Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Search of the Divine

"As long as she could remember, back to the freedom of childhood, Luce had believed that if you walk in the deep woods long enough, you'll inevitably come to places of mystery or spirit or ritual." From Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier.

I read this passage last night, on the edge of sleep, and was suddenly fully awake to the subject at hand.  A good part of my childhood was spent doing just this — searching for a hidden spring, or grotto where water dripped and ferns grew lush in the shadows. There were woods labeled The Deep Woods,  farther from the known forest where we named trees and established camps. ("Boy's Camp" and "Girl's Camp".) There the salal was nearly waist-high and the second-growth Douglas firs swayed high above the forest floor. They sidled a raspberry farm, and beyond that, a housing development encroached. The Deep Woods seemed limitless but now I know their boundaries stretched barely a few acres, and had been logged a mere sixty-or-so years prior.

Once I found a hollowed-out space, like a bowl,  in the trunk of a Big Leaf Maple where rainwater collected. A single seedpod floated on the surface: miniature skiff.

But I wanted more, I wanted a surging up from deep below, something sprung from underground vaults. I desired honeyed cures and sweet nectar that I could hoard, or share secretly in tiny vials. The best I could do there, though, was to anoint my forehead with a muddy streak — decidedly Catholic. I remember running through glades of fiddle-head ferns, the smudge dripping down my nose.

Decades later in Ireland, I discovered the marvels of holy wells, those marvelous pagan sites co-opted by Christianity and usually replete with offerings of every possible persuasion: rosary beads, holy cards, coins, hair barrettes, ribbons, keys, rings, photographs, toys — draped and strung on decaying statues and mossy branches.  

Another time in Ireland, we'd hiked straight up the steep hillside from Keem Beach on Achill Island, to the ridge where the Atlantic Ocean stretched thousands of miles to the west. It rained, the sun came out, it rained, the sun came out again. Looped back down in a treeless valley where a stream had cut deep ravines in the rocks and peat. Around every twist in the stream was a place to perch under a bank, quiet but for the rushing water, ferns and reeds and wildflowers everywhere. Those few hours were charmed, nearly holy. The sunlight reflecting off raindrops sparkled as if thousands of prisms were strung along the path. I was so deeply transfixed by the landscape that I didn't speak for hours — couldn't speak. There was no language, no words worth more than what seemed like sacred silence.

I hadn't discovered digital photography at that time, and any photos taken that day by my then-husband were a casualty of divorce.

Here, though, is a detail from a holy well in County Donegal....

And the holy places of childhood?
Consigned to the stories constructed from memories.

Monday, June 25, 2012

This Old Stove

Dinner for ten: yesterday began with a pound cake in the oven by 10am. I was feeling very self-satisfied with most of my house cleaned, the yard in reasonable array, the custard for a bing-cherry ice cream (vanilla bean, cream) steeping on the stovetop. Even better in that guests were contributing to the menu. All I had left to do was braise the ribs for most of the afternoon then crisp them up at a high heat right before we ate.

And I thought I smelled gas. I turned the fan on, opened the door. And just as quickly the smell was gone. Poked my head in the oven: nothing. No problem. Tinkered around some more, vacuumed, picked out tablecloths. And then again: gas.


Did the same open-everything routine, and it vanished.

And again I smelled it.

By this point, the ribs were nicely braising in the oven in their beer/stock broth, the cake was cooled, the ice cream churned and ripening in the freezer. And I felt r-e-a-l-l-y spacey. Couldn't focus on a thing. Made some iced tea for a caffeine jolt.

And then.

Decided to google "smell gas from oven" and all the alarms went off in my head. Holy shit. One site said LEAVE THE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY. Another said don't be afraid of a little gas. And on and on, every possible variation. I thought at that point that if I rustled anything even a bit I would set off a massive explosion from here to Antarctica.

I turned off the oven.

I called my friend Tom.

Dear, reliable Tom, who checked for leaks in the pipes and fittings behind the stove (nothing) and then promptly turned off the gas supply. And then took my braising ribs back to his house to finish them off.

Tomorrow a certified repair person comes and let's hope that repairs are less than the cost of a new stove.

Dinner — with improvisation — came off without a hitch. But one of my guests told me that her step-father was in his kitchen when a gas explosion occurred, and he was thrown through a wall into a snowbank outside. Survived with a few broken bones — lucky man!

I'm thinking that my mental haze, which was really confounding, was the result of the pervading gas fumes. I'm thankful that the tiny jolt I got from my tea sparked my brain — and not the fumes! — just enough to realize the gravity of the situation at hand.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

I really do try to avoid pet pics here, but I just couldn't resist this one.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Going Clown

Friday night is Martini Night, and yesterday, in celebration of completing our May orders (only three weeks behind schedule), Melinda and I walked down to The Royal Room, where a young man was improvising some jazz on the Steinway grand. We were delighted to run into our friend Charlie Parriot (his wife Connie is our co-worker who is undergoing chemo) —

When we left, Charlie turned to me and said, or, I heard, "I want you to work on being clowns." And I answered, "We're working on it." And then he grabbed my hand and kissed it.

 Now, Charlie may very well have been advising Melinda and me to look into career changes — he's never been known to make mundane conversation. But clowns?! And god only knows why I so quickly responded in the manner I did.

It wasn't until we were part way up the hill back to the factory that I realized what I thought he said, and what I responded. I laughed so hard that I had to steady myself by grabbing a telephone pole.

As I like to tell my kids, it's not hearing loss, but a more elevated form of auditory
perception known as Interpretive Hearing.

My friend Kathleen Flenniken on NPR....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Glass Breaks

It's amazing, really, that in working 40+ hours a week with glass, that more skin doesn't get cut. Today was the exception. I picked up a piece and it came apart in my hands — something that has never happened. There have been pieces that weren't properly annealed at the factory and literally exploded in my co-worker's face (luckily, no injuries!) and pieces that have spontaneously cracked while being worked on, which is unnerving but not really dangerous. But this one was different, and produced a nasty slice at the base of my thumb which produced a prodigious amount of blood, even after being bandaged.

And was followed by another disintegration, this time by a martini glass, which had been wrapped in tissue and bubble wrap, and tipped off the shelf, slowly, gently, and should have resulted in a bounce, but instead there was a gentle tinkling and bye-bye went the martini.

Not a good day for glass.

It's less than six weeks until the Bellevue Arts Fair, and we'll be exhibiting/selling once again. As usual, I haven't a clue how we're going to get from today to the last weekend in July considering the thick stack of orders to be filled prior to prepping for our big retail show, but, as usual, we'll pull it off.

Did someone mention summer?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Odd Blips in Cyber-Land: Disappearances, Appearances

Punish me, please, if I ever declare that I am tech-savvy.

I want to blame this on my computer/iPhone, but —

Today after a quick lunch, I went outside to take in a few moments of sudden sun, and while taking  cliche photos of roses (I insist, because they make me happy) like this....
...mid-snap, I saw a baby chicadee just inches from where I was squatting. I inched closer, closer still, until I was about a foot from her. Very slowly I switched my camera setting to movie, and began recording. The parent-birds were alarmed and making a racket all about my head, and I managed to reach out and stroke the baby, just once, with my index finger.

Got home and planned this blog piece. And that's when things began to get really weird....

I went to my nephew's high-school graduation, and like a good citizen, turned the ringer on my phone off prior to the start of the program. Halfway into the valedictorian's speech, music began playing somewhere around where I was sitting. I looked at my sister and we rolled our eyes — who in hell was messing around on their iPhone in the middle of a graduation ceremony?! The nerve!! I heard some commentary, like a radio personality. People sitting close to us also began to look around, shaking their heads. More music. I whispered to my sister, "It couldn't be my phone — I turned it off already." I reached down into my purse, unzipped the pocket where I'd stashed my phone, and the music suddenly got very loud.

Holy crap. It was my phone, er, radio, er, iTunes. God knows what. I silenced it, quickly, feeling a blush creep up my face. Yikes. (Giggled.)

Don't know how or why that happened, but my phone has a habit of bursting into song at unplanned moments. (If I'd only taken the time to listen to the music being played, I'm certain there would've been an embedded message.)

Once home, I uploaded my photos to my computer, went through the standard Do you wish to delete photos from your iPhone protocol. Yes, delete.

And everything disappeared. All photos — gone from phone, gone from iPhoto.

Baby chicadee: gone.

Roses: gone.

I've waited 55 years to get that close to a baby bird with a camera in hand, and not only did I have a camera, but the camera had video capability. And suddenly: all was gone.

I dithered, nearly wept.

Told myself that everything is ephemeral.

Told myself to get over it.

Told myself to be thankful to have even experienced that one moment — fleeting — of grace.

And just about when I was coming to a place of acceptance and peace for my perceived stupidity at deleting the photos — blammo — they appeared.

And I mean they just leapt out onto the screen. I'm not exaggerating — one minute they'd been deleted, the next minute they were all in front of me, in full-buxom-blossom and chirruping chickadee-dee-dee delight.

Sent down from some heaven, some repository of repentant images.

Moral: all is not lost.

And here's my mysteriously-recovered 14 seconds of baby chickadee:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Two Poems for Father's Day

Limits of Spectacle Lake
--in memory of my father,
Walter James Clear, 1918-1966

When the sun had slipped behind the hills
I said, let’s go back. Forget this business
of lures and lines and casting so far
the eye could hardly follow the thread
out to snag a rainbow’s lip. Afraid
we’d lose our way and soon our boat
would spin and sink. There we’d sit
eye to eye with a million trout.

When I was eight I caught my limit.
But not before my father turned the boat
to shore and let out one last line for luck.
I held that rod for all the hope left
reeling in the churning depths.

I don’t know who was more the spectacle that night --
the lake, me, or my father gently guiding the pole
between my unbelieving hands. Somehow he trusted
in the end of all filtering light. When he died
the next winter, I remembered six fish
laid out stiff on a plank of wood.

Eye to eye with the dead, in the wake
of the boat, I learned the limits,
the last ripple of life in a dying fish.


Mark, I have to tell you:
the starlings returned
to nest in the eaves
where you neglected repair.
You never loved them,
yet last year waited to roust
the messy twig and mud jumble
until each fledgling soared
clear of gutter and roof.
Grumbling, glad to be done,
this was your unexpected gift
and I never thanked you.

Soon summer will spread its wing
over this unfinished house
where porches and railings
await the carpenter’s hammer and nail.
Our children — nearly men —
will desire to roam the city all night,
and I’ll let them go
one feather at a time,
always holding back
and then releasing, alone now
instructing in the mechanics of flight.

--in memory, Mark Benchley Anderson, 1956-2003

© T.Clear

Friday, June 15, 2012







Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Little Quakes

Few things delight me more than hanging out with both my sons — at the same time. Tonight, after Nelson started dinging me on etymology, it was clear that I raised him. And then they both ganged up on me on the subject of word origins. Ouch. These two young men are clearly my sons. Not to worry — laughter ensued. But you'd think that they'd back off just a little on their mother. It left me shaking my head and wondering who are these guys, anyway?!


Meanwhile, the foundation of the house sinks, walls fracture and doors fail to close. Tomorrow a shimming will take place and hopefully upright order will be restored.

Disintegration seems to be a theme.

Tonight the oven threatened explosion, a refrigerator shelf collapsed, the blender sent out shrill screeches and I swept a full wine glass into full-on shatter.

Perhaps shimming will suffice.

And then again, all may fail.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Here's something pretty darn interesting — if you want to take part, leave your answers in the comments box, and I'll return to them in a post later this week:

1. What is your favorite animal?
2. List three things you love about that animal.
3. What is your second favorite animal?
4. List three things you love about that animal.
5. What is your favorite color?
6. List three reasons that it's your favorite.

Awaiting your responses!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Happy-Birthday-Candied-Rose-Petal-Not-Enough-Icing-Confection.

I made a cake today for a birthday and most of it was consumed before there was any notion of documenting its existence. Without enough prior planning, I brain-stormed how to make instant candied rose petals and came up with an acceptable solution in which I sprayed each petal (a rose called "Taboo") with aerosol vegetable oil and then sprinkled all sides with granulated sugar. And after a pound and a half of butter, 10 eggs and countless cups of sugar, I still ended up without enough icing. Not wanting to make another trip to the store, I hurry-scurried a decoration of lemon-balm leaves pressed into the sides of the cake, upright, like a little marching army of mint 'round the cake. The impromptu rose petals, haphazardly scattered atop the French buttercream, looked decidedly intentional. And after countless rounds of Bloody Mary's, martini's, rosé and god knows what else, it all tasted (and looked, dare I say) completely fabulous.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


It's so damn cold here my cucumber plants have turned white for lack of blood flow. I'm tempted to throw blankets on my three tomato plants, much as I had to cover every single one of my dolls and stuffed toys before I could sleep, when I was wee. Drove my mother crazy. But even a spent sock did the trick, just anything to ward off the chill.

No end to caregiving, to mothering. It began early and shall continue until the end, I believe. 

It's amazing how instinct-driven we are.

If an African violet fell from the window-sill and broke leaves (when I was 17), I'd mourn.

Important to toughen; I no longer weep for ripped leaves but just place a wounded child at my knees and I'll fold every last cell of my being around him.

Kitchen Mischief

I have a new poem up at The Far Field, the Washington State Poet Laureate blog.

You can see it by clicking here.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My New Treasure

I found these on the sidewalk in front of my house: tiny hands in a plastic baggie. I was out planting beets and carrots in my parking strip boxes, my phone to my ear, talking to my sister M. Three young boys and their parents tumbled by, but I didn't notice the baggie until they were long gone, and I don't know who they are or where they live, or even if one of them dropped it. (Or now, in retrospect, if they even existed.) I set the bag out on the bottom step, waiting all weekend for their return, but this evening still it sits, abandoned.

My friend Jamey said, "Only you, T. I never find anything like this in front of my house."

Mysteries abound.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

And then on a lighter note....

 ....there was Honk Fest West last night in Georgetown, where the universe was all a'clang with trombones, tubas, trumpets, drums. Felt soul-scoured when I left, swept clean of troubles and concerns.
Visual feast!
Bunny ears galore.

I wanted to listen in to this conversation.

Best smile!

An intimate moment of sorts, with brass barrier.

I was fascinated by Miss Sparkle Head's mournful expression.

A girdle of drums.

Best hair!
The shootings in Seattle this week have left this mostly-gentle city jittery and profoundly saddened. And being as small a city as it is (or seems to be, at least), there are connections with every one —

At last week's shooting on 23rd and Cherry, a close friend was at the stoplight at the intersection when the act of violence occurred. She called me from her house that evening, in lockdown.

Another friend works at Town Hall, and witnessed the murder that occurred there.

Still another friend frequents Cafe Racer in the University District, and has played music often with some of the victims.

Our bookkeeper (at work) was in lockdown at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center close to where the gunman, surrounded by police, put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger. If only he had done that first, and spared so many this immeasurable grief.

Earlier in the week yet another friend called to say that her 88-year-old father-in-law locked himself in his bedroom (wife outside the door) and shot himself in the head.

Here's an argument I've heard often from NRA fanatics:

"If only each of these victims had a gun themselves, none of this would have happened, because they would have been able to defend themselves."

That kind of "logic" sends my blood pressure into an upward spiral.

Can we invent something that renders guns & ammo useless? Please?