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:

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Evidence of a lingering recession is ubiquitous here on the Oregon Coast: empty storefronts, closed restaurants. And yet a friendliness abides in every encounter with locals, decidedly different from the reserved nature of many Seattleites.

My hopes were high that this visit would supplant my constant desire to return to Ireland — there is so much to love on this rugged coast, and, well, I can drive here, for significantly less $$$. But it hasn't happened.

A fresh trigger fired this morning when a facebook friend I haven't seen for 30 years posted from Westport, Ireland —everything flooded back.

It's our last day here, and we'll go beach walking in a blue mist. I'll love this stretch of Pacific coast for what gifts it does offer — massive wave-tumbled logs, volcanic rock outcroppings, mussel beds, spouting horns — a drama quite its own and strikingly beautiful, but it's not the west coast of Ireland.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The Pacific disappeared yesterday evening well before sunset, slipping into a veil of fog just beyond where the foamy edge of waves rolled onto the beach. I stood on the (Heath)cliff edge of the headland held back only by salal and scrubby junipers, the path down to sea level slippery and steep, eroded. No way would I attempt that descent, even with the help of the thick coil of rope strung for a railing. A few hundred yards south, a hobbit path on level ground winds through a tunnel of rhododendrons and blackberry vines, followed by a more civilized concrete stairway. At what point in the past few years have I lost my desire/ability to dare myself down a tricky slope? It happens, I suppose, when one is least paying attention. I recall my mother, about my age, taken to falling, and I get it now.

Sometimes it's okay just to walk beside the river. Sometimes there is no need to cross it.

And in the swirling light I found a hidden garden, where I'm certain the air held droplets of reflected blue —

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Holding the Sun in the Center of an Agate

North of the Redwoods

The Pacific at my feet, a martini at hand, a suffering of sun at my back: it's all good.

I motored six miles to Yachats to collect ingredients for dinner: some tri-tip steaks, mushrooms, a lovely bunch of organic beets with greens (beet greens are the absolute best!), apples for a pie tomorrow. Not much ado in the Yachats, population 688.

Driving back to the See Vue Motel, a trucker bore down on my tail (and he with the heavy load), and when it came time to turn into the driveway of the motel, he jammed his brakes and screeched, undoubtedly cursing the driver (me) of the car with the Washington plates. Damn foreigners.

There are few things better than a wide stretch of beach and few humans....


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Avenue of the Giants, Northern California

In a Redwood grove, among the oldest living things on the planet, we found — after only a few turn-arounds — the resting place of two very dear friends, their ashes scattered at the base of this twin tree:

The late afternoon sun barely broke through the dense growth, and all sound was absorbed in the thick underfooting of dry needles. My friend T. launched ahead with his dog, and I found myself slowing and lagging, as a deep hum began inside me, a vibration, and there was no option but to stop and attend to it as my friend disappeared up the path. But what was it? I was in the presence of sacred beings who possessed an unwritten language in basso profundo, and I was caught up in the resonance.

I sat down last night and tried to write about this, but all that I could manage were a few sentences which I quickly deleted. These trees defy language. The oldest documented Redwood was logged in 1933, and a count of rings at the stump-end of the severed trunk revealed 2,200 years. I gasp and shake my head at this number.

We met a 28-year-old Cajun man who was 2/3 of the way into a 40 day writing retreat in the Redwoods, camping on closed-off trails, his short-term "home" set up in the burned-out stumps of several trees: kitchen, sitting room, bedroom.

He took us on a short walk to see a rare albino Redwood, one of only 25 known specimens. He said that, between 2:15 and 2:45pm, sunlight illuminates the needles, and the tree appears to be electrically lit. He also said that at night in this forest, everything changes. Said he's never known such absolute darkness, and never known the kind of fear that night after night in this forest has engendered in him.

My head is still a bit wobbled from yesterday's events, even as I sit and type at a cliff-edge six miles south of Yachats, on the Oregon coast, the sun teetering on the horizon, a glass of Piersporter Michelsburg at hand. Battling the muse, who appears in fits and starts, mostly not present, despite these bucket-loads of seemingly perfect inspiration.