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....