Monday, August 30, 2010
Nonetheless, I'm experiencing a giddiness, a happiness and lightness of spirit the likes of which has not been present for nearly seven years. I'd resigned myself to an edited version of this, accepted it as the logical consequence of having had ones life dumped out in the middle of the freeway at rush hour -- a rush hour which seemed would never ease, an entanglement of colliding semi's and jag-edged steel. And now, now....
Credit must be given to Paul, who stepped into my universe at the eye of the storm and accompanied me on this road to a new destination. And today's destination is Carrowholly, in the West of Ireland, County Mayo, about 4 miles from the bustling village of Westport. Our house on the cove, in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, in a wind corridor which cuts between the 360-or-so islands of Clew Bay, the distant metered eye of Achillbeg Island lighthouse keeping time.
One of the first things I do when we get here is walk the perimeter of the house, searching for evidence -- of what? Anything, everything. Here are a few "clues"....
gorse & fuschia:
I discovered abundant patches of ripe blackberries
at the far side of the driveway, fisted-clumps ready
for plucking. They're less intensely sweet
than the Himalayan variety we enjoy back home,
but there's almost a perfumed essence to them,
a delicacy on the tongue.
Pie it shall be then, tonight for dessert!
We discovered while claiming our baggage this morning in Shannon that one of our neighbors from our little cove here in Ireland was on the same plane from Newark. Amy -- returning from a 3-month jaunt which included Orlando, Vegas and NYC. We offered a ride (2 1/2 hours to Westport) to Amy and her friend Maeve but would've needed a moving van to accommodate all their luggage, alas. Bus it was then, for them.
I staggered bleary-eyed through the Super-Valu, shopping list in hand, jet-lag like a hundred-pound weight strapped to my back, encouraging complete collapse. Having to get stew meat from the butcher really flummoxed me -- kilograms? I couldn't fathom kilograms in my brain/sleep-depleted state. The butcher, though, was kind, and did the conversion for me.
Paul, on the other hand, was enjoying a thirty-minute burst of energy, and not only went to the local techie store for an internet device, he also found some flip-up sunglasses (left his groovy glasses in Redmond), picked up a dozen eggs from Christie's Harvest, checked the upcoming shows at Matt Molloys pub, and got the newest Joseph O'Connor book at Seamus Duffy's Books. Good god!
All the horses were out coming down the road to the house, including this lovely beast:
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
And then there's the writing to do, the poetry, the long letters, the blogging. The reading. (Too many books, as always.) And the cooking: bramley apples (pie!), Liam's potatoes, yeasty loaves, a pizza or two, a John Dory fillet. The beach-walks, the wind, tea in the afternoons. A pint at Matt Molloys. The drive out to Achill Island, and Doo Lough. And the bogs: every shade of amber, and slatey greens.
O! Pinch me: three weeks of self-indulgence.
I told my son: no crises.
1. heart attacks
3. home invasions
4. irascible roommates
5. dead cars, cats, refrigerators, washing machines
6. clogged drains
(But most of all, the light, and the colors.)
Monday, August 23, 2010
First, a photo from my friend Karen E. of the apples from her father's tree, which I wrote about last week:
...which led me to this poem, which I've always loved:
Sunday, August 22, 2010
And then there was Dungeness crab, and romaine salad with lettuce from the farmer's market, and tiny sliced fingerling potatoes, and a Pugliese loaf, and a blended Argentinian white wine (Santa Julia). So often these days I'm flushed with a mindfulness that life is ample and abundant, and I sing my thanks to the generous universe. It has not always been so....
Saturday, August 21, 2010
My wonderful husband last week got us tickets to a Democratic fund-raising luncheon for Senator Patty Murray where the guest speaker was none other than President Barack Obama. Oh! My! Forgive me while I gush, but never having been anywhere near an actual live president, no less the Sexiest Man on the Planet (oops -- I men the second SMOTP, my husband being #1), I was thrilled to no end to be sitting at a table in the Outer Hebrides (as it were), and do the large share of my president-viewing on a giant screen directly adjacent to our table. I'm not going to get political here -- I leave that up to Citizen K. -- so I'll just say that the man is polished, gracious, intelligent, witty, articulate and certainly knows just to deliver a joke. Comfortable in his skin (and his skin color), he seems to be genuinely happy and not beaten down by the fact that every moment there are untold numbers of people on the planet who look down on him (to put it politely) just because his skin tone is different than theirs.
So, to get to the REAL story....
We took advantage of valet parking, and came in separate cars because I had to go to work afterwards. Paul's car arrived, he zoomed away, and I stood, tapping my foot for, oh, five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. I asked an attendant if perhaps my car had been parked in Bellingham (90 miles away) and he laughed and checked the board for my keys, which didn't seem to exist. Hmm. Another attendant checked and rechecked, and still nothing.
Then the first attendant stopped mid-sentence, got a very grave look on his face -- very grave, mind you -- and says:
"Ohhhhh, I'm so sorry, but that was the car that got wrecked --!"
Well, I didn't even let him continue his sentence, but immediately shouted back,
"ARE YOU SERIOUS?? WHAT HAPPENED???"
"I'm so sorry, but the Secret Service made us do it."
(More grimacing and hand-wringing from him.)
So about this time (about five seconds into the conversation), I've already run an entire scenario through my head of my little '97 black Mazda with the "Groovy Mama for Obama" bumper sticker on it somehow posing a security threat to the government/president/world-peace. First they rip the doors off (quickly), deflate the tires, shred the upholstery, then quietly blow up everything that remains. Including my pink umbrella from Paris! My pink yoga mat!
Headlines: "T. Clear, poet-terrorist!!"
I'm thinking: okay, I want a new car, a brand new car, probably a hybrid, since Obama is green and all, plus I want the cost of our tickets to the event refunded PLUS I think a private meeting with the president himself is in order, along with an apology for making me late for work.
My voice, at this point (seven seconds into the conversation) is approaching drum-piercing shrillness:
"THE SECRET SERVICE MADE YOU WRECK MY CAR?????"
The attendant looked at me as if I'd lost every last marble.
"Huh? Noooo, I said, yours was the car that was left...."
I heard wrecked, and responded so quickly that he didn't have time to finish his sentence (let this be a lesson to me!), which was,
"...on the ramp, because the Secret Service arrived and did a security lockdown. And then we forgot to move it to the regular parking area. Your car is not wrecked!"
I began to laugh, and he began to laugh, and after a few moments my heart resumed its normal beating. I was laughing so hard I had to lean on the counter, and was still laughing when my car arrived shortly, unscathed.
Alas, no new Prius for me (I should be so lucky), but the few moments of elevated BP were worth the story.
Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tonight we feasted on grilled fowl and buttered corn, quaffed our fill of Portuguese red wine outside on the deck, the cats flitting about us ever after the proverbial cranefly, ever hopeful for a proffered bit of charred bird flesh. The Big Questions arose: god (God), faith, religion. My husband, my step-son, his fiance. Six tiny squares of bittersweet chocolate as an afterthought, one for each and then two more for claiming.
And what is it that keeps you moving forward through each successive day? Is it, for you, the promise of chocolate? And if yes, is that sufficient? Is anything enough? What sleight of hand do you employ to trick you onward, each minute meted out, each tick tick tick more portentous than the last?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
1. Guinness beef stew
3. Carrowholly nettle cheese
4. Dunning's Pub
5. Liam's spuds
6. Croagh Patrick
7. Atlantic Coast Drive on Achill Island
8. a view of Clare Island from the sofa
9. ordnance maps
10. holy wells
11. The Shebeen
12. Pat & Mick
13. getting lost
14. Doo Lough
Leaving for Ireland VERY SOON.
If you're lucky, I'll do another edition of Irish postcards -- yes, actual snail-mail, hand-delivered ON PAPER postcards. Would you like one? E'mail me your actual shingle-and-timber address at email@example.com. I may just get the itch to cut'n'glue'n'paint'n'etc.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Apple season is upon us here in the northwest tip of the United States....
“We are missing pie.”
-- my son, Reilly
Overnight they rest in a silver bowl,
uncut, unblemished. No jag-edged cores.
No cobbler. No curling peel
spilling from the sink. Nothing saucy.
From your long-dead father’s
wind-split tree, recumbent for a season
yet flush with this
surprise of fruit --
Sorrow is the absence of pie,
the dank work of worms, sorry dirge.
Love is the ample curve,
the rosy wholeness of an apple-in-hand.
--for Karen England
© T. Clear
Last week I received this note from my friend and virtuoso Cajun-fiddle player Karen England:
....do you remember the poem you wrote about Rollo's apple tree?
It is still an amazing tree! I have real full sized beautiful apples this year!
I learned how to thin and prune and am so happy with the outcome.
Thanks, Karen, for the prompt for this week's poem!
When I wrote it, there was the repeating mantra ("we are missing pie") in my head -- odd because we've always been a pie family, and for some reason too much time had passed between pies, and my son was experiencing the rare event of pie-mourning. Then Karen showed up at my door with a bag of the season's earliest apples -- yellow transparents, or "pie apples", as I've always said -- and not only did I end up with a pie, but also a poem. Happy son, happy mom, happy poet! Happy fiddle player!
Here's Karen doing her fiddle-thang (shown here with Al Berard):
And here with the band Folichon:
Sunday, August 15, 2010
1. The day began with bacon jam: easy, a couple of hours simmering on the stovetop, a little puree action in the cuisinart, et voila! Sweet, salty, smoky, spicy. The four essential "S's".
2. Moving right along to Connie's Kale: finely chopped kale "massaged" with salt, tossed with apple, pine nuts, gorgonzola + a cider vinaigrette.
3. Dill pickles. Hot water bath. Hot kitchen.
4. Three kinds of "Vin Maison": apricot, blackberry, peach. They should be ready in about a month:
5. Oh yes, dinner: marinated potato and green bean salad, grilled Lummi Island salmon. Yellow jackets on the prowl.
6. Blackberry crisp, a dollop of whipped cream. (Pinch of cinnamon.)
I don't know what culinary muse took hold of me today, but it was really waaaay too hot to be doing what I did.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
In other news, I caved to Modern Technology today and became the owner of an iPhone 4. Holy guacamole!!!! There's a midget computer in my pocket which knows a helluva a lot more than I did when I graduated from college. Just sayin'.
It was 93 degrees today, zero humidity, just lovely smooth heat.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
9 Steps to Become More Interesting1. Listen more than you talk.
2. If you notice yourself getting bored with what you're saying, stop talking. Acknowledge the situation. Smile. Move on.
3. Know a few historical anecdotes. Like this one: To enhance creativity, surrealist painter Salvador Dalí recommended afternoon naps lasting less than a second. He would lie in his chair, arms outstretched, holding a metal key in his left hand. As he drifted off to sleep, his grip would relax and the key would fall, clanging onto a plate he'd set beneath it and waking him up.
4. But realize that no one likes the guy who knows something about everything.
5. Let people talk over you. Don't think of it as being rude; think of it as an assist.
6. If someone does interrupt you, wait to be prompted before continuing your story. It's a good sign that someone cared in the first place.
7. Drawn-out pauses are the best time for personal non sequitors. People would rather listen to you talk about yourself than nothing.
8. With people you don't know, limit stories to the last five minutes of your life — the turnout, the Scotch selection, the homeless man you mistakenly took for a valet.
9. Never mention your blog.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Departing the House of Your Former Life
Once you close that door, hear the click
of the latch, there’s no going back.
The single key is, from this day forward,
forever lost. You may run circles
around it, you may peer
into each window for as long as desired,
but entry is impossible. Best
to gather the few remaining flowers
before the garden lapses into ruin,
before bindweed takes over.
Fill your pockets with apples – they won’t
lumber from these branches again.
Oh, you believe still in a midsummer picnic
beneath this arbor -- cheese and a humble wine
tucked into gingham. Best to disavow all
you’ve abandoned inside this lathe & plaster
fortress, every root still clutching its
square inch of soil. Better to leave
and not return, not recall the accumulation
of broken beds, the last unshattered cup,
the wedding china. And a rock thrown
at a pane can do no good.
Unpin the solitary dress hung ragged
on the line, yank the numbers
from the siding, check the mailbox
for a final letter. No curtain wavers
and every candle is a wickless stub.
Not a soul to wave you on but your own.
--T. Clear 2010
Check out the other Tuesday Poets here.
Tuesday Poets is a New Zealand based blog
of perhaps 30 poets posting a new poem every Tuesday
on the masthead blog, plus many new poems
on individual blogs. A great group!
Sunday, August 8, 2010
for the musicians at this house-warming party
to limber up the strings --
Father and son --
The lovely Emily, our hostess, whom I've known
since she was a wee one collecting bugs in cups
for "experiements" --
Father and son again (Emily's grandfather and dad) --
Saturday, August 7, 2010
No, this is not my alter-ego.
It's the little Malaysian mechanical cat who visited us
at work this week. I insisted it looked more like a mechanical
striped pig, and my guess is that the live cat thought it looked like
anything but a fellow feline. And if it had more closely
resembled a mechanical rat/robin/vole, would the live cat
had felt more compelled to attack? One can but wonder.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Since summer began I feel as if I've been shot out of a cannon
and I haven't hit ground since. In the next eight evenings
I have only one free. On one hand, it's delicious to be social
and to have so many invitations, but the balance is the tricky part.
Up to my elbows in water-based oils at work, suddenly understanding
more than the primary elements of color. Having undergone
absolutely zero formal instruction in the art of paint/color,
it's all new and all incredibly eye-opening. Thinking of taking
a painting class, which is completely out of character
for this poet/baker/piano-player.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
A hazy Sunday afternoon at Washington Park Aboretum.
The sunlight, which occasionally broke through,
was oddly amber-colored...caused, I heard,
by wildfires in British Columbia.
These webs were like translucent nets
tossed across foliage, bearing accumulations
of midsummer dust, fir needles, petals --