Monday, August 10, 2015

Peaches, Protestors and One Presidential Politician

I bought a 20 pound box of Elberta freestone peaches yesterday and made a peach pie so brimming with peaches that they actually broke loose out of the pie, as if the peaches were hatching. At the same time, my younger son was unloading the top half of the chicken coop he's been slowly building for me, a  chicken-wire and recycled-pallet affair with a cedar-shingled nesting box. He bought almost no new materials for it, which pleases me to no end. So, soon: chickens. Let the hen'n'egg puns commence. Pity my poor workmates!

But the pie: my older son took over prepping the fruit, and, wizard in the kitchen that he is, added vanilla extract and whiskey and brown sugar to the usual ingredients and my kitchen smelled like Heaven On High. Lawd, lawd. If I'd expired the moment I took a whiff I'd've expired blissfully.

On another note, I happened to be a member of the crowd last Saturday in downtown Seattle when presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was upstaged by a group of bullies who demanded the microphone. I can't imagine you've not heard the story, but if you haven't, here's a link to a Washington Post article about it.

I won't get into it; while I love reading opinion pieces, it's my least favorite kind of writing to do. But I will say that I'm glad I was there to witness what went down. This singular event seems to have propelled Senator Sanders into the mainstream media, from which he's been noticeably absent since he announced his bid for the office.

At the larger event that evening (15,000 people!), I was fortunate to witness, for the first time in my years, a politician who represents a loving kindness towards humanity. And while sometimes it seems too good to be true, I'm convinced that Bernie Sanders is the real deal.

As was the peach pie, with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I Thought About Today at Work When I Bit into a Plum

I plucked a crimson plum from the tree this afternoon and as I bit into the warm flesh, the juices oozing between my fingers, I thought of the small pit at the center of the fruit. I considered the golden, sugary, soft and nearly-pulsing flesh that protected the pit, the flesh into which my teeth had only just pierced, ravaged, bit a chunk from.

And this is where my brain landed: the flesh, with its tart skin wrapper, exists to shelter and nourish the pit as it grows to maturity. When the pit has fully reached its capability to go forth and grow a new tree, and eventually create its own coterie off plumlettes and pitlettes, it is released from the wholeness of the fruit. The fruit, essentially, births the pit — the seed — and is sloughed off, no longer necessary, its job done.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I came to the realization that when we are eating a plum, we are consuming a plum placenta and plum uterus.

It was hot.
It was late afternoon.
I'd hit a wall.
I didn't want to work anymore.
I was mighty grateful for the plum placenta and plum uterus.

And I don't know if it was the fructose or the notion that I was slurping up a warm placenta and uterus, but after that little fruity encounter, I perked right up.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Long Silence

Few words. Few words here, at least. A loathing to turn on the computer. Hours spent out under the sky, with no roof. Time spent poking around the garden. (Tomatoes are coming on, and I can barely keep up with the beans.) Nothing too precious in my private landscape, only intense observation of what is, what is here, now. Perhaps what others might call an untidyness, but my current attitude to those Those Who Cluck is: I don't give a fuck. Honestly.

Cynicism aside (and I battle against it mightily), I enjoy a lifelong love affair with the mechanisms of nature. And in the city, nature is what happens when one doesn't obsessively tidy up. I mean, it's not entirely obvious that there's any nature at work here. A short length of unsplit firewood aka piece of dead tree might look, to some, as a laziness, a why-didn't-she-put-that-out-for-yardwaste-pickup scenario. Two short lengths of unsplit firewood might look like someone dropped something and didn't bother to pick up after herself. To me, these decaying hunks of tree are mini-ecosystems, hosts to beneficial fungi and insects, adding nutrients (organic!) to the soil as they slowly assimilate themselves back into the earth.

And realizing, after rereading the above paragraph, that I actually do give a fuck.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

In The Garden

Picking Beans

Backed up against the sweet peas
drooping over the path, beside
the two onions from last year
now gone to starry white-globed seed
and swirling with bumble bees;
overrun by a volunteer tomato
whose rambling vines I cannot
bring myself to yank up —

In line beside the green feathers
carrots wave in the air,
and the tang of dill
announcing its place where it wants
and not where I want —

And then the few square feet
given over to the cosmos
whose pink petals each year
offer new paint-strokes
of cross-pollination —

I squat in not-enough room between rows
and pluck the slim pods
hidden beneath their own leafed canopy.
The garden belongs to them —
the beans and dill, the cucumber and onions.
I am their lucky caretaker, their human
who offers water each evening,
reaps their generosity in silver bowls.
Thanks them 
for the honor of tending.

  ©T. Clear

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The massive forest fires in British Columbia have blanketed much of the region in smoke, and the light in Seattle these past few days has been oppressively yellow. I've never seen the sun like this at sunset: deeply red, with horizontal striations, against a grey/yellow sky.  No expanse of reds, pinks or oranges strung out across the horizon; only the singular crimson disc of the sun.  It's eerie, spooky and completely fascinating. There is also an odd quiet to the air, as if all of humanity has entered into a state of collapse. Not a soul is out and about. It's unsettling, and makes for a constant low-level agitation.
My iPhone camera didn't accurately capture the redness of the sun, and the sky had more of a jaundiced cast, but nonetheless it was altogether odd.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Will somebody please turn down the heat!

The tap water diminished to nary a drop this morning, and here we are in the middle of record-breaking high summer temperatures.  I called a bunch of stores looking for an AC unit, and they all gave the same response: SOLD OUT.

Broken water main a mile away repaired after a few hours, and now the flow is strong but murky. I've set a large pot to boil, but the combination of heat and swampish water kills the appetite.

Our local meteorologist, Cliff Mass, says that our current stuck-weather-pattern has nothing to do with the larger concern of climate change, but rather a result of amplification of the upper level wave pattern. Whatever that means, I find it only minimally reassuring, as this high pressure system seems to be entrenched offshore and in my sinuses. Gah.

Lying down covered in wet towels with a fan pointed at one's body seems to help. I'm trying to figure out how to achieve this position at work. No luck yet. My days have been reduced to sluggish production painting and shipping. Gasping. Headaching.  [Complaining.]

We are all so vulnerable, we humans.

My tomato plants, on the other hand, are having an all-out party in their parking-strip garden bed, getting close to surpassing my height (just shy of 5'7'). And, well, the zucchini are, as usual, showing absolutely zero restraint. Sweet peas hanging on by a tendril, but their end is nigh.

If you have any spare rain, email me some. Please.

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 voilĂ .
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?