Saturday, June 27, 2015

Send Rain

I'm doing everything I can to keep my sweet peas alive, 88 degrees at 8pm tonight, and I seem to be losing. It's been pretty much more and more flowers every day; been picking as many as I have vases. I've even taken to putting a bouquet of them on the sidewalk with a sign that says "Take me home". It's my little patch of luxury — day after day purples, and reds, whites and pinks — and it has seemed that there was no end in sight, but. But.

Where is my June rain?
Feels like suffocation, and it's only going to get hotter.

I keep thinking of the Robert Frost poem, Fire and Ice:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Seems we've made our choice.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Memory as Fiction, as Truth

Going way back: my parents rented a beach cabin for a week at a place where, when I think of it now, I see a glittered sky, and sparkling light: Holly, on Hood Canal, in the eastern shadow of the Olympic Mountains. I like to believe I was two years old, but can we really remember all that far back? Whether I was two or six hardly matters. But I'll stick with that number, as it's what I've held all these years, and, well, it seems more primal, and, oddly, for some reason, more pure.  (And I know four people who would most likely correct me on this.)

Anyway. I slept in a double bed, in the middle of all my sisters. Five of us on one mattress, and me smack in the middle, where the covers kind of floated over me. The utter comfort in that, and the sense of security! I recall sinking down, not needing anything, and the glorious letting go into dream-land. And waking up laughing, being tickled. If that was the only memory I carried with me from childhood, I think it would be enough.

But there's more from that single occasion: in the cottage next door was a little girl who was a year older than me (three!), and she wore a sun bonnet, and tottered about her garden with a giant watering can. There were foxglove, and daisies, and tall blue spikes whose name I wouldn't know for many years: delphinium. I was enchanted by it all: bonnet, foxglove, watering can — in dappled morning light. And impressed by this "older" girl, and how she seemed so in possession of her world.

When I think back on this now, I ask myself, was this real, or was this a story read to me by an older sister? And if a story, how much of the actual story am I remembering, and how much is a fabrication built upon years and years of remembering and re-remembering? Or are these details — so commited to my consciousness as fact —merely details that I heard from the countless family stories told around the kitchen table on dark winter evenings? Whatever their inception, they have existed for half a century, hard-wired into the circuitry of my brain.

But let's not forget the oysters on the beach which could cut a nasty slice into my foot if I took off my salt-water sandals.  And the icy tide that lapped at sand and shell. There was probably a beach fire at dusk, and marshmallows on a stick, with graham crackers and chocolate at hand. And sticky fingers.

These were my thoughts tonight as I watered my vegetable garden, with my trusty old (and dented) watering can. And how that long-ago flower garden, whether it existed or not, has informed nearly every thought of flowers and gardens all the years since.

When I think of things I treasure — objects — this watering can is on the list. I don't know where it came from, or who had it before me, but it didn't come to me new, and it seems to have been around an awfully long time.

Perhaps I conjured it from memory? 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Without Feathers

Walking the neighborhood tonight, I came across a man sitting on the parking strip in front of his house, a giant orange cat on his lap.

"His name is Momo," he said. " I like to refer to him as a momo-sapien."

Puffy orange cat, man in orange and yellow geometric-print shorts and a green botanical-print shirt. White beard. The sun was setting and the sky yawned in tangerines and corals. So much color!

I said, "you know, don't you, that if you were smaller, he'd eat you."

"Oh! That's never occurred to me!"

"Think about it," I said.

"Even without feathers?"

"Especially without feathers."

I continued on, up and down steep little hills, roses spilling out onto the sidewalk everywhere. I thought of a previous life, in the suburbs, when I felt as if I'd die of loneliness, loneliness for this urban neighborhood.

A man and his son throwing a baseball, the son in pajamas.

A couple on their front porch, their baby finally asleep.

The trickle of running water: a backyard fountain.

The tomato-and-oregano scent when I walk past the back door of the little neighborhood Italian restaurant, the clang of pans.

A door slamming.

The breeze kicking up, a shift in the weather, clouds piling up against the mountains.

And then home again, to my humble house that is not a beach-cabin getaway, but home.

Only home, always home,  and mine.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

This is a good life:

A peanut butter sandwich and a dill pickle on a table covered with a red and white flowered cloth.

Sun and blue sky, a chair in the shade.

A baby crow in the honey locust and a baby hummingbird in the hazelnut.

A novel -- Benediction, by Kent Haruf -- so good that I don't want it to end.

Nothing I must do.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

B.Y.O.B., or, Bring Your Own Beach

There's been a steady stream of looky-loos at the house-for-sale next door; it's been all pimped up, photographed (what's with those l-o-n-g photos that make the interior look spacious when it's not?), and, well, we know, shaved. The marigolds and geraniums and rose bush that were plunked in the dirt in an effort to re-shrubify are wilting, terribly, in our unseasonably warm temps. Oh well.

A blue sixties convertible in need of a new muffler just pulled up and off-loaded the realtor and her "open house" sign. I anticipate a 3-hour parade of gawkers peering over my fence, sizing up the neighborhood.

When the "for sale" sign went up this week, I checked out the deets and was completely surprised to find this in the charm-extolling text:

beach cabin getaway

Now, I've been on this street for going on 29 years, and how in god's name I've not noticed a beach is a complete conundrum. I know for certain that there's no beach in the back yard, so maybe I'm missing something in the view looking out to the street, as seen below —

No beach.


architecturally interesting wood walls

Read: paneling.



cute, sweet, adorable and Kozy with a capital K!

Oh dear.
Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.
(Why I am not a realtor.)

Honestly though, I'd prefer a beach cabin getaway to one of those new million-dollar box houses that are popping up all over the city.

Adventures await, for sure.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Nature vs. Tidy: score, Tidy, 1, Nature, 0

Having endured, in the past nine months, the sale of three houses on three of the four sides of my house, today this question came to mind: what is the compulsion, in prepping a house for sale, to lay waste to the landscape? I'm talking the buzz-cut approach, which involves lopping, shearing, truncating,  shaving, slashing, scraping, scalping, amputation, massacre, vacuuming. Generally done at the lowest price possible by day laborers, who, bless their hearts, don't know their bindweed from their borage.

I posed this question to the crew at work, and these were some of the responses:

1. The house should look tidy.
2. The yard should look clean.
2. Prospective buyers may not want a lot of yard maintenance. 

But I think this goes deeper into our psyche as a culture, this "tidy" obsession we seem to have to sweep/pluck/prune. Control over nature — well, duh, yeah. The ol' slash'n'burn approach, show Nature who's in charge.

But it also seems tied to the almighty dollar, that to get the most $$$ from a property, it must appear to be "clean", that nature is, in some way, unclean. Of course, we love "nature" in a forest, but god help us if we allow nature to encroach upon our front yards.

Anyway, here's my formula:
Trimmed = clean.
Lush = dirty.
(And also, lush = fecundity = bad = sex.)
Does any realtor worth her commission want to show a house that, on a subliminal level, is all about sex?

Is it really this simple?
But doesn't sex sell nearly everything in this culture? Cars? Clothing? Dessert?!

Before the first of these houses went up for sale last fall, a guy with a mower laid waste to the beautiful vinca in the yard next door, which, besides being very healthy and abundant, provided some privacy to the view of my back door. Obsessively tidy yard! Clean!

And now, this spring, the new homeowner has fallen in love with all the vinca that's making a vigorous (glorious!) comeback. Go figure.

I know, it's not all this simple. But to witness this razing of the landscape so acutely, it certainly gives one pause.
Stump and Steps
(Notice, my steps aren't swept, and my stump has fungus growing on it. Yay!
Fungus = a healthy ecosystem.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Assault from the East

I came home from work today to discover that my neighbor, who is selling his house, hired a yard maintenance crew to clean up his yard (with which he's done nothing for the duration of his ownership) and in the process, they ripped out dozens of my plants from my garden, and butchered three shrubs (lace-cap hydrangea, camelia and forsythia) that were planted against my house.


The forsythia was planted by my late husband, and it's taken me many years to prune it to grow up and over the narrow pathway between yards, perhaps crossing the property line by a few inches. Now it's a bunch of hacked-off spikes. (Hours spent just this spring getting it back into shape. HOURS.)

My columbine, my centaurea, my blue cranesbill and my alstromeria: all gone. My beautiful kiwi vine: butchered.

At first I was spitting angry, then I just wanted to cry. Thank the gods I have this venue in which to vent!

I've already drafted a bill to present to him, but no sum of $$ will get me back my plants that I've cultivated and nurtured for 28 years.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Morning: What We Talk About At Breakfast

You take some charcoal. Burn some branches or pieces of scrap wood that's in the garage. Burn it in the little fire pit out back. Anyway, take the charcoal and smash it or grind it up until it's powdery. Use a hammer if you want. Use something.

Put it in a bucket.

Get a rotting fish. The fish market on Rainier will give you one for free, something that they can't sell or that's just going to go into the food waste. Maybe just some heads.

Add the rotting fish to the charcoal.
Add water.

Let sit for a week.
Ignore the neighbors.
Do you really care if it stinks?

Puree the whole thing into a slurry.
Et voilà.
Fish fertilizer.

Slop a few tablespoons of it into your watering can, fill it up with water, and there you have it.
How much money did you spend?

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Now that the vegetable garden is in (two rows of filet beans)
my weekends days begin to ease (onions, garlic).
I may forego the hose (six staked tomatoes)
and instead lug an old water can (hill of cucumbers)
from spigot to spaded soil (hill of zucchini).
Not a bench, but an upended log (pumpkins, parsley)
for garden meditation (scattering of carrots).
If I'm lucky, the cats will sit with me (cosmos, lemon gem marigolds)
and my days will be anchored, grounded by this humble patch of earth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not Quite Nature

At dusk I walked along the water's edge and saw two herons, one young eagle, and a goose family: the usual suspects.






tucked away in some bushes........

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Every spring I stumble upon a bed of peonies that makes my knees buckle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


A shift in the roll-call, and we've been thick in the middle of new-hire interviews. I've skimmed the Craigslist responses, plucking out what seem like possible candidates from the expected druff, from the "I believe I am the best candidate for your studio assistant position." Blah blah blah. Cut and paste, resumés that relate in no way to our job listing. We're looking for immediate hire and possible long-term commitment; how does I'll be in Seattle for two months beginning in July fit the bill? Delete delete delete, etc.


I find the interview process, from the employer's standpoint, to be excruciating. To watch these young'uns tremble and quiver in M.'s and my presence just about unravels me to a single thread.

What I want to tell them is this:
"You know, it's all gonna be just fine. Here, let me make you some lunch. Would you like a cup of coffee? Tea? You are going to be fabulously successful! [Just not here.] You will find the perfect job, make sufficient money, find the apartment you most desire — everything — everything you seek will be yours!"

One young man today didn't seem to be able to find the door. What ensued was a comical (to us) back and forth from front door to back door, down to the sidewalk to, what? Look for yet another door? And us running back and forth from one end of the house to the other shouting out the door hello? Hello? Until he finally poked his head in the window, where we (but not him) burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all.

He finally figured it out, but seemed particularly shaken. (This is where my do you want a sandwich? clicks in.)

Well then.

I'm exhausted.

The new girl, I mean, woman, starts tomorrow at 10am.

Here we go again.
Step one of How to Mary-Melinda Your Glass in 10,739 Easy Steps.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Working in a Distillery in Labrador

My neighbor is selling most of her stuff, spread out across her tiny front yard like a life-museum exhibit: bike, lamp, boots. She's 38, single, tried to buy the little cottage she's lived in for seven years, but ran into a glitch, the owner (not my favorite person) wouldn't budge, and she's gotta be out by next Saturday. All this so quick.

I'll miss her, flat out.

Miss her gregarious nature, her boisterous guffaws, her generous neighborliness. Miss the sound of her music floating up to my second story bedroom when she has lawn parties into the night. Yeah, we're facebook friends, but that's different, you know?

Like I said, it all came down very fast, when she was fairly certain the sale was going to go through. She told me it's all pretty surreal, unreal, she loves it here on this street and doesn't want to go.

The rug's been yanked out from under her, and it feels like stepping off a cliff. Takes a little while to realize that there's only about an inch of air between her feet, the missing rug, and the floor. At some point: the soft thud back to earth. When the shock wanes, she'll check for missing body parts and realize that they're all still present.

Off to a new life.

It's warm out today, and all this sudden-moving stuff was swirling about in my head, when I suddenly thought about my late husband — Mark — and how on an early warm spring day, he'd get out a pair of too-small shorts and t-shirt and stretch himself into them to accommodate his annual winter weight gain. Good god it really bugged me. And for a moment (I was pulling out of the cramped parking lot of the fruit stand), the memory of this crushed me. I thought of his knees, for god's sake, his legs in their ultra-white coming out. And I missed those ridiculous short shorts. They were blue. I hated them and there I was missing them. A pair of shorts. A husband. Pulling out into traffic, my heart with that burning ache that can come on out of the blue, out of a blue-sky day when I'm not expecting it.

And I thought about my life eleven years on, about the friends I treasure most now, who were never a part of that previous life. Thought about that next blip of a marriage — that one that ended so suddenly and sent me reeling in much the same way my friend next door is reeling. How, without warning we get shifted into a new square on the game board and we want to shout But it wasn't my turn!

After the hundreds of dreams I've had where Mark shows up without explanation, sheepishly, and won't answer my queries, finally this week he did answer up to the long absence, and this is what he said:

I've been in Labrador. Working at a distillery. With fifteen other men. We lived in tents.

Well damn if I didn't wake up immediately, with about a million additional questions that of course must go unanswered. Who goes to Labrador? (If you're not up on your Canadian geography, it's the northernmost region of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, has a population of around 26,000 people, and is home to the indigenous Inuit of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit-Métis and the Innu.)

I think the last time I thought about Labrador was in 5th grade. That's 46 years ago. WTF?

How long must I wait for a few more details? 

(And I'm going to miss my neighbor.)

Sunday, May 3, 2015


I sat out on my balcony tonight for the first time this year, dragged a wooden chair out and ate chocolate-covered pretzels and started a new book, The Painter, by Peter Heller. Just warm enough, and just enough light. There was this crow — perched up on the peak of the neighbor's garage — he'd been trailing me all day as I worked out in the yard. Couldn't figure out what it was he wanted, but as I raked up the vinca clippings from the driveway, he picked around in the leavings, just behind me. When I spoke to him (her?), he swooped up to the telephone line and watched me. He's often out when I dig in the vegetable patch, always in my wake, looking for something. Have I missed some shiny trinket? Is there one buried that, if I'm lucky, will reveal itself? A friend recently unearthed a gold and opal ring while working her garden. This bird sparks my curiosity. What does it know that I don't? —much, I am certain. And if I find some buried gem, I'll think I'll offer it to my black-winged companion. There is nothing I need that wouldn't fare better clutched in a crow's beak.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Solo at the Soirée

It's awkward — walking into a party alone when the only people you know are the hosts. Ack. Introductions, everyone else cozily coupled. The din at a level that makes it difficult to hear conversations, and conversations with complete strangers are difficult even with the best acoustics.

So I filled a plate with food (the requisite crudités [rainbow carrots, cauliflower, broccoli-ettes], the expected hummus, the bowls of whole grain & seeded chips, the goat cheese display), grabbed a hard cider and sat down in the middle of a group of people and made small talk. Very small talk, that seemed to go nowhere.

How's the water situation in San Diego?
Are these windows original?
Which of you are siblings?
Have you tried the baba ganoush?

I like parties.
I like people.
But going it alone can be daunting, and after an hour of chattery fits and starts (was I making any sense?), I made my exit, slipped off up the alley and headed home as the evening was cooling, past lilacs just past their prime, beneath bowers of mountain ash whose fragrance careened me back decades to the back yard of my childhood home, and the woods beyond, nettles beginning to line the path, fiddlehead ferns unfurling in the shadows as I sighed home, home, home.