Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Rip Van Winkle Day

What Was Missed:

The wedding procession, up from the glen (the dry riverbed, in August, wavering with new grasses).

Red lanterns strung from Douglas firs and cedars.

An apparently windy speech from the Father of the groom.
(Snickering from his divorced wife.)

A taco truck.

Hours of dancing and spirits flowing as fast as the river in spring runoff.

Costumes (sequins, glitter).

Clouds of mosquitoes.

A male guest, in search of swimming trunks, passed out in the back seat of a rented car. His distraught girlfriend.

Tent sleeping.

Uncontrolled controlled substances.

Uncensored, unfettered Bacchanalia.

What Was Seen, Smelled, Tasted, Felt:

Paper-cut banners slipping from their pinnings, limb from limb.

An unlit pile of red lanterns in the dirt.

Unstrung strings of lights.

Empty bottles.

A box of masks and hats, some with purple feathers, spilling.

Very-slowly-moving people, hungover people, danced-out people, I-slept-all-night on-a-deflated-air-mattress people.

A teensy silver Streamliner trailer: nest for the bride and groom.

Tents clustered, flaps flapping.

Citronella on the breeze.

A ziploc bag of peanut butter cookies on a picnic table.

A towel airing on a huckleberry bush.

Ninety-four degrees.

Nine hours later and ninety miles to the west, more to be missed:

The band played and was gone before we arrived.

And in the late summer dark on the saltwater beach: large groups of revelers hunkered around campfires, each temporary territory bounded by tiki lights, some green, some yellow. Ribald & boisterous merry-making in the cool breeze beside the Salish Sea in a public park.

Where had I been for so many years to not know this was going on each summer in my city? Everywhere, up and down the stretched-out beach, clusters of people knew what they were doing -- it seemed as natural for them to camp out here of an evening as to plunk oneself down in front of the television and settle-in for an electronic three hours.

This was not my party, yet I so wished I could go back thirty years and stake my claim on this sand with a candle on a spike, gather my friends into my own circle of light.


And afterwards, the longing for a life not lived, a sense of loss so profound and bittersweet it was as if I'd missed summer, forgotten Christmas, skipped tra-la-ing past birthdays and holidays, mired in the drudge of ordinary living.

Note to self: DO NOT pick blackberries with slip-on sandals. (Is that blood or blackberry juice dripping down my leg?)

Silly me, thinking that I am still sixteen and nimble as a doe, stepping into the thicket to reach the most juicy berries, when an errant thorned branch whips my calf, causing me to lurch backwards and lose both shoes, ending up with thorns on the soles of my feet. OUCH.

(Don't do this.)


A steady & sustained tension this week, awaiting the resolution of Big Things.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Kitchen Mischief

Best when used by. Rich
and creamy. Extra virgin.
Those with sweet flavors.
Double-acting. Will perk up.
Only cold water should be used!

Add hot juice. Beat. Bring to a boil.
As desired. Grease lightly.
Until completely dissolved.
Shake well.
May explode if heated.

A pinch or two.
Gives zest to.
Adds pungency.
Fast rising and active!
Questions? Comments?

Do not use delay timer.
Knead. Let double in size.
Even the most delicate.
Most unadulterated.
Raw & real. Honey.

© T. Clear 2011

(I opened one kitchen cupboard and took notes....)

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Gold to pink to blue to pink again and then blue again: the sunset sky from west to east, a set of mountains on either side, a city wedged in-between and a lake just above sea level. This is my home.

I took my customary dusk walk around the block tonight and no one was out, not a soul in sight. So many are gone and more are leaving soon. I could hear the hum of televisions and muffled music from behind wavering curtains. I stole a spectacularly ripe fig from a tree I've known for 24 years and I've not stolen from it before. It hung limp and testicular from the stem, green as an immature lime. Inside was all lush red seeds -- a blush of seeds. It did a disappearing act on my tongue, the perfect follow-up to raspberries and whipping cream. If fig theft is a crime then I stand not only accused but guilty. Cuff me, throw me behind bars. It was worth it.

The kitten is experiencing, at four months of age, her first summer heat. She stretches herself out long and flat on the cool bathroom tiles and stares at me glaze-eyed: patient suffering. O, youth! Suffer! Suffer!

There's been a dearth of play in kitten-land this week; summer, although close to its end, is finally fully present and in fully-fledged feather.

Everywhere outside the air is suffused with late-summer fragrance: wilting rose, dried-up mint, hardy lavender, woolly thyme. I want these days to go on and on.


I've been pondering my darker sides, in the absence now of what I've always felt to be a censoring audience, now gone and gone for good. This is the freedom that death grants us: orphaned to our own means, the voice begins to tune its own tenor. There exists still a new song with a yet uncharted melody, a yet unwritten harmony. And while it may not delight in terms of "niceness" (but then, again, who can say?), it will tap into a deeper and more concise truth. This, I venture to say, is the path I've long sought as a writer. And although all may be mere hubris, the song feels imminent.

Two new poems this week -- one dealing with the ravages of grief; the other confronting the abuses of power in the soul laid bare, the self one risks in sexual intimacy. Nice? Nope.

In a poetry workshop years back led by Sam Hamill of Copper Canyon Press, I remember that he said this: the poem that scares you the most is the one that you must write.

These poems scare the shit out of me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five Sisters, 13 Suggestions and STILL NO LUNCH.

One of my (many) sisters will be in town the first weekend in September, and four of the other sisters and I have been trying to organize lunch out with as many of the sisters as possible, in the same place and at the same time. This has proven to be a particularly challenging task.

A few days ago, I sent out the following email:

Thought I'd throw an idea out there
for getting about we meet for Chinese food at Sichuanese Cuisine,
at 12th and Jackson in Seattle, 12:30 or so?
Open to other ideas also.

And here are the responses (edited slightly), in the order that they arrived:

Hi Sisters, I would prefer eating somewhere else, but thanks T, for initiating the proposed get-together. Although the prospect of ordering Ant on Tree is quite tempting, I'm still a bit gun shy about going back there. The last (and only) time I dined there, I was not well the next day. Enough said. So my suggestion is that since M. is still recovering from surgery, why not give her a break with the driving and eat somewhere on Bainbridge Island? There are several restaurants within close proximity to the ferry dock in Eagle Harbor, ie, Doc's Marina grill, Harbour Public House, and depending on the ferry schedule for those coming over from Seattle, we could still meet around 12:30 or so. --L.

Okay. That's the extent of my planning. M.? Ideas? --T.

There's also Green Leaf Vietnamese restaurant, on 8th Ave S in the international district and Pyramid Ale House on 1st in SODO. --L.

I love the idea of ethic Chinese in the International District! It's not an issue at all for me to hop onto the Bainbridge/Seattle ferry and meet up with all of you over on the Seattle side. Perhaps Shanghai Garden would be suitable? I'm up for other suggestions, hopefully with good parking available. --M.

Check out this place, at Tofu Hunter's blog: Seven Stars Pepper. --T.

Checked out the tofu hunter blog....looks delicious and I am sure it is to most but I cannot eat soy, msg and most oils. Do they have a good old American salad sans dressing? I find that always works for me when I am out. Meeting halfway sounds great. --A.

Why don't we just meet somewhere around Southcenter? Heck, the food court AT southcenter would be fine with me. Everyone just orders from wherever and we eat in the middle. Or Zoopa's. There's something for everyone at Zoopa's. Bottom line: where we eat is secondary to visiting, but there have to be food choices that work for all of us. --L.

How about a delicious lunch at Spiro's Greek Restaurant in Kent? It is located in the old downtown area, not at the new mall, which is at the north end of town. The food is really yummy and A. could order a green salad with or without a lovely dressing, to her liking, I'm sure. I would much prefer eating here to the food court at Southcenter. I have eaten at Spiro's a number of times and have not been disappointed. --M.

M., you are the one who would need to come from afar so what is it you need to do considering your knee and all? I know you mentioned Kent so you must be doing really well. Maybe we need to pick the area and then the restaurant. We are blessed to live in an area where there are so many choices. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone. All six of that will be an accomplishment. This e-mailing back and forth has been fun. Oh, and there are numerous sit-down restaurants at Southcenter with fabulous menus beyond the food court. BJ's is one. Spiros might be good because once the lunch crowd has left they probably wouldn't care if we stayed for hours. So ladies, any more suggestions? --A.

Hi - Would anyone be interested in coming down to my place that day for a potluck luncheon? Everyone could bring a favorite dish, excluding P. She could set the table. I'd provide the drinks, some bread or rolls plus the dessert, as well as free parking, outside dining and male entertainment. That would be (the husband) doing the daily sudoku. Oh and T, could we maybe use your i-phone to skype K. since she'll be out of town? K., will you be somewhere with reception? Ant takers? --L.

I have been driving for a couple of weeks, mostly just around here....After lunch with the sisters, P. and I are headed over to Yakima, so, meeting on your side of the water makes sense for me. I vote for an early lunch, around 11:30. That would allow us time for a nice visit before P. and I head out. By the way, I will be taking the ferry to Seattle rather than driving around....

I made a reservation for the five of us at Caesar's Palace in Vegas.
For those of us that can stay later, I plan on catching the Rod Stewart show.
K., it's not too late for you to join us.
See you on the plane. ( Southwest.)
Cheers. --T.

Sounds awesome and just as well since our male entertainer has ditched the sister luncheon engagement in lieu of a backhoe and 12 yards of fill for our sinkhole out front, and my previous offer of food, free parking and outside dining rapidly deteriorated in no time flat! Vegas, here we come! --L.


(I was joking about Vegas.)
(And I might be busy that day.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011


My new toy, on loan from my old friend Pam who is relocating to south of the border. I've wanted to learn the concertina for ages and couldn't be more delighted. Unfortunately, it's sat in its black case for the past 6 weeks while things settled down enough chez-moi for me to attend to its confounding keys.

Tonight I sat on Pam's porch -- our hottest day so far this summer, 85 degrees -- and learned the key of C. Oh lovely notes!

Now it's practice practice practice. My goal is to be proficient enough by next summer to sit on my balcony and not irritate the hell out of any neighbors. I have in my possession my dad's O'Neill's Music of Ireland (sheet music) and can't wait to dig into its eighty-year-old pages....

Friday, August 19, 2011

High Summer

Stepped out my back gate this afternoon to thickets of Himalayan blackberry vines, hot and spider-webbed. I think the spiders are nearly ripe. Certainly the berries are, abundant this year for all the rain, high in sugars for all this recent sun.

There are few things more glorious than an August afternoon in Seattle.

My old cat Tip -- sixteen years plus -- followed me to the alley and plunked himself down in the midday sun. He's getting to that straggly-old-man-cat stage, at times more cranky than his usual cheerful self. He's a big guy still, but drinking water excessively which points to deteriorating kidneys. He might have another year in him, might not.

He strayed into my house (full-grown) the night of my 40th birthday party, an uninvited guest, and decided it wasn't a bad place to spend a life. His patience and sense of humor have sustained my boys and me all these years, and we'll miss him when he's gone.

When my boys were young, and in a quandary over how to react to this situation or that, my advice was often, "Be like Tip": chill, think about it, laugh a little, practice good cheer, have a little catnip. (Well, not the catnip part.) Hard to go wrong with those attributes.

The bowl of blackberries on my kitchen counter will go well with my son's homemade, fresh coconut ice cream. It's dinner party time again -- seven of us tonight for Margaritas, carne asada, pico de gallo, etc.

These August days are golden.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roast Lamb

On a honeymoon in France in 1983, I was responsible -- with my five years of French language schooling -- for asking for a hotel room on our spontaneous jaunt through the countryside. My skills were such that I could say nearly anything (except a joke, which was a challenge ) and understand nothing, while Mark, my new husband with his one year of French language schooling, could say nearly nothing and understand just about everything. There ensued, in every new town, a hilarious three-way conversation where the hotel clerk expected "The Husband" the do all the talking. There was always a double-take when I began the conversation, a quick swivel of the head, and then a second double-take when Mark had to translate for me.

But my favorite tale from that three week lune de miel came one night when Mark, ever-mischievous, picked up a menu at dinner and said,

"Ah....Gidget of Agnew! I think I'll order that."

He knew damn well how to pronounce Gigot d'Agneau (jee-joh dahn-yo) [roast lamb] but never missed a chance to be hilarious.

Gidget of Agnew it was.

From then on, at random moments in our twenty years of marriage, he'd manage to sneak the words Gigot d'Agneau into our private conversations. Of course it had the effect of making me fall off my chair with laughter, and bring an end to any serious point in the conversation.

Bottom line: there were few serious conversations.

Now, all these years later and Mark long scattered -- ashes to ashes, dust to dust -- in Thornton Creek -- there exists the Gidget of Agnew Club.

I'm the president.

Members include one dead husband, one nearly-divorced husband (who expressed only disinterest when I informed him of his membership status), a son, a sister, a college friend (who remains yet to be informed of her membership) and a former employer. The only requirement is that you travel somewhere with only me.

I was reminded last night that my sister and my son (that would be the aunt-nephew relationship) periodically have secret luncheon meetings! In Chinese restaurants! In Seattle! And I've never been invited!

Remind me to put this on the agenda at the next General Board Meeting. (That is, if we ever have a General Board Meeting.)

And while you're at it, pass the lamb.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm not making this up....

Tara, an old friend blogging at Out of the Lotus commented,

I have read that the hummingbird is a symbol of resurrection, T. Try that one on for size.

So during lunch today I googled "hummingbird resurrection" on my iPhone, and happened upon this marvelous piece from the NYTimes by Diane Ackerman, who writes,

" American Indian myths and legends, hummingbirds are often depicted as resurrection birds, which seem to die and be reborn on another day or in another season."

Well then.

And a little further on,

"While most birds are busy singing a small operetta of who and what and where, hummingbirds are virtually mute. Such small voices don't carry far, so they don't bother much with song."

Why was I so lucky to hear that tiny rattly trill?

Fast forward:

I left work early to get ready for sis-in-law-Shelley's memorial, and while the iron was heating up (so I could press those insistent wrinkles from a linen dress), I charged down to the basement where most of my books still lie packed in boxes, looking for Making Certain It Goes On, The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo, looking for a poem to read in Shelley's memory.

She and I shared a passion for poetry, and when I married her brother Mark, back in the last millennium, she read The Trout, by Hugo, at the ceremony -- an odd choice, which still perplexes me. We gave her full rein to choose something to read, and for some reason never asked why she chose that particular poem. Who knows? I'll never know now. (It doesn't matter now.)

But I veered here somehow, somewhere, from a funeral to a wedding....

Back to business: I had about four minutes to find the book I desired, and was thanking myself for organizing this stuff last week when I went in search of my jewelry (found!). BUT NO RICHARD HUGO. Rats!

Lots of small press stuff, lots of Floating Bridge Press stuff, lots of Copper Canyon Press stuff.....lots of poetry, but not what I was looking for. Running short on time, I grabbed Raymond Carver's A New Path to the Waterfall -- his last book, published posthumously, in 1989. Ran up two flights of stairs, ironed my dress, combed my hair and sat down on the bed, for, what? Ten seconds? And the book opened to this poem (which I ended up reading at the memorial):

for Tess

Suppose I say summer,
write the word "hummingbird,"
put it in an envelope,
take it down the hill
to the box. When you open
my letter you will recall
those days, and how much,
just how much, I love you.


Is there anything else to say here?
Well, yes there is.

In the midst of writing this blog piece, my email dinged, indicating some new mail. From my friend Cz., with a link about -- yes -- hummingbirds, including these words:

In many traditional cultures of the western world the hummingbird has powerful religious and spiritual significance. In the high Andes of South America, for example, the hummingbird is taken to be a symbol of resurrection. This is because each hummer becomes lifeless and seems to die on cold nights, but it comes back to life again when the miraculous sunrise brings warmth.

I'm gobsmacked.
And on the lookout for that sunrise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Connecting Dots

More evidence of strange things afoot:

I was checking my email, and the subject line on one was "Mortality".

The email directly above it was from the public library, informing me that a book was in that I'd reserved ages ago, one that Shelley (my sister-in-law, whose funeral is tomorrow) had recommended to me.

The title: "Disappearances".

And my Astrodienst horror-scope short-term forecast, from last April:

Valid during many months: This influence signifies encounters that cause various aspects of your life to be transformed. Most commonly, this transformation will take the form of disappearances of persons, circumstances or even possessions that you have become used to.


And then there's that hummingbird, seemingly always present....

I was sitting outside today eating lunch under the hibiscus, and directly above my head heard an odd trilling song, one I'd not heard before. Without looking, without really knowing, something in me knew -- knew for certain -- that it was a hummingbird.

I sat very still, not wanting to disturb it. In slow motion I unwound myself from my chair so as to look backwards and up, and sure enough, about three feet above me, was a hummingbird perched on a limb, singing its tiny heart out.

My steps seem to be trailed by hummingbirds: they hover and bathe in the spray from the hose, buzz my noontime dining, attend to my outdoor suppers on the deck, in and out of tendrils of kiwi vines, of grapes vines.

They snatch insects mid-flight, gather nectar from crocosmia. I've never seen so many in a single summer. I have not planted anything to particularly attract them, and I'm no more attentive than I've ever been.

But still.

They're present in full-on iridescence, with a song that I couldn't hear until today, in a language I don't yet understand, but singing nonetheless.

I'm listening.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Mortality

We are contagious.
We will sneeze on you,

spit on you, breathe on you.
Shake hands with you, exchange

fluids with you, be where you will be,
touch what you will touch.

We will give you scabies, warts,
chicken pox, measles, hookworms,

hepatitis, meningitis, mononucleosis,
influenza, ebola, gonorrhea.

We come with pathogens, cankers,
seizures, parasites, germs, fungi,

infections, plagues, microbes,
epidemics & pandemics.

You wear latex gloves against us,
mask your faces from us, antibacterialize us,

quarantine us, burn us.
Yet still we weep, we deposit, we exhale.

We push buttons, hold railings, suck
our thumbs, wipe our eyes, pick our teeth.

We lie down upon, we touch,
We are intimate. We love.

You will contract, come down with,
sicken, show symptoms of, begin to itch,

to seep, to bleed. Be afflicted with,
fall victim to, develop, succumb to.

We are the last gasp, the final touch,
the ticking second.

We are you.

© T.Clear 2011


More Tuesday poems can be found here.

Friday, August 12, 2011


In my dealings with the behemoth that services my home loan, it was officially decided by them that I don't actually live in my house, therefore they will not modify my loan.

I don't even know how to respond to this.

My forehead is bloodied from banging up against the foundations of the powers-that-be, and now for them to proclaim something so entirely absurd is beyond all logic.

Certainly other, more interesting truths can be brought to light which may further convince them to deny my request for modification, such as:
1. a red door
2. the presence of a poet on the premises
3. horse statue collection in basement
4. absence of Kraft cheese products
5. buttercups
6. too many books
7. etc.

But to state outright that I don't live here?!

If there is an explanation to this fuckery, I'd like to hear it.

If not, then the revolution starts here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some Lines From Raymond Carver

"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth. "

"Dreams, you know, are what you wake up from."

"I've crossed some kind of invisible line. I feel as if I've come to a place I never thought I'd have to come to. And I don't know how I got here. It's a strange place. It's a place where a little harmless dreaming and then some sleepy, early-morning talk has led me into considerations of death and annihilation."

"Honey, no offense, but sometimes I think I could shoot you and watch you kick."

"there isn't enough of anything
as long as we live. But at intervals
a sweetness appears and, given a chance
prevails. "

"But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window--maybe rearrange all the furniture."

"Booze takes a lot of time and effort if you're going to do a good job with it."


(I always come to RC when the depths are unfathomly deep. He gives a shape to, gives definition to that which is unshapeable, undefinable.)
From a letter to a friend:

Most days, now, I feel pretty good. I’m happy being back in my old neighborhood where so many of my friends still live. This urban ‘hood is humming with life, and I am sustained by the pulse of the universe it contains, and the genuine human friendliness of everyone I meet – both friend and stranger. What a gift that is.

But then, out of nowhere, that immense grief comes and knocks me down, and I have to sit with it for a while, let it do its time. I hate it.


Clenched, anxious, waiting on courts and banks and funeral homes.


On another note, I had to reroute my pumpkin vines around the fire pit. They seemed inclined to grow directly into-and-over it. Bad pumpkins! Urban gardening, by the square-inch.

And hundreds of tomato blossoms, a dozen or so actual fruits. Sun, wherefore art thou?

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Chorus of Angels

For Marie from Achill Island, who wondered what to say at her friend's funeral, and, like me, had a moment of sudden music while driving, inspiring her to begin the process of contemplation --

For Marjorie in Oregon, who told her husband to "read T.'s blog", who responded "Puccini speaks to many of us. You should ask if she has heard Mirella Freni do the honors":

For Rosanne in Seattle, who said "I had a similar experience of music appearing out of nowhere at a monastery in France. Gregorian Chants out of thin air. I looked all over for the source and found none...." (Perhaps this odd little video answers her query):

And finally, for Cz., also in Seattle, my soul-sister, who wrote, "my wall post, but with you in mind, too. We have indeed been rearranged, it seems" --

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Life unfolds and unfolds, an intricately designed envelope viewed ad infinitum in a mirror....

This morning I got up at the crack of seven, drove onto an early ferry to Port Townsend to meet up with some friends for coffee, then continued on to my poetry group, which meets once a year in PT. Typical August cloudcover, hoping for a burn-off before afternoon.

I'd just arrived at the nestled-in-the-woods home of K. and G, was admiring their art collection, when my phone rang. A call from my son. His aunt, my sister-in-law, had suddenly passed away. (My late husband's sister. The daughter of my mother-in-law whose memorial we attended just ten days ago.)

She's suffered compromised health for a number of years, but had been doing well these past six months -- in fact, she took responsibility for much of the care-taking of her dying mother, and just this past week, attended to her father, who suffered a stroke on Monday. Details are sketchy, owing to the stroke-impaired speech of her dad, but it was sudden, and I'm guessing it was heart-related. A broken heart, in more ways than one.

So I got back into my car and drove the two hours back to town, picked up my son, and headed out to the house.

But something extraordinary happened as I left Port Townsend:

As I was passing through a favorite valley (site of the Betty MacDonald The Egg and I books), my earphones from my iPhone were on, and I'd just finished a conversation perhaps five minutes prior. There was silence in the car, no radio, no CD -- just the hum of the engine and my own very noisy racing brain.

Suddenly my head filled with a Puccini aria -- this one --

I nearly drove off the road.
I hadn't switched on my iPod, hadn't put in a CD, hadn't turned on the radio. All was silent until -- PUCCINI!! --

Maybe it was a random glitch in the world of technological wonders -- I don't know. What I do know is that the first time I heard that aria was when my mother-in-law, fifteen years ago, gave me an aria CD, and I fell in love with Un Bel Di, Vedremo.

One fine day, we will see....

The music was coming from my iPhone, on its own.

I don't know -- maybe I accidentally pushed the iPod icon, looked up Madame Butterfly, pushed "play" -- but I don't think that I did. My hands were on the wheel, my car was humming forward in my quest to get back to Seattle.

I did do one thing, though: I turned the volume completely up.

And in those few minutes, as I listened to this exquisite piece of music, I felt alternately saddened beyond despair and euphoric with joy.

Angels, afterlife, benevolent spirits, pixies, sprites -- any name will do. The message was clear: you are alive, this is one fine day, so take in this moment, savor it, breathe it in, and it will be okay.

When it finished, I pulled the earbuds out, drove for a long time in silence.

The sun had burned through the remnants of clouds, the Douglas firs on each hillside to left and right were brilliantly green, the meadows rich with summer grass.

The universe had sent me a message, had burned through the ruins & rubble in my head, told me to stand up and take notice -- and I listened.


It's late now, approaching midnight, and there are rumors of solar flares, of visible Northern Lights in the night sky. There are two lanterns lit on my porch, and the noise from parties down the alley has waned, the traffic eased.

It's been a helluva hard day, hard month, hard year. And shit happens, to every one of us, no matter what, no matter who. My favorite adage: None of us will get out of here alive.

Yet as I turn my eyes towards this cloudless, starry sky, I know, I know -- in every cell -- that no matter what it is that life throws at us, there remains the possibility for love, for magic, for, indeed, one fine day.

And yes, we will see.

Shelley Anderson
March 31, 1958-August 6, 2011

(And please, tell someone you love that you love them.
And be kind to someone you don't love.
And do it again.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Life That Is Waiting For Me

I've been remiss, and here is my apology.

Back in early May -- in a limbo between lives, living in a friend's vacant apartment -- I was invited to a wine-pairing dinner hosted by the fabulous Catherine Reynolds of Queso y Vino.

(Read the story of her heroic recovery from a brain aneurism here). I met Catherine when she was the wine buyer at Spanish Table in Seattle, and in conversation discovered our common interest in poetry and wine, and the friendship blossomed.

But back to the story: while updating my new circumstances in an email, Catherine invited me to her latest event, as her guest, if I would blog about it. At that time I was literally still shaking from the dumping out of my life into the middle of the freeway, gasping and bewildered, barely able to carry on a coherent conversation about anything. Without giving it much thought, I accepted.

Not such a good idea -- I'd just discovered that the tabs on the car I was using -- owned by my estranged husband -- were five years expired. (Yes -- five years. I'd only been using it a few months, when I lent my car to my son after his engine went out, and this car was sitting unused in my husband's driveway.) So I had to borrow a car, and venture far from my current comfort zone (which encompassed about one square mile -- I panicked when I went any further), and eat dinner with a group of strangers.


And to make things even more complicated, the restaurant was/is located in Renton, my hometown, which I prefer to avoid. A known entity, but much disliked.

Situated in a new development on the former site of the Shuffleton Steam Plant and beside the former industrial complex of my youth (Boeing, which has long since relocated) the recently-opened Peyrassol is a lovely, European-inspired cafe just steps from Lake Washington and the expansive Gene Coulon Park.

Catherine regularly hosts wine-pairing dinners at Seattle-area restaurants, and for a fixed price, one can enjoy a multi-course dinner with generous pours of at least five different wines, plus, all the wines are available for purchase by the bottle. I've enjoyed previous dinners at Gaudi, Art of the Table, and a Mexican-themed dinner held at a winery in Woodinville.

This particular dinner was Italian-themed:
Bigne Salata -- savory Italian gougere
Involtini di Coppa -- locally cured coppa rolled with shaved mushrooms, arugula & parmigiana, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil
Sformato de Erbe con Fonduta al Tartufo -- flan of wild greens served with white truffle fonduta

Pappardelle con Ragu di Fagiano -- hand cut ribbon pasta tossed with a pheasant ragu of porcini, white wine, tomato & sage

Bistec al Pepe Verde -- pan seared steak with green peppercorn salsa
Semifreddo de Arancia con Crema de Miele -- orange semifreddo served with a honey creme Anglaise, layered with amaretti, orange curd and whipped cream

And then the wines:

Castelle Carboncine Prosecco
2009 Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano "Vigna a Salatio"
2009 Castello Carboncine Cabernet Franc
2008 Casa Emma Chianti Classico
La Fiera Moscato d'Asti

Be still my heart! Delighted tongue!

This is clearly not the Renton of my youth, where dinner out was either pizza at Vinces or almond-fried chicken at the single Chinese restaurant (whose name escapes me) or a badly fried steak at the dive Rubatino's. My childhood was a Renton of horse pastures and post WWII project housing, just this side of White Trash.

All I could think of, on my way home, was "Damn. Renton is all growed-up."

I managed to make it through a three-hour conversation with strangers -- not my forte even in the best of circumstances. But the menu, the wine list, and my guilt at not immediately blogging about this have stared me in the face for three months, until today.

Catherine provided the wine for my mother-in-law's memorial last week, and last night I drove to her house to pay her. Her home office is lined with shelves of poetry, and amid the expected bustle of a home-based business (much like the bustle of the home-based business that employs me) and the glorious scent of curry, there was on her wall the same E.M.Forster quote that has become my mantra these past four months:

"We must be willing to give up the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

(If you look up to the right hand corner of my blog, it appears directly above my picture.)

A delighted chill ran up my back -- I keep seeing this -- on facebook, in my reading online and in books and magazines. It seems to be everywhere, and pointing at me.

Catherine sent me home with a sackful of leftovers from a weekend party that she and her fabulous-cook husband hosted: curried crab legs, banana curry, and a watermelon/golden-raisin salad. My son and I feasted last night on Catherine's generosity -- and enjoyed refreshing sips of Tour de Poce Sauvignon Blanc, a perfect summer wine -- available from Catherine. And yes, she delivers. (Free with $150 order, in the Seattle area.) Thank-you, Catherine! And apologies for the delay in blogging about the Peyrassol dinner!

If this is the life that is waiting for me, then I feel as if I have just found the door.

And it's wide open.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"But no, I was out for stars...."

Coming back to life, albeit extremely slowly, after the equivalent of four fifty-hour work weeks in July, most of it the last week. Besides work, there was the catering for my mother-in-law's memorial to coordinate, cookie platters to bake, decorate & assemble; a eulogy to present at the memorial, a paperwork nightmare with Bank of A. in an effort to make my house payments sane, a divorce to endure, one five-hour visit to the ER (to the tune of $20k), a booth at a weekend arts & crafts fair to staff, and my neighbor's garden to water while she's off tending her late father's estate.

That last bit, the watering, has actually been more a respite than a chore, but tricky to fit in considering the unpredictability of the sun here plus my schedule. But there have been raspberries tucked away between flowers, and the occasional tiny strawberry. Her garden is a joy, abundant with perennials, and there are generally at least two cats present for company.

At this hour, just past sunset, I sit on my balcony, in view of Lake Washington and the Cascade foothills and, if I stand on tiptoe, the Olympic Mountains as well.

A tent hangs airing from a neighbor's cherry tree.

A kayak sits upended two doors down, on saw-horses.

Through someone's open window, I can hear a small group singing "Happy Birthday".

There's an unfinished fence project across the alley and, somewhere close, someone is grilling beef.

Out front, a couple of dads throw balls to children, the air alive with their laughter. The new rabbi's house is quiet.

My back gate swings wide, worn past latching, open to all the world.

Come in.

(Somewhere in a box is the sheet music for this that my sister L. "borrowed" from girls glee in tenth grade. It's a Robert Frost poem set to music -- we'd sing it and play the piano -- always on a summer evening much like tonight)....

Come In

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.

--Bob Frost