Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
“Guitars are my guilty pleasure,” says Maria Callahan, who grew up in east Multnomah County (now Troutdale), attended local schools, and eventually became an EMT.
Surrounded by animals and music all her life, Maria was already performing professionally at age seven. “We had a neighborhood band and we played all over, lots of state fairs. We actually opened for Bachman Turner Overdrive at one show.” The singer/songwriter plays bass and electric guitar, and keyboard.
“I play mostly country music, and am playing the music that I really want to play at this point in my life,” she says.
A serious illness in 2006 stopped this focused, hardworking lady in her tracks. “It was actually the biggest gift I ever received; it stripped me down and forced me to reset my thinking. I learned a lot about myself and decided to be more grateful for my life, and I became more aware of how I was spending my time. While I was healing up, I started playing music again after a 10-year break".
Then working working part-time at New Seasons, Maria says, “I loved the people that I worked with at New Seasons and way the company supported the employee-artists, but I was making a 45-minute commute and not playing as much as I wanted to. Doing what I love now and not later, became more important.”
Living on 40 wooded acres about an hour out of Portland, the country life suits her. “I feel my stress decrease as I leave the city” she says. “There’s a sense of serenity out here that keeps me grounded. I love to cook and lately have been experimenting with various recipes. I grew up around a family construction business, so I like to build stuff and work on projects around the property.”
When not performing or working in her music studio or land, Maria loves to fly ultra-light trikes. “I describe it as a windsock and lawnmower combined,” she laughs. “Basically a hang glider with a motor, where you use your weight to steer. I love being up in the sky with the birds. I have a fascination with birds, and the trikes fly just above where birds like to be, which is so cool.”
A favorite locale of Maria’s is Mt. Angel, near the Abby, where the turkey vultures roost on the water tower. “I like to just sit, watch them fly and socialize with each other. Very peaceful,” she muses.
Raised with sheep, goats, horses and ducks, Maria’s family even had a Big-Horned sheep named Jenny, the size of a small horse. “Back in the ‘70s we had an animal rescue farm way before there was such a thing,” she remembers. “Lots of livestock that had been abused or neglected ended up living on our farm. Seeing them regain trust in people over time was really beautiful to watch.”
Her bucket list includes having a similar place of her own some day.
“I like to be a good volunteer within the community.”
Maria and her partner share their home with two Maine Coon cats, a big male named Atticus (aka AttiCat). Maria was looking to buy a couch when a keyword search brought up a photo of Atticus lying on one. She didn’t get a couch that day, but she did get a cat. “Atticus still likes a good couch. He hid in the attic for three days when he came here, so his name came naturally” she smiles.
“We also have a female cat, Millie. She had come from a hoarding case and would not leave me alone at the shelter. She followed me all over the cat commons at West Columbia Gorge Humane Society while we visited. She is much smaller than Atticus, but she’s scrappy, and loves being outdoors. I recently built a huge ‘Catio,’ which is my version of a screened-in cat patio to keep them both safe as we have coyotes and bobcats.
Naturally the shoe that “is Maria” is her Converse All-Stars. "Great in formal and casual settings, and attractive without being showy,” she says.
While she radiates grace and gratitude, Maria does admit to having just one pet peeve: mild salsa. "I have been to some otherwise excellent Mexican restaurants, and I feel disappointed and judgmental when I get the dumbed-down Gringo version.”
Intensely focused and a self-professed perfectionist, Maria seeks to never stop learning, to never retire, and to be grateful for all she has. Working on music in her studio, touring this summer with fellow musician Carrie Cunningham, and eventually heading to Nashville to work for a bit are all on her bucket list.
“There is an old Chinese proverb I’ve stumbled upon randomly so many times,” Maria says. “’My barn has burned to the ground. I can now see the moon.’”
Stripped down, Maria wants for nothing — and is thankful she can see the moon.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers. She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.