Friday, December 28, 2012


Re: Glass Box

1. Think outside the box.

2. This hint was in the prior post:
      "I told him to give it a few weeks; he may just figure it out."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Break or Not To Break....

Nine years ago, when my sons and I were faced with celebrating Christmas minus their father, we decided to begin new (and wacky) traditions, in part to honor him (he was wildly creative) and also to acknowledge and accept our revised family. No wallowing in the past!

The tradition that has lasted is our annual gift-wrapping contest, where each of us wraps at least one gift in the oddest way possible.

In these intervening years, each of us has developed our own particular wrapping style: Reilly mines the kitchen for discarded cereal boxes, lengths of foil, duct tape. Nelson goes the route of glueing-things-to-other-things. My style has not evolved so much as been a last-minute grabbing of whatever I can find that is odd. (One year my entry was wrapped in pages from an old dictionary.)

Reilly's sculptural assemblages (shredded wheat boxes, plastic yogurt tubs, string) have won nearly every year. The vote must be unanimous! (Alas, I've never won.) 

So, last Sunday I got an email from my friend J., who wrote that he had an idea that would pretty much guarantee my win: he'd help me construct a glass box in which I could entomb a small gift.

 Christmas Eve we met at his house, and using plate glass and a scoring tool, he snapped out six rectangles —

which we glued together with UV glue and an ultra-violet light —
Before gluing the last pieces, I slipped the present within –

VoilĂ !

Back home, I wrapped the glass box — openable only by breaking! — into several other boxes-within-boxes to ensure surprise.

Nelson began to laugh —

and couldn't stop for a mighty long while —

The caveat: I wouldn't be a truly tortuous mother without messing with his head just a bit more. I told him that if he breaks the glass, he'll discover what is inside. But if he doesn't break the glass, the gift will be re-upped next year, as long as the glass remains unbroken. If he guesses what's inside, he still qualifies for re-upping. And either way, he gets the gift.

breakage = only this year
no breakage = a continuing gift

He asked if it was a check for $10,000.

No, it isn't.

(But I won! I won!!)

And I told him to give it a few weeks; he may just figure it out.

Any guesses from blogland?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Funk, Bach, Cookies and Gospel

Seems like every December I re-invent Christmas, trimming and honing traditions to suit whatever hectic schedule I'm involved in. Just this morning I wrapped the clunky tree stand in an old scarf (I can't even bring myself to say the words "Christmas tree skirt"). The 5-6' tree ( there were no 3-4' trees at Lowes) has only a handful of ornaments on it. No time to drag out more! I did manage to find a book of Christmas piano music in the basement, but this week I've been stuck on Bach preludes, for their precision and simplicity: psyche-soothing little bits of fingerwork.

A tableful of cookies —

— a pile of gifts yet unwrapped, a list for today that includes PT at 1pm. Last night I wrote on the top of the list: get up at 7:30!! Begin day @9am.

Well. Suffice to say I've already ignored everything on the list.


The highlight of the holiday, though, was this party last night, hosted by my sister-in-law's family: gospel choir, funk band, ribs, fried chicken, cornbread, and people I see only once a year. After dinner, while the band was kicking it — and good gawd they are great! —Nelson leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Mom, of all the things we do at Christmas, I think this is my favorite."

Ho ho.

Damn, it's good to be alive.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh so sweet.....

Well I'll be damned if this just isn't the sweetest thing I've seen in ages —

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Packed and Outa Here, Baby

The rare smile on J.!

I'm cold.

And wet.

We packed it all up for the Atlanta gift show today — display materials, glass shelves, black springy floor, desk, chair, lights, coiled cords, step-ladder, hand-cart — on two pallets and a third pallet with boxes of one of everything we make, all shrink-wrapped, all in the rain. Finished just as it began to get dark, toes wet, black beret dripping rain down my nose. Good gawd I was ready to be done.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The joy of an afternoon off — even with this early darkness and the rain unrelenting and the temps just hovering above snow temps. I drove to the fruit stand and pondered apples and oranges (apples and oranges!) in the cold, one glove off to wrestle with plastic bags. (Black beret pulled snug, scarf wound and knotted.)

Pomegranates in a red heap.
Lemons, limes, some $$$ strawberries.
The root crops — the beets, the parsnips and yams — looking curled into themselves, hardened against what will come.

Jars of honey: blackberry and clover.
Bagged stacks of corn tortillas.
Baguettes from the Vietnamese bakery.

Nothing fancy, no pretensions.
Honest-to-goodness food, on a cold and rainy Sunday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The second (and last!) day of the holiday studio sale is tomorrow, and we swept and tidied today before I went home. The shippers arrive sometime Wednesday to pick up our three pallets for the Atlanta Gift Show; pallets, that is, of prototypes we are still in the process of making. I am so ready for some time off.

Melinda got a call today from a gallery in Berkeley to whom we mailed a shipment of 18 pieces just this past Monday, and they'd already sold out and did we have anything — anything to send her ASAP?!!

No, actually. We don't.

There's a rumor that Christmas is afoot, but I don't seem to be able to confirm it.

And I can't post today without mentioning the horror I feel at the current news. It is incomprehensible. I've written and deleted sentence after sentence here, so I'll just say that there are no words powerful enough to contain what must be endured by so many families.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some Details

I saw a row of raindrops on the red twig of a dogwood today, absolute perfection in the seven drops—

I saw the neighbor's calico cat go scuttling from the yard when I was bringing my borrowed dog out back on a leash after her dinner, and as she lunged forward after the cat I had less than a second to center myself so as not to slip headlong down the steps, slippery with mossy scum. And all so quickly over, there was no time for my heart to skip to that point of panic when the dark December night suddenly seemed lurching into crashing and broken bones —

I heard this fragment on the evening news: "The campaign against Easy Bake Ovens —"

I spoke on the phone today with a friend in Hawaii and I could actually feel the sun in his voice —

(So many details of the past twelve hours of being awake on this 12/12/12)

Homemade pizza for dinner (albeit from the freezer) and I could taste the pinch of cinnamon I put in the red sauce —

Good news, although not entirely official, concerning my book-length manuscript. Not quite ready to pop the cork on the Champagne, but it's a'chillin'.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Dit, dot, et al.

I'm a punctuation geek.

I'm carrying on a decades-old tryst with the semi-colon; the em dash — yes, the em dash — is my constant companion. I'm particularly fond of using bracketed phrases (or single words [although often multiple words]) inside of parenthetical asides. An ellipsis has the power to excite feelings of joy and well-being....

On the other hand, the this modern-day practice of punctuation butchery in the form of emoticons rankles the punctuated spirit of my deepest soul. My question: who gave permission for this?!

Okay, okay. I'll settle down.

And then I discovered these Japanese emoticons, in last Sunday's NYTimes Magazine, and I must admit a certain enchantment with them:


bowing down in apology



wearing headphones



And here's my contribution to the emoticabulary:

punched in the eye

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Work Faster, Faster

It's clear-out time at work, and this week I dragged out all the boxes of pieces from this past year that aren't quite perfect. (Boxes and boxes, pulled from a shed.) 300+ pieces this year, about an average number, I'd venture to say.

Each piece has to be checked over to see if it can be "fixed" enough to sell at a reduced price. Today I lined them all up on the long table, and took out my box of tricks: razor knife, various files, clean soft rags, paper towels, paint brushes, bristly brushes, rubbing alcohol,  tubs of paint, linseed oil, UV glue.

I felt like an accidental alchemist, holding each piece to the light for intense scrutiny. I glued and rubbed and polished and painted and scraped and filed and dotted and tossed in the garbage. The skills I've acquired over the past six years are so obscurely esoteric, all born out of necessity, of making something work when it doesn't want to. The success rate actually is fairly high when it comes to these cast-offs.

The next two Sundays will bring a caravan of customers from our 800+ mailing list, and every last one expects to leave feeling unbelievably lucky.

Whatever is left over from the first day of the sale will get reduced for the second day, and with any luck, our 300 pieces of not-quites will be whittled down to a big zero.

But before any of that happens, in a [yikes] mere five days, there are orders still to fill, first quality merchandise to make for the sale, plus we must convert our cozy factory into a cozy boutique. My head is more than a little a'spin.

As soon as we're done with the studio sale and gallery orders, we must pull together our line to exhibit in January at the Atlanta wholesale gift show. Last day we can ship in order to arrive in time for the show is December 19th.

I looked at my two workmates this afternoon, and said, "you know, this is pretty much all of my life right now."

They both concurred.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gutter Cleaning & Victor Hugo

My ex-bro-in-law posted this on facebook today:

Random find while cleaning leaves out of the gutter: Page 39-40 of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables". The last line sentence is "I will weep for the children of kings with you, if you will weep with me for the children of the people."
I love this — the manual labor part of it (and apparently the leaves were blowing back as fast as he could sweep them out) and the social commentary on VH's part. AND that the x-bro posted it on facebook. 
But even better: I have his permission to use it in a poem.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Night Rain

Dramatic rain with gusty winds last night, drumming on the slanted attic roof directly above my head for hours, lashing the southern-inclined front of my house. I fell to sleep reading Life of Pi, and throughout the night, waking to the storm, felt as if a tiger were just inches away, felt as if an ocean of misfortune was swelling just outside the windows. Then I'd drift from that half-dream state into full realization that all was well, tucked-in and pounded-down, knowing I was high above the rivering streets and sturdily sheltered from fir branches cast aloft.

I thought a lot about my roof, glad for its steady repel of the elements. I thought about the few pieces of cedar siding which came loose last year some time and still need hammering back in. I thought about stains, and sealants. I thought about paint. I thought about the man I hired to paint the high-up trim, that he dug some irises corms from his garden for me, and how some wretched critter chews away most of the plant each spring.

And then I thought about gutters, newly swept clean by my sons.

I thought about my apple tree, badly in need of pruning. I thought that I could lop off a large section and string it from my living room ceiling, in lieu of a Christmas tree. I thought about the accumulation of ornaments packed away in the basement, and then I thought that I might just leave them and all their attendant memories (troubling memories) neatly packed away.

How the train engines of the brain can rev themselves up in the middle of the night!

Finally I let myself slip back to sleep, lulled by that incessant torrent.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bog Tones

It's not Ireland, but the colors fly me 6,000 miles east.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dog, Borrowed

There hasn't been a dog in my life since I was 17, and for the next two weeks I'm the Handler-In-Chief of a golden retriever (whose owner is vacationing in Hawaii [envious!]). As it's been even longer since there's been a horse in my life on a regular basis, I'm amazed at how much walking with this very spirited animal resembles riding a very spirited and easily-spooked equine.

I'm making motions with the leash much like I'd do with reins, except there's no broad back to straddle, no muscled shoulder to lean into. No sonorous nickering. Harumph. If only I had a horse to ride to work in this very urban neighborhood!

Nevertheless, this doggy business isn't too bad, all things considered. And although I'm more of a cat person, the constant companionship of this canine is rather sweet. Don't know when I've enjoyed so much devotion.

The cats at home are not pleased.

The cats at work, on the other hand, have resigned themselves to the daily presence of this large and loud creature, and today emerged from their hiding places amongst the packing materials to (tentatively!) meet Bella. No drama, just some nose-touching and guarded gazing.

I rode a full-blooded Arabian horse for two years in my early teen years, after she magically appeared one summer morning grazing on my neighbor's front lawn. Once the hullabaloo of discovering a loose horse outside my bedroom window subsided, her owner — a retired jockey — pulled up in his car. It seemed that "Happy Springtime" had a habit of letting herself out of her pasture, and she'd wander the semi-rural roads of Renton. Mr. Van Slyke, the jockey, needed someone to exercise her, and wondered if my friend and I would be interested?

Thus began my seasons of heaven.

Funny that walking home from work, in the dark, with a dog, should pull this memory to the surface, but there you have it. But memories are like that, aren't they ? One and then another ricocheting off each other, often seemingly without connection. But that faint thread that stitches them together can nearly always be found, if we take the time to notice.

And I had the time to notice, because I was walking. With a dog.


Friday, November 23, 2012

My Pie Family

(A cat on the lap and all is well.)

Deep mist suffused everything today, blotted out any vision farther than a few hundred yards in any direction. Everything dripped — even the gold-finches at the feeder. Even the sole hummingbird sipping nectar. This is full-on autumn, with winter beginning to show its blue light at the horizon.

Yesterday, at a Thanksgiving table with sixteen others, I listened to the waves of conversation alternately ripple up to a passionate roar, then trickle down to near silence. Someone suggested we name our favorite movies, and a title would be announced, with the ensuing discussion and good-natured arguments: again the tide of voices cresting, then easing off.  In such a crowd, it was easy to slip into silence unnoticed, easy to be the observer.

But of course, I had my dramatic moments, as when I wrestled (so to speak) the crow/cat/fir-cone story away from my son. (It was my story.) With a few emptied wine glasses trailing behind me, I performed (I think) a fairly good impression of my very large cat pressed up against the glass panel of my front door in his attempt to escape being lobbed-at by a cone-pitching crow.

When it was time for dessert, seven pies were laid out down the center of the table along with a VERY LARGE bowl of whipped cream: one cranberry-apple, two sweet potato, two pecan, one pumpkin and one pumpkin with a pecan streusel. Be still my pie heart!

I lapsed into silence again.
I slipped into my invisible dessert bubble so that I could eat pie undistracted. 

This was yet a new version of family, a rearrangement of old friends and new, of friends that I consider family, of sons, and friends of friends. It was as if someone took a good portion of the people I've known/met during the past 26 years, put them in a bag, and shook out sixteen of them to sit together for Thanksgiving dinner. I was delighted to be among the invited.

In the middle of it all (and sitting at a middle seat at that long table), I was reminded of something that my late mother-in-law used to say:

"You reach a certain age, you get to choose your own family."

She was right.

But the really lucky part, for me, is that my "family" is a big one: blood, near-blood, not-blood, near, not-near, breathing, passed-on.

And then there are all of you.
You know who you are.

Shall we have pie?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Poets are interested mostly in death and commas.” — Carolyn Kizer

Saturday, November 17, 2012



Driving, late yesterday afternoon and into evening, sixty miles on I-5 in stop-and-go traffic. Rain and Friday, dark by 4pm. And then a turn to the west, towards saltwater, and a darker way to go, limited visibility for the next 80 miles, off-and-on rain, off-and-on wipers, the defroster turned to high. The radio cutting out. My quiet son beside me, his dry sense of humor.

This poem by Theodore Roethke kept flaring into my consciousness, this passage particularly:

from The Far Field

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.  


Four hours later, we pulled up to this odd "intentional" community, Seabrook....

I hate to use the word quaint, but nothing else fits as well. Lil' suburb'o'the'beach.


What matters is that I'm here with my cancer-in-remission sister, another sister, and various spouses/nephews/girlfriends.

I do not intend to go clamming tonight at low tide (8-ish) with everyone else. A chair by the fire beckons, a glass of wine.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Long days at the glass factory.

I come home feeling beat up yet happily worn out from laughing, my hands too sore to type.

Every day between now and Christmas is booked. We ship for the Atlanta wholesale gift show on December 20th, so I've rescinded the order to cancel Christmas day. Thanksgiving? I intend to show my gratitude as a guest, delighted that I'm not hosting this year.

Meanwhile, there are clams to be dug this weekend at Pacific Beach, and chowder to be simmered. Bread dough set to rising. And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Post-Election Grace Period of Happiness

The past two days I've awoken not with a sense of dread and foreboding, but the sensation that something good is actually afoot. After the few moments of post-alarm head clearing, I remember that two days ago we booted the rethuglicans from their self-constructed, self-righteous pedestals. I really was preparing myself for the worst possible scenario, and trying to come to terms with what I thought was inevitable, in advance, to ease the oncoming shock.

The levels of hate and vitriol that have been spewing from the mouths of so many accomplished, in the end, not one thing. Dare I say that I'm proud to be an American? The zip code in which I reside — the most ethnically diverse in the nation — is the perfect snapshot of the "new" America that author, journalist, and writer/producer David Simon so eloquently speaks of:

  America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can comfortably walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance. 

Read the full article here.

For me, and for my sons, this is the only world we know.

My sons grew up with straight/poet/agnostic/atheist parents, played with the rabbi's son, acknowledged that the autistic neighbor-child who roamed from house to house was to be watched over, played chess with a lesbian couple, were the minority children in their elementary school, celebrated holidays with their caucasian/African-American cousins, and had friends whose skin tone was never considered.

(Once, while vacationing on the Oregon coast, there were lots of comments about how strange it was that everyone was white.)

It was bad luck — an apartment fire — that plunked us down here, but that "bad luck" transformed itself into the gift of a rich childhood for my boys; rich, that is, in experience. Rich in community, rich in the greater love that comes from a community of diverse individuals who recognize that we're all in this together.

For better or worse, but mostly for the better.

A few days ago I would never have predicted that I'd be writing these words. And perhaps I'm exhibiting a bit of hubris when I say that tonight I feel that everything I've taught my sons has paid off. This country, the planet — is still teetering on the deadly cliffs of self-destruction. But for these few moments, the moments that it takes to compose this blog post — I'm feeling mighty fine.
I walk by this garage every weekday on my way to work —

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy Barack Day!

Although it was only my son and I watching the election returns at my house last night, between switching channels and the presence of facebook, we watched with a multitude of friends and all of the country.

Lots of nail-biting followed by an overwhelming relief (tears) and then joy.

The best part of the celebration came just moments after the election was called for the president, when we heard a ruckus outside, and I opened the door to a parade of adults and children marching down the sidewalk with a kitchen band: pots, pans, wooden spoons, and yelps of happiness.

Band #2, a few minutes later, was a group of seven or eight school-aged boys, one with a snare drum fastened to his waist, drumsticks rattling out their uncontainable glee.

Firecrackers, shimmers of sparks shooting high into the night sky.

Blessings to all on this sunny Wednesday.

Bring On The Cake!

I have been breathing for approximately 15,470,300,160,000 minutes,
minus the minutes held while traveling through tunnels.

(The sad news is that I am no longer 55.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Supplication to Our Lady of the Dumpster

           --for Rachel Maxi

O lid of clang & wheels of clatter,
O collector of rubbish & swill, O Holy Mother
of great pickings, of dreck & slop: Hear our prayer.

O saint of litter & scrap, protect us
from the banana peel, the Styrofoam chunk,
from all that defies reduce/reuse/recycle.

O divine casting off, O sacred decay!
Hallelujah to the Hefty Ultra-Flex 33 Gallon,
the drawstring, the twist-tie.

You hold dear everything
everyone never wanted or wanted once,
a sack or a heap tossed & tumbled.

Praise to those who dive into the belly
of your dump — the urban foragers, the hungry,
scraping a meal of crust & bone.

Consecrate them, O Queen of rubble
robed in graffiti. Watch over them,
that they may not themselves become waste

to be managed, a cubic yard of flesh
primed for front-loading. Now,
and at the hour of our death.


© T. Clear 2010

Big White Rusty, Rachel Maxi
This week marks my editorship at the Tuesday Poem hub, featuring a poem by the Seattle poet Holly J. Hughes. Check it out here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gutters, and James Fenimore Cooper

I came home from grocery shopping today to a spirited conversation coming from my side yard where my two boys (er, men) were cleaning out the gutters: N. at the top of the ladder, R. holding it steady on the sloppy soggy earth. Amid the flinging of moss/fir-needles/leaves they were embroiled in a discussion on the history of Israel and Palestine; then suddenly Socialism was the topic, which quickly spilled into the subject of independent presidential candidates.

Thankfully, all in good nature. They do tend to get each others passions stirred up in these dialogues.

"Watch out for James Fenimore Cooper!" I said.

You might recall the antiquarian book I placed in the sun last June, whose place on the deck railing has gone undisturbed for going on six months.

"Wait!" I said. "I'm gonna take a picture!"
I will note here that not a single soul has asked me about this. My guess is that it's just too odd to appropriately mention. But still.

Anyway, I checked on it after the gutter-reaming was completed, and not a page had flapped.

R. made us dinner — Hungarian goulash, papperdelle, and carrots in brown sugar and butter.

Before N. left, he scooped up his kitty, who settled into his arms
with an ease reserved for N. only —

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Driving today, after work, in dimming light along Lake Washington, the blue bruised water ruckled-up in the wind, the maples and alders side of the road in every shade of red/orange/yellow.  A swathe of rainbow to the north, a concentrated lump of color sitting just at the horizon. The sky beyond: velvet charcoal.

I kept shouting:

"I live here!"

I've driven that stretch of road so many times, it's easy to take it for granted. Easy to admit to a certain ordinariness in what is never ordinary, never the same from day to day, from hour to hour.      

Easy to dismiss the forward-thinking gods who delivered me back to this city that I love, and to whom I say:


Wednesday, October 31, 2012


During spring break in 1976, I walked into a storefront in Cannon Beach, Oregon and found a rough-shod array of bins and boxes containing seed pods for sale. The store looked as if it had only just been set-up, and haphazardly. Prices ranged from ten cents to slightly more, and nothing was labeled: no country-of-origin, no plant genus, just the price on a sign taped to each bin.

And being a collector of the odd & curious, I felt as if I'd just stepped into my version of heaven.  I was a freshman in college, paying my own way, and felt the budgetary-belt-tightening in a place where I could easily lay down half a week's pay for, well, for dried seed pods.

I think I walked out of there without parting with more than two dollars, and felt extravagant at that.

That was 36 years ago, and I've carried my two boxes of seed pods from apartment to apartment and from house to house. They've endured mold, cold, fire, death, litigation & divorce, and sit on my trunk/coffee-table in my sitting room.

They remain silent.

Tonight I googled "seed pods for sale", and apart from a site that advertises "dried decor", the web is noticeably absent of dried seed pods. Often I wonder if I really did wander into that storefront, or was there a ripple in the space-time continuum, just long enough for me to slip through into another reality—

I cannot imagine why anyone would invest in such a business, other than to tickle the likes of moi. (And that seems particularly self-serving.) All of which I am certain is that I came out of there with a paper sack of oddities, oddities that have become totems of a life whose primary goal is to sustain curiosity. 

At age 19, I was hard-pressed to imagine a 55-year-old self. The prospect of marriage — let alone two marriages — seemed as remote as a day-trip to Mars. Three years later I would spend a summer going broke in Paris, and believed I would return home (to live with my mother!) a new person. I came home, instead, to find that every possible thing was exactly as it was before my departure. I came home to what I viewed as a personal failure to transform.

What I can finally see, now, is that my summer in Paris defined the kind of life I was to lead thereafter, a life not defined by instantaneous change but one defined by the possibilities that only a summer of art and culture abroad can begin to transform. At 19,  the perspective from which one views a life is shallow, at best. It's taken me since then to begin to see just how important that three month interval was, and that the seeds of my future had just begun to set forth roots.

There was a time when I was being groomed to enter into the corporate management vortex, and a surprise pregnancy saved me (yet more seed!). I've devoted nearly all of my subsequent working life to employment in the arts. Hardly a path to riches, mind you, but it is indeed a path to a particular kind of joy.

In the end, it hardly matters if anyone else treasures this droll collection of plant matter — may my seed pods complete their own decomposition in the shade of an apple tree, because I know that they will have served my curiosity exceptionally well.

& whatnot)


I can think of few things more ghoulish than a painting by Hieronymus Bosch....

Wishing you all an unexpected BOO!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So few words of late.


Falling back Sunday at 2am.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Skirt With Thread, A Hem

After a third trip to the fabric store (the outlet location of Pacific Fabrics: think upholstery remnants, faux leopard fur on unwieldy bolts, bins of foam for every possible cushioning need and more, more, more—) for yet more thread, this skirt is finally nearing completion. Just a rolled 1/4" hem and I'm good to go.

(For the better part of a month there's been no shortage of pricked fingers and clippings of black & grey cotton jersey here/there/everywhere.)

And because I obsessively calculate and add things up, I figured out that in this just-above-the-knee hand-embroidered, hand-constructed garment, there is, give-or-take, 450 feet of thread.

That's 5400 inches of thread.

Which is a little over 1/11 mile.

I don't think I've ever even imagined that anything could be one-eleventh.

Odd fractions aside, making this skirt took everything I know about sewing (7th grade home-ec) and threw it out the window. No proper pattern, no sewing machine, raw edges, fabric paint, recycled fabric — and I'm a convert. Can't wait to start my next project. Can't wait to take what I've learned and apply it to — wait for it — "repurposing" some toss-asides. (Let's just get it out of the way: I really can't stand the "repurposing" word. Love the concept, can do w/o the euphemism.)

When and if I come to the end of this new-found passion, I'll add up all the inches and feet and fractional-miles of thread that I use, and report back.

And now it's hem-time.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fragments, Crumbs, Swirls

It's a chilly Sunday afternoon. There's a red sauce (with tomatoes from a friend) simmering on the stovetop. One of the cats is asleep on a fur coat. I hand-washed the Waterford Champagne glasses from last night's dinner party, because it's important I follow my rule of No Washing Of Expensive Crystal immediately after a party.

(And although yesterday I did follow my most-important rule of no-wine-until-everything-is-prepped, there was the sacrificial fingertip/fingernail flaunting its bloody self while I sliced apples.) (And yes, I did not serve a bloody salad.)

My son made a fresh apple ice cream and a burnt caramel sauce for drizzling, and I swooned. (His frozen concoctions generally send me into a partial faint.)

There was a moment of a rainbow late this afternoon cast on the Cascade Foothills to the east: Tiger Mountain, Cougar Mountain, Squak Mountain. And while watching hail bounce off the sidewalk as I sat with a hot cup of tea at Caffe Vita, it occured to me that I could get a Blessed Virgin Mary statue, put it (her) outside in the garden, and the next time we have tiny iceballs descend from the sky, I could take a photo of BVM and accumulated iceballs and title it "Hail Mary."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

If the small business at which I toil daily is any indication of an awakening economy, then this country's bottom line is looking up. Damn. The past two weeks have brought on a steady stream of re-orders from current clients and inquiries followed by orders from new galleries with how-soon-can-you-ship as the refrain.

Most want their double-our-last-order-please shipped yesterday. I spend my days in a flurry of multi-tasking. When something breaks (and glass breaks) or a flaw shows up late in production, it's necessary to re-prioritize, shift, re-schedule. Sometimes (but thankfully not often) a piece is created 3X before an acceptable specimen appears before my magnified eyes.

I have a favorite tool — a diamond-tipped rod, pencil-sized, which works miracles on those hard-to-reach spots in a pattern when the electric dremel just makes the flaw more flawed. I think that in another life I could be a dentist rather than the current starving artist. In fact, if the multi-verse indeed exists, I'm certain that I've got my gloved hands deep into someone's incisors.

But in this incarnation, even the antiseptic smell of a dentist's office sends my anxieties buzzing and beyond control. What I need, in the multi-verse life I envision, is to do the work I do in this universe but collect the paycheck that I earn in an alternate 'verse.

Where is Einstein when I need him?

Meanwhile, every day upon walking out my door to work, I pluck a handful of carrots from my parking-strip garden,  toss them soil-and-all into a plastic bag, then scrub and slice them at lunch. How is it possible that a single carrot seed — about the size of a pinhead — grows to what we know as a carrot? Maybe this seems simple-minded, but I'm constantly in awe of Things That Grow. May it ever be so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making a concerted effort here to avoid the current political election morass playing day and night every time I open my eyes and/or breathe.

Here's my cure for today...swing it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Goats on Dog House

My youngest son texted some photos to me late this afternoon from his hunting trip in The Okanagon in northeastern Washington state, and I felt relief ripple through through me, felt a pent-up breath release. A week without any communication from him + back-country camping + rifles does not a settled-and-content-mom-make.

I came home from a full (and extremely) busy day at work to the necessity of moving a load of plants to a safe place, as the construction of my new deck supports begins sometime this week, whenever the rains stop.  (The deck which is literally ripping my house in two, three, four....) It was less than pretty outside — nearly dark and an onslaught of precipitation. And despite a weekend of intense rain, the soil proved dry and impenetrable only about an inch down. Nonetheless, I went at it (with the help of my oldest son) and it took less than 30 minutes to relocate a section of my garden to a sheltered spot, beneath the quince.

Back inside I shed my gritty outer layers and began chopping kale and apples, checked the yams roasting in the oven (whose fragrance, enhanced with brown sugar and cinnamon, was piped outside via the kitchen fan), and finally sat down to dinner with my two best people: my sons.

We've always been a boisterous trio — at once argumentative and jovial — and after several weeks of pondering unbloggable issues from the past, this was just what I needed, just the balm my agitated self required/desired.

 I commented on Nelson's nearly manic consumption of pulled pork, and he said, "Well, there's something to the notion that food made with love tastes better."

Reilly groaned and rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you actually said that, Nelson!"

Meanwhile, I was aglow in the compliment, and mentioned that there are few things more gratifying for a mother than feeding one's children. And for Nelson, whose conversation is nearly 100% science-based, this was indeed his supreme compliment to a mother, who, well, loves nothing more than to feed her sons.

I can't even begin to recall the paths our conversation followed, but it was impassioned and spirited, and veered from politics to the science of sleep to the history of religions (as well as the etymology of the word religion) to venison to the question of whether or not one could purchase a hill on Amazon, and, if so, would it qualify for free shipping? And what if I wanted to buy an organic hill? (Nelson said he wanted a free-range hill.)

Disintegration lead to collapse by laughter, and we knew the evening had reached its denouement when we began to argue whether or not goats liked to hang out on the tops of dog houses. What better than You Tube to settle this?

Here's my answer (the first hit, incidentally, when I typed "goats on dog house"):

 It doesn't get much better than this.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ho hum

Other than a marriage proposal from a total stranger living in Morocco and an invitation to visit Stockholm from a dashing 33-year-old, not a damn thing is going on.

(I think I'll decline the proposed nuptials.)

And you?

Friday, October 12, 2012


Forty days and forty nights (and then some) without rain in this city known for rain, and I can finally sit upstairs in my solitary suite, in a fur coat, and listen to the rain on the roof.

I mean, isn't this what you would do?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've never been much of a dancer, but there was exquisite choreography in the 5am baking sessions at Two Tartes, too many years past now. Mondays through Fridays, and only myself as partner save the dozens of scones, the galettes & cupcakes. A blindfold would not have slowed the pace, which was scheduled to the minute. One misstep meant a lost sale. I kept the pace.

In the coldest of winter I kneaded with my apron tied around a fleece jacket, scarved up to my chin, until the convection ovens began pumping out their radiant heat, and the storefront windows fogged.

Always there was music, and loud: Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Loreena McKennit, Johnny Cash. My alto harmony. No one to hear but the lumbrous  50-pound flour sacks, the many scoops of oats, and the massive bar of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate (eight pounds? ten?) which I wrapped in a towel, took a hammer to.

Later in the winter, on the cusp of the new season, the price of strawberries began to drop, and I'd slice through flat after fragrant flat, fold them into buttermilk scones with a generous handful of white chocolate chips. I penned a card: Berry Whites. Every day they were gone well before the lunchtime rush.

Round about 7am, there would be the predictable call from a desperate customer to "reserve" a toffee brownie: the equivalent of crack, for the (too) low price of $1.25. And legal to boot. (And probably shouldn't have been.)

I don't miss my middle-of-the-night alarm clanging, but I do miss that dance, and mightily. I miss that sugar two-step, that waltz of everything good.

Golden hours, golden days.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Leaving work today, late afternoon, I could have sworn that the light in the north, at lake level, had a sound — muffled, muted. A trick of synesthesia, perhaps.

Once home, I could hear my house, at ground level and below, groaning and cracking. Another trick.

(The latches on doors fail to catch, and any breeze sends an open greeting to spirits.)

My friend Tom set his level on the deck and measured the depth of the sinking: an inch, more in some places. And suddenly it was all visible to me, all cockeyed angles, atilt and teetering. Inside and out.

Tom walked out the back gate and around the overgrown grape vines to the other side of the house to check the foundation there. Something caused me to hesitate — I was following and then I abruptly stopped — and for a moment my dead husband (Mark) was present, watching, summing up, silent. Ripped t-shirt, jeans, an all-over scuffled appearance. A narrowing of the eyes. 

Just as quickly he was gone again. I realized that I had frozen in my steps, dazed and jangled by the sighting. Didn't mention it to Tom when he momentarily returned.

Nine years ago Mark made his abrupt exit, leaving a rutted trail of unfinished business and a house in great need of mending. With my single needle and spool of rapidly unwinding thread, I've persevered, and managed to stitch things together. Along the way I've tripped and stumbled, banged my head up against the wall of failure. Dropped my head to the table, ready to hand these house keys over to the devils of defeat.

And now more pressure on the underpinnings, a fault line of no fault I claim.

The earth’s crust shifts and trembles,
entire civilizations slide away in an instant.
Sun, wind, the ravages of rain and thunder —
we build, we pound and cement
our lives onto rectangular plots of land.

And without knowing, suddenly we lose
a step. And for a moment there is nothing
concrete. For a moment there is only
the wind rattling the dishes in the sink —

And then sometimes, for a moment, there is a husband returned and a light that hums softly, despite it all.

Sometimes, I say, that's how we do.

Just that.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Okay, Cupid

These days working with just one other person calls for dramatic stories to perk up the table time. Apparently, it's one of my primary job descriptions. And by god, I do my best.

Which brings us, again, to that pesky online dating.

Things had gotten a little stale recently, not a lot of hits, no "action" to speak of.

So I switched out my profile pic to one, um, slightly more provocative.


Let's just say things have started to percolate mightily. (But, puh-leeze, spare me from the twenty-something boys who are entertaining their MILF fantasies.)

Humor abounds, though, as always, and to keep "my" men straight (perhaps straight isn't the best word choice but I'll leave it just for nuance), I quickly create a "user name", so-to-speak, for each of them. Something short and easy to remember.

For example:
1. There was "Music Man", who turned out to be a redneck (not much of a music man at all) (mainly a lot of puffed-up self-aggrandizing) and who talked at length about buying chicken breasts in bulk and individually packaging them in his Food Saver packs. Fascinating. I'm going to rename him "Frozen Chicken Breast Man".

2. "Bad Poetry Man". Advice: NEVER tell someone you're a poet on your first date. Within minutes of my arriving home after said date, a "poem" from Bad Poetry Man appeared in my inbox. Sweet, I suppose, but no. NO.

3. "Cat Scratch Man": I should've taken my own advice re: "Bad Poetry Man".

4. "Tiny Hands Man" — besides possessing the smallest hands I've ever seen on a man, he spoke at length about a book (unpublished) his sister wrote about an 11th century pope. At. Length. (The second glass of wine helped, but not enough.)

5. A man who was so dull he didn't even earn a user name. He never looked at me and he asked me nothing about myself. Bad Hawaiian print shirt, tucked-in, pants hiked up waaaaay too high. Oy.

6. "Architect Man" said, "Redwoods are sentient beings." (Need I say more?)

7. "Screamer". See here.

Waiting in the wings (first face-to-face still to be scheduled) are "Drummer Man" and "Clown Man".

Could life get any more thrilling/fascinating/titillating than this?

God help me, it certainly better.

(And, for the record, none of these men know my full name or have any knowledge whatsoever of this blog.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blue, and More Bllue

When I asked my neighbor for a cutting from her hydrangea, I stopped to consider that I already have five vases of that same hydrangea, some dating back to a year ago. Did I really need/want more? Yes, I did.

Each possesses a different blue shade, and I covet all of them.

One is the same faded blue of the suit my mother wore when she married my father in Atlanta during WWII. The suit is impossibly small — my mom weighed ninety-something pounds then. I have it folded away safely.

When I was a child, she kept it in a trunk in the basement, and sometimes I'd make myself invisible and go downstairs, quietly open the trunk and take it out, unfold it, hold it. Cornflower-blue crepe, short sleeves, covered buttons. Lace on the collar and sleeves. Not sure why I was so furtive in my viewing, but something about going into that trunk felt like a violation, felt forbidden.

I lucked upon it after her death. Funny, but all my adult years I've searched out as many blue flowers as possible to plant in my garden.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

These are the softest of days, honey-aired, with a sweetness that I want to take in and in and in....

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On this night of the full moon, the roses
are even more lovely in their ebbing —

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hello, House

Two sons:

One sleeps with a baseball bat beside him.

The other arms himself, goes target shooting, hunts.

Both are liberal, loving, incredibly decent and tender men, their "arming" a reaction to the home-invasion robbery that occurred three years ago. My front door sports a metal panel around the dead-bolt. I pay for an alarm system.

And yet, despite this history, it's home.

Imperfect, worn, unfinished: home.

Vulnerable, drafty, creaky: home.

And I love it.

I gave up the notion of a "proper home" some time ago. Accepted that I have cats instead of a new sofa, "old-world charm" instead of doors that close properly. I've lived here long enough to add my DNA to the sheetrock, my nightmares to the attic crawlspace, my own particular gloom to the dank-aired laundry in the basement.

Here lingers the sound of a police officer's voice saying, "Your husband has been involved in an accident."

A wall once held a neighbor's suicide note.

This house has listened in on epilepsy diagnoses and taboo phone conversations. Heard slammed doors and broken dinner plates (slammed against a door). Endured a broken window and the body pushed against the window.

But in equal measures, this house has heard my son at ten learning Beethoven on his flute, Bach (badly!) on an untuned piano, and poetry spoken in a multitude of volumes. Daily it hears my son R.'s bold laughter.

And how many times has "Happy Birthday" been sung here? Nearly a hundred times, but not quite.

Its roof has been raised and its underbelly gutted-out.

It once swelled with the noisy exuberance of teenagers and then shrunk to its now nearly-empty nest.

I've learned to not just accept its many idiosyncrasies but to honor them, because this old house has lived more lifetimes than only my quarter of a century here, and so deserves praise and admiration for simply existing, for putting up with my years of complaints.

I've always believed that I would have a difficult time living in a new house, and I don't for a moment question that sliver of wisdom I can call mine.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Really, really big rose.

Walking home tonight, dark on a balmy late September night, and there was the hint of marine air on the breeze, but only if I tipped my head up a bit, much like I've seen my cats do when they first go outside. It seemed to float and waver, inconstant, at the edges of all the other scents: the yellow-dried-lawn scent, the dust-of-no-rain scent, the dropped-plums-fermenting-on-the-ground scent.  The urban exhaust. A simmering dinner from an unseen kitchen. A suggestion of roses.

Marine: salmon and mussels and oysters. Kelp, salt, crabs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sunday evening my boys and I had an early dinner on the deck before sunset, and a pair of hummingbirds were putting on their best performance of the year so far, swooping and darting and chip-chip-chipping just a few feet from where we sat. Then I heard a sound that I'd not heard before, thought that maybe it was a branch squeaking against the garage, but a little odd, a little too high-pitched, more like a whistle, with too much air in it to be a branch. I heard it again, and so did the boys, and then again, but in the opposite direction from the garage.

It sounded like a piccolo Pete firework, like this, although not so slow. I admit that we were were plain stumped.

Yesterday evening after work I stood out on the deck, and a hummer flew up and hovered 18" in front of my face — completely marvelous greeting! Then it flew straight up about forty feet, quickly turned and shot straight down to the garden, and at the base of its dive, before it turned to arc up again, I heard the sound again, and was completely mystified.

After a lot of dinking around online, I finally discovered that what were hearing was whistling produced by air passing through feathers of the diving male bird. I also found out that if these are Anna's Hummingbirds, they do not take part in the long migration southward, and that I should continue to feed them throughout the winter. It is recommended that in cold weather, I bring the feeder in at night to prevent freezing, or else string Christmas lights around it so the ambient heat will keep the formula fluid! Oh lordy, what have I created here?! (I must admit that the little red bottle feeder with lights strung about will be quite festive.)

I think I'm in it for the long run.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sewn, and then some.

I am trying to make this:

No, not the barn — the skirt. It's an Alabama Chanin design, all hand-sewn, double-layered cotton jersey with reverse applique and embroidery. Crazy, yes. Today I discovered that it's pretty much impossible to buy 100% cotton jersey in Seattle. Strange, when one considers that retail clothing stores selling thousands of items made of cotton jersey.

Natalie Chanin, the designer and author of the Alabama Stitch Book suggests using recycled t-shirts, so after my futile attempt to purchase new fabric off-the-bolt, I headed over to Goodwill. The tricky part is that you need two pairs of identical shirts, without any screen-printed design. I can't believe that I lucked out and found two charcoal-grey and two black tees —the colors that I wanted — both all-cotton, both pattern-free and in nearly-new shape.

Next I had to copy the pattern (it's on loan), so I photo-copied it in 81/2 by 11 pieces and puzzled them together, spread out on my floor. My brain feels rattled & addled.

My total investment, minus gas, is $18. Not bad when the Alabama Chanin website lists new, hand-sewn skirts in the $2000+ range. (And yes, that's for one skirt.)

Now all I have to do is make it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Listen (and yes, it's worth your time)

Here's my remedy for moping — be sure to watch Chris Thile's expressions of ecstasy (he's the winsome mandolin player):

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Presidential Seal of Approval

Abacus Gallery in Kennebunkport Maine sent an email to Melinda today informing her that Bill Clinton stopped by yesterday and purchased a few of her pieces. Let it be known that my hands were a part of their creation!

This was cause for a considerable amount of excitement at Studio HiJinx. Hard to buckle down to the job when you know that one of the most powerful men on the planet has laid hands on the very work over which you've labored. Not only that, he laid down his hard-earned cash for it.

Thank-you, Mr. President, for helping to support two of the 99%/53%/
slaves/hardworking/tax-paying/privately-insured/unentitled-to-shit/Americans who will never vote for Mitt Romney.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer's end, and the nasturtiums finally are showing their colors, and the Heavenly Blue morning glory affords me maybe a single flower per day. Don't want to overdo anything, do you Mother Nature?

In less than a month the year will begin to fold itself beneath the soil, a blaze of death in the garden. And then the first frost, and the rains for which Seattle are famous, our barely-there rains with their omnipresent grey skies, unrelenting.

A good friend stopped by work today and said he's pulled together an exit plan for his house, whose value has slipped beneath the price he paid for it, and his work (as an artist) is spotty. This is a hard-working man, a decent man (I used to work for him), a good man. No need to mention the overpowering despair which took up residence this afternoon. And how far are any of us from this same scenario?  I took last week off because there was a slowdown in orders; happily, this week, new orders have bulked-up the files on through December, and I'm grateful.

And although I generally avoid politics in this forum, the Republican presidential candidate has pushed me to the brink of the cliff, and I'm ready to scream. His current vocal inflammation is beyond the pale. (If you haven't already read about this, click here.)

Shoving anxieties about the future aside, the late-afternoon light on my walk home from work was glorious, and suddenly buildings I look at every day appeared glowing, larger than life. Here's my temporary little love affair with the color yellow: