Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Not Paris

Sitting at a traffic light tonight after work on my way to the post office, 84 degrees, the smell of exhaust: oddly nostalgic of my first summer in Europe, 1977, backpacking with two friends. Who would guess that nasty exhaust would drum up such a memory? But there I was, late afternoon, just off a train in some city (Paris/Florence/Barcelona), in search of a cheap hotel, a place to unload the backpack, get a decent night's sleep, if lucky. I could feel the hunger rumbling up in my belly, anticipation for dinner — what would it be tonight? Would I understand the language of the menu? Would there be an odd translation? ("Mixt, with Starters".) I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Let's Go Europe and headed for the closest one-star restaurant for my $2 dinner.

All these recollections, and the traffic light hadn't even changed yet!

A long line at the post office, and there I was again: American Express office, Paris, checking for mail. Back in the day, in the previous century, friends and relatives at home could address mail to me at any American Express location. All I had to do was flash my Amer. Ex. traveler's checks  — proof that I was a customer — and I'd pick up a stack of letters.

Heaven! I received funny antics-reportings of my cat Alex from my little sister ("Alex pooped on your bed the day after you left"), tales of my mom's daily activities ("went to an Altar Society Meeting yesterday and I was elected secretary; I don't want to be secretary") and missives from various older sisters. I still have those letters, archived in a box in my basement.

The one I recall most vividly, though, was from a semi-boyfriend: a man who was twenty years too old for me, twice married, once divorced (yowza, if you get my drift), who explained to me why he wasn't going forward with our "relationship".

I remember sitting on the stone steps of the Amexco office, sizzling in sun, feeling my stomach lurch down to my feet.  The world got really silent for a moment — all the street noise, the traffic and constant rush of people — silent. It wasn't a surprise, but damn, I was in Paris. I was twenty. The world should've been more glamorous, but here was proof that it wasn't.

I can still see his handwriting — precise, cursively taut, in fine green ink. (He knew I loved green ink, damn him.)

And then, in a flash,  I was back in line at the post office in Seattle, listening to a clerk speak way too loudly to a customer, as if volume could make up for a language barrier. It wasn't Paris. There was no bundle of letters for me behind the counter, no sad-sack last story from Mr. What's-His Name (who, according to my mathematical calculations, is nearing decrepitude).

Back in my car, windows rolled down, I imagined for just a moment that I was leaning out a train window, baguette and a round of camembert in my backpack, bottle of cheap CĂ´tes du Rhone ready to be uncorked. Life was ready to roll, man or no man, and I intended to roll with it.

For a moment, I imagined I'd have to find a hotel, find a place to eat, possibly do a currency exchange. I was hungry, and tired, but I was confident I could manage every detail of it. Those things were, after all, only details.

By then (back to reality in Seattle), I was pulling into my driveway. Not Paris. Leftovers in the fridge. A bottle of two-buck-Chuck already uncorked, and chilled. And thought: here is my life, 37 years later.

Two years forward, I would return to spend the entire summer in Paris, work permit in hand, going broke while becoming culturally wealthy. I thought then that my entire life would be different after this trip, but the truth of it was, when I got back to Seattle (okay: Renton), I rented a room from my mom, and started graduate school in Creative Writing at the U.W., feeling stuck, not wanting to be where I was. 

It took me another 25 years to understand that those first two trips abroad informed every decision I would make from then on out. My job in the art universe today stems from those summers where my days were suffused with lush visual imagery and the sense of infinite possibilities. Growing up in the shadow of the aerospace industry, my logical career path pointed to Boeing. But I ran in the other direction, and haven't regretted it for a moment. (Except when it comes to dental insurance, ha).

And here I'd intended only a quick stop at the post office, and ended up, instead, immersed in the scents, sounds and tastes of summers abroad three decades ago. (Maybe I should go to the post office more often.)


I'm about ready for that glass of wine. Anyone have any camembert?

Not Paris, most likely London. 1977.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Was so close to a baby robin tonight (she was perched in my hazelnut tree, dozing), that I could see her heartbeat: with every breath, her tail feathers moved up and down. I was immediately brought back to my early years of nest-climbing, those impossibly blue eggs and a mother robin frantic nearby as close as possible as I peered in, counted the eggs. Lucky, later, if a broken shell-shard littered the ground at the base of the trunk. What was so beautiful had been cast off to make room for the new.

My hummingbird was as curious as I was — she fluttered around and around the dozing baby (who opened her eyes halfway, then returned to napping).

Last week a long trail of tiny amber ants took over the nectar feeder, gorging themselves into a drowning stupor. It took several tries and I finally had success (for now), by moving the feeder to a hook suspended from a rope strung to support the rampant kiwi vine. Farther for the ants to travel, but time will of course tell. At first I had it nestled in amongst some of the large roundish kiwi leaves, and was sternly reprimanded by my resident birds. Too hidden, I'm guessing. So I moved it to a more open space on the rope, and they immediately took up to feeding once again.

Such drama in my little back yard!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Drilling, Crowns, and A Suggestion for the Overhaul of the Insurance Industy

Somehow, it seems wrong to continue on about this tooth business, but after a conversation today at work, I just couldn't resist, insurance hoo-ha and all.

First off, I  wasn't going to let anyone go away without viewing this gem (REQUIRED VIEWING):

One of my new work-mates found this for me, and I watched it today while screaming. SCREAMING! I felt almost every one of those teeny drills boring into my jawbone, because the lidocaine shot into my gums wasn't sufficient. The dentist had to shoot it directly into the root, and work it in as he exposed the root bit by bit. Had enough yet? I have.

The really bad news, though, came later, when he was finished. He told me I need four crowns. Well, of course I do!  I want one to be diamond-studded, another emerald, the third sapphire, and the fourth in rubies and pearls. Let's get on with this immediately!!

But four. And not an exaggeration.(Cracked/worn/unstable/chipped.)



Feels like if I type that number enough times, it'll become real. Not quite ready to sell my house to finance my mouth but I'm veering mighty close to it.

And now, for the insurance/lack-of-insurance rant.....

I'm proposing that the insurance companies divide the human body into segments, and price their policies according to which parts you choose to insure.

For example:
The Torso Policy would cover everything from neck down to groin.
The Limb Policy would cover arms and legs.
The Head Policy would cover brain, skull, face, ears, eyes, nose and mouth (including teeth).

For those unwilling or unable to parse the body in such a manner, there could be the Grand Corps Policy, covering everything form the top of the skull to the soles of the feet.

Or there could even be a more itemized list of options, such as The Hangnail Policy, or The Hair Policy (which would cover bad haircuts). The Earlobe Policy. The Eyelash Policy. The Elbow Policy (handy for tennis players).

For ages 13-17, there could be The Acne Policy.

For men there could be the Erectile Dysfunction Policy (I mean, why should I pay for their ED Rx's.?).

The possibilities are infinite!

Honestly, I'm surprised that the insurance universe hasn't descended to this insidious level of trivial itemization.

I'm happy to know that you can purchase a policy which will cover what your primary insurer won't cover, ie, deductibles et al, euphemistically called "Supplemental Insurance". I'd like it renamed to "Bleed Your Wallet Insurance".

Is this madness?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Early Bake

Up early to bake a cake before work
for a friend's birthday, in cool morning air.
Outside, the Sunday Times crossword
where I left it last night, the paper rippled
with dew, perpetually unfinished.

Later: chocolate ganache
and 90 degrees. Few words.
Summer crackles forward.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer, Summer

It was a slow-maneuvering day, yesterday, at 91 degrees. We are a temperate people here on the far northwest tip of the USA, more at ease with damp and drip than crackle and flame. And lord have mercy it simmered down sometime in the night, the air a sweet cool ribbon that wended its way in my window-in-the-trees, carrying the scent of the lake like an offering to all of us with heat-prickled skin and moss crackling, drying up behind our ears.

No desire to be indoors; the flung-open blue of the sky calls me out at all hours, no matter the time, equally inviting at noon or 3AM. If only there was no need for sleep.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No Matter the Mindfulness —

No matter how many slow walks in the woods, in the company of many
thousands of ferns. No matter the single owl I saw last Sunday,
who swiveled his head away from my gaze. No matter how
many evenings I spend on my balcony gazing at clouds.
No matter the hummingbirds with their scritchy-
almost-no-song. No matter the red rose, well
past petals, and no more buds. No matter
waking at dawn with the sun on my
pillow. No matter the dawn birds
in song at once. No matter the
dinners in the garden.
No matter the
No matter
the hour.

Today opened to another month,
and damn if I can't get time to ease up, just a bit.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hire them all, almost.

Interviews today, three out of four were damn fine candidates, all willing and wanting to work for not a lot of money because it's not working for The Man. I sat and listened to artists speak about what is important in the world, how experience and joy trumps the dollar. Granted, experience and joy generally don't pay enough to pay the mortgage, but sometimes they do, and we find out that we're getting by just fine.

I don't know how M. will say no to any of those three. Such earnest souls, people who get why we do what we do, here at the Glass Factory. Just about makes me weep, the honesty of each of them, the insight.

And then there was the fourth one, who arrived thirty minutes early, was loud and overbearing with one of those old-girl smoker's coughs, her voice gravelled down somewhere deep inside her lungs. Appeared to be older than me but, I'm guessing, was probably not. A helluva lot of really hard living hung about her like a sooty cloud. Her jag-toothed, leering smile. Oy.

And the man with the massive hands, who I know couldn't manipulate his hands down inside most of our vases that get painted both on the outside and the inside. He was nervous, talked a lot, had a lingering sweetness. I looked at his online painting portfolio, and there was some fabulous stuff. Again, why is he applying for this job?

I don't know which one said this, but it was spot-on:

"When I work a traditional job, like retail, it zaps all my creative energy. I come home and don't want to do any of my artwork."


For us artist/writers, that creative energy is essential to being alive.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sunset Therapy

I stood in the street tonight in front of my house for a long time, turning in circles to take all of this magnificent sky in. (All I've done to this photo, taken with my iPhone, is ratchet down the saturation.) I couldn't get enough of it, wouldn't if it went on for the rest of my life. What is it about color, anyway? I can feel it deep inside my brain, like the best drugs possible. And no Big Pharma involved!

On the eastern horizon, it looked like someone had taken dustings of mahogany and fushcia chalk and sifted them down into the puff of clouds. Tonight was color-feasting of the highest order.

All well needed, as we're in the midst of major fluctuations at work, two people on the way out and one new person in training. Another new hiree has already been let go. It's pretty easy to tell, early on, if it's a good fit, and this one was definitely not. Pretty painful, as she really, desperately wanted the job. On to more interviews tomorrow.

A few things have surfaced, while reading cover letters from prospective employees: they're all "'passionate about art" and are excited about "bringing their skill set to our team." And so many applicants are tremendously overqualified, it breaks my heart. This is an entry level position, not anything even remotely glamorous. It's hard physical work, with a fair amount of tedium, yet today within a few hours of posting the ad, there were at least forty responses. Most of them have BFA's (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and not a few have MFA's, and impressive resume's.

It's all rather exhausting. And while all this is going on, the production schedule continues to demand my attentions. Shipped out to Boothbay Harbor, Maine today, a gorgeous collection in mostly tones of blue, grey, turquoise and yellow ochre, colors most unlike the performance of tonight's western sky.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hornet House

Hornets in the eaves, hidden behind boards, coming and going through 1/4 inch spaces. I'm loathe to exterminate them (exfoliate, electrocute, exorcise) — they are good pollinators and, who am I that is so important? An ethical dilemma.

Maybe all I need is an AK47, blast the hell outta them.

But seriously.

Since I'm a bit sting-shy, and don't relish the thought of great hordes of them rushing my face, I'm hiring a friend to brave himself up on a ladder and point a can of lethality at them.

But until that happens, in a few days, I anticipate a nightmare or two where they drill through the sheetrock and swarm into my bedroom, hissing clouds of unrelenting pain. Wasps, hornets: they sting multiple times, and with little consequence to themselves.

My brain tonight is overfull with buzzing, even as the hornets ease into dusk.

The lives a house contains, the many thousands incubating as I type.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gardening the Unremarkable, on the Solstice

I've humbled myself down to a garden of unremarkable plants, yet they are plants no less loved than anything more exotic. When talking gardening out and about in the world, the conversation always gets back to that which is less than ordinary, and my aim when I'm elbow-deep in the muck is to nurture what wants to be there, not that which I'm tricking into growing.

There's white anemone, and a few kinds of mint. There's borage and a shasta daisy or two. (Or three.) Cosmos. Cornflowers. Some penstemon, whose latin variety-name I know not. Alstromeria. Lemon gem marigolds. Lamium. Hosta. Nasturtiums. Geraniums.

Oregano, chives, sage, parsley, thyme, basil. Rosemary. Fennel. Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, onions, carrots, chard.

No exclamation points, no misty-edged photos. On this morning of the longest day in the northern hemisphere, I yanked out weedy invaders, filled my watering can and lugged it from bed to bed, ever-aware of conservation, only watering what needed to be watered.

There are no photos to show here, nothing about which to exclaim. I worked my ordinary garden with a quiet mediation in the abundant early light of the first day of summer. And I could not have been more contented.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In Clouds

I laid on my balcony tonight and watched clouds, something I haven't done in I-don't-know-how-long. Rain rolling in, a quick clipped wind, the undersides of leaves flashing white.

How easy it was, though, while lying there, to feel part of the larger world, an inhabitant of a larger planet with atmospheric shifts occurring right there above me. So good to visually step out of the small world of day-to-day, that downward focus that snares us in and keeps us from expanding our vision outward.

How long has it been since you laid down on the earth and spent time looking up?

(I had a notion that clouds would be fascinating seen through binoculars, but I was mistaken. )

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

There's a nail, a bolt, a screw, a giant something stuck in one of my car tires. I could hear it all the way home Monday night from my open mic, ten miles of click click click and of course I feared the worst, it was close to midnight and the road along the lake was unlit and I was alone.

I calmed my alarms down, no flat tire, rolled uneventfully home.

Do you hate dealing with car stuff as much as I do?

Especially glad for the walk to work this morning. Car worship is something I've never been able to understand. It's simply a tool, a vehicle, if you will, for getting from point A to point B.

I'll drive it the two miles to the repair shop tomorrow, do my best to communicate the issue with the proprietor whose first language isn't English. And if I say that I want life to be easier, I'll remind myself that this is easier, all things considered.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Silence of Fathers

When I think of my father I think of apple trees, his apple trees, all four of them, and how his work with them seemed a kind of meditation, all these years since. So many years. I'd bring my dolls out and sit with him as he pruned, or thinned. Or I'd climb up in the trees: not far to fall. Not much talk — a quiet man.

I can recall few conversations with him: he taught me how to tell time, a complicated lesson which involved the sun and the rotation of the earth. I was six, and didn't understand much. But I remember sitting beside him on the couch while he went off on what seemed to me far-reaching tangents, all too advanced for my first-grade understanding. There was an awe, and a fear of him, a serious man.

He tried to teach me to row a boat while camping in the San Juan Islands, and I failed, utterly. We fished together; again, a quiet study.

I wonder what our adult conversations would've sounded like — I like to believe that we'd have sparred on issues of philosophy, politics, the need for art. Which side would he choose? He could debate anyone under the table. (I have one of the medals he won as a champion on the debate team in college.)

My fear is that we'd have been polar opposites in our philosphies, that he'd disapprove of poetry. But then, what do I know, really?

I do know, though, unquestionably, that we would have talked gardening, and apples. I know he'd have the remedy for my six-apple tree.

Every year on Father's Day, I lie under the radar of families celebrating.
I work in my garden.
I keep quiet.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Moon, and Treasure

A back-and-forth email with a friend has evolved into its own odd thread, an excerpt below:

The vacuum, well, it lingered alone
in the basement stairwell, back where the foundation sagged,
all those hundreds (thousands?) of pounds of brute house force
yanking it downward. Gravity was the problem,
as it ever was.
Frown lines.
An old quilt whose stitching wanted nothing more
than to lie down and say goodnight.
And wasn't sleep the goal, after all?
The buttermilk moon, the lemon moon, or whatever the heck it was called
remained nested comfortably behind a swaddling of clouds.
Nearly summer, and a cold wind pushed its way in
through a window left open for the cats.
Not a night for music.
Even those velvet-cream sheets lay limp as kelp.
It had been a brain-scramble of a week,
and, well, sleep was indeed the goal.

Maybe tomorrow, she thought,
in the light of midday. Maybe we'll amp up that music
and get on with the harmonizing.


And then a dream, in which I find treasure — yes, treasure! — a pile of large boxes on my kitchen floor: strange and ancient coins, piles of silver and gold charms (including about three dozen Eiffel Tower charms), old first-edition books (autographed) in mint condition, pristine vintage clothing. There were two pairs of women's silk shoes, one emerald green, the other fuschia, and I had to snatch them up quickly because there was some urgent need to get away and hide them, something pressing on my consciousness: I'd overslept, it was 10:37am, and was going to be late to help my sister move.
I want back in to that dream.

The metaphor doesn't escape me: I exist amongst treasure, this being alive is what it is.