Friday, March 30, 2012


Will spring never come? It feels like the answer to that is a resounding "NO!"

I don't know how many times I was out in it today, wrestling with a tarp or dodging rain or just trying not to get blown askew. Late this afternoon, I went to war with the giant umbrella where we stage orders for UPS — the tremendous gusts of wind had everything topsy turvy, and I was in danger of losing an eye to the whipping spokes. J. got on the table to set the umbrella upright so I could reel it in, and the table began to tip, and shouting began, but in the end, we finally got it secured without any organ loss.

March has been unforgiving. In like a lion, out like a cyclone. The year has me feeling beat up, slapped to bits, tossed inside out, and we're only three months in.

Cherry trees are in blossom and daffodils brave their cheerful souls in the cheerless gales, and I want to tell each flower go back inside. It's not time yet, really.

Recalling the anticipation of my first son's birth, twenty six years ago (come April 3rd). Pre-birth, I recall not a leaf on a tree, not a bud on a rose. Coming home from the hospital with my new baby, the world had gone crazy green with new growth in a matter of three short days. Nothing has been the same since.

Every year, late March, I search out Spanish bluebells, so that I can cut a bouquet for his birthday. This year for the first time, they are nowhere near blooming. And I'm still bundled in my black cashmere muffler, black beret; and somewhere the vague notion of summer exists — a mirage, an illusion, a conceit.

The way in, or the way out?

I walk a crooked road to get where I am going
To get where I am going I must walk a crooked road
And only when I’m looking back I see the straight and narrow
I see the straight and narrow when I walk a crooked road
— Darrell Scott

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Matching

Online dating provides, if nothing else, great opportunities for humor. When I look at the profiles of single men on, I can't help but see something other than their chosen profile name.

To post an online profile on any of these sites, one must first choose a profile name. And often, the profile name one dreams up (as the perfect! name!) has already been chosen by some other single person somewhere else on the planet. Suggestions for available alternate names then pop up on the screen, and you can choose from one of those or try again with your (seemingly) very original second choice. Or third.

What many people end up with are odd altered versions of their original choice, with numbers and punctuation added in, or something else entirely. And when I look at them, I also see, well, something else entirely, which has the unfortunate result of making me quickly look to the next profile, moving Mr. Weird Name — who most likely is a perfectly charming potential dating candidate — to the slush pile, toute de suite.

For your entertainment, here are some actual names, and what I see when I read them:

Issy_Spirit, and I see Pissy Spit. (Yuck.)

Sirwhitfield, and I see Shitfield. (Um, no.)

eKghHUNTER, and I see Ug Hunter (How does one hunt an Ug, exactly?)

CharlesGilstrap, and I see Charles Jockstrap (Ewwwww.....)

BaBallard, and I see Babar (The Elephant. Cartoonish. Wearing a yellow crown.)

JRPringle and I see potato chips in a can, which I like a lot, but how does one date a chip?!

kindaneasy, and I see kind of sneezy (Either one of the Seven Dwarfs or a highly allergic man.)

richard_reach and I see Rich! A Ready! (Been there! Done that! Failed!)


More on this later, including a recounting of My Date From Hell.

God help me.

Monday, March 26, 2012


A friend tells me there are otters in our urban park, our sanctuary a mere stone's throw from where sirens blare and gangs go about their dirty business. The otters emerge long after sundown, or so I hear, swirling their sleek furred selves in the velvet of 2am. I must trust in this, as I've not even once seen evidence that they exist. Trust — and marvel at the simple and complicated fact that they live so close to so much that is deadly.

There's a woman who shops in the same local co-op as I do, and she once discovered a body in the park. It was a suicide, by gun, of a friend and neighbor just three houses from me. The woman who happened upon the body desired anonymity, but word gets out, and whenever I see her, usually in the produce department, surmising something as common as an onion, all I can see is my friend with half her face blown off. I've been tempted to scream, beside the celery.

As The Tearful Dishwasher says, "how do we reconcile the beauty with the horror?"

I am drawn time and again to these mythical otters, as well as to rumors of a heron rookery down past the dead-end of my street, perched in maples or alders above a ravine -- the same ravine where on a sunny Sunday afternoon twenty years ago a SWAT team apprehended a shooting suspect.

And yet we can't stop believing in the goodness of the universe, in possibilities, in hope.

Can't stop believing that sometime soon, in the wee hours, I'll stumble upon a raft of otters, and their nocturnal splashing in the tranquil pool of the lake will cancel out the lone siren half a mile away, the ambulance with its terrible and fragile cargo.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Two cubic yards of planting mix (screened soil, sand, compost) arrived yesterday afternoon — dumped on my parking strip, on a blue tarp. I'm building containers out of slashed-down cardboard boxes, all tape and tags ripped off. Ten years ago I'd have called it kind of "ghetto", but now it's a decomposable raised bed built with recycled materials. Very EC. (Environmentally correct.) And with a minimal cash outlay.

As the plants grow, and the soil becomes more stable and compacted, the beds will (hopefully) stand on their own. And if the cardboard doesn't all decompose, I can tear it away.

As it's streetside (in public view), I'm waiting negative responses from neighbors, but so far it's all good. And it's where the sun is, so for the first time in 25 years I can grow edibles without battling shade. I'm also looking at it as my "summer club" — I can attend to my plants and visit with passers-by at the same time.

Post dirt, I got busy with the KitchenAid and made a cake (and yes, that's 52) —

Post cake (and post party), there was dancing at the Royal Room (African music) and for two hours I forgot that dancing and I are not the best of friends. A little dirt, a little sugar, some chocolate and some vodka, and anything seems possible.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem

I'm the editor for this week's Tuesday Poem entry. Check out Paul Hunter's poem Talking Mean here.

Here's a teaser:

I'm interested in how poetry collides/intersects/accompanies the varying landscapes of our living. It's one thing to listen to a poem being read in an auditorium, at a podium, with a microphone. It's another thing entirely to hear that same poem read, say, on a wild Pacific Northwest beach, or in the poet's kitchen, or in the bar that Theodore Roethke frequented. I don't believe that a poem should exist only in the rarefied atmosphere of academia. Although long a safe haven for poetry and poets (myself included), poetry needs also to live the life of the working-class individual. I've seen people frightened away by poetry, certain they would not understand it. (Admitting to being a card-carrying poet is a guaranteed crowd silencer.)

And remember: don't take yourself too seriously.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Skidding into Sunday

It's a good exercise in spontaneity to say "yes" to walking in the park at 3am. (The lake's surface still and silken.)

Even better: staying late at a party and forgetting that I was twenty-something decades ago.

Not so good: sleeping until past 2pm, and the poetry reading and book release party I'd planned to attend, on the other side of the city, started in 45 minutes.

(I arrived at 3:01, to a standing-room only crowd at Open Books. Fell into a sliver of space, my back up against the door. Couldn't see the poet Kathleen Flenniken, but am thankful for amplified sound.)

Here's the trailer from her new book Plume, from University of Washington Press:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona*

St. Patrick and the spider, North Mayo --

Sheep, Carrowholly --

Carnival, Achill Island --

Window, Doo Lough --

Old Pub Sign at an abandoned road house outside Louisburgh --

Road that never ends, County Kerry --

John & Jackie on a pub wall, Westport --

*Happy St. Patrick's Day

Friday, March 16, 2012


A bit fixated on this dress.

I found it at a thrift store on Highway 99 in Everett, Washington round about 1982. Wore it to a few parties. (My late husband also wore it, once, to a party. Couldn't zip it up though. His accessory was an aluminum colander, as a hat [of sorts]. He was a very funny man.)

Now all its good for is stuffing full of pussy willows.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Here in Seattle we've been plagued by massive storms -- none of that "lite" rain which, though seemingly ever-present and having given us our claim to rain-fame, rarely causes much of a fuss. These past seven+ days have behaved quite the contrary. March is exhibiting terrible-two's tantrums: one minute rosy and soft, the next all bluster and spit. I'm worn out by it all.

It's a particular problem when setting boxes out for UPS. Outside this afternoon I repaired the giant umbrella which serves as shelter for our shipments during inclement weather, securing each arm to the disintegrating fabric with zip ties: a bandaid. And not wanting to lug out the massive blue tarps in the wind, I used cut-open packing-peanut bags as both a dry surface for the boxes and as cover, both of which kept flapping up and away in each new gust of wind.

When finally all was secured -- pinned down with mossy bricks -- I hunkered down -- dripping -- and made my way up the steps to the house/factory, feeling for all intents and purposes that the rain had penetrated my skin and cold had settled into my marrow. Such is the glamour of working in The Arts. Once inside, I positioned my sodden jacket in front of the blazing wood stove and got to work with a paint brush and several pots of acrylic paint: lamp black, sap green, perylene maroon, irridescent Aztec.

More orders to ship tomorrow, and the forecast looks just as grim.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Dating Game

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to record the conversation today at work when the subject of dating came up. Consider this: three middle-aged people, two straight, one gay, two women, one man. Creative, independent, erudite. (Translate to: picky.) All currently single. And from the looks of it, the prospects for the single gay man appear to be about even with the prospects for the straight women: next to nothing. (Or no one.) As I like to say, there are not exactly great herds of 50-something single men roaming the streets.

What is a girl (or guy) to do?

The default option these days is online dating, but even those sites tend to be eye-rollers now. I met my most recent spouse on, and that ended up being a disaster. And now, eight years later: the pickins are slim. (And when did these men all get so old-looking?!!)

From what I can see, most age-appropriate straight men on Match desire a package-deal-woman containing the following traits:

1. Must love walks on the beach.
2. Must love a glass of wine by the fire.
3. Must be financially stable.
4. Must not have any "baggage".
5. Must not be a drama-queen.

My requirements for Mr. Right are, um, different:

1. Must have a sense of humor.
2. Must be able to pay his own bills.
3. Must appreciate drama.
4. "Baggage", which I like to refer to as "luggage", is fine. (If he doesn't have any, then he hasn't lived.
5. Must laugh at my puns.
6. Extra points if he knows the difference between a Bordeaux and a Sauvignon Blanc. Fire optional.
7. Extra points for correctly conjugating the verbs in his profile.
8. Extra points for not posting a photo of himself astride his Harley, wearing a baseball cap. (Flashing red light: BALD.) Own up, men! And ditch the macho motorcycle!

I figure if I post a profile with those requirements, my chances of snagging a man are next to nil. The good ones? Already spoken for, or dead.

Best possible scenario: he comes knocking at my door.
I know: I'd better dream on.

In the meantime,
I'm right here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Blustery March along the lake, bundled to my teeth for a walk Sunday afternoon, when what I thought I really wanted was to sink into the couch with the NYTimes. Glad as always that I opted to leave the house. Why is it sometimes so hard?

It wasn't until I was reviewing my photos that I saw that an eagle had passed before my viewfinder. I consider an eagle sighting to be a gift of good fortune, and I'm counting this as a sighting, blurred and dim as it is --

Shoreline --

I was looking for a beavers' lodge that's supposed to exist just past the marina, but could find no trace of it as I slipped quietly through the reeds and red twig dogwoods. I want to believe that it does indeed exist, and that perhaps I'll never find it.

In 1965, the several-acre wood behind my house contained every bit of my imagination. And even though I knew intimately every path, tree, boulder, stump, fern and lily, I never gave up believing that somewhere there existed a hidden reliquary of water, a well of holy secrets that would never give itself away.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Lies Behind The Color

Yesterday I tried to write about something that happened at work. When I sat down at the computer to write, I was stymied by an upwelling of fear and sadness, and the best I could do was write the word melancholy and a post about seeing what one wants to see.

At 4:30 yesterday, one of my work-mates, C., got a call following up some tests she'd had the previous day. The diagnosis: stomach cancer.

Everything screeched to a halt. C. sat down, shaken, bargaining with herself. M. got out the single malt Scotch.

C. is whisper-thin, and has complained of stomach issues since last July. We've been at her to see a traditional doctor, but she's insisted on naturopathy, a Chinese herbalist and acupuncture. I don't know what compelled her to finally go the mainstream route, but on Monday she succumbed to an afternoon of bodily invasions, and came out of there thinking she only had to deal with an ulcer.

People recover and go on with their lives. And, at the same time, people don't recover. The one thing that is true, mentioned the other day: none of us will get out of this alive.

The world seemed a grave and lonely place last night, no matter what color I attempted to conceal it with.

And for the moment, I'm one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prussian Blue, Melancholy, Burnt Sienna

In the hour before sunset I drove by a field where about a dozen crows were spread out across the grass. There was no spare time: a trunkful of groceries and a date with a friend in a few minutes; but even so, I parked and quickly walked to where crows held court. And as soon as I got my camera out, hundreds more crows came swerving across the sky, swirling in black ribbons above me -- and then were gone in an echo of ruckled ca-caws.

With the marvels of technology at hand, I can take a photo and make it any color I desire, make it appeal to whatever combination of hues are currently fueling inspiration. At work this week I've been juxtaposing a deep Prussian-blue/turquoise with a burnt-Sienna/brown-pink -- not unlike the tones in the header photo. Paint colors are incredibly powerful visual stimuli. Some days there is nothing can settle my addled self save for a good sit-down with a palette of oils. A photograph and a computer can serve the same purpose.

In both the header photo and the photo above, the landscape belongs to me. The only truth lies in what one's eyes are able to see.

I hear someone ask: what did it really look like?

I tell him: it looked like this.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I'm wondering if I'll ever have another vacation, or if I'll ever retire. This isn't a litany of complaints -- I'm grateful to have a job that I love, and grateful for having had seven years worth of assorted cavorts around the globe. Just wish it had been spread out over a longer time period.

As things stand now, I'm looking at the necessity of continued employment until I drop dead. And at this rate, it's probably going to happen when I'm on the job, or a job. Whatever it takes to pay the bills.

I didn't expect to be looking back at 55 years from a standpoint of being twice-married, twice-unmarried. Death & divorce are both knee-bucklers. A better person would have planned more carefully -- at least that's what I hear from people who are close to me and should know better than to reprimand. What they don't know is that so many of those years have been spent scrabbling together enough to get by. Everyone has a back story, and I possibly don't fit the stereotype of The Working Poor, but I'll stand up here face-forward and say that I'm one of them. But then, that's the problem with stereotypes -- they don't take into account the myriad number of variables that make up any group of people.

For a short while, I thought I was home-free, had hit a home run, was out of the woods.


Life has a way of jerking the rug out.

It's all precarious --

And not one of us is going to make it out alive.

That being said, my fortune is in the minute-by-minute details that make a day, a week, a life.

Today it was to find energy in the bluster of the March wind, humor in my work companions, comfort in dinner shared with my son, and an ephemeral nirvana in a quarter-cup of homemade chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream. (And yes, it was only a quarter-cup.)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mass Hysteria and Saturday Morning Jell-O

Although my subscription lapsed last November, The New Yorker mysteriously keeps showing up in my mailbox. I made a decision to get the Sunday NYTimes instead, but, after reading this piece in this week's The Talk of the Town, I might have to pony-up for another year. According to Emily Eakin, twenty high school girls in Le Roy, New York -- home of The Jell-O Museum -- have been diagnosed with conversion disorder, aka mass hysteria: "a relatively rare phenomenon that, for reasons that are poorly understood, typically strikes groups of adolescents girls. The symptoms are real but their cause isn't genes or germs; it's stress."

Mass hysteria and Jell-O with oatmeal and coffee on a Saturday morning -- how much better can it get?

As a reverse-snob-foodie-of-sorts, I don't hesitate to express my love of Jell-O. (My former husband once asked me how I could profess to be a foodie when I didn't like mussels or oysters.) Not that my cupboard has ever been fully-Jell-O-stocked. In fact, I don't know when the last time was that I had a box of it in my possession. But I do know that I last ate Jell-O a mere nine months ago, while visiting long-time friends in Port Townsend, and B. -- bless her heart -- remembered my odd love of fluorescent gelatinized ingestibles, and served up a crystal bowl of raspberry Jell-O with whipped cream at the dinner table.

It's not food, really. Adding ingredients like ham and onions to, say, lime Jell-O tops my list of Things Not To Eat, Ever. And although meat jellies date back to the Middle Ages, leave it to entrepreneurial Americans to take take a broth of boiled bones, connective tissues, and intestines and add sugar and dye, patent it and make a million.

In 1923, an artifically-sweetened D-Zerta was introduced. Check out this commercial, from the 1970's:

I'd have never guessed that a Saturday morning would go this route, complete with "Chinese-type baby" and "glate Western invention, the spoon" --

I couldn't write any more without mentioning one of my favorite vintage cookbooks:

There's time to make these for Easter -- time enough, in fact, to perfect the problematic chore of blowing eggs (or resort to a plastic egg mold)--

Who knew gelatin could possess such grace and elegance?

I don't know if mentioning the word Jell-O ten times in a post qualifies as a blogging tic, but now for some odd reason I can't help myself from harboring obsessive thoughts about Ring-Around-The-Tuna and Cherry-Mallow Medley. Is it happening to you too? Are we experiencing Blogger Mass Hysteria?!

Maybe it's time to break open a box of raspberry Jell-O, pour a handful onto my palm, and lick it up. Of course, that may well induce an hysteria all its own.