Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dangerous Toast

Don't argue with me: the best way to eat toast is darkly toasted, almost burnt. (The toast, not me.)

The problem with this, though, is that I usually can't wait long enough to get that perfect nearly-black hue, when the smoke-alarm is precariously close to blasting and the first spirals of smoke are rising from the red coils. I don't consume much bread, so it lives in deep freeze. And takes longer to toast in its frozen state. And, the rest of my meal — an omelette, a bowl of soup — is already hot and ready to go while I tap my foot and peer anxiously at the toaster in anticipation.

I know, I should time it all better, but I don't. Blame a rampant hunger, a long day at work, a glass of wine. Whatever. All I know is that I end up waiting, or trying to wait, and somewhere between 40 and 50 seconds, I cave and hit the "up" button and the inadequately toasted slices of bread pop — POP! — into the air at least 6 inches above the toaster and fall back askew: a disappointment in iron-poor brown, a "milk-toast" toast. Lacking backbone. Lacking burn.

Tonight was no different. My beef stew: peppery, steaming. My toast: in progress. But I had time to think while I waited:

1. There was my ex-husband who insisted we spend $$$ on a toaster. I disagreed. "Look," I said, "it's a set of electric coils in an insulated box. The bread doesn't care what the box looks like or how many  settings (bagel? pastry? waffle?) it boasts."
2. Never put a knife in a toaster in an attempt to extract toast while the toaster is plugged in. How many times had I violated this cardinal rule, and lived?
3. What was it that had been too close to the toaster and melted onto it? And how many years ago had this happened? Had I tried recently to scrub it off? (Yes, I answered myself, I had.)
4. How many settings, that I never use, are on the blender? And don't they all do the same thing: blend? (Either the blades turn, or they don't)
5. (Isn't this damn toast done yet?)
6. When was the last time I opened the little door on the base of the toaster and shook out the crumbs?
7. Is the butter soft enough to spread?
8. My ex-boyfriend and his current 20-years-younger-than-me girlfriend are in London, and I wondered if they've been sitting across from each other at breakfast, holding hands across the table, sleepy after a night of no-sleep love-making; between them, a plate of phallic sausages oozing grease. Fried eggs. Half a watery-tomato each. And the requisite toast rack with upright slices of pale, cooled white-bread toast.
9. How long has it been since I've waited for my toast to properly almost-burn?
10. Too long.
11. How long has it been since I've slept with a man?
12. See #10.
13. There it is! The curl of smoke!
14. POP!

And there it was, the almost-charred, the just-about-scorched, cauterized, dessicated slice of multi-grain bread.

Perfection, rubbed with just enough butter. It had just the right amount of crunch. Enough, in fact, to reel me back from leering dangerously-close to thinking about my love life. Maybe this was the reason I've not let my bread linger in that insulated box long enough: a little time to think can be a dangerous thing. Let's just stick to marginally-toasted bread, and leave the romance for another time.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Second Summer

After a week of rain, and relatively-warm October temps, I walked out into my garden this morning to see a sudden surge of growth had occurred, a late flowering, a last gasp. We are just weeks away from the first autumn frost, and yet in a few days the mint has sprouted up new green tips. The lamium, after our seasonal August-September drought (when I water only what is necessary), is once again lush and vibrantly green. The nasturtiums, which languished and seemed to merely exist through September, have sent out several 2-to-3 foot runners, as if to say, I can still do it! Watch me! (Perhaps they need their own facebook page.)

I've yet to do any fall garden clean-up. This fleeting resurgence is as beautiful as the decline, though: a late shoofly flower as lovely as a skeletonized leaf, one last lingering ruby rosebud in November as spectacular as an apple gone to worms. The remaking of all life, the blossoming, the fruiting and going-to-seed, the decline, where we nurture youth and make room for the new. Endlessly repeated, measured in numbers of years for which there is no number, going back before there was a single soul to charcoal a slash mark on a cave wall. Before there was a cave wall.

Not quite time yet to fire up the furnace, or set a pot of soup simmering on the stovetop. But already I'm thinking of the warmth of autumn spices: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. There's a small sugar pumpkin on my kitchen table. Might just be time for pie.
Virgin of Guadalupe disappearing in a flush of late-season lamium

the ongoing decomposition of James Fenimore Cooper

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The end of summer — admittedly three weeks ago — always seems like, well, The End. A shutting down. The show is over, the lights are out.

And now. How to get through these other essential months now that the main attraction has run its credits by us, played its closing music, and gone dark?

How indeed.

Have you seen this?


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hooting Lessons

The Seward Park woods possess their own variety of solitude — that sense of walking in a true forest, with its velvet-humus paths and ferny, salal undergrowth, while still holding (in the back of the mind, hopefully) the reality that we're in the middle of a nearly 4 million person bio-region with all its attendant traffic, pollution, crime, density, etc.

Mostly I try to forget the urban as I detour from the main trail bisecting the park, and venture down any of the winding side paths where one is more apt to see a pileated woodpecker than a sidewalk. Yesterday, though, that fact was quickly diminished when the blare of music from one of the weekend-anchored yachts in Andrew's Bay cut through the primeval silence like manufactured thunder: at once obnoxious, offensive, painful. Never mind that someone else's taste in music is not my taste in music; never mind the fact that whoever the arrogant bastard was that cranked the volume up was in blatant violation of a city noise ordinance. This was just a simple violation of the laws of nature. I doubt the owls — who I'll get to next — threw a party to coincide with the blare. Nor, I'm thinking, did the otters, or the turtles, or the tanagers or bushtits or chicadees or finches or salamanders or eagles or.....

But what do I know?


Finally the music stopped, and lo and behold, if we didn't hear an owl hoot, from just above us, and then another, from the other end of the park, and then another from yet another direction, and then a fourth, in varying tones (including a series of almost comical hoots about which my companion said, "sounds like someone's getting hooting lessons!")

We stopped, backtracked a bit to try to find the source, but the sounds were coming from high up in the camouflage of the maple and fir canopy, a swirl of a thousand shades of green with late afternoon sunlight cutting through. I turned in a circle, my face turned upwards, and they hooted again, like park sentries from the four directions, seeming to reclaim their euphonic rights in this 300 acres of temperate rainforest.

And then they were done. Silence: the silence of thousands of tiny white mushrooms just beginning to emerge from the sides of decomposing logs, the silence of a single leaf releasing itself from the canopy, the silence of worms beneath our feet, the silence of a slug or a hundred slugs, each without fanfare, going about their quiet business.

We were not silent; our footsteps, however calculated to lightness, sounded their soft thuds. And our breathing announced us to the gnats, to the spiders strung out in a lattice from alder to hazelnut branch, from huckleberry to Oregon grape.

Far down the hill, the lake flashed sparks of light through the trees. For a few moments, I forgot the city humming on every side of us, and heard, however briefly, the earth sending out a sigh: the sound of our unspeakably magnificent planet precariously existing.

Maybe I'm lying. Maybe I heard nothing. Maybe it's only the poet in me believing that there's a larger hum to the universe, and that the absence of peripheral noise opens up a wider auditory ability in our decidedly limited human consciousness.

And then again, maybe I'm telling you: this is what I heard.

And it is.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Switched-On Gutenberg, Weather Issue

Delighted to see these two poems of mine today, published in the online zine Switched-On Gutenberg. (Their pairing of my work with cloud photos caused me to gasp with delight.) It's moments like these that make the mostly-solitary work of writing poetry worth it.

You can read them here and here.