Sunday, January 31, 2010


Today is my 54th anniversary of January 31st, which is utterly meaningless. Just thought I'd mention it.

I seared a pot roast, browned some onions, threw it in the crock-pot with carrots, celery, thyme, parsley, bay leaves and lots of salt and pepper. Some days I crave meat, no apologies, omnivore that I am.

Shopped for bright! tropical! clothing! yesterday, which, needless to say in this brown and grey landscape, was not in abundance. P. is taking me to Maui in a little over a week, for eight nights. My first trip to The Tropical State. I expect to be stunned silly and even, possibly, into silence by sun, warm water and blooming flora. I also expect:
1. cocktails beginning at 4pm
2. seaside reading
3. etc.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I recall the basement in my childhood home as a space that had no limits: neither in darkness nor possibilities. Rainy winter afternoons my mother sent us down to play in the company of a bellowing furnace & rows of summer-canned cherries, saws & wrenches. A tiny bedroom wedged itself into a corner, and where the light eked in, a washer and dryer in perpetual spin. The solitary closet backed up into the earth, supported by concrete. Ledges appeared to lead off into underground caverns and I knew they didn't but believed otherwise. Something in me still believes that -- and in my dreams I venture beyond the army-surplus tent and mummy bags in search of something -- what? How much of memory is the product of one's manufactured imagination? My sisters and I drew chalk landscapes on the cement, cupid-hearts around the crush-of-the-moment.

When my mother sold the house, back in the early 1980's, I made one final descent into that underground vault after the last bit of belongings had been loaded into a truck, and found a stuffed toy monkey named Vincent abandoned, forgotten on the floor. I took him home with me, and a few years later he burned up in the Louisa Street apartment fire.

Last night in my dream I was back again, with a broom, sweeping and poking into all the corners, once more on the hunt.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010


On a day off, indulging my love of the dictionary:


Ten days straight of work, and now this soft day
of sleep and quiet play. Listening to Pandora,
a Baguette Quartette station. Ah, lovely stuff.
There's lasagna bubbling in the oven and a chopped
salad ready for oil & vinegar.


In my dream last night I was swinging from a rope
strung from the upper branches of an apple tree,
and I could go as high as I wanted without bumping
or snagging. Below me were about twenty women,
and I was reciting spontaneous poetry about the joy
of the moment. Awake with exhilaration!


Cheap wine from Whole Floods: sour.


What is there to be said about January,
about winter, that hasn't already been said?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Back in my college years, I worked as a clerk in a department store. One of my co-workers (I'll call her "M."), an imperious and bullying middle-aged harridan of a woman, happened to be the mother of the man who, in 2003, confessed to more confirmed murders than anyone else in American history. At the time, of course, I didn't know that she was the mother of a psychopath, and didn't know that he was a murderer. The only ones who could have possibly known were already dumped limp on riverbanks and under vine maples, in the damp fiddlehead-fern wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

M. was insufferable in her black bonnet-of-a-beehive, her slathered-on face, her slick polyester slacks: a continuum of clicking heels and hip-twists, sharp-edged jerks left and right. She sold menswear, and the men lined up for her hour upon hour. She always entertained at least one in the back of her department, up against a wall of white briefs, package of three for $4.49. I sensed something askew, but who, at age eighteen, would suspect the kind of horror M.'s son was committing? That he would eventually admit to the murder of 71 women?

Though this abomination of a man often stopped by on his way to work to say hello to his mother, it was the mother I suspected of questionable behavior, not the son. Questionable behavior! I was painfully naive.

I began to question other co-workers, who were all about the same age as M., and every last one of them turned a deaf ear to me. My guess is that they were afraid of her: not surprising. No one would confront her or take her on. I tried several times, and each time she arched up and spit her venom at me. I was powerless in her sinister wake. I was nothing.

It seems logical to speculate that the sins of the son were retaliation for the sins of the mother.

Thirty-five years later I can hear the snap of her gum, smell her spearmint breath inches from my face, and it still scares the hell out of me.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I want to stay home and glue things to
other things and rip pages out of my
ancient dictionary and sort through
all my old stamps, some of them torn
from old letters, postmarks still intact.

I want to finger the Japanese papers
which arrived in a packet of blue
and lay out all the expansive sheets
of rice paper, handmade paper, paper
with names I can never remember.

I want to make cylinders of the three
sheets of stiff paper I bought last week
and cut slots for light and place them
over candles. And sit amongst that filtered
light and drink wine, a Malbec-Syrah blend.

I want olives and a good toothy bread
and Irish butter and bits & bobs of cheese.
And pickled things: asparagus, beans,
peppers. Salted salmon.

I want
I want

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Humble Grumble

Sometimes you think you've done everything right:
you've measured, researched, pondered, conferred,
and you still end up creating a hot pink muumuu
big enough to clothe an entire herd of matronly

And sometimes that's just the way it goes,
and there's not a damn thing to be done about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


This is well worth the six minutes and thirty-one
seconds it takes to watch:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hot off the press!
I have two poems in this issue --
click here to order yours.


I wanted nothing more this morning
than to drive north on the freeway, head up
to the Skagit Valley and spend the day among
the snow geese, and all those miles and miles
of flat farmland, the dormant tulip fields.
A whim.
But I drove south, as usual, into the city
and on to work.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


My late husband was a book collector, and in my
delving into his hoard of boxes, I've uncovered
countless treasures. This is one of my current

The spine is elegant --

-- as are the endpapers:

A delight of surprises awaited me inside -- scraps
from a life long expired:

There is a name signed in longhand in the front --
Burton_____, too faded to make out.

Some of the chapter titles:

-On the Mind and Its Faculties (including Ghosts and Passions)
-Artificial Aliments
-Poisons -- Suspended Animation (with a subheading To Excite Perspiration)
-Comforts for the Sick (to include Toast Water)
-Eminent Mechanics and Their Inventions
-Arts of Locomotion, of Heating, Ventilation &c.

And a bit of it's own poetry, in advice on how to
rid ones home of red or black ants:

Scald their haunts, and put Scotch snuff where they go
to procure their food.

Go here to stock up on Scotch snuff.
Scald haunts with caution.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bar Talk

I was sitting in a bar tonight (not a regular pastime, mind you) and discovered that the guy sitting next to me had the same piano teacher as me, back in the day. And that he was in the same summer piano class with my little sister. This teacher, a Mrs. W., was a family friend, and she gave lessons free-of-charge to my sister and me because we were fatherless. Mrs. W. Had Pity. She was also, for the most part, impatient, irritable, and probably would have made a good nun. Or a good "bad nun".

Anyway, I asked this man at the bar if he remembered the evil pair of black nail scissors with their fragments of nicked skin that Mrs. W. kept on the little shelf just above the black-and-whites, and his eyes lit up and he began to laugh, with what appeared to be fondness. Good god! He remembered Mrs. W. with fondness! He remembered her nail scissors with fondness!

I recall dread and fear prior to each lesson. I loved playing the piano, but my time with Mrs. W. was a trial, in spite of decent piano skills and keeping a religious practice schedule. My last year of lessons was less fraught than those earlier, and about halfway through that year, when I was seventeen, an extraordinary thing happened, which changed everything:

I'd been assigned one of Chopin's nocturnes, and after a week of practicing it, I came to my class and played it with the vigor of a piano player in a marching band. Strident! Upright! I didn't know that nocturne meant a piece appropriate to the night or evening. Horrified, Mrs. W. swooped (swooped!) her brittle-edged body from her chair and began to sway and teeter about the room in her best Isadora Duncan imitation.

"No no noooooo! This is a nocturne! It's meant to be played slowwwly, it's meant to flow like a streeeeeam! It's night-time, it's quiet, it's sennnnnsuous!" She spun once or twice.

My lower jaw dropped to the keyboard. Who was this sudden sylph, this impromptu ballerina, this ripple of fluttering flesh who'd replaced Mrs. W.? I seem to recall a chiffon scarf trailing from her fingers, but perhaps that's just forty years of embroidered memory adding its inevitable stitches. But scarf or no scarf, at that moment Mrs. W. crossed into another dimension. Where, moments before, I'd seen, for all intents and purposes, a wimpleless nun, I now saw a woman still in possession of passion and the spark of youth. And suddenly, we clicked. The years of tension were replaced with a mutual love of Chopin and the piano.

Well I'll be damned. Apparently, I, too, remember Mrs. W. with fondness, my memory edited after a chance conversation at a bar. But I will never -- NEVER -- reminisce fondly about those blasted nail scissors!

This man is nuts.

Pact with the devil?
Obviously, the millions of Haitians whose
lives have been devastated by this event
need to take responsibility for it.
Anyone can see that they brought it on themselves.
I suggest that Mr. Robertson, to atone
for these outrageous statements, go to Haiti,
roll up his sleeves, and help dig people
out of the rubble.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Writing group tonight. My new poem is called Holy Goose. Derived from the Our Father (as Catholics [and we formerly-practicing Catholics] say), the Hail Mary (both of them prayers particularly useful when saying one's penance post-confession) and Mother Goose. And it's back to yoga also, first time since before Thanksgiving. I really miss yoga when I don't go. It makes everything easier. And, oh yeah, I'm heading off for a full day of work before yoga and writing group. Better get a move on.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Inspired by Planting Along the Verge:

Last time P. and I were in Kingsville, Texas,
he drove me out to the shuttered downtown
of Bishop. Some years back, when a new highway
was built a few miles away, the entire downtown
packed-up and moved on down the road.

These photos were taken on a weekday in May,
about noon, temperature close to 98 degrees: blazing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I'm always a bit perplexed when people respond to the subject of blogging with a "NO, I DON'T READ BLOGS", accompanied by a recoil, as if even mentioning the word "blog" will precipitate an outbreak of leprosy.

There are a lot of really boring blogs out there, though. Painfully boring. And I admit that I avoid those.

My goal is to bring to my readers a snooze-free experience. Don't always accomplish it, yet the effort is continual.

Thanks for tuning in.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Technology in Action

This is what happened at work yesterday:

My son stopped by to do some odd jobs
for my boss, and while he was there I told him
that I'd brought him a container of homemade
soup, and reminded him several times not to
forget it.

Then, of course, he left, and left the soup behind.
So I sent him a text:

"U forgot yr soup"

My son: "Who is this lol"

Me: "Duh, Mom!"

My son: "I'm confused?"
And again: "Who is this lol"

So I thought, WTF? --and called him
and said:

"What's going on with you anyway?
I told you several times that I'd brought you soup!"

My son: "Huh? Oh, yeah, I forgot it. I'll be right over."

So when he got there I asked him what he meant
by all those odd texts, and he told me he hadn't texted
me. I said that he had indeed and proceeded to show
him the three messages from him....OH NO!
I'd entered his number manually, and had made an error
with one of the digits. HA! Wrong number!
I'd been texting a stranger!
I began to laugh, and laughed harder, until I could
barely stand up. Melinda followed suit.
My son just shook his head, took his soup,
and made his exit. (Smart boy.)

By that time Melinda and I were shrieking and falling
off chairs, etc.
I decided to send an explanation to my Wrong Number.
I wrote,

"Lol sorry! Wrong #. And unfortunately u can't have
the soup."

Wrong Number texted back:

I want the soup!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My reply:

"I don't know u well enough
to give u soup. Just sayin'. Laughing so hard
I'm crying."

Wrong Number:

"Hi my name is dlonn!!!!!!
And I like soup lol"

And that was the end of the Texting Soup Drama.
Melinda and I finally regained our composure
and got back to production.

She suggested that I text "dlonn" tomorrow
with this message:

"U forgot yr chocolate chip cookies"

I'd bet $$ that dlonn LOOOOOOOOVES
chocolate chip cookies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In the Big-Leaf Maples

We named them and believed them holy:

--Whispering Winds
--Old Nettle Patch
--Horseshoe Bend

And possibly others, but they've long disappeared
and given way to trim houses and tidy lawns.

We knew the scrape of bark on the belly,
how far a branch could bend before breaking.
Knew how the topmost branches gained pliancy
the higher one climbed, as close to clouds as possible.
Knew the camouflage of leaves in summer, the stark
visiblity against a winter's framework of limbs.
This wasn't play, but something deeper than that.
It wasn't fun: it was everything.

This was what I dreamed of during the long dull
Catholic sermons each Sunday, and I shed
my tights and patent leathers fast as I could
once home, into rough denims & a sweatshirt,
so that I could get on with the real work
of being alive.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


This week lots of bloggers are chronicling their
experiences during the "oughts" -- their disappointments,
appointments, accomplishments (all things ending
in -ment, apparently). While I'm not inclined
to type a list, let's just say for those who didn't
endure these past ten years at my side that
the following events occurred:

1. opened a bakery
2. began remodeling house
3. lost husband #1
4. battled massive lawsuit
5. finished remodeling house
6. lost bakery
7. nearly lost house in lawsuit
8. fell in love
9. fell in love with Ireland
10. settled lawsuit
11. two sons finished high school
12. began new job as artist's assistant
13. got married
14. moved to the other side of the lake
15. one son graduated from college
16. travelled to Ireland, France, Italy,
Caribbean, New York, Maine, New Orleans,
Boston, Texas, LA
17. started blogging
18. continued to write and publish

Okay, so it is a list.
An abbreviated list.
But what's most important is everything
between those lines, everything left unsaid,
all the minutiae of every day that makes up
a life.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Resolving to take more walks, and I managed
to get out today for 45 minutes, in the woods
wedged between apartments and a mega-corporation.
Here in my pretend wilderness, with its remnants
of the world that existed here 100+ years ago --
nurse logs, huckleberry bushes, cedars, salal --
it takes only moments to forget that I'm surrounded
by civilization. It's easy to block the car-sounds
floating up from the bottom of the hill, easy to think
not of the strip malls and intersections a half-mile
to the west, and focus instead on the crows' nests
visible in the bare maples and alders, the lichen
which seems to drip from branches, the ferns clinging
to the eastern sides of tree-trunks.

I've never seen children roaming these woods:
do kids not do this anymore? My kids didn't because
there were no woods to roam. But I cannot imagine
a life beside a wild patch such as this without dreaming
up every sort of mossy encampment, or scouting out
the best trees to climb.

I did notice several stacks of sticks and branches
stacked beside the path at one point, with attention
given to the size of the stick. Not seen anything
like this in the two years I've walked these woods--
was someone gathering kindling for a fireplace?
A bit farther down the path I got my answer:
against an errant boulder was a primitive lean-to
with wobbly posts and a roughly-woven twig roof,
unfinished, an afternoon's project interuppted
by a call home for dinner, perhaps. (On the cell phone,
most likely.) Tiny, obviously constructed by equally
small hands -- maybe two children could hunker
down here in tender oblivion -- but no more than that.
(I cursed myself for not having my camera.)

I was a bit amazed that it was so close to the path,
so vulnerable. In my woodsy days our "forest"
headquarters were carefully concealed -- or at least
we believed them to be. Who knows if they truly were?
We kept house surrounded by fiddlehead ferns
and guarded by six-foot-high nettles: swept the "floor"
with Douglas fir branches, made stump-chairs.
Ate our bologna sandwiches (yellow mustard) from
brown paper bags. Gulped water from Mason jars.

I feel old talking about this but when I stop to consider
that before the Pacific Northwest was logged, just over
a hundred years ago, the trees were so thick and the trunks
so immense, one could carve out a reasonable hut
in the remnants of a massive stump -- albeit, a primitive
hut, and most likely suitable only for a play house,
but I'd guess that more than one solitary mountain-man
(or woman)made-do with moss for wall-paper
and a packed-dirt floor.

Nothing, of course, like the meager fir-twigs stacked
beside my path today, but trees hundreds and hundreds
of years old, and older.

I left on my walk today intoning my customary groan:
Don't Wanna Do This.

Came home from my walk dreaming of ferny hollows
and mossy ravines, wishing for a July afternoon, a book,
and no cell phone to summon me home.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I layed down with my book at 11:45 pm last night
and read for 5 minutes then turned off the light
and blam. Asleep. Didn't hear the year change.
P. came in to sing Auld Lang-whatever and I was
long gone. Woot.

A correction: in an earlier post about my travels
in Italy with friends R. and S., I had brought up
the subject of R.'s "minimal Italian", and have
been taken to task over these two words.
So let me say here that R.'s intermediate-to-advanced
And other things, I am certain. And for this
I am grateful. Now I shall go say two
Our Fathers and three Hail Mary's
and forgiveness shall be mine.


ps, I need a new year. My old year is threadbare.
The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

--Philip Larkin