Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brenda the Five Chickens

Once there were five chickens all named Brenda.

They were, in order:
& Brenda.

Brenda had five combs.

Brenda had ten wattles.

Brenda ten eyes.

Brenda had ten wings,
but couldn't fly.

Poor Brenda!

Brenda had ten feet.

Brenda had forty toes!

Brenda's heart beat 1560 beats a minute,

and every day Brenda layed five eggs.

Brenda was many colors:
red, gold, black, amber, beige,
white, yellow, mahogany, caramel,
chestnut, coral, peach, salmon, copper,
garnet, rust, lemon & mustard, but not blue.

(Brenda was also not green.)

(To be continued.)

Before the Storm

This last flush
cancels out any attempt
to use a language of description:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Have I atoned? Do I deserve any more?


I went to yoga tonight.
It's been a while since I took a class.
I felt old.
Sweaty and galumphy.
And all those nimble young things
in their clingy knits contorting their limbs
into pretzels. There's a move
where you rock back and forth on your
crossed legs, and at some precipitous moment
you're expected to be able to rock right onto
your feet. Uh huh. I don't think I could do that
even when I was lithe as a spring grass.
So tonight instead of a graceful rock forward to standing
I took a flinging catty-wompas lunge backwards.
And for this torture I paid cash money.
Go figure.

Monday, September 28, 2009


In memory, Mark Benchley Anderson
September 28, 1956-November 21, 2003



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

under cover, safe

from careening branches, from small birds

dropping into darkness.

--T. Clear, 1989

A Song For You (Live @ The Troubador, Los Angeles, CA) - Donny Hathaway

Sunday, September 27, 2009

These days I sleep with a small fan beside
my bed, and it's a curious thing that when
I lie down to go to sleep, the fan is essentially
silent, but somehow, by two or three in the
wee hours, its decibel level manages to rise
to nearly that of Niagara Falls. Think of it:
when we lie down at night, our ears/brains
are buzzing with all that we've heard and
taken-in all day long. By the middle of the
night, most of these distractions have slipped
off the radar, and we're left with a glaring
example of the Here and Now, in this case
a small roaring fan.


Cooked like a fool yesterday:

sesame tofu and stir-fried bok choy, cabbage & carrots
with a sesame/tamari/ginger/garlic sauce;

a Southwest chicken & rice with fire-roasted
tomatoes, jalapenos, topped with toasted pumpkin

a layered apple cake which is surprisingly
low in fat/sugar but packed with flavor.

These cooler days and nights spark the culinary
imagination. Time to roll out the pumpkins
and the winter squashes!

Friday, September 25, 2009


Tonight at dinner, when Paul asked me if I was
going to finish all my poutine -- a Quebecois dish
of French fries, melted cheese curds and gravy --
I said, "Yep. Life is short."
And I thought a second about what I just said
and what I was eating, and added,
"And it may get even shorter after eating this!"

Damn. Everything I've ever read about this dish
has made me want to jump on the nearest plane
to Eastern Canada. (And just for today, let's not
mention arteries/plaque/LDL/etc.) But lo and
behold, at Smith on Capitol Hill (more about this
in a moment), there it was on the bar menu,
and for significantly less than the price of a plane
ticket to St. Hyacinthe, Quebec (where at the age of
14 I spent a week locked up with an elderly great-
aunt-and-uncle and their two maiden middle-aged

But back to the poutine. For six bucks, I feasted
on a dinner-sized plateful of the best, crispy-on-the-edges
fries, heaped with oozing mild white cheese curds
and a light drizzle of dark gravy. Salty, hot, texturally
both crunchy and gooey: sublime. Now, I intend to never
consume these again, for the above-unmentionable
health reasons, but for just this once, because I could,
I indulged. And it was worth every luscious bite.

So on to the issue of the name of the pub: Smith.
Huh? Not Smith's. Not The Smithy. Not K-Smith.
Just the very simple and unadorned Smith.
Earlier in the week, in anticipation of this evening
(a friend's birthday) we speculated about what kind
of eating/drinking establishment Smith would be.
I said that the name suggested über-hip and sleek
lines, lots of black, minimalist decor. P., on the other
hand, said the name suggested something solid, earthy,
grounded. How is it that the two of us came to such
opposing conclusions about the ambiance of a venue
based on a one-word name? (I'm guessing that there
aren't too many people out there who can make a
three-mile-walk conversation based on a one-word
restaurant name. Other than us, I mean.)

And guess what: P. was right. Lots of rough-hewn
dark wood, busts of antelope/elk/deer on the walls
as well as various and assorted stuffed and mounted fowl.
An entire wall of rather badly-done oil portraits, including
one of JFK. No chic, no sleek, anywhere in sight.
And the über-hip? I won't be the one to judge.

I asked our waiter about the origin of the name,
and he guessed that the building which houses Smith
is probably The Smith Building. Huh. Hmm.
(I wonder if that's really how the place got its name --
the waiter said he'd find out for me, but he apparently
forgot.) I was certainly expecting a better story. And,
for the record, I'd be happy to make one up.

Melinda and I are doing the centerpieces for the
Poncho Auction. Poncho is a Seattle organization
which provides significant funding for local arts
organizations. Since 1963, they have raised 34 million
dollars to support over 200 arts groups. Not a shabby
reputation! This means that the past month has been
spent working on 70 large pieces: unwieldy, demanding,
gorgeous. Yesterday as I was finishing up (Yay!) the last
of the vessels, the resident cat decided to get inside
the vase I was painting. Silly kitty!

Here's some detail work on one of the pieces:

This is intense and fussy work; I've been making an extra
effort to keeping the paint off my hands. I've always
stayed away from paint of any kind: art, wall, etc.
It makes me crazy how it manages to get on everything.
But the rewards of working with these colors have been
great -- this job has allowed me to expand my brain
and allow paint into my consciousness in a positive manner,
and it makes me happy (when it's finished vexing me!).
I call it color therapy. I recommend it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Drumroll...Sparklers...March Out The Band:
it's National Punctuation Day! Now is your
chance to honor the ellipsis, the semi-colon,
and the nearly-extinct hyphen. And just last
night at dinner, when P. and I weren't even
aware of that we were on the eve of this great
national holiday, we had a lengthy discussion
(actually, more of a debate) of -- yes -- hyphens!
Adjectival phrases! Adverbial phrases!
I stand staunchly in the pro-hyphen camp,
while P. is more middle-of-the-road, hyphen-wise.
(Not pro hyphen or middle of the road.) (Ahem.)
When I pointed out that we were Punctuation Nerds,
he quickly excluded himself from that group,
stating that, of the two of us, I was the only
card-carrying member of the above-mentioned group.
And I'm damn proud of it! Save the hyphens!

(P. suggested our president change his name
in honor of today to Barack O'Comma.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And yes, I've been quiet lately; contemplative.
Last Wednesday I accompanied R. to his cardiologist
appointment, where he was give the green light
to resume his life. Happiness! Time to let out
a breath, the one I've held in since the break-in
on Memorial Day, and held since. Too much, I say.

And yet. The first day of fall and it's officially 88 degrees
and the sun, the air, is perfect: not humid, not smoggy,
just a clear sail into autumn. Golden days, these.


Scrubbed and scrubbed my fingers at the end
of my workday and still they hold remnants of paint:
irridescent Aztec gold, duochrome bronze,
quinacridone violet. A daily scourge is lamp-black --
no more or less of anything in comparison
to the other colors, but it vexes me,
challenges me, tests any shred of patience
I may hold in reserve. Sullen, intransigent and cocky --
it is the absence of a pearl, a dearth of Champagne,
drugged sleep. Never chocolate wrapped in gold foil.
Never the velvet underside of the cat's paw.

Monday, September 21, 2009

More photos from the Redmond Saturday Market.
Hard to believe that in a little over a month
all this will be gone and these splendid late summer days
will have turned wet and grey. Alas.
Get it while it's hot!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I admit this is getting just a little out of hand....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My friend Peter, over at The Virtual World, shared the
abundance of his tomato harvest with me today.
I brought home three bulging (and ripping!) bags of Roma's,
which I peeled, chopped and froze. This stunning
green-and-yellow striped beauty made a lovely little
Insalata Caprese for dinner, with some 12-year-old
balsamic and a sprinkling of Mediterranean sea salt.
Lucky me!
Two signs on Rainier Avenue South:

Oar Wash

G-Spot Video
This was on my page-a-day Zen calendar:

1. Get enough good to eat, and eat it.
2. Find a place to sleep where it it quiet, sleep there.
3. Reduce intellectual and emotional noise until you
arrive at the silence of yourself, and listen to it.

--Richard Brautigan

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Further Adventures of Plastic Boy

One hot September afternoon Plastic Boy and his mother
and the genderless sibling found themselves traversing
a boundless plain of fresh dill.

After spending hours in the seemingly endless fragrant
meadow-upon-meadow, they settled down for the night
in a lean-to. Plastic boy considered a career in poetry.

The next morning, they accepted a ride from a skeleton
on a bicycle. All the blood rushed to their heads when
he carried them upside down. Silly skeleton!

The skeleton dropped them off in front of a liquor

"Look Mom!" Shouted the Plastic Boy.
"Chateau Los Boldos on sale for only $3.200!"

The mother didn't drink.

They trudged on and on, with no particular destination
in mind.

By late afternoon, they found themselves in Boston
at Fenway Park.
"Imagine that!" Said Plastic Boy.
But they didn't have to imagine it, because there they
were, smack-dab in the middle of Fenway Park, complete
with paper spectators and miniscule paper Red Sox.
"I hope I catch a home-run ball!" said Plastic Boy.
But his mother just yanked on his plastic arm
and away they went.

They passed a peaceful night in a twig nest
with a rose petal blanket.

The little plastic genderless sibling was strangely silent.

In the morning, they were forced to cross a small stream
made up entirely of tiny forks, knives and spoons.
Everything was blurry once again.
Maybe Plastic Boy needed glasses!

But everything suddenly came into focus
as the gentle meandering stream turned into
a ferocious roaring river --

Plastic Boy was scared silly and the fork tines
poked into the plastic platform upon which they travelled.
Yowza. Maybe they were going to perish.
Maybe this was their LAST DAY ON EARTH!
But it wasn't, because all the fierce water
turned to ice, which, though slippery,
they were able to cross.

On the other side they were met by that pesky onion.
"Oh grate!" Said the plastic mom, as they leapt up and
away from alliumial danger.

"Look Mom! Texas bluebonnets!" Plastic Boy said,
using altogether far too many exclamatory phrases.

Cookies cutters are frightening.

Bacon floss is not.

Weary and cranky, they ran past a ceramic hedgehog,
a wooden terrier and The Virgin Mary talking quietly
beside a pink wax fire.
"Mom! Stop!"
The mom yanked at the arm of Plastic Boy,
and again, the genderless sibling made not a peep.

But in the end, the mother relented, and they turned
around to confer with the hedgehog, the terrier
and The Virgin.

The pink wax fire was warm.
The Virgin was chaste.
The hedgehog was born in a Red Rose Tea box.
The terrier barked and barked.
Life was good.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

911 Dills

Sometimes, when someone is having a heart attack,
it's dismissed as heartburn. And then again,
the opposite can be true. Now, I don't know
how often it has happened that the meds used
to prevent myocardial infarction
actually contribute to the symptoms
of heartburn, which are mistaken
to actually be a heart your head spinning
a little bit there in this weird circle?
Dizzy? Is your kitchen prepped for pickles?
Nitro, anyone?

So. In the midst of pickling, R. and I
were surrounded by a bevy of EMT's
and flashing red lights and a drive over the bridge
in Friday rush-hour traffic to revisit the ER.
Nine-eleven. Eerie as hell.
And yes, all is well.

When we got back to the house last night,
I decided to go ahead with the pickling
in spite of the late hour. Can you say crazy?
Crazy crazy crazy. (Go ahead, say it!)
Craziness compounded by the fact that my stovetop
is on the fritz and can only be controlled
by switching the breaker on/off.
And won't heat properly....

Hours, hours later, my dozen pint jars
of dill pickles sat cooling on the counter,
belying the drama which just hours before
swirled about them like jalapeno spiced vinegar.
Ho hum.

(Ho-humble pickles which must simmer
silently in their acids for two months
before we consume their flesh.)

And so, without further ado,
I present to you my 911 Dills:

These look not unlike the photos I took this summer
of Irish tidepool flora & fauna:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

R. and I went to the Columbia City Farmer's Market
yesterday in search of pickling cukes. As it's late
in the growing season, almost every booth contained
oversized vegetables of some kind: onions as big
as cantaloupe, peaches weighing as much as a pound
each, the ubiquitous missile-sized zucchinis, and cukes
just slightly smaller than the zucchini. I felt doomed
to make cucumber chips, when what I really desired
were lovely delicate pickling cukes.

Finally we found some, tucked away and unassuming
in the shadow of giants. Fresh, of uniform size, perfect
little things! We just about cleaned the vendor out.
And dill -- I began to panic when it didn't seem
to be for sale anywhere, then I found some slightly
wilted bunches, which I brought home and
immediately put into water: a dilly bouquet.

While reading about this pickling process, I've
run across some unexpected tips:
1) Run the cucumbers through a cold rinse cycle
in your washing machine, both to clean them
and give them a good cold soak. (Gonna skip this one.)
2) As an alternative to a hot-water bath, bake the jars
of pickles in a pan with one-inch of water in the bottom.
(This from my friend KE, and I must say it's intriguing!)
3) Include a single grape leaf in each jar. (Yes! We've
lots of grape leaves!)

The Great Pickling Adventure begins tomorrow afternoon.
Full photo documentation to follow.

(I also splurged on a bottle of raspberry wine --
made all from raspberries, not grape wine flavored
with raspberry juice. Can't wait to try this with
some Blanxart bittersweet chocolate.)

Ever had a hankerin' to knit a poem?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

R. and I are making pickles on Friday, something
I've always wanted to do but somehow in my canning
days never attempted. I tended to stay with the plums
and tomatoes and jam. My brother made dill pickles
many years ago when we all still lived with mom,
and I recall a crock in the darkness under the house,
a simmering secret. Think I'll forego the crock method
and go straight to the jar. And yes, we'll be hoarding
them all to ourselves. No apologies!

And the sun has returned today, after great drama
in the rain and wind department. It's still summer.
I am not putting away the sandals.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I dreamed that I went to see a doctor
whose office was in the middle of a department store.
I told her that I was having trouble with my right hand,
numbness, and she said that there was a new treatment
for that, and took out a giant meat cleaver.

"Put your hand right here," she said, and motioned
for me to lay my hand down on a, well, chopping block.
Then she whacked at my wrist once, twice, again,
until the hand fell off. OWWWWWW!

Then she gently put the hand back on again
and told me to be careful as it healed.
I asked her if she was going to tape it up,
and she said, no, just be careful
so it doesn't fall off.

The rest of the dream (which involved an estate
in Stanwood Washington, a barn, an auction, Mass,
Tom Jones, six skunks, salmon the size of sides of beef
smoking on a massive grill in a forest, shelves and shelves
of uninteresting books and women in plumed
and netted hats) I was anxious and terrified
that my hand would fall off and I'd lose the use of it.
There was a worried red line at my wrist,
but I awoke with my appendage gloriously intact.

This must be Labor Day anxiety, because my right hand
is essential for the work I do, and today's Labor Day,
and I'm headed off to work soon.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Nonsense Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a little plastic boy and his mother
with a plastic baby attached --

-- were pursued by three organic tomatoes and an onion.

They careened across a table cloth ocean --

-- with blurry bubble wrap waves.

While passing through France, they invoked the spirit
of Charles de Gaulle, but because he had no arms
and only one leg, he wasn't much help.

The Lipstick lady was no help either.
She smiled and smiled and smiled.

And still the three organic tomatoes and one onion
pursued the plastic boy and his mother and genderless
plastic sibling.

They ran to Rome to request an audience with the pope,
but he was encased in a snowy cloud.

They fled the Sacred Heart scapular, which gave the
little boy nightmares for the rest of his life.

Two ceramic kittens peered whimsically at the fleeing trio.

From a vantage point on top of a bottle of molasses --

-- they spied a pile of nose masks --

-- which had no consequences whatsoever.
The Mardi-Gras feathers perplexed and vexed them.

They nearly reached their demise in an egg carton,
but made a last-minute escape.

They found refuge on top of a black-shouldered kite
who was painted onto a cigar box.

The three organic tomatoes and onion couldn't
jump or climb or fly, so the little plastic boy
and his plastic mom-who-clutched-for-all-eternity
her little genderless plastic toddler
lived happily ever after.

The End.