Thursday, August 30, 2012


Found this gem while mindlessly watching videos —

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Population: 3

A shift in the rhythm of life: I have a new roommate.

She's 28, with a lovely calm energy. Has taken up residence in the front bedroom, along with her grey cat. Wanted to know tonight if I ever wanted to do communal dinners — YES!!

I've dragged my feet on getting a roommate for over a year, but reality has sunk in (finally) and I pulled the trigger when this young woman was sent to me by a friend. Having grown up in a large family, I've always loved having lots of people around, and while one additional person (after my son and me) don't exactly equal "lots", it's 50% more "people" than just the two of us were.

So move over blender, coffee pot, cuisinart. Make some room sofa, table, pillow. Carve out a little space in your boundaries, self; and open up your heart/home to another soul.

(Advice to self: taken.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy is the Hour

I thought we'd enjoy Tuesday Happy Hour together.

May I offer you a wee glass of my fermented concoction of cheap white swill, vodka and a vanilla bean with a float of fresh blackberries? (The fermentation has lasted two years, and it hasn't killed me yet. Fingers crossed.)

Good, yes?

I thought you'd enjoy that.

How about some music? of my faves — My Romance....

Damn but I love this tune. My father-in-law played this for me on his trombone at my 50th birthday party. He suffered a number of strokes last summer, and hasn't returned yet to his horn. Sixty+ years of playing.

I suppose I should offer you a snack or two.

A bite of gorgonzola?
Apple slice?
Crust of bread & such?
(You can help yourself....)

Maybe I'll pop some corn.

Shall I refresh that drink?

Now laugh:

A priest, a rabbi, and a vicar walk into a pub.
The barman says, ‘Is this some kind of joke?’
Gotta run — see you tomorrow!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tuesday Poem

To Thank You For Blackberries 
                                           --for C.M.

Folded into the slurry
of my daily steel-cut oats,
each mouthful
is a burst of summer,
an August afternoon
with violet juices—
plucked and gathered
by the handful,
risking thorn-slash
and sticky webs,
the last of the season
staining my lips.

© T. Clear 2012

(To be honest, I was standing on the sidewalk
struggling to reach the berries growing
from the top of my neighbor's hedge.
I heard her call out "thief!" as she came
around the corner, laughing.
Then she offered me the use of her step-ladder,
thus facilitating all future theft [by me]
of her luscious berries.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August, Ending

It's happened — that ever-so-subtle shift of afternoon light that foretells the oncoming change of season. And although it's still a month or so until the official summer-to-fall transition, it was today when I began to feel summer begin to slip from me. The beginning of a sadness, with the scent of apples in the air — and inexplicably, because I live in the city. But the memory of the ripening apples of my childhood — the four apple trees in the back half-acre — is so deeply embedded in all recollections of my earliest years, that once this lengthening of shadows occurs late August, there is that faint apple-air,  always just beyond reach.

We're nearing the end of the growing season when it seems to have only just begun. A desire to prolong things — the blossoms on the tomato plants, the warm nights with every window flung wide, ice cream at midnight on the balcony. And yet I can't imagine living Equatorially, minus these rhythms, these fluctuations from heat to ice. And equal dread and desire for the stripped-down trees of winter, and the interminable January nights. (Beginning to crave hot tea with milk.)

Every year at this time I think the same thing: I've always wanted to fall helplessly, hopelessly in love in the fall.

There's still time, is there not?

Monday, August 20, 2012


The last thing I wanted to do today after work was go to Safeway. It was a draggy Monday, and I suffered from a dearth of energy (owing to my non-stop [alas] weekend). I slogged through every minute of every detail of August 20th from 9:20am-5:05pm.

But essentials were in demand, and I wrenched the steering wheel northward instead of my usual easterly single-mile trek home, and pulled into the manic, rush-hour parking lot of a mega-grocery in the heart of Rainier Valley.

Inside, there were no small baskets in sight, and I hunted among the check-outs until I found a tidy stack. Forced a tunnel vision to avoid "Strawberries! $1.99/lb." and whatever else the local comestible marketing geniuses had dreamed up to distract me from my mission to get a)deodorant, b)peanut-butter and c)yogurt. Wait! Cat food! And evaporated milk! And Aleve!

Knowing I was forgetting something (in this case it was dishwashing liquid), I chose the shortest line, and began to unload my few items onto the conveyor belt. An elderly woman was in front of me, struggling to get her items from her rolling cart and onto the counter. I offered to help her, and the minute she turned to me and said, slowly and deliberately, "Well, yes....", I knew that it was Mamie.

She confirmed that she was indeed Mamie, and I nearly cried for joy.

When my youngest, Nelson (who just turned 24), was an infant, I had no choice but to go back to work 8 weeks after his birth. A nearby daycare center seemed a reasonable choice, and Mamie was in charge of the infant room. She was warm, capable, gracious and possessed a loving and generous sensibility. And although I felt as if I was abandoning my baby to the care of strangers, Mamie quickly put my fears at ease. Once I got to know Mamie, I realized that the bundle of gold my husband dropped off each morning at the daycare was going to be cherished all day long, every last minute.

Mamie truly loved "her babies". And Nelson settled into the arms of a pro — Mamie had raised six children of her own.

While chatting with Mamie this afternoon, the purpose of my mission to Safeway fell to the wayside, and I suddenly realized that we were holding up a growing line. I apologized and explained to the woman behind me, who spontaneously shared with me her story:

Many years ago, she was in the hospital battling a rare illness, on a respirator with a questionable prognosis. One day, a woman (who never identified herself) visited, and shared that she too had this illness, but had recovered and was now leading an active life. The woman in the hospital bed burst into tears, and was unable to speak — tears of gratitude for the gift of hope this stranger had given her. The stranger, thinking she had upset the patient, abruptly departed, not allowing the patient the chance to explain that her sobbing was for gratefulness.

Twenty years later, both women ended up sitting side-by-side in an art class. There was immediate recognition, and a long-overdue expression of gratitude from one healthy woman to another.

(More people were now lined up behind us.)

I thanked her for her story — wanted to hug her, really. She twinkled her eyes, a moment of grace.

Then I eased Mamie and her groceries out of the store and into my car (she was planning to call a cab), and drove her home.

I asked about her family, and she said, "I raised three sons and three daughters, and my three sons have all passed away."

How could I possibly respond to that when everything I wanted to say seemed inadequate? Here was the woman who'd cared for my infant son as if he'd been her own, and yet her own three sons had already left this life. I was sitting beside a woman whose existence contained exponentially more sorrow than one should expect to endure in a lifetime. And yet there she was — cheerful, smiling, ever-gracious.

I wouldn't dare ask Mamie her age — that seems to be a closely guarded secret among many woman of her generation, and I have nothing but respect for Mamie.

I pulled into her driveway — she lives alone in the same house where my late husband used to pick her up and drive her to the daycare along with our two sons — and helped her out of the car. She moved slowly and with what is obviously tremendous pain. I took right hand and she maneuvered her cane with the other as we traversed the uneven terrain of her lawn, inches at a time.  She told me she could manage the steps on her own. And although I carried all 5 bags of groceries to her porch, she insisted that she bring them in herself. I did not want to leave her alone with those bags, but respect won out in the end. She insisted.

It's been many years since I've seen Mamie, perhaps twenty. When I saw her in line in front of me, my first thought was, that can't possibly be Mamie. But it was.

There was a reason I went to Safeway this afternoon, and it wasn't — apparently — only for peanut butter.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Again with the Hummingbirds

This all began a year ago last May with an extraordinary dream, which I recounted here.

Most evenings from 6-8pm I'm on my deck, and I've been practicing my hummingbird calls. Usually one or two visit, maybe hover close, but tonight I was outside with Nelson after dinner and told him to watch. He was talking up his usual storm, sitting at the table, and I stood at the railing and began calling. After about two minutes, one showed up, hovered around the feeder, then perched on a branch. We did a call and response, but Nelson didn't seem to notice. I told him to stand next to me, and when he did, the bird flew to about three feet directly before our eyes and hovered & did its tiny chirp.

"Did you see that?!" The bird got Nelson's attention.

We continued to stand there, and two more came, one after the other, and performed for us the best show they've done all summer. My son was astounded. He spent a good part of third grade sketching hummingbirds, and I have a paper m√Ęche´one on my windowsill that he made at age 8.

A little later, after Nelson had gone home, I was sitting on my balcony eating the last of the blackberry pie (yum), and had another visitation, on the potted geranium, just a few feet from me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It was hot.

I picked blackberries.

I made pie.

And ate it.

The end.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It's late, and my son is outside two stories below my open window aerating the massive pile of wood chips that were deposited — free of charge! — by the tree maintenance company yesterday. I arrived home from work today to a ripe farmy odor emanating from my yard and couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was, and then it dawned on me. Must've been the alfalfa-like scent of it, old memory from the Renton feed store where I bought rabbit feed (not robot, which my fingers seemed to want to type) for my pets, many moons passed.

But three yards of shredded honey-locust in my driveway is impressive, spontaneous combustion aside.

And then there were the hummingbirds, all evening buzzing and chirring out back, perched on apple tree branches, on maple twigs.

And the James Fenimore Cooper book on the railing, hardback, mildew drying up in the summer sun. Part of a set that was a precious possession of my late husband, inadvertently left on the basement floor last winter, and grew spotted with grey mold. Come June I set one volume in the sun to see if the rays would zap that fungus, and it's sat there ever since. Rain, thunder, lightning, fog. This morning a baby squirrel ran to and fro, back and forth over it in a scurry to avoid the sight of me through the glass door. The cats have traversed its engravings.

The most curious thing is that not a soul has asked me anything about it — neither of my sons have so much as mentioned it. As I see it, it makes not a whit of difference whether it's ferreted away safely in a box dark in the basement or exposed and flapping every page to the frivolities and whims of nature on the back deck.

In the end, I suppose we all face the same fate as that pile of simmering mulch whose fragrance now pervades every bit of my olfactory senses.

The hummingbirds are quiet, and so am I.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Revisiting Ireland

I was scrolling through my iPhoto last night, deleting non-important pics, and came across more than a few (important) photos from my Ireland days.


I spent a lot of time there, over a seven year period, with my ex-husband, in his "holiday home" in County Mayo. In a house overlooking a saltwater cove, in view of St. Patrick's holy mountain, and sheep-filled pastures. And islands. And horses.

My forays there abruptly ended, another casualty of divorce. And while I'm extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend so many glorious days in a landscape that was to become for me a great source of inspiration — counting my blessings! — I'm still in a state of shock and withdrawal knowing the likelihood of returning is slim. I've not yet written to my friends in the cove; every attempt at a letter ends in my holding down the delete button until the screen is white.

Sitting in front of those photos, I imagined walking into the Ireland house: the tricky lock on the front door (lift the handle and turn the key to the left), the "whoosh" of the door opening, wiping my feet on the mat. The sharp, piney-smell inside.

Dropping my luggage in the bedroom, the sound of my shoes clicking on the wood floor.

Emptying the bags of groceries. (Inhaling the scents in the produce department at the grocery. Weighing the apples, affixing the weight sticker. Finding some Carrowholly nettle cheese. Pushing the odd cart.) Slipping the apples from their plastic bag into a basket, holding one to my nose and inhaling an orchard. Hearing the sound of the wrapper on the soda bread, a soft crinkle. Putting a fresh box of tea in the cupboard. Assessing the pantry for the unexpected leftovers from previous guests: brown beans, a bag of lentils. Instant mashed potatoes.

Wanting to take it all in at once: the view of Clew Bay and the 365 islands. Opening the sliding glass door (which always sticks), standing on the patio facing west. Inhaling, the Atlantic stretching out for 2800 miles in the distance. The constant wind.

Sitting on the worn leather sofa, the way the leather sticks to the skin. Feeling the itch of the two wool throws on the sofa. Taking out the teapot collection, remembering where each was purchased, from which artist in which village.

Walking up the stairs to the three upper bedrooms, laying in succession in each bed, taking possession. Opening every closet. Looking out each window.

Opening a drawer in the hutch, taking out the collection of ordnance maps, begin planning a back-roads search for holy wells and druid cooking sites, standing stones.

An overwhelming flood of sensations, wave upon wave. 

And not realizing the absolute perfection of each of those moments until now. 

On my last trip there, I took a walk one afternoon along the far side of the cove. The tide was out and I could meander across mudflats and under barbed wire that was usually inaccessible when the bay pushed its sparkling waters high up onto the bank. I found an alley-way of sorts, between unmown fields of hay, blackberry and fuschia hedgerows on either side. I picked my way up the hillside and somewhere along that way, lost an earring. I doubled back to try to find it, stepping slowly and with fierce intent, but to no avail.

A half-mile-or-so-away, a farmer, in tilling a field, had once upon a time unearthed a 5000-year-old gold bracelet. In comparison, my vanished earring was unremarkable: a pearl, a blue glass bead, silver wire. I returned the next day and retraced my steps, checked low-slung branches of stickery gorse, checked weeds and tipping meadowsweet blossoms. Nothing.

But that afternoon of the lost earring, up that passageway and farther, cresting the hill between two coves, in a rare burst of sunlight and cows lumbering to the fence-edge to investigate the unexpected wanderer — that was an interval of complete and utter contentment, of conscious momentary perfection.

I don't want to relive it, nor do I want to relive my time there. Doubtful that I could revisit those county Mayo back-roads without a truck-load of buried sadness unburdening itself on my shoulders.

Those memories, I think, will exist in their own category of appreciation where I was the recipient of innumerable generosities. Necessary to sift out the good from the cruelties of failure.

Ireland, old love, my muse.
I'm not ready to seek out your replacement.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I won't even say the word....

There was a general consensus at work today that the real reason a boy/man-friend is desired is to have someone to get rid of [unmentionables]. All those other reasons — companionship, intimacy, handy-man skills, back scratcher, technology consultant, garbage-taker-outer — pale in comparison. Or, at least this time of year, when the Giant House [Unmentionables] emerge from their crevices in search of a mate.

I understand and respect the role of [unmentionables] in the ecosystem. But I will state outright that the dwellings we humans occupy are mostly unsuited for the ecosystem, being so distant in design from their cave origins and unlikely to absorbed by the forces of nature were we to suddenly become absent. Therefore, our modern homes are wholly inappropriate for the arachnid life form.

Furthermore, I have not invited any of these furtive crawlers into my home. They are intruders. They are home invasion robbers here to steal my sense of well-being, ratchet up the jitter index and heighten the anxiety factor.

One night last week I caught one in a frantic scurry up the stairs to my bedroom. Whack! Get OUT! Bam. Done away with.

Last night there was another, perilously close to my head on the wall above my bed. Whack! Whack! Scream! Thunk! Finished off.

Once in bed with the light off, it was all I could do to imagine legions of [unmentionables] on the march, up the stairs, across the carpet, destination: my bed.

And, for the record, I've chosen not to enhance this post with a photo.

But the question remains: how in hell am I going to get to sleep after spending 40 minutes writing about my fear of [unmentionables]?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Against Preciousness

Here's hoping I didn't scare anyone off with my previous post.

Chances are good that I've succumbed to preciousness myself at some time, but I do abhor it. A lot. I need to remind myself of this occasionally.

Precious menu items especially rankle me. I recall eating dinner in a Manhattan restaurant a few years back and I accidentally ordered a "microgreens" salad: I needed a magnifying glass to find the arugula on my plate.

Don't be precious.

And I don't care from whose dew-kissed meadow you harvested your purslane.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


6253 miles from the southern coast of France, Gabrielle took out her oil paints and contemplated her choice of colors: would it be Alizarin crimson? Prussian blue? Cadmium lemon?

The balmy July afternoon sun warmed her palette, and she waltzed across the vintage pine floor of her cottage with a dreamy confidence: it didn't matter what she painted, because she knew that for every patron desiring one of her astonishingly original canvases, there were thirty or forty more patrons lined up around every corner, willing to plunk down any dollar amount for even a simple pencil sketch.

After a homespun lunch of heirloom tomatoes and hand-harvested wild rice drizzled with Irish butter and minced Italian parsley and free-range smoked chicken breasts and organic grilled nectarines with a chiffonade of (local) basil and 25-year-old balsamic vinegar reduction, she was sated and ready to explore every impulse her artist's soul craved.

But not before she savored a scoop of her very-own-recipe wild native blackberry ice cream, picked just that morning before the dawn's dew had evaporated, picked while she sipped her shade-grown songbird-friendly, free-trade coffee from a mug hand-thrown by her ceramicist soul-mate less than a half-mile from her front door. (The custard thickened with her very own eggs.)

And while she was contemplating the vagaries of her innermost heart and anticipating the wondrous colors laid out before her naked eyes, she hummed an old Gypsy tune about poverty and homelessness and despair.....

And then got back to what was important: the river stones set into the wall behind her wood-burning stove, the 600-count Egyptian cotton sheets on her feather bed, the 25-year-old Tamnavulin Scotch whiskey in her cupboard, the leaded crystal snifters in her antique Belgian oak sideboard (shipped across the Atlantic by freighter, circa 1889).

And, exhausted, fell promptly asleep.