Saturday, April 18, 2015

I walked home from work through great swarms of gnats, illuminated in the early evening sun. Interesting that they hover right about face level, which makes for curious hopping and odd, most undance-like movements down the sidewalk as I attempt to disengage myself from their thousands. It's been alarmingly mild — dare I say warm — and while others are rejoicing in our "early spring", my doomsday alarms, ie, climate change, are sounding at deafening volumes.

But to find joy in the present — that's the goal, is it not? The dogwoods are in full-on petticoat-bloom and, as is usual, I want to set up housekeeping up within the pinkage. Do you think anyone would notice a bed, a table (I'd keep it small), a chair? Moonlight would suffice for a lamp. And rain, well, skin is waterproof.

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Ceiling Has Been Edited

A VERY strange thing happened today. On my phone, I was trying to upload some photos onto blogger (from my phone, which has very few photos on it) and the photo below appeared as one of two options, even before I'd been given the option to select a photo.

Two things are odd about this: a)this photo is not stored on my phone, and b)I've never turned this into an animation. In 2013 I posted a photo of this branch with only the lights — no ornaments. So while this is indeed my photo, the only place it has appeared is on my facebook page, and my privacy settings limit viewing to friends. But oh silly me, here I was assuming that privacy actually means something.

I have to admit, it does look cool, but who did this? And where did they get it? Possibly my facebook page was hacked, but why this photo? There are hundred of "branches on ceilings" photos online (on google) but this one doesn't show up. I am sooooooo curious.
I guess I'll file this under Wonders of the Internet and enjoy my twinkling branch. (Funnier still in that the actual lights [which are still up] do not twinkle.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Crack in the Glass, in the Order of Things

We heard the CRACK! while it was in the kitchen kiln. God almighty a broken piece of glass, and an oven full of work. Always feels like a curse, and I have to reach in there to take everything out, not knowing whether it's still in one piece or whether it will fall to pieces in my hands. Gives me the heebie jeebies.

I found it — a larger piece that E. and I labored over yesterday afternoon. I'm teaching him a new technique, and the lesson was slow and plodding, lots of re-dos, lots of "let's strip this layer off." Or rather, "let's strip all these layers off and start from the beginning."

Seems to be the best way to teach — and learn — a new task here in the Glass Factory. Do it, feel your way through it with the basic instructions, then do it again, always refining and re-defining the details and brush strokes. Some have the touch and some don't. Some are teachable, and others aren't. I enjoy the teaching to a point — there's always a deadline at my back. Between M. and I, we could probably teach a two-year course in what we do here. (Might be a better way to make $$, come to think of it.)


A cracked vessel. Which let out a second loud SNAP after I took it out to inspect, completely cooled.

When E. returned from sand-blasting, I showed him the piece. He's 26, and studied glass art in college, and has a physics-level understanding of how the molecules move about in glass, and gave me a quick tutorial in surface tension and the path of least resistance. He found the most probable point of origin of the crack, a small embedded stone, which most likely caused a heating/cooling inconsistency and, blammo — there it went.

I am perpetually fascinated by the curving direction a crack will take, the arc of it, how it feels like a living thing in my hands, a conglomeration of vibrating molecules that have misbehaved and will end up ker-plunking into the garbage can.

Never having studied glass arts, what I know I know intuitively; a martini, wine or champagne glass will exhibit its own behavioral traits based on the angle or curve of the cup. Once sand-blasted, I can break the stem of any one of them in a snap if I'm lose my concentration and grasp too tightly in the finishing process — a fact that has never failed to astound me.  I know the ping a flicked finger makes on glass that announces Too Thin To Bother With.  A well-tempered, appropriately thick piece of glass will make a mid-toned ringing klung sound that says All Is Well. So much is decided on the song a piece of glass intones, its solitary note of suitableness. (M. is a generous Goodwill donor.)

Our little machine rumbles and clatters along, and sometimes it sings.

Ironic that yesterday I spent a good long stretch of the afternoon teaching E. the techniques I use to layer color, and then today listened in fascination while he taught me the physics of the crack. Much to be learned, from either side.

I was appropriately humbled.
I was trying to capture the often-seen prismatic effect a crack makes, but the light wasn't right.

The crack as seen on the base of the vessel: beautiful curve!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Elegy for KB

 I went to visit this old boy on Sunday, this "Kitty-Boy" who, at 17 (85 by human comparison) had reached the end of his days. He lived across the street from me with my friend C., the banjo player, whose music is the soundtrack for many a summer night as it drifts from her front porch into my house.

Somewhere in these long years Kitty-Boy had grown into "Kitty-Geezer", and his nearly two-decades of rat-retrieving and finch-filching gradually diminished, giving way to seizures and all the accompanying maladies of elderly felinehood.

I (or one of my sons) was often summoned to help corral one live critter or another that he'd brought in through the cat door. Once I was helping C. ferret out a rat — quite literally! — and as I was peering down into a begonia plant the damned rodent leapt up into my face and quickly scurried into the living room and holed up under the sofa. Good LORD did we shriek with laughter! It's not so much a fear of rats that I have but more a fear of their cunning, their ability to appear invisible and then make themselves known toute de suite. Yowza.

Anyway. We hung out for a little while, Kitty-Geezer and I, and he posed rather elegantly for his photo shoot. He was beside the window, and on the lookout for birds: ever the hunter!

For many years he was a daily visitor at my back door, and got along famously with my ever-changing resident cats. But it'd been months, months since I'd seen him here, as he'd taken to mostly staying in, only going out for brief periods. Confined, as it were, to the house.

But Sunday afternoon, after I'd visited, I was in my kitchen and heard a tremendous yowl from my back yard, and lo and behold, if it wasn't Kitty-Geezer, summoning me one last time! I wasn't even entirely certain it was him, but a phone called confirmed that it was. C. had let him out, and hadn't gone with him. He'd promptly crossed the street and ended up in his old stomping grounds.

I let him in, and he went through his usual routines: check out the food dish, and then find a catnip toy. Sniff, sniff, sniff. All was normal, as it should be. Then I picked him up and carried him home.

It's hard to believe that 17 years have passed since C. brought home the kitten that he once was. There was a summer afternoon when an eagle swooped down into her yard, evidently having spied kitten-meat. As I recall, C. rushed-in to rescue her bundle-of-kitten. That all seems so unimaginable now, considering the entrails of bird beaks/talons/feathers/organs that this single boy-cat has left behind in his wake.

But a wake is what is called for now, and a small vase of forget-me-nots left on the porch across the street.

Old boy, I'm going to miss you.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


In my bricks-and-mortar life, a hazelnut branch hangs from the ceiling in my living room, strung with white twinkle lights and some feathered birds clipped to twigs. (Cut it with the sawz-all from the garden on a grey December afternoon with no birds to be seen.)

In that alternate universe of the nighttime dream, I pulled it down from the ceiling and hauled it outside, and from the branches shimmered dozens of butterflies, each velvet wingbeat a flicker of bright color that fluttered up and into the cloud-struck sky, all of it a wonder and a surprise.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

State of the Union

There are times when I want to leave poetry.
File the papers and be done with it.
Walk out the door, a slam at the end
of the last line. Full stop.
See ya later, alliterator.

I’m tired of poetry not paying the rent.
Tired of washing poetry’s dirty laundry.
Tired of cleaning up after poetry,
nothing but half-empty bottles
and an inbox of rejections.

Poetry, I’m even tired of your name,
how the mere mention of you can kill
a perfectly good conversation.
How even writers don’t claim you,
relegated to your own forsaken slot:
Poets and Writers.

And when was the last time you cooked
me dinner? Mowed the lawn?
Spackled the den?

You want all of me.
I can’t take a walk without you
tap-tapping in my brain, can’t wake up
without one of your lines
jolting me from dreamland.  

I’m late for work because of you.
Skip meals because of you.
Lose sleep over you.

Poetry, you are at the core of my every apple,
under the bark of the alder;
in the curve of the earthworm
and in the droplets of the nimbus cloud. 

You exist in the dimensions of the observable universe,
and in all that lies beyond.
In everything known and unknown,
in everything knowable and unknowable.
In quark (the particle) and quark (the cheese).

You are every word I attempt to write,
you are this poem, you are me
and I am you. Poetry,
I will never leave you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Fix

I've been fixing things: the bird house, almost beyond my repair, the roof worn into sky, the perch disintegrating somewhere in garden soil. More air than wood, really, but I forced some screws to join what remained, instantly handy with the cordless drill. 

The back gate (again, the wood given way to more air than tree fiber). Now it doesn't hang askew, doesn't droop on one side into a frown. Mossed, lichened, host to any number of microscopic organisms; if only I could see them all, could record their names (in Latin!) in a tiny notebook in precise handwriting, to remember.

The old grape vines support the fence; the old fence supports the grape vines. All of it, a system that holds together enough to go another year, and hopefully one, two more beyond that. The lattice that sufficed for fence boards now re-imagined into a structure on which my sweet peas will, hopefully, climb.

But my car, well, that reliable cordless drill is not good when it comes to that kind of machinery. Dark smoke billowing from the exhaust, off and on, into the shop once and no results. Months passed, anxiety festered.  The smoke got bigger, lingered, billowed in my mind to the size of thunderheads. Googling "smoke from exhaust" only amped up the worry. Speculation from my sons. Worst-case-scenario became most-probable-explanation.


Finally, yesterday, I womanned-up and brought it back to the mechanic. Walked the two miles to work from the shop. Dithered, tossed around price tags in the thousands. What if the engine was shot? What could I sell to get a new (used) car? Could I get along without a car? (No.) Would it be worth it to rebuild the engine? How much was too much? On and on.

But a reprieve, from the revving engines of anxiety, in a repair for under a thousand $, and everything else checked out Just Fine. I can't remember when I did a jig for a $700 car repair bill, but yesterday afternoon I was high-stepping to some reggae. (Can one high-step to reggae?)

Next on the list is the listing house foundation, a nasty job under the deck of digging (and putting in drainage tiles) √† la Welsh miners c. 1900. This — yes this! — makes those years of child-raising all the more worthwhile. I don't look forward to the mess, and my sons are in denial that this will be their summer occupation (incarceration?).

Ah, my dear sons. If only a Makita cordless drill was all you needed to bolster up the world.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I go a little crazy over acoustic guitar, and this morning at work we were listening to a local radio station, a great program called The Caravan, which we turn on every morning from 9-noon. There was some acoustic guitar playing, and I was half-listening while directing the day's tasks. No idea who the musician was, but the DJ said that they were giving away a pair of tickets — to the second caller — for a show the guitarist was doing Thursday night. He said the phone number — ten digits — and with my left hand (the right one was painting), I turned on my phone and punched in the numbers, not at all certain if I'd remembered them. And then this:

"Hello, this is KBCS, and you're the winner!"

Shrieks of glee! And the venue is a mile from my house!

And he even announced my name (T.) on the radio as the winner. (Twice, in fact.)

(My five seconds of fame.)

(O how easily we are made joyful.)

Here's the artist and the piece I heard (dig his wild floppy curls!!):

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Emptied Nest

It was a day for birds' nests, stark against the blue. This one was tipped sideways, and I couldn't help but think that Bird-Mom did it to hasten the launch of her fledglings:

"Okay guys, time to take the leap."

And these pussy willows were so stunning with sunlight caught in their pale yellow gone-to-seed edges, almost more lovely than the the silvery mouse-nubs that mark winter's halfway point.

Anyway, I walked and walked, up and down hills, along the lake where a lone eagle swooped down over a flock of coots and buffleheads, causing them to lift up not quite out of the water with a tremendous show of churning spray before settling back again, the eagle having lost interest.

I think the entire population of this city was outside — our almost-winter seems to have fled and the temps soared up into the low 60's. No snow in the mountains: a not-minor worry.

Everything is blooming too early, and my heart isn't in it yet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Crow & Moon

A waxing gibbous moon rising over the mountains, and a long — miles long — line of crows intersecting the sky in a southerly route to their nighttime roosting place. Late winter, chilly, and too many things in bloom: flowering plums and tulip trees, narcissi and forsythia, and the impossibly sweet scent of daphne everywhere.

I was the crazy person on the sidewalk, struck dumb, face turned to the sky in awe of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of crows. Just when I thought that was the end of them, along came more, and yet again more. Envious of their ease of flight, their utter unquestioning direction. Knowing that, like them, after a long day of making my way in the world, I was headed home.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Silence in Winter

Although my father was an accomplished musician — he played both violin and piano — the only tune I can associate with my memory of him is Ave Maria, sung by a man named Andy Sedlack at his funeral in 1966.

And back then, with no longer anyone to play it, my mother doomed his violin to the far-back of the basement, in the company of the wheezy furnace, and a lump of rosin entombed within green velvet in a black violin case.

The piano she sold to the neighbors, and we rolled it from yard to yard on planks laid end to end.

I must wonder at her grief, and her clearing-out of those sources of so much joy. (When I think of my father at the piano, I recall his hands moving quickly over the entire keyboard, containing, in my child's imagination, all 88 keys with seemingly zero effort.)

He died in early January, and those winter evenings stretched out interminably silent. We did our homework at the kitchen table, or read in quiet companionship in the living room. There was so much that was absent of light, as if half the lamps had been unplugged, and they hadn't been.

And there must have been a hubbub of voices — how could a family of (now) eight possibly maintain much quiet? But indeed, all these years later, it's the silence that speaks loudly to me now, roaring through the decades to this late February night.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Couch, with Teddy

When I'm walking home and it's close to sunset, and people have begun to turn their lights on inside their houses, there is that passing flash of a moment when I can see into someone's life: the color of paint in a living room, art on the walls, sometimes a glimpse of pans or a shelf of spices in a kitchen. When the weather warms, there are cooking smells also, curling out their wisps to the early evening air. Screen doors shutting. Someone playing drums. A symphony in full blare from speakers. Fragments of conversations from open windows.

We're beginning that slow transition to a more public neighborhood, that seasonal shift as the air warms. Now, after work, there's someone walking a dog every half-block, and sometimes kids in the street with a ball, or bikes, or skateboards. All these lives that have survived buttoned-up these dark months slowly raising their curtains to the new angle of the sun.

And some days, the private inside is carted out onto the sidewalk.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Not Snow

This afternoon my sister and I bundled up and walked down and down, from the bluff high above Alki Beach, down narrow tree-lined streets that seemed like secrets, houses perched on cliff-edges, switch-backing & winding down to the water's edge where the wind was fierce and biting, the sky inordinately blue, and people were larking about in shorts and tank tops. What the hell?! I was so cold, despite my sweater/coat/scarf/beret, that I put my hood on too and then held it tightly closed at the neck.

There were windsurfers out in the bay, rising up into the air and then cutting back into the waves. Amazing that they didn't get tangled up in each others' lines! A large group huddled around a fire, and they were putting food out, but I can't imagine how they kept it all from going airborne.

Cargo ships, perhaps six of them, sat idle on the Salish Sea, immobile due to a labor dispute. An eagle flew just above us, really just above our heads, maybe thirty feet, and I turned to watch it as its white head flashed in the sun, and it glided on thermals for what seemed like forever, not a flap of wing, until it disappeared far in the distance.

And then it was back up the hill, steep and steeper, the wind easing considerably away from the shore. And we unbuttoned and unscarved, huffing and puffing, warming as we climbed, up and up to the tidy hilltop, land of wide green parking strips and blooming pink ornamental cherry trees and views of mountains on two sides.

It's difficult to remember that it's still winter.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sneak Online Preview!

These won't go live on the website until, most likely, next week, but I just couldn't resist posting these to my world of readers. (All, what — six? Seven of you?!)

I shipped the first collections of these out this week, and we're once again in full production mode. (Got my whip out.)

Can't decided which I like best; it seems to change on a whim, a mood, an angle of light. I am enamored of the new textures (love to run my fingertips over them!), and the minute-by-minute fluctuations of coloring as the light changes in the workroom: sun to cloud, glare to somber.

Bubbles, Seascape, Surf and Tideline are all developed from images Melinda took last fall at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Hours and hours spent poring over hundreds of photos, cropping and highlighting, color to black-and-white, contrast tinkering, printing and reprinting, sandblasting, experiments +++, yadda yadda yadda. And then, and then, and then. A massive undertaking; damn close to genius, actually.

They take my breath away!

A forest of Forests




All photography by Alec Miller.