art project in 2005.

IMG_3599IMG_3595IMG_3613IMG_3600IMG_3606IMG_3605 Although not technically public art, don’t miss seeing the Astoria-Megler Bridge from as many perspectives and angles as you can achieve. It stretches 4.1 miles across the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellis, Washington. It was completed in 1966 and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. You can see it from various points along the Riverwalk (and from upper elevations all around Astoria). You can walk or run across it once per year at the Great Columbia Crossing 10K event (a paid entry event).


Portland artist Craig Winslow created Light Capsule No. 4 in 2022 as his first permanent light capsule installation. It uses light projection to show what the old and faded hand-painted advertisements, for businesses that used to reside in this location, originally looked like. This projection can only be seen at night, from sunset to 10 PM. The building address is 254 9th Street; the light projection is on the concrete wall facing north.


The public plaza at the entrance to the Columbia River Maritime Museum is home to impressive maritime artifacts. Location is 1792 Marine Drive.


The Astoria Public Library has several art pieces inside, with free public access during library hours. These include a large hand-carved chess set, large mosaics, and a hand-painted mural in the children’s books section. You might also catch a display of mini-art from one of the many programs offered by the library. These programs are inspiring Astoria’s next generation of artists. Address is 450 10th Street.


While this list does not include Astoria’s painted murals, I wanted to mention the Astoria Aquatic Center’s dramatic wall of murals in the swimming area. Not technically public access because the art is inside, and there is an admission charge to swim, but definitely worth seeing. 1997 Marine Drive.

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Angora Hike for Astoria Murals, Ghost Signs and Vintage Signs

Hotel Elliott Rooftop Mural under restoration June 2023. Restoration is now complete.



Small painted signs at 11th and Duane food carts.



Botjoy Mural at 11th and Duane food carts.

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Historic Business Sign – between 11th and 12th on Duane.


Silver Salmon Grille mural


Geometric Mural next to Keepsake Tattoo Studio on 11th Street


‘The Wave’ at Imogen Gallery


Tom Cramer mural at entrance to Imogen Gallery


Ghost Signs at Galactix 254 9th Street – view at night when projection mapping shows images of the original signs on this wall.


Merry Time Bar and Grill Athletes Mural

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Chinese Heritage Dragon Mural (view from 6th and Commercial)


Lewis & Clark Expedition Mural (Dots & Doodles parking lot)

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TLC Credit Union historical mural – uncovered in 2023 and under renovation.

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Mural on closed restaurant space 12 Marine Drive.

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Pencil mural on abandoned building – view from Riverwalk at 2nd.


Astoria Arts Celebration ’98 Mural at Hygge Hair 119 11th Street


Historic Fisher Brothers Building ghost signs

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‘New England Fishing Company of Oregon’ restored historical sign (this roof of the building housing Buoy Beer is now partially collapsed).


Astoria Riverwalk Murals, view from the Riverwalk between 11th and 12th

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‘Mason, Ehrman & Co.’ ghost sign above Riverwalk Murals


Mo’s Seafood and Chowder Restaurant Mural – interior entrance of restaurant.

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Ghost signs you can see from Marine Drive or the Riverwalk (at 14th).

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PEACE sign at Old Town Framing Co. – each letter contains the word peace in multiple languages.


Restored signage over the doorway at 1263 Commercial.


13th Street Alley mural ‘Gathering Song’

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One of the painted mandalas on the exterior of Luminary Arts. This marks the entrance to the ‘Gathering Song’ mural.


Sunflower Dairy restored historic business sign.


Ghost signs at Reach Break Brewing


A remembrance of the auto dealership that formally resided in what is now the Ft. George Lovell Showroom. This building was saved from the fire that destroyed several blocks of downtown Astoria in 1922.


Fort Astoria Mural at Fort Astoria Park

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Shallon Winery Building Mural of the U.S.S. Akron helium-filled rigid airship that was based on the west coast in May and June of 1932.


Shallon Winery signage.


Custard King Mural


Plane Tree Mural at Knight Cancer Collaborative Healing Garden. This is a 2-ton bah relief ceramic tile mosaic mural meant to inspire healing.

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Flag Mural – image of Earth as seen from space (this is inside the Knight Cancer Collaborative and is not open to the public).


Maritime Museum Exhibit Storage Facility (inside, not open to the public). These historic murals were painted when this building was the Astoria Builder’s Supply retail store.




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Weep and Learn: Cautionary Tales and Valuable Lessons

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps*

My guitar didn’t weep, but I did. My mistakes were legion.

When I started dating I was naïve and I was hopeful. I was trusting, gave men the benefit of the doubt, and thought the best. I did not grow up surrounded by healthy and well-functioning relationships to inform my choices. My older brother protected me through high school; no one dared hurt me for fear of his wrath. My early years left me unskilled in relationship basics and entirely unprepared to navigate the hearts and minds of men.

Ultimately, it all worked out for me, after many twists and turns on the journey. Here are some cautionary tales and lessons I had to learn along the way. These lessons are likely obvious to many. I share them in case you have blind spots, as I did, and would like to avoid ending relationships in a way that has you ducking into doorways to avoid coming face-to-face with your past on the street.

Some relationship endings were a dagger to the heart, taking months and years to grieve and recover. These aren’t those stories, with these I shed a few tears and moved on. These are experiences that demonstrate how you learn a quick and unequivocal lesson.

  1. You’re in your apartment talking to the new man you have met. There’s only been a couple dates, getting to know each other over dinner and coffee, and for the first time he’s stopping by. Your roommate, Pat, is on the phone, talking to her mother. Her mother hears the conversation in the background and asks about the man she can hear, what’s his name, why is he at the apartment. Pat tells her, it’s someone Carol is dating. Her mom tells her to put you on the phone, where she proceeds to inform you she knows this man, and his family, which includes a wife and three children, one a newborn, from their church. He is married in no uncertain terms. You get off the phone, confront him, and he does not deny it, but asserts that he didn’t lie because you never explicitly asked him if he was married. Apparently you’re the one at fault that in all the conversations getting to know each other these details didn’t happen to come up when he was telling you about himself. You are in the wrong for assuming someone with time to go on dates, stop by and hang out, doesn’t have other commitments like three children. A lie of omission is still a lie. You tell him to get out and never darken your door again, and perhaps spend his time and money on his family, and listen up when he’s in church.

Lesson Learned: Ask early on, directly and explicitly, if he is currently married or in a relationship, does he have children, what are their ages, has he been divorced, how many times, how long ago.

  1. You were close as freshman in college. You even stayed close the next year, when you changed schools, and he took a year off to work on the Alaskan pipeline, knowing he could cover the remaining three years of private school in cash with the earnings. Staying close means you hand-wrote letters and sent them in the mail to stay in touch. He’s back in Oregon, back to school, and you’ve just spent a few days and nights with a group of his friends at a big house on Mt. Hood. He is someone special, no doubt about it. After the time on Mt. Hood, you arrive back at your apartment in Portland, where he plans to stay overnight before driving back to school in Salem the next morning. You turn on the TV for some election night returns, become more and more bewildered/agitated by his political views and the spirited disagreement you’re having. Despite the late hour he decides to leave immediately and drive back to Salem. That is the last time you ever hear from him. A classic election-night breakup.

Lesson Learned: Discuss things that could prove difficult to compromise on – including politics and religion. Don’t wait for election night to understand his political views. Don’t put off meeting his family for months or years, only to find they’ll never accept you because of your different faith or lack of religion.

  1. During the relationship, his tastes exceed his income. You’re working and he’s a student. So you pick up the check most of the time. Against your better judgment, when he asks to borrow money you loan it. He is annoyed that you write “loan” in the memo portion of the check each time. He breaks up with you. You ask for the loan to be repaid. He gives an insolent smirk and tells you that you’ll never collect the debt. So you file a claim in Small Claims Court; this takes the smug look off his face and he agrees to repay you if you’ll agree not to take him to court. But you’re past taking him at his word; you go to court and are awarded a judgment. There’s still the issue of collection, so you go to the library, use the bread crumb trail of information he’s given you to track down his father, mail a copy of the judgment to his father’s office, and receive a note back saying both of you are foolish, but the debt will be repaid. And it is.

Lesson Learned: Never ever loan money or intermingle finances. An income imbalance is not toxic, but constant pressure to loan, gift, or spend money on someone you’re romantically involved with is. Don’t move in before you’ve known someone 12-18 months, and they’ve demonstrated things that are important to you, like financial responsibility and living within their means. Before co-mingling living expenses and financial commitments, understand your new love’s relationship with money, ability to live on what they earn, general level of debt, and expectations around who will pay the bills.

  1. You’ve had some very good times with someone who seems enthusiastically into you. You like him; it feels promising. Things are humming along with the easy back and forth of an established relationship. You are happily oblivious until, after a few calls, one with his bath water running, one with dinner currently cooking and the stovetop needing his constant attention, and one when he’s just walking out the door and can’t possibly be delayed, it finally sinks in. He doesn’t want to talk to you. This relationship is over. The only other time you hear from him is an apologetic call some weeks later informing you he has tested positive for a venereal disease and he’s not sure if there was overlap between you and the woman who gave it to him. Thankfully you dodged that bullet, but from this moment on he’s dead to you.

Lesson Learned: Don’t assume you’re on the same page regarding exclusivity and monogamy. Be clear about using protection and birth control. How will you avoid unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections? Before you move to intimacy, have these awkward but necessary conversations; don’t risk your health and never assume you’re in an exclusive relationship. Don’t even assume you are in a relationship.

  1. You meet someone and he has an exciting and edgy energy. You spend time talking and dancing and exchange numbers because you might like to see him again. When you get home that night, you have an intense nightmare where he brutally strangles you; you wake up terrified, gasping for breath. A couple days later he calls and invites you to go to the coast for the weekend. You tell him you’re not comfortable with that because you don’t know him well enough. (In your mind giving him control of the transportation and accommodation makes you vulnerable if things take an unpleasant turn.) He’s deeply offended by this, and says if you don’t trust him enough to go, this is over before it starts. And so it is.

Lesson Learned: Do not ignore intuition or dreams. Something in the subconscious is telling you the situation is unsafe. In this case, I’ll never know, he might have been the nicest guy ever. I stick with trusting my intuition, even though it cost me a possible relationship. This experience reinforced something I was starting to understand – anyone who moves too fast, pressures you to push your pace and do something outside your comfort zone, who downplays your need to keep yourself safe – that person is raising a huge red flag. Women have unknowingly crossed paths with sociopaths, malignant narcissists and serial killers, trusted their lives and the lives of their children to men they barely knew, with tragic results. Never be manipulated into ignoring your instincts. Don’t be shamed. Don’t be threatened. Don’t ignore your instincts because you feel embarrassed. The news is full of narratives where people say I had a feeling something was off, but I ignored it. I should have paid attention. Don’t be that person.


These stories may give the impression I always put men at fault. Not so. I’m well aware men might be out there writing cautionary tales about relationships with someone like me.

I never want to give up my trusting nature and my belief in the goodness of people. But I learned to accept the reality of the world we live in. Men (and women) lie, cheat, manipulate, con, hurt, disappoint, prey upon, bully, keep secrets, stalk, exploit, present themselves falsely, and in worst-case-scenarios assault, rape and murder – then minimize, deny, deflect, gaslight, blame others, and cast themselves as the victim while they do it. And it’s not black-and-white – good people end up behaving badly in some situations.

Hope and wanting make you vulnerable to an extent; I never found a way around that other than life experience. In my 25-year** learning curve, I got better in my skills and my selection process. When I made missteps I tried not to dwell on self-recrimination. I tried to remain optimistic despite bitter setbacks. Some experiences left me sad, resentful, disillusioned, distrustful, angry, wary, yet some part of me remained committed to a life with love in it.

There are wonderful potential partners out there who are worth the trouble to find. What kept me from finding one sooner was spending months, sometimes years, with men who were never going to be that partner for me. I reacted to hurt unpredictably – sometimes endlessly accommodating and forgiving nonsense, and at other times instituting a harsh one strike and you’re out policy with men. Over time I found balance. The trick is to evolve and not keep repeating the same hard lesson over and over. Learn and grow. Carry on.

* “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The White Album. 1968. Writer: George Harrison
Publisher: Concord Music Publishing LLC. My favorite version: Guitar Heaven: the Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time, performed by Santana and Yo Yo Ma, featuring India Arie.



**I started dating around age 15 and got married at age 40, so spent about 25 years in and out of relationships (including a short first marriage) before entering into marriage with my right partner. This year will be our 25-year anniversary, marking a milestone for me – I’ve now been with one man longer than I was with all the other men put together.

© 2021 Carol Merwin, All Rights Reserved

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How to Kill a Fly, and Other Difficult Questions

I complained to my husband Ralph that flies are hard to swat, and asked him why he can do it, and I can’t. It’s a blow to my independence to have to ask for help. I wanted to know if it is because he’s a more patient person than I am, and he patiently explained to me

 There’s a trick to it. Flies have to jump to fly. First they jump off the surface they’re on, then they can start to fly. The trick is to wait until the fly is busy rubbing its hands together, then go for it. That slight delay of having to put it’s hands down before it can launch off the surface and fly keeps it from flying away before you kill it.

My apologies to any Buddhists reading this. I have not spiritually evolved beyond killing insects (although I do first try to get them to fly back outside).

Research shows flies have legs, they don’t really have hands. But they do, for biological reasons, rub their legs to eliminate any dirt that might alter their sensors, which are used to determine what is food. Ralph is correct on that. (1)

Flies have precise vision, can see at a 360 degree angle (can see behind them), and process information from eye to brain faster than humans, all of which makes it hard to sneak up on them. To them, we are moving in slow motion. So even though they don’t fly fast, they are hard to swat. I am correct on that. (1)

Researchers Michael Dickinson and Gwyneth Card have determined the secret to a fly’s evasive maneuvering. (2)

Long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat, comes up with an escape plan, and places its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way in the opposite direction. All of this action takes place within about 100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the swatter.


This research leads to an optimal method for accurately swatting a fly. “It is best not to swat at the fly’s starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter.” (2)

But do they need to jump to start flying? Dickinson did say they hop, but didn’t specify that as a precondition for flying. Further online research reports did not yield a specific answer to this question before I ran out of patience with clicking and reading.

“There’s a trick to it.” I feel like there’s a lot of life that’s like this. Despite my best efforts, my diligence, my willingness – there’s some small piece of information I just don’t know that keeps success out of reach. How to wake up happy, how to get shit done, how to train a reactive dog to not react, how to be cheerful and enthusiastic about a carb-free diet, how to clean house without getting sidetracked, how to while away the hours daydreaming without feeling I should have been ‘productive’, how to keep plants alive. These are questions I’d like to answer, but I don’t have the patience or focus to wade through a bajillion hits on Google to find out.

(1) https://brightside.me/wonder-animals/why-flies-rub-their-hands-and-10-other-facts-that-prove-its-not-their-goal-to-irritate-us-801130/

(2) https://phys.org/news/2008-08-scientists-flies-hard-swat.html

© 2021 Carol Merwin, All Rights Reserved

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