Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Behemoth

This old beauty came down yesterday, attended by ropes and chainsaws. I walk by it every day, and mourn its death. I leaned into the giant log-trunk lying beside the sidewalk, patted the rough beauty of the bark. There was so much of it; almost too much to take in. What I really wanted to do was lay down upon its mass. The scent was of ripe fruit — at once surprising and intoxicating. I hope this jumbled log stack remains for a bit, but seeing that it's the city, with ordinances and such, I imagine it will soon disappear. No photos of the amputated stump though — it seemed a sacrilege, an indignity to stand before it with my modern technology and bare its truncated soul.



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Everyday Eggs & Toast

Been ruminating of late on the ordinariness of most days — every day, really. The quotidian, the expected, and the realization of expectations. You put four quarters in the slot and — klunk — down rolls the can of pop. (I think maybe I'm dating myself here on my recalled version of a vending machine, but whatever.)

Within that ordinary lies comfort and ease, as well as boredom and disappointment. Was this what I signed up for?

How many of us go about our to-and-fro trudge to the factory, eat dinner, view a screen, go to bed — the seemingly endless repetition that makes up our routine? Then there's the distraction of a movie on the weekend, a meal someplace other than the kitchen table. A pause in the order of things, a repositioning, only to start it all up again when the week commences. It goes and it goes.

And then there's the unexpected rut in the road, one wheel stuck and grinding the mud.

I found out today that a man I know has end-stage liver failure. Weeks left of his ordinariness, months if he's lucky. A man with an astonishment of talent and perception whose path forward stumbled and collapsed, an abandonment of possibilities. I'm struggling with both grief and anger — anger at the insidiousness of mental illness and alcoholism. Despair as I witness the abbreviation of yet another life.

I'll take the ordinary.
Yes ma'am.
Serve it up for breakfast, I'm hungry.


Monday, February 1, 2016

In the Dark

We lost power Saturday evening for about an hour — dead in the middle of a dark winter night. I was upstairs on my computer when everything switched off. Completely black. I cautiously made my way to the windows which look out onto the street, and the darkness outside was dense and impenetrable — and completely beautiful. With the light from my iPhone lighting my steps, I descended the stairs to the kitchen, and went out the door, careful on the steps, to stand outside under an umbrella of stars.

I couldn't help but notice how different this darkness was from the ordinary, streetlamp-lit darkness we're used to. While the usual urban night always seems cold and harsh, this total darkness was soft and inviting. It settled upon me like a velvet blanket, at once comforting and familiar, despite the mid-winter chill.

How long has it been since I've been away from the electrically-lit night? Too long. It's been a decade-plus since I've been camping. But this darkness was different from forest darkness. This seemed almost a relief, a letting-go from the requisite grid of city standards. A deep exhalation amid electrification, an oasis of calm in an over-lit world.

Tonight, walking home in the dark, I encountered a neighbor on the sidewalk.

"Oh, hi T."

"Hi L."

"Happy February 1st!"

"Yes, and oh, it seems darker every year, doesn't it?"

"I suppose it does, but then, we're just getting older, and the darkness is within us."

Here I've been all these past few months railing about the lack of daylight, as if it were something never before experienced. Do we forget, from year to year, that this is the normal pattern? I think we want to forget. I know I certainly do.

And yet there I was, standing outside late on Saturday night, reveling in the wonder of a power failure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Blue Cats and Eggs

I dreamed that a two-tone blue cat came to live with me. She was a deep dark blue with a large sky-blue patch over her shoulders. My mother was there too, and she said, "Keep her. You won't see another cat like her again."

My mother's name was Alice. I also once had a cat named Alice, so-named by my eldest son when he was five. Alice (the cat) was a cranky tiny tortoiseshell whose language was Teeth. My sons learned her dental vocabulary, and avoided puncture wounds. She lived to 17 years, blind at the end, and no less irritable. We adored her.

She visited me last night too, one dream after the blue cat. Jumped up on my bed, and my only thought was why has it been so long since she's done this? And then the aha! moment: oh, right. She's dead. Nonetheless, we had a sweet sleep-visit, after an 8 year absence.

I believe we were meant to dream the winter away, drowsed in hibernal caves, a layer of fat to sustain us. Nights I return home after work, invent a meal, pencil-in a few words of the Sunday NYTimes crossword (it takes me all week). And then what? All I want is sleep.

All this electric interference — LED's and fluorescents and incandescents — all they do is meddle with the melatonin. Somewhere along the way we went wrong. I admit: I even have my hens on a timed light so that their laying continues through the dark months. I'm not altogether comfortable with that, but then again what are they but gallinaceous extensions of our anthropocentric existence? If I live by the glowing filament then, by god, so will they. I thank them for the eggs. 


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Moss Farming

I want to be a moss farmer and I want the farm to be at the end of the road in the second photo, just beyond the line of trees. (The second photo is one of the new pieces to come out of the studio this week, from a photo Melinda took in The Palouse in Eastern Washington. Wheat country. I doubt there's much moss of any kind there.)

This is the song I hear when I look at that landscape.
I will be "The Happy Farmer" (by Robert Schumann), the happy moss farmer:

.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"American Made Show 2016" Preview

This afternoon I put the last of the glass that's shipping out tomorrow in the "kitchen kiln",  the tail end of 200+ pieces, every last one fussed over with a microscopic attention.

Every year this studio, led by the ever-dazzling Mary-Melinda Wellsandt, manages to invent new designs to augment the existing line. It's never a given that it's going to happen, and usually sometime in early fall, the ruminations begin. I schedule creative time for Melinda, and she motors off to the Oregon Coast for a series of long weekends, camera and computer at the ready. (And mostly likely some really good gin.)

The first of such weekends this year was abruptly ended by torrential rainfall. Weekend #2 was derailed by engine failure in her car.

Whereupon panic set in. End of the year orders had us bogged down in packing peanuts and bubble wrap. The holiday home sale loomed. And Christmas. (Whoever scheduled Christmas in December, anyway?)

And somewhere between the shipping boxes and tubes of oil paint, between a studio full of bargain-hunting holiday shoppers and stacks of transparencies, once again some new lines were born. Honestly, I couldn't tell you exactly when this happened. There's a fluidity in how Melinda and I work together, a conversation which can takes weeks to finish, where the details get filled in on no set schedule. It just seems to happen, organically.

Tomorrow morning we'll load up and shrink-wrap three pallets of display materials and prototypes. Sometime after 2pm a large truck with a lift gate will rumble down the street, and within a matter of minutes, will disappear with our most precious cargo.

As always, I remain in awe of the work that emerges from this humble setting. And feel an immense measure of gratitude in how my days are spent.



Friday, December 25, 2015

Woods-Walking on Christmas Afternoon

Late in the day my son and I took a long slow walk in the Seward Park woods. Curious that my son, who grew up in an urban setting (and who hikes/backpacks/hunts) feels like he's in the wilderness when up inside the old-growth forest of the park. For me, who grew up in a semi-rural-going-to-suburb setting, I'm altogether too aware of the larger city just beyond us. In fact, when I'm settled deep in a mossy reverie, soft earth underfoot, instead of the city noises fading, they become more acute, more intrusive. Wilderness: no. (But marvelous nonetheless.)

Mushroom season is nearly finished, but we found some impossibly tiny fungi clinging to moss on Douglas fir bark, like secrets. Miniature white caps, barely bigger than dewdrops. And lichen, of course, draped everywhere on bare twigs and branches. Complete enchantment.

I've never walked in the park on Christmas. Decades of over-spilling dinners (platters as well as waistlines over-spilling) have consumed much of the day. But today we had our feast in late morning, which left the rest of the day a wide open yawn. With about an hour of light remaining, on a whim we decided to go. And in that damp wood I discovered a peace and deep-breath contentment that I haven't felt in months.

There was a moment of alarm and disbelief when we discovered that one of the park's oldest trees had toppled in a recent storm. For a few minutes, we both denied that was the case; that indeed the old tree was just up the path. But it wasn't. Severed about twenty feet up, there was new light in the forest where the canopy had been ripped open. Everything felt askew, the balance shifted.

Did you know that the life of a forest tree is measured at 50% while living and 50% after it "dies"? My son reassured me that this magnificent old tree, easily 300 years old, would go on contributing to the life of the forest for another 300 years, giving itself as a nurse log for seedlings, fungi, mosses, insects. I've known about nurse logs my whole life, but never thought of their impact in terms of years: 300 years. That's a long time, measured by my human perspective. The fact of that settled me considerably. I will miss the vertical heft of that old tree-friend, but will now look to the forest floor to see what emerges from its remains.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Into Winter

Solstice, and the rain is never-ceasing. And even though from here on out there are fractions of additional light each day, it all seems like such a tease. One minute more of cloudlight, and I should feel more like rejoicing. But.

At work today I was packing things up for the two wholesale shows coming up in January and February, with the realization that I won't see these particular pieces again until late February/early March. Those dates seem an eternity away, nearly the entire-winter away. And here we are, first day of this dark season, mired down in mud.

The chickens don't seem to mind. Underneath those feathers they're cozy and warm, but their run is, at the moment, dirt-soup. Still getting 2-3 eggs every day. Bawk bawk. In their boredom they've disassembled the compost pile I started 6 weeks ago.

I used to love Christmas, but the years have wrung it out of me.

Taken three weeks ago, perhaps this photo is my balm for bitterness:

Friday, December 11, 2015

On Foot, Mostly

Yesterday was the odd day I drove to work, and it felt indulgent and extravagant to sit in that comfortable moving vessel and glide effortlessly down neighborhood streets for a single mile. Burning fossil fuel. Most days I walk, despite the dramatic storms that have ripped through our city. Even heavy rain I find meditative, and wet clothing dries, in time. I find that the days I drive, I'm left with a restless energy, a desire/need to move through the cold air at a brisk clip. Evenings, my headlamp illuminates raindrops falling in my path: utter enchantment.

I've memorized where the sidewalk has heaved up from encroaching tree roots, where accumulated leaves make for slippery steps. There's the house where a beagle, left alone all day, barks incessantly in the front window. The house with four chickens in the yard — three reds and a single black-feathered hen. The house that's for sale: 1000 sq. feet for $469,000. The house with one side painted rainbow colors, shingle by shingle.

And then this, on the planting strip, dropped from a massive evergreen, like velvet underfoot —






















All to be missed while passing by in enclosed Volvo comfort. And honestly, despite my current obsession with All Things Political, I can't/won't write about it. Seedpods and tree roots and rain are about all I can manage in this space.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Silence

I don't know that I've ever gone so long without words. These days they seem to evaporate as I type them, a little pffffft and they disappear, letter by letter. It's as if the distillation that happens when I write poetry has amped itself up so that all I have left is punctuation.


~
.
!
,

*
:


And so forth.

What I do know is that I miss the companionship of the summer sky — those soft early sunrises with their choruses of birdsong, and the spiraling trill of the robin top of the Douglas fir as the earth spins away from the light.

And the canopy of stars from my balcony.
A complaint as old as those stars, I know.

Here's Saturn if it were as close as the moon:
















Here's the article from the Atlantic where I found that photo.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving. Awoke with the first light, the sun rising over the Cascades. I lay in bed and tried to recall the last time my mother made a pie. When was it? Which decade? Probably some time in the late 1970's. When did she last cook a Thanksgiving meal? My older siblings took over, at some point, in a rented apartment or a first home, our family group getting bigger and bigger until we began to split off into our own smaller groups. In these later years I spent the day at my in-law's home, a beloved house whose back deck perches still above Thornton Creek. I miss these days most — the scents, my mother-in-law's Southern hospitality ("don't you bring a thing, Miss T.!). I've inherited her sterling tableware, with which I set my small table this morning for my sons and me. The long-handled spoon whose sole purpose is for reaching into the turkey and pulling out the stuffing.

Addition/subtraction: families. Births/deaths. Our numbers swell and recede, swell and recede.

We're eating early this year — both sons keep very early work schedules. No need for candles with this brilliant sunlight. And no long tables set out the length of the living room. We've dwindled to this small family, with two cats on scrap patrol. Three chickens in the yard pecking for bugs. One turkey, two pies. Enough — more than enough —of everything.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Fragments

Stapled poultry wire, slashed skin on the sharp edges.
Damn the blood, no band-aids, chickens on the run.
Gathered them back in, one under each arm,
shooing the third hen with my feet as if I knew how to play soccer.
Why do they always head for the one corner of the yard that isn't fenced?

Unwound bird netting, tangled it up, sorted it out.
Stood on a ladder and pulled it taut.
More staples. Gloves. No more blood.
Chickens secure.
Eggs gathered.
Leaves and bits of straw raked up.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Light

The light fades earlier now; sometimes the sun breaks through the ragged grey-silk clouds just at sunset. The windows of our workspace face west, and nearly every day I leap up at this burst of light in an otherwise wet and brooding afternoon, witnessing the colors I've wrestled with for hours, now emblazoned across the sky. My co-workers are used to this daily outburst, and oblige my entreaty to see for themselves.

And of course it's gone just as quickly as it appeared — ephemeral light!

I don't think I'll ever tire of this.

Later: the trudge through the dark to home.
No crows to keep me company.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fowl Things

I went out to feed my chickens this morning, and coming back in I glanced at my reflection in the door glass, and had to laugh:
--red nightgown
--blue fleece jacket
--brown leather outback hat
--blue yoga pants, 15 years old, with holes
--pink fluffy socks
--brown clogs.

Not winning any awards here in fashion, and happy for it.

Anyway, who would've thought that I'd become so fond of three chickens? It's happened. I talk to them. I fuss over them. They follow me around the yard (making a scratched-up mess of the garden) and they bicker amongst themselves, argue with me, peck for bugs. Altogether a pretty cozy scene, all things considered. Fluffy pink socks and all.

And eggs! Usually three per day! I keep an eleven watt bulb lit from 5am - 9pm every day, so they're fooled, so far, into summer hours.

Maybe my urban days are waning. Time will tell.