Monday, August 30, 2010

The Golden Hour

Ah, sleep, absent and truant as the circadian rhythms shift and adjust.

Nonetheless, I'm experiencing a giddiness, a happiness and lightness of spirit the likes of which has not been present for nearly seven years. I'd resigned myself to an edited version of this, accepted it as the logical consequence of having had ones life dumped out in the middle of the freeway at rush hour -- a rush hour which seemed would never ease, an entanglement of colliding semi's and jag-edged steel. And now, now....

Credit must be given to Paul, who stepped into my universe at the eye of the storm and accompanied me on this road to a new destination. And today's destination is Carrowholly, in the West of Ireland, County Mayo, about 4 miles from the bustling village of Westport. Our house on the cove, in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, in a wind corridor which cuts between the 360-or-so islands of Clew Bay, the distant metered eye of Achillbeg Island lighthouse keeping time.

One of the first things I do when we get here is walk the perimeter of the house, searching for evidence -- of what? Anything, everything. Here are a few "clues"....

gorse & fuschia:

I discovered abundant patches of ripe blackberries
at the far side of the driveway, fisted-clumps ready
for plucking. They're less intensely sweet
than the Himalayan variety we enjoy back home,
but there's almost a perfumed essence to them,
a delicacy on the tongue.
Pie it shall be then, tonight for dessert!


There's a Guinness Beef Stew simmering on the stove, some trad. music playing, the tide is in and Croagh Patrick recedes into the Irish night. I fell asleep this afternoon laying on a blanket in the yard, in the SUN. Ireland is teasing me....last summer, in a seven-week period, we had perhaps four days of all-day-sun. I had to come inside: it was too hot. Go figure.

We discovered while claiming our baggage this morning in Shannon that one of our neighbors from our little cove here in Ireland was on the same plane from Newark. Amy -- returning from a 3-month jaunt which included Orlando, Vegas and NYC. We offered a ride (2 1/2 hours to Westport) to Amy and her friend Maeve but would've needed a moving van to accommodate all their luggage, alas. Bus it was then, for them.

I staggered bleary-eyed through the Super-Valu, shopping list in hand, jet-lag like a hundred-pound weight strapped to my back, encouraging complete collapse. Having to get stew meat from the butcher really flummoxed me -- kilograms? I couldn't fathom kilograms in my brain/sleep-depleted state. The butcher, though, was kind, and did the conversion for me.

Paul, on the other hand, was enjoying a thirty-minute burst of energy, and not only went to the local techie store for an internet device, he also found some flip-up sunglasses (left his groovy glasses in Redmond), picked up a dozen eggs from Christie's Harvest, checked the upcoming shows at Matt Molloys pub, and got the newest Joseph O'Connor book at Seamus Duffy's Books. Good god!

All the horses were out coming down the road to the house, including this lovely beast:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Soon, Eire

I have my box of 36 oil pastels ready to pack as well as appropriate 120# paper suitable for posting in the mail cut into neat little postcard-sized rectangles. Hoping to stave off any color-withdrawal when I'm away from my job for three weeks. Addicted. To. Color.

And then there's the writing to do, the poetry, the long letters, the blogging. The reading. (Too many books, as always.) And the cooking: bramley apples (pie!), Liam's potatoes, yeasty loaves, a pizza or two, a John Dory fillet. The beach-walks, the wind, tea in the afternoons. A pint at Matt Molloys. The drive out to Achill Island, and Doo Lough. And the bogs: every shade of amber, and slatey greens.

O! Pinch me: three weeks of self-indulgence.

I told my son: no crises.

1. heart attacks
2. fistfights
3. home invasions
4. irascible roommates
5. dead cars, cats, refrigerators, washing machines
6. clogged drains
5. ETC.


(But most of all, the light, and the colors.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tuesday Poem: "After Apple Picking" by Robert Frost

Perhaps my favorite part in being involved in the Tuesday Poem blog is how each poem from week to week in some way is an echo of the previous week, sometimes easy to see why -- as in today's choice -- other times a barely discernible echo heard only in my own head. Nonetheless, it's a little like skipping from stone to stone over a stream, pausing every week mid-stream to ponder the water rushing by, or to peer more deeply to what lies beneath.

First, a photo from my friend Karen E. of the apples from her father's tree, which I wrote about last week:

...which led me to this poem, which I've always loved:

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough,
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and reappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin
That rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking; I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall,
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


I burst into tears this morning listening to Robert Frost read it --
the video pacing is a bit odd -- RF's face seems to nearly melt at times -- you might want to close your eyes and listen. It's worth it:

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I paused on my walk today by a thicket of blackberries and ate my fill. Maybe one in three is actually good -- many are sour, occasionally there is the overripe/nearly-moldy berry which of course makes me spit forcefully. And then there is that perfect one.... You can usually tell when it's going to be good by the way it slips off the stem, no holding back, and no disintegrating in the fingers. And spiders -- they are the kings and queens of blackberries! I've made my peace with these spiders, and respectfully aim to let their webs be. Today one ran up my arm in a flash and I did the little spider-on-the-body jig to no tune other than a few suppressed shrieks. And the seeds, the seeds are mighty, and lodge between incisors, but a negligible hazard in the Arena of Hazards that life lays open before you. Give me seeds and a sour berry any day!

And then there was Dungeness crab, and romaine salad with lettuce from the farmer's market, and tiny sliced fingerling potatoes, and a Pugliese loaf, and a blended Argentinian white wine (Santa Julia). So often these days I'm flushed with a mindfulness that life is ample and abundant, and I sing my thanks to the generous universe. It has not always been so....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

WHAT happened to my car??!!!

My wonderful husband last week got us tickets to a Democratic fund-raising luncheon for Senator Patty Murray where the guest speaker was none other than President Barack Obama. Oh! My! Forgive me while I gush, but never having been anywhere near an actual live president, no less the Sexiest Man on the Planet (oops -- I men the second SMOTP, my husband being #1), I was thrilled to no end to be sitting at a table in the Outer Hebrides (as it were), and do the large share of my president-viewing on a giant screen directly adjacent to our table. I'm not going to get political here -- I leave that up to Citizen K. -- so I'll just say that the man is polished, gracious, intelligent, witty, articulate and certainly knows just to deliver a joke. Comfortable in his skin (and his skin color), he seems to be genuinely happy and not beaten down by the fact that every moment there are untold numbers of people on the planet who look down on him (to put it politely) just because his skin tone is different than theirs.

So, to get to the REAL story....

We took advantage of valet parking, and came in separate cars because I had to go to work afterwards. Paul's car arrived, he zoomed away, and I stood, tapping my foot for, oh, five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. I asked an attendant if perhaps my car had been parked in Bellingham (90 miles away) and he laughed and checked the board for my keys, which didn't seem to exist. Hmm. Another attendant checked and rechecked, and still nothing.

Then the first attendant stopped mid-sentence, got a very grave look on his face -- very grave, mind you -- and says:

"Ohhhhh, I'm so sorry, but that was the car that got wrecked --!"

Well, I didn't even let him continue his sentence, but immediately shouted back,


"I'm so sorry, but the Secret Service made us do it."
(More grimacing and hand-wringing from him.)

So about this time (about five seconds into the conversation), I've already run an entire scenario through my head of my little '97 black Mazda with the "Groovy Mama for Obama" bumper sticker on it somehow posing a security threat to the government/president/world-peace. First they rip the doors off (quickly), deflate the tires, shred the upholstery, then quietly blow up everything that remains. Including my pink umbrella from Paris! My pink yoga mat!

Headlines: "T. Clear, poet-terrorist!!"

I'm thinking: okay, I want a new car, a brand new car, probably a hybrid, since Obama is green and all, plus I want the cost of our tickets to the event refunded PLUS I think a private meeting with the president himself is in order, along with an apology for making me late for work.

My voice, at this point (seven seconds into the conversation) is approaching drum-piercing shrillness:


The attendant looked at me as if I'd lost every last marble.
"Huh? Noooo, I said, yours was the car that was left...."

I heard wrecked, and responded so quickly that he didn't have time to finish his sentence (let this be a lesson to me!), which was,

"...on the ramp, because the Secret Service arrived and did a security lockdown. And then we forgot to move it to the regular parking area. Your car is not wrecked!"

I began to laugh, and he began to laugh, and after a few moments my heart resumed its normal beating. I was laughing so hard I had to lean on the counter, and was still laughing when my car arrived shortly, unscathed.

Alas, no new Prius for me (I should be so lucky), but the few moments of elevated BP were worth the story.

Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ruminations, Prestidigitations

Last week the temperature was 96 degrees, and now the slant of the sun shifts ever so slightly, and nights are cooler, and you know it's coming: the end of summer. There's no denying this seasonal death. No onslaught of heat in September can render it null, no storybook-pleasant afternoons will slow its steady and certain approach.

Tonight we feasted on grilled fowl and buttered corn, quaffed our fill of Portuguese red wine outside on the deck, the cats flitting about us ever after the proverbial cranefly, ever hopeful for a proffered bit of charred bird flesh. The Big Questions arose: god (God), faith, religion. My husband, my step-son, his fiance. Six tiny squares of bittersweet chocolate as an afterthought, one for each and then two more for claiming.

And what is it that keeps you moving forward through each successive day? Is it, for you, the promise of chocolate? And if yes, is that sufficient? Is anything enough? What sleight of hand do you employ to trick you onward, each minute meted out, each tick tick tick more portentous than the last?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's almost time for:
1. Guinness beef stew
2. bogs
3. Carrowholly nettle cheese
4. Dunning's Pub
5. Liam's spuds
6. Croagh Patrick
7. Atlantic Coast Drive on Achill Island
8. a view of Clare Island from the sofa
9. ordnance maps
10. holy wells
11. The Shebeen
12. Pat & Mick
13. getting lost
14. Doo Lough

Leaving for Ireland VERY SOON.
I'm packing:
corn tortillas

If you're lucky, I'll do another edition of Irish postcards -- yes, actual snail-mail, hand-delivered ON PAPER postcards. Would you like one? E'mail me your actual shingle-and-timber address at I may just get the itch to cut'n'glue'n'paint'n'etc.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Apple season is upon us here in the northwest tip of the United States....

Beautiful Apples

“We are missing pie.”

-- my son, Reilly

Overnight they rest in a silver bowl,

uncut, unblemished. No jag-edged cores.

No cobbler. No curling peel

spilling from the sink. Nothing saucy.

From your long-dead father’s

wind-split tree, recumbent for a season

yet flush with this

surprise of fruit --

Sorrow is the absence of pie,

the dank work of worms, sorry dirge.

Love is the ample curve,

the rosy wholeness of an apple-in-hand.

--for Karen England

© T. Clear


Last week I received this note from my friend and virtuoso Cajun-fiddle player Karen England: you remember the poem you wrote about Rollo's apple tree?
It is still an amazing tree! I have real full sized beautiful apples this year!
I learned how to thin and prune and am so happy with the outcome.

Thanks, Karen, for the prompt for this week's poem!

When I wrote it, there was the repeating mantra ("we are missing pie") in my head -- odd because we've always been a pie family, and for some reason too much time had passed between pies, and my son was experiencing the rare event of pie-mourning. Then Karen showed up at my door with a bag of the season's earliest apples -- yellow transparents, or "pie apples", as I've always said -- and not only did I end up with a pie, but also a poem. Happy son, happy mom, happy poet! Happy fiddle player!

Here's Karen doing her fiddle-thang (shown here with Al Berard):

And here with the band Folichon:

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The hottest day of the year and I spent many hours in the kitchen. Have to get my cooking fix!

1. The day began with bacon jam: easy, a couple of hours simmering on the stovetop, a little puree action in the cuisinart, et voila! Sweet, salty, smoky, spicy. The four essential "S's".

2. Moving right along to Connie's Kale: finely chopped kale "massaged" with salt, tossed with apple, pine nuts, gorgonzola + a cider vinaigrette.

3. Dill pickles. Hot water bath. Hot kitchen.

4. Three kinds of "Vin Maison": apricot, blackberry, peach. They should be ready in about a month:

5. Oh yes, dinner: marinated potato and green bean salad, grilled Lummi Island salmon. Yellow jackets on the prowl.

6. Blackberry crisp, a dollop of whipped cream. (Pinch of cinnamon.)

I don't know what culinary muse took hold of me today, but it was really waaaay too hot to be doing what I did.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stuff, and more stuff.

I had to go to four stores today to find quart-sized canning jars. There's a plethora of plastic for sale, but glass, alas, is elusive. There was no presumption this morning of a pickle-packing party but at the farmer's market my olifactory senses were assailed with the heady aroma of fresh dill, and seeing that I'll be in Ireland the first three weeks of September, I thought it was high time to gather up a bushel of pickling cukes and get busy. And then there is the aperitif made with white wine, vodka, sugar, vanilla bean and fresh fruit that calls out to be stashed away in jars for a month or so.... It's peach season, and blackberries are beginning to hang in lush clumps at the side of nearly every road....


In other news, I caved to Modern Technology today and became the owner of an iPhone 4. Holy guacamole!!!! There's a midget computer in my pocket which knows a helluva a lot more than I did when I graduated from college. Just sayin'.


It was 93 degrees today, zero humidity, just lovely smooth heat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Esquire magazine via MSN:

9 Steps to Become More Interesting

1. Listen more than you talk.

2. If you notice yourself getting bored with what you're saying, stop talking. Acknowledge the situation. Smile. Move on.

3. Know a few historical anecdotes. Like this one: To enhance creativity, surrealist painter Salvador DalĂ­ recommended afternoon naps lasting less than a second. He would lie in his chair, arms outstretched, holding a metal key in his left hand. As he drifted off to sleep, his grip would relax and the key would fall, clanging onto a plate he'd set beneath it and waking him up.

4. But realize that no one likes the guy who knows something about everything.

5. Let people talk over you. Don't think of it as being rude; think of it as an assist.

6. If someone does interrupt you, wait to be prompted before continuing your story. It's a good sign that someone cared in the first place.

7. Drawn-out pauses are the best time for personal non sequitors. People would rather listen to you talk about yourself than nothing.

8. With people you don't know, limit stories to the last five minutes of your life — the turnout, the Scotch selection, the homeless man you mistakenly took for a valet.

9. Never mention your blog.


Well then.

Happy Birthday Nelbo!

Today is Nelson's 22nd birthday.
He's wearing my apron.
I asked him to put it on so I could take his picture.
I think it contrasts nicely with the dotted towel, n'est-ce pas?
And yes, he generally is a good sport.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Departing the House of Your Former Life

Once you close that door, hear the click

of the latch, there’s no going back.

The single key is, from this day forward,

forever lost. You may run circles

around it, you may peer

into each window for as long as desired,

but entry is impossible. Best

to gather the few remaining flowers

before the garden lapses into ruin,

before bindweed takes over.

Fill your pockets with apples – they won’t

lumber from these branches again.

Oh, you believe still in a midsummer picnic

beneath this arbor -- cheese and a humble wine

tucked into gingham. Best to disavow all

you’ve abandoned inside this lathe & plaster

fortress, every root still clutching its

square inch of soil. Better to leave

and not return, not recall the accumulation

of broken beds, the last unshattered cup,

the wedding china. And a rock thrown

at a pane can do no good.

Unpin the solitary dress hung ragged

on the line, yank the numbers

from the siding, check the mailbox

for a final letter. No curtain wavers

and every candle is a wickless stub.

Not a soul to wave you on but your own.

--T. Clear 2010

Check out the other Tuesday Poets here.

Tuesday Poets is a New Zealand based blog

of perhaps 30 poets posting a new poem every Tuesday

on the masthead blog, plus many new poems

on individual blogs. A great group!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


The grumbling grey skies parted long enough yesterday
for the musicians at this house-warming party
to limber up the strings --

Father and son --

The lovely Emily, our hostess, whom I've known
since she was a wee one collecting bugs in cups
for "experiements" --

Father and son again (Emily's grandfather and dad) --

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wilted 2

Toy Time

No, this is not my alter-ego.
It's the little Malaysian mechanical cat who visited us
at work this week. I insisted it looked more like a mechanical
striped pig, and my guess is that the live cat thought it looked like
anything but a fellow feline. And if it had more closely
resembled a mechanical rat/robin/vole, would the live cat
had felt more compelled to attack? One can but wonder.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Since summer began I feel as if I've been shot out of a cannon
and I haven't hit ground since. In the next eight evenings
I have only one free. On one hand, it's delicious to be social
and to have so many invitations, but the balance is the tricky part.

Up to my elbows in water-based oils at work, suddenly understanding
more than the primary elements of color. Having undergone
absolutely zero formal instruction in the art of paint/color,
it's all new and all incredibly eye-opening. Thinking of taking
a painting class, which is completely out of character
for this poet/baker/piano-player.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


A hazy Sunday afternoon at Washington Park Aboretum.
The sunlight, which occasionally broke through,
was oddly amber-colored...caused, I heard,
by wildfires in British Columbia.

These webs were like translucent nets
tossed across foliage, bearing accumulations
of midsummer dust, fir needles, petals --