Thursday, September 29, 2011

Week of Nonsense

B of A, that behemoth American money-grubber, is once again figuring prominently chez-moi. To date, they have rejected my loan-modification application for the following reasons:

1. I don't make enough money.
2. I make too much money.
3. I don't have enough assets.
4. I have too many assets.
5. I don't (according to them) live in my house.
6. I pay my mortgage on time.

I've been laughed at, yelled at and lied-to.

And I'm not giving up.
The giving-up is what they're banking on -- while they're pocketing their share of the bailout.


In other news, at work yesterday, in the interest of caloric-awareness, we decided to measure just how much "liquid" would comfortably fill one of our martini glasses. The astonishing and most unwelcome revelation sent both Melinda and I into a gloom-state: a whopping 584 calories, not counting the de riguer three olives.

The gloom-state persisted into today.

I've decided it's time to invent the Meal-in-a-Martini: lay a slice of bacon and a single skinny grissini across the top of the glass for another 150 calories. But the problem here is that now I'm up to 734 calories, and it's only one martini. Defeat around every corner! Ha!

Time to switch to plain water. With a twist. Hold the bacon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Bear with me while I fan the fires, or tune me out if you so desire . (Just no lectures, please. I gotta run this stuff through its paces.)

Awaiting my arrival home from work yesterday was a big sloppy, falling-apart box, opened at the bottom, the slim strips of tape performing only what their paucity allowed: next to nothing. Affixed to the box was a nearly illegible customs declaration form, as well as this stamp:

Let's see....70 euros is equal, at today's exchange rate, to $95.06. Or 35.78 dinars. Or 606.69 yuan. And what does that get me, the Ex-W. (W. stands for wife)?

Well, in this case it got me:

1. Four books of poetry (Sean Lysaght, Ger Reidy, Lorna Shaughnessy, Knute Skinner), a book of stories by John F. Deane, as well as a hardback book of stories and illustrations by Tess Gallagher and Josie Gray. Fair enough -- all books I'd purchased in Ireland and had kept at the house there to peruse on future trips. (But, alas, not all the books I'd left there.)

2. Three very worn out (and several sizes too big) pairs of pants.

3. An equally unwanted shirt.

4. Assorted art supplies, including three vials of dried-up glue.

5. A bag of white ribbons.

6. Five Q-Tips.

7. A plastic cutting board.

8. Two packages of tampons.

9. Scraps of paper.

10. A package of pastels and a package of colored pens.

11. A cardboard box which originally held six wine glasses.

12. A tube of antibiotic cream.

13. Three vintage tablecloths.

14. A poem, "Our Lady of Flotsam", that I'd hand-written on the back of a brown envelope, and that stood vigil beside a plastic Virgin Mary holy water bottle on the kitchen windowsill, along with assorted flotsam & jetsam gathered on beach walks. But why only the poem, and not the beach glass, shards of porcelain? Why only mail me the brown envelope? (Because it contained more of me than a bit of broken shell.)

15. Assorted "other", as was specified on the customs declaration. (Exactly what is specific about "other", anyway?) (I can only imagine the postal clerk saying, "What's in the box?" And the Ex-H. replying, "Other.") (I think I know what I want for Christmas this year: other.)

Well. Wasn't sure what to make of all of this. I'd specified in the Final Pleadings just exactly what it was that I wanted returned from the Carrowholly house, and the only things from the list that were in this box were the books & tablecloths. Perhaps I can look forward to yet another sloppily-patched-together package? Filled with broken crystal and pottery? One would not wish to be Held In Contempt Of Court. An agreement is an agreement.

I'm just kicking myself for not specifying that I wanted the pie pan, the cupcake pan, the rolling pin, the salad spinner, the salad bowl, the marble cheese board, the cheese knife and the three small glasses that I bought at a charity shop for 25 cents each.

But tell me, who spends 70 euros to ship two packages of tampons and 5 Q-Tips 6000 miles?

It defies logical thought, and just might have its own chapter in the DSM.

Maybe it's time for a conflagration in the fire-pit out back, time to light up the darkness.

(The last time I conflagrated in the back yard in this manner was several months after my first husband's death, a cold winter Sunday afternoon and ream of cancelled checks that had to burn. In the midst of my not-at-all-sorting, I plucked from the stack a life insurance policy that I hadn't known of -- surprise! -- and submitted to Those In Charge, who rejected it. A brief lawsuit followed, in which a California judge denied me the meager benefit that should have been guaranteed me. My attorney told me that this was so very, very wrong, and that the attorney for the other side was in the back pocket of the insurance company. Inside information. A whole lotta good it did me.)

Otherwise, life is good.


I awoke to this in my (virtual) mailbox today, from my friend Cz., who always knows what it is I need when I need it (I am blessed in friendship):

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Sunday, all hell broke loose.

First this:

Then this:

Yes, it's my house.
Yes, it's my bathtub.
Do I know what's going on?
But my fear is that Big Trouble is afoot.

All I can say is, god help me.
And pass the wine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yanked & slashed the honeysuckle --
ravaged with leaf blight --
reeled in all the sinewy tendrils.
Clipped & sawed.
(No more honey to suckle.)
I should just resort to poison.

But no.
(Some better/worse part of me stops, and considers.)

A few late last blossoms persist in spite of the imminent demise.

Buh-bye, honey.
Your suckling days are over.


Tonight the breeze shifted, suddenly, the day's heat expired.
Summer's finished.

There's always the fear that, once the fall rains begin, we won't see another sunny day until next July.

Anyway. It smells like rain.

Tomorrow I'll pick bowls-full of grapes, just now ripe. A handful of blasted starlings stood vigil with me this afternoon, awaiting that final sugar surge. They've done it before -- beaked every vine clean -- a gorged frenzy of them and sounding like every language being spoken at once in their cackles and gurgles, their whistles and whoops. I love them, I hate them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A color plate illustration from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1899), showing a variety of hummingbirds.

My season of hummingbirds is almost over. Tonight a pair of them flitted in and around the apple tree, the hazelnut tree (every nut gone to squirrels) -- very close to where I was standing. I've gotten pretty good at imitating their ratchety song, and they respond by drawing closer and settling-in on a branch, facing me. There is little in my garden to attract them this year, and yet they are daily present. I imagine that soon they will begin their aerial trek southward, and the humming of wings will lie dormant in memory.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


And then that inevitable sadness sifts down, a mist from a cloudbank that lowers and lowers until it exists inside me, part of every cell. Becomes tissue and marrow.

I saw a bed of pink petunias this morning on the way to work: simple and not trying to impress any living soul. Made a note to plant pink petunias when the planet spins around again to this side of Spring. Right now we're down to one last day of summer: glad to be done with this season, sad for summer's waning.


So many gone so recently, and will I see them again? No. So many kinds of death, and the absence of those we love takes its time filling its space. And who am I to exhibit sadness? The most basic level of gratitude is that of taking the next breath, and the next. No severed spinal cords, no wasted body. Not here. No slow sinking in a bathtub, the water rising above the final gasp.

My current obsession with hydrangeas will go on until every purple, blue & burgundy has faded from every drooped stem. For this moment -- right now -- they contain everything I need.

Postcards from Here

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I don't do this all day, but sometimes it feels like I do....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Litany

Six police cars in a church parking lot, Friday night, all cockeyed angle, no time for care. One officer walks the field beneath an electric grid, head down, as if pondering the uses of power.

I'm only passing by in a slow line of cars, each of us craning at the scene. (I'm late for my martini, three olives.) I won't know who or what violation occurred to summon this caravan of guns, or why this god-house lot warrants this army of blue & billy-clubs.

Later, it's crowded with ordinary vehicles and I imagine, inside, someone preaches that in the end, all will be forgiven if you will only give it up for Jesus, amen.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I called one of my sisters today and asked her if I really did buy her a hampster for her 20th birthday when I was ten, or did I just imagine it.

She said that yes, I did.

Good god. Why did I do this??!

She said, "Because you wanted one."

I don't know how I payed for it -- and my mom would have had to drive me to the store, so it wasn't something I could have done on the sly. Why did my mom let me do this? Crazy!

Then the hampster -- I don't remember what my sister named it -- had babies and ate them.

When I was telling another sister this story tonight over a martini and tater tots in Georgetown, she brought up the gerbils that yet another sister had for pets. The cat (Alex) used to sit on top of the cage, which was atop a dresser. And the dog (Sarah) would bounce up and down repeatedly to get a look at the gerbils when the cat was harassing them from above. I can hear that exercise wheel turning like it did in the middle of the night, spinning to nowhere. And I believe there was also another incident of rodent infanticide.

Once my brother and his friends brought a garter snake into the house to scare my mother, and it got loose and wound itself around one of the legs of our piano -- unbudgable -- while Mom shrieked a high pitched elongated EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

The sole rodent that my children kept was a summer-loan of a white rat from their elementary school. I remember thinking, why am I feeding this rat diced carrots while I'm baiting the rats in the basement with poison?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I Love Where I Live/Work

Yesterday (on the job) I was down in the studio attending to the details of the most recent batch of glass -- shaving off stray paint with a blade, taking a diamond sander to the inevitable nicks and chips that show up along the path to the finished product. The studio is a converted garage which opens to a sidewalk, and as it's still warm, the door was ajar. I was respiratored-up, tied-into my protective apron, when two men walked by and poked their heads into the door, curious about what went on inside.

I invited them in (they appeared harmless enough!) and showed them a few of the pieces I was working with, briefly explained the process. One of them said he'd lived in the neighborhood thirty years, and remembered the transformation of the space from garage to studio. Of course, I couldn't (and didn't) claim ownership, and extolled the talents of Melinda (who was upstairs in the house aka The Factory, cutting designs).

I'm always amused at what people notice, and they oohed-and-ahhhed over the compressor. Men! Machinery! (Stereotypes!) The vessels of colored glass rods -- remnants of Melinda's flame-working days-- also caught their eye.

These were lovely men -- bright & inquisitive -- and in a less-than-ten-minute interval we managed to chat about not only the glass at hand but politics, urban gentrification and the shared joys of living in this eclectic community. Would I have experienced anything even remotely resembling this in my recent suburban stint? Hell no! This is not the landscape of lives fortressed behind modern facades, not the environment of garage door openers and conspicuous consumption. Nope.

Here on these urban streets exist the details of lives lived among the breathing, among hearts conscious of the fragility of existence. Where, in the house next door, a ninety-something woman gardens in a wig and pearls, chickens cluck in the yard across the intersection, and a mechanic working on another neighbor's circa 1970-something Datsun (Toyota?) curses with great color and passion. A sun-bleached Tibetan prayer flag flutters, strung across a driveway. Troupes of school children chatter by.

Two blocks to the west I can dine on Mexican, Thai, Caribbean, sushi, pub-grub, Sicilian-Soulfood and Subway sandwiches. I can imbibe ale, stout, hard cider, sake, gin, Bailey's and a glass of decent Sauvignon Blanc. In abundance are lattes, cappucinos, Americanos, drip(s!).

A block further and I'm in a Carnegie library. A mile to the east and I'm home.

It's gritty, sometimes noisy, busy, embellished with parking-strip vegetable gardens and the occasional broken-down car.

Yet in the brief conversation yesterday with two strangers I was reminded of just how lucky I am to have landed -- albeit by a kind of default -- back into a place I can genuinely call Home.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nelson the Rug

After a rousing dinner tonight on the back porch in the dark with both my boys (gumbo, cornbread, greens, etc.), Nelson went down to change his laundry, and came back up clutching some fancy pillow of his that had sprung a leak while in the dryer, spilling white specks the size of pinheads everywhere.

He was covered with them: his (white) t-shirt, his shorts, his shoes, caught in his arm-fur and leg-fur. I told him not to inhale -- he'd have that stuff in his lungs for the rest of his life. What to do?

Aha! Vacuum!

I vacuumed my son: his shirt, his shorts, his arms, hands, legs, shoes. It was ten o'clock at night and there we were out on the porch, vacuum in full roar, me in full laugh-roar, Nelson rolling his eyes, saying, "Mom, that feels really weird."

And he was right. It did feel weird: I was vacuuming my 23-year-old son's appendages. Can't say I've ever done that before. Hope I never have to do it again.

(I sewed up the hole in the pillow.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Jeff Crandall

After the Papers Are Filed

The laundry's tumbling comes to a stop.
Now sheets are white like so many smiles.
Slowly, slowly the hands of the clock

have wring each shirt, each mismatched sock.
We've finally sorted our dirt into piles.
The laundry's tumbling comes to a stop,

demanding folding, order. And, too, the mop
in the corner needs to be held, enduring these trials
slowly, slowly. The hands of the clock

cover its grinning face. How easy to mock
failure. How easy to reach for the scotch while
the laundry's tumbling. Come to a stop

now and you'll never start again. I drop
softeners in the machine: Cold. Low. Pull the dial.
Slowly, slowly, the hands of the clock

point to me. It's no worse than learning to walk
after a bypass. So join a gym, get a spaniel --
The laundry's tumbling comes to a stop.
Slowly. Slowly. The hands of the clock.


Jeff Crandall is a poet and glass artist living in Seattle. I'm a big fan of his Poet's Bottles --

Jeff's other sculptural work can be seen here.

For more Tuesday poems, please click here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Heavenly Bodies

Summer, so newly arrived, so late we thought we'd not see it until 2012, lingers gloriously. Few are the nights in Seattle when you can sit at the lake's edge after dark and not shiver.

Last night was such a night, and we sat with our feet in sand, the moon one day shy of full. A dull roar from traffic on the Evergreen Point Bridge. Curious -- and we talked about this -- that in daylight the roar is so less evident. Is it because in the dark there are so many fewer stimuli to occupy the brain that the auditory intensifies, grows more immediate?

Swimmers in the dark periodically popped their heads up, otter-like, each trailed by a triangular wake. On a pier just at the edge of sight we watched a shadowy group begin, one at a time, to dive into darkness. They moved across the water like a flottilla of cormorants, black beads strung across moonlit water. One by one they hauled themselves up to shore, an evolution of young men emerging from the lake. In the dark there is only contrast in the absence of color, and each sleek body was lunar-pale, with that tell-tale patch of loin-fur: nary a stitch of clothing. Their boy-bits dangled in silhouette, backlit by the moon.

I giggled at the show in spite of a sense of awe at the primal beauty of it all.

The naked boys retrieved towels
and skirted their mid-sections.
Show over.

Encore! Encore!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The New Status

Apparently the Final Pleadings have been filed and I am once again
a free woman, although I've not seen the Final Paperwork
with all of the Final Signatures.
Final Final Final.

Divorce is ugly.
It gives birth to anger and all sorts of unwished-for sentiments.

I hope you are never faced with it.

It has dragged a tonnage of sadness into my world, which lingers,
having set up house deep in the heart.
In my heart.

And now here's a space for silence:

And that about wraps it up.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On the Water

Part of me desires nothing
but the thrill of slicing -- human-powered --
through the wakes of million-dollar boats.
No fuel but muscle on my humble craft.

And then the rest of me is content to linger
close to shore, skimming over water lilies
with sapphire damselflies in midday heat.

Late summer, and a single melody
repeats itself with every lazy stroke:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tuesday Poem: When Spiders Come in From the Cold, by Kathleen England

It's not that I hadn't seen you: darting
under Orion, spiraling up book spines;

dodging vacuum and duster; scrambling
across ivories, like a kitten; climbing

on the mantel for a peek into the mirror
to check the condition of your spinneret;

then reel down to explore the fireplace
and play hide-and-seek in the kindling.

I must say, I was amazed one morning
to discover that you had set up house-

keeping, weaving an elaborate network
around-and-around in-and-out, putting

all you had on sentinel rabbit ears
atop our television set. Charlotte

was never half as clever, nor as lovely
as you, your emerald and ebony striations

gleaming in light filtering through
an eastern picture window -- eight

twiggy legs, almost as long as Daddy's.
With your green and black striped Pippi

tights you could be the pride of spider
follies. Tres chic, critics would cry.

Alas, a homestead was too soon abandoned!
Not because we tangled. In fact, I became

accustomed to your tacky ways. Perhaps you
didn't like the reception, weird vibrations

from channel eleven. Was it the news
or Spider Man cartoons that upset you?

No doubt you didn't realize that talk shows
and sit-coms can draw flies. No sad fare-

wells though you have found new digs
and I'll miss you on the air. I've noticed

a webby settlement with quilty eggs sacks on
the back of my piano. Soon spiderlings will

hatch without rude noises to abuse their
tiny ears. (Or is it tympanic membranes?

I'm a poet, not an arachnologist, so please do
excuse me, dear.) Lines threaded through, stuck

to spruce sounding board spines -- no bad vibes
here. These strings have not been struck in years.


(Spiders "hear" with slit-organs and trichobothria; both are on the legs.)


Kathleen Juday England
was born in Oroville, Washington, June, 3, 1923 in an unfinished, non-plumbed, non-electrified shelter being built from a hay shed standing on five acres of alfalfa field purchased by her father who had just moved his family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to bring religion to the Okanogan Valley.

Educated at Eastern Washington College of Education and the University of Washington in the 1940's, Kathleen held Bachelor's degrees in English and Education/Journalism, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing.

Although, sadly, no collections of her work exist in book-length form, her publishing history in magazines and newspapers spans decades.

Kathleen and her late husband Rollo England raised their three children in Seattle, and I've had the pleasure of knowing the England family for going on thirty years. Now, at the age of 88, she suffers from advanced Parkinson's disease.

I've long admired Kathleen's precise language coupled with her never-ceasing sense of play. And listening to her read her work was always to step back into the history of Eastern Washington State, each piece rendered with authenticity and a clear passion for the written word.

Her daughter -- my long-time friend Karen -- came to dinner last Friday, and brought along two of her mother's poems. We sat on my deck, sated with blackberry cobbler and blackberry ice cream, a bottle of Vinho Verde emptied. I read each piece aloud in the late summer night. My only complaint is that two poems weren't enough! Nonetheless, the evening was a gift, and I count myself lucky to have friends that come to dinner bearing poems.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Night Houses

Grill Heaven

Halved peaches, nectarines, plums & whole figs on skewers over a charcoal fire.
A drizzle of olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Brown sugar at the end.
Tossed with gorgonzola.

How could I have thought there would be leftovers?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

More Tunes

A pleasure I've returned to in this recently-adjusted life is that of hearing live music on my street, especially during summer when people play in their yards, or with every door and window flung open. Many a morning I've awoken to my lovely friend/neighbor -- the venerated banjo player Candy Goldman --

-- on her porch plucking at strings. I've had the treat numerous times of drifting off to sleep with my bedroom window open, a party at Candy's still in full-fiddle. Sometimes a trio or quartet of musicians will spill onto the driveway or parking strip, and it's a veritable symphony of old-time music, free for the listening. It's heaven.

So imagine my surprise when Candy called me this week to say that she'd heard what sounded like Italian music coming from my house. My house?! I tried to recall what I've been listening to, and scratched my head. I had no idea what she was talking about.

"T.," she said, "it was you playing the concertina. Felt like a I was in a Fellini movie."


Um, well. I do recall practicing my key of C, and then some messing around with improvised tunes. But Candy was listening to me play music?!! This was quite the turn-around.

I was stunned. I thought, I can do this?!

Needless to say, she made my day. My week, actually.
And yesterday, my Handbook for English Concerina arrived in the mail.

Looks like I have some practice ahead.