Long Winter’s Nap

From what I can tell, bookish people (like me) really like winter, the dormancy of it, the slow sap in the veins. Was I born this way or did growing up in the short overcast days of the Northwest whittle me into this shape? The eternal question of nature-nurture. I get the feeling sometimes that I’ll have to forcibly pull my roots out of this glacial till or become so interred that I’m totally immobile.

Still, I’ve been more slothy than usual these past few months. Not just physically but mentally too. My mind has not been stirred by much of anything and the cause itself does not even seem worth contemplating. Depression? Not exactly. More like…the clouds have obscured my vision. Writing and painting are my outlets, my meditations, and yet when I even consider sitting with them, I am filled with blankness. There is enough light, but I can’t tell which direction to go in, so I just don’t.

Then there are all the adult things I haven’t been doing as planned. Finishing the wills we started 4 years ago. Getting started on the house projects that need to be done this year. Even getting birthday cards in the mail has proved daunting. My 2018 Inner Guide planner (see post on 2017’s version) isn’t exactly empty, but I don’t feel like I’ve got things on track either, as the end of the first quarter of the year comes to a close.

Last year was off to a slow start, too, I keep telling myself (although similarly paced with protest marches, which are good to take part in as moving (figuratively and literally) reminders that democracy takes work, plus damn, the kids last weekend were inspiring.) Perhaps the longer days will shake me out of this dreamless reverie. I took today off just to try to get my head right, see if I could get re-centered. Working full-time again has depleted my ability to take care of myself and things at home, adding to my feeling of disorientation.

I’ve already been rewarded for my efforts today by meeting the most cheerful and friendly guy at the store, who bagged my groceries and carried the petunias I bought out to my car. He made up little songs while he bagged, called everyone friend, high-fived people as he walked through the store and expressed gratitude for his job. I think I’ll try that tomorrow when I go back to the office. Couldn’t hurt, unless of course they think I’ve lost it at last.

Another glimmer: hubby and I watched (at his insistence, since I have to be arm-twisted into anything but the most escapist television) the documentary “Happy” last night. Things we mostly know about the origins of true happiness, but need occasional reminders of – staying active, being in the company of others (I officially want to co-dwell now like they do in Denmark), doing/seeing new things, engaging with nature, being grateful, taking care of others. I would add being kind to yourself as well. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up when we think we’re failing.


I call this “Greased Lightning Bug”

Even if this break in the clouds is fleeting, moments like this can accumulate into greater meaning. Or that is the hope. Meanwhile I’ll settle for a bit of whimsy, in the form of a sparkly green flying beetle piloted by Danny Zuko. Sometimes you just have to give in to silliness when it strikes. There’s no telling what interesting path it might lead you down.



Planning Under the Influence

And just like that, it’s a new year. Happy New Year everyone!

I started posts in November and December, but they didn’t seem to go anywhere. Words felt inadequate and there were already so many in the world, most of them conveying news I could barely comprehend. When I tried to write, my thoughts would wander off the page and into wilderness or image, taking refuge.

This tendency really ramped up when I signed up for an eight-week drawing class at Pratt Fine Arts Center. I had never taken any kind of formal art class and while I expected to be terrified, I just…wasn’t. I was excited. My buddy Ed also took it and we’d meet up every Friday morning to spend three hours intensively examining various subjects and trying to faithfully replicate them as we learned about contours, movement, shading, scale and perspective. I absolutely loved the class and our teacher, Robin Walker, looked forward to it every week and even when the subject matter of the day was not to my liking (self-portraits TWICE, ugh), enjoyed the process and most of the time, the outcome.

Sketch of fruit bowl, vase, flower

Final drawing project. This piece took a ton of time…I’ll never look at still lifes the same again.

Which was a rarity for me. I’ve struggled mightily with creative endeavors, wanting so badly to produce something good and always being disappointed. I would try to remind myself that it takes time to get good at things, and I shouldn’t quit after one attempt, but instead I’d just get discouraged and give up. I don’t know what finally changed – maybe the realization that I don’t have as much time in my life to waste on giving up on myself – but I seem to have arrived at a place where I’m willing to work at things, grapple with the challenges, quiet the inner judgment, and acknowledge my progress when I improve.

I also realized my right brain was finally getting a chance to run things. And I liked being in that space. It’s so different from the constant bullying left-brain which wants to make lists, cross things off, categorize and tell stories (often times unkind ones about what a piece of crap I am) and just be its practical, get-shit-done, self. Which we need, of course, if bills are to get paid and chores done and groceries restocked. But we also need time to just be, to ease up on the daily planning and achieving mode.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What’s interesting for me this past year is that I actually did use a weekly planner for the first time in…ever? My only recollection of using one is that I’d get all excited at the possibilities, use it for a month or two, and then forget about it. But at the end of 2016, which was exceedingly hard for hubby and me, I just knew I needed to do some things I’d been putting off. Things at the house, things for my physical and emotional well-being, things that weren’t just about hubby’s medical issues. Widening my perspective to include our relationships, our community, our planet. Our future.


Like my old high school pee-chees, my planner begged to have things taped to it. Poems now, instead of band names and pictures.

I came upon The Inner Guide Planner. It’s a weekly goal planner at its core, but it’s also a journal, a place to store memories, ideas, accomplishments. There are prompts each month and week to set your intentions, note things you’re grateful for, jot down quotes and reflections, and gentle reminders to let others know you appreciate them. It helped me stay mindful of the present while also keeping track of the things I wanted to achieve. I can now look back at 2017 and see what I got done (finished a rug, had a path installed in the yard, #resisted), things I pondered, events I went to, books I read, and areas to continue focus on in 2018. Because of course I didn’t do 100 percent of the things I set out to do, but I can also see that I did a bunch of stuff I didn’t plan on doing. Like taking a drawing class, or writing 10,000 words during NaNoWriMo.



A good friend returned the photo on the right to me in the spring and I realized it was a visual for how I wanted to feel. My bestie sent me the card, which reminds to face up to fears defiantly. Stickers courtesy of Peg Cheng’s writing retreat.

This planner helped me be more deliberate in getting the important stuff done, but also seeing there was room for spontaneity. My left brain had the structure it needed, which meant my right brain got some room to play. Planning under the influence of the right brain is a combination I love and my new planner is on its way. An aspiration for 2018 is to dance more – hey, the body needs some time, too, right? I hope you have good things planned for the new year, and that other interesting opportunities will present themselves as well.


James Baldwin Wisdom for Today

james-baldwinTen days ago it was James Baldwin’s birthday. I posted the picture you see to your right on Twitter. There are so many good quotes of his that I love, but this one stood out to me for my own personal reasons of life upheaval and related impacts. But with Baldwin, I find, you can read the same thing on a different day and come away with a much different perspective. Rereading it today, it has taken on a whole new meaning in light of events in Charlottesville.

I haven’t done much this morning but look at the #Charlottesville Twitter feed. It’s impossible to state how devastated I feel over the events that I watched taking place there in the past 48 hours. I need words today, and I can’t think of many that can express what I’m feeling better than Baldwin. Unfortunately, much of what he said about America’s racism is still applicable.

“White people are trapped in a history they don’t understand.”

Photos of yesterday’s violence side-by-side with violence against Freedom Riders in 1961. Video of a car speeding into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring others there to protest against bigotry and hatred. Images and events like these shocked our conscience 50 years ago, but will they change our current trajectory? Not unless we all accept our share of the responsibility for what has happened and is STILL happening. This requires us to learn our history, which lets us see how systemic racism is still alive and well.

Michelle Obama said that the presidency “reveals who you are.” Trump purposely didn’t call out the cause of the violence, instead saying it’s from “many sides.” This is bullshit and we should all call it that. White supremacy has never gone away, but it is now thriving in the daylight, given a place of legitimacy by the administration. Not just that its presence is accepted, but by the fact that 45 has condoned violence on many occasions, emboldening those people who think hateful rhetoric and protesting with swastikas, guns and shields at a “rally” is just another form of free speech. Which brings us to the next quote.

“Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

The new white supremacist uniform is no longer a white robe and a pointy hat with holes for eyes, but khaki pants and a white polo shirt. Don’t forget the MAGA red hat. The evening accessory is still blazing wood held aloft, only this time they’re holding up tiki torches. The images are both scary and ridiculous, but one thing is clear – all the symbols of the KKK and their hate were on full display and nobody was trying to hide it. The fact that they were dressed like one of Trump’s 49 golf outings since inauguration (at a cost of $58 million of your tax dollars, thank goodness for small government) shows you these guys understand what 45 really believes.

“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

Some Republicans have come out to condemn the violence and even a few have named it for what it is – but it’s not remotely enough. This is the same party that is actively trying to pass voter suppression laws all over the country. Words don’t mean anything if your actions say the opposite. Voting laws are about one thing – disenfranchising non-white voters, so a party (of mostly white men) can stay in power, and continue the long tradition of making rules to benefit whites and hurt people of color.


“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


White people, myself included, need to own up to and speak out against all the ways we’ve allowed a system that benefits us to continue unchecked. It’s easy to hide in whiteness, a place of comfort and safety. This is our identity, and we need to start breaking it up, giving up the power we hold. I know I can’t understand what it feels like to be a person of color, but I can sure as hell learn my country’s history, listen to and learn from people of color, call out injustice when I see it, and ask other white people to do the same.

I’m not shocked by what is happening in Charlottesville and other places. I’m angry. I’m sad. The flagrant hatred on display is horrifying but it isn’t nearly as dangerous as all the ways in which systemic racism is weaved into the fabric of our country, in education, housing, inherited wealth, criminal (in)justice and myriad other strands. It is incredibly hard to untangle, but we have to start, or things will never change. We will no doubt see more days like yesterday as we continue this fight, but we must keep fighting.



It’s crazy hot in Seattle, which isn’t that unusual in August, but the air is also full of smoke from wildfires in British Columbia. This combination is making it truly stultifying around here, as we try to choose between getting a trace of cool air flow at night and breathing in pollution that is bad for our lungs and bodies. We get such a brief window of dry summer weather here and it is hard to look out your windows and see a gray shroud blanketing the city and blocking out the blue sky.

I’ve hunkered down in the slightly cooler basement while the Blue Angels roar overhead and am making the best of it today, using the time to do some writing. I haven’t written since Monday, when I completed the 50,000 word marathon for Camp NaNoWriMo in July (I talk about getting ready for NaNoWriMo in this post, and gave a mid-point update here). I have been extremely busy all week with work, so it was a relief to be done. I didn’t feel exactly elated, but I did feel a sense of accomplishment.

I’d never attempted to do anything like write a novel in a month, and remember scoffing at the idea when Ed suggested it a few years ago. I didn’t plan on doing it this year, but I found myself at a point with writing where I wanted to push myself. I wanted to see what it was like to write one long piece. I was weary of thinking “someday maybe I’ll write a story,” and just decided to do it. As Marshawn would say, it’s all about that action, boss.

Here are a few things I discovered during this adventure at the keyboard.

Writing without a plan is like pointing yourself down a hill on skates and just letting gravity take its course. And picking up a weird hitchhiker on the way.

I had only a very basic idea to begin with, and no plot or ending in mind. I decided to just write and see what would happen. I didn’t try to control the story, and there are good and bad things about this. I can be highly self-critical, so by taking the control away and just letting things run their course, I was able to quell the judgy voice for the most part. On the other hand, the story I ended up with lacks focus and structure and in some places, makes no sense. Events are not always logical. Characters are underdeveloped. Word count became more important than legitimacy and quality.

However, there is a story there, with a basic plot and to an extent, an overarching theme. I made it to the bottom of the hill without too many scrapes and bruises, and now there is this creature with me, made of whatever I could grab onto as I flew pell-mell down. The creature has too many heads and limbs and I’d have to figure out how to bring it into a more coherent shape if I decided to continue our journey together. I don’t know if I love this creature enough yet, so we’ll be hanging out for a while until I can make that determination.

If you can write 50,000 words in a month by spending (about) two hours a day writing, you can write that much spending 30 minutes a day in less than six months.

Or 15 minutes a day over a year. Give or take. A timeline that allows for things like working, cooking dinner, watching the occasional TV. And writing a better story. I craved time to look things up, read more on the history of places that came up in the story, make better references, develop the characters and sub-plots, read other books that might have been helpful, etc. But there was no time for research like that, or even to use a thesaurus really. Maybe the high-speed uninhibited drop down the hill gives you momentum to just get your idea down and then you can go back and fill those things in. Being a procrastinating type who often doesn’t finish things I start, I think there was a lot of value in the headlong, take-no-prisoners approach. It’s just challenging to do it and have a job and pursue any other interests. I took more than a week off in July and that is really the reason I was able to get this done.

Drama isn’t just for the reader.

This never occurred to me before. Stories capture us because things happen – lots of events take place and characters are challenged, pushed. This seems normal when you’re reading, even though most of the time life is just very ho-hum. Reading about a person’s average day would be boring though, and guess what? It’s also incredibly boring to write. The days when my story had a lot of action and drama, I wrote easily and quickly. The days in between those events…drudgery. I found myself longing to do other things, even things like vacuuming or cleaning the cat box. More skilled writers probably have tricks up their sleeves to make these sections go more easily, and I will pay closer attention as a reader now. In fact, I know I’ll be a different kind of reader as a result. Part of me likes being ignorant of the skill behind the magic, but I want to know how to do some of it myself.


My writing breaks were mainly a lot of manual labor (of love) in my backyard.

When things don’t flow, get outside.

Sometimes, things just felt stuck, nothing was moving. Kind of like our air outside right now. I’m glad we had better air quality in July, because I spent a lot of the time I wasn’t writing out in the yard. I would sit out there and read for a few minutes now and then, but mostly I did a ton of yard work. I weeded, pruned, watered, repotted, hauled cedar chips, and even stained the pergola over our patio. My brain was freed during these times and when I’d go back to the keyboard, usually something had broken loose. I also went for walks, and I’d see things that would prompt ideas for my story. Being in the world, and giving my body control while my brain rests and processes is a really good balance for me.

It helps to know others are sharing your ups and downs.

The Badass Honey Badger cabin was a wonderful part of doing the Camp. I didn’t visit our online hangout as much as I would have liked (again, TIME), but when I did, I always found something sustaining. Someone with the struggles, like I was having. People cheering each other on and celebrating goals met. Peg, as always, giving all of us major encouragement. Just updating my word count on the site and seeing the little graph continue its upward climb gave me a boost. Writing sometimes feels like a form of insanity, so these reminders that if I was insane, at least I wasn’t alone, kept me from giving up.

The natural conclusion is to ask, what’s next? As I said above, I’m not yet sure what I will do with these 90-ish pages. Perhaps even if I don’t do anything with this story, there are pieces there I’ll use somewhere else. Meanwhile, I’m going to write blog posts, read other people’s books, and enjoy what’s left of summer. As soon as the smoke clears, that is.

Camp NaNoWriMo: The Halfway Mark

This is it, halfway through the month of July and Camp NaNoWriMo!

It’s been quite an adventure of discovery, about what it’s like to write more than 1600 words EVERY SINGLE DAY and what happens if you have a day where you fall short (immediate panic starts to set in), how many words you can write in the 15 minutes before work or 30 minutes before making dinner or 20 minutes before lights out, how little idea I have of what I’m even writing, and what it’s like to write while you’re camping.

And if you’re wondering, HELL yes the words in this blog post are absolutely being counted as part of my 50,000 word goal. To confirm, I made it to the 25,000 word count today. Whoo-hoo! In order to get there, my story today veered in a pretty weird direction, recounting the tale of a massive pig who escapes his ultimate fate for a brief period of time to run pell-mell through a small Montana town in the 1920s, ending up at the hotel, where he finally runs out of steam and the end of his time on earth.

That’s what I mean when I say I have no idea what I’m writing. I’d give you a synopsis, but I don’t really have a plan; things just happen, and at this point I’m not being critical about where the story is going. It started out being about a woman’s road trip with her dog, high jinks ensue, etc.

me on the beach writing

This is the (writing) life..

So yes, writing a lot, at whatever moments present themselves, including on last weekend’s camping trip, when I spent a couple of blissful hours writing at Rosario Beach on north Whidbey Island. I parked my butt on a pillow on the warm smooth rocks in a pocket of driftwood, my tablet propped on my knees. There were velvety ribbons of blue-grey clouds on the horizon, the Olympics off in the distance a paler blue. The driftwood sheltering us bleached yellows and grays. Kayaks and row boats slowly made their way past in the calm bay, bobbing in the small waves. An ant crawled over the many-colored round and oval stones, sometimes carrying a small crumb.

It was incredibly peaceful.

Did I mention the F18s and giant military prop plans that continuously roar through the airspace overhead, overpowering the quiet crashing of waves? Yeah, that part wasn’t quite as peaceful.

picture of toy bear looking at water

Wonky Bear joined us on the camping trip!

That day I wrote this after making it through about 800 words of my story:

I’ve gotten tired of writing – not from the actual doing of it, but of wanting to do other things. Holy cow, this is not an easy gig! I really want to nap and pick up a book, but every time I think about that, I have to think, this might be the last 15 minutes of quiet I get for a while, before getting swept up in more camping adventures. Earlier today, we drove up the road to another beach, less sheltered but sandier, and as we were walking along, I was suddenly struck by the urge to do a cartwheel. I honestly can’t remember the last time I tried to do one, whether I was encouraged by a couple of glasses of wine to do it if so (probably), and if I might actually wind up on my butt if I tried one here. But there weren’t that many people around, so I just went for it, and it’s like even after all these years, my body still knew what to do. So, I did another one. Doug was laughing and telling me he should have gotten it on video. So I figured why not, one more can’t hurt. My form could be better but it’s not bad for an old lady.

I don’t think I pulled any muscles, but sometimes at this age, you don’t know until the next day. Today I woke up with a really sore spot between my shoulder blades and had no idea why. But then I figured it out. I had been craning my neck back and forth behind me trying to see where I was backing our little teardrop trailer. It was my first time backing it up for real (aside from practicing in an empty parking lot). It took me a few tries, but I finally got it in the spot. It’s been so much fun camping out with my parents. Last night we sat by the fire and toasted marshmallows, something else I haven’t done in ages. I don’t really even like marshmallows that much, but it’s not something you get to do very often, and it was good fun.

I really thought writing on the go like this would be easier in some ways – less distractions than at home – but it’s funny how when you lose your routine, you get the feeling that everything is fractured. It’s tempting to want to give up and just let it go for a few days, but once you look for the right opportunities, like writing on this beach, you realize how much more you could do than you thought.

So, it’s been a great experience thus far, if challenging at times. And who knows what will happen next in my remaining 25,000 words? I sure don’t, and I’m kind of okay with it! To the rest of my amazing cabin-mates, I hope you’re having a wonderful experience so far. Thank you for keeping me inspired and motivated!

A Rug is Born

20170630_174118469_iOSAs I’ve mentioned in posts this year, three years ago, the year of my husband’s stroke, a friend helped me get started on a little project to make a rug out of recycled t-shirts and other textiles pulled from overflowing carts of last-chance clothing at Goodwill.

And by little I mean 8 feet by 5 feet and weighing in at a mere 40 or so pounds. I’ve watched hours and hours of football, Orange is the New Black, The Get Down, Poldark, Occupied, Better Call Saul, Halt and Catch Fire, The Fall, The IT Crowd, Narcos, OA, House of Cards, Sherlock, Broadchurch, Penny Dreadful, Stranger Things, and Happy Valley (to name a few) while my creation grew heavier and heavier on my lap. As my friend Tess (the project instigator) said, if you’re gonna watch TV, might as well be doing something. Oh, productive people, where would us inherently lazy ones be without you?

I made it my goal to finish this massive undertaking before the end of mid-year this year, since I let it lapse all last year. Today is June 30, y’all. And my weighty progeny is complete at last! As I texted my friend today – Houston, we have a rug. I love it, as do Pablo (the cat) and Wonky (the little bear on the pillow). Jasper and Doug haven’t expressed an opinion yet, but I know Doug will be glad that I can spend time on other things now.

What things might those be?

July will be camping and writing. Mostly writing, since I’ve joined the Badass Honey Badger Cabin at Camp NaNoWriMo (thanks for inviting me, Peg!). The goal is 50,000 words (NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month), but it can be flexible. I decided to just go with it and see what happens. I’ve had an idea for a long time but haven’t been able to get started. The camp is virtual, meant to create an online place to connect with others in your cabin, provide and get encouragement, be inspired, and stay focused. Writing is usually such an isolated activity, so I’m interested to see how this will be. I already can tell Peg is going to be a great cabin host.

And we’re doing some actual camping too, as long as Washington parks are open; guess we’ll see if the state is still open for business after today. Ah, the political dysfunction isn’t just national. Sigh. Some of my reclaimed time needs to go into the resistance as well.

I can’t say for sure if I’ll be blogging in July, since I want to focus my writing energy on NaNoWriMo, but maybe I’ll post a few paintings. I definitely plan to keep doing those, they are so good for getting the right brain involved and I find myself looking at people and things with so much more detail now that I’m trying to draw and paint. Last Sunday, I joined Peg & Marcus at a free library event on body-positive life drawing. I will not subject you to my drawings (people, especially faces, are damn hard to draw), but it was a fun and enlightening experience. I think looking at things in a new way can only help with writing. Plus, it’s super relaxing.

Much more so than cutting up garment after garment. Trust me on that.


Wag More, Bark Less


My mom’s old dog Prancy, snoozing in the afternoon shade.

Someone asked me last week how I keep it together and don’t lose my mind. We were talking about how crazy our jobs are, but most of us have pretty complicated lives, so this question has broader implications.

First of all, last week’s post demonstrates that I, like all of us, don’t always hold it together. Sometimes I fall apart. Last year, when I didn’t write, I didn’t feel completely whole either. This year has been better in that respect, I’ve found ways to pull myself back together to do things that heal and nurture me. It’s been incredibly hard in other ways, of course; my own struggles and triumphs feel pretty insignificant in light of all that is happening with our democracy. As much as it might help my mental health, I don’t want to hide from those hard realities, but now and then, it’s okay to take refuge inside a smaller circle of friends, pets, books, and whatever else gives you the ability to keep going. Last week, I retreated and worked on some more watercolors, which I find incredibly relaxing.

Then you get back to the fight, because you don’t want to let the “bloviating mendacious shitgibbon(s)” win. (I stole that from a George Takei tweet, cuz no way could I make up something better than that.) Plus, giving a damn about something outside ourselves that matters – other people, our environment, creating things – makes this life worth living. At least for me. As another George, author George Saunders (one of my faves), advised graduates in this 2013 convocation address:  “Err in the direction of kindness.”

I did just refer to certain people as shitgibbons (whatever those might actually be), so clearly, it’s not always easy to be kind. I’m pretty sure George S. would agree with this characterization, but still. The onslaught of meanness and hatred lately testifies to how hard kindness can be, and it’s tempting to want to jump into the fray of nastiness. But I don’t want to live like that. For me, it helps to remember I’m not the only one suffering. I was really struck by a poem I read recently by Mary Karr called “Carnegie Hall Rush Seats.” The poem’s subject is the cello in the orchestra:  “…like all of us, it aches, sending up moans from the pit we balance on the edge of.” As she says in the poem, “Be glad you are not hard wood yourself and can hear it.” I think if we do not let ourselves become hard, we can still hear each other. We can help pull each other back from the pit, and ourselves in the process.

Awareness is part of it, but there’s also action. This year, one of my goals was to put some energy into volunteering. I’ve been a supporter of Old Dog Haven for a few years now, ever since our dogs got old and I realized how hard it is to watch your loyal, live-life-to-the-fullest friends slow down and need help. And of course, the inevitable end, which we must stay present for as well, as hard as it may be. Old dogs deserve so much love and care, and ODH makes sure they get that. So I signed up to volunteer earlier this year, and have done a few small tasks here and there. On July 23, I will be helping out at the annual Walk for Old Dogs event. I’ve registered and have a sponsorship page set up in honor of Shadow and Tanner. Can’t wait to see all those old tails wagging!

These are just a couple of the tools I’ve found helpful. I have others I’ll share another time. Meanwhile, listen to whatever music lifts your spirits and moves your mind (your booty, too, if you like), read a good book or poem, do something nice for someone (and yourself!), and put the shitgibbons to shame.

What’s Going On?

20170516_032059046_iOSI don’t know about you, but I’d really like to know the answer.

What’s going on with you?

What’s going on in the world right now?

I’m not totally sure, but I think this might be the most beat-down I’ve felt all year. My mind is in a bleak place. Case in point, a little story.

While we were eating lunch today – on the back deck, in the clear yellow sun – we saw a hummingbird sitting on the feeder, sipping some lunch by us. Another hummingbird came along, eyed the one drinking for a few seconds, and then lightly landed across from its feathered fellow. Aaaw, look at all of us, peacefully enjoying our meal together.

It didn’t last. If you’ve ever watched hummingbirds, you know they’re fiercely competitive, with each other, with other birds, even other animals. I’ve had them buzz me when I was weeding too close to their favorite flowers. They fear no one. They are also not into sharing.

The first bird immediately shot over to the new one, chasing him off the feeder and through the yard. We see this happen routinely, and often spot two or even three hummingbirds zipping through the yard and sometimes high above our heads, dive bombing each other.

We admire them and revel in watching them. But today, all I could think about was how much I was reminded of us, humans, right now, doing all we can to eliminate our “competition.” It feels like no matter where I turn, the news is about people being killed, harassed, terrorized, or deported. People in the Northwest picking up weapons to “protest” against each other. The threat of climate change and shitty (or just plain non-existent) health care will no doubt take their toll on most of us if we don’t all kill each other first. The only people who seem like they’ll escape this race to the bottom are the people currently in power.

I don’t have any answers, not today. If I can’t even enjoy one of nature’s most astonishing creatures without these kind of thoughts, I probably need to go meditate or something. But I felt I needed to say this, because I know I’m not alone. And I wanted you to know you’re not alone. Unlike hummingbirds, I think we do want to get along, help each other, see people be happy. Things just feel bewildering and intractable right now, and I think that’s a normal reaction to insanity. I’m not sure that makes me sane, but it’s a start.

Like You Just Don’t Care


The rare lower leg selfie.

Anyone have a neighbor who is often seen out in her yard wearing a bizarre mosaic of clothing that might include high-waisted jeans, old Beck t-shirts splattered with paint, bright blue socks adorned with cartoon versions of Bob Ross and his “happy clouds” (could be green and happy trees, depending on the day), and occasionally slippers when she’s forgotten they’re not actually shoes? Does she speak French to her chickens, whose responses are mainly limited to ‘buuuuuurrrrque (French for ‘berk’)? You may also have noticed her taking her undies and other laundry down from the clothesline during your summer deck party.

If so, howdy neighbor!

Yeah, that was me out mowing my lawn this morning in a get-up not too different from that described above (the summer version includes shorter pants, which is awesome if you’re my neighbor cuz you get to see more sock!), with the seasonal accessory of a white mask over my mouth and nose. Allergies suck, and I think it’s too late to hope I might “outgrow” them. At least I can eat peanut butter, and trust me, you don’t want to know me if I ever have to give that up.

We’ve had an exceptionally wonderful weekend here in Seattle (a smidge hot for this native, but I ain’t complaining after the long, soggy winter we just endured), during which I’ve had several occasions to spend time with loved ones who helped me celebrate my birthday. Lots of fun, with some downtime mixed in, and as a result, I needed to catch up on chores this morning.

I’m not tangoing to the mid-century beat yet, but it is pulling me onto the dance floor. (I love to dance, so perhaps if I think of it this way, aging won’t be so bad.) Meanwhile, I’m not a young thing anymore, and as a result, I find that I am getting less and less concerned with how I’m perceived. This is a blessing for me, but maybe a curse for my neighbors.


Not to get too macabre about it, but by this point in life, it has become crystal clear that there’s much less time in front of me than there is behind me. I need to maximize every minute of every day (although I do like my occasional nap) to read everything I want, to continue learning, to travel, to see friends, to write, to garden, to work for social justice, to volunteer, to try new things. To finish this damn rug (tantalizingly close; see this post for where I was with it back in February).

As for trying new things, I’ve embarked on almost every creative ship that was departing Inspiration Bay. After enjoying a few days on beguiling new waters, I usually become bored of the horizon that stretches out seemingly forever and move onto another adventure. Such is the Gemini personality. The islands (i.e., closets) are strewn with the jetsam of my tossed-overboard hobbies, but nonetheless I have decided to set out on yet another journey.

I’ve always wanted to do sketch journaling, of nature, daily life scenes, travels…I am not artistically gifted, but as I allude to above, I’m trying to ignore the judgy neighbors inside my own head (and tune in to the Bob Ross socks instead*). I’m interested in this journal idea for a couple of reasons. One is to be in the moment and pay better attention to the world around me. Another is to use my right brain more, try to tap into a font of creativity. My friend Ed (whose great new blog Outpost4013 you should go check out immediately) often sketches and he’s one of the most creative people I know. I doubt I’ll achieve Ed-level creativity, but I still think it’ll be a good thing for me.


Rosé with roses on a warm summer evening.

So I used money I got for my birthday and bought some portable art supplies. I had so much fun planning what to buy and looking at inspiring books (check out An Illustrated Life, which features many artists’ sketches of daily experiences, in various art forms). My friend and fellow gardener, Gilly, who lives in Ireland, sent me the book Botanical Portraits, which arrived a couple of days ago and I am excited to work with things right here in my garden. A timely and wonderful gift!

I have no idea how this latest adventure will go, but am wasting no time worrying about it. Even if I capsize, I’m sure I’ll gain new knowledge along the way. That alone makes it worth it.

* No I don’t think my socks are speaking, BUT, if they were, they’d be saying kind, supportive things, much like this or this Bob Ross account on Twitter).

New Holiday: Sunny Seattle Day


A hellebore in our yard, growing rampantly like everything else

There’s not really a point to this post other than the fact that it has been a gorgeous sunny weekend and I finally just needed to find a spot in the shade to rest and appreciate the warmth after a busy day in the yard. I was catching up on a few favorite blogs, and today’s post from NW Edible Life inspired me to take stock of what we got done.

First though, there’s a crow somewhere on the gutter above me tossing the winter’s accumulated gunk onto the ground below looking for treats – not sure what they find in there, but apparently we don’t clean our gutters often enough (to be perfectly honest, my wonderful father-in-law has cleaned them out the past few years, since it’s a chore Doug used to do, but given he lives in Arizona, the gutters are totally neglected in between his visits).

Other than that, it’s a good, quiet time in the late part of these long afternoons, when the yard sighs in the shade of the massive poplar, most people have finished their noisier yard chores, and the hens have stopped heralding their latest ovoid accomplishment. On warm days, the feathered ladies do what I like to call “dust yoga.” They dig a disc-shaped spot in the dust (which isn’t all that easy yet, given the ground is still wet just beneath the surface) and roll from side to side in it with their wings out. One time I thought one of them died because she was lying there so awkward and still. It must have been chicken shavasana.

I planted a few seeds the past couple of days – zuke, green onions, radish, nasturtium and sunflowers. The tomatoes and peppers are still hanging out in the greenhouse, where they seem pretty content. Hoping to plant them soon. The yard is a mess though – it went from dormant to jungle in a few short days and there are fevered battles going on out there between morning glory, blackberry, lemon balm, some kind of tree sprouts that must be shooting up from an old root, and things I don’t even know the names of. This yard resists being tamed with all its might and I have my moments of wanting to just let it have its way.

I used to do an annual garden journal, but I don’t feel like I have the time for that anymore. I would note planting dates, harvest dates and amounts, what I did with the items from the garden, etc. An instructive process if one is consistent and rigorous in keeping notes. These days I’m lucky if I actually remember to mow and do some weeding. Today I did spend about 3-4 hours solid doing yard work and I felt a bit like my old self, where I got totally obsessed and didn’t want to stop; when I went in to clean up, I had leaves and bits of branch stuck in my hair. That’s when you know you’ve gotten carried away, in a good way I think.

Hubby cleaned off the patio where all the dead leaves and spiders have some sort of alliance, a chore I find terror- and sneeze-inducing. Very grateful he took that on. He also cleaned out the chicken coop and put new bedding in for them. He gets annoyed at how tired he gets from doing these things, but he doesn’t let it stop him. Have I mentioned how determined he is?

In a bit, I’ll go inside and figure out what to do with the rhubarb I harvested. I like to make shrub with it (basically you steep fruit in apple cider vinegar and sugar for a few days to create a refreshing elixir to mix with soda – it’s incredibly delicious, not to mention good for your gut). I also adore a good rhubarb crisp, but since I’m on a low-carb/low-sugar meal plan right now, I may have to hold off on that. The grandfather from whom I inherited the blood sugar issues passed away from complications of diabetes when my mother was 17, so I figure I better take this seriously. Man, do I miss bread though.

The next few days are going to continue to be sunny, but tomorrow it’s back to reality, our “real” jobs taking over our focus once again. We still have a lot to get done around here, but we’ll have to tackle it another day. Maybe Seattle will start making sunny days some kind of holiday, given how few of them we get. One can dream, right?