Monday, March 30, 2009

Busy weekend. Spent most of Friday working on new
paint and collage techniques, researching copyright
issues regarding image use. (Essentially, if it's younger
than a hundred years, it's probably protected. Not that
the copyright police are going to come into my home
and go through my stacks of collage work, but hey.
It's good to know this stuff as I head off to Kinko's
to make laser copies.)

Saturday we saw Duplicity, the new caper flick
starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Not a lot
of spark between the two (O! For Cary Grant!),
and would have benefited from a lot more wit
and humor. Thumbs down!
Baked Greek cod filets (tomato, onion, garlic,
kalamata olives, parsley, oregano), roasted Yukon
golds and a chopped salad for dinner; a little
strawberry tarte with a lightly sweetened
Greek yogurt filling.

Sunday we hopped on the Mukilteo Ferry for a brunch
and tour of Hedgebrook, a women writers retreat center
set on 40 pastoral & wooded acres with water/mountain views.
Our friend and Executive Director Amy Wheeler invited
us up -- my first visit. Although I've never applied
for a residency here, many of my writer friends
have spent time here, and after yesterday's tour
and delicious brunch (including nettle turnovers!)
I can definitely see the allure. There are, at any given
time between March and November, six or seven
writers in residence, staying for two weeks and up to
two months. Each writer has her own cabin with
woodstove, microwave, tiny fridge, toilet & sink
and a sleeping loft. The cabins are situated among
evergreens and allow as much privacy as one could
possibly want, while letting in rays of sunlight
between fir and cedar boughs. There is a communal
bathhouse and dining room, although I've heard
rumor that breakfast is delivered in a basket to
one's door. Nice! I've never been one to escape
to a retreat to write, as over the years I've come
to accept that I do my best writing at home. But
this certainly is enticing. And the best part:
if you're accepted, it's gratis.

Upon leaving Hedgebrook, we headed north to
Deception Pass -- one of my favorite places in the state.
A bridge connects the northern tip of Whidbey
with the mainland, and the pass itself connects
the Straits of Juan de Fuca with Skagit Bay. You can
walk the narrow walkway beside traffic -- a bit harrowing
but worth it for the views: straight down is eddying
and swirling green saltwater, to the west and east
the vista takes in islands, mountains and more
water. And even better: we were blessed with an entire day
of sun and little wind. Hard to believe, with the
ceaseless rain and grey we've endured for months.

Before heading home, we continued up through
the Skagit Valley to listen to Folichon, a cajun band
playing a gig at the Old Edison Inn. Our friend
Karen England played fiddle -- check out Citizen K.
later today for a video from the event.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I found this in a box in my basement
along with a slew of letters dated
from the 1920's. This line is particularly


Friday, March 27, 2009

Good news! Calyx, a literary journal out of Corvallis
Oregon, has taken my poem "After School Alto,"
and is holding two other poems for further consideration.
I've been trying to get into this very fine magazine
for many years, so this feels quite delicious.
I guess that this is a sign I should get off my lazy
ass and submit more. Ha. (I need a secretary.)
Maybe it's spring. I'm not sure.
I can't smell it in the air, I can't see it.
I certainly don't feel it when I bundle up
in my scarf and coat every time I leave the house.
A pot of chives on my porch is sending up
tentative spikes, tender tender. Wary.
My rosemary displays only death, grey & crackling.
Evergreen thyme, which has hunkered into itself all winter,
exists still in its own limbo. I snipped a few sprigs last night
to add to andouille & rice along with a scratching
of dried oregano, a sneeze of cayenne.
The worn-out season lingers, a groggy bear
who's used up every ounce of stored fat.
Wake up!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I have been informed that stressed is desserts spelled
backwards. (Or is that sdrawkcab?)
Not sure what the significance of this is,
but I welcome any and all wise thoughts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


5:56am, in bed
the cat on my chest, purring
incessant rain
my husband's breathing

not the scuffle of slippers
not the click of the furnace
not coffee's percolation
no sizzle, no buzz

only the day waiting to crank up the volume

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I sat with my boys last night and laughed and laughed,
falling-off-the-couch laughter, black humor about
death and ashes and gravestones, a particular
vocabulary of details known only to the three of us.
About bits of foil and a single plastic fork
(not two forks, mind you, just one) and a long-deceased
cat named Phloem and the twist-ties that
bind-up lettuce and odd bolts & screws
and whatever it is in your junk drawer
that can take on a second use as decoration.
Cryptic, yes, I understand.

My father's gravestone, from 1966, was replaced
when my mother died to a slab on whose surface
both their names are etched. The original stone --
a chunk of marble glinting blue in sunlight --
lies in the garden of my Brandon Street house,
unassuming, humbly announcing my father's
all-too-brief life to the occasional nuthatch, the jay.
And yes, the long-gone Phloem is interred not far
from that spot under the Akane apple tree,
as is Phloem's mother Xylophone.

What else to say about these odd facts?
Yes, we are irreverent. And yes, goddamnit, it's funny.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

As a child, my neighbor, Katie, grew nettles
and strawberries: nothing else. Long before
I knew of the healing properties of nettles,
this baffled me to no end, as my friends and I
staged an all-out battle each spring and summer
to rid our beloved woods of as many of the
stinging pests as possible. Armed only with
hefty sticks -- for some reason this was our rule --
we whacked at nettles which often grew taller
than us, nettles so lush and deadly the task
loomed before us, an interminable toil.
Of course, we never went to war with Katie's
crop. And when someone finally mentioned
the notion of nettle tea, I could only imagine
a mouth swollen-shut with welts. We nursed
our own stinging ankles with sap from the root
of the fiddlehead fern, mashed to a sticky froth.
We believed it assuaged the pain, and so it did.

Katie was always ancient to me -- born ancient,
died ancient. While other mothers shed their housedresses
and began to sport denim and polyester capri pants,
Katie was a holdout in her stern black heels
(not unlike what nuns wore) and her floral dresses
with a hint of lace at the neck. A knock at her
front door brought handfuls of waffle-cream cookies,
or a nickel or more for the agates I sold door-to-door.
(Or what I thought were agates.)

Victor, her silent husband, adjusted to her death
by shutting off every room in the house save
the kitchen and one bedroom. Rumor was he
hunkered in front of an open oven all winter.
His weekly mowing contained then a larger
arc as his rough boots heeled-out the last of the
strawberries, and the only nettles that remained
were those which sprung up overnight on my path
through the woods, relentless & needle-toothed.

Not for Fruitcake

I adore candied orange peel. And, although not difficult
to make oneself, it does take a bit of attending-to, so I
like to make it while cooking dinner or otherwise
engaged in the kitchen. I find that a few sugary bits
satisfies that post-meal craving for dessert from which
I never seem to be able to escape! Also great with
a cup of black tea.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Homemade crackers. I was going to whip up a couple of
baguettes, but didn't have any yeast. I'd always wanted
to make my own crackers, so I thought I'd give them a
try. If you can make pie crust, you can make crackers.
Flour, sugar, salt, milk. Ridiculously easy. And incredibly

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"In rain during a dark night,
enter that darkness."
--Shiva (From The Little Zen Calendar)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A copy of a letter of recommendation
that my paternal grandfather brought with him
from New Ross, Ireland to America when
he emmigrated in 1905 --

From left to right: my great-grandfather, Walter J. Clear,
1856-1939, from Ballyanne and later Mount Elliot,
County Wexford; my great aunt, Kit Clear; my great-
grandmother, Katherine Purtil Clear of Kilenard near
Cashel, County Tipperary. The photo was taken
in front of their house in New Ross, County Wexford.
When Paul and I visited New Ross a few years ago,
with advice from my uncle we were able to locate
the overgrown foundation of the house, long since
torn down.

My grandmother, Katherine Hourihan Clear,
1889-1985; and my grandfather Thomas A. Clear,
1884-1968, whose letter of recommendation appears
above --

So often, in this country of displaced heritages,
we hunger for these connections to people
and places long disappeared. An ocean and
a continent separates me from my ancestral
Irish roots, but a (relatively, in the scheme of things)
short plane ride allows me to settle-in to habits
and customs of a country left behind by my
grandfather over a hundred years ago. I met
my grandfather only once, when I was nine
years old. He sat in a wheelchair in a nursing home,
thin and crumpled, and pointed to my little sister,
and said one word: Walter: the name of my father,
his son, who had died six months prior to our visit.
And it's this same sister who is the spitting image
of my grandmother pictured in the formal portrait
above, this sister whose father passed away
before any impressions of him had become etched
in her memory.

It was my own late husband's unrealized dream to visit
Ireland, also the country of his forefathers (and foremothers!)
I would never have imagined that my life would end
up as it has, widowed, remarried to a wonderful man,
and, ironically, summers spent at our own Irish
"holiday home". In this I can claim my own rights
of possession. I can stake my hold on a shovelful of soil
that is as much mine as it is that of my grandfather,
my great grandmother, my late husband,
my dear sweet Paul, my children through whose veins
still courses the blood of centuries and centuries
of Celts, with all the passion and stoicism
and ever-present wit & song of the Irishman
perched at the bar, pint of Guinness in his hand,
with yet one more story to be told
before the night is over.

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

Monday, March 16, 2009

My son who cooks. Up a storm.

I DID NOT want to get out of bed today.
Perfect day to hunker down under blankets
and read. But....I went to the gym, went to work,
hosted book group (dinner catered by my son)
and finally, FINALLY I can get on with the
hunkering down.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stormy Sunday!

I'm rereading The Story of Lucy Gault, by the Irish
novelist William Trevor, for my book group.
I rarely reread a book, and this is the second time
in six months for this title. I'm struck by the effortlessness,
the elegance of the writing. Trevor has a way
of approaching a paragraph from the edges of
details, and then the details, and then, finally
towards the end of the paragraph, the subject.
And as he weaves strands from the past into the present
in a most understated manner, it often takes
a second look to fully parse the sense of a passage.
But so satisfying! He writes about the tragedy
and heartbreak of the Irish Civil War not on a grand
scale, but in how the conflict left its staggering
wounds on the small and humble.
Highly Recommended.

Friday, March 13, 2009

For Hire

In the interest of my personal checking account
(as in "hey Mom, can I borrow/have some $$?")
I am posting Work Wanted for son #2.
He's nearly finished with his Culinary Arts program,
and can whip up a fantastic meal in the comfort
and privacy of your very own home, for a reasonable
price. Last Monday he delivered and served lunch
to my place of employment, for six people,
$10/person. We had roasted potatoes and smoked
salmon on a blood-orange hollandaise, with mixed
greens and marinated purple cauliflower on the side.
You can enjoy this too, if you live in the Seattle area.
(Or somewhere else, but you have to spring for airfare.)
For a testimonial on Monday's lunch, click here.
Believe me, he's good.

A dream-within-a-dream is a little like looking
at yourself in a mirror while holding another mirror.
Here's the scenario I encountered last night
while I lay inert in my bed surrounded by felines:
I dreamed that my dreams suddenly began appearing
on Premium T. in the form of a video. All I had to do
was log on to my blog, and the previous night's
subconscious mindscape would play on my computer.
What was fascinating about this was not the content
of the dream, but that it happened all on its own.
Now don't worry: I'm not going to suddenly start
boring you with dream-videos! (That's said, of course,
with the assumption that I'm not boring you already.)
But I kind of like the idea of easy visual access
to the psychedelic imagery of shut-eye ramblings.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Here's a great dinner item when your inner vegan
rears its head:

a few potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can drained and rinsed garbanzo beans
a few tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
chili powder

Toss the potatoes and garbanzos with the oil,
sprinkle with spices. Bake at 450 for 30-45 minutes,
or until they begin to crisp up nicely. I like to stir them
up a few times while they're baking. I use a glass pan.
And I rarely measure, unless I'm following a recipe,
so you're on your own with the spices.

I served this with a wilted spinach salad.
If you add hard-boiled egg, then I guess that would
make it a vegetarian dinner. To be honest, I added
egg and bacon to the salad. Guess I'm an omnivore
at heart.

(Thanks to Emily at Tofu Hunter for the entree idea.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A little magic....

Some years back, for Mother's Day my boys gave me
a beautiful pair of earrings with sapphires mined
in Montana. They quickly became my favorites,
and I wore them all the time. Then one disappeared --
When the errant gem had been gone for about a month,
I was pulling up in front of the house one early evening
after work, and saw a large white rabbit on the parking strip.
I got out of the car, squatted down to the rabbit's level,
and started talking to it. No, the rabbit did not
talk back. But as I lingered there I noticed something
shiny stuck between the pebbles of the aggregate.
Sure enough, there was the earring setting, but no
stone. It was tarnished and slightly bent, being, as it
was, in the direct path of any vehicle passing over it
to go into my driveway. And then I saw the sapphire,
also wedged between pebbles. I pried it up -- it had
a few tiny scratches, but was otherwise intact.
I polished up the silver, super-glued the gem into place,
and -- voilà -- I was back in business. And the rabbit?
Never saw it again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

When the snow stops in Seattle I'll put up
a different photo at the top of this blog.
Until then, it's pink buds and white fluff.
(Come on, Mother Nature, this is Seattle.)


Still no e'mails. I've had five virtual "chats"
with Comcast representatives in the Philippines
(Wina, Christopher, Analise, Mariane, and one
more I can't remember.) Each tech has proudly
announced to me that he/she has solved
the problem! I assure you! Fixed!
Thank-you very much! How are you today?
How can I assist you? Blah blah blah.
Now I've been told to wait an additional
24 hours so they can locate the errant
e'mails and point them in my direction.
We'll see. If you see any e'mails wandering
around in the ether or techosphere
please tell them it's time they headed home.
Dinner is getting cold.
And I'm not waiting up.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

For those of you in the Seattle area, Nelson started
his own part-time business doing in-home computer
repairs and consulting. If you need work done, shoot
me an e'mail at
He's good!


Speaking of e'mail, my Comcast account is currently
unable to receive new mail, so I'm a bit bereft
until the problem is fixed, hopefully in the next
24 hours. Paul reminded me that I can still use
my phone to contact people. Oh yeah. That.
I remember the phone!
I was on the Comcast helpline with a tech
in the Philippines this morning for at least
an hour, we reset all sorts of things, emptied
things, signed-in-and-out of things, etc.
Nothing has worked yet, and she/he referred
me on to "higher fix help". Oh boy!


I understand that other people's dreams are boring,
but what is going on when a dream is so completely
fantastic, you wake up astounded and in awe
of the images still very real in your brain?
Last night I visited (in a dream)
a cathedral/graveyard/town in France, built up the side
of a very steep hillside, thousands of feet high,
more elaborate and more complicated than anything
I've ever experienced in waking hours.
Dazzling gardens and architecture and interior design.
I recall having a conversation with an older
French woman who had luminous green eyes
the size of golf balls.
What is the source of this? Well yeah, I know it
originates upstairs here at Premium T., but damn,
that was some fiercely fabulous stuff!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Five not-necessarily-staples items that
my pantry is never without:

1. fresh lemons
2. bacon
3. capers
4. coconut milk
5. tapioca

How about you?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More beautiful work from my place of employment:

Each of these functional vessels is individually
hand-painted, and they sell at galleries in cities
from coast to coast.
A website is under construction -- I'll be sure
to post it when it's up and running.


I have a suggestion for Mother Nature
in regard to spiders:
First of all, I have to say that I respect
the unique place they occupy in the ecosystem.
I'm not anti-spider in the larger scheme of things.
I just find it unnerving when one crawls towards me
in a haphazard and silent and unexpected fashion.
So my suggestion is that spiders be required
to sound an alarm when approaching a human.
Nothing elaborate, just a simple beeping
would suffice. This is not too much to ask for.


My sister works at Eddie Bauer, and yesterday
one of her customers, in a show of appreciation,
brought her a dozen eggs from his own chickens.
Eggs of varying color and size, from an assortment
of fowl. A fowl bouquet. Bawk bawk.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Opus 69 No. 2

Nothing eases the soul like playing a Chopin waltz
on the piano. My soul. (I won't claim anything for yours.)
Sonorous, mournful, orotund. (Isn't orotund a great
word? Deeply resonant and curvaceous, it is.)
I can really only get all the way through a handful
of waltzes, but I like to cut-and-paste them
into a whole that is at my level. I spent too many
teenage years playing Chopin, and I haven't
changed much. I admit this. In public.
Right now.
Amid the onslaught of daily updates
on the global economic ruination
I am grateful to be busy at my job
making glass art such as this --

and this --

-- and a host of other equally
stunning pieces. Someone somewhere
is still acting the consumer. And (most of)
the galleries we sell to have credit cards
that aren't immediately declined.
Of course, at any point in any day
every order in the to-be-filled file
could be canceled, but so-far so-good.
Taking it one day at a time, one order
at a time, one piece of glass at a time.

Monday, March 2, 2009

O Beautiful Spuds!

There's nothing like the hue of a purple potato
to liven up a Sunday dinner....