Thursday, June 30, 2011


My sister-in-law -- my late husband's sister -- called me today to express disdain at some family members who've swooped in to sweep up some items belonging to Julie A., my mom-in-law who passed last week.

She is especially bothered by the loss of her mother's string of pearls; she wants to wear them at her mother's funeral -- and should.

What she (and I) didn't know was that Julie had possessed two strands of pearls -- that which was snatched up the night of her death, and the strand she gave me before I married soon-to-be-deleted husband, to wear at my wedding. (Because I already had jewelry picked out, a matched set of earrings & necklace, I wound the pearls around my wrist to make a perfectly fitted bracelet.)

Mr. Soon-To-Be-Deleted and I had a small wedding, sixty people, and my in-laws from my first marriage were first on the list. I felt so honored to be given this gift from Julie -- it was such an act of love and faith on her part. I bless her, now and forever.

She was an extraordinary woman.
She was my touchpoint, my no-nonsense source of just about any info about anything. She rarely cut anyone slack, yet she loved with an honesty and fierceness that was unquestionable. She possessed a formidable intelligence, never minced words, and for many years she intimidated the hell out of me. After we endured the death of her son/my husband, we shared a bond unlike any I've experienced to date.

I recall her sitting on my couch two days after Mark's death, and she said (with the remnants of her New Orleans accent):

"Now T., I don't want you to stay single. You're too young, and you need to move on."

I was stunned. Here she was, stricken with abject grief, and she had the presence of mind to think of me. I was, and remain, humbled by that comment, and by her magnanimous spirit.

We grieve.

Here's a link to her obituary: Julie.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mute & Thunderous

A silence settled into my brain on Monday, driving out the scream that's been present since April 5th. I'm slowing everything down while at the same time everything is revving up to a frantic pace: I'm working full-time, refinancing my house (in a not-easy way, unfortunately), having work done on my house, planning my mother-in-law's funeral reception, and getting unmarried.

The interior design currently on display is post-hurricane, mid-century tornado, early cyclone.

Tonight in my bathroom I killed a spider that had fur. FUR. (At first I thought it was a black seed-pod that had blown in.)

A turbulent wind blows this late June night, knocking down a broken mirror I'd leaned against the house, on its way to the garbage, cracking it even more. There are now tiny reflective bits on the deck. An image appears in each shard: an eye, a leaf, a cloud. No barefoot midnight prowls for me, apparently. (As If.)

Next Monday we declare our independence in the red/white/blue trio, and I'm attempting to generate a grilling spirit, a watermelon mood, a corn-on-the-cob enthusiasm for a day when I'll end up working because we're four weeks from a Big Show and backed-up with orders. Maybe I'll treat myself to getting off an hour early so I can come home, pour myself a patriotic martini (Russian vodka) in my Waterford (Irish) martini glass. And sing the Marseillaise (en français).

It's all a scatter & a spectacle, turned inside-out and running backwards down the highway.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tuesday Poem


It’s not just buttercups with their essential gold
who reach into the soil and won’t let go.
Not the lemon balm and its stubborn root-stump
that requires more than mere trowel;
not only the invader blackberries, nor bindweed that tunnels
fleshy rhizomes in an underground thicket gone mad—
No: it is also this human heart that refuses to ease
its fervor, long past sense, or obligation.

If only the heart were one of these weeds
whose pith I could sever with the tip of a spade—
Not this fusty tuber, this spud-of-an organ that defies all efforts
to be routed-out and heaped into compost, a pile of bracken

I would set a match to, be done with.

© T.Clear 2011

Weekend and then some....

There needs to be an After-Weekend to allow time for Weekend Recovery. Yikes.

Friday night I dredged up from my long-ago teenage past the vocal jazz skills I was fortunate to learn as a student in Mr. McManus' classes. Although without a nightly dose of diphenhydramine or other such potent anti-allergy med, there is a constant drip-drip on the middle and best range of my vocal chords. Nonetheless, I swung into full "Blackbird" action with piano, and (if I can remember correctly) saxaphone. (It might've been a flute.) Damn, we were swingin'!

Saturday there was Becki's Pie (strawberry-rhubarb, with orange zest in both the crust and the filling) (be still my heart):

And a family of nuthatches cracking black sunflower seeds with tiny beaks:

A container-packed ship slicing the waters of Admiralty Inlet:

Beach and upside-down beach at Fort Warden (it may have just been me that was upside down) --

Finally, a view of what will happen when The Big One (earthquake) strikes Seattle:

I fear we may all be tipped into the Salish Sea (aka Puget Sound).

But now it's time for coffee and a bit of foraging in the kitchen. Apparently the After-Weekend is only a fantasy.


Sunday, June 26, 2011


In looking for a more economically appropriate place of dwelling this weekend (considering present circumstances), I happened upon these gems in the charming "village" of Port Townsend....

This one is in need of a new roof, but I'm attracted to the rather free-form & distressed nature of its design elements (I'm pictured here out on the patio):

The enchanting A-Frame motif going-on here appeals to my love of geometrics, but something about its location makes me worry about tidal waves and gale-force winds. I don't know -- perhaps I'm just a bit of a worrier. What do you think?!

The sturdiness and old world charm of this concrete-block structure -- the way it really feels rooted to its foundation -- has me going back for a second look. I'm concerned, though, that the front-yard landscaping might need a bit more than I'm willing to shell out for. But I'm going to give it some thought. (I'm thinking: xeriscape, low maintenance, no mowing.)

The best part, though, is that no matter which hut I eventually settle on, the realtor will throw in this dead car for free!!!!

All I can say is "Wow."

Just when you think life has booted you down to the lowest circle of hell, jewels like these come along and suddenly the world is a brighter place!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kitten, Death & Kindness

I crabbed around work today, snipping and snapping.

As Philip Larkin says:

The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.


Working on the kindness thing. Working on being careful when most of the time I just feel like being done with it all.

What I would do for two weeks on a beach with umbrella drinks and white sand, no shoes, no worries, nothing at all to think about.


Meanwhile, the kitten acts like a flying squirrel and leaps fearlessly onto the back of one of the Big Cats, who, when pushed and prodded too far, holds her down with a single paw and nips at her belly. She flails all four legs and generally pops free in seconds only to begin the torture again. She is the source of much laughter, beginning with the first light and ending with a pile of purring fur on top of my head at bedtime. I am lucky.
Last night at 6:30 my son and I were on the road to Evergreen Hospice to visit my beloved mother-in-law Julie (mother of Mark, my first husband; grandmother to my sons). Halfway there we received the call that she had passed away.

We would have been there when she died had I not received a phone call from my bank which I've been awaiting and had to take. I rushed through it as quickly as possible -- the loan adviser must've thought me to be some kind of lunatic -- I just wanted to get out the door.

Sometimes we must accept that things happen in their own time. The end.

My sister Mary sent me this last night, from Ann Patchett's new novel State of Wonder:

"There was no one clear point of loss. It happened over and over again in a thousand small ways and the only truth there was to learn was that there was no getting used to it."

I recall a summer evening a few years ago on my back porch with Julie and my boys and my friends Tom and Carol. We were speaking of Mark's death, and Julie (his mother, and who many years ago had also lost a daughter) said, "You don't get over it. You get used to it."

Both Ann Patchett and Julie are right. You get used to it and you don't get used to it. Death of someone you dearly love becomes a part of your every day, enters your body and lives there for a time, then eases itself away, ever so slowly, until a minute becomes bearable again, and then an hour, a day, a week....

I stood outside in Don and Julie's yard last night in the setting sun, on the phone to Tom. I was facing northwest, and the light was coming through the trees in lateral rays. Some local tree has been releasing a cloud of fluffy seed pods, and there were thousands of them illuminated in the golden light.

We are part of something much larger than our individual losses, our sorrows.

I don't know how to end this post

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To and Fro

I've decided, on my one-mile walk each way to work through my urban neighborhood, to search out what I consider to be magic, or gifts from the universe. Once I started paying more attention, I realized that no searching is necessary: these gifts lay themselves in front of me in abundance.

This morning, my favorite was classical music -- a Strauss symphony is my best guess -- coming from a house. And that same house on the way home, with windows and door flung open wide on this first day of summer: drums & piano, live.

And one more thing: a man, about 35, walking his bike beside a young girl, and he was wearing a "Joshua Tree 1987 Tour" t-shirt. I'm guessing it's a relic from possibly his dad?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More Owling

This time later, nearly dark, tripping across roots and slipping in apparently invisible mud: after most of the light is gone, everything's the same color. Of course.

A wrong turn, backtracking, light eking into shadow and into less than shadow, logs to straddle, everywhere that damp mossy scent.

We stood in the clearing where I last saw the three babies and the world fell silent save for the panting dog, who for some reason wouldn't stop breathing for our benefit.



I whipped out my iPhone and pulled up the blog post from last Thursday with the photo of the owlet on the horizontal branch -- in fact, I was standing at exactly the spot where I snapped the picture.

"Here!" I said, and held the phone up so that if you squinted, you could almost line up the photo with the branch and pretend it was the real thing.

I know: pathetic, but also cool, actually. (In LOVE with my iPhone.)

We decided to head back to the car, and somehow, in our looping up and around, ended up on a wide path parallel to the one on which we started, a few hundred yards and a few hundred bigleaf maples to the east. Crazy dark now, and overcast, so no lunar illumination. And then, there it was -- D. heard it -- the odd whoop-whoop-whoosh of a family of babies, just to our left and part way down a slope. We headed into the murky underbrush, careful of whipping twigs, a tumble here-and-there, until we were nearly beneath the talkative baby; and all we could see was the its dark silhouette against the slightly-less-dark clouds, between leafwork and branch.

In my desire to exhibit my tech skills, I opened a flashlight app on my phone, and couldn't figure out what was wrong until T. pointed out that I was pointing it at myself. Oops. (Not a very powerful light -- at least that's my excuse.)

But no need, really.

There was just enough contrast between what was solid, (and therefore should be avoided), and the open air around us, to allow the trek back to the truck in relative safety.

(Might I point out that I had merely stepped out for a stroll tonight around the block when I ran into T. and D. on their way down to the park; and when I zipped back into my house to put on proper shoes, I entreated my son to tag along. )

Prior to tonight's owling adventure, the day was fraught with events and worries producing a nearly unmanageable level of stress, and most of it melted away (thanks again to the current love of my life: my iPhone) when I received a most welcome text message from son #2: "Yes I'm fine. Phone got wet so was in rice."

And where was I when I read these golden words? I was smack in the middle of the enchanted owl glen where last week the pileated woodpecker so startled us with its deep bell-like boom boom on the snag.

No woodpeckers tonight, no eagles harassed by crows, but I learned on the quick half-mile back up to the house (four of us piled into the cab of a pick-up) that there's a heron rookery almost within a stone's throw of my top-floor window which looks to the southeast, over Lake Washington and beyond to Mt. Rainier.

This bodes well, I think.
For just about everything.

(There's something about bird-sightings that always seems to me a signal of a turn in events --)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Zig and Zag

Returning to yet a new version of life: revised/edited/repainted/rearranged.

So strange, all of this.

I swear, one of these days I'll forget that I live back on B-Street and head over to that other house, that domicile of The Irretrievably Broken. And that, by the way, is not a description of myself.


Getting back to the previous post, the night of baby owls:

I felt plunged into a dark and startling tale from Grimm, as if the secrets of some underworld were lurking just beyond my vision -- and not necessarily unpleasant -- but that resonant boom-boom of the woodpecker's beak on the snag, coupled with the eerie wiser-than-thou baby-owl visages urged a giving-over to another world, one with possibilities yet unimagined. Hard to describe, really. But I shiver even now just thinking about it. Shiver in odd delight, almost as if I've not earned this momentary clarity.

I'd not have experienced this had I remained in that previous life.

And would never have chosen this zigzag route, these mine-fields of fickle affections.

I recall asking my mother, when she was in her early eighties, if the spectacle of a dramatic sunrise ever got old. Her reply? Never.


And today: relentless soft rain, and so few hours before Official Summer. Pumpkins have sprouted, the leeks have perked up, finally, but the tomatoes languish. (No surprise there.)

These are the last days of Spring in the year 2011, and I sing praise to the friends I hold dear, and to my sisters.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Life in the City

Tonight there was the gift of a walk at Seward Park -- a glorious 300-acre city-forest occupying a peninsula on Lake Washington, a half mile from my house.

My friend C. and I traversed the temperate rainforest of the interior, on the lookout for baby owls. We spotted three juveniles, who keened and swooped about our heads, doing that extraordinary head-rotation-thing while perched, fluffing their baby feathers.

Periodically, a pileated woodpecker struck its beak against a tall snag, the sound resonating deeply and melodically in the hollow trunk. Crows harassed an eagle above the treetops.

The air smelled green -- can something contain the scent of a color?

Our path twisted and curved through glens of ferns, on boardwalks above marshes, through a grove of old-growth firs -- everything thickly draped in moss.

It's been at least four years since I walked these woods, and I felt as if I had come home, home to an enchantment that's been locked in a keyless closet for far too long.

I am the key.
The closet is this life.
The door is open.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

More Distraction

Bear with me.

There's gonna be a while lot of cuteness going on here, like this one:

Tonight the kitten was attacking a spot of sunlight on the kitchen floor. (Sounds like the name of an Edward Hopper painting.)

How can you not fall in love with the simple joy in that?

Okay, I realize you could argue that the spot of sunlight is, to the kitten, something upon which to prey, kill & devour, but then again....

We are domesticated.

Plenty of kibble in the bowl.

It was sunlight, Friday, late afternoon.

It was joy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June, Thursday.

My mother -- Alice -- has been gone now for nine years, and last night I was sitting alone, in a fidgety mood, and thought: I should call Mom.


Don't think that's one I'll ever get used to.


The yard is slowly-slowly-slowly coming into shape. R. and I de-piled and swept that concrete pad where an old-fashioned camping fire pit has been established by enterprising sons. The sunflowers are planted, there are baby leeks just beginning to perk up, the tomato plants aren't languishing, yet.

And the kitten: the first few days I thought I'd made a mistake -- she was cute (of course), but nothing seemed to be "clicking". But now -- well -- of course she's the cutest thing on four paws! The most intelligent! The most clever! The funniest kitten ever! (Of course.) Today she is six weeks old. A baby. She makes me Laugh! OUT! Loud!

It's warm.
There's light.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


That archetypal dream: unclothed in public --

I was at a large family party, and realized that I was the only person there who was nude. Amid disapproving -- well, shocking, really -- glances, I said, "I thought this was a 'Clothing Optional' event!"

The above-mentioned party doesn't actually happen until June 18th, but it has been suggested that I put an extra set of clothes in my car "just in case".


Revisiting, reacquainting around my 'hood:

--the golden azalea, velvety and perfumed
--Stella, who always barks at me
--the plum tree where for years I gathered windfalls in September
--a house on blocks, foundation under construction
--the fig tree on the corner, fully laden this year
--the hedge whose blossoms smell like cocoa-butter
--the Rabbi's house, empty
--the peek-a-boo tree

So many gone now from those lickety-split-quick years of child-rearing:

--Mark, Carol, Marilyn, Pat, Mary, Ben, the Durans, Mr. Nelson -- died, divorced, foreclosed.

And those of us still present:

Candy, Linda, Guy, Tom, Roy, Chrissie, Pam. Assorted young-adult children. Assorted young and spirited new-comers with fresh paint and toddlers, with an energy and endurance I used to claim as my own.

This brief Robert Frost poem came up in conversation at work yesterday, apropos to the subject at hand:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Black Market Kitten

I've never had to look for a cat. All my life, they've come to me: a neighbor, sister, friend with kittens, a stray welcoming himself in on my birthday, etc. This time I called a local cat-rescue organization, and was told that they would not let me adopt from them because I already had adult cats. WTF? I came home from work today with one adult cat asleep on my son's lap, the kitten perched on his neck, another adult cat snoring on the sofa. Problem? None that I can see. I've always done it this way. And it's always worked.

Another kitten-adoption site required pre-adoption paperwork, including an agreement I had to sign, and at the bottom it said: This is a Legal and Binding Document. Um. Don't think so. The irony here, of course, is that any woman of child-bearing age can get herself knocked up any old time, but just dare her to try to adopt a kitten! It's PETA gone wild.

This time, as always, the kitten came to me. I'd put out "feelers", and my younger son, in one of his forays to, as he said "check out the hot chicks", heard a "hot chick" mention kittens. KITTENS! His kitten radar picked up the signal, we hooked up (but not N. and the Hot Chick), and Sunday the Hot Chick and I met for the Kitten Exchange. It all felt very Black Market, after the shenanigans I went through with the Official Kitten Adoption Agencies.

And there was no "re-homing" fee. Re-homing! Who thought of this one?! I "rehomed" myself about a month ago. And honestly, I should've collected a massive fee. Like, a pay-off-my-mortgage-fee. Just sayin'. I had to adopt myself. Still waiting to sign the agreement, which, in this case, will be a legal document.

Anyway, this new kitten is probably the best tonic for this battered soul. Her purr rumbles up and out of her tiny bone-and-fur framework, impossibly loud for such a wee thing. She screams when I pick her up. Mutters and squeaks at other times.

If you're a cat person, you must check this out:

Monday, June 6, 2011

My New Distraction

Name: Lucy
Age: 5 1/2 weeks
Weight: 19.8 ounces
Length, nose to tail-tip: very short
Demeanor: curious, squeaky, shaky, goofy
Fur Color: grey, black and white with stripes and spots
Eye Color: blue!

Because she is so young, and should still be on a combination of mother's milk and cat food, I brewed her up some kitten formula: canned milk, gelatin, water, mayonnaise (in lieu of egg yolks) and whole-milk plain yogurt. Mix a tablespoon-or-so into some kitty kibble, et voilĂ ! Mother's milk, in a manner of speaking.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't find her anywhere on the bed, and didn't move for fear of crushing her. Discovered that she had crawled under the blankets in the night, and was cozily snuggled up beside me. Yikes. (And she's waaaaaaay less demanding than a husband ;)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Post-martini Hat'n'Boots

No, it's not Mars....

Squared-off toe....


The whole shebang....

My friend Tom obscured by shadows....

Once a gas station and restroom on East Marginal Way in Seattle and the subject of a Zippy the Pinhead comic strip, these marvelous objets d'art currently reside in Oxbow Park in Seattle's historic Georgetown district: the perfect illusion to light up the grey matter of the post-martini Friday night brain on the first warm evening of the year.

For a more exacting read of their history, click here.

Friday, June 3, 2011


No more the twenty-mile commute each way in rush hour traffic. Now I walk to work, through a continually astonishing landscape. And people are friendly. Friendly! They say "hi" and "good morning". Children -- they'll stop on their tiny bikes, look up at me and smile. Dogs wag. Even the cats run down driveways to greet me.

Yesterday, on my walk home, I saw a man playing catch with his son in the street. I saw a teenager using a skate board for transportation. I saw a man jogging, a bulldog at his heels. A woman tending her parking-strip vegetables: onions, beets, potatoes, spring lettuces, carrots just beginning to show their feather-tops. I saw peonies so lush and ruffled and deeply pink they made me want to weep. I saw chickens in an A-frame coop: cluck. Knee-high sunflowers. I inhaled the scent of irises: root beer!

It's the time of year now when I can walk out my front door for a stroll around the block that will generally take at least an hour -- and not because it's any great distance. I am once again inhabiting a social landscape, absent of the cookie-cutter shrubbery, the chemical lawns, the guarded-fortresses of the 'burbs that, for all intents and purposes, have alligatored-moats.

(I've dropped the letter "u" from the word "morning" and have modified it with the word "good".)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Handle. With. Care.

Caught up in the Legal Morass.

I like thinking of The Law as a bog, as swampy ground through which one slogs. Ordinarily I would say there are many things about a swamp that I love, but this one is replete with craggy stumps and sinking subterrain.

Here's something that's been occupying the brain these past two months:
How can a human be a partner in an intimate relationship, with all the reciprocal subtle and affectionate touches and declarations of love and fidelity, and then do a complete 180 in a matter of hours? With no warning? Just a black-and-white flip to the other side: get out, don't want to talk to you, don't want to see you, call my attorney.

As a loving inhabitant of this planet, I've come to the conclusion that this is something I will never understand. I'll get used to the idea of it -- maybe -- and accept that it will remain one of the great conundrums of my life, the puzzle to which I'll never find the missing piece: nine-hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand.

In the meantime, I've plastered myself with "fragile" stickers: one on my brain, the other over my heart. A desperate attempt at protection, in a world made entirely of glass.