Wednesday, August 31, 2011

dear bookstore

dear bookstore,
it just so happens that my aforementioned alert reader and i went to visit you just the other night. did i mention the closing of you?! the you i used to work at? a corporate chain persona that begins with a B and ends with an S and has ORDER in the in ORDER MORE BOOKS PLEASE. (let it be known that i seldom type in all caps as it uncomfortably resembles shouting; however, in this case it seems fitting). as i mournfully gaped at your empty shelves, noting an overabundance of existing merchandise in the form of national geographic's "great migration" and susan boyle cd's (we are sorry susan that we picked you up as a culture only to drop you down, you have a lovely voice)...amid fleece blankets and random backbacks and neon 60% off signs, i went in search of a computer to look up john o'donohue's book on beauty only to find the computer too was gone from your mid-section, the kiosk between fiction and inspiration that i could find blindfolded. "tragic, eh?" i mentioned to a young man perusing the literature section MY FAVORITE SECTION (yes, more shouting)"yeah" he said. "choose wisely." i bantered back. "you too" he said, glumly. yes, like the reader of "yellow-lighted bookstore", i have book lust. i wanted to buy up every remotely interesting paperback that you had, plus hardcover discount books of the beatles, it's true. but you were closing in timewise...and as in inventory forever. alas. p.s. being a positive person, i note that your cousin P.O. WELLS is doing well. this is my only consolation. i shall pay her several visits in your honor.
between the lines and pages yours ever,
book girl


two new words are brought to you today by an alert reader who, when shopping, texted me that she was looking at some very fine linens. "matelasse", the message said. "what is that?" i queried back. come to find out, it is a quilting term for relief on fabric and can be used in ornamenting silk, wool or Egyptian cotton (p. 44 of the company store's motto, "we're all about comfort"...and beauty, i might add).

the other word was also in text form. "veraison. this is happening right now in your appelation!" i love this definition; it is all about the onset of ripening. it is literally a change of color in grapes. at this stage a lot of growth takes place as sugar levels rise, preparing for harvest.

let the ripening begin!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

from memory

one of my goals for myself this summer was brain exercise in the form of memorizing a poem. here 'tis: hurrahing in harvest by g.m.h.

summer ends now, now barbarous in beauty the stooks rise; around, up above what wind walks, what lovely behavior of silk-sack clouds, has wilder-wilful wavier meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies? i walk, i lift up, i lift up heart, eyes, down all that glory to glean our Savior and heart, eyes, what looks, what lips yet gave you a rapturous love's greeting of realer, of rounder replies?and the azurous hung hills are His world-wielding shoulder majestic, stallion-stalward, very violet sweet! these things, these things were here and but the beholder wanting; which two, when once they meet, the heart rears wings bold and bolder and hurls for Him, O half hurls earth for Him under His feet.

true confession: i had to peek a couple of times.true confession #2: the line "summer ends now" makes my eyes mist up.while we're at the confessional #3: i unabashedly love this poet and if he hadn't died in 1889 and if he hadn't been a priest (minor detail) i would have married him; it's tough being in love with someone who would be 167 when you're only 37...what's a mere 130 years time difference?


blurb is hip
blurb is trendy
it's a site for making books
that's pretty user-friendly.

this bad poem brought to you by me, who just finished completing a book on blurb that i'll be sharing with you soon. seriously, you should try this out:

get thee to a rookery

maybe it's how much i work with people, but sometimes at the end of a particularly hard or socially complex day filled with words this more-introvert-than-not starts to rethink the necessary value and language of animals and our relationship with them.
with no small kinship to st. francis, i watched a deer in my backyard (simple, beautiful, hyper-aware creatures that they are. relax, i want to tell them). a hummingbird came to visit the honeysuckle while i read, my neighbor's horse comes when i call to take an apple from my hand...and i keep having to set birds free from the blueberry netting. (the first time, which we will not dwell on, i was not quick enough, alas.) but twice since i have been able to coax them out and send them on their way. they do not realize that i am trying to help and their anxious, mad flapping reminds me of us sometimes, that we could conserve a lot of energy by realizing the window to freedom is right in front of us.
on the subject of animals, my friend reminded me of two more words for the learning that seem to fit here: rookery and permaculture. a rookery being a breeding habitat for birds and a permaculture that of environmentally sustainable living; agricultural patterns established on natural ecologies.
i think that would make st. francis proud. i also think poet mary oliver is onto something in her poems on nature drawn from how much time she spends *wandering the hills alone and laying on her back in fields. *mental note to do more of this.
in terms of the rookery, like my father, i could never cage a bird, nor do i want to be caged by fears, anxieties or the opinions of others. breathe, i tell myself. on the heels of shakespeare's line from hamlet, "get thee to a nunnery", i will not run away and become a hermit or pseudo nun/oblate. it's not my style and i would only last for about three days alone anyway. but until the lion lays down with the lamb and a peaceable kingdom is established; when none of us have to look over our backs eyes wide as does with fear, i will continue to love people as much as it depends on me and yes, happily talk to the animals.

reading's the thing

i'm concurrently reading five books. in no particular order: hopkins' poetry and prose, "the yellow-lighted bookshop" by lewis buzbee, "dirt" by william bryant logan, marsha mehran's "pomegranate soup" and "aesthetics" by cahn & meskin. i don't always do this. perhaps summer's end has me in a bit of a bibliophilic panic.
nonetheless, it causes me to wonder, what is it that makes a reader? is it nature/nurture? being read to at a young age? and, my latest question, does it matter the content, i.e should we encourage reading at any sake (as buzbee seems to suggest) because it is the skill and love itself that then leads to reading *'great content' later in life? *debatable, i know, but by this i mean here prescribed classics. (after all, before i ever wanted to read this comprehensive anthology on art, i began with a pile of all the nancy drew mysteries i could get my hands on from the library when i was 9.) hmmm. i don't know.
an interesting exercise could be to fill in the blanks. "i was ____ years old when i happened on a novel called ______, and within six months i had read ever other book by the writer known as _______." what made you want to start reading?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

what remains

to see a stunning visual representation of patience (not to mention postitive and negative space) check out paper artist nikki mcclure. i had the chance to visit her portland exhibit featuring finished pieces, but also sketchbooks and pencil from '96 as well as from this year. using black paper and an exacto knife, she brings scenes from real life into view and has a penchant for understanding the natural seasons and rhythms of humanity. her artwork reminds me not so much to grieve the things that seem to be cut away from life...but rather to give thanks and practice training my heart to see what then remains.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

kayak love

indulge me, if you will, into a brief history of one of my favorite things. kayaks were first designed out of driftwood and animal skins by the Intuits of the arctic region and the word "kayak" means hunter's boat. in 1905 the German inventor Hans Klepper devised what was called the foldboat. Later in 1936 kayak racing was added to the Olympic games in Berlin. boat design has become more and more sleek, giving us modern kayakers a bevy of options. i most recently tried double kayaking in the saltwaters around the san juan islands. we were rewarded with seal and bald eagle sightings. another great place to kayak is pacific shores, on vancouver island. one of my favorite locales however, is right here at home along the willamette river. there's just something about not only being on the water but being self-propelled and quiet that makes me want to get right back out there. got kayaks?

to be or not to be

from labels to libraries, i'm always in search of not only new words, but remembrance of the definition to words long known but forgotten. case in point: ontology. i knew it in context, but couldn't define it. (slightly ironic, given the following field of study, don't you think?) because ontological pursuits, from the Greek, have everything to do with "that which is", see also logia, the scientific study of being, existence and reality. ontology is the branch of philosophy generally filed under metaphysics. so, i have to ask: if i don't say the word, does it really mean anything?

bergamot, hot

"earl grey, hot" it seems is not just for the likes of jean-luc picard. while camping--and i say "camping" because can it really be that rough when you have a tablecloth, vase of flowers and italian espresso?--which brings me to the wilderness experience of cooking: we even had bergamot-infused olive oil at our picnic table. (yes, it's true, to say nothing of the french baguette and ginger chocolate, but i digress.) which led us on a quizzical foray into the exact meaning of the word "bergamot", not to be found in local island bookstore dictionaries (we looked). so, for those of you who have always wondered, here 'tis...bergamot, or citrus bergamia, is a fruit most commonly grown in italy, the essential oils of which are named after the city of Bergamo in Lombardy (who knew?) the fruit is the size of small orange with the yellowish color of a lemon; most commonly used for essential oils and, you guessed it, earl grey tea. all that to say, creatures of comfort, don't hesitate in ringing us up to book your next culinary camping trip. and trekkies: always, always keep your tea from getting cold.

occam's razor

have you ever worked so hard at something only to have it come to nothing? conversely, have you ever been so absorbed in what you were doing that you didn't even notice how meaningful it became to someone else? that happened to me while i was on the ferry between friday harbor and lopez island. i had my sketchbook out and was enjoying simply drawing a picture of a sailboat in the waves when a man walked by and complimented it. soon his son came up and asked if they could buy my drawing. i was barely even done but tore it off and said, "art is free. if you like it, it's yours. do something creative someday". i say all of this completely humbled because when i saw this young man, about 13 i would guess, getting off the ferry later he was guiding his bike with one hand and clutching my drawing to his chest with the other. in the interim, two completely delightful young sisters had been watching me draw over my shoulder and struck up a conversation. it, like drawing or like Love, was easier than breathing; that unselfconsciousness of a child at play, the creative zone...whatever one calls it, it seems to bear fruit when we get out of the way and simply do what we were made to do. "who i am is me, for that i came" wrote hopkins. and for one short moment i experienced that. self-awareness can really infringe on the flow of things and thank goodness that self-actualization isn't the means and end to our time here. we all want to know we're purposefully part of something bigger than we are. at any rate, i hope that young man looks at my humble sketch of a boat and remembers that his own act of creativity could make a big difference in someone else's life. as a teacher i am gearing up again to work hard, to be intentional, to make a difference. i forget how easy and sometimes even more meaningful it can be when i'm not trying so hard. somehow that short interaction on the ferry ended up being just the encouragement i needed to keep being myself on this planet. occam's razor states that "the simplest answer is probably right". it's so easy, how could we not enjoy it: our greatest joys and the world's deep hunger meeting (frederich beuchner). yes, a funny thing happened on the way to the ferry terminal.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


anyone who has housesat more than once knows to ask about the big three: pets, mail and plants. getting these instructions yesterday from my neighbor reminded me to actually water my one house plant today before i go on vacation. this little spider plant, a gift, i am told was originally from a plant belonging to Roosevelt. (the entire story is quite fascinating to me) i thought about all the transplants, care and changing of hands that would have had to happen for this little offspring to come to find a resting spot in a pot on top of my refrigerator. sometimes it's tempting to think that little things we do don't make a difference or that our small start or plant is insignificant. on the contrary, once it's big enough, i'm already thinking of who i should give the next plant to, what legacy i want to pass down from my life. what have i learned? you never might be, as people say, entertaining angels unaware. oh, and don't forget to water the presidential plants.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

words to live by

O Maitre, que je ne cherche pas tant a etre console qu'a consoler, a etre compris qu'a compendre, a etre aime qu'a true these words are in life lessons; learning to love. Translated from the French, "O Divine Master, grant that i may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love..." St. Francis


silver clay, like life, is all about the art of refinement. i learned to work with precious metal (PMC) yesterday and it was like a miracle; to think that in one afternoon i could start with the tiniest bit of clay and end up with finished jewelry...nothing short of magical. i know i too am growing, having the dross burned from me in the refiner's fire. it is comforting to know that just as i took delight in burnishing my pieces, i am delighted in by my Creator as His poeima, or work of art. He sees me not only as i am, but how i will be and i am safe in His hands. overall, my goals for this summer have been to 1) play and 2) do art for fun. and, as of today, i'd have to say they are both coming true!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

penny surfing

the summer-resting-academic in me has to admit i enjoy singing the praises of something as simple as penny surfing. learn at least one new thing every day, right? today, this was it. place a penny between your fingers and stick them out the long can you catch the wave? (and, i was wondering, how could i have lived 37 years without knowing about this skill...)while my friend drove, i surfed and cars behind us probably wondered why we were throwing money out the window. twelve or so cents later i think my longest record was ten seconds. (and the shortest was dropping it before i even got my hand out the window) maximum fun at a minimum price.

is it naptime yet?

in the midst of an eclectic smattering of neighbors, baby chickens and homemade beer my young friend maya introduced us to her newest made-up word: grumpovert. "you know, what happens to you if you don't get a nap". having overheard the usage of terms like introvert and extrovert, she decided to get creative on her own. "hmm." she said, "or maybe crankovert...who likes crankovert better? raise your hands..." and she took a vote. i think in the end we preferred grumpovert. but either way, we gave her points for originality. after all, who can resist a word-lover who's also a teacher in the making? and, i might add, sign me up for that naptime.