Sunday, March 22, 2015

State of the Union

There are times when I want to leave poetry.
File the papers and be done with it.
Walk out the door, a slam at the end
of the last line. Full stop.
See ya later, alliterator.

I’m tired of poetry not paying the rent.
Tired of washing poetry’s dirty laundry.
Tired of cleaning up after poetry,
nothing but half-empty bottles
and an inbox of rejections.

Poetry, I’m even tired of your name,
how the mere mention of you can kill
a perfectly good conversation.
How even writers don’t claim you,
relegated to your own forsaken slot:
Poets and Writers.

And when was the last time you cooked
me dinner? Mowed the lawn?
Spackled the den?

You want all of me.
I can’t take a walk without you
tap-tapping in my brain, can’t wake up
without one of your lines
jolting me from dreamland.  

I’m late for work because of you.
Skip meals because of you.
Lose sleep over you.

Poetry, you are at the core of my every apple,
under the bark of the alder;
in the curve of the earthworm
and in the droplets of the nimbus cloud. 

You exist in the dimensions of the observable universe,
and in all that lies beyond.
In everything known and unknown,
in everything knowable and unknowable.
In quark (the particle) and quark (the cheese).

You are every word I attempt to write,
you are this poem, you are me
and I am you. Poetry,
I will never leave you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Fix

I've been fixing things: the bird house, almost beyond my repair, the roof worn into sky, the perch disintegrating somewhere in garden soil. More air than wood, really, but I forced some screws to join what remained, instantly handy with the cordless drill. 

The back gate (again, the wood given way to more air than tree fiber). Now it doesn't hang askew, doesn't droop on one side into a frown. Mossed, lichened, host to any number of microscopic organisms; if only I could see them all, could record their names (in Latin!) in a tiny notebook in precise handwriting, to remember.

The old grape vines support the fence; the old fence supports the grape vines. All of it, a system that holds together enough to go another year, and hopefully one, two more beyond that. The lattice that sufficed for fence boards now re-imagined into a structure on which my sweet peas will, hopefully, climb.

But my car, well, that reliable cordless drill is not good when it comes to that kind of machinery. Dark smoke billowing from the exhaust, off and on, into the shop once and no results. Months passed, anxiety festered.  The smoke got bigger, lingered, billowed in my mind to the size of thunderheads. Googling "smoke from exhaust" only amped up the worry. Speculation from my sons. Worst-case-scenario became most-probable-explanation.


Finally, yesterday, I womanned-up and brought it back to the mechanic. Walked the two miles to work from the shop. Dithered, tossed around price tags in the thousands. What if the engine was shot? What could I sell to get a new (used) car? Could I get along without a car? (No.) Would it be worth it to rebuild the engine? How much was too much? On and on.

But a reprieve, from the revving engines of anxiety, in a repair for under a thousand $, and everything else checked out Just Fine. I can't remember when I did a jig for a $700 car repair bill, but yesterday afternoon I was high-stepping to some reggae. (Can one high-step to reggae?)

Next on the list is the listing house foundation, a nasty job under the deck of digging (and putting in drainage tiles) à la Welsh miners c. 1900. This — yes this! — makes those years of child-raising all the more worthwhile. I don't look forward to the mess, and my sons are in denial that this will be their summer occupation (incarceration?).

Ah, my dear sons. If only a Makita cordless drill was all you needed to bolster up the world.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I go a little crazy over acoustic guitar, and this morning at work we were listening to a local radio station, a great program called The Caravan, which we turn on every morning from 9-noon. There was some acoustic guitar playing, and I was half-listening while directing the day's tasks. No idea who the musician was, but the DJ said that they were giving away a pair of tickets — to the second caller — for a show the guitarist was doing Thursday night. He said the phone number — ten digits — and with my left hand (the right one was painting), I turned on my phone and punched in the numbers, not at all certain if I'd remembered them. And then this:

"Hello, this is KBCS, and you're the winner!"

Shrieks of glee! And the venue is a mile from my house!

And he even announced my name (T.) on the radio as the winner. (Twice, in fact.)

(My five seconds of fame.)

(O how easily we are made joyful.)

Here's the artist and the piece I heard (dig his wild floppy curls!!):

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Emptied Nest

It was a day for birds' nests, stark against the blue. This one was tipped sideways, and I couldn't help but think that Bird-Mom did it to hasten the launch of her fledglings:

"Okay guys, time to take the leap."

And these pussy willows were so stunning with sunlight caught in their pale yellow gone-to-seed edges, almost more lovely than the the silvery mouse-nubs that mark winter's halfway point.

Anyway, I walked and walked, up and down hills, along the lake where a lone eagle swooped down over a flock of coots and buffleheads, causing them to lift up not quite out of the water with a tremendous show of churning spray before settling back again, the eagle having lost interest.

I think the entire population of this city was outside — our almost-winter seems to have fled and the temps soared up into the low 60's. No snow in the mountains: a not-minor worry.

Everything is blooming too early, and my heart isn't in it yet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Crow & Moon

A waxing gibbous moon rising over the mountains, and a long — miles long — line of crows intersecting the sky in a southerly route to their nighttime roosting place. Late winter, chilly, and too many things in bloom: flowering plums and tulip trees, narcissi and forsythia, and the impossibly sweet scent of daphne everywhere.

I was the crazy person on the sidewalk, struck dumb, face turned to the sky in awe of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of crows. Just when I thought that was the end of them, along came more, and yet again more. Envious of their ease of flight, their utter unquestioning direction. Knowing that, like them, after a long day of making my way in the world, I was headed home.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Silence in Winter

Although my father was an accomplished musician — he played both violin and piano — the only tune I can associate with my memory of him is Ave Maria, sung by a man named Andy Sedlack at his funeral in 1966.

And back then, with no longer anyone to play it, my mother doomed his violin to the far-back of the basement, in the company of the wheezy furnace, and a lump of rosin entombed within green velvet in a black violin case.

The piano she sold to the neighbors, and we rolled it from yard to yard on planks laid end to end.

I must wonder at her grief, and her clearing-out of those sources of so much joy. (When I think of my father at the piano, I recall his hands moving quickly over the entire keyboard, containing, in my child's imagination, all 88 keys with seemingly zero effort.)

He died in early January, and those winter evenings stretched out interminably silent. We did our homework at the kitchen table, or read in quiet companionship in the living room. There was so much that was absent of light, as if half the lamps had been unplugged, and they hadn't been.

And there must have been a hubbub of voices — how could a family of (now) eight possibly maintain much quiet? But indeed, all these years later, it's the silence that speaks loudly to me now, roaring through the decades to this late February night.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Couch, with Teddy

When I'm walking home and it's close to sunset, and people have begun to turn their lights on inside their houses, there is that passing flash of a moment when I can see into someone's life: the color of paint in a living room, art on the walls, sometimes a glimpse of pans or a shelf of spices in a kitchen. When the weather warms, there are cooking smells also, curling out their wisps to the early evening air. Screen doors shutting. Someone playing drums. A symphony in full blare from speakers. Fragments of conversations from open windows.

We're beginning that slow transition to a more public neighborhood, that seasonal shift as the air warms. Now, after work, there's someone walking a dog every half-block, and sometimes kids in the street with a ball, or bikes, or skateboards. All these lives that have survived buttoned-up these dark months slowly raising their curtains to the new angle of the sun.

And some days, the private inside is carted out onto the sidewalk.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Not Snow

This afternoon my sister and I bundled up and walked down and down, from the bluff high above Alki Beach, down narrow tree-lined streets that seemed like secrets, houses perched on cliff-edges, switch-backing & winding down to the water's edge where the wind was fierce and biting, the sky inordinately blue, and people were larking about in shorts and tank tops. What the hell?! I was so cold, despite my sweater/coat/scarf/beret, that I put my hood on too and then held it tightly closed at the neck.

There were windsurfers out in the bay, rising up into the air and then cutting back into the waves. Amazing that they didn't get tangled up in each others' lines! A large group huddled around a fire, and they were putting food out, but I can't imagine how they kept it all from going airborne.

Cargo ships, perhaps six of them, sat idle on the Salish Sea, immobile due to a labor dispute. An eagle flew just above us, really just above our heads, maybe thirty feet, and I turned to watch it as its white head flashed in the sun, and it glided on thermals for what seemed like forever, not a flap of wing, until it disappeared far in the distance.

And then it was back up the hill, steep and steeper, the wind easing considerably away from the shore. And we unbuttoned and unscarved, huffing and puffing, warming as we climbed, up and up to the tidy hilltop, land of wide green parking strips and blooming pink ornamental cherry trees and views of mountains on two sides.

It's difficult to remember that it's still winter.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sneak Online Preview!

These won't go live on the website until, most likely, next week, but I just couldn't resist posting these to my world of readers. (All, what — six? Seven of you?!)

I shipped the first collections of these out this week, and we're once again in full production mode. (Got my whip out.)

Can't decided which I like best; it seems to change on a whim, a mood, an angle of light. I am enamored of the new textures (love to run my fingertips over them!), and the minute-by-minute fluctuations of coloring as the light changes in the workroom: sun to cloud, glare to somber.

Bubbles, Seascape, Surf and Tideline are all developed from images Melinda took last fall at Cannon Beach, Oregon. Hours and hours spent poring over hundreds of photos, cropping and highlighting, color to black-and-white, contrast tinkering, printing and reprinting, sandblasting, experiments +++, yadda yadda yadda. And then, and then, and then. A massive undertaking; damn close to genius, actually.

They take my breath away!

A forest of Forests




All photography by Alec Miller.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

In The Elf Factory

The seven-foot-tall man came in from his job (catering at a large corporate hotel), and after a few minutes of our usual banter (we were all sitting at the big table, deep into painting), he said that coming from the corporate environment into our groovy painting scene was like walking into a Keebler elf factory.
Elves aside, we're starting production on the new lines, and it's thrilling. I've been working here for eight years, and, honestly, I think this is Melinda Wellsandt's best work to date. Doing a photo-shoot tomorrow of the new pieces, so I'll post some pics here when they're ready.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gabriel Marquez: Seattle Artist

Here's an irony: I am teaching the artist Gabriel Marquez —whose work is pictured below — how to paint on glass. He's been with us in the studio for a little over two months now, and this tremendously talented young man, a very quiet study, has been slowly and methodically learning the idiosyncratic techniques that we employ to keep this thriving art business rolling.

Every time he shows me a photo of some new work, I feel humbled beyond belief. This is a man entirely lacking in the hubris/ego department. In fact, a small dose of ego would probably do him some good, but whatever. He is refreshingly modest.

On MLKing day, he brought his nine year old daughter to work with him, and she and the boss's boyfriend (who is seven feet tall) sat at the table for two hours and cut out snowflakes. Giant-man vis-à-vis little-girl: utterly charming.

If I had spare cash, I'd buy a piece of work from Gabriel. I wish everybody would buy a piece of work from Gabriel!

Friday, January 30, 2015


Marveling, this week, at the light that lingers past 5pm, and more so for the sunny afternoons. Mornings rise tamped down in fog, which fades not completely as the hours tick by, a shadowy film on the anemic winter light. In the middle of my workday I step outside, look up — and turn around and around. There is no end to the wonder of these ordinary days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Open Mic: Happenstance Poets

It always wracks my nerves to stand up with a microphone in a busy bar and introduce my 4th Monday Easy Speak. An exodus usually follows, leaving behind our motley bunch of poet-stragglers huddled in booths with beer.

But last night, no one headed for the door. Yes, there were some surprised looks of WTF, but everyone quickly settled-in to the evening — and a remarkable and uncharacteristic quiet descended upon the low-lit room.

Once past the intro, my resident butterflies calm themselves down, and I begin to enjoy myself.

Last night there were about a dozen readers, and not enough musicians. (One of the poets played one song on one ukelele.) There's always some droning, almost always some yelling, but mostly it's pretty damned good writing, well-presented. We're lucky. I'm lucky.

After everyone on the sign-up sheet had stood his/her time at the podium, I wrapped up the evening with the usual banter, said good-night, and went to turn off the microphone, when an older man sitting at the bar asked if he could say something.

Well, of course I said yes, and he came up to the mic and introduced himself, said he was from Somalia, and that in his country, everyone loves poetry.

"In Somalia, poetry is organic. Everyone can recite poems. Poetry is very important to us!"

He went on for a few minutes speaking of the poetry scene in Somalia, then went to sit down when a cry came up from the assembled crowd:

"Recite something for us!"

And so he did, in his language (Somali? Arabic?), and not recited but sung. Sung! It was a little bit of magic, even not knowing the words.

I like to call these unplanned participants my happenstance poets. It's occurred only a handful of times in the past year, always someone who just happened to be at the Hummingbird Saloon on the 4th Monday. They stay, they listen, and they decide to go for their own spontaneous five minutes at the mic. And each time, it's been a bright sparkle layered upon the already inspired recitations of an evening.

Ali — last night's Somali poet — drew the heartiest applause of the evening.

I always feel a glow, a fullness of heart when the open mic is over and my poet-friends and I hunker down for the next hour or so crowded into booths. Someone almost always orders Tater Tots.

The post-poetry poets' exodus is a slow trickle of good-byes. When we're done, the bar swells with late-night patrons and the sound of pinball machines. The jukebox pounds out a bass line.

We laugh and deconstruct the evening, catch up on poetry gossip. We laugh some more.

'Round about 11:30pm, I glance at the time, curse my early next-day rising, settle up the bill.

It's a mile to my house, and in the few minutes it takes to drive home, I wonder, every time, why those butterflies, every time?

Maybe one of these months they won't be there. But I'll tell you: they're worth it, and they're short-lived. Last night's happenstance poet was the evidence I needed, the reminder to keep going despite my vexing anxieties.

I remind myself: I'm lucky. Again.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I texted my friend T. this morning:

"Wanna come to dinner tonight?"

I hadn't yet had coffee; in fact, I was still enjoying my Saturday morning in my bed.

He immediately called me:

"Did you invite me over for shingles?"


"I don't have my glasses on, and I guessed shingles."

"No! Bingo! I invited you over for bingo!"


"No! I said swing dancing!"

"SWING DANCING?!!" What time?"

"Seven. And there will also be dinner. See you then."

I like to call this intentional mishearing, or creative misinterpretation. It drives my kids crazy and they insist I need a hearing aid, when, in fact, I've heard them just fine. I love these little verbal jazz riffs! In any case, I started my morning with a hearty laugh, and can't think of a better way to begin my weekend. (But, alas, there will be no bingo, or swing dancing, and absolutely no shingles.)