Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dating by Committee

I got a text today at work today from someone not in my phone book, so no name appeared. It puzzled me, so I read it out loud to the five of us, and Melinda said,

"I know what it means! I know who it's from!"

Well.

It was from a man with whom I had a date, about three weeks ago, who offered to make a connection with a friend of a friend about a job possibility for my son. How was it that Melinda made this connection, but not me? Lord knows. There's a lot fidgeting around up there in the brain.

But anyway. I sent back a friendly thank-you, and got back to painting.

And then....ding. Another text:

How are you doing?

Of course, everyone wanted to know what it said, so I read it out loud.

"What should I say?" Not certain if I want this to go forward, in the romance department, I put it out the the assembled masses. And there ensued a hubbub of advice, from an assortment of people ranging in age from 26 to 60....

Don't answer right away!
Make him wait!
Answer right away!
Don't make him wait!
Give it 30 minutes.
Just say you're fine, and leave it at that.
You don't want to appear eager.
(I'm not sure I wanted to appear anything at all.)
Don't be chomping at the bit!

And on it went, a cacophony, a rabble, a hilarious noise and banter about being coy,  of timing.

I listened.
It continued.

Finally I responded.
He responded.
The end.

(I should mention that this is a common occurrence here on the job — these group advice consults — as two of us are single. Can't imagine what any of these prospective dates would think if they knew what goes on behind the scenes of their communications. Tee hee.)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Eve Begat Raspberries.....

The guy at the cable store today had a tattooed wedding band with the name "Eve" in blue ink around his ring finger. I exclaimed at this — in the middle of trading in my old non-functioning cable TV gear for new fancy shiny boxes (and believe it or not I was excited about the fact that after three years of no TV I was going to be getting the most basic of all cable TV possibilities) — and I said,

"What if you get divorced?"
And he said, "We did."
"Really?"
"Yeah. No regrets. I'd have a bigger problem if I had a tattoo with a misspelling. Anyway, what have you been doing for the past three years without TV?"

How to answer this? I mean, first of all, the notion of a wedding band tattooed onto one's finger — there was no way I could respond to this. And the issue of no TV? How could I explain that the only thing I missed was Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy? A few random advertisements? And that it took me three years to get to the point of missing them? How could I say to a stranger that I've spent this time engaged in frenzied writing, in deep and entrenched periods of thought and processing? I couldn't explain. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I mumbled something, of little consequence. For the most part I've eschewed TV, not wanted TV, not needed TV. But now, there's a tiny part of me that wants to be part of some larger group activity, part of the group of us boomers that sits down at 7pm (on the west coast) and watches Pat Sajak (who makes $8,000,000 a year)  and Vanna White talk about inane things and spin wheels and witness people buying vowels. Can I buy a vowel? I've always been fond of "o". I want to buy an "o".

So anyway.

I didn't say any of this to the Eve-tattooed man, just took my shrink-wrapped modem-thing-a-ma-jiggie and new remote control device and high-tailed it outta there, excited for wheels containing fortunes. Not my fortunes, mind you.

But there are other paths to gold, and mine, today, took the form of raspberries, at 99 cents a cup, at the fruit stand. Not local, and most unseasonal, but damn good and ripe and perfect.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Foggage

The Point at Seward Park

At Water's Edge














Sunset at Sayres Park
























The day began lost in fog, ended in pale pink streaks across a cold sky.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Noise, Oranges

Driving through the International District today was surprisingly easy, despite the mobs of people packed into Century Link Field for the Seahawks game. My timing was mid-game, so the streets were easily negotiable, even on this Sunday before Christmas.

I've been inside the stadium for football games, and the noise is tremendous, numbing, deafening. Today I stood in the parking lot at Uwajimaya (an Asian market), practically a stone's throw from the game, and the sound of 67,000 fans cheering was spooky, ghostly, traveling in waves that rose in tone and intensity then just as quickly died down.

A foggy mist sat heavy on the city, and everything dripped. A vendor sold hot chestnuts from a cheery red umbrella'd cart by the store entrance. In my bag were a few Japanese mandarin oranges, the kind with the green stems and leaves still attached, and a few blood oranges — seasonal splurges. The price of food is high these days.

I looked up the price of tickets available for the next Sunday's Seahawks game: starting at $170, for a single ticket. The maximum monthly alottment for a person receiving food stamps in this city is $189 a month.

I don't think I can say anything more.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Things being where they are....

When my poetry group met at my house this week, my friend Anne looked up at the ceiling at my Christmas branch, ornamentally laden.....

.














 ...and down to the wall where the tiny plastic nativity set is lined up on top of a picture frame (inside the frame is a stencil pattern for a hand-printed Japanese kimono fabric, which I purchased in Paris for my ex-husband for his birthday, who gave it back to me [I didn't ask for it] when he severed the relationship).....













.....and then she proclaimed, "Nothing is where it should be!"

Kind of the story of my life.

Tra la.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why We Write

I had a conversation yesterday with a woman who just finished a novel and is doing the publisher search. I'm fascinated by why people write, and lately have been asking this of writer friends. The answer is generally something like this: It's what I do.

Seems it's as simple as that: it's what I do.

I said to her, You mean, like breathing? 
She said, Yes, that's it.

On one hand, I envy her a little. She's shopping a novel around, and there's always the (remote) promise of payment. Poets don't possess that illusion. But still we do it, day after day, hours at the keyboard or notepad, typing, scribbling.

And for what?

It allows me to breathe, this daily practice.

It's what I do.

Writer friends, any thoughts on this?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

And lo, a branch —

On a ladder, tangled in my hazelnut tree with a Japanese saw in one hand (and I was wearing a skirt) and the grave of a cat below me: a pair of hummingbirds visited, swirled about me, swooped and dived and performed winter acrobatics while I reached high up and cut a single branch, which caught in the twig jumble. Stuck. I climbed higher on the ladder so as to get some leverage, pushed the damn thing down into the neighbor's yard. I retrieved it, opening the neighbor's eight-foot-long gate which felt as if it hadn't been opened in many years. Dragged the branch up the alley and into my yard, up on the deck and in to the kitchen where the cats scattered, spooked.

And the hummingbirds? Sipping deeply of sugar-water nectar from the glass feeder hung on a hook above the dead sunflowers. (The chicadees and Oregon juncos sounded alarms when one of their branches fell. Clearly they were distressed!)

There's a hazelnut branch hanging from my living room ceiling now, strung with white lights. It was more work than a tree, involved yet more ladder-climbing, a trip to the hardware store, a drill, anchor bolts, 19 gauge wire, plyers, cursing.

I am a reluctant handyperson.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fir

A wee visual posting of seasonal nature —
green sprig with red tips,
the sparkle of a snowflake
ever-so-delicate
that caught the light
at the right angle —

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cracking the Shell

"Whereas our direct experience of nature is limited, science has enabled us to become aware of the vastness of the world outside us. A colleague's metaphor has us like an embryonic chick, consuming the stored food inside the egg until it is all gone and the world seems to be at an end. But the shell is cracked open and the chick emerges into a new, vastly greater (and more interesting) world." From Quantum Physics for Poets, Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill.

My newest labor, this book, and after several weeks I'm on all of page 46. Granted, I only read it before I fall to sleep, so it's a few pages read (and reread) at a time. I think it'll go on my Christmas list; don't know how many times I can renew it at the library!

But consider this: what if all of us, together on this planet, are embryonic chicks, consuming all that there is to consume, until there is no more, and then, what? Will we reach the point of no return, our own event horizon?  Will we emerge into "a new, vastly greater world"?

This is what I'll ponder tonight, where on my side of the planet the temperature has warmed up to 41 degrees fahrenheit, (up from 18 a few days ago) and I'm basking in the relative balminess of it all.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ends and Odds

I'm thinking of a Christmas branch this year, maybe from my apple tree in need of serious pruning, suspended from the ceiling of my living room, strung with white lights. Maybe. It'll take a ladder and the sawz-all, a son or two. Hung from hooks, gotta find the studs (in the ceiling).

Just don't know about spending the $$ on a tree that sheds and tilts (and sometimes tips) and demands water. The $$ would be better spent on, oh, say, meat (rather a luxury these days). (And I do love to eat meat occasionally.) Or even on some really good vodka. It's the holidaze, after all.

And when I find a publisher for my manuscript, I want this to be the cover:
Tiny Tornado, by Rachel Maxi
Reminiscent of Edward Hopper but with an urban au courant sensibility, Rachel's subject range from
the odd vehicle....
Little Ghost Van, by Rachel Maxi
...to the dumpster —
Big White Rusty, by Rachel Maxi
— to oysters, unexpected still lifes, rusty locks and plastic ponies. 

Check out more of her work here.
And if you can, write her a big fat check, get a big fat painting. Or a tiny one.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Small Step

Childhood's End Gallery in Olympia, Washington took 14 of my pieces on consignment this week, a sweet serendipitous moment in the middle of one of my work days last week. A real gallery, not a coffee shop. Dare I hold my breath?!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Smacked in the Face: Racism


















Years ago, when my sons were in elementary school, I volunteered to help with the Christmas play, and was assigned backstage duty on the night of the performance, where I mostly kept a bunch of very lovable and delightful first-and-second-grade boys hijinx-free. They called me "Miss T.", which always, of course, came out as "Misty". It was joyful duty. I loved those children, and their unconditional trust of me, a white parent among black children.

My boys were the minority at that school; we were the minority in our community. Our zip code, 98118, boasts the most ethnically diverse population in the nation. Proud to boast! (Although I suspect that, due to rapid gentrification, this will not be the case in ten years or so.)

And although the student body tended to be a bit rough, I'm glad my sons spent their first years at a school where their white skin tone granted them no favors.  As Reilly's first grade teacher said to me once, when he was experiencing a run of bullying, "I know you feel like you're throwing your son to the wolves when you drop him off at school every day, but this is the real world." This, from a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed first grade teacher who looked like a human version of Bambi's mother.

A harsh real world, but indeed the real world.

Months after that Christmas play, I was sitting in the bleachers at a little league game on a balmy Saturday morning, when one of my backstage first-graders came running up to me shouting "Miss T.! Miss T.!" He charged into my lap, hugging me and laughing, nearly knocking me off the bench in the process. What complete delight!

Until his mother caught up with him, yanked him up and away by his arm, shouting: "DON'T YOU TOUCH THAT WHITE WOMAN! DON'T YOU DARE! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!" The boy tried to explain, and she slapped him and dragged him away as he burst into tears.

Believe me, it wasn't that she was worried that her son was "touching" a white woman. It was more that I was poison, garbage, worthless. Her glare might have withered someone with a disposition more delicate than mine. All it did was sadden me, mightily. Devastated me, really, that the lesson her effervescently joyful child was receiving was that the white woman sitting on the bleachers was someone to be reviled.

Here was racism smacking me in the face.

That single incident changed me, really. At that moment, I understood, deeply,  what racism meant, on my very small and, albeit, insignificant scale. I was judged by my skin color, period.

I want to believe that the child grew up to be a young man with an open and generous heart, with perhaps some memory of his early grade school years when a woman with pink skin, or green skin, or purple skin, maybe, kept him and his friends in good-natured line at a Christmas play at Whitworth Elementary School in Seattle. That we giggled quietly and waited for the right cues, backstage, where in the darkened light, we were all the same color.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What if —

I'm reading a book titled Quantum Physics for Poets, and I'm able to get through about two pages an evening. Read. Reread. And read again.

It got me thinking today about this:

What if we reached a point in our discoveries about the universe where we had learned all there was to learn, and there was nothing left to discover, to reasearch, except the present, which quickly becomes the past. What would this do to our sense of expectation, as humans? Our predilection for hope? Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun, advocates banishing hope from our consciousness, in order to embrace, and be content with, the present, and to live more fully with what we have instead of extending our desires into the future, and basing a future happiness, if you will, on events that may never come to pass. What if this were the case?

I proposed this to co-workers today as a premise for a novel, and the young neuro-scientist painting beside me quickly vetoed the idea, even when I posed it as a sci-fi novel setting.

"That will never happen!" He insisted.
Ah. The young and the hopeful.

We sparred a few rounds, then let the notion go.

But what if, indeed?
I wish I had it in me to write a novel. I like to think that in an alternate universe, in one of the infinite universes that exists in the Multiverse Theory, that I'm already well at work on that piece of writing. (Be sure to check my blog in the other universe — I'll post updates on the progress.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Floating Holiday

We sailed across the Salish Sea, my oldest son and I, for Thanksgiving dinner, delayed by long ferry lines and fog. I worked in the morning, layering color with hog bristle brushes: sap green, perylene maroon, lamp black. A swirl of Aztec gold. A holiday means a half day of work, the rest to be made up on Saturday.  It costs a lot to live in Seattle.

Departing the dock from downtown, a slight thinning in the clouds allowed a momentary view of just the tops of a few buildings —

















Eerie, elusive, my city quickly faded from sight, and we glided silently through salty waters with nothing to mark our place on the planet. All trust given over to the boat's crew.

On land again, late afternoon, we drove the eleven miles to my sister's house through forest and rural pastureland, the fog our enduring companion as darkness settled in amongst the alders and firs.

Hours later, stuffed and sated, we reversed our journey, only this time the wait was in a queue on the side of the road in the dark, car after car compliantly lined up, each awaiting its turn, each filled with passengers much like us — trailing the scents of things mashed and salted, things heaped with cream, the diminishing essences of champagne and coffee.

Only an hour there in that darkness, every so often starting up the engine to roll ahead a dozen feet, to stop again, and wait some more.

When finally our turn came to board the ferry, we drove all the way to the front of the boat, and remained in the car, worn from the day's bustle. A crewman jacketed in reflective stripes stood at the prow, in front of the main car deck and in direct view of the bridge above and behind him, where he kept watch for channel markers, every so often signaling dramatically either left or right. I thought: there must be radar or GPS some other more sophisticated method of navigating the MV Tacoma, a Jumbo Mark II Class Ferry, which can carry 2500 passengers and up to 202 vehicles as it crosses the 202-feet-deep water between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. Again: our absolute trust. I noted the location of life preservers and then felt silly: the water was so calm I could barely even perceive that we were traveling. And how lost could we get? The distance from departure to destination was a mere 10.1 miles.

But there's something about darkness, and then the fog within the darkness, that wants to strip us of our bearings, radar or no radar. GPS be damned. Enveloped in fog and the blackness of a November night on the Salish Sea, we're all helpless, vulnerable idiots.

The fog rolled in through the open car decks, spectral, chilly. I got out once to check if there was anything more to see out in front of the boat other than what I could see from my car, but it was the same: nothing.

About when I thought that Seattle must be coming in to view, she did, faint yellow lights piercing the fog, becoming gradually brighter: the Space Needle, the giant red "E" of the Edgewater Inn, the neon lights of the giant ferris wheel (which weighs 280,300 pounds) on Pier 57: a dazzling spectacle, all of it, as it emerged from sea-level clouds.

And then something more: a flock of cormorants, apparently roused from their saltwater slumber by the boat-roiled waves, flew directly in front of us, one after another, groups of two and three, perhaps several dozen birds in all, black winged figures silhouetted against the Seattle skyline.

My son and I were both stunned into silence —

I exited the boatyard onto Yesler Way, drove a straight line three miles or so to the crest of the hill above the city center, then looped and switch-backed down steep lanes all the way to Lake Washington. Wound my way home along the unlit waterfront drive, endlessly in love with my city.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving Oddness.....

....in that this is my favorite evening of the year, Thanksgiving eve, in anticipation of my favorite day of the year where the only thing we really have to do is feast. Need there be more? No.

But then, there's this:

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills....
"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems....
“This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules....
“In this system, which tends to devour everything that stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.”
          --Pope Francis I, Apostolic Exhortation


Happy Whatever-it-is-you're-thankful-for Day, y'all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hatted Finns and a Human Orchestra

It's past midnight, and I'm looking at this....
....from the Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki, Finland. Here's the link:  Old Finnish People with Things on Their Heads.

Have you seen the Jane Campion movie Bright Star? It happened to be playing on the TV at a friend's house tonight, to my utter delight. This "human orchestra" piece (based on Mozart Serenade No. 10 in B flat major) is plucked from that movie. If you have sufficient techie skills, I recommend turning on the "human orchestra" first, then listen to it while perusing the elderly oddly hatted Finns:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ferrying, Painting —

Monday after work I went to have dinner with some family on the other side of the water, a long journey in turbulent weather, but then, I love turbulent weather. It was a drive to the light rail, then a walk, then onto the train to downtown Seattle, then more walking down to the ferry dock, then onto a boat for 35 minutes, more walking, into a car, finally arriving at my destination. Phew!

All worth it: glasses of wine and a slow-cooked chicken in tomatillo sauce, lots of laughing with my niece and sister and brother-in-law.

Then I reversed the itinerary to get home, with less turbulence but a walk through a very quiet downtown late in the evening, a little spooky. (I walk fiercely and with don't-fuck-with-me intention.)

But I must admit how much I love my city, and the patched-together transportation required to get to the other side of the Salish Sea. It's never dull, and the notion of crossing a large body of water so that I can dine with my family tickles me, really.

It's more than once I've been accused of being a romantic.

But O, this winter darkness is settling in, the last of the sun through the western windows at work today at precisely 4:26pm.

 The colors in the sky matched the colors on the glass I was painting: indigo blended into gold.

Crossing the water, painting the sunset: these small miracles of everyday.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It felt like Bach, but was only Excel.

(I hate working on Saturdays.)

We're in a race to the end of the year, galleries call daily to get status updates on their orders or to plead, plead for us to ship something, anything to them. And we're book solid, er, rather, we're overbooked/behind/working our asses off.

So it was in to the factory today, entering info onto an Excel spreadsheet — a learn-as-I-go kind of project,  learning out of necessity to get a job done that should've been done yesterday. It always amazes me just how much one can learn when one Has To. Damn. As I was tinkering with the tab key and the directional arrows and backspacing etcetera, and the power kept going on and off because there were carpenters outside rebuilding the front steps and overloading the circuits with their power tools (yay for auto-save!), it suddenly felt as if I were sitting at the piano plunking out a Bach's fugue. (Would have preferred that, actually.)


Done with that, I moved down to the studio to expose a bunch of film, alternated the requisite 8 minutes soak in a dark sinkful of hot water with peeling off the masking of already-sandblasted vessels, for a while doing one task with my left hand and another with my right, on either side of the double sink.

Still, it wasn't enough, and I could probably work a full day on Sunday too but I need a day off.

We still haven't quite recovered from July's smashing/crashing/gashing, although the gap has narrowed from six weeks to two. It'll all reconcile in about a month, but then this year for the first time since I've been here, we have reserves in January, and some orders booked through 2014. 

If you're in the area, come to the Home Holiday Sale, December 8th and 15th. (We'll do the annual transformation [aka magic] from factory to showroom, promise!)

Meanwhile, sleep is in order.






Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Magic Doesn't Exist

There's a drama going on that I am witness to that wants to take me apart and lay me out in the smallest of pieces in the middle of the highway. Without violating privacy I can say that there are very young children involved here, and homelessness, and helplessness. Few, if any, safety nets remain in this country, and I'm watching a family flounder amidst chaos, and sink. And my heart breaks.

As I watch — mostly from the sidelines — I am constantly reminded of being burned out of an apartment when I was 31, and my oldest son was not yet a year. The small family of us (three) moved in with my in-laws for a few weeks until a house turned up in an unlikely location, and is the address where I sit now and type. I didn't desire this location then. It was considered most unsavory,  even dangerous. I remember my brother not allowing his daughter — my niece — to babysit. (Ironically, now that gentrification has had its way, my 'hood is hip.)

What began in terror and fire, with my rescue of my baby from his burning bedroom, ended up becoming a beloved home and neighborhood: a life. We rented here because it was what we could afford. We purchased the house for the same reason. I happily, and gratefully, live here now because I choose to.

In my version of prayer and intention, this young (very young, and with four children under the age of four) family in distress will get their own chance at a future that will offer stability, community and a measure of abundance. Only, I can't guarantee even a micro-fraction of that. (And O, for a magic wand.)

All I can do is listen, offer advice from the sidelines, and be emotionally supportive to those who are attempting to bolster this precarious collection of vulnerable souls.

Tallying my own modest blessings this November night: shelter, food, heat, family, friends — easy to type on this keyboard, easy to make appear on a computer screen. Not necessarily so easy to conjure when you're living out of a car.
from "The Migrant Mother Sequence", Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Excavated Ants

This fairly blew my mind —

Now, if you've read this far and haven't watched the three minute and sixteen second film above, you need to STOP and go back and click on that little arrow thingy.
 
(And thank you, Claire Beynon for sending me the link!)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Like ants seeking a scent trail as the path to food, so have I all afternoon and now into well past midnight sought the scent trail to a new poem, to no avail.

Somewhere there is a sugar bowl where a caravan of ants is stealing sugar, grain by grain. Or perhaps in that bowl is my poem and the ants are marching away with the words, two by two, hurrah. Maybe I should look for an anthill, not the sugar bowl.

(Imagine each cut leaf section is a word —)
Gail Shumway/Getty Images

Friday, November 8, 2013

Still Life with Moon and Piano

Friday night and I'm at home listening to Schubert Impromptus, closing out the week with a little keyboard action to settle my jangly-janglies.


And who has seen the moon tonight, its delicious pale curve, a lemon-rind tossed star-ward?

Birthday, Melodica, Jalapeno

I took out my melodica tonight among a group of friends playing guitar and harmonica and had a go at it, my fingers tripping over the black keys and wishing I could see the keyboard, rooted as I am in the visuals of the piano. The key of E was a trial. Need to practice.

But....a little later, as I was doing my usual picking out a tune, a lament of sorts but nothing that I could name or put words to (and best done in my attic rooms on a hot summer night with cricket song filtering in from open windows), it occurred to me that I'm invoking the memory of my father on his fiddle or his harmonica, from fifty years ago, when he played old Irish tunes and never a piece of music to be seen, all played from memory, or from some instinctual place deep within him.

Just the other night I had to take my melodica apart (an easy task, really) and stuff in a pinch of fluff from my unsewn sofa cushion (handy, that) to prop up a key that had given way just the smallest bit, and would sound when I blew. Repaired, it went back to its almost un-pretty yet sufficient tone, all I need, really, to add a riff here and there with a jamming group of friends.

I want to do more of this. (The playing, not the repairing.)

A full troop of friends and family came out to look at my art tonight (despite nasty rain and wind), and most of them traipsed over to my house afterwards for Champagne and cake. (Up late last night, as the baking fool.) According to Facebook, I turned 108 today. (And all I had to do to effect that elevated status of years was to change my birth year to 1905.) (And I sold five — FIVE! — pieces.)

And you know what else I did today? I snorted jalapeno-laced pho broth up into my sinuses when a co-worker made me laugh. OWZA YOWZA. I was doubled over in both laughter and pain, not entirely certain where it would make its exit: my mouth? My nose?! I can't remember where it ended up (the garbage can? My throat?), but I do remember wondering how in hell I was going to deal with that searing burn. Holy mother-of-fuck I was ready to breathe fire. The flaming sinuses of hell, thankfully, faded to mere embers in a few minutes, but the laughter continued to erupt and spill out for the rest of the afternoon .


Can we all agree that life can be very, very good?

As Raymond Carver says in my sidebar:

"There isn't enough of anything

as long as we live. But at intervals
a sweetness appears and, given a chance
prevails. "


This sweetness — I can see it.
And, by god, it shall prevail.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stung

E. walked down to the "Village", as she likes to call Columbia City, to pick up some lunch today, and on her way back was stung by bees 4X, all on the back of one leg. She came in the back door yelling bloody-bee-murder, and I grabbed a box of baking soda and made a paste, and helped her slather it on her skin (jeans dropped to the floor!).

O gawd we were laughing amidst her fiery, swelling welts, and she didn't want to put her jeans back on (they were rather snug) so she grabbed a bathrobe from the back of the bathroom door (it's not every workspace that sports bathrobes on bathroom doors), ate her lunch standing up, then finally settled down onto a chair, most uncomfortable with bee stings on her backside.

Bee stings + baking soda + bathrobe = boundless bwah-ha-ha.

We listened to some Rimsky-Korsakov....
....but only for a short time, because E. said the music made the stings hurt even more.

And then M. came in from sandblasting and there's E. sitting at the table wearing her bathrobe.

Zany, I tell you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Opening: Thursday

The prints I've been slaving over for the past eight months are finally finished and hung — 25 of them at CaffĂ© Vita not far from my house. They look great in daylight, crappy once it's dark because, well, it's a coffee shop with olive green walls and subdued lighting: no spots. Oh well. If I should be so lucky to sell one, CaffĂ© Vita doesn't take a commission, so the $125 would be all mine.

It's a little unnerving, having ones  babies, as it were, out on public display. Am I excited? Yeah, but also not without a measure of anxiety. Shee-ite. This is all new territory for me.

Isabelle V

Betty I

Isabelle II
So if you're a local, come on down to Seward Park Thursday, from 6:30-8pm in support of yet another starving artist.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kitchen Real Estate

Fifteen years ago, my husband built a work bench in our basement — constructed to survive a world war, from the solid looks of it. I always said that it would never leave the basement. And then, I got to thinking....

I've always wanted a land-mass in my kitchen: island, peninsula, isthmus, cay, whatever. I had the space, but not the $$$. So I launched my plan to relocate the behemoth, hulking work bench to my kitchen.

At first my boys said No, Absolutely Not, Won't Fit, No No No. I was guessing that they just didn't want to do the work of disassembly and reassembly. But I persisted, and they relented, and tonight, after our Sunday dinner together, they went at it with ratchet and screw-driver and screws and wood glue and plenty of cussing.

At one point I said, You know boys, you're really getting inside your dad's head by doing this, seeing how he made things work. 

N. said, Yep, and it was one crazy head!

The best part was listening to their voices drifting up from the basement, their cajoling and man-curses, N. taking the leadership role, giving directions to his older brother, who didn't seem to mind.

I sourced tools, vacuumed bits of sawdust and mostly just stayed out of the way.

An hour and a half later, my land-mass is in place, with an oilcloth covering. I can comfortably seat ten people at it (with ten stools, none of which I own yet). And the cost? $17.99, for the oilcloth. The best deal on real estate this side of the universe.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Convoluted Poetry Politics

I've been waiting for a book contract with the press (which I won't name here) which, a year ago, requested a copy of my manuscript. Last December, I received notice that my book publication was in the 2013 budget, the 4th of four books on their production calendar. I've made announcements of sorts about this deal, mainly to friends, but lacking the contract, I was wary to make it known in the larger world.

Saturday I found out that my project had been dropped, because of the restraining order that's on file with the City of Seattle against the man who assaulted me last summer and who also destroyed $4k of inventory at my job. See, he's on the board of the press, and is very active. I don't know any other details.

And in fact, he may very well read this blog post. And if he does, he'll know that when I read the email containing this information, it felt like a punch my gut: all the air was smacked out of me. I felt betrayed, angry and nauseous. If his intent was to do the most damage to me possible while complying with the requirements of his protection order, then he was most successful. (I don't know if I'll ever know why this friend of 20 years suddenly turned enemy. It's baffling and confounding, and tests all my resolve in my effort to remain a loving and compassionate human being.)

It's a complicated situation. The Executive Director is a friend who is also a member of my writing group. She's a good person, an ethical person, and I'm guessing that she has been backed into a corner. Irony is that this press wouldn't even exist if, in 1991, I hadn't pulled together a diverse group of people to form a writing critique group — three years later, the group gave birth to the non-profit press, which has been operating in the black ever since. I was only active in the press from 1994-2002, and my only claim to it now is as a co-founder.

The man facing felony criminal charges here has been a driving force behind the press. As a grant writer and fund-raiser, his all-volunteer efforts have paid off generously. There is a lot which he can be proud of — I'm willing to give him that.

But if an organization's board member assaults a client, I believe that his resignation should be demanded. I understand that there's a lot at stake here, and it's a very complicated scenario. It's ugly, it's uncomfortable, and I really don't desire to fan these flames any more than the writing of this blog post. And I think he knows this. So, in essence, I'm backed into the corner too.

So, for the moment, no book in the works.

Bigger and better things, perhaps?
I think yes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Headline News: Poet Gets Paid to Write!

It has happened. I received actual cash $$ (well, in my Paypal account) for a piece of writing. Albeit, it's not poetry. It's a personal essay, and you can read it here.

Not quite enough money to go out on the town, but I might go out on the village, or hamlet. Or maybe I'll just go out in my back yard. Live it up right, I tell you.

Tuesday Poem: Thomas Hubbard

I highly recommend today's Tuesday Poem — a piece by a part-time-Seattle poet, Thomas Hubbard. Here's a teaser:

You eye my braid, my old car, my flute bag
in the rear window, and that expression comes
onto your pale, clean-shaven face.
 

You seem upset that I don't shuffle, step aside, 
show embarrassment about my dark skin, and
why must I have feathers in plain view?



I had the good fortune to hear Thomas read this at an open mic recently, and he graciously consented to let me record him reading it. Read the full text here.
 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fungus Amungus

This morning I went out in search of the white-speckled red-capped mushrooms that I associate with fairy sightings. A friend told me where to find them, and find them I did, but they were mostly crushed and obviously kicked about. Maybe something like this happened (and I missed it!) —
"Come, Now A Roundel" by Richard Doyle


There were a few remaining, but the color had faded. Isn't this a beauty?

Apparently, a meal of 15 of these caps will drop you into the grave.

I've had this postcard in my possession since my early 20's; I think I bought it in Germany. Hadn't given it much thought over the years, and managed to resurrect it today, finally knowing the name of the wee mushroom traveler: Mr. Amanita Muscaria. And those grandfatherly morel men — sentries!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Animalia

I was walking to work yesterday and there was a dad walking his two girls to school and one of them, probably about six years old, was r-r-r-r-rufffing like one of those yippety yappety miniature dog-things. She kept doing it: r-r-r-r-ruffing for a few steps, a few steps silent  (she'd twirl, or hop, in the between times) and then do the whole thing again. I don't think she had any idea how good an imitation she was doing, and that was a lot of the charm of it. She didn't expect applause, or praise. This was done for the joy of it — twirling and hopping and barking. Of course, I was enjoying it all terr-r-r-r-uff-ically. In the fog.

And then this, played at work today:


But not to be outdone by this:


Hmm. A barking child,
a goat yelling like a man,
a kitten mewing like a goat.

Really, now, it doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not to kick a dead horse, but.....

Funny how a realization can come out-of-the-blue, at a most odd moment, with even odder prompting....

A conversation at work today somehow wandered from hydrangeas and how they change color depending on soil acidity, to piles of oak leaves in an Arkansas forest, to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and its 10,350 cacti.

We were verbally wandering, and painting. Two of us at the long table, Debussy piano from the speakers, a flicker (woodpecker) on the feeder outside the window. Fog.

In my head I followed the map from Arkansas to the Southwest, and recalled an argument my ex-husband and I engaged in periodically, which ended in unresolved conflict.

The first time it came up, we were in Texas, visiting his family. I said, "I want to drive into West Texas. I want to see it."

I'd heard about West Texas, first in the eloquent prose of Larry McMurtry in his epic novel, Lonesome Dove, where it's depicted as vast and bleak, stretching out for what seems forever. And my ex- sometimes mentioned it, said that you wouldn't want to drive across it.

I told him that I wanted to go there.
He said, "No you don't."
I said, "Yes I do."
"There's nothing there."
"That's what I want to see, the nothingness."
"No you don't. Believe me, there's nothing there."

And so the conversation went.

He loved to bring this subject up when we were with anyone from his family, and always, they all burst out laughing. It was if they knew something that I didn't, couldn't know, and damned if they were going to tell me. I felt six years old and prim in a roomful of saddle-weary cowboys. (Even if they were all graduate and post graduate-school educated intellectuals, with nary a pony in sight.)Any argument from me went nowhere. And really, what did I know? I was a newcomer to their beloved Texas. West Texas was for cattle rustlers and Commanches, Texas Rangers and bandits. It was an unforgiving landscape, a place where you didn't want to run out of gas, no place for a moss-hearted poet from the Pacific Northwest who knew only persistent moisture and ever-present ferny foliage.

And I wanted to see it, precisely because of where I was from: a landscape gloriously hemmed-in with mountain ranges in the distance, with tree upon towering tree in the foreground. I desperately wanted to experience this other landscape,  to feel that expanse of desert-earth spread out beneath the wheels of the car, mile upon mile. The sun. The dearth of greenery. I imagined it as an opening of the heart, a letting-out of the spirit, a flying-loose of everything held close for comfort.

We never went to West Texas. And during the conversation at work today, it struck me that this conflict was at the core of our rift, the irreconcilable piece of our union, a way of looking at the world that we did not and would not ever share.

I envisioned what he called "nothingness" and saw infinite possibilities for sensory experience. He saw, well, nothing.

And the more time that passes, the potential for infinite possibilities grows exponentially, West Texas or no West Texas.

Maybe it seems an over-simplification to boil down the failure of a marriage to whether or not both parties want to experience whatever it is that one really experiences in West Texas. But sometimes a moment surges to the forefront among all other possible moments and announces: pay attention, this is important.

And today I did.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Forest in a Box


A friend of mine — a man — is in the hospital, going on day nine, after a long and complicated surgery. All week I've dithered about what to bring him. We women like to bring things to people; I'm guessing it doesn't matter so much to men. Flowers didn't seem quite right. And nothing edible, because of dietary restrictions.

And then this morning I had it: I'd bring him pieces of the woods that he loves so much.

So I ventured off this morning with a paper sack, and snipped and gathered, illegal, I'm sure, as it's city property. Law breaker! Ha.

This is what filled the box:

a big-leaf maple leaf
a vine-leaf maple leaf
sprigs or Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock
a Madrona twig
a salal leaf
an Oregon grape leaf
a mossy rock
two varieties of lichen
a fungus-robed stick

Upon opening, he immediately brought it to his face, and inhaled: forest in a box.

We were both pleased!



Friday, October 18, 2013

Out Loud, In Public....

I gave a reading of my poetry this week at a coffee shop in the city where I lived in my previous marriage, a location I've not revisited since I left over two years ago. Even though it's only 19 miles away, I've had no reason, as well as zero desire, to return. In fact, the closer I got, the more unsettled my stomach became. Oy.

To remedy that, I began my 20-minutes at the mic with this, um, shall I say, excoriation:

My Deterrent Example 

 

 "...and following the wrong god home we may miss our star." 
                                   —William Stafford 

I followed the wrong god home. 
Or was it the wrong dog? 
I panted after his wagging tail, 
dog or god — didn’t matter. 
Dumbstruck, smitten, 
led on by his trickster charms — 
All it got me was trouble 
and highbrow kibble, pricey vodka 
at the bar, vacations 
that verged on paradise, doubled 
for a time as real life. 

But it wasn’t in my nature, 
after all, to worship
either canine or divine. 
His altars and icons belonged 
to no heaven I could trust 
beyond our abbreviated marriage — 
its disillusion, its dissolution. 

O my fraudulent idol, my expired deity — 
all your coffers rattle empty now. 
Your gold is a crumpled scrap 
dumped-out at love’s dead-end — 
not home, not sweet, 
no god — you — and undeniably wrong. 

---------------

I'll say, that blew all the bad wind from my sails in a jiffy.

The rest of the reading was most uneventful.
The (small) audience was unreactive, silent, serious.

I've given many readings over the years, and when I encounter an audience like this,  I usually shorten the whole thing, skip past poems, get the damn thing done.

But Thursday night, I thought, fuck it. I'm going to ignore the silence coming from the "crowd" and just lean into my work. Pretend no one's there.

And it was actually kind of fun, leaning into the microphone, feeling the weight of my words fill the spaces in the room.

All week I've been thinking about the young woman in the video in my previous post, thinking about her confidence and self-possession — a gift to own at such a young age. And the message of her poem, the notion of women "making space" for the men in their lives, has nagged at me all week, tapped me on the back, made me pay attention and listen to the video again for its bold truth.

Somewhere, in some pile (probably in my basement) is a poem I wrote when I was in my early 30's, titled "Becoming Invisible", about this same subject. Tomorrow I might hunt for it, bring it out to the light and let it celebrate a 25th birthday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

gobsmacked

I can barely follow the path that led me to this video....

To explain: I saw this on facebook last night, posted by the daughter of a man I met in an online widows/widowers discussion group ten years ago, when I was deep in the dark ditches of grief. He was also newly widowed, and for the first six months of that journey we kept each other standing when it seemed all too easy to sink into the muck. He lived in Texas — I met him only once in person, when I was traveling with my then-boyfriend (and now ex-husband) P., in a hotel lounge in Fort Worth. Met his daughter that night too — lovely people, and we've kept in touch throughout these changing years.

The young woman in this video is the daughter of a man to whom I've been very close in the past year (but with a strong measure of turbulence), a deeply entangled friendship that has drawn me into a no-going-back full-blown love affair with quantum physics, among other things. (And none of them inconsequential.)

So: posted by daughter of Texas-friend who played a big part in keeping my head above water that first year of widowhood, and the video is of the daughter of another friend whose come-and-go presence in my life has been profoundly life-altering.

Got it? Yes?! (Not even sure if I do. Head is in a bit of a spin.)
Damn. Are you all as amazed & blown away by these times we live in as I am?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Empurpled

I zipped out the door this morning to work (on foot) looking, I fear, like one of those elderly when-I-am-an-old-woman-I-shall-wear-purple women: black shoes, purple/grey/black-striped socks, black tights, purple corduroy skirt, black t-shirt, black corduroy jacket, purple striped scarf (the best thing about the outfit, and knitted by one of my sisters) and a black beret. Black leather over-the-shoulder handbag and a red floral-patterened vinyl lunch bag. I was certain that people were pointing at me (I should be so lucky!) and guffawing.

What have I become? It was a moment of weakness, insight into a possible future to which I shall approach only if I am drugged dragged.

Tomorrow it's back to my Seattle de rigueur grey or black. With black. And perhaps a little more black, just to be sure.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A strange accounting of unordinary events, and a spell.

Eleven years ago, upon my leaping forth into a new venture (Two Tartes Bakery), a Wiccan friend gave me this completely lovely and thoughtful piece of glass art:
The caveat?
It came with a spell, and in order to ensure the good wishes put forth in the text, I was encouraged, or, actually — required — to destroy the piece.

(Let the records show that the same former-friend precipitated the following legal action:)



Well. Skeptical-me decided, instead, to hang it up in a prominent place in my home, to honor both the text and its artistic integrity.

Longtime readers will know that from that point on, my world shifted into a miasma of broken glass, death,  lawsuits, betrayal, divorce — just add etc. after that list and you'll be hitting a home run.

Many incidents of glass shattering — from the windshield in my late husband's van (a collision of skull and glass) to a pre-divorce falling-down of an entire shelf of glass into my face to the thousands of dollars of glass that were shattered at my feet this past summer.

Which brings me to a conversation last week with an old friend, and a rekindled memory of the piece pictured above, which has resided for the past two years bubble-wrapped and boxed in my basement. Unbroken. Spell intact.

The slightly-less skeptical me started thinking about things like spells and run of bad luck and thought, well, it wouldn't hurt.....

So tonight after work, I carted it up from the basement, removed the protective wrap, deposited it in my garbage can in the alley, and whacked it good with a hammer. Whacked it seven or eight times, certain it caused a moment of alarm to more than one neighbor, that siren-inciting sound of glass breaking.

And then I was done.
Spell broken.

And now, to get on with the rest of my life....



Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Minor Proclamation

I don't like mussels, or oysters, or clams, all of which should be of no interest to anyone except that I've endured a lifetime of having to justify to others why I don't like them. At a party the other night, this came up yet again, and I stated that if I'd said that I was a vegan, or a vegetarian, I wouldn't have needed any further justification. My questioner agreed. And then asked if I liked scallops!

Maybe I need to make up a name for my food likes/dislikes. I'm thinking along the lines of whatever-the-fuck-I-want-to-eat-atarian, or, in a shorter form, wtfiwtetarian.

Pronunciation may be an issue, but it's sure to shut up the nosy Nellies.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Slow Crickets, Day Two

If you haven't yet listened to the slowed-down crickets video, I encourage you to do so. To explain, it's two tracks laid one atop the other, the first of crickets in real-time, the second of the same cricket songs slowed waaaaay down. A kind of cricket collage, if you will.

When I played this at work today, E. (our opera singer) was so moved she had to leave the room. There was no shortage of tears; it's tremendously powerful. For balance, I played it for G., the seven-foot resident abstract painter, who promptly labeled it "satanic". Hrmph. He's a guy.

But not to be outdone, I quickly slapped my own label on it.
"Satantric," I said.
Put that in your own personal hell and condemn it.

All in good nature, of course.
We laugh a lot.

The musical continued to flow, with this virtual choir (suggested by E.) of 2,052 voices, conducted by Eric Whitacre:



(And yes, we were working.)

To round things out at the end of the workday, I played this with the volume at full-crank:


Isn't there a rule prohibiting Mondays from being this good?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Circket Song — Slowed Down

Further evidence of infinite possibilities for astonishment:
And then Loreen McKennit — did she know when she wrote this that she was playing cricket music?
 (Many thanks to my friend Cz. for turning me on to the crickets!)

Just now while I was listening to the McKennit piece, I opened the cricket piece at the same time (to copy the URL to email to a friend), and they played simultaneously. Curious — all day yesterday I was ruminating on the notion of "audio collages", that is, producing a single piece of music that layers  tracks from different musical eras one on top of the other, fading in and out to create an entirely new sound.  Of course I completely lack — at the most basic level — the know-how and technology to even begin to tinker with something like this. But then, there it was, a fortuitous accident, and it wasn't a pairing that I could have even conceived of yesterday.

O glorious glorious!

This morning I'm singing praise for what is, and for the windows (ha! I first typed widows) and doors that have slid open to allow these cracks of light to shine through.

And of course, Leonard Cohen had it right —
there is a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Angels, Clouds & Opera

One of the new luminous employees at the glass factory is studying opera, and I went to her recital tonight (in a brightly lit Lutheran church with a plethora of bibles and hymnals in every row). There was a little bit of everything, from a twelve (or so) year old boy singing his rendition of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit (he was astonishing, and it was his very first time singing at a recital) to several very exuberant but very bad and off key young women singing angsty contemporary show tunes (I blushed privately for them) to our very own Estrella, who knocked my socks off when she sang this tune from Verdi's Rigoletto (this is not Estrella!):



At age 30, already she has acted and directed onstage, performed stand-up comedy, and is now singing opera. Which begs the question: what in the hell is she doing at our rustic little glass factory?! And although I can't answer that, she is but one of several beings who, after this summer's catastrophic glass-smashing incident, was delivered down to us from a benevolent cloud.

I don't want to believe that things happen for a reason, but the fact that she (as well as two others) landed on our doorstep with a generous measure of grace, intelligence, wit and good humor seems, by far, more intentional than coincidental. But intent doesn't exist in a vacuum, and by its nature must start out with purpose, or design.

But by whom? From whom? This non-theist hasn't an answer.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

 
As I'm walking home from work, two kids
pass me on the sidewalk, siblings, I think,
because they show so little interest in each other,
walk one in front of the other, backpacks sagging
with books and I don’t know what else.

I look up to smile, to say hi, but as soon
as they see me, they turn their eyes down,
and because I’m shy too, I say nothing.
The brother chews some after-school treat,
clutches the rest in tissue in his hand.
The sister trudges silently onward.

And then they’re gone, behind me
and I see in my mind still
the gentle face of the brother, his soft eyes,
and feel a sudden surge of tenderness
towards these two children, these strangers
who are barely teenagers, and who don’t consider
for more than a passing glance
the white woman looking up at them
who says nothing, and walks on. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr #2

The current government brouhaha/hullabaloo exhausts me. I'm considering slipping back into NewsBlackoutLand where I stood, firmly, for two years, eyes shut, ears muffled, mouth gagged. It's much more pleasant there! And, amazingly enough, my lack of attention to The News for two years had zero impact on anything, except my blood pressure.

Negotiating the Washington Health Exchange site — where a self-insured bozo like meself goes to kneel at the altar of The Affordable Care Act to plead my case — is proving to be confounding. I was repeatedly given the message that my application could not be processed because, according to "their" records, I could not be validated as an actual person. Which begs the question: if I'm applying for the first time here, what records would they have? But then I remember: it's the internet, and the internet knows all. (Which begs this further question: if the internet knows all, then just what are these records that they claim to have in their possession that give evidence to my invalidity and lack of actualness?!)

("*&$*%&($@_# ", she screamed — she the invalidated, the unactualized.)

(According to Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs, to achieve a state of self-actualization, one must first satisfy ones basic needs, safety needs, social needs and esteem needs. Isn't access to affordable health care a basic need, a safety need? This all seems to be a circular argument designed to shuttle me off to the Bin of Loonies.


And furthermore, if I lack proper health insurance and fall victim to maiming and disfigurement, then I may very well become an invalid, thus reinforcing their claim of my non-validness.

And if, according to Maslow, achieving a state of self-actualization means "acceptance of facts", then in this case it means acceptance of my state of non-actualness, as per the Washington Health Exchange.

In other words, self-actualization = non-actualness.

Well, damn. Maybe it's all true.)

At one point I was told to contact Technical Support, but there was no way to contact anyone/thing.  I don't seem to be able to help myself from thinking that this is a conspiracy perpetrated by my current insurance company to get me to abandon the process of seeking a different insurer (and a subsidized premium) and thereby buckle down and pay their exorbitant rates.

I hereby register grrr #2 for the week of September 29th.

And while barely treading water in the sea of rejection notices (from poetry mags), I awoke yesterday to landfall in the form of an acceptance from this Irish journal:
The editors took a very short 9-line poem, from a group of five poems in a narrative theme. Interesting in that they apparently think it stands on its own. The only constant in these many years of publishing poetry is that I'm consistently surprised by the responses of editors — it's a crapshoot. Go figure.

In the meantime, I'm going to work on becoming validated and actual. Tips and suggestions heartily welcomed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting My Grumble On

Alone in the studio this morning, I listened to poets Billy Collins and Howard Nemerov on YouTube while I exposed sheet after sheet of film, each for 25 seconds, then washed each one out under hot running water, after which they were strung (with manuscript clips!) to lines above my head.

Water underfoot on the concrete floor. Cold coffee. Water railing from the sky outside.

Monday.
Crabby Monday.
Dissatisfied and uninspired Monday.
What I wanted was to march into Washington to give the House of Representatives and Boehner a piece of my mind — and the back of my hand. I'm counting on The Affordable Care Act, which translates into a raise for me. I mean, I love working as an artist but, as in poetry, it ain't where the big money lurks.

Grrrr.

And I started to think about poetry, about the fact that I often hate poetry, wish that I could just walk away from it, like a bad relationship. I can't read more than a single poem at a time, because for me a single poem is often the equivalent of an entire novel, distilled down to a minimum of lines. Reading ninety pages of poetry is like eating ninety pieces of cake. (And reading ninety pages of bad poetry is like eating ninety pieces of Safeway cake: shortening, sugar, food coloring.) An entire collection of poetry can take months to read. This is a problem. But I can't go without it! It's what makes sense to me, the thing that unwinds the tangled threads connecting everything.

And then there's the writing of it. I'll go months without a new piece, and every day passed in the absence of a new poem is barely tolerable. A certain deadness lingers, a procession of days minus those moments of clarity where life unfolds into an infinite number of possibilities.

It's been a month since a new poem tapped me on the shoulder and demanded WRITE ME. I need my fix, my sugar, my twenty-five lines of metaphorical caffeine. I need a simile, like an addict needs a hit. Shoot me up with imagery. Get off your assonance and alliterate me. And make it quick. (She said to the muse.)

What I don't need is a bunch of white guys in Congress with their penis-waving puffed-up self-aggrandizing self-important (is that redundant?) agendas messing with my access to affordable health care.

(The muse whispers settle down.)

It's late now.
I'm tired and poemless.

Bring on the violins — 








Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rivers, and Buttercream

Storming here, early this year. I'm hunkered down in the late afternoon dark while the house gets pummeled. I've left so many grapes on the vine, I'm afraid I'll lose them to this torrent. And the tomatoes, oh.

Oh.

There's talk of flooding in the news, and something in me wants to walk the banks of a spilling river, see its aggressive surge. I've said this for years, and every fall there is something more compelling in staying-in with popcorn and some strong black tea instead of trouncing out in hip-waders (which of course I don't have) to gamble on flimsy footing and muddy water-whorls.

We can have our illusions of safety, but as inhabitants of the organism we call earth, we're all teetering on the same edge.

When I was out running errands this afternoon, I couldn't quell a nagging heart-dropping sensation, and I finally remembered that today is my late husband's birthday. For the first few years after his passing, I sent his mother flowers on this day. And now she's gone, and so is his sister, and there are sharped-edged gaping holes in a part of me, somewhere that I can't identify exactly, perhaps in the solar plexus.

Everything surges forward, river or no river.

There should be a party tonight, and buttercream.
And small sips of Calvados to mark (to Mark!) yet another year.

Crank it up!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On the Job

A., one of our new luminous employees, told me today that he came in to work on Wednesday in a crabby mood (I didn't notice), but that the laughing began quickly, and he snapped out of his funk right away. Said that he tried to tell his girlfriend what it was we were laughing about, but gave up because there was so much of it. (So much laughing.)

Well, damn.
This made my day!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2000

At the Hummingbird Saloon, at the inaugural Easy Speak, my dear friend Emily gave me a gift — a book entitled Hummingbirds of North America — Attracting, Feeding & Photographing, by Dan True. It's a beauty of a book, not only for its scientific approach to the subject but also for the book-making itself, with a handsome red hardback cover and semi-glossy pages. The hummingbird has, in the past two years, evolved into a kind of totem for me, a spirit-bird — and I was both moved and delighted by this gift.

I'm going to mention a little trick that, if you do, you can reference back to all the blog posts about my hummingbird encounters: if you look in the upper left hand corner of this blog, you'll see a small white rectangular box with a grey magnifier icon. Type in the word "hummingbird", press "enter" (or "return") on your keyboard, and you be instantly redirected to that page.

And to report: Easy Speak was an overwhelming success! Standing room only, the bar owners were delighted and enthusiastically ok'd a regular once-a-month open mic. I left there Monday night with a full heart, a happy heart.

In closing I'll include Emily's inscription in my new book:













Eagerly awaiting the start of my epic journey!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Post # 1999

Theses days it feels like everything's already been said, and often said repeatedly. So here I go again, this first day of autumn, on the eve of Post # 2000.....

Blustery rain and wind today, long awaited from me after a summer more glorious than any I can recall here, where I've lived all my years. To welcome the new season I baked gingerbread with a lemon glaze, and pork ribs are tenderizing in the oven in the heat of a low flame, awash in homemade BBQ sauce. I'm going to mash a giant sweet potato with coconut milk and ginger, and I'm awaiting a note of criticism from R., who will undoubtedly point out that BBQ and a Thai-themed potato mash commit the sin of flavor clashing. I say So What.

Feeling a sweet sadness at summer's passing, especially now that I'm on the side of the hill where I'm counting future possible summers in a set of numbers that, most likely, will be less than 50. When did this happen, this change of perspective?

If I could I'd stretch out each day so I could stay awake as long as desired, and then stretch out each night so I could stay awake under a moonlit sky even longer. I'd insert an extra day between Saturday and Sunday, call in Someday, and linger there, in dark or light — awake, alert, listening, seeing.

There is never enough time, in all of eternity, in every moment that has slipped away and in every still-possible second/minute/hour before me.

The challenge, of course, is to be present and in appreciation of all of it. Even in sleep, when my dreams each night launch me into ever more extraordinary scenarios: last night I was packing for a trip to India, opening a cafe, examining a new fabric that rippled like water, watching old episodes of Mickey Mouse on a television from the 1950's, choosing from dozens of kittens with sky-blue eyes. (I'd say that was sleep-time well spent!)

Tomorrow evening is the launch of Easy Speak, my new open mic venue at Hummingbird Saloon, not far from my home. The last time I initiated a literary function was in 1991, when I formed a poetry critique group, which still meets monthly and with a history of people coming and going, many staying, for 22 years. That decisive act, which was met with a lot of opposition from my very-controlling husband, changed my life. A non-profit poetry press grew out of it, which has operated in the black for all of its 19 years.  Deep friendships were formed, and continue to evolve.
New friendships are still being formed. Off and on for these years, it has served as a kind of backbone to my social scene.

When my husband passed away, I stepped away from it, and from poetry, for a long time. Poetry was my source of spirituality, and I felt disastrously betrayed by that which had for so long sustained me. I came back to it — in my heart — this past year, and Easy Speak is the child of that personal renaissance.

It's an open book, all of it, all of life.

And the view from the top of this hill, looking at what some may see as the downside, is lit with candlelight and lanterns, bonfires and oil lamps, illuminating a landscape that is at the same time deeply mysterious and spilling with enchantment.

While in Hawaii in early September, I engaged in a conversation with a mathematician about the arc of a human life. His philosophy was that in life one has two or three occasions to make a decision that will influence and shape the entire rest of that life. I played a bit of the devil's advocate with him — I love a lively debate — and disagreed. In a larger sense, I partially agree with him. The decision to go to college or not, to marry or not, to make a career change (or not) are certainly seminal moments in life. But taking it down to more personal level, I said that I thought that life was made up of possibilities, of all sorts, and at any point in time, one could make a decision to take Road A or Road B, or Road J, or even Road X. (I should probably mention that this conversation arose out of a discussion of the Multiverse Theory in Quantum Physics.)

Sparring ensued, all good-naturedly.

Before the conversation was cut short, I said,

"Tony, you look at life from a mathematician's perspective, and I look at it from the poet's perspective."

He half-chuckled, obviously not quite in agreement with even this proclamation.

Anyway.

The sun just came out, in a brief parting of sodden clouds. I can hear the wind in the trees in my one still-open window. Time to start thinking about scarves and gloves, ice and sleet. Time to think about the possibilities of the season ahead. Time to ready the lanterns, set out the candles.

It's all new from here on out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Temptation

I want to live in a house with a tall wood fence that runs along a sidewalk.

Embedded in the fence would be double-hung windows. (Maybe curtains, yellow and white checked.)

Every now and again, I'd open one of the windows and place a pie on the sill to cool.

Would you take that pie, if you were walking by?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thicket & Forest

My son and I went walking in the woods this afternoon, and the moment we stepped foot on the path the rain started — threatening all day but all day distant — and thunder hailed out across the treetops in its always unexpected bass drum boom. Nevertheless, beneath that high canopy of Bigleaf Maples where ferns grow all the way up the trunk to the topmost and windiest branches, we felt safe and insignificant, sheltered in mossy underbrush. And mostly dry.

There are a few old-growth firs in the park, and every time I see one I can't help but think that these trees somehow survived logging, decades before current logging practices which allow for a less dramatic clearcut. These trees began their lives well before the influx of white settlers, when everything I know as urban was wilderness. It's a good brain exercise, I think, to try to envision this different landscape, minus pavement and parking lots and the drone of lawn mowers and I could go on for paragraphs but won't.

I kept stopping to look at the ferns. In spite of the very dry summer we've had, they appeared lush and hale, growing laterally on nearly every tree. R. point some out in a high notch of a maple.

And then just as quickly as the rain began, the sun appeared, sending long rays like outstretched arms down onto the damp forest floor. It seemed as if everything respired — treestumps and loam and thimbleberries and alders, woodpecker-gutted snags, wild outcroppings of orange and pink fungus. This was no place of inactivity. Despite the relative post-thunder calm, the forest was very much at work doing what it has always done: the work of decomposition, of regeneration, all at once and always. In all ways.

A hundred years ago a person could make a home from the stump of a logged fir, live out his or her years cozy and snug in the hollowed trunk, with the addition of a modest roof.  There's a small clearing on my woods-path where for years I've wanted to camp, for just one night, but of course that would be against the City of Seattle Municipal Code.

Maybe tonight I'll hear an owl from my treetop-level attic bedroom, a half mile from the park, where I'll sleep legally. Small consolation, when what I really want is an entire forest for my bedroom, decorated with sword ferns, floor to ceiling.


Friday, September 13, 2013

"Noli timere — don't be afraid."



Seamus Heaney's last words — in a text to his wife — " Noli timere", latin for
don't be afraid.

I'm still mourning the death of this great man, this poet of stunning integrity, keen understanding of the human condition, compassion and outright talent. 

He did a book signing at Open Books in Seattle some fifteen years or so ago, and I stood in the long line that snaked out the door and down the sidewalk, the morning cold and bright. I had two books, one whose cover had been attached upside down. When it came to my turn, he opened the upside-down book, smiled up at me quizzically, and said, "Will you look at that!" I was more than delighted.

A few evenings later he gave a reading as the Roethke Memorial Poet at the University of Washington, and told this story, as I remember it:

It was the christening of my niece, and we arrived late, without a gift. I was worried about this, and my wife told me to go upstairs and write her one of my poems. So I did.

He read the poem —  I wish I remembered more about it, and whether it was ever published. But the memory alone I have of hearing him tell that story suffices. I was, again, delighted.

The following link contains more footage of the funeral — I couldn't find the direct video link, but the URL should lead anyone who is interested directly to it. There is a lovely segment where Paul Muldoon talks about coming back to Dublin from America for the funeral, and the dialogue he had with the Irish customs official upon his entry. Very much worth listening to!

http://bcove.me/chgw1p96


Listening, I was reminded of just how much I love and miss my times spent in Ireland, and how deeply connected I am to that country of my heritage. I know I'll go back, when times and circumstances allow.