Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"American Made Show 2016" Preview

This afternoon I put the last of the glass that's shipping out tomorrow in the "kitchen kiln",  the tail end of 200+ pieces, every last one fussed over with a microscopic attention.

Every year this studio, led by the ever-dazzling Mary-Melinda Wellsandt, manages to invent new designs to augment the existing line. It's never a given that it's going to happen, and usually sometime in early fall, the ruminations begin. I schedule creative time for Melinda, and she motors off to the Oregon Coast for a series of long weekends, camera and computer at the ready. (And mostly likely some really good gin.)

The first of such weekends this year was abruptly ended by torrential rainfall. Weekend #2 was derailed by engine failure in her car.

Whereupon panic set in. End of the year orders had us bogged down in packing peanuts and bubble wrap. The holiday home sale loomed. And Christmas. (Whoever scheduled Christmas in December, anyway?)

And somewhere between the shipping boxes and tubes of oil paint, between a studio full of bargain-hunting holiday shoppers and stacks of transparencies, once again some new lines were born. Honestly, I couldn't tell you exactly when this happened. There's a fluidity in how Melinda and I work together, a conversation which can takes weeks to finish, where the details get filled in on no set schedule. It just seems to happen, organically.

Tomorrow morning we'll load up and shrink-wrap three pallets of display materials and prototypes. Sometime after 2pm a large truck with a lift gate will rumble down the street, and within a matter of minutes, will disappear with our most precious cargo.

As always, I remain in awe of the work that emerges from this humble setting. And feel an immense measure of gratitude in how my days are spent.



Friday, December 25, 2015

Woods-Walking on Christmas Afternoon

Late in the day my son and I took a long slow walk in the Seward Park woods. Curious that my son, who grew up in an urban setting (and who hikes/backpacks/hunts) feels like he's in the wilderness when up inside the old-growth forest of the park. For me, who grew up in a semi-rural-going-to-suburb setting, I'm altogether too aware of the larger city just beyond us. In fact, when I'm settled deep in a mossy reverie, soft earth underfoot, instead of the city noises fading, they become more acute, more intrusive. Wilderness: no. (But marvelous nonetheless.)

Mushroom season is nearly finished, but we found some impossibly tiny fungi clinging to moss on Douglas fir bark, like secrets. Miniature white caps, barely bigger than dewdrops. And lichen, of course, draped everywhere on bare twigs and branches. Complete enchantment.

I've never walked in the park on Christmas. Decades of over-spilling dinners (platters as well as waistlines over-spilling) have consumed much of the day. But today we had our feast in late morning, which left the rest of the day a wide open yawn. With about an hour of light remaining, on a whim we decided to go. And in that damp wood I discovered a peace and deep-breath contentment that I haven't felt in months.

There was a moment of alarm and disbelief when we discovered that one of the park's oldest trees had toppled in a recent storm. For a few minutes, we both denied that was the case; that indeed the old tree was just up the path. But it wasn't. Severed about twenty feet up, there was new light in the forest where the canopy had been ripped open. Everything felt askew, the balance shifted.

Did you know that the life of a forest tree is measured at 50% while living and 50% after it "dies"? My son reassured me that this magnificent old tree, easily 300 years old, would go on contributing to the life of the forest for another 300 years, giving itself as a nurse log for seedlings, fungi, mosses, insects. I've known about nurse logs my whole life, but never thought of their impact in terms of years: 300 years. That's a long time, measured by my human perspective. The fact of that settled me considerably. I will miss the vertical heft of that old tree-friend, but will now look to the forest floor to see what emerges from its remains.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Into Winter

Solstice, and the rain is never-ceasing. And even though from here on out there are fractions of additional light each day, it all seems like such a tease. One minute more of cloudlight, and I should feel more like rejoicing. But.

At work today I was packing things up for the two wholesale shows coming up in January and February, with the realization that I won't see these particular pieces again until late February/early March. Those dates seem an eternity away, nearly the entire-winter away. And here we are, first day of this dark season, mired down in mud.

The chickens don't seem to mind. Underneath those feathers they're cozy and warm, but their run is, at the moment, dirt-soup. Still getting 2-3 eggs every day. Bawk bawk. In their boredom they've disassembled the compost pile I started 6 weeks ago.

I used to love Christmas, but the years have wrung it out of me.

Taken three weeks ago, perhaps this photo is my balm for bitterness:

Friday, December 11, 2015

On Foot, Mostly

Yesterday was the odd day I drove to work, and it felt indulgent and extravagant to sit in that comfortable moving vessel and glide effortlessly down neighborhood streets for a single mile. Burning fossil fuel. Most days I walk, despite the dramatic storms that have ripped through our city. Even heavy rain I find meditative, and wet clothing dries, in time. I find that the days I drive, I'm left with a restless energy, a desire/need to move through the cold air at a brisk clip. Evenings, my headlamp illuminates raindrops falling in my path: utter enchantment.

I've memorized where the sidewalk has heaved up from encroaching tree roots, where accumulated leaves make for slippery steps. There's the house where a beagle, left alone all day, barks incessantly in the front window. The house with four chickens in the yard — three reds and a single black-feathered hen. The house that's for sale: 1000 sq. feet for $469,000. The house with one side painted rainbow colors, shingle by shingle.

And then this, on the planting strip, dropped from a massive evergreen, like velvet underfoot —






















All to be missed while passing by in enclosed Volvo comfort. And honestly, despite my current obsession with All Things Political, I can't/won't write about it. Seedpods and tree roots and rain are about all I can manage in this space.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Silence

I don't know that I've ever gone so long without words. These days they seem to evaporate as I type them, a little pffffft and they disappear, letter by letter. It's as if the distillation that happens when I write poetry has amped itself up so that all I have left is punctuation.


~
.
!
,

*
:


And so forth.

What I do know is that I miss the companionship of the summer sky — those soft early sunrises with their choruses of birdsong, and the spiraling trill of the robin top of the Douglas fir as the earth spins away from the light.

And the canopy of stars from my balcony.
A complaint as old as those stars, I know.

Here's Saturn if it were as close as the moon:
















Here's the article from the Atlantic where I found that photo.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving. Awoke with the first light, the sun rising over the Cascades. I lay in bed and tried to recall the last time my mother made a pie. When was it? Which decade? Probably some time in the late 1970's. When did she last cook a Thanksgiving meal? My older siblings took over, at some point, in a rented apartment or a first home, our family group getting bigger and bigger until we began to split off into our own smaller groups. In these later years I spent the day at my in-law's home, a beloved house whose back deck perches still above Thornton Creek. I miss these days most — the scents, my mother-in-law's Southern hospitality ("don't you bring a thing, Miss T.!). I've inherited her sterling tableware, with which I set my small table this morning for my sons and me. The long-handled spoon whose sole purpose is for reaching into the turkey and pulling out the stuffing.

Addition/subtraction: families. Births/deaths. Our numbers swell and recede, swell and recede.

We're eating early this year — both sons keep very early work schedules. No need for candles with this brilliant sunlight. And no long tables set out the length of the living room. We've dwindled to this small family, with two cats on scrap patrol. Three chickens in the yard pecking for bugs. One turkey, two pies. Enough — more than enough —of everything.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Fragments

Stapled poultry wire, slashed skin on the sharp edges.
Damn the blood, no band-aids, chickens on the run.
Gathered them back in, one under each arm,
shooing the third hen with my feet as if I knew how to play soccer.
Why do they always head for the one corner of the yard that isn't fenced?

Unwound bird netting, tangled it up, sorted it out.
Stood on a ladder and pulled it taut.
More staples. Gloves. No more blood.
Chickens secure.
Eggs gathered.
Leaves and bits of straw raked up.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Light

The light fades earlier now; sometimes the sun breaks through the ragged grey-silk clouds just at sunset. The windows of our workspace face west, and nearly every day I leap up at this burst of light in an otherwise wet and brooding afternoon, witnessing the colors I've wrestled with for hours, now emblazoned across the sky. My co-workers are used to this daily outburst, and oblige my entreaty to see for themselves.

And of course it's gone just as quickly as it appeared — ephemeral light!

I don't think I'll ever tire of this.

Later: the trudge through the dark to home.
No crows to keep me company.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fowl Things

I went out to feed my chickens this morning, and coming back in I glanced at my reflection in the door glass, and had to laugh:
--red nightgown
--blue fleece jacket
--brown leather outback hat
--blue yoga pants, 15 years old, with holes
--pink fluffy socks
--brown clogs.

Not winning any awards here in fashion, and happy for it.

Anyway, who would've thought that I'd become so fond of three chickens? It's happened. I talk to them. I fuss over them. They follow me around the yard (making a scratched-up mess of the garden) and they bicker amongst themselves, argue with me, peck for bugs. Altogether a pretty cozy scene, all things considered. Fluffy pink socks and all.

And eggs! Usually three per day! I keep an eleven watt bulb lit from 5am - 9pm every day, so they're fooled, so far, into summer hours.

Maybe my urban days are waning. Time will tell.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bad Pun-kins

By the time I arrive at work in the morning, after my brisk 15 minute walk on urban sidewalks, I'm ready to talk, for jokes, for commentary. Except there's no one there but me, for a good long while.

I make coffee.
I review the open orders.
Sometimes I feed the cat.
I empty the "kitchen kiln" of yesterday's cured glass.
I prioritize the day's tasks for the four of us.

Eventually the crew stumbles/drives/bikes in, and by that time I'm REALLY ready for interaction, and STILL I have to wait. For coffee to be sipped, for caffeine to take effect.

First world problem, I know.

But did you hear about the pumpkins who staged an uprising in an attempt to do away with the annual slaughter aka carving of their fellow citizens? It was a pumpkinsurrection.

Did you hear about the pumpkins in the nursing home? The pumpkinvalids?

Or the blanket made from woven pumpkin fibers? The pumpkin-patch-work quilt? (Thanks to E.P. for this one.)

Yeah, I know. Groan.

See what you're missing by not working with me?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Blackened, Sawn

No one blackens anything anymore but I blackened some tilapia for dinner and lamented the passing of food trends. Who cares about food trends? Certainly pas moi.

But that's what you eat after herding chickens all afternoon while constructing a garden gate from salvaged lumber and foraged bamboo.  (Lumber salvaged from my falling-down garage, bamboo foraged half a block away.)

Pleasure in hole-drilling, attaching the sawn (Japanese pull saw) lengths of bamboo to the 1x2 fir planks. All the while the feathered girls making a scratchy mess of my yard: pursuit of bugs. I seem to have forestalled my seasonal melancholy with my acquisition of poultry. And I gotta say, it's a complete surprise.

Cluck cluck.
Eggseggseggs.

What brings me joy?
—Dragging home 30' lengths of bamboo, scritchy-scratchy, all the way up the widewalk.
—Picking up a chicken (such docile creatures!).
—Making a clean cut with the saw.
—Seeing my gate take shape.
—No where to go but where I am.

Dear Reader, where do you find joy in your day?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Bawk. BAWKBAWK.

And so it has come to pass, after many months of nothing but talk and a little bit of construction SPREAD OUT OVER MANY MONTHS, that I am a chicken-mama.

This past week has been spent attending Chicken University, an online self-directed (and self-invented) course consisting of reading countless message boards, blogs, websites and YouTube videos on All Things Chicken, resulting in this:
I think I've done more clucking than the birds.

No names quite yet, but I thought Fallopia would be fitting. And possibly Ovaria. Gotta come up with three names for three chickens. But then again, maybe one name for all three chickens. Or rename them every week/month/equinox. Would the chickens care?

One thing that's become most evident in this new venture is how staid I've become in my routines, and how this small, feathered flock (with surprisingly menacing claws) has upset the chicken cart, as it were.

I've especially enjoyed watching them plucking and fussing at the straw when settling in the nest to lay an egg. Two of them apparently had the egg urge at the same time this morning and climbed all over each other to find the best spot. When I returned, about a half hour later, there was the gift of two eggs.

I'm not holding my breath for a golden egg that I could bring to the King aka Bank of America so I can pay off my mortgage. Or at the least, trade for a few magic beans. (But where would I go, climbing that magic bean stalk?) But who knows. Every new venture opens doors (and in this case, it's a coop door).

Funny — the cats are steering clear. And here I thought they'd be entertained unto infinity. I think it's going to be me who's entertained unto infinity.

Bawk.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inventing Memories at My Fortieth Reunion

Forty years since I last walked the halls of my high school, and last week I attended a reunion of classmates, in a bar in my hometown across the lake. I was ambivalent about going, as I haven't kept up with anyone from those years. I had an exit plan in case it was dreadful.

I ended up staying for hours.

Of course, we're all different people from who we were at 18. I was exceptionally shy then (my sons refuse to believe this) and decidedly in the "nerd" category. Awkward, bone-juttingly skinny, editor of the school literary magazine, captain of the girl's track team, sang alto in the jazz choir. I could barely utter a single syllable to a boy without verging on panic.

Trailing this history, and with my particular interest in social interactions, I navigated the crowd with none of the social anxiety I'd once experienced. But most of the faces were completely foreign. Who were these people? Strange to realize that everyone looked at the name tag before the face. A quick browse through the couple of annuals on a table was enough to call forth the younger versions.

I engaged in a handful of substantive conversations, but mostly I mingled and observed, taking note of the old cliques thrown together again, the surfeit of massive man-bellies at every bump of the elbow, the handful of women who seemed not to have aged more than a day or two. (How did they manage this?!)

I was surprised that I enjoyed myself so much. Grateful not to be that gawky teenager anymore.

At one point I was sitting alone at the bar waiting for some food, and a man struck up a conversation, the husband of a classmate I'd barely known.

 "What do you remember about Mary?" He asked.

"I remember that in 7th grade she wore tiny round glasses and had a bowl haircut," I said.

"Yes! I can picture her like that! Tell me more!"

"Well, I don't really know anything else. We weren't friends."

"Oh come on! Tell me some things about her that I don't know. I know you can think of something."

"Um, not really. Like I said, I knew who she was, but we didn't hang out."

"COME ON! You gotta tell me something!"

He was starting to bug me, was leaning into me in a mildly threatening manner.
I didn't like his shirt, or the way his upper lip curled when he insisted I tell him something.
He kept at me, boorish and bullying, and I was waiting for my food and didn't want to leave, so I said,

"Okay then. I tell you what: I'll make some things up, okay? Like I said, I don't remember anything about her, but I can make up just about anything, if that's what you want."

"Yes! Yes! Tell me something!!"

Gah. The guy was a broken record, out for weird slumber-party girl secrets WHICH I DIDN'T HAVE.

And so my fiction commenced:

"In 9th grade, Mary wore pink footed pajamas to school, with a little fluffy white tail."

"Oh YEAH! I can see Mary in those! Did they have little ears too?"

"Yes. Little pink ears."

"Haha! I can just see her in those! That's great! Tell me more!"

"You sure? Remember, I'm making this up."

"Yeah, yeah. Just TELL ME MORE!"

"Alrighty then. In 10th grade, Mary started a food fight in the cafeteria, and no one could believe that she'd do such a thing."

"Really?" He looked confused.

"Yes, really."

"Okay. Tell me more."

I was beginning to enjoy this.

"In 11th grade, Mary had a sex-change operation, and then changed back to a girl."

His jaw dropped open at this, and nothing came out of his mouth.

"And in 12th grade, she joined a band of musical gypsies in Romania, but returned to school just in time to graduate."

At this point Mr. TELLMESOMETHING just stared at me, visibly confused, perhaps a little shaken, his mouth gaping open, his eyes bugging out.

I think he'd forgotten that this was all made-up.

Suddenly he seemed to come-to, shook his head a bit like he was exiting a trance, said, "NOW THAT'S ENOUGH!" in a scolding tone, and strode away.

HA! Finally got rid of him.
 But damn.
I felt more than a little smug.

Forty years ago I would've trembled and blushed at such an encounter, the words mumble-frozen on my tongue. Instead I came away grateful for these 40 years of living, with no desire to return to 1975.





Saturday, September 12, 2015

Little House of Imperfections

In another life, we drove for hours around Connemara in the West of Ireland, with 16 different versions of Shenandoah blasting on the iPod. It was pure indulgence on the part of my husband, and I loved him for that. A mid-summer day, all sun and quickcloud bluster, a squall and a rainbow, and another rainbow. Down narrow lanes twisting past stone cottages and sheep, ending at the deadend of the sea.

Turn around.

The small bays and inlets of the Atlantic shone in turquoise and emerald, sometimes in concentric circles of color. I could never get enough of the wildly-shifting tones of the Irish landscape. What could easily look like miles of untreed rocky pasture appeared to me as an ever-changing sweep of amber and chestnut browns, of aquaeous greens and a sky-blue so deeply saturated it made me weep. It was a drug: more, please.

My favorite of all the versions of Shenandoah we listened to that day is this one, by the inimitable Richard Thompson:



In another life yet again — in this one, now, with yet more loves lost and trailing their remants of inseverable sinew — I wandered out into ebbing light, Shenandoah cranked up, windows and doors wide open to summer's last heat.

Streaks of russets on the western horizon —
Pots of rosebud geraniums in full-on coral blossom —
The hazelnut tree losing leaves already, a crackling —

How to give up loving those we love, who don't love us in return? One would think that after nearly six decades, all the answers would be easy. Sometimes love deadends at the sea, and the only options are drowning or turning around.

Turning around and ending up back where I am, in my little house of imperfections.

And yet despite this deeply measured sadness there exists a kind of joy, abiding and immutable, and acceptance of the duality of life. A longing — which I doubt will ever fade — for something greater than the here and now, yet acknowledging the utter perfection of the here and now.

Oh Shenandoah,
I long to hear you,
Away, you rolling river.
Oh Shenandoah,
I long to hear you,
Away, we're bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Trove

I traded homegrown green beans today for two pairs of earrings and a small outdoor turquoise table, traded with my neighbor R. who does hauling for a living and drags all his treasures to the parking strip once a month and sells stuff. He never lets me pay.

Besides finding the occasional curiosity, when I see his sign out on the corner, I know it's time for some neighborly conversation, so I walked down there this afternoon, pulled up a chair, and hung out.

There was an exterior door that looked promising, but he said it was an odd size. Too tall. I fiddled with a Makita drill — mine has suddenly given up the ghost. Oh, it's only probably 25 years old. There are three parts that can go bad: the drill itself, the battery, and the battery charger, and there was a good chance that this drill was in the sell-pile for the same reason mine is in the doesn't-work pile. I passed on the drill. His wife C. came out and offered me a pair of cowboy boots, but they were too big. Some leather Coach handbags appeared: not enough pockets.

I thumbed through a few books ("Russian Tea House Cookbook"). We discussed whether or not a wooden box was an old ammunition box, decided that it was more likely used to transport rifles. A conjoined pair of old school desks sat unsat-in on the grass. A green-painted hoe leaned against the hedge. There was much more to see, but I made myself stop. If anything comes into my house, something has to go out.

After delivering the sack of beans, I went back home to read, and from my skin rose the scent of tomatoes and dill. The garden is a little out of hand, things growing across the narrow paths into other things. I've let a few tomato plants sprawl out, and they've taken their liberties seriously: ripe red nubs poke out from between the variegated pinks of cosmos', and between bush beans, and from under the fan-like zucchini leaves which are fading with the usual late season mildew.

Gardening is, for me, about so much more than just the harvest. When the season is finished, and I'm driven indoors as the rains start up again and the temperature plummets, I'll miss these floating scents that stay with me after my daily vegetal rummage. Not that I want dill perfume, or tomato cologne, mind you. Perhaps just a hint, to remind me of these sun-woozy afternoons of early September, when tomatoes hung thick and heavy from the vine, everywhere in the garden.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weekend Note

Saturday morning.

The wreckage of my body after a week of going to work sick when I should have stayed home but went because there were deadlines that otherwise wouldn't have been met. The absolute folly of that.
Will the owners of galleries in Ephraim, Wisconsin and Ogunquit, Maine (and Portland and Freeport) think of this and thank me when their orders arrive just in time for Labor Day Sales?

Well. Stupid question, that.

But here this morning there are clouds stacked up against the horizon and it's predicted to rain throughout most of the next five days. There was a buzz in the community about this yesterday, a welcome anticipation from even those most dreading the inevitable damp winter looming only a few calendar pages in front of us. We've all heard the news: hottest year on record. Frost's "Fire and Ice" plays unceasing in my background soundtrack, while the eastern half of our Evergreen State (yes, that's the state nickname) continues to burn: currently 1,150 square miles aflame.

Here, this morning, the hazelnut tree is buzzing with chicadees and juncos. All my windows are still flung open. Rejoicing in rain.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Peaches, Protestors and One Presidential Politician

I bought a 20 pound box of Elberta freestone peaches yesterday and made a peach pie so brimming with peaches that they actually broke loose out of the pie, as if the peaches were hatching. At the same time, my younger son was unloading the top half of the chicken coop he's been slowly building for me, a  chicken-wire and recycled-pallet affair with a cedar-shingled nesting box. He bought almost no new materials for it, which pleases me to no end. So, soon: chickens. Let the hen'n'egg puns commence. Pity my poor workmates!

But the pie: my older son took over prepping the fruit, and, wizard in the kitchen that he is, added vanilla extract and whiskey and brown sugar to the usual ingredients and my kitchen smelled like Heaven On High. Lawd, lawd. If I'd expired the moment I took a whiff I'd've expired blissfully.

On another note, I happened to be a member of the crowd last Saturday in downtown Seattle when presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was upstaged by a group of bullies who demanded the microphone. I can't imagine you've not heard the story, but if you haven't, here's a link to a Washington Post article about it.

I won't get into it; while I love reading opinion pieces, it's my least favorite kind of writing to do. But I will say that I'm glad I was there to witness what went down. This singular event seems to have propelled Senator Sanders into the mainstream media, from which he's been noticeably absent since he announced his bid for the office.

At the larger event that evening (15,000 people!), I was fortunate to witness, for the first time in my years, a politician who represents a loving kindness towards humanity. And while sometimes it seems too good to be true, I'm convinced that Bernie Sanders is the real deal.

As was the peach pie, with vanilla ice cream.






Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I Thought About Today at Work When I Bit into a Plum

I plucked a crimson plum from the tree this afternoon and as I bit into the warm flesh, the juices oozing between my fingers, I thought of the small pit at the center of the fruit. I considered the golden, sugary, soft and nearly-pulsing flesh that protected the pit, the flesh into which my teeth had only just pierced, ravaged, bit a chunk from.

And this is where my brain landed: the flesh, with its tart skin wrapper, exists to shelter and nourish the pit as it grows to maturity. When the pit has fully reached its capability to go forth and grow a new tree, and eventually create its own coterie off plumlettes and pitlettes, it is released from the wholeness of the fruit. The fruit, essentially, births the pit — the seed — and is sloughed off, no longer necessary, its job done.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I came to the realization that when we are eating a plum, we are consuming a plum placenta and plum uterus.

It was hot.
It was late afternoon.
I'd hit a wall.
I didn't want to work anymore.
I was mighty grateful for the plum placenta and plum uterus.

And I don't know if it was the fructose or the notion that I was slurping up a warm placenta and uterus, but after that little fruity encounter, I perked right up.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Long Silence

Few words. Few words here, at least. A loathing to turn on the computer. Hours spent out under the sky, with no roof. Time spent poking around the garden. (Tomatoes are coming on, and I can barely keep up with the beans.) Nothing too precious in my private landscape, only intense observation of what is, what is here, now. Perhaps what others might call an untidyness, but my current attitude to those Those Who Cluck is: I don't give a fuck. Honestly.

Cynicism aside (and I battle against it mightily), I enjoy a lifelong love affair with the mechanisms of nature. And in the city, nature is what happens when one doesn't obsessively tidy up. I mean, it's not entirely obvious that there's any nature at work here. A short length of unsplit firewood aka piece of dead tree might look, to some, as a laziness, a why-didn't-she-put-that-out-for-yardwaste-pickup scenario. Two short lengths of unsplit firewood might look like someone dropped something and didn't bother to pick up after herself. To me, these decaying hunks of tree are mini-ecosystems, hosts to beneficial fungi and insects, adding nutrients (organic!) to the soil as they slowly assimilate themselves back into the earth.

And realizing, after rereading the above paragraph, that I actually do give a fuck.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

In The Garden


Picking Beans

Backed up against the sweet peas
drooping over the path, beside
the two onions from last year
now gone to starry white-globed seed
and swirling with bumble bees;
overrun by a volunteer tomato
whose rambling vines I cannot
bring myself to yank up —

In line beside the green feathers
carrots wave in the air,
and the tang of dill
announcing its place where it wants
and not where I want —

And then the few square feet
given over to the cosmos
whose pink petals each year
offer new paint-strokes
of cross-pollination —

I squat in not-enough room between rows
and pluck the slim pods
hidden beneath their own leafed canopy.
The garden belongs to them —
the beans and dill, the cucumber and onions.
I am their lucky caretaker, their human
who offers water each evening,
reaps their generosity in silver bowls.
Thanks them 
for the honor of tending.


  ©T. Clear

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Burning

The massive forest fires in British Columbia have blanketed much of the region in smoke, and the light in Seattle these past few days has been oppressively yellow. I've never seen the sun like this at sunset: deeply red, with horizontal striations, against a grey/yellow sky.  No expanse of reds, pinks or oranges strung out across the horizon; only the singular crimson disc of the sun.  It's eerie, spooky and completely fascinating. There is also an odd quiet to the air, as if all of humanity has entered into a state of collapse. Not a soul is out and about. It's unsettling, and makes for a constant low-level agitation.
My iPhone camera didn't accurately capture the redness of the sun, and the sky had more of a jaundiced cast, but nonetheless it was altogether odd.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Will somebody please turn down the heat!

The tap water diminished to nary a drop this morning, and here we are in the middle of record-breaking high summer temperatures.  I called a bunch of stores looking for an AC unit, and they all gave the same response: SOLD OUT.

Broken water main a mile away repaired after a few hours, and now the flow is strong but murky. I've set a large pot to boil, but the combination of heat and swampish water kills the appetite.

Our local meteorologist, Cliff Mass, says that our current stuck-weather-pattern has nothing to do with the larger concern of climate change, but rather a result of amplification of the upper level wave pattern. Whatever that means, I find it only minimally reassuring, as this high pressure system seems to be entrenched offshore and in my sinuses. Gah.

Lying down covered in wet towels with a fan pointed at one's body seems to help. I'm trying to figure out how to achieve this position at work. No luck yet. My days have been reduced to sluggish production painting and shipping. Gasping. Headaching.  [Complaining.]

We are all so vulnerable, we humans.

My tomato plants, on the other hand, are having an all-out party in their parking-strip garden bed, getting close to surpassing my height (just shy of 5'7'). And, well, the zucchini are, as usual, showing absolutely zero restraint. Sweet peas hanging on by a tendril, but their end is nigh.

If you have any spare rain, email me some. Please.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Send Rain

I'm doing everything I can to keep my sweet peas alive, 88 degrees at 8pm tonight, and I seem to be losing. It's been pretty much more and more flowers every day; been picking as many as I have vases. I've even taken to putting a bouquet of them on the sidewalk with a sign that says "Take me home". It's my little patch of luxury — day after day purples, and reds, whites and pinks — and it has seemed that there was no end in sight, but. But.

Where is my June rain?
Feels like suffocation, and it's only going to get hotter.

I keep thinking of the Robert Frost poem, Fire and Ice:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
 
___
 
Seems we've made our choice.
 


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Memory as Fiction, as Truth

Going way back: my parents rented a beach cabin for a week at a place where, when I think of it now, I see a glittered sky, and sparkling light: Holly, on Hood Canal, in the eastern shadow of the Olympic Mountains. I like to believe I was two years old, but can we really remember all that far back? Whether I was two or six hardly matters. But I'll stick with that number, as it's what I've held all these years, and, well, it seems more primal, and, oddly, for some reason, more pure.  (And I know four people who would most likely correct me on this.)

Anyway. I slept in a double bed, in the middle of all my sisters. Five of us on one mattress, and me smack in the middle, where the covers kind of floated over me. The utter comfort in that, and the sense of security! I recall sinking down, not needing anything, and the glorious letting go into dream-land. And waking up laughing, being tickled. If that was the only memory I carried with me from childhood, I think it would be enough.

But there's more from that single occasion: in the cottage next door was a little girl who was a year older than me (three!), and she wore a sun bonnet, and tottered about her garden with a giant watering can. There were foxglove, and daisies, and tall blue spikes whose name I wouldn't know for many years: delphinium. I was enchanted by it all: bonnet, foxglove, watering can — in dappled morning light. And impressed by this "older" girl, and how she seemed so in possession of her world.

When I think back on this now, I ask myself, was this real, or was this a story read to me by an older sister? And if a story, how much of the actual story am I remembering, and how much is a fabrication built upon years and years of remembering and re-remembering? Or are these details — so commited to my consciousness as fact —merely details that I heard from the countless family stories told around the kitchen table on dark winter evenings? Whatever their inception, they have existed for half a century, hard-wired into the circuitry of my brain.

But let's not forget the oysters on the beach which could cut a nasty slice into my foot if I took off my salt-water sandals.  And the icy tide that lapped at sand and shell. There was probably a beach fire at dusk, and marshmallows on a stick, with graham crackers and chocolate at hand. And sticky fingers.

These were my thoughts tonight as I watered my vegetable garden, with my trusty old (and dented) watering can. And how that long-ago flower garden, whether it existed or not, has informed nearly every thought of flowers and gardens all the years since.

When I think of things I treasure — objects — this watering can is on the list. I don't know where it came from, or who had it before me, but it didn't come to me new, and it seems to have been around an awfully long time.

Perhaps I conjured it from memory? 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Without Feathers

Walking the neighborhood tonight, I came across a man sitting on the parking strip in front of his house, a giant orange cat on his lap.

"His name is Momo," he said. " I like to refer to him as a momo-sapien."

Puffy orange cat, man in orange and yellow geometric-print shorts and a green botanical-print shirt. White beard. The sun was setting and the sky yawned in tangerines and corals. So much color!

I said, "you know, don't you, that if you were smaller, he'd eat you."

"Oh! That's never occurred to me!"

"Think about it," I said.

"Even without feathers?"

"Especially without feathers."

I continued on, up and down steep little hills, roses spilling out onto the sidewalk everywhere. I thought of a previous life, in the suburbs, when I felt as if I'd die of loneliness, loneliness for this urban neighborhood.

A man and his son throwing a baseball, the son in pajamas.

A couple on their front porch, their baby finally asleep.

The trickle of running water: a backyard fountain.

The tomato-and-oregano scent when I walk past the back door of the little neighborhood Italian restaurant, the clang of pans.

A door slamming.

The breeze kicking up, a shift in the weather, clouds piling up against the mountains.

And then home again, to my humble house that is not a beach-cabin getaway, but home.

Only home, always home,  and mine.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

This is a good life:

A peanut butter sandwich and a dill pickle on a table covered with a red and white flowered cloth.

Sun and blue sky, a chair in the shade.

A baby crow in the honey locust and a baby hummingbird in the hazelnut.

A novel -- Benediction, by Kent Haruf -- so good that I don't want it to end.

Nothing I must do.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

B.Y.O.B., or, Bring Your Own Beach

There's been a steady stream of looky-loos at the house-for-sale next door; it's been all pimped up, photographed (what's with those l-o-n-g photos that make the interior look spacious when it's not?), and, well, we know, shaved. The marigolds and geraniums and rose bush that were plunked in the dirt in an effort to re-shrubify are wilting, terribly, in our unseasonably warm temps. Oh well.

A blue sixties convertible in need of a new muffler just pulled up and off-loaded the realtor and her "open house" sign. I anticipate a 3-hour parade of gawkers peering over my fence, sizing up the neighborhood.

When the "for sale" sign went up this week, I checked out the deets and was completely surprised to find this in the charm-extolling text:

beach cabin getaway

Now, I've been on this street for going on 29 years, and how in god's name I've not noticed a beach is a complete conundrum. I know for certain that there's no beach in the back yard, so maybe I'm missing something in the view looking out to the street, as seen below —

No beach.

Also:

architecturally interesting wood walls

Read: paneling.

Really?

And:

cute, sweet, adorable and Kozy with a capital K!

Oh dear.
Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.
(Why I am not a realtor.)

Honestly though, I'd prefer a beach cabin getaway to one of those new million-dollar box houses that are popping up all over the city.

Adventures await, for sure.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nature vs. Tidy: score, Tidy, 1, Nature, 0

Having endured, in the past nine months, the sale of three houses on three of the four sides of my house, today this question came to mind: what is the compulsion, in prepping a house for sale, to lay waste to the landscape? I'm talking the buzz-cut approach, which involves lopping, shearing, truncating,  shaving, slashing, scraping, scalping, amputation, massacre, vacuuming. Generally done at the lowest price possible by day laborers, who, bless their hearts, don't know their bindweed from their borage.

I posed this question to the crew at work, and these were some of the responses:

1. The house should look tidy.
2. The yard should look clean.
2. Prospective buyers may not want a lot of yard maintenance. 

But I think this goes deeper into our psyche as a culture, this "tidy" obsession we seem to have to sweep/pluck/prune. Control over nature — well, duh, yeah. The ol' slash'n'burn approach, show Nature who's in charge.

But it also seems tied to the almighty dollar, that to get the most $$$ from a property, it must appear to be "clean", that nature is, in some way, unclean. Of course, we love "nature" in a forest, but god help us if we allow nature to encroach upon our front yards.

Anyway, here's my formula:
Trimmed = clean.
Lush = dirty.
(And also, lush = fecundity = bad = sex.)
Does any realtor worth her commission want to show a house that, on a subliminal level, is all about sex?

Is it really this simple?
But doesn't sex sell nearly everything in this culture? Cars? Clothing? Dessert?!

Before the first of these houses went up for sale last fall, a guy with a mower laid waste to the beautiful vinca in the yard next door, which, besides being very healthy and abundant, provided some privacy to the view of my back door. Obsessively tidy yard! Clean!

And now, this spring, the new homeowner has fallen in love with all the vinca that's making a vigorous (glorious!) comeback. Go figure.

I know, it's not all this simple. But to witness this razing of the landscape so acutely, it certainly gives one pause.
Stump and Steps
(Notice, my steps aren't swept, and my stump has fungus growing on it. Yay!
Fungus = a healthy ecosystem.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Assault from the East

I came home from work today to discover that my neighbor, who is selling his house, hired a yard maintenance crew to clean up his yard (with which he's done nothing for the duration of his ownership) and in the process, they ripped out dozens of my plants from my garden, and butchered three shrubs (lace-cap hydrangea, camelia and forsythia) that were planted against my house.

WTF.

The forsythia was planted by my late husband, and it's taken me many years to prune it to grow up and over the narrow pathway between yards, perhaps crossing the property line by a few inches. Now it's a bunch of hacked-off spikes. (Hours spent just this spring getting it back into shape. HOURS.)

My columbine, my centaurea, my blue cranesbill and my alstromeria: all gone. My beautiful kiwi vine: butchered.

At first I was spitting angry, then I just wanted to cry. Thank the gods I have this venue in which to vent!

I've already drafted a bill to present to him, but no sum of $$ will get me back my plants that I've cultivated and nurtured for 28 years.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Morning: What We Talk About At Breakfast

You take some charcoal. Burn some branches or pieces of scrap wood that's in the garage. Burn it in the little fire pit out back. Anyway, take the charcoal and smash it or grind it up until it's powdery. Use a hammer if you want. Use something.

Put it in a bucket.

Get a rotting fish. The fish market on Rainier will give you one for free, something that they can't sell or that's just going to go into the food waste. Maybe just some heads.

Add the rotting fish to the charcoal.
Add water.

Let sit for a week.
Ignore the neighbors.
Do you really care if it stinks?

Puree the whole thing into a slurry.
Et voilà.
Fish fertilizer.

Slop a few tablespoons of it into your watering can, fill it up with water, and there you have it.
How much money did you spend?
None.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Greenpatch

Now that the vegetable garden is in (two rows of filet beans)
my weekends days begin to ease (onions, garlic).
I may forego the hose (six staked tomatoes)
and instead lug an old water can (hill of cucumbers)
from spigot to spaded soil (hill of zucchini).
Not a bench, but an upended log (pumpkins, parsley)
for garden meditation (scattering of carrots).
If I'm lucky, the cats will sit with me (cosmos, lemon gem marigolds)
and my days will be anchored, grounded by this humble patch of earth.
(Love.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not Quite Nature

At dusk I walked along the water's edge and saw two herons, one young eagle, and a goose family: the usual suspects.


A
N
D

T
H
E
N

I

S
A
W

T
H
I
S,

tucked away in some bushes........













Sunday, May 17, 2015

Every spring I stumble upon a bed of peonies that makes my knees buckle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Interviews

A shift in the roll-call, and we've been thick in the middle of new-hire interviews. I've skimmed the Craigslist responses, plucking out what seem like possible candidates from the expected druff, from the "I believe I am the best candidate for your studio assistant position." Blah blah blah. Cut and paste, resumés that relate in no way to our job listing. We're looking for immediate hire and possible long-term commitment; how does I'll be in Seattle for two months beginning in July fit the bill? Delete delete delete, etc.

Anyway.

I find the interview process, from the employer's standpoint, to be excruciating. To watch these young'uns tremble and quiver in M.'s and my presence just about unravels me to a single thread.














What I want to tell them is this:
"You know, it's all gonna be just fine. Here, let me make you some lunch. Would you like a cup of coffee? Tea? You are going to be fabulously successful! [Just not here.] You will find the perfect job, make sufficient money, find the apartment you most desire — everything — everything you seek will be yours!"

One young man today didn't seem to be able to find the door. What ensued was a comical (to us) back and forth from front door to back door, down to the sidewalk to, what? Look for yet another door? And us running back and forth from one end of the house to the other shouting out the door hello? Hello? Until he finally poked his head in the window, where we (but not him) burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all.

He finally figured it out, but seemed particularly shaken. (This is where my do you want a sandwich? clicks in.)

Well then.

I'm exhausted.

The new girl, I mean, woman, starts tomorrow at 10am.

Here we go again.
Step one of How to Mary-Melinda Your Glass in 10,739 Easy Steps.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Working in a Distillery in Labrador

My neighbor is selling most of her stuff, spread out across her tiny front yard like a life-museum exhibit: bike, lamp, boots. She's 38, single, tried to buy the little cottage she's lived in for seven years, but ran into a glitch, the owner (not my favorite person) wouldn't budge, and she's gotta be out by next Saturday. All this so quick.

I'll miss her, flat out.

Miss her gregarious nature, her boisterous guffaws, her generous neighborliness. Miss the sound of her music floating up to my second story bedroom when she has lawn parties into the night. Yeah, we're facebook friends, but that's different, you know?

Like I said, it all came down very fast, when she was fairly certain the sale was going to go through. She told me it's all pretty surreal, unreal, she loves it here on this street and doesn't want to go.

The rug's been yanked out from under her, and it feels like stepping off a cliff. Takes a little while to realize that there's only about an inch of air between her feet, the missing rug, and the floor. At some point: the soft thud back to earth. When the shock wanes, she'll check for missing body parts and realize that they're all still present.

Off to a new life.

It's warm out today, and all this sudden-moving stuff was swirling about in my head, when I suddenly thought about my late husband — Mark — and how on an early warm spring day, he'd get out a pair of too-small shorts and t-shirt and stretch himself into them to accommodate his annual winter weight gain. Good god it really bugged me. And for a moment (I was pulling out of the cramped parking lot of the fruit stand), the memory of this crushed me. I thought of his knees, for god's sake, his legs in their ultra-white coming out. And I missed those ridiculous short shorts. They were blue. I hated them and there I was missing them. A pair of shorts. A husband. Pulling out into traffic, my heart with that burning ache that can come on out of the blue, out of a blue-sky day when I'm not expecting it.

And I thought about my life eleven years on, about the friends I treasure most now, who were never a part of that previous life. Thought about that next blip of a marriage — that one that ended so suddenly and sent me reeling in much the same way my friend next door is reeling. How, without warning we get shifted into a new square on the game board and we want to shout But it wasn't my turn!

After the hundreds of dreams I've had where Mark shows up without explanation, sheepishly, and won't answer my queries, finally this week he did answer up to the long absence, and this is what he said:

I've been in Labrador. Working at a distillery. With fifteen other men. We lived in tents.

Well damn if I didn't wake up immediately, with about a million additional questions that of course must go unanswered. Who goes to Labrador? (If you're not up on your Canadian geography, it's the northernmost region of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, has a population of around 26,000 people, and is home to the indigenous Inuit of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit-Métis and the Innu.)

I think the last time I thought about Labrador was in 5th grade. That's 46 years ago. WTF?

How long must I wait for a few more details? 

(And I'm going to miss my neighbor.)



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Crow

I sat out on my balcony tonight for the first time this year, dragged a wooden chair out and ate chocolate-covered pretzels and started a new book, The Painter, by Peter Heller. Just warm enough, and just enough light. There was this crow — perched up on the peak of the neighbor's garage — he'd been trailing me all day as I worked out in the yard. Couldn't figure out what it was he wanted, but as I raked up the vinca clippings from the driveway, he picked around in the leavings, just behind me. When I spoke to him (her?), he swooped up to the telephone line and watched me. He's often out when I dig in the vegetable patch, always in my wake, looking for something. Have I missed some shiny trinket? Is there one buried that, if I'm lucky, will reveal itself? A friend recently unearthed a gold and opal ring while working her garden. This bird sparks my curiosity. What does it know that I don't? —much, I am certain. And if I find some buried gem, I'll think I'll offer it to my black-winged companion. There is nothing I need that wouldn't fare better clutched in a crow's beak.



Saturday, May 2, 2015

Solo at the Soirée

It's awkward — walking into a party alone when the only people you know are the hosts. Ack. Introductions, everyone else cozily coupled. The din at a level that makes it difficult to hear conversations, and conversations with complete strangers are difficult even with the best acoustics.

So I filled a plate with food (the requisite crudités [rainbow carrots, cauliflower, broccoli-ettes], the expected hummus, the bowls of whole grain & seeded chips, the goat cheese display), grabbed a hard cider and sat down in the middle of a group of people and made small talk. Very small talk, that seemed to go nowhere.

How's the water situation in San Diego?
Are these windows original?
Which of you are siblings?
Have you tried the baba ganoush?

I like parties.
I like people.
But going it alone can be daunting, and after an hour of chattery fits and starts (was I making any sense?), I made my exit, slipped off up the alley and headed home as the evening was cooling, past lilacs just past their prime, beneath bowers of mountain ash whose fragrance careened me back decades to the back yard of my childhood home, and the woods beyond, nettles beginning to line the path, fiddlehead ferns unfurling in the shadows as I sighed home, home, home.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

And it goes some more —

Dinosauric-machinery has taken up residence on my street for a week or so of sewer work. Because they do their business while I'm away at work, I come home to their somnolence, parked for the night, tucked neatly side of the street, the sharp-toothed digger positioned chin-down, hemmed in by those saw-horse things that announce No Parking (for the time-being). They appear so harmless, so placid, as if they couldn't, in a million years, make quick shredding work of just about anything.. As I said before, it goes and it goes, in spite of Stephen Hawking's dire warnings re: our extinction. Still we go about the daily business of breathing, and digging.

Today I endured major excavations of the dental variety, and my non-boutique dentist reassured me the tooth can be saved. He's doing some fancy sleight-of-hand, combining two crowns into one to hold my mouth together. O glory be. I imagine my teeth will outlive me.

The best part, thought, was that I walked to my dentist appointment, from work, then back to work, then back home again, through our rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood, over sidewalks heaved and broken, past million-dollar new homes, past houses boarded-up and overrun by decades of blackberry vines. Past urban chickens clucking up a racket. Every other person being led by a dog on a leash. The pug craze seems to be fading; the bulldog craze seems to be heating up. A few years ago I read that there were more dogs in Seattle than children, but I think that statistic has been tipped the other way, evidenced by an abundance of Cadillac strollers and precocious (and undoubtdly gifted) toddlers. Honestly, it almost makes me miss the crack houses.

Peering into the deeply-furred centers of irises brought me a curious kind of joy today, and the three miles of walking allowed irises with countless variations, and scents. The fact that winter is past (and it was mild here) makes me gasp with relief. The light has returned, and it's in every leaf and petal, every bee's wing, every water-sodden cloud, lighting the horizon from dawn to dusk. Time to inhale deeply, and store it all up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Many days. No words.

Feels like it's all been said. So many people all over the media screaming their stories, their accomplishments. I admit a certain addiction to facebook, but with it comes a loathing for it and the edited versions of lives that people lay out for viewing: The Braggarts' Museum.

I did I do I sang I published I read I wrote I painted I sculpted I grew I raised I earned I cooked I confabulated I imagined I completely made-up.

Oy.
Vey.
(Vocab stolen from former Jewish boyfriend.)

And in the interim, it all goes, and goes, and goes.
In the interim, there's a dentist appointment for Major Work for which I've finally saved enough $$$.
In the interim, there's betrayal and disappointment ( the opposite of appointment? A "dental disappointment?! Gawd I hope not.)
There are earthquakes and riots and seizures and cancers and even hernias being sewn neatly back up into one's interior regions (fancy that).
Seeds I planted a week ago sprout up from the soil, amazingly. I tell you, it's a fucking miracle: a tiny brown husk-of-a-thing pressed into some dirt — dirt, for god's sake! — and with a little water, a little sunshine and patience, it transforms itself into a thin spindly green thing wavering in the afternoon breeze. I bow down to my tray of thin spindly green things! Sing praise!

And in the interim: a desire for invisibility. To not have my name known as anything. We're facing our own extinction, folks, so why all this huffing and puffing to self-promote? (Speaking here of so many writers I know. Alas.)

And what is it we'll leave in our wakes?
—a ripple in the surface of a still lake, if we're lucky.
—dust that rustles up in a quick sidelong breeze.
—effluvia, vapor, will-o'-the-wisp.




Saturday, April 18, 2015

I walked home from work through great swarms of gnats, illuminated in the early evening sun. Interesting that they hover right about face level, which makes for curious hopping and odd, most undance-like movements down the sidewalk as I attempt to disengage myself from their thousands. It's been alarmingly mild — dare I say warm — and while others are rejoicing in our "early spring", my doomsday alarms, ie, climate change, are sounding at deafening volumes.

But to find joy in the present — that's the goal, is it not? The dogwoods are in full-on petticoat-bloom and, as is usual, I want to set up housekeeping up within the pinkage. Do you think anyone would notice a bed, a table (I'd keep it small), a chair? Moonlight would suffice for a lamp. And rain, well, skin is waterproof.


Monday, April 13, 2015

My Ceiling Has Been Edited

A VERY strange thing happened today. On my phone, I was trying to upload some photos onto blogger (from my phone, which has very few photos on it) and the photo below appeared as one of two options, even before I'd been given the option to select a photo.

Two things are odd about this: a)this photo is not stored on my phone, and b)I've never turned this into an animation. In 2013 I posted a photo of this branch with only the lights — no ornaments. So while this is indeed my photo, the only place it has appeared is on my facebook page, and my privacy settings limit viewing to friends. But oh silly me, here I was assuming that privacy actually means something.

I have to admit, it does look cool, but who did this? And where did they get it? Possibly my facebook page was hacked, but why this photo? There are hundred of "branches on ceilings" photos online (on google) but this one doesn't show up. I am sooooooo curious.
I guess I'll file this under Wonders of the Internet and enjoy my twinkling branch. (Funnier still in that the actual lights [which are still up] do not twinkle.)


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Crack in the Glass, in the Order of Things

We heard the CRACK! while it was in the kitchen kiln. God almighty a broken piece of glass, and an oven full of work. Always feels like a curse, and I have to reach in there to take everything out, not knowing whether it's still in one piece or whether it will fall to pieces in my hands. Gives me the heebie jeebies.

I found it — a larger piece that E. and I labored over yesterday afternoon. I'm teaching him a new technique, and the lesson was slow and plodding, lots of re-dos, lots of "let's strip this layer off." Or rather, "let's strip all these layers off and start from the beginning."

Seems to be the best way to teach — and learn — a new task here in the Glass Factory. Do it, feel your way through it with the basic instructions, then do it again, always refining and re-defining the details and brush strokes. Some have the touch and some don't. Some are teachable, and others aren't. I enjoy the teaching to a point — there's always a deadline at my back. Between M. and I, we could probably teach a two-year course in what we do here. (Might be a better way to make $$, come to think of it.)

Anyway.

A cracked vessel. Which let out a second loud SNAP after I took it out to inspect, completely cooled.

When E. returned from sand-blasting, I showed him the piece. He's 26, and studied glass art in college, and has a physics-level understanding of how the molecules move about in glass, and gave me a quick tutorial in surface tension and the path of least resistance. He found the most probable point of origin of the crack, a small embedded stone, which most likely caused a heating/cooling inconsistency and, blammo — there it went.

I am perpetually fascinated by the curving direction a crack will take, the arc of it, how it feels like a living thing in my hands, a conglomeration of vibrating molecules that have misbehaved and will end up ker-plunking into the garbage can.

Never having studied glass arts, what I know I know intuitively; a martini, wine or champagne glass will exhibit its own behavioral traits based on the angle or curve of the cup. Once sand-blasted, I can break the stem of any one of them in a snap if I'm lose my concentration and grasp too tightly in the finishing process — a fact that has never failed to astound me.  I know the ping a flicked finger makes on glass that announces Too Thin To Bother With.  A well-tempered, appropriately thick piece of glass will make a mid-toned ringing klung sound that says All Is Well. So much is decided on the song a piece of glass intones, its solitary note of suitableness. (M. is a generous Goodwill donor.)

Our little machine rumbles and clatters along, and sometimes it sings.

Ironic that yesterday I spent a good long stretch of the afternoon teaching E. the techniques I use to layer color, and then today listened in fascination while he taught me the physics of the crack. Much to be learned, from either side.

I was appropriately humbled.
I was trying to capture the often-seen prismatic effect a crack makes, but the light wasn't right.


The crack as seen on the base of the vessel: beautiful curve!



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Elegy for KB


 I went to visit this old boy on Sunday, this "Kitty-Boy" who, at 17 (85 by human comparison) had reached the end of his days. He lived across the street from me with my friend C., the banjo player, whose music is the soundtrack for many a summer night as it drifts from her front porch into my house.

Somewhere in these long years Kitty-Boy had grown into "Kitty-Geezer", and his nearly two-decades of rat-retrieving and finch-filching gradually diminished, giving way to seizures and all the accompanying maladies of elderly felinehood.

I (or one of my sons) was often summoned to help corral one live critter or another that he'd brought in through the cat door. Once I was helping C. ferret out a rat — quite literally! — and as I was peering down into a begonia plant the damned rodent leapt up into my face and quickly scurried into the living room and holed up under the sofa. Good LORD did we shriek with laughter! It's not so much a fear of rats that I have but more a fear of their cunning, their ability to appear invisible and then make themselves known toute de suite. Yowza.


Anyway. We hung out for a little while, Kitty-Geezer and I, and he posed rather elegantly for his photo shoot. He was beside the window, and on the lookout for birds: ever the hunter!

For many years he was a daily visitor at my back door, and got along famously with my ever-changing resident cats. But it'd been months, months since I'd seen him here, as he'd taken to mostly staying in, only going out for brief periods. Confined, as it were, to the house.

But Sunday afternoon, after I'd visited, I was in my kitchen and heard a tremendous yowl from my back yard, and lo and behold, if it wasn't Kitty-Geezer, summoning me one last time! I wasn't even entirely certain it was him, but a phone called confirmed that it was. C. had let him out, and hadn't gone with him. He'd promptly crossed the street and ended up in his old stomping grounds.

I let him in, and he went through his usual routines: check out the food dish, and then find a catnip toy. Sniff, sniff, sniff. All was normal, as it should be. Then I picked him up and carried him home.

It's hard to believe that 17 years have passed since C. brought home the kitten that he once was. There was a summer afternoon when an eagle swooped down into her yard, evidently having spied kitten-meat. As I recall, C. rushed-in to rescue her bundle-of-kitten. That all seems so unimaginable now, considering the entrails of bird beaks/talons/feathers/organs that this single boy-cat has left behind in his wake.

But a wake is what is called for now, and a small vase of forget-me-nots left on the porch across the street.



















Old boy, I'm going to miss you.





Saturday, March 28, 2015

Imago

In my bricks-and-mortar life, a hazelnut branch hangs from the ceiling in my living room, strung with white twinkle lights and some feathered birds clipped to twigs. (Cut it with the sawz-all from the garden on a grey December afternoon with no birds to be seen.)

In that alternate universe of the nighttime dream, I pulled it down from the ceiling and hauled it outside, and from the branches shimmered dozens of butterflies, each velvet wingbeat a flicker of bright color that fluttered up and into the cloud-struck sky, all of it a wonder and a surprise.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

State of the Union

There are times when I want to leave poetry.
File the papers and be done with it.
Walk out the door, a slam at the end
of the last line. Full stop.
See ya later, alliterator.

I’m tired of poetry not paying the rent.
Tired of washing poetry’s dirty laundry.
Tired of cleaning up after poetry,
nothing but half-empty bottles
and an inbox of rejections.

Poetry, I’m even tired of your name,
how the mere mention of you can kill
a perfectly good conversation.
How even writers don’t claim you,
relegated to your own forsaken slot:
Poets and Writers.

And when was the last time you cooked
me dinner? Mowed the lawn?
Spackled the den?

You want all of me.
I can’t take a walk without you
tap-tapping in my brain, can’t wake up
without one of your lines
jolting me from dreamland.  

I’m late for work because of you.
Skip meals because of you.
Lose sleep over you.

Poetry, you are at the core of my every apple,
under the bark of the alder;
in the curve of the earthworm
and in the droplets of the nimbus cloud. 

You exist in the dimensions of the observable universe,
and in all that lies beyond.
In everything known and unknown,
in everything knowable and unknowable.
In quark (the particle) and quark (the cheese).

You are every word I attempt to write,
you are this poem, you are me
and I am you. Poetry,
I will never leave you.