Sunday, January 30, 2011


First there was a cafe, with Red Pepper Bisque (which I did not order)...

And then a humble still life...

Followed by a stroll about Capitol Hill...

And a visit to St. Ignatius Chapel...

Textured walls...

Things made of glass...

And more things made of glass...

And odd things that swirl endlessly, whose images refuse to upload. Damnation.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Caution is Advised

Every now and then one stumbles upon a dessert so sublime that -- for an ephemeral moment -- the rest of the world ceases to exist. Last night I was blessed with just such an experience at a new Bellevue restaurant -- Cantinetta -- which specializes in Tuscan cuisine. The dinner and drinks were all indeed good and carefully prepared and presented, but this dessert brought me to my knees: Nutella Zeppole, Italian-style doughnuts filled with nutella, with a dollop (not enough!) of mascarpone on the side.

Definitely a fork-and-knife operation, as I erred in first attempting to bite into the zeppole, from which issued forth a geyser of warm nutella.

My friend S., beside me, was watching me, and said, "You're not going to share that, are you?"

I admit that I'm not especially fond of the popular practice of the server setting out forks and spoons for everyone prior to dessert when not everyone orders dessert. There's this assumption that dessert is to be shared, and I say bollocks to that. Order your own! (Unless, of course, you're my son or husband, where Permission to Taste is written into the mother/son, wife/husband legal agreement, section 7, paragraph 4, line 19.) Now I don't want anyone getting the idea that I'm selfish; I'm the person who makes multiple desserts for nearly every social event (from scratch, butter, bittersweet chocolate, fresh fruit, etc.), and encourages everyone to have a slice of each, please! But when I'm dining out, I rarely order dessert, and when I do, It Belongs To Me.

Plans are afoot here today to build a portable electric dessert fence, one easily plucked from my handbag when the need arises, that produces an unpleasant but harmless shock when a fellow diner attempts to graze over to my side of the table during the dessert course. Zap! In the meantime, I may have to invest in some yellow caution tape, and be on the lookout, fork tines poised, for the errant zeppole sneak.

Friday, January 28, 2011


A quartet of us on the job yesterday, and the conversation zigged and jagged every which way. Amidst the loading-up and unloading of boxes of glass, the packing for the Philadelphia show, the box-building and box-dismantling, the heaving and the hefting and the wrangling of packing peanuts -- all the to-and-fro-ing required to keep a small business ticking -- some days we do all manage to sit down at the same time at the long sturdy wood table where all the painting and the detail work happens.

Thursday's conversation began with an elementary (or, more accurately, kindergarten) discussion of Quantum Physics. (I say elementary because none of us are scientists, and I doubt any of us took a physics class in college -- though I may be wrong here.) I'd done some introductory reading about parallel universes the night before, and discovered, quite literally, an entirely new world out there. Or, even, several new worlds. I kind of like the notion that we're floating around up in the clouds on a magic carpet membrane. (Like I said, elementary.)

A part of me wants to believe that my epic recurring dreams, some recurring for 30+ years, with settings and characters that reappear and develop with each night's chapter, are indeed plucked from the parallel universes that I inhabit out there in Quantum Physics Land. I want to look beyond Freud and Jung to find not greater meaning, but greater explanation. I'm bored to tears with symbolism!

But I digress. Back to the conversation:

1. As I stated, Quantum Physics, multiverses, etc.
2. Did you know that if you're a middle-aged woman who experiences severe hot flashes, your chances of developing either of the two prominent types of breast cancer are greatly reduced?
3. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
4. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts (who was the best man at my cousin's wedding).
5. Cognitive therapy.
6. The Seven Deadly Sins (a list of which now appears on the parchment which protects my work surface).
7. The fact that all of us are guilty of all seven.
8. The Ten Commandments. (Don't you just love the word covet? It's highly underused.) Three of us have not coveted thy neighbor's wife, one of us has.
9. Carlos Castaneda.
10. Acid.
11. Text from my husband: "hematopoetic". (Written in blood??!!)
12. Dog treats made from buffalo penises. (Not sure if these are actual in-the-flesh buffalo penises or if they've been ground up and reformed.) R. was in the other room when this subject was introduced, and she heard, instead of buffalo penises, "buckle of peanuts". (Interpretive Hearing is a common occurence at my job.)

And when R. isn't pondering belt buckles fashioned from legumes, she dons her barista cap and treats us all to cappuccinos. Yesterday C. treated us to amaretti.

And when the verbal soundtrack became too frantic, as can happen, R. queued up some tranquility on her iPod, and we settled it down to a soothing Erik-Satie-pitch.

It's not all fun and games, but we can damn well pretend it is.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sun Color

Even my myriad descriptions for that which is grey in the skies above fall flat in this winter of myriad grey day, upon day, upon day....

Yesterday, just as the last light eked from the sky, a crack opened on the clouded horizon and lo, sun. The light in the work room shifted dramatically, and every piece of glass took on new color and intensity. I announced that we all must hurry outside and soak up, if only for a single minute, this rare sliver of sun. Grumbles from my compatriots "I'm busy working", but I insisted, and so the three of us tromped out in the mild afternoon where the colors went from this:

to this:

in as long as it took me to shoot the first photo.
Carpe diem.

We spend all day inside working with color, struggling with angles of light from the work lamps, mixing colors on the palette. M. painted a new batch of glass the other night and in daylight all the colors appeared muddy. And then we are given this gift from the universe of less than five minutes of intense natural light, and then it's gone, and we must go back to trying to recreate that in the studio, hoping that some neural pathways in the brain made their infinitesimal chemical connections so that it's not lost to us.

As I sit and type this, the first streaks of the dawn sky appear through the leaf-stripped maples -- a black lacework against blue and pink rays. Need I mention that, once again, I rush outside (this time in nightgown and bathrobe) to soak up yet again those fleeting bits of of the troposphere? The spin of the planet, celestial bodies in motion... Welcome back, Sun. And stick around this time, will ya?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Best Rester & Spicy Eggplant

Ate dinner last night with two of my sisters at a Seattle Chinese restaurant -- Tai Tung -- and found out that it's been continuously open since 1935. I doubt they've updated the interior since then. What an odd, funky place it is. I first ate there 40 years ago, and nothing -- NOT A THING -- has changed. The daily specials are written up in Chinese on typing paper and taped to the mirror behind the counter -- there are probably twenty specials posted. The English version is farther down the hall, taped to the outside of a booth. There's a musty scent interlaced with the amalgamated Chinese Restaurant Scents -- ginger? Soy? Rice? Our waiter was perhaps 80, nattily attired in black slacks, a white dress shirt and sweater, and with a heavy accent gave recommendations from the specials board. He claimed to remember us -- it's been at least a year, since the three of us ate there last -- but I don't doubt him. The lighting is startling bright, and the absence of any music makes it an eavesdropping heaven, although I'd venture to say that the conversation between the three of us made for some good listening for someone else, if anyone else felt so inclined.

At one point in the meal, I read aloud a hand-written letter from 1972 that my sister K. wrote to me when I spent two weeks with a friend at her grandparent's house in Twisp -- a rural town in Eastern Washington. Written on neon yellow notebook paper in my sister's precise eleven-year-old's handwriting, it described in detail a tiff she'd gotten into with another sister over the throwing-away of a wire twisty-thing that closes up a loaf of bread. Drama! Another description of a boat trip to Victoria B.C., and the joy in the freedom of being allowed to wander freely aboard the Princess Marguerite.

I produced a second letter (both plucked randomly from my recent excavations) written by the other sister present -- M. -- typed from her desk at her job at Boeing, written the same week as K.'s letter, describing, among other things, K.'s day-trip to Victoria! I don't know what the odds are that I'd grab two letters -- from a load of crap primarily headed to the recycling bin -- that date back to the same week in 1972. And trust me, these were in boxes of assorted paper stuff dating in my history from age zero to twenty. No organization other that the fact that it was all made of paper.

And based on the laughs that these letters generated, I'm glad I save them. My question now, of course is whether or not to throw them out. Neither sister wanted her letter back. Toss?

Among my findings was a sackful of school assignments belonging to K. of which I somehow gained possession. Good sport that she is, she promptly donned her "Best Rester" crown from kindergarten:

The waiter's handwriting on the bill both fascinated and amused me -- was that really what we ordered?!

And who could possibly argue over such stunningly beautiful hieroglyphics? Certainly not us. Dinner at Tai Tung is always a bargain, musty odor notwithstanding.

And I have for lunch today some lovely leftover sizzling rice soup.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

From the Archives

I've been fooling myself these past few years that I've winnowed away lots of stuff from the Brandon Street house. Indeed, I've carted away boxes and boxes and boxes to Goodwill and even more to the dump. But the stuff, so far, is winning. Twice in the past two weeks I've filled my car with yet more boxes to disseminate, and I'm astonished at what I have NOT done and been rid of yet. Twenty, thirty + years of accumulations, and from someone who is not necessarily a good consumer AND who has regularly cleaned-out and disposed-of. This is true: I need less, and even less than that. I rarely even go into a store these days, except to purchase edibles or household necessities. I recycle, I reuse, I resew. And still, my mountain (range) of possessions has grown larger than I ever imagined it would. But it's getting mined, bucket by bucket.

(But I'm pleased as punch that I didn't ditch my "I buy logs" business card.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I've been subjected to teasing, periodically, because of my habit of reading the daily obituaries in the local newspaper. But gems like this make it all worth while:

"(The deceased) fancied keeping a stockpile of pens, laundry detergent, dish soap, Kleenex and hand sanitizer, and anyone close to him knows that (the deceased) always had hand sanitizer in his pocket."

Keep in mind that one is charged by the word for these obituaries.

When my mother passed away, I was assigned the task of writing and placing the notice of her death in the two local rags. The smaller of the two, published in the town where she lived most of her adult life, offered a free obituary, with the stipulation that they publish her age. Age was a closely guarded secret among Mom's vast network of friends -- and she was blessed with a rather youthful 85-year-old visage, all things considered. It didn't occur to me until right now that I could've lied about her age.... I did opt for the free obituary, and I'm certain there was more than one member of St. Anthony's Altar Society (seated directly behind the family at the funeral mass, each proudly sporting her official Altar Society insignias) thinking, she was that old?!

Friday, January 21, 2011

T.'s Kitsch'N

Cornmeal pancakes.
Vermont syrup.
Scrambled eggs.
Grapefruit juice.
Persistent rain.
The Seattle Times.
Dozing cats.
And a considerable measure of darkness, still, at 7:47am.
Good morning January!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hot off the press, er, the screen....

I'm not a poet into self-hype, self-branding and self-promotion, (which happens far too much online, IMHO), but indulge me a little here...

You can check out my poem "Last Rescued Bird" featured on the New Zealand based blog Tuesday Poem, where Wellington novelist Mary McCallum refers to it as "subversive, using the imperative mood and uncompromising language to attempt to silence the myth of woman as the unquestioning nurturer". Read more here, and read what Graham Beattie, former Managing Director/Publisher of Penguin Books and Scholastic, New Zealand, says about it here.

(And thanks for reading, even all you who never leave a comment. I know who you are.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dits & Dots

Six year ago, when I ventured into the world of online dating (where I met Paul!), one of the most curious things I discovered is that most men do not know how to: a)spell, and, b)use punctuation. (Um, you men out there seeking a date, there's this thing called spell-check.) My favorite -- and often recounted -- example of this is the man who wanted to impress me with his education, and wrote in an email that he had a "collage degree". And no, he wasn't an artist.

Yesterday while looking at frames at Target, I saw these frames -- multiple mini frames within one large frame:

And then I noticed this, uh, slightly different frame:

I chuckle to think of all the thousands of these "college" frames out there in the world, wishing, for all intents and purposes, that they could be so lucky as to have a collage degree.

But a little more about the online dating thing. After several months of atrociously bad punctuation, I edited my statement of what it was I was looking for in a man to include the phrase "must know how to use punctuation". Well. The number of 'winks' dropped off significantly and at an alarming rate. I cringed to think that my little hint about dots and dashes could scare off most of the single male population. Did these men really go to college? (Or was it actually collage they attended? [Which might explain the lack of diacritical marks.])

And then, I received a sort of document, if you will, in my inbox, a perfectly-punctuated, perfectly-formatted, perfectly-spelled piece of writing which even included bulletted points. Hark! There is a god! I fell fast and hard for this God of Good Grammar. I married him. And yes, we have really intense discussions about punctuation. We are punctuation nerds. And while I've been known to dabble in collage, the degree I earned in college dealt specifically with the art of manipulating words and little black specks on the page.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


This is a day I observe with solemnity and gratitude, an anniversary of a fire and a rescue. More about it here.

In contemplating this fire, which occurred in 1987, I find myself going back to a post this week on Icelines, a blog by the New Zealand poet/artist Claire Beynon, where she excerpts a David Whyte piece from Huffington Post (full text here):

It might be liberating to think of human life as informed by losses and disappearances as much as by gifted appearances, allowing a more present participation and witness to the difficulty of living. What is real can never be fully taken away; its essence always remains. It might set us a little freer to believe that there is no path in life - in the low valley, in the shelter of Keane's comfortable bar, snug by a turf fire or abroad in the mountain night, that does not lead to some form of heartbreak when the outer narrative disappears and then reappears in a different form. If we are sincere, every good marriage or relationship will break our hearts in order to enlarge our understanding of our self and that strange other with whom we have promised ourselves to the future. Being a good parent will necessarily break our hearts as we watch a child grow and eventually choose their own way, even through many of the same heartbreaks we have traversed. Following a vocation or an art form through decades of practice and understanding will break the idealistic heart that began the journey and replace it, if we sidestep the temptations of bitterness and self-pity, with something more malleable, compassionate and generous than the metaphysical organ with which we began the journey. We learn, grow and become compassionate and generous as much through exile as homecoming; as much through loss as gain, as much through giving things away as in receiving what we believe to be our due.

This notion of what is gained from loss resonates deeply with me, now. Twenty-four years ago I lacked the perspective to see this, just as my son -- plucked from the jaws of fire as an infant -- attempts, at nearly twenty-five, to grasp the straws of his own deeply-felt losses. Because of this event, my family ended up living on Brandon Street, where a community of compassionate and generous souls welcomed my shell-shocked family, and where, over the course of the following twenty years, informed & reformed my notions of family and community. The fire was, in essence, a stroke of good luck. My children grew up loved and treasured not just by their birth family, but by a larger family of musicians, gardeners, artists -- one that was culturally and ethnically diverse, multi-generational, blue-collar to highly-educated. I hate to believe that I literally had to walk through fire to arrive there, but nonetheless I did. And survived, with incalculable rewards.

When I look back on the riches and blessings I was so fortunate to count as mine because I called Brandon Street my home, I doubt I would choose any other life.

I shall light a candle tonight when the light wanes from this winter sky, a tiny contained fire, and drink a toast to this sliver of wisdom I can claim as mine, "informed by losses and disappearances as much as by gifted appearances."

(With thanks to David Whyte and the "gifted appearance" of my friend Claire Beynon.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Every day on my way to work I pass by the Columbia City Funeral Home, and this sequence of nouns repeats itself in my head:


An unfortunate combination of like-sounding words, which prompts me to think of alternate options for what is left of the bulk & heft of the deceased. When my spirit makes its last presence known, I'd prefer to be sent to a creamatorium, and be rendered into a nice hunk of aged cheddar.

When I picked up the ashes of my late husband, I was handed a yellow shopping bag. Inside was a brown plastic box. Inside the brown plastic box was a plastic bag held closed with a twist-tie. And inside that plastic bag, well, looked a lot like what I sprinkle on my roses every March.

This yellow shopping bag, along with a box containing odds & ends from my late mother, got shoved into a spare bedroom of my Brandon Street house. My sons and I, who more often than not find great glee in black humor, started referring to that room as The Death Room. We became so used to that name, that whenever we had company, one or the other of us would say, "Take Ann's coat and put it in The Death Room." Matter of fact. And much to Ann's -- and every other guest's -- astonishment.

But no need to worry -- it's been transformed into an ordinary bedroom now, with fresh paint and absolutely no evidence of its prior use. The "cremains" have been sent on their way, adrift in the waters of Thornton Creek, which empties into Lake Washington, which connects by way of the Montlake Cut to Lake Union, which meets the saline waters of Salish Sound via the Ship Canal. And past that, north through Admiralty Inlet, in and out of the San Juan Islands, and finally west through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, where the waters of the Pacific stretch out beyond any visible distance. What cellular bits of those cinders have made it that far? Perhaps a smidgen of them are at this moment sunning themselves on a Fiji beach. Not a bad thought.

Cheese, on the other hand, would make a decidedly different journey.

I wonder if the pope would consider changing Ash Wednesday to Cheese Wednesday:

Cheese to cheese,
dust to dust.
From cheese we came,
to cheese we shall return.

In lieu of smudging foreheads with ash (messy, that), the Catholic Church could host informal cheese-and-wine masses to mark the onset of Lent -- "Casual Cheese Wednesday"!


Or this:

Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inhabiting the Nest of Winter

Seven-grain cereal simmering (in milk) on the stove, P. listening to an Allman Brothers YouTube video, coffee cooling too quickly. The cats have settled, finally fed after their morning racing & antics. Rain and rain and rain, after wet snow last night. I stepped out into it in my nightgown and robe, to see the glitter of it, the landscape one giant cake with a dusting of white icing, white sprinx. I scooped up a handful, amazed at the bulk of snow with no discernible weight. It's still there this morning, thinned by rising temps, eking away into storm drains, making little flood plains where it melts too quickly.

I'll venture out in an hour and this magic will all-too-quickly vanish into traffic and exhaust and windshield wipers.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Maggots, Doom & Footies

A bit of a scare yesterday when the veterinarian's assistant talked to me on the phone and told me that Tip, my 15+ cat, could not come home on Saturday because his bloodwork didn't look good and would have to stay the weekend. Of course, I went into Doom & Gloom mode, only to get a call a little later from Dr. Young himself telling me that Tip is in great shape for his age, only a little UTI, and I could pick him up any time before 3pm. Ah. Had the assistant mistaken me for someone else? In any case, I was greatly relieved, and it was time to regroup, call off the kitty hearse, alert the grave-digger that his services wouldn't be needed. Cancel the eulogy.

I dated a grave-digger once, at the naive age of 18. He was ridiculously handsome but for all intents and purposes, illiterate. His idea of a Great Night Out was dinner at a tiny suburban restaurant where the food was squeezed out of tubes & dumped from cans but they also served up individual yeasty loaves, which, I admit, weren't half bad.

This grave-digger was also a compulsive gambler, and I spent many an afternoon at the track, placing my ill-planned bets on the grey roans because they were uncommon and beautiful. And, generally, slow. Once I won $10. So much for my gambling career.

The romance didn't last long; there was nothing to talk about, and I like to talk. Good looks only go so far. Then his brother -- no looks, and the ultimate 1975 nerd -- invited me to the drive-in to see Jaws. I laughed through most of the movie while he screamed and tried (in vain, judging from his shrieks) to escape the piscine incisors snapping at him from the screen. That was the end of that.

But getting back to my original theme: death. I have in my possession -- in the garden at the Brandon Street house where my sons live -- my father's gravestone (1918-1966). When my mother passed away, oh, eight years or so ago, we ordered a single stone to mark both their graves, and instead of letting the beautiful blue-glinted marble get recycled -- this was part of my childhood, for god's sake -- I opted to take possession of it. Remnants of not a few felines add a particular, ah, richness to the soil beneath its place beneath the Chehalis apple tree (whose apples succumb to apple maggots in lieu of an annual chemical application). My friend Peter, whose gardening skills I admire, sheaths each of his apples in what I call "footies" every spring, which block entry to those dastardly maggots. At this point, I look at my trees as only decorative, and sweep the apples into the city compost bin.


I like the idea of an actual gravestone in the middle of an urban garden. Hell, I don't even live there anymore, but I certainly feel as if I've left my mark. And all those cats, left buried and unmarked in the back yards of houses I've lived, gone now to bone shard, to amulet and errant tooth. How much more tidy it is to abandon the euthanized pet with the vet for anonymous disposal, to become -- what? Someone else's dinner, I fear.

Well then.

It's winter, dead-center, and all good cheer has crawled under the gravestone in my garden and has passed out cold. Easter is late this year -- April 24th. I suppose I must wait until then to resurrect any semblance of a jolly good time. If I were more industrious, I'd lay in a supply of footies and make plans to decorate the apple tree with flesh-toned mesh. In the meantime, I'm open to suggestion.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Applause, Applause

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if ordinary people gave themselves a round of applause at the end of the day."

--from the movie Topsy Turvey.

(I'm clapping for you -- can you hear it?)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I love the way a piece of music has the ability to put a frame around a space of time. While cooking dinner (Balti chicken) I listened to Rosalyn Tureck play Bach's Goldberg Variations (I'm tempted here to write "Goldenberg" Variations or "Goldbug" Variations). Just when I was ready to sit down and let the cardamom pods and the garam masala do their work, the CD was over. Next it's on to Simone Dinnerstein's rendition of the same. Paul just ordered tix for us to hear her at Meany Hall later this month....I anticipate a dreamy evening. I'm considering getting the sheet music for this -- don't know why I don't have it yet, except that it's one of those Famous Things (as in Glenn Gould) and I tend to steer clear of such.


January has always been a beast of a month on my calendar, associated mainly with the grieving that comes after untimely death, as well as the polar opposite of summer's abundance here in the Northern Hemisphere. Every year I try once again to love the short days, the impenetrable sog and pervasive grey. How many shades of grey are there to learn to love? Too many.

Not much work; it's the seasonal lull. Dangerous, this too-much-free-time. I'm routine-ridden, dependent on a particular predictability with just enough spaces between the lines to pursue my passions. So today it was grocery shopping, 45 minutes of yoga, and getting on with the business of submitting poetry for publication (odious task, that).

So far, all is well. A glass of Sancerre, and dinner asimmer.

So many winters of living dangerously close to the bone -- to the marrow -- dependent on a cupboard of stored beans and 79 cent bags of pasta, the odd squash, some plums frozen in a recycled margarine tub. It was never a matter of rubbing two pennies together as much as locating the single penny. I'm not exaggerating here, unfortunately. It's a difficult thing to write about, and I relive it -- and every other dank & desperate fact of deep winter -- every January.

But then I count my friends and my wonderful sons and my five quirky & magnificent sisters and of course, my dear Paul, and the measure of abundance right here, right now, is spilling over the edges of the cup. And the cup dings when I tap its crystal edges.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


P. and I had two consecutive Ireland summers with camera fatalities:

1. Mine leapt to its death in a Westport carpark;
2. P. dropped his in a toilet at Yeat's gravesite;
3. P. lost his next camera in a sweater shop in the Aran Islands.

The camera gods were not looking down on us with benevolence.

At Aran Islands Sweater Market on Inishmore, P. left the clerk his email and home addresses, in case the camera showed up. And it did indeed show up, on New Year's Eve, via the U.S. Postal Service. Neatly packed in a box, all 500+ photos intact. Sixteen months after he lost it.

There was no note enclosed, but our guess is that it slipped down between fixtures, and made its appearance when things were getting moved around. Needless to mention that we are delighted and astonished! Now we are camera-rich, and, as always, have only good things to say about the Irish.


It's January.


In other news, we've had snow, soft pellets -- unsifted confectioner's sugar -- which have lingered for a week --

Woods walk --

A few small puddly ponds have frozen and I'm six years old again, crackling the edges and tossing pebbles which skip off the translucent surface.

I'm enamored of leaves suspended below the surface,
of ice shards cracked away and refrozen.

Sugared ferns --

Looking for the beautiful in what I otherwise think of as the grimmest of months.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Oz, Pez & The Nativity

I kept meaning to post this earlier, but nonetheless here's my version of The Holy Birth. I like to think that Jesus had a sense of humor:

I'm especially fond of orange pez "straw":

And who's to say that Dorothy Gale of Kansas wasn't the real Virgin Mary?