Friday, November 29, 2013

Floating Holiday

We sailed across the Salish Sea, my oldest son and I, for Thanksgiving dinner, delayed by long ferry lines and fog. I worked in the morning, layering color with hog bristle brushes: sap green, perylene maroon, lamp black. A swirl of Aztec gold. A holiday means a half day of work, the rest to be made up on Saturday.  It costs a lot to live in Seattle.

Departing the dock from downtown, a slight thinning in the clouds allowed a momentary view of just the tops of a few buildings —

Eerie, elusive, my city quickly faded from sight, and we glided silently through salty waters with nothing to mark our place on the planet. All trust given over to the boat's crew.

On land again, late afternoon, we drove the eleven miles to my sister's house through forest and rural pastureland, the fog our enduring companion as darkness settled in amongst the alders and firs.

Hours later, stuffed and sated, we reversed our journey, only this time the wait was in a queue on the side of the road in the dark, car after car compliantly lined up, each awaiting its turn, each filled with passengers much like us — trailing the scents of things mashed and salted, things heaped with cream, the diminishing essences of champagne and coffee.

Only an hour there in that darkness, every so often starting up the engine to roll ahead a dozen feet, to stop again, and wait some more.

When finally our turn came to board the ferry, we drove all the way to the front of the boat, and remained in the car, worn from the day's bustle. A crewman jacketed in reflective stripes stood at the prow, in front of the main car deck and in direct view of the bridge above and behind him, where he kept watch for channel markers, every so often signaling dramatically either left or right. I thought: there must be radar or GPS some other more sophisticated method of navigating the MV Tacoma, a Jumbo Mark II Class Ferry, which can carry 2500 passengers and up to 202 vehicles as it crosses the 202-feet-deep water between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. Again: our absolute trust. I noted the location of life preservers and then felt silly: the water was so calm I could barely even perceive that we were traveling. And how lost could we get? The distance from departure to destination was a mere 10.1 miles.

But there's something about darkness, and then the fog within the darkness, that wants to strip us of our bearings, radar or no radar. GPS be damned. Enveloped in fog and the blackness of a November night on the Salish Sea, we're all helpless, vulnerable idiots.

The fog rolled in through the open car decks, spectral, chilly. I got out once to check if there was anything more to see out in front of the boat other than what I could see from my car, but it was the same: nothing.

About when I thought that Seattle must be coming in to view, she did, faint yellow lights piercing the fog, becoming gradually brighter: the Space Needle, the giant red "E" of the Edgewater Inn, the neon lights of the giant ferris wheel (which weighs 280,300 pounds) on Pier 57: a dazzling spectacle, all of it, as it emerged from sea-level clouds.

And then something more: a flock of cormorants, apparently roused from their saltwater slumber by the boat-roiled waves, flew directly in front of us, one after another, groups of two and three, perhaps several dozen birds in all, black winged figures silhouetted against the Seattle skyline.

My son and I were both stunned into silence —

I exited the boatyard onto Yesler Way, drove a straight line three miles or so to the crest of the hill above the city center, then looped and switch-backed down steep lanes all the way to Lake Washington. Wound my way home along the unlit waterfront drive, endlessly in love with my city.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving Oddness..... that this is my favorite evening of the year, Thanksgiving eve, in anticipation of my favorite day of the year where the only thing we really have to do is feast. Need there be more? No.

But then, there's this:

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills....
"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems....
“This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules....
“In this system, which tends to devour everything that stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.”
          --Pope Francis I, Apostolic Exhortation

Happy Whatever-it-is-you're-thankful-for Day, y'all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hatted Finns and a Human Orchestra

It's past midnight, and I'm looking at this....
....from the Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki, Finland. Here's the link:  Old Finnish People with Things on Their Heads.

Have you seen the Jane Campion movie Bright Star? It happened to be playing on the TV at a friend's house tonight, to my utter delight. This "human orchestra" piece (based on Mozart Serenade No. 10 in B flat major) is plucked from that movie. If you have sufficient techie skills, I recommend turning on the "human orchestra" first, then listen to it while perusing the elderly oddly hatted Finns:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ferrying, Painting —

Monday after work I went to have dinner with some family on the other side of the water, a long journey in turbulent weather, but then, I love turbulent weather. It was a drive to the light rail, then a walk, then onto the train to downtown Seattle, then more walking down to the ferry dock, then onto a boat for 35 minutes, more walking, into a car, finally arriving at my destination. Phew!

All worth it: glasses of wine and a slow-cooked chicken in tomatillo sauce, lots of laughing with my niece and sister and brother-in-law.

Then I reversed the itinerary to get home, with less turbulence but a walk through a very quiet downtown late in the evening, a little spooky. (I walk fiercely and with don't-fuck-with-me intention.)

But I must admit how much I love my city, and the patched-together transportation required to get to the other side of the Salish Sea. It's never dull, and the notion of crossing a large body of water so that I can dine with my family tickles me, really.

It's more than once I've been accused of being a romantic.

But O, this winter darkness is settling in, the last of the sun through the western windows at work today at precisely 4:26pm.

 The colors in the sky matched the colors on the glass I was painting: indigo blended into gold.

Crossing the water, painting the sunset: these small miracles of everyday.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It felt like Bach, but was only Excel.

(I hate working on Saturdays.)

We're in a race to the end of the year, galleries call daily to get status updates on their orders or to plead, plead for us to ship something, anything to them. And we're book solid, er, rather, we're overbooked/behind/working our asses off.

So it was in to the factory today, entering info onto an Excel spreadsheet — a learn-as-I-go kind of project,  learning out of necessity to get a job done that should've been done yesterday. It always amazes me just how much one can learn when one Has To. Damn. As I was tinkering with the tab key and the directional arrows and backspacing etcetera, and the power kept going on and off because there were carpenters outside rebuilding the front steps and overloading the circuits with their power tools (yay for auto-save!), it suddenly felt as if I were sitting at the piano plunking out a Bach's fugue. (Would have preferred that, actually.)

Done with that, I moved down to the studio to expose a bunch of film, alternated the requisite 8 minutes soak in a dark sinkful of hot water with peeling off the masking of already-sandblasted vessels, for a while doing one task with my left hand and another with my right, on either side of the double sink.

Still, it wasn't enough, and I could probably work a full day on Sunday too but I need a day off.

We still haven't quite recovered from July's smashing/crashing/gashing, although the gap has narrowed from six weeks to two. It'll all reconcile in about a month, but then this year for the first time since I've been here, we have reserves in January, and some orders booked through 2014. 

If you're in the area, come to the Home Holiday Sale, December 8th and 15th. (We'll do the annual transformation [aka magic] from factory to showroom, promise!)

Meanwhile, sleep is in order.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Magic Doesn't Exist

There's a drama going on that I am witness to that wants to take me apart and lay me out in the smallest of pieces in the middle of the highway. Without violating privacy I can say that there are very young children involved here, and homelessness, and helplessness. Few, if any, safety nets remain in this country, and I'm watching a family flounder amidst chaos, and sink. And my heart breaks.

As I watch — mostly from the sidelines — I am constantly reminded of being burned out of an apartment when I was 31, and my oldest son was not yet a year. The small family of us (three) moved in with my in-laws for a few weeks until a house turned up in an unlikely location, and is the address where I sit now and type. I didn't desire this location then. It was considered most unsavory,  even dangerous. I remember my brother not allowing his daughter — my niece — to babysit. (Ironically, now that gentrification has had its way, my 'hood is hip.)

What began in terror and fire, with my rescue of my baby from his burning bedroom, ended up becoming a beloved home and neighborhood: a life. We rented here because it was what we could afford. We purchased the house for the same reason. I happily, and gratefully, live here now because I choose to.

In my version of prayer and intention, this young (very young, and with four children under the age of four) family in distress will get their own chance at a future that will offer stability, community and a measure of abundance. Only, I can't guarantee even a micro-fraction of that. (And O, for a magic wand.)

All I can do is listen, offer advice from the sidelines, and be emotionally supportive to those who are attempting to bolster this precarious collection of vulnerable souls.

Tallying my own modest blessings this November night: shelter, food, heat, family, friends — easy to type on this keyboard, easy to make appear on a computer screen. Not necessarily so easy to conjure when you're living out of a car.
from "The Migrant Mother Sequence", Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Excavated Ants

This fairly blew my mind —

Now, if you've read this far and haven't watched the three minute and sixteen second film above, you need to STOP and go back and click on that little arrow thingy.
(And thank you, Claire Beynon for sending me the link!)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Like ants seeking a scent trail as the path to food, so have I all afternoon and now into well past midnight sought the scent trail to a new poem, to no avail.

Somewhere there is a sugar bowl where a caravan of ants is stealing sugar, grain by grain. Or perhaps in that bowl is my poem and the ants are marching away with the words, two by two, hurrah. Maybe I should look for an anthill, not the sugar bowl.

(Imagine each cut leaf section is a word —)
Gail Shumway/Getty Images

Friday, November 8, 2013

Still Life with Moon and Piano

Friday night and I'm at home listening to Schubert Impromptus, closing out the week with a little keyboard action to settle my jangly-janglies.

And who has seen the moon tonight, its delicious pale curve, a lemon-rind tossed star-ward?

Birthday, Melodica, Jalapeno

I took out my melodica tonight among a group of friends playing guitar and harmonica and had a go at it, my fingers tripping over the black keys and wishing I could see the keyboard, rooted as I am in the visuals of the piano. The key of E was a trial. Need to practice.

But....a little later, as I was doing my usual picking out a tune, a lament of sorts but nothing that I could name or put words to (and best done in my attic rooms on a hot summer night with cricket song filtering in from open windows), it occurred to me that I'm invoking the memory of my father on his fiddle or his harmonica, from fifty years ago, when he played old Irish tunes and never a piece of music to be seen, all played from memory, or from some instinctual place deep within him.

Just the other night I had to take my melodica apart (an easy task, really) and stuff in a pinch of fluff from my unsewn sofa cushion (handy, that) to prop up a key that had given way just the smallest bit, and would sound when I blew. Repaired, it went back to its almost un-pretty yet sufficient tone, all I need, really, to add a riff here and there with a jamming group of friends.

I want to do more of this. (The playing, not the repairing.)

A full troop of friends and family came out to look at my art tonight (despite nasty rain and wind), and most of them traipsed over to my house afterwards for Champagne and cake. (Up late last night, as the baking fool.) According to Facebook, I turned 108 today. (And all I had to do to effect that elevated status of years was to change my birth year to 1905.) (And I sold five — FIVE! — pieces.)

And you know what else I did today? I snorted jalapeno-laced pho broth up into my sinuses when a co-worker made me laugh. OWZA YOWZA. I was doubled over in both laughter and pain, not entirely certain where it would make its exit: my mouth? My nose?! I can't remember where it ended up (the garbage can? My throat?), but I do remember wondering how in hell I was going to deal with that searing burn. Holy mother-of-fuck I was ready to breathe fire. The flaming sinuses of hell, thankfully, faded to mere embers in a few minutes, but the laughter continued to erupt and spill out for the rest of the afternoon .

Can we all agree that life can be very, very good?

As Raymond Carver says in my sidebar:

"There isn't enough of anything

as long as we live. But at intervals
a sweetness appears and, given a chance
prevails. "

This sweetness — I can see it.
And, by god, it shall prevail.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


E. walked down to the "Village", as she likes to call Columbia City, to pick up some lunch today, and on her way back was stung by bees 4X, all on the back of one leg. She came in the back door yelling bloody-bee-murder, and I grabbed a box of baking soda and made a paste, and helped her slather it on her skin (jeans dropped to the floor!).

O gawd we were laughing amidst her fiery, swelling welts, and she didn't want to put her jeans back on (they were rather snug) so she grabbed a bathrobe from the back of the bathroom door (it's not every workspace that sports bathrobes on bathroom doors), ate her lunch standing up, then finally settled down onto a chair, most uncomfortable with bee stings on her backside.

Bee stings + baking soda + bathrobe = boundless bwah-ha-ha.

We listened to some Rimsky-Korsakov....
....but only for a short time, because E. said the music made the stings hurt even more.

And then M. came in from sandblasting and there's E. sitting at the table wearing her bathrobe.

Zany, I tell you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Opening: Thursday

The prints I've been slaving over for the past eight months are finally finished and hung — 25 of them at CaffĂ© Vita not far from my house. They look great in daylight, crappy once it's dark because, well, it's a coffee shop with olive green walls and subdued lighting: no spots. Oh well. If I should be so lucky to sell one, CaffĂ© Vita doesn't take a commission, so the $125 would be all mine.

It's a little unnerving, having ones  babies, as it were, out on public display. Am I excited? Yeah, but also not without a measure of anxiety. Shee-ite. This is all new territory for me.

Isabelle V

Betty I

Isabelle II
So if you're a local, come on down to Seward Park Thursday, from 6:30-8pm in support of yet another starving artist.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kitchen Real Estate

Fifteen years ago, my husband built a work bench in our basement — constructed to survive a world war, from the solid looks of it. I always said that it would never leave the basement. And then, I got to thinking....

I've always wanted a land-mass in my kitchen: island, peninsula, isthmus, cay, whatever. I had the space, but not the $$$. So I launched my plan to relocate the behemoth, hulking work bench to my kitchen.

At first my boys said No, Absolutely Not, Won't Fit, No No No. I was guessing that they just didn't want to do the work of disassembly and reassembly. But I persisted, and they relented, and tonight, after our Sunday dinner together, they went at it with ratchet and screw-driver and screws and wood glue and plenty of cussing.

At one point I said, You know boys, you're really getting inside your dad's head by doing this, seeing how he made things work. 

N. said, Yep, and it was one crazy head!

The best part was listening to their voices drifting up from the basement, their cajoling and man-curses, N. taking the leadership role, giving directions to his older brother, who didn't seem to mind.

I sourced tools, vacuumed bits of sawdust and mostly just stayed out of the way.

An hour and a half later, my land-mass is in place, with an oilcloth covering. I can comfortably seat ten people at it (with ten stools, none of which I own yet). And the cost? $17.99, for the oilcloth. The best deal on real estate this side of the universe.