Friday, November 30, 2012

Bog Tones

It's not Ireland, but the colors fly me 6,000 miles east.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dog, Borrowed

There hasn't been a dog in my life since I was 17, and for the next two weeks I'm the Handler-In-Chief of a golden retriever (whose owner is vacationing in Hawaii [envious!]). As it's been even longer since there's been a horse in my life on a regular basis, I'm amazed at how much walking with this very spirited animal resembles riding a very spirited and easily-spooked equine.

I'm making motions with the leash much like I'd do with reins, except there's no broad back to straddle, no muscled shoulder to lean into. No sonorous nickering. Harumph. If only I had a horse to ride to work in this very urban neighborhood!

Nevertheless, this doggy business isn't too bad, all things considered. And although I'm more of a cat person, the constant companionship of this canine is rather sweet. Don't know when I've enjoyed so much devotion.

The cats at home are not pleased.

The cats at work, on the other hand, have resigned themselves to the daily presence of this large and loud creature, and today emerged from their hiding places amongst the packing materials to (tentatively!) meet Bella. No drama, just some nose-touching and guarded gazing.

I rode a full-blooded Arabian horse for two years in my early teen years, after she magically appeared one summer morning grazing on my neighbor's front lawn. Once the hullabaloo of discovering a loose horse outside my bedroom window subsided, her owner — a retired jockey — pulled up in his car. It seemed that "Happy Springtime" had a habit of letting herself out of her pasture, and she'd wander the semi-rural roads of Renton. Mr. Van Slyke, the jockey, needed someone to exercise her, and wondered if my friend and I would be interested?

Thus began my seasons of heaven.

Funny that walking home from work, in the dark, with a dog, should pull this memory to the surface, but there you have it. But memories are like that, aren't they ? One and then another ricocheting off each other, often seemingly without connection. But that faint thread that stitches them together can nearly always be found, if we take the time to notice.

And I had the time to notice, because I was walking. With a dog.


Friday, November 23, 2012

My Pie Family

(A cat on the lap and all is well.)

Deep mist suffused everything today, blotted out any vision farther than a few hundred yards in any direction. Everything dripped — even the gold-finches at the feeder. Even the sole hummingbird sipping nectar. This is full-on autumn, with winter beginning to show its blue light at the horizon.

Yesterday, at a Thanksgiving table with sixteen others, I listened to the waves of conversation alternately ripple up to a passionate roar, then trickle down to near silence. Someone suggested we name our favorite movies, and a title would be announced, with the ensuing discussion and good-natured arguments: again the tide of voices cresting, then easing off.  In such a crowd, it was easy to slip into silence unnoticed, easy to be the observer.

But of course, I had my dramatic moments, as when I wrestled (so to speak) the crow/cat/fir-cone story away from my son. (It was my story.) With a few emptied wine glasses trailing behind me, I performed (I think) a fairly good impression of my very large cat pressed up against the glass panel of my front door in his attempt to escape being lobbed-at by a cone-pitching crow.

When it was time for dessert, seven pies were laid out down the center of the table along with a VERY LARGE bowl of whipped cream: one cranberry-apple, two sweet potato, two pecan, one pumpkin and one pumpkin with a pecan streusel. Be still my pie heart!

I lapsed into silence again.
I slipped into my invisible dessert bubble so that I could eat pie undistracted. 

This was yet a new version of family, a rearrangement of old friends and new, of friends that I consider family, of sons, and friends of friends. It was as if someone took a good portion of the people I've known/met during the past 26 years, put them in a bag, and shook out sixteen of them to sit together for Thanksgiving dinner. I was delighted to be among the invited.

In the middle of it all (and sitting at a middle seat at that long table), I was reminded of something that my late mother-in-law used to say:

"You reach a certain age, you get to choose your own family."

She was right.

But the really lucky part, for me, is that my "family" is a big one: blood, near-blood, not-blood, near, not-near, breathing, passed-on.

And then there are all of you.
You know who you are.

Shall we have pie?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Poets are interested mostly in death and commas.” — Carolyn Kizer

Saturday, November 17, 2012



Driving, late yesterday afternoon and into evening, sixty miles on I-5 in stop-and-go traffic. Rain and Friday, dark by 4pm. And then a turn to the west, towards saltwater, and a darker way to go, limited visibility for the next 80 miles, off-and-on rain, off-and-on wipers, the defroster turned to high. The radio cutting out. My quiet son beside me, his dry sense of humor.

This poem by Theodore Roethke kept flaring into my consciousness, this passage particularly:

from The Far Field

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.  


Four hours later, we pulled up to this odd "intentional" community, Seabrook....

I hate to use the word quaint, but nothing else fits as well. Lil' suburb'o'the'beach.


What matters is that I'm here with my cancer-in-remission sister, another sister, and various spouses/nephews/girlfriends.

I do not intend to go clamming tonight at low tide (8-ish) with everyone else. A chair by the fire beckons, a glass of wine.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Long days at the glass factory.

I come home feeling beat up yet happily worn out from laughing, my hands too sore to type.

Every day between now and Christmas is booked. We ship for the Atlanta wholesale gift show on December 20th, so I've rescinded the order to cancel Christmas day. Thanksgiving? I intend to show my gratitude as a guest, delighted that I'm not hosting this year.

Meanwhile, there are clams to be dug this weekend at Pacific Beach, and chowder to be simmered. Bread dough set to rising. And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Post-Election Grace Period of Happiness

The past two days I've awoken not with a sense of dread and foreboding, but the sensation that something good is actually afoot. After the few moments of post-alarm head clearing, I remember that two days ago we booted the rethuglicans from their self-constructed, self-righteous pedestals. I really was preparing myself for the worst possible scenario, and trying to come to terms with what I thought was inevitable, in advance, to ease the oncoming shock.

The levels of hate and vitriol that have been spewing from the mouths of so many accomplished, in the end, not one thing. Dare I say that I'm proud to be an American? The zip code in which I reside — the most ethnically diverse in the nation — is the perfect snapshot of the "new" America that author, journalist, and writer/producer David Simon so eloquently speaks of:

  America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can comfortably walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance. 

Read the full article here.

For me, and for my sons, this is the only world we know.

My sons grew up with straight/poet/agnostic/atheist parents, played with the rabbi's son, acknowledged that the autistic neighbor-child who roamed from house to house was to be watched over, played chess with a lesbian couple, were the minority children in their elementary school, celebrated holidays with their caucasian/African-American cousins, and had friends whose skin tone was never considered.

(Once, while vacationing on the Oregon coast, there were lots of comments about how strange it was that everyone was white.)

It was bad luck — an apartment fire — that plunked us down here, but that "bad luck" transformed itself into the gift of a rich childhood for my boys; rich, that is, in experience. Rich in community, rich in the greater love that comes from a community of diverse individuals who recognize that we're all in this together.

For better or worse, but mostly for the better.

A few days ago I would never have predicted that I'd be writing these words. And perhaps I'm exhibiting a bit of hubris when I say that tonight I feel that everything I've taught my sons has paid off. This country, the planet — is still teetering on the deadly cliffs of self-destruction. But for these few moments, the moments that it takes to compose this blog post — I'm feeling mighty fine.
I walk by this garage every weekday on my way to work —

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy Barack Day!

Although it was only my son and I watching the election returns at my house last night, between switching channels and the presence of facebook, we watched with a multitude of friends and all of the country.

Lots of nail-biting followed by an overwhelming relief (tears) and then joy.

The best part of the celebration came just moments after the election was called for the president, when we heard a ruckus outside, and I opened the door to a parade of adults and children marching down the sidewalk with a kitchen band: pots, pans, wooden spoons, and yelps of happiness.

Band #2, a few minutes later, was a group of seven or eight school-aged boys, one with a snare drum fastened to his waist, drumsticks rattling out their uncontainable glee.

Firecrackers, shimmers of sparks shooting high into the night sky.

Blessings to all on this sunny Wednesday.

Bring On The Cake!

I have been breathing for approximately 15,470,300,160,000 minutes,
minus the minutes held while traveling through tunnels.

(The sad news is that I am no longer 55.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Supplication to Our Lady of the Dumpster

           --for Rachel Maxi

O lid of clang & wheels of clatter,
O collector of rubbish & swill, O Holy Mother
of great pickings, of dreck & slop: Hear our prayer.

O saint of litter & scrap, protect us
from the banana peel, the Styrofoam chunk,
from all that defies reduce/reuse/recycle.

O divine casting off, O sacred decay!
Hallelujah to the Hefty Ultra-Flex 33 Gallon,
the drawstring, the twist-tie.

You hold dear everything
everyone never wanted or wanted once,
a sack or a heap tossed & tumbled.

Praise to those who dive into the belly
of your dump — the urban foragers, the hungry,
scraping a meal of crust & bone.

Consecrate them, O Queen of rubble
robed in graffiti. Watch over them,
that they may not themselves become waste

to be managed, a cubic yard of flesh
primed for front-loading. Now,
and at the hour of our death.


© T. Clear 2010

Big White Rusty, Rachel Maxi
This week marks my editorship at the Tuesday Poem hub, featuring a poem by the Seattle poet Holly J. Hughes. Check it out here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gutters, and James Fenimore Cooper

I came home from grocery shopping today to a spirited conversation coming from my side yard where my two boys (er, men) were cleaning out the gutters: N. at the top of the ladder, R. holding it steady on the sloppy soggy earth. Amid the flinging of moss/fir-needles/leaves they were embroiled in a discussion on the history of Israel and Palestine; then suddenly Socialism was the topic, which quickly spilled into the subject of independent presidential candidates.

Thankfully, all in good nature. They do tend to get each others passions stirred up in these dialogues.

"Watch out for James Fenimore Cooper!" I said.

You might recall the antiquarian book I placed in the sun last June, whose place on the deck railing has gone undisturbed for going on six months.

"Wait!" I said. "I'm gonna take a picture!"
I will note here that not a single soul has asked me about this. My guess is that it's just too odd to appropriately mention. But still.

Anyway, I checked on it after the gutter-reaming was completed, and not a page had flapped.

R. made us dinner — Hungarian goulash, papperdelle, and carrots in brown sugar and butter.

Before N. left, he scooped up his kitty, who settled into his arms
with an ease reserved for N. only —

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Driving today, after work, in dimming light along Lake Washington, the blue bruised water ruckled-up in the wind, the maples and alders side of the road in every shade of red/orange/yellow.  A swathe of rainbow to the north, a concentrated lump of color sitting just at the horizon. The sky beyond: velvet charcoal.

I kept shouting:

"I live here!"

I've driven that stretch of road so many times, it's easy to take it for granted. Easy to admit to a certain ordinariness in what is never ordinary, never the same from day to day, from hour to hour.      

Easy to dismiss the forward-thinking gods who delivered me back to this city that I love, and to whom I say: