Tuesday, June 30, 2009

As the jt-lg recedes, so do its letters....
In that odd space where I haven't quite
settled in to where I am. Restless.
Can't set myself down to read. Messed around
a bit with a new set of pastels, took out some
of my rice paper, my leaf-and-petal-shot papers.
And put them all away again.

Now Paul and I play "Name That Poet"
and read aloud to each other, first William Stafford
then Stevie Smith: The River God.
I am not good at this game.
I am under-read, over-fed, not quite dead.
--she said.


Dropped a triangular piece of Connemara marble
on my foot in an attempt to retrieve my copy
of Irish Traditional Cooking, By Darina Allen.
Mostly I spilled my unoaked South African
Chardonnay, in a crystal glass, and howled.
Paul ran for ice, refilled my wine, offered Aleve.
No. That's not right. I refilled my own wine,
in a second glass. And then Paul opened
a bottle of French red, and we ate leftover
chicken rice soup, and listened to Ronnie Drew.
We had it all, we had the best of times....

Just outside our front door....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Battling the j-lag haze. Sleeping in the sun
this morning, I kept dreaming that I was
going blind. The more I slept, the more blind
I became. When I finally did arise, I had trouble
focusing. Weird.

I bought a chicken today and made a chick-rice
soup for dinner, with thick chunks of portabello
mushrooms. Good leftovers. I don't want to go
anywhere: here is just about perfect.

Paul and I walked along the curvy cove,
out a long gravel driveway to an island with
one house on it. When we turned back we discovered
that the tide had rather quickly come in, so it was
a sloshy-slog, testing out the water-resistance
of my new hiking boots. They passed the test
except for the water which came in up at my
ankles. No wind: rare. Warm: rare.

We heard that last week there were high tides
and the mackerel were so thick in the cove
you could almost pluck them out with your hands.
I would like to see this. Last June I could stand
on the front porch and watch mullet swirl about
in the salt water.

Often when the tide is out, girls on horseback
gallop across the mudflats. (I've only seen girls.)
It's wonderful to hear this -- the rhythmic pounding
of the hooves. I want to do this --

Our neighbor Mina received four chickens
for her fiftieth birthday. One, named Houdini,
made her escape via the fox's jaws. I suggested
she name one of the remaining three Henster Prynne.
Sun! Where am I?!!
This can't be Ireland.

Errands today, groceries, phone.
Paul lost his prescription sunglasses.
I asked for garbanzo beans in the store
and was met with a blank stare. Ah..."chick peas."
The regular trolls were at the bar
in Matt Molloys, where I sipped a brandy-port
and 'himself' downed a Guinness.
Stopped at all our regular haunts:
Seamus Duffy Books, Empowerium,
The Record Store. Our little wine shop
has been replaced by a realtor. Ezio of Mediteranneo --
our favorite restaurant -- has disappeared also.
A lot of the merchants, when I asked how they're
weathering the recession, said that they're just
barely hanging on. The next ten weeks or so
will be good, as the town fills up with tourists
such as ourselves.

And it goes on.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Sloggy, sluggish, snoozy.
The usual air-travel complaints, yet I will never fail
to be amazed that a tin tube (okay, so it's not tin,
but I like the alliteration) can elevate hundreds
of humans into the sky. And remain there,
in the troposphere, for hours on end.
It's 4:43am Seattle time, 12:43pm Irish time.
On a bit of a jag. Need to come down.

A sparrow on the patio is holding a black & orange
striped snail in its beak and banging it repeatedly
on the concrete: lunch.

Jack-the-dog, across the cove, didn't race to greet us
this time. His puppy-crazy days are over, apparently.
He seems to be more interested in his Sunday
afternoon nap.

If I go to sleep now I'll be awake all this Irish-night-to-come.
What to do? The afternoon looms, a drawn-out yawn.
Topsy-turvy night and day....

Each time I arrive in Carrowholly, I am stunned
by the fact of my being here, and by the absolute
beauty of the countryside.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Alice, during her 17 years, slept approximately
111,690 hours, or, 12.75 years.

Well then.

And this tidbit from the NYTimes,
with apologies to JFK:

"Ask not what your cat can do for you
but what you can do for your cat."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reilly talked me into a bottle of Remy Martin
V.S.O.P., which made for a suitable toast
for our dear Alice. I've always believed
that having pets helps us practice for the death
of loved ones, readies us for the Big Ones.
But my sweet sons, well, they did it backwards.

Alice: torty, ornery, weighed 8 oz. when we
adopted her, rescued her from certain death
on a cold October Sunday. Her favorite activity
was fierce biting. On her first Big Hunt she brought
me a rather large worm. Purred like a pan
of corn popping. In fact, she loved to eat popcorn.
And she sang: long drawn-out feline syllables.
Very small brain, but we loved her nonetheless.


A Short List

1. Leaving for Ireland Saturday.
2. I need a root canal.
3. Putting-down my 17-year-old cat Alice
this afternoon: suddenly blind, deaf
and having seizures.
4. My sons have grown up to be tender
and sensitive men.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hard-working hands.

Often the by-product of my job is as beautiful
and colorful as the actual product. Today I exclaimed
over my fingers, a damp paper towel covered with
paint splotches, and smears of a plum-colored
paint on a piece of parchment.
I'll take beauty wherever and whenever it occurs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I climbed a tree today to get some cherries.
And it was worth it.
Thanks to Melinda!
(And I didn't fall out of the tree or break anything,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Limits of Spectacle Lake
--in memory of my father,
Walter James Clear, 1918-1966

When the sun had slipped behind the hills
I said, let’s go back. Forget this business
of lures and lines and casting so far
the eye could hardly follow the thread
out to snag a rainbow’s lip. Afraid
we’d lose our way and soon our boat
would spin and sink. There we’d sit
eye to eye with a million trout.

When I was eight I caught my limit.
But not before my father turned the boat
to shore and let out one last line for luck.
I held that rod for all the hope left
reeling in the churning depths.

I don’t know who was more the spectacle that night --
the lake, me, or my father gently guiding the pole
between my unbelieving hands. Somehow he trusted
in the end of all filtering light. When he died
the next winter, I remembered six fish
laid out stiff on a plank of wood.

Eye to eye with the dead, in the wake
of the boat, I learned the limits,
the last ripple of life in a dying fish.

--in memory,
Mark Benchley Anderson


You called me out for a sparrow
fallen from the Douglas fir,
the nest invisible in the endless web
of branch upon branch reeling above us.
And what comfort was I,
your earth-bound wife, nine months
pregnant, barely moving?

You lifted it into the warm cradle of your hands
and for a long moment we didn't speak.
The child inside me shifted and turned --
a certain impatience, I suppose, to get on with things.
And then so gently you balanced the bird
on a low bough, out of reach of cats.
We knew it would not survive the night.


The City Light crew
has trimmed the upper branches,
sheared off most of one side
to keep us safe, they say, from a collision
of evergreen and wire. Now it stands
lop-sided, north-heavy.

In wind I fret over gusting limbs,
a shattering of glass and timber --
I keep watch over our sleeping children,
yet they wake and cry
to the rhododendron's rasping
against storm windows.

My bones shiver even under cover, safe
from careening branches, from small birds
dropping into darkness.

© T. Clear

Friday, June 19, 2009

At Last....

Graduation, last night. My sweet son, my
chef-to-be who has overcome obstacle
after obstacle in his 23 years, my Certified Culinarian
and possessor of Associate of Applied Science Degree
Restaurant and Food Service Production
Catering and Banquet Operations.
Phew. That was a mouthful.

There was no rarified air in the auditorium
at South Seattle Community College: this was
a ceremony celebrating the working classes, the
newly immigrated, the single moms, those students
who attained their transfer degrees at community
college prices before plunking down the Big Bucks
at a university. I can't remember exactly how many
varying languages were being spoken around me,
only that there were many. It was a veritable
United Nations of students and their families,
an accurate representation, I believe, of the world
we inhabit.

And so much joy! Of course I cried when the band
(well, okay, it was recorded) played Pomp & Circumstance:
I have my sentimental moments.
The address by the Student Body President
included the 1997 piece by Chicago newspaper columnist
Mary Schmich -- most of us have heard this
ad nauseum, but hearing it again after many
years, well, was just about perfect.
And listening to it sitting beside Nelson,
with Reilly in front of us capped-and-gowned
& awaiting his diploma, couldn't have been better,
especially these lines:

Get to know your parents. You never know when
they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings.
They're your best link to your past and the people
most likely to stick with you in the future.

Afterwards, we had a late dinner at Tamarind Tree,
a Vietnamese restaurant (with its 23-page menu!)
in the International District. I can't remember
when I had more fun, or when I was more in
my element -- dining out with two of my biggest
fans, with two of my favorite people on the planet,
on one of the happiest evenings of my life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Please do check out my skull photo featured
on skull-a-day. (You'll have to scroll down
to the third set of photos.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In the driveway this morning, fallen from an eave:
half of a house, its inner caverns exposed.
Buzz and bumble vacated.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Mary!

Mary is my oldest sister, the first of six girls
after my only brother. She takes great pride
in the fact that she named me:
story is that a friend of my mom came to the
hospital to see the new baby, as yet unnamed,
or, at least that's what my parents thought.
Apparently, Mary -- age 10 -- had told her
friends on the playground at St. Anthony's School
that her new sister was named after Saint Thérèse
of the Little Flower --

So, of course, one of these school-mates went home
and reported this to her mother,
and this mother visited my mother and told her
what a lovely name her new baby had!

Indeed. I think I was supposed to be Barbara,
patron saint of artillerymen:

If I had to choose between the two names,
I 'd grudgingly choose Thérèse, even though
it's rarely pronounced correctly.
(Thus: T.)

My name is not:

If you're still with me in this very
self-indulgent post, click here for an example
of the correct pronunciation.

But I digress.
Today is Mary's birthday, and I'm wishing her
many, many more on this planet!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


The last time I was here there were dozens
of stray cats everywhere: lolling on the porch,
stretched in the warm dirt, peering down
from the roof, and they all had that related-
and-underfed-look, siblings & cousins & aunts
& second cousins etc., and all of a single season.
Tonight I saw just one cat, a black-and-white
nursing female, long and lank, untrustful.
And although the Bait Shop was open, we were there
for the Cafe, our second night of grilled drum,
and quite possibly the worst martini I've ever had.
(P. warned me. Did I listen? No.) But the drum
more than made up for it. And so did the onion rings.
It was too windy to eat on the deck, but we were
inside beside the windows overlooking the choppy
bay waters, and the fish were leaping and silvery
beyond the piers. Our waitress kept bringing items
in threes instead of fours: three waters, three
plates. We were four. One two three four.
Maybe one of us was invisible.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Border Crossing

We drove two hours southwest to Nuevo Progresso:
I'd never been to Mexico, and P. graciously
offered to slog it down there in the heat,
albeit, with AC. There is a 70 mile stretch
upon exiting Kingsville where there is
nothing but ranchland on either side of the
highway -- ranchland, state patrol cars,
black-eyed Susans ruffling in the wind,
and the ubiquitous mesquite trees. Mile upon mile
of fencing, a few Charolais cattle,
the occasional horse. Not exactly flat,
but not rolling either, more mounding,
slightly -- enough definition to keep
the landscape from getting dull.

The border crossing was uneventful
other than the armed guards
(on the Mexican side)
and the presence of a small
but menacing tank.

And then the main street of Nuevo Progresso:
we drove less than a block, pulled into
a parking spot, and were immediately set upon
by people hawking wallets, candied nuts, silver,
sunglasses, bracelets, candied pumpkin, plastic
flowers, rope chairs, fans, braided hair,
watches, cactus leaves, dried peppers,
zoloft! Prozac! Codeine! Dentistry!
(Cleaning? Crown? You need bridgework?)
Gee. No. Thanks.

I kept hearing
lady lady lady
every time I passed
a different table of wares for sale.
You like bracelet?
Try one!
This your size!
Nice hat for you!

So many colors, so much activity,
so many voices all at once! Overstimulation!
I felt like the poster-child for ADHD.
(Perhaps I should have picked up some Ritalin.)

Our Mexican Adventure proved to be
short-lived. I possess absolutely zero
tolerance for heat, and this was definitely
an outside walk-around kind of place.

So it was back across the border
to Fat Dad's, where it was quart-sized
glasses of iced tea, bbq pork, pinto beans
and slaw. Some sub-par pecan pie for P.
(I never take the caloric risk of getting
a less-than-perfect piece of pie.
I'm a pie snob, admittedly.)

And I only took four photos.
Just couldn't do it.

This backyard-trailer-&-row-seats shot
was taken behind a Dairy Queen
in Raymondville on Hwy 77, which is
a bit north of the town of Edcouch.
(I love that name: Edcouch. According
to Wikipedia, it was named after one Ed Couch,
an early 1900's land promoter and banker.
Somewhere along the way the space
was removed: white space gone AWOL!)

Anway, I spotted the trailer just past
the take-out window, where I got
a chocolate-dipped cone.
I told P. to back up, and he did.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baffin Bay: Decomposition at Drum Point

After dinner at King's Inn (pan-roasted drum,
avocado & tomato salad, fries, beer)
we hit the back roads of Kleberg County
in search of a route down to Drum Point:
long straight level roads slashing through
fallow fields, or fields of sorghum.
A malnourished white horse, his ribs
just beneath a dusty white hide;
one black dog at the side of the road,
sitting, silent.

And suddenly we were there, at Baffin Bay,
where three men on the shore cast lures
into choppy water. We drove and drove
down a narrowing spit, bumped and bounced
in and out of ruts, a mile or two in 97 degree heat,
fish leaping at either side of us in the silver sun.
When the road tapered to an end, we stepped
from the car into a hot wind, sand stinging our ankles.

Litter everywhere: mostly beer bottles, pop cans,
plastic bags, broken glass. Impossible to fling
my sandals and go barefoot without risking
a slash, although I wanted nothing more
than to feel that hot sand on my feet, the warm
water. The wind did not relent -- heat flowed
in and around me, passed through every cell,
rendered me hollow.

I left my scales on the beach.

Wal-Mart has effectively shuttered this tiny downtown.
Except for the King Ranch Store, Harrell's Drugs, Roys
and a dollar store or two, Kingsville is mostly boarded-up
storefronts. I wonder how Roy can stay in business at prices
like these, competing with the loss-leader mega-hell
a mile or two away. I did admit in a prior blog to going
to W-M at midnight a couple of nights ago, but it was
an emergency (of sorts) and I DID try a few stop-n-robs
first, without luck.


Last night I listened to my step-mother-in-law (who is
actually younger than some of my older siblings,
so I consider her more like an older sister)
talk about her childhood growing up on the King Ranch.

Bigger than the state of Rhode Island,
the King Ranch was founded mid-19th century
by Richard King, and still operates as a working ranch.

Rosa's insights into everyday life on the ranch stand out
in stark contrast to the romanticized version on display
at the King Ranch website. As the oldest of nine children,
Rosa talked of spending time with an aunt who lived
in a two-room shack without electricity or running water.
She did her homework to the light of a kerosene lamp.

Her father worked with broodmares, seven days
a week, sunup to sundown, although on Sundays
he was let off at noon. Rosa told me she was stunned
to discover that when she left home, in 1972,
and got an office job, her paycheck was bigger
than her dad's.

Of course, my favorite part of any story is when
we talk about food, and Rosa gave me detailed
instructions on how to make gorditas: best with lard
or some pork rinds, although olive oil will suffice!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I had a breakfast burrito this morning
and it cost all of $1.10.
It was absolutely fantastic -- ultra-fresh
flour tortilla, chorizo & egg.

We drove through a dust storm.
And I was told, when commenting on the heat,
that "it's not even hot yet."

Alrighty then.

Kingsville, Day One

One of my rituals whenever I check in
to a hotel/motel/other is to read the hotel
handbook, generally a 3-ring binder with lots
of ads for local chain restaurants.
The editor in me always hopes to find some
delicious typos or misspellings or odd syntax,
and this time around I've found a particularly
amusing sentence:

"....you can enjoy Bird watching or Family gatherings,
graduation parties and etc at the Recreation Hall."

All this at Dick Kleberg Park. I thought we'd swing by
there this morning and drop in on a graduation party.
Maybe find us a Bird to watch, or a Family. And needless
to say, I'm awfully intrigued by etc. Not quite sure
what it is, but it seems to be some kind of code
for a fabulous local activity.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kingsville. South Texas.
Walked around Wal-Mart at midnight
(Open! 24hrs!) because I really needed something
(after stopping at several other mini-marts
which were either not open or did not stock
desired item).

Surreal! I could shop for fishing lures
or Birthday-Cake-Flavored Soda-Pop
at 3:36am, if I so desired.

P. did nothing to mar his record of never setting foot
in a Wal-Mart. He waited patiently for me in the
air-conditioned rental car.

Wal-Mart goes on for miles, once you're inside.
Everything is glaringly bright and disposable
and marked with Giant! Prices! Disturbing!


The only upside of spending the day on planes
and in airports is that it gives me the time
to complete a thought. This hasn't felt possible
these past few weeks; so many details and adjustments
and buttoning-up and nurturing and attempting
to bring some order to the chaos.
Days of intense mothering/only-parenting.

But today, hours of layovers with nothing to do
but stroll, read, nap, eat with plastic utensils, drink coffee,
do crosswords and people-watch. It was oddly
calming, in spite of the in-your-face public aspect
of airports and planes. And stuffy air. Though we did
get to walk out on the tarmac while boarding our plane
for Corpus Christi, and breath in some real air, such
as it was.

The tapwater in this Holiday Inn tastes like hose water.
This is not mountain spring water.
We are spoiled in Seattle.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Well, this is good for a laugh.
The Rainier Valley Post linked to my blog
last week re: home invasions. The author
of the article had originally identified me
as "Premium T" (it's since been edited to
just "T."), and someone commented with
the question, "Premium T?"
So I replied that it's my blog name, and posted
a link to this site.
His reply:
"Cool. I thought it was your rap name."

I just about spit out my vodka tonic when
I read this. So, if I ever decide to become
a rapper, you know what my name will be.....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Living in the Hen House

But it’s cozy here, all these fluffy
bits in the air, all this straw.
Cracks between planks ain’t bad
except when corn snow pellets in --
sometimes we pack straw and mud
flat-stuck on the walls.
That’s good until the sun warms up
and it cakes off onto pine slabs
we call bed. Gets messy.
Feather dusters -- we got troughs
of ‘em-- don’t help much.

Dang chickens peck at our toenails
but there’s the egg money. Buys
a trinket or two for the wife.
She’s partial to pink hair combs
and curlers. I’ll take the occasional
sour mash, a nip before a snore.

Okay, we do brood
now and again, you know,
that gloom that overwhelms
when the fox raps his clickety claws
on the lock, jaggles it
sometimes all night, a yap and a yelp.

We try not to get our hackles up,
being that it’s so tiny a hut.
Days it gets to feeling coopish,
we take a strut out in the yard
round about dawn, sing our
little hearts out for happiness.
Just scratchin' out a life
here and it ain’t half bad.

--T. Clear
Dear Readers:

An apology to those of you whose identity I know
that comment anonymously -- Premium T. no longer
accepts anonymous comments. You must have a google
account now to leave a comment. It's very
easy to set up...if I can do it, so can you!
Please don't let this stop you from commenting.
I value all of you, dear readers. Writing is most
often a solitary pursuit, and being part
of a community of people around the planet
who read/write/comment-on blogs is a gift
which I treasure. So stand up and be identified.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

It feels good for the head-spin to ease, just a bit.
There's a respectable breeze in the air and I've
been driving around with the windows open,
no radio no music no nothing just the wind
in my ears. And I have new glasses and behold
the miracle of focus. The miracle of visual acuity.

We are going to watch Nashville tonight.
First time for me.

Coming out my writing group last night just after
sundown, a great wind suddenly kicked up in the
90-degree, very still air. As I drove down the hill
heading towards home, the low-lying air looked
strangely yellow, so I took off my glasses to make
sure they were clean: they were. Because it's been
so dry and baked these past few days, the wind had
picked up the dust and spent blossoms and everything
was swirling -- at first I thought it was a pale yellow
rain, but nope. A Dorothy-Gale-In-Kansas moment.
Spectacular and eerie, with bits of branches ricocheting
off the windshield. No thunder, no pelting rain.
Just an awakening to cooler air this morning, and clouds.
It's June. In Seattle. Again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Sitting under the sprawling kiwi vines on my
back porch on Brandon Street, while the alarm
system is being installed. The kiwi are about
to bloom: compact hazelnut-sized buds.
It's a singular vine; its closest pollinator
is two back-yards away. I've only had fruit once --
small hard flavorless disappointments.
The vine died off a few summers ago
and I cut it down to the base -- only for it to
sprout with amazing vigor, and now has grown
two stories high, shading an Edenic corner
of the deck. An oasis amidst a fair amount of chaos.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The big news in Seattle/Redmond is that it's not
raining, and it's June. This is an extraordinary fact.
It's 80+ degrees and many of us are sluggish with

The delicate hand-painting on glass that I do
at work was greatly altered by this uncommon
heat. Fussy paintbrushes gumming-up,
paint drying on the palette, everything sticky
and sticking and black everywhere. Black paint
vexes me. Messy. And the entertainment --
the cat -- was, as Radish King describes,
like "a wad of parking lot chewing gum."
Inert. Stretched. Not in the mood.
This is the full version of the cropped photo I posted
on Saturday (note the man in the lower left corner
lifting a white spoonful into his mouth!) --

Monday, June 1, 2009


I am dumbfounded by the levels of repercussions
resulting from the home invasion of a week ago.
Every day my boys and I either meet in person
or talk on the phone to take care of new details,
which seem to emerge by the minute. R. had
a follow-up phone call from the SPD tonight; they're
going to stop by the house Wednesday evening to
talk with him. I'm glad this isn't being shunted aside;
god knows it's already old news. But in today's
Seattle Times, three twenty-something men were
arrested in a similar crime in White Center (about
15 miles away). With any luck, it's the same three monsters
that have upended our universe, leaving us gasping,
bewildered & spitting angry.


Our houseguest, Richard, made jambalaya for dinner
tonight: Oh Heavenly Day! Andouille and prawns
and rice and Tabasco. And some ciabatta with butter
& garlic, salad, a nice cheap Hogue fume blanc ($6.99).
A spicy balm for this emotionally-wrought mom.

My inclination this past week has to scoop up both
my boys into a snuggly and carry them with me all day.
That would be, at today's weight, about 400 pounds
of flesh. I do lift weights 2x a week, but I realize that
this is not a practical idea on any number of fronts.
Not to mention weird.
I'm just sayin'.
But that mothering-instinct is all-powerful, so think twice
before coming between me and my young men.