Monday, December 31, 2012

try a tritina

for the last post of 2012, i throw out a poetry challenge:  the tritina, a 10 line version of the *sestina, which has the following repeated word order: lines 1-3 ABC, lines 4-6 CAB, lines 7-9 BCA, line 10 ABC.  for example, a poem using the words eyes/smile/hello lines would end:



and use all three ABC in the concluding line.
*the related 39-line sestina originated in 12th century france by a bard with stories to tell, arnaut daniel.

get a spine!

a great new book out right now features famous people (known authors, chefs and the like) and an illustration of the spines of their favorite books.  it's a visually interesting way to gather more book titles, which i've spent a great deal of time doing lately in local bookstores.  here's a photo of my top 10 favs/genre mix right now.  i also drew it in my sketchbook with a list of why each is my favorite.  what are your top 10 picks?

(titles:  aesthetics, walking on water, a year of mornings, sara midda's south of france sketchbook, 84 charing crossroad, despereaux, book, at large and at small, gaudy night and collected works of gm hopkins)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

good reads

as a teacher during the holidays, i have to admit my favorite gift is not the five pounds of peppermint bark or the christmas plate with stand.  rather, it is anything bookish.  gift cards to large retail bookstores or just the time to peruse and support the local indie bookshops; the small well-inventoried corners where you can easily lose three hours making piles and perusing everything from cookbooks and coffeetable art to young adult fiction and poetry.  "can i help you?"  they will ask.  "yes, i'd like one of everything please."  i've been amazed at how turning off the television and reading has improved my mental capacity for memory, connections and creativity.  alot of my students are excited about reading as well.  i have one young lady in seventh grade who is reading way beyond a high school level.  it is not uncommon for her to come up to me, as she did last week, and say, "miss smith, i read the scarlet letter last night".  after i recover my composure, i ask her what's next.  "my dad and i are going to the bookstore again.  have you heard of"  she asks.  the tables are turned.  instead of her completing a worksheet, i am grabbing note paper to write down resources.  our city is alive with love of reading. i went to a small art gallery space to see work by the street artist known as "The Reader" who, using everything from old sheet metal to recycled newspaper bins, has created an installment about reading more.  i have to say i love living in a city where a street artist can get a gallery space, where there are still independent bookstores and where people make the time for good reads. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

made in bethlehem

realizing that a manger scene was missing from my holiday decor, i walked the aisles of a store that promises one-stop shopping; everything from milk to socks but, to my chagrin, no baby Jesus.  i looked again, surely i had missed the creche aisle.  candy, bows, legos, keychains, garden tools, paint, tape, rugs...when a store employee with an apron on approached, i asked if they had a creche section.  "a what?"  she queried.  "you know, a manger scene, mary & joseph and jesus and all" i explained with a "lions and tigers and bears oh my" lilt in my voice.  "gosh, i dunno" she said, adding "lemme call to the back.....yeah, roger, do we have any jesus scene things in stock this year?...i didn't think so, yeah, ok." and to me, "sorry, we stopped ordering those last year or something."  "thanks anyway...merry christmas," i said and pushed my cart toward the bread and oranges.  when i told someone at work about my quest, a volunteer overheard me. "do you need a manger scene?  because i have two; an extra one i don't need.  they were even made in the holy land."  later that day a plastic bag arrived in my classroom with a hand-carved olive wood creche, complete with a sticker that reads, "made in the west bank, bethlehem" on the back.  i winked up at heaven and mused to myself that i couldn't have gotten a better manger scene if i'd gone to the holy land myself.  after all, great things were made in bethlehem. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

commas save lives

i think we all know about the panda who eats shoots and leaves vs. the one who eats, shoots, and leaves.  i get a kick out of signs and marquees, particularly at this time of year.  one christmas i was driving by an establishment--that shall remain nameless--only to see their message, "we have stalking stuffers".  and just yesterday i was driving by a bakery that had hung a banner reading, "espresso-steamers-cappuccino's".  unless the cappuccino is planning to own the bakery any time soon, there is no need for an apostrophe.  (i had to wonder if the error was on the employee's side or the banner making company's side--are you supposed to print anything they send or do you have authority to make corrections?)  i guess it's all not really life and death.  unless, of course, you are a restaurant planning to advertise with "let's eat grandma!"  let's eat, grandma.  save a life this holiday, use a comma.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


we need more happy.  this week i heard about a documentary called just that, "happy".  a basic idea that comes from it?  about 50% of our happiness is our genetic set-point.  of the remaining 50%, about less than 12% is actual circumstances.  the biggest factor?  our intentional actions.  that's right.  happiness really is a choice.  so maybe you can't change your dna.  (and, if you live in the northwest you might consider vitamin D supplements.) but beyond that, you are in control of your happy.  will you be buffeted into highs and lows by a mere 12% of events and happenings that are larely out of your control?  or will you be intentional about how you respond to them?  since we're dealing in percentages today, when people moan about a 10% chance of rain, for example, i love to point out that there is a 90% chance of sun.  i was actually accused of being too happy last week when trying to encourage someone who was viewing circumstances negatively.  naturally, we should be sensitive and empathetic.  denial's not ultimately healthy and we need to be in touch with reality but we also don't have to be down in the dumps in order to relate (all things being relative, one person's paper cut is another person's amputation so to speak).  and of course circumstances can't always be a non-stop party (not that i would mind if they were and do my best to insure this).  i had the chance to "collect pieces for a mosaic" when pets shattered my mirror this week before they proceded to also destroy my christmas tree, an event which i tried to reframe into "an opportunity to clean and redecorate".  i was hopping mad but also had a really good laugh about it and am considering rewriting the 12 days of christmas song, replacting the pear tree with something to the tune of "cat adoption teams..."  no matter what a day may bring, i'd like to watch the documentary (available via iTunes) and in the meantime, help put the H in happiness.  how do you stay in your Happy Place?

Monday, December 3, 2012

dear advent, it's me, Love

He is sweet that way, trying to coax the world to dance.
Look how the wind holds the trees in its hands helping them to sway.
Look how the sky takes the fields and the oceans and our bodies in its arms,
and moves all beings toward His lips.
God must get hungry for us; why is He not also a lover who wants His lovers near.
Beauty is my teacher helping me to know He cares for me.

if you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road pregnant with the holy and say,
"I need shelter for the night , please take me inside your heart, my time is so close."
Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth forever, as she graps your hand for help, for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being does Creation come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim--the sacred womb in your soul, as God graps our arms for help; for each of us is His beloved servant never far. 
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street pregnant with Light and sing...
--St. John of the Cross

(Love Poems from God, collected and translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

good year dirigibles

it would be a great idea to teach multisyllabic words to small children early on.  take "dirigible", for example.  then, with their child-like proclivity for unfiltered honesty, they could say, "mommy, why does that person look like a dirigible?"  but by the time the person figured it out, you and your small mouthpiece of a euphemistic genius would be far gone.  less of an affront that way. think of the possibilties.  at holiday mealtimes, you could say, "what, these old things?  they're just my dirigible pants, elastic waistband and everything."  announcers would sound smarter.  "yes," they'd say in their best commentator voice, "there goes the Good Year Dirigible."  to say nothing of the fame--posthumous though it would be--jules verne would accrue for reprints of "around the world in 80 days".  what, with a dirigible of such grand proportions, i'm sure the journey could be made in 79. 

say what?!

if someone has ever said to you, "i swear i've seen you somewhere before!" they are calling you a doppelganger:  a double of a living person.  you may have already known this, but i just learned it today and more often than not, i wish i actually did have a doppelganger.  then she could oh, say, figure the taxes, show up at work and go to the dentist for me while i drank lattes, went to movies and made lots of art.  that would be no picayune (trivial or petty) matter.  and since it's the holiday season, how is the kerf of your tannenbaum?  i always feel quite handy myself when i get out the saw to make a fresh cut before putting the tree in water.  (my flood of gratitute remains, however, devoted to those who made the original kerf for me each year.) and speaking of floods, i drove betwixt varying levels of water this weekend on my way to the coast.  a freshet, one might say, so torrential that i decided to stay there drinking those lattes and let my doppelganger come back to work...

Friday, November 23, 2012

love walked in

vacation is also a great time for giving myself time to read.  not the sneak-in-a-chapter-barely-before-my-eyes-close type reading of the work week, but the sip-slowly-the-entire-french-press-and-read-first-thing-in-the-morning-because-it-doesn't-matter-what-time-it-is kind.  "love walked in" by marisa de los santos is a good read.  the author is smart (an award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing) and peppers the novel with literary allusions.  even though there are a lot of inter-relational dynamics at play, de los santos avoids sappiness, oversentimentality or needless drama and brings the characters together in realistic yet tender ways.  also because it is vacation, i allowed myself to buy a NEW book:  "the snow child" by eowyn ivey.  it looks to be somewhere in the fiction novel fantastical genre.  "set in alaska, 1920 a childless couple builds a child out of snow.  the snow child disappears but a little girl is seen running through the woods 'who could have stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale.' "

cuvee and other word finds

the holidays are upon us, what better time than vacation to break out my complete wordfinder!  i've learned a few new words from reading and from other alert readers lately.  and i've gotta confess, i'm used to being able to figure out a word by context at the very least.  but, with no small amount of excitement, i found myself not having a clue as to some of the words.  (of course, if i don't write them down immediately i forget how cool they are).  here are some i remember.  gimlet 1) a small tool used for boring holes, not to be confused with definition 2) a gin and limejuice cocktail.  fracking:  a hydrolic fracturing technique that the energy industry hopes to use in expansion of natural gas production.  and cuvee:  a blend or batch of wine (from the Latin cupa or french cuve) and an alsace-inspired restaurant in carlton!  but can i use all three in a sentence?  i was waiting for you to ask.  "best not to drink a cuvee or gimlet before going on a fracking expedition".  i'm sure you can do better...

this is a yurt

yurt. yurt. yurt.  you've gotta admit, it's a funny word.  just saying it makes me laugh:  yurt.  they are wonderful to stay in, however, especially in winter because they're like a cozy little hobbit hole complete with electricity and, in our case, an *espresso pot (see also *roughing it).  a yurt is officially defined as a portable bent wood frame traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of central asia.  but, seeing as we're not nomads and we're not in asia, this photo is complete with cooler and nw subaru.  one more time, i can't resist:  yurt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

interruptable creativity

the "adventures to have, what i want to make and why i love where i live so very much" journal.  because life is short and why waste time when you can sketch?  some thing require uninterrupted time, it's true.  but consider monday during parent-teacher conferences...sketching is interruptable.  it's hard for me to read--really read--and be interrupted, but i realized i could sketch.  so, all in all at the end of the day i had talked to parents for about 4 hours and sketched for 2:  six pages worth!  think you haven't "got time" for something?  what about all those little 5 or 12-minute unaccounted-for portions of the day?  they add up.  once i did an entire painting in this fashion...5 minutes here, 10 minutes there...until it was done.  what have you discovered that can be done in small increments?

Friday, November 9, 2012

yes, chef

so, what with all this holocaust study going on (sarah's key, the boy in striped pajamas, anne frank...) i need to take breaks, read about something else, something they ironically starved without:  food.  the book on hold was "yes, chef" by marcus samuelsson and the reason it took two months was because 183 people wanted to read it first.  i have to say, that after only a few chapters, i can see why it is so popular.  marcus is adopted from ethiopia into a swedish family along with his sister linda and given an upbringing in soccer but also ultimately in cooking.  in middle school, he doesn't know it yet but dinners at his grandmother's home and expeditions on the swedish fishing boats will teach him the basics of food texturing and flavor that rival any lessons taught at chef school. "yes chef" is refreshing in the memoir genre because his writing is honest but never self-grandeurizing, bitter or overly dramatic (and he of all people would have reason to be, nearly dying of typhoid and being orphaned at age 3) as he weaves together the history that led him to where he is today:  everything from helping with michelle obama's fresh food campaign to the opening of "the red rooster" restaurant in harlem and many flavorful adventures of friendship in between.

a life of its own

every year when i begin to teach a unit on the holocaust, i prepare for an adventure.  because each time the lessons take on a life of their own, setting off a chain of events that couldn't be mere coincidence.  i swear it's alive.  consider september i put a random book on hold at the library...i forget about the book until a notification comes in november...i check out some holocaust dvds and get a receipt...but i have to go to the back shelf and get in line again to claim the hold item...(stay with me here) because of this i get a new reciept which says "join us for holocaust survivors les and eva aigner this friday night 7-8:30 pm in the community room"...i watch one of the dvds about WWII...i cry while describing the basic plot line to my chance a co-worker has just finished reading the same book...while looking in my files i come across an article i clipped last year from the Oregonian about...les and eva aigner. i've only "met" survivors via YouTube or newspaper, never in person.  and, while i know it may not be the most hip way to spend a friday night, it's always in vogue with me to learn something new.  and what better way to learn history than from real people and the stories that only they can tell!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"accidental" artists

not surprisingly, i am fascinated by a string of french artists including, but not limited to van gogh, cezanne, matisse (in order of how they influenced one another).  i love that henri matisse (1869-1954) was an "accidental" artist, picking up art supplies as a young man only because he was recovering from appendicitis.  this unexpected love for painting led him to give up the study of law and sent him literally into a wild exploration of travel and color (see also Fauves).  what inspires me most about him, however, didn't happen until he was in his eighties when another health problem left him wheelchair-bound.  he could have given up; said he was too old...but it was then that his surge of creativity really began with paper cutouts and his final masterpiece:  the stained glass windows of the rosary chapel in venice.  modern graphic design and everything from posters to textiles have been influenced by his shapes, patterns and lines.  not that anyone would wish for an accident illness or otherwise unfavorable turn of events, but it strikes me how many great writers and artists discovered the depths of their creativity in this way.  (famed author madeleine l'engle was an awkward, lonely only child who turned to writing to keep her company...or consider mexican artist frida kahlo who contracted polio and later picked up a sketchbook while recovering from injuries because a bus she was riding in collided with a trolley...)  i love the spirit in them that didn't give up but rather transformed these life events into visible pieces to share with the world.  no one is too old, too injured...too "anything" not to be creative with what they've been given.  do you know any "accidental" artists?  what's their story?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

plearning=(play + learning)

this is my most recent foray into the world of art play.  i started with photos from france (long live the dream trip!) and isolated colors and shapes before using paper to make an abstract design.  finish by stitching over the top on a sewing machine in contrasting thread and voila:  new art! (top to bottom:  market in aix-en-provence, rousillon street scene, lavender field at abbey senanque)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


i close out the month of october with the following deep thought (soft music plays here):  whomever dubbed november 1st all saint's day didn't have to teach the day after a nationwide consumption of sucrose on the part of small children. basically, i think it should be a national holiday if trick-or-treating is followed by a week day.  maybe, like other calendar items, we could make it the last friday in october.  every year!  i jest, but only partially.  is it coincidence that when schedules are handed out in the fall teachers everywhere scan for this day and utter a collective sigh (akin to groaning) if the day after is anything but a weekend? i think not.  granted, it might not be all that bad.  the kids could be flatline comatose from candy corn.  (sometimes, after all, when second grade has had "donuts with dad" instead of jittering with maple-flavored electricity, it has the opposite effect and they are calmer than usual.)  i distinctly remember the year when my parents decided halloween would be a good time to tell me i was hypoglycemic and couldn't have sugar.  i was dressed as a clown and my friend janet fu was dressed as a witch.  in the picture with her, i am propping my face up in an "i-AM-smiling-what-kind-of-news-is-that" pose.  i think they let me have a few caramels and maybe a raisin box. i'm healthier and happier for it and all, but i've gone ahead and handed out candy for years--just because i can't have sugar doesn't mean other people can't--and you've got to admit the costumes are pretty darn cute.  i live so far out in the country now that we don't get trick or treaters at all.  so yes, my friends, we welcome another month and p.s. the  not-so-saints know where you hid the extra candy.  it's a kid thing.

praise poem

praise for full moon, new moon
waxing, waning,
silent in her watch over oceans,
over night things,
over me.
praise for her staying in sky
even after sun has risen
lingering, joining the night to day
reminding me to praise both
dark and light in my life.

by anne richardson

reflecting settled waters

it's fun to myth-bust in the poetry department; enjoyable even to show the middle school students that not all great poetry is written by dead white guys.  consider the following verse by my friend anne who graciously granted permission to publish her poems on wordnest.  anne, for instance, is very much alive, a woman, and has a lot of soul (for a caucasian)...

(prompt from at blackwater pond by mary oliver)
reflecting settled waters
the tossed waters have settled
each breath calm
i float aimlessly
unfolding fingers
fanned resisting urge
to propel, to direct, to control.
heron, bold-blue in shadow
watches unconcerned
"no this one will not dive for my prey."
and as if affirming my being,
opens, closes black eyes,
open again
reflecting settled waters.

by anne richardson

Friday, October 26, 2012


press in,
this clime too settles
hillside fog attends
gradiant green-golden's orb
and amethyst dew
rows hurl summer heat
retain sweetness steps
taken with sacrifice in mind

Thursday, October 25, 2012

mind the shop

on yesterday's happy amble into my beloved city of roses, i discovered a new design shop.  but not just any design shop:  one whose owner speaks french.  as i crossed the threshold, he was busily helping a woman (visiting from St. Remy i might add) carry a newly purchased furniture item to her car a couple of blocks away.  "mind the shop, would you?"  he nodded to me before leaving the store.  i stood, happily surprised, at the storefront sentinel-like while one shopper made his way around the merchandise.  rushing back in the owner quipped, "sell alot?"  "tout les choses" i quipped back.  "ah, bien", he answered, taking another drink (i couldn't help noticing he was sipping a cote de rhone red wine AT WORK?! all caps mine for emphasis.) as i let my hands run over french linens and outdoor tablecloths, we talked about a theme that keeps cropping up:  how close Oregon is to Burgundy in terms of food and wine.  it didn't hurt that when i left there was also a new coffee shop "case study" next door where i could sample an afternoon espresso, counter-style, in a little white cup with a little silver spoon that left me both satisfied and longing for all things french.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

think like a norwegian

norwegians are smart.  and seasonal.  when it's nice out, they play and fish and have lots of picnics with matching linens, pictures of which find their way into design books and ikea stores everywhere.  when it's not so nice out?  they stay in and make cool things (ditto on the above design book comment).  so i've decided to think like a norwegian.  to kayak and berry pick and bike like crazy when i can for as long as the weather will permit.  and when it doesn't?  no problem, there's art and books and sewing machines!  my latest craze is making paper "quilts" based on photographs (see also "intuitive color & design" by jean wells, owner of "the stitching post" quilt shop in bend). is a great resource for getting color swatches from any photograph as a basis for design. and my latest reading list includes "cross creek" by marjorie kinnan rawlings and "five quarters of an orange" by joanne harris.  latest novel for the rainy nights?  "the history of love" by nicole krauss.  i may not be norwegian, but it sure is fun thinking like one!

Monday, October 15, 2012

steam punk & smash books

every day's a quintessential day to learn a new fact; to feel the thrill of synapse connection in one's brain.  as roll-taking today i asked my homeroom students to tell us something new they learned over the weekend.  answers ranged from "how much a floor polisher weighs" (!?) to "where our family name comes from".  some "dunno" and "not much" and "nothin" but it is 8:15 in the morning and they are pre-teens, i'll hand that much to them.  plus i had a coffee and they didn't.  how could i blame them afterall, i who before last week for example, did not know that steam punk is a sub-genre of science fiction in which setting steampower is the predominant energy source for high industrial technology.  what sub-geneous (pun intended) rock have i been hiding beneath?!  such alternative history is usually 19th century british victorian, see also today's photo installment.  loosely translated, sort of this amelia earhart meets edward scissorhands thing.  i also learned what a "smash book" is.  it's basically a really cool copyrighted company journal (also somewhat industrial i might add) that can handle anything up to even a can that has trailed behind a 'just married' car. so , if i have this right, you could technically put most all of your steam punk gear into a smash book and it would fit!  i think i smell a business merger, wait, that's just the decades old aviator goggle leather burning my eyes...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

go for the gusto

ok, better, best.  what am i giving my time to?  what makes me feel most alive?  recently, i opted out of a very good activity in favor of some better and best in my life.  there was nothing wrong with the old routine, except that it was starting to feel like a "have to", a "should" of sorts.  i'm all for faithfulness and community, i've been in the group for 20 years now and that in itself is cool.  i can always go back.  but for now what i really wanted to do was exercise more and do art, maybe take some classes myself.  immediately i felt giddy as i went downtown for a new adventure instead of the former auto pilot.  and you know, some really great opportunities have opened up for me to learn letterpress, travel and try my hand at some new techniques.  plus i'm moving my body more each week and that just feels plain great.  thinking about trying something but not sure if you can swing it or spare the time?  cut something that is just "ok" and go for the gusto.  you won't regret it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

country dark

somehow, one lilting indian summer day at a time, it's become october.  clear mornings and even colder nights, full moon sightings and...stars.  i mark months, not so much by the calendar, but by the temperature, light, and tinge of autum's paintbrush outside; nuances of consistent change.  because the power went out in the middle of the night, i went, flashlight in hand, back and forth between circuit breakers only to discover it was a local downed power pole.  but because i was outside, i noticed what i call "country dark".  country dark is not the same as city dark.  it's darker here anyway, but with no electricity from us or any of the neighbors, the stars made a flashier appearance and i could both smell and feel that when day dawned i would need to dig my potatoes and bring tender perennials indoors.  country dark is ink-like and still.  without even the hum of household appliances, the silence moved me.  i joined it, becoming still myself, holding even my breath to notice nature's pulse.  and carried it back inside.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ascending to symbiotic relationships

word girl came to a party i hosted last night.  ages 7-70 gathered outside under white lights to celebrate the autumnal solstice and all things french.  when i asked her the word of the day, she very quickly said, "ascend" complete with definition.  but when i really just about fell off the deck was when she was talking about animals and said, "yes, these particular creatures--in their natural habitat--have a symbiotic relationship".  you guessed it, complete with definition. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

hamaca and irreducible happiness

while reading marjorie kinnan rawlings' novel "cross creek" (originally published in 1942) i learned that our word for hammock comes from the spanish word "hamaca" which means "a highly arable type of soil".  (remind me to look into how this word for dirt became known for nap inducing netting hanging from trees) she expounds that she wanted to name her book "Hamaca" to indicate the triumphs and defeats that different kinds of men have encountered in that hammock country, but it was believed the name would be so strange that no one would buy the book.  she also likes to think of the spaniards blazing their trails through the florida hammocks, writing, "...the hammocks were the same then as now, and will be the same forever if men can be induced to leave them alone.  hammock soil is dark and rich, made up of centuries of accumulation of humus from the dropping of leaves.  the hammock is marked by its type of trees...and shares with marsh and swamp the great mystery of florida."  she also takes two full pages to describe her favorite magnolia tree, introducing it with the following paragraph, "i do not know the irreducible minimum of happiness for any other spirit than my own.  it is impossible to be certain even of mine.  yet i believe that i know my tangible desideratum.  it is a tree-top against a patch of sky.  if i should lie crippled or long ill, or should have the quite conceivable misfortune to be clapped in jail, i could survive, i think, given this one token of the physical world.  i know that i loved on one such in my first days at the creek."  rawlings is also the author of the pulitzer prize-winning modern classic "the yearling".

Monday, September 10, 2012

singing in the trees

olive trees, baguettes and cigales.  today, as i ate the end of a baguette with ginger chocolate at work, i pondered the simplicity of daily markets and the beauty of nature...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

promises of reading

i had perhaps my easiest art teaching day in history today.  by way of schedule changes and beginning of the year introductions, my job today was to read to two groups of kindergarteners and one sixth grade class.  i read "the dot" by peter reynolds because whether you're 5 or 95, the message is powerful.  and i realized how much energy i had and that not all read-a-louds are created equal.  how many times, if we're tired, can we just go through the pages, reading the words.  you can read or you can READ. but today i felt alive, still full of emotional energy, adding dramatic pauses of my own and lively question and answer sessions along the way.  the sun's still out, days are warm, flu season hasn't hit yet and they're all on their best behavior, i get that.  but what i'm hoping will last is the concept behind what we read.  throughout the year when they're tempted to compare their work with someone else's, i can say "remember the dot", referring back to the common art language we established this week.  this reminds me of when i was little and i'd ask my dad to tell me a story about when he was little.  most nights he would read to me and then we'd do the "adventures of doug as a young boy" too, which meant in essence that i got two stories.  i think he was onto my scheme, but if he was he didn't mind.  even if he was tired from work, i could never tell.  and even if i'd heard the same story 20 times, i loved it just the same.  with all this reading and story telling going on, you might really enjoy "the reading promise" by alice ozma.  written when she is in college, it is a reflection on the promise she and her dad, a school librarian, made to read to each other every night.  what started as a 100 day goal when alice was in 3rd grade turned into much, much more than that; taking on several dimensions as family life grew and evolved.  happy reading!

how blue was my water... green was my valley.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


far and away is is home when you live where i do.

Monday, September 3, 2012

pull up a chair

a chair's a chair, right?  for some reason the chairs in france feel more exotic to me even though many are identical to their counterparts all over the world.  right now i have this thing for tolix chairs--they are so hip!  someday i'll own some.  right now i'm content to try to sit in them at as many businesses and shops as i can...

small town

i live in a small town.  (a small town that is soon to become nationally known, i'm confident, owing to its burgeoning pinot industry and forthcoming road bypass.)  but right now it's still on the scale that i can go into the local art gallery and happen to meet the artist who is there in jeans and chat with her and the owner about local restaurants, kayaking and wine. i can be waiting to get a haircut and connect with a former student from the university. before i continue, i should say i'm an INFJ on the meyer's briggs scale, and i have two social speeds:  on and off.  i've always loved people and i'm enjoying my summer self that is all rested and starts tomorrow which also begins a 9-month marathon for my face muscles and vocal chords.  at any rate, i am a person who loves to be alone, prefers deeper one-on-one connections, and small groups or parties if i'm rested.  when i've had enough time at home, it's fun to go out into a bigger city (thank you portland) and be alone in the midst of fun crowds and activities where i can people watch.  (author's note:  small towns have their drawbacks; for example murphy's law states that when you only have ten minutes and you have to duck into the store for milk that you will run into someone who wants to talk for an hour.  sometimes i wear a baseball hat if i'm in a hurry!)  anyway, when i'm not with my friend who likes food as much as i do, i like to dine alone...i can savor the food that way or just read.  i've always thought it was funny how we are so independent in our culture that we never share tables with people we don't know...well, this week i was at my outdoor table alone when the lunch crowd started picking up and a couple asked if they could share my table.  sure, i was almost done and would be leaving soon.  we got to talking, however, and ended up visiting for over an hour, the husband basically telling me his spiritual history and how he related that to the yoga profession and the wife telling me about her work in healthcare.  before we even properly introduced ourselves we were trading book and author names.  we may never meet each other again, but when they left (on matching motorcycles i noted) i hoped i had encouraged them.  thank you, small town.  you're not the only kind of community, but i appreciate you just the same.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

happy feet

on the first of every month i treat myself to a perusal of sara midda's sketch book from the south of france.  she has captured provence month by month...espadrilles were mentioned in her "september".  these are mine, purchased in july and worn with joy ever since!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

provence, je t'aime

i'm missing provence today.  this sketch is of the hotel window at "the mistral" in st. remy.  oleander blossoms pool-side and the sound of cigales in the plane trees...wistful sigh.  i made my own french day of sorts today, starting by reading gordon bitney's "provence, je t'aime" from cover to cover...morning coffee at a sunny sidewalk table, food cart lunch involving truffle oil and sharing lingering table conversation with strangers, art galleries, small town connections, reading in the "town square" by the "fountain" best i could, afternoon "glace", and trip to the salon topped off by a dinner of chilled fennel soup, wild greens, and gruyere cheese and carmelized onion tart savored with a glass of '09 white wine from france.  double wistful sigh.  it's true, provence, je t'aime...

dear august

dear august, for which of your finer points shall i praise you?  for...your nectar-like scent of blackberry that only comes at this time of year...the swelling gardens and vineyards...being the sister that introduces june and july to their cousin september?  i owe you an apology, it's true.  because you haven't always been my favorite.  not that i'm the ungrateful sort, but it's just been hard in the past for me to leave behind the entire month of july untainted by work as it is and filled with 77 degree days of bliss.  you're more extreme, i guess, but granted that makes for interesting weather and more icecream.  so i suppose in a way it takes more grace to be you and i respect that.  you're famous, after all,  for lyrics like "hot august nights" and i appreciate the work you do to round out summer.  you are responsible for sending europe south in droves to the mediterranean every year.  you have a keen relationship with water; even though the river banks shrink, we teem there together there under your mediation.  it's not your fault that daily doubles and back to school nights happen during the time you are trying to perfect the solstice or give us meteor showers and blue moons and connected tides.  so i started thinking differently about you.  thanks for the 31 days of fun.  your friend, lanette

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


august is the month for counting sunflowers.  my garden is up to 5 now, if you include the one i cut off and gave to a friend (not to be confused with what van gogh did with his ear).  and not just any friend, but the one i went to france with!  my great-grandmother nettie who i'm named after and who lived to be 103 grew tournesols too (literally french for "turn to the sun") and hers were over 10 feet tall.  i've been practicing growing these for years now and if i ever live to be as wise and lovely as she was (relatives say they never heard a negative word come out of her mouth) or if i can grow flowers like she did, i will mark life a success. imagine my surprise at coming upon my first full french field of them near arles.  i screamed, actually.  while driving.  and scared my lovely aforementioned traveling partner quite alot.  it's just that beauty can make me scream...and cry.  we agreed that next time i would preface such utterances with "beauty alert!" which is just what i plan to do.  here's to turning your face toward the sun...

Monday, August 27, 2012

french sketch a day

this doorway was quite ordinary and off by itself out of major tourist areas...maybe that's what was so charming about it and why i was compelled to sketch it.  (chamonix, france 7.18.12)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

play. play. play.

with less than a day before having to report back for teacher in-service, i did the only responsible thing i could think of:  i learned to boogie board.  it was on my bucket list to do something surf-like (surfing lessons that i will probably still try at least once) but this was instant fun!  it went something like this, "do you think the *wetsuits in the closet will fit us?"  "there's one way to find out" "well, hey, if they fit we go and if they don't we won't, right?"  they fit.  and i've found myself yet another water sport extraordinaire.  i'm actually hoarse from screaming and laughing with giddy delight over and over, "catch this one...i got it!  let's do it again, woo hoo!"  i can see how surfers can lose hours and hours in the waves.  in one word?  immersion.   *see also pacific ocean, west, brr...but with a suit and a friend, you have way too much fun to notice anything remotely cold.  here's a shout-out to all you premature back-to-school ads:  summer's not over yet, surf's up!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

mirroring: setting your inner table

one of the things i love about france, or hospitality in general, is beautiful table settings.  the linens, candles, white lights, maybe wildflowers in canning jars; in general creating an environment where people can relax, be themselves, laugh and tell stories.  the setting matters to me.  we just put on a wedding, for example, that was beautiful in this way.  the community came together and when everyone did their job, from flowers and cakes to music and lights, the result was nothing short of stunning.  imagine polishing each glass just so, allowing it to reflect your face with no smudges and let the dappled green and yellow sunshine through.  do you have a friend like that?  one who is honest, yes, about your frailties but who also looks past them to see and believe the best about you at all times no matter what?  richard rohr in his book "falling upward" writes, "you can usually only do this well (second half of life tasks) if you have one true mirror yourself, at least one loving, honest friend to ground you, which might even be the utterly accepting gaze of the Friend.  by all means you must find at least one true mirror that reveals your inner, deepest, and yes, divine image.  this is why intimate moments are often mirroring moments of beautiful mutual receptivity, and why such intimacy heals us so deeply...we really do find ourselves through one another's eyes, and only when that has been done truthfully can we mirror others with freedom, truth and compassion."  if you are fortunate to be so welcomed, you grow into a host that can say, "come to the table, you who are not alone."


i'm not out of words, exactly. just trying to find the right ones.  my subtitle here would be "assimilation:  coming home without becoming the first three letters".  it takes a lot of energy for a "totally-dreamy-everything-you-hoped-it-would-be-and-more-bliss-art-and-beauty" trip to become a part of who you are.  oh, sure your body gets adjusted to the new time zone and you awkwardly fold in with the life as usual that has continued while you were away.  (this gives me new empathy for people who've lived abroad for any length of time because my trip was only two weeks!)  i'm slower at processing than most people and there is a legitimate let-down which made me feel funky and not always in a good way...i think the anticipation has something to do with it too, having looked forward to this dream for 22 years and subsequently planning it for five months.  i tried to describe it this way:  i might have put my luggage away and neatly fold laundry on the outside, but on the inside my suitcase was a mess with things spread all over, concepts looking for a home, memories wanting a connection.  people said give yourself about two weeks.  and sure enough, i bounced at almost exactly two weeks.  many factors and friend's unconditional love in the meantime, but point being i bounced thankfully with several days before having to take up school and work responsibilities again.  finally when i was able to even know what i needed much less articulate it, filling up was easy.  i just needed to believe it really happened.  and two powerful feelings surfaced simultaneously like oil and water:  1) a deep contentment at having realized a dream 2) new moxie to take on the world.  (how exactly to be relaxed-happy while restless-supercharged, i don't know.)  so i got outside to put in some simple physical labor time.  good stupid honest hard work--ah, nothing like it for us philosophical types. martha stewart i'm not...she would never pick three gallons of blackberries before hanging her linens to dry with berry stained hands, i'm sure.  her calendar probably says "morning pilates, afternoon tea with dan and lanae, train pole beans, buy prize winning dog for photo shoot, chill squash blossoms for dinner party."  mine said, endeavoring to my life's constant goal of turning something otherwise messy into something sweet:  "make jam.  lots of it."  but i digress...i am planning a fall party, however,--on the *frenchy side this time--which should keep me out of trouble while i forego novels in favor of soothing poetry and find the rest of the words i'm looking for...*multigenerational, overabundance of cheese, and goes late into the night. what is one of your dreams?  have you realized it yet and if so, how did it feel when you did?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

dear sky

dear sky

this note is to explain after my death, if there is anyone left, what i was trying to do. 
toward the last i was protecting my friends by my careful indifference.  oh, i greeted them, and acted as usual, but i didn't let on what i felt--that terrible tide of knowing that came to me.  you, sky, are so far that i felt sorry for you, and i began to know that all of us are lost--everyone just as lonely.  it is all the way through the universe to reach anyone.  and i began to leave, so i could stand it.  now it is cold where i live--rain.  few come near, nobody comes.  and everything keeps to a separate way.  when the winds go over they all talk of one storm that they plan someday.  even if anyone thought of me now, and of those other times, no one would care, this far.  but i send this note, dear sky.  i love you, sky.  your friend, a cloud

by william stafford

good room

good room

in this best room, only a kitchen, touch cloth--in towels--touch metal stove, wood cupboards.
look down the breadboard:  scars time never needs to overcome.
the easy refrigerator door closes like this:  "forgive".  inside, a light goes to sleep comfortably,
friend of lettuce, admired by the eggs; and the meditative motor suggests winter, then pauses all night.
room that gives life, alone with independent spices content just to be in their jars:  while we live may your way be ours.  may we never forget your order, the various world brought by recipes to anyone's taste--
the work of many made into one home.

by william stafford

Sunday, August 5, 2012


while in france i also learned...speed limits are suggestions, round-abouts are the rule and not the exception, there are too many cheeses to even remotely begin to sample each one in only two weeks, in foreign language it's just as important to listen to the response as it is to form your questions, textbook language is very different from trying to use it to ride public transportation (ou dois je descend!?), people aren't rushed and spend time in multiple generation dinner conversation, gouter is an important term to know because it signifies an afternoon snack usually involving chocolate, you can fit a four-door sedan into a parking spot at a hotel in aix, there really are nude bathers in the mediterranean, fois gras is a liver-fat-pate-like substance that is a very popular staple food along with gizzards, coffee is for drinking from a teeny tiny espresso cup standing at a counter, the place i bought my likewise teeny tiny silver spoons was a former house of artist paul cezanne, housing and streets and cars and portion sizes are small and it is a good thing, people still smoke alot and that's not necessarily a good thing, that it's an "interesting" experience visiting a worship community where over a thousand people speaking forty-some languages are camping, in some areas of the country people drink from bowls, they like english music and it's not uncommon to hear "hotel california" wafting from an otherwise picturesque bistro, where to find the original site of sylvia beach's book shop shakespeare & co., european hotels don't believe in washcloths, the markets are lush and lovely like i imagine produce to be in heaven, there is more history in one city block than in our whole state (oh that, it's just another castle), how to navigate their toll road system and that it is preceded and followed by said roundabouts...and finally, i learned that kids are still fun and that if you pretend to fall down when they shoot you with a pistol de l'eau (water gun) they think it's universally tres amusant and only confirms that "j'ai trent-huit ans, mais dans mon coeur, j'ai seulement douze ans..." i'll leave that for you to translate.

lettres de mon moulin

i took a photo of this moulin rouge (red windmill not to be confused with the moulin rouge nightclub) near glanum, the site where french novelist alphonse daudet wrote his letters.  since it's nearly impossible and even unfair to you dear readers for me to post all 250 of my vacation photos or try to describe each wonderfully adventurous day in france, i shall start where my blog begins:  words.  "aha!" my mind snapped to attention, "a new author..." in all my years of french and literature studies, i'd never heard of daudet.  sure enough, his works were (in french) on library shelves in st. remy.  so when i got home i looked at my local library for english versions.  going up to the reference desk clerk, i pretended to be playing jeopardy, "hello, yes, i'd like obscure french literature for $500 please" and he was very helpful, pointing out everything from archives to out of print books and interlibrary loans to world literature digests.  what did i learn?  daudet was born in 1840 (Nimes) and died in 1897 (Paris).  during that time he wrote not only novels, but also short stories, plays, poems and stories for children.  his literature is considered within the category of "naturalism" and also contains controversial politial satire.  "tartarin de tarascon" is on its way to me in the form of book on cd.  stay tuned for more letters from my word-loving windmill...

Sunday, July 15, 2012


i won't be blogging for a couple of weeks.  that is, unless i find an internet cafe in the streets of paris.  yes, it's true, my lifelong dream of going to france is happening...tomorrow!  i turn 38 crossing the border between switzerland and france.  i couldn't be more excited and showed that joie de vivre by kicking things off yesterday at home (for the aforementioned july 14 bastille day).  st. honore featured divine patisseries, televised coverage of the tour de france, a lovely saturday farmer's market and enough cheese to feed napoleon's army (or just me, dans ce case.)  two french men showed up with accordian and flute, to which i sang along on one song, having just happened to have been listening to the same cd in my car, "je ne veux pas travailler, je ne veux pas dejeuner, je veux seulement oublier, et puis je fume". since that phrase won't get me too far in a practical sense (lyrics translate as "i don't want to work, i don't want breakfast, i just want to forget and then i smoke". another national motto?) i won't be smoking, but i have been practicing phrases for things like "fill it up with unleaded please", "is there a toll for this road?" and "help, i have run out of cheese, where is the nearest market?"  well, i guess part of the song is true anyway, je ne veux pas travailler...not for at least 16 days anyway.  au revoir for now and i'll see you when i get back, filled with french bread and stories to share.

thin green spaces from eden

somewhere in the recesses of my mind i knew that william stafford (1914-1993) was poet laureate.  what i didn't remember was that he was poet laureate from oregon, specifically my own back yard of lake oswego.  walking the area in and around foothills park, my friend and i discovered the "stafford stones" on which the city has printed some of his poetry.  stafford was born in kansas and eventually ended up teaching at lewis & clark college in 1948.  when interviewed about his writing process, he said, "i keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes.  i follow it trustingly.  and i don't have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo or of its petering out either.  it is just going steadily along."  he lived in lake oswego until his death at age 79.  his last poem, the morning of august 28, 1993, he wrote simply, "you don't have to prove anything, my mother said, just be ready for what God sends."  enjoying this same river, i am glad that God sent william stafford to be here and appreciate the green for a while before returning to eden.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

pond skimming

besides the famous quotes of henry david thoreau, i dog-eared all of these from walden: "how many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!  the book exists for us perchance which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones."  "i rejoice that there are owls."  "this is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore."  "solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows."  "grow wild according to thy nature."  "morning is when i am awake and there is a dawn in me.  to be awake is to be alive."  i also learned that an ear of wheat in Latin is spica, from spe which means hope.  grain from granum or gerendo to bear.  in 1993 i read this book.  in 2012 the book read me and dawn hopes on...

sentences good enough to eat

"above all there was the linden tree, its shade offering the most sweet-smelling of bowers.  a linden tree releasing its perfume at the end of the day is a rapture which leaves an indelible mark, and in the depths of our joy to be alive it traces a groove of happiness that the sweetness of a july evening alone cannot suffice to explain...following the scent belonging to the linden, languorous swaying of branches, a bee gathering pollen at the edge of vision..."  (p. 60-61).  "we were breathless; it was time to leave the beach.  the day had already seemed both deliciously short and long.  the shoreline at this point, a long sandy arc stretching lazily into the distance and devoured by waves, offered us maximum pleasure and minimum risk.  we were inebriated from the endless rollers and dazed by well-being...i drifted with the waves, surfacing and disappearing beneath their liquid, moving mass..where a strand is laid bare by the low tide and where i truly grasped the meaning of the expression 'between heaven and earth'..." (p. 87).  " 'i'm so sorry,' says the young woman, who does not speak with the same accent as her husband, 'there's no more cheese, i have to go shopping this afternoon!' " (p. 98). "it's a delightful feeling to be not yet quite awake, taking a few silent moments to enjoy the fact of not being subjected to the laws of work; when the aroma of hot coffee rises, you finally sit down before your steaming bowl and give a friendly squeeze to the brioche and acknowledge the quality of happiness." (p. 108). --exerpts from muriel barbery's gourmet rhapsody.

Friday, July 6, 2012

july, a month of Fetes

the month of july finds Independence Day (i was corrected from my oh-so-casual usage of "happy fourth") sandwiched between two fetes, or other national parties.  Canada Day (Fete du Canada) on July 1st, celebrating the British North American Act of 1867 which united three colonies into a single country.  And then there's Bastille Day (La Fete Nationale) in France commemorating the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison the 14th of July, 1789 which became a symbol of France becoming a modern nation during the Revolution.  pass the sparklers, eh?  and s'il vous plait.  we have more in common than we might think.

who knew? random words from a summery mind

summer is a great time for learning of a different kind.  whether it's portland then and now architectural walking tours or new hikes, my mind is clear and ready to make connections.  i never knew, for example, that the word "jeweler" came from the late 14th c. Anglo for jueler from joel (jewel), see also juelrye or precious ornaments.  this discovery came from wondering with a friend whether it was related at all to Jew, which it's not, but was an interesting quest nonetheless.  i also didn't know that buckwheat was a relative of the rhubarb plant and that the word galette, French for "curled" & Latin crispa, is where we get our crepe; originating in Brittany, France and Quebec.  in other news, Haystack rock is famous, but i also learned the lesser known rock south along the beach is named Jockey Cap and it indeed looks the part.  last but not least, did you know that a mansard roof is one that is done in a four-sided sloping style?  if you can use all of these new terms in one sentence, kudos to you!  i'll be out learning some more...  

Monday, June 25, 2012

henry was right!

ok, if you have been bitten (and truly bitten beyond the potential triteness of the saying to the point of serious life change) by the "less is more" bug, this website is for you:  life edited (see video at  the tiny house movement, the less-than-200-square foot apartments with fold-out beds and kitchens, the links & plans?  they're all here.  but lest we think it's new, henry david thoreau (you can spot his house toward the end of the video) nailed it (no pun intended) when he built his own house and published "walden" in 1854.  he writes, "the cost of a thing is the amount of what i will call life which is required to exchange for it"..."shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?"..."before we can adorn our houses with beautiful objects the walls must be stripped, and our lives must be stripped...(and this) taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors"..."what of architectural beauty i now see, i know has gradually grown from within outward...preceded by a like beauty of life."  he, in his thirties, could not find any sages to help him move from the first half of life to the second.  thankfully he followed his spiritual instincts for lasting change--as it always must come, from the inside-out--and became such a sage for us to follow.  pass the hammer, please, i have some downsizing to do.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ha + ppy

this is by no means a new thought, but i like how easy it is to remember and, therefore, practice.  happiness is about the art of 1) savoring 2) giving expression to our experiences (literally voicing our pleasure or gasping out loud at beauty) and 3) reflecting on happy memories (gretchen, author of the happiness project).  we all need something meaningful to do, someone to love, and something to hope for (joseph addison).

on travel

seneca is quoted as saying "travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind."  i find this true, wherever we are.  just this week i have traveled thousands of miles without leaving home; all having to do with navigating the mysteries of the human heart and what it means to grow/expand/get out of the boat (whatever semantics you wish to attach here) loving deeply and not wanting to miss a thing.  i discovered my soul print and calling after 37 years: "a passionate beauty-lover and creator who shares joy with others" and now can spend the next 37 living that out.  so i've circumvented the globe right here at home.  on a literal local level, i ran into one of the founding members of the local art/travel community in the grocery store.  (i recongnized her from a magazine photo--an elegant white-haired woman) and actually followed her with my cart, got her attention and thanked her for everything she's done to beautify our city and class it up (see also allison inn, jory, art elements and chehalem cultural center). soon i'm off to the local farmer's market with my canvas bag.  that's travel, too.  all the while i'm planning our trip to france and discovering all of the things their country has in common with oregon and appreciating the differences.  change of place--whether that's one step, one mile or one thousand miles--does indeed bring vigor to your heart and mind.

Monday, June 11, 2012


i love where i live. let me type that again: this area of the world rocks. seriously, where can you fall asleep gazing out over the vineyards and see the big dipper from your pillow while the owls sing to each other? i was in the grocery store yesterday when my eye caught "oregon wine country" on the front of a magazine "portrait" featuring...ta ha: dundee. now, when i first moved here, people looked at me quizzically, "why would you want to live all the way out there?!" then, they come to visit. it is set, i humbly note, to be the next napa valley. what other appelation would boast being able to type to the winemaker featured in said article and have them actually write back to you? yes, it's true. plus, it's summer. every day out of school my world gets a little bigger, my powers of observation more acute. for instance, i had time to note that we have a family of baby bunnies living beneath the garden shed. i watch the one that seems most often to venture to the blackberries and named him "petrie". it's gotten so i look for him every morning while i'm picking fresh strawberries. yes, quite simply, this is a portrait of a woman in love with where she lives.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

the hills are alive...with feasts

"what characters in novels or movies have you most identified with through the years?" without a doubt, i'd have to say maria in "the sound of music" (childhood) and babette in "babette's feast" (adulthood). both are unfettered, passionate beauty seekers who are sometimes out of place or misunderstood. both find themselves in places that don't quite fit (a nunnery and washed up on the shores of a very ascetic community). they both make intentional choices to make the best of every situation and impact their environments for the good. just this realization gives me courage to continue to write my own story and to be who i am intended to be: a passionate beauty seeker who shares that joy with others. what characters do you most identify with and how can that aid your sense of calling?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

e is for efficiency

"so, do you have kids?" people ask. "oh, several hundred." goes my non-chalant reply. first of all, believe me, i have nothing but respect for parenting--the non-stop-self-sacrificing-see-them-at-their-worst-and-love-them-anyway-remember-i'm-paying-for-your-college-education unconditional lifetime commitment. there's a side to having many kids that you're not ultimately responsible for but whose lives you nontheless intersect with in meaningful ways. it, like parenting i hypothesize, is about an art of attachment and detachment--letting them go when it's time and always being a place they can come home to. and then, it hit me: the perfect gift. ok, so a little sarcasm font here, but since you already know my heart on the subject, please indulge me. so, june is the month for graduations and showers and graduations for the shower's shower's graduate, right? so what if we--parents and like-a-parent-to-these-people, went in on the perfect gift? it would go something like this. you start off the package or registry or whatever with a $20 bill. that way, they can go out to coffee with a nice date that perhaps they will one day marry. (if they are church goers, maybe throw in a second $20 bill for their summer mission trip to nicaragua or argentina or africa.) if the coffee dates go well, included in the gift is a coupon for kitchen items, no pressure, but being the general order of things, they will need a good blender in their married people kitchen but for goodness' sake let them pick it out themselves! next i would throw in a pacifier, maybe green or yellow--a nice unisex color since you don't know if their first child will be a boy or a girl--and a copy of "bringing up bebe" by pamela drukerman so they can decide on the pros and cons of american vs. french style parenting. that should cover a decade or so. then there's the job market. as a finishing touch to go with the happy graduation, marriage, and first child, i would enclose the following: "good for life: job references and letters available upon request." this whole thing, 'tis tacky and impersonal, i know, and i'm kidding about it all of it may be just marketable afterall!

seasonal circus

some of my friends joke with me that if they had to spend a day doing what i do, that they'd probably want to kill themselves. be that as it may, it's an interesting idea to job-swap for 24 hours (and would i feel the same as they, i wonder?) right about today, teachers understand each other and are tired. those who aren't teachers are just jealous of "summer". since teaching is a seasonal profession, it has a "ramp up" (mid-august) and a ramp-down (anytime past may 20th). summers are lovely. what people may not realize is that when you clock in the beginning of september, you are "on"...teacher yes, but manager, counselor, educational style negotiator, personal organizer, team member, communications analyst, conflict mediator, recess guardian, problem-solver, nurse, generational expert, and all-around maid/handy person. even with all those nice breaks like three day weekends and christmas you still know deep down inside that it's not over until the lockers are cleaned out, the circus packs up and all the perfomers go home. and can i just say that while i feel i do important work and enjoy it that thank goodness it's not my identity...if it were, the let-down could lead to a feeling of purposelessness. (the last couple of weeks are kind of like shakespeare's "much ado about nothing": lots of activities and anxiety and tired energy and not much substance followed by this void--where did everybody go?!) thankfully, the flying trapeze to summer only fuels all of my other parts: the woman who wants to exercise every day (instead of deciding between that and/or showering and/or packing a healthy lunch...victory on the mornings they all happen!) the artist who wants to sketch lazily by fountains, and the friend who wants to host evening visits around the outdoor firepit and not worry about having a "bedtime". my morning "commute" can change to walking letters to the mailbox and "grading" can be checking the progress of plant rows in the garden. it's hardly instant, though. like any transition, there is an art to it--one i am barely starting to grasp after 8 years--and the relief is not instantaneous. you have to love every moment, i think and be present with whomever you're with at the time. putting so much stock in some certain day like the end of school or some exotic place thinking "then i'll be happy" is unlikely. (see also "the best exotic marigold hotel", you take yourself with you wherever you go, so make it a great time!) trying to practice this amid the screaming and popsicles and basketballs and overflowing trash bins and ice cream sundaes is another way of just enjoying the moment. so if you'd like to trade shoes for a day, please don't jump from the third floor afterwards, teaching is really quite delightful and our summers are only as happy as we make them; only as enjoyable as who we bring to the table. stay tuned for more happy...

Monday, June 4, 2012

feeling sketchy

for the love of compost

now this is true friendship...while jogging my friend spotted a sign, "composter FREE". risking not only life and limb but also lateness for work she went back and singlehandedly stowed it (larger than you might think and sticking out the back) into her car and drove away before any one else could nab the treasure (it pays to be an early riser). you see, she knows that--more than nordstrom gift cards or manicures--i want things that help me garden well. i even asked for a composting system for christmas. did i get it? no! so this was the perfect opportunity to make my organic dreams come true. hefting it together (with ropes this time) we drove it out here to the country whereupon it has a new home and the promise of great fruits and vegetables to come.

playing with crayons

ok, how fun is it to get paid to play with crayons? this weekend i worked on a couple of retirement art commissions made entirely from, well, cut wax. it's fun, but somewhat harder than it appears to create the letters. it was either use my best kitchen knife or an exacto (the latter of which ended up working just fine) to get the right curvature of font (in this case a "d" and an "a"). plus, i'm picky so of course i wanted them to have clean cuts, be in color order and all be facing the same way. (i loved that as a kid too, funny how some things never change). but really all you need for this project are a couple of shadow boxes, strong glue and a dose of crayola patience. plus, it gave me a great excuse to buy a new box of 64. again, childhood beckoning, it's all about the built-in sharpener.


"...that we write our own story lest others write it for us." rooted, all else comes and goes; faithful herald of weather, patterns and rust. tilting rhythmic here meting out 'love what you have' seemingly unconcerned on even the stillest of days because who really knows if the wind happens to it or it happens to the wind?

what's in your bookbag?

it's more than a little satisfying to have an adventurous day and then see what tumbles out of your bookbag at the end of it. today the contents are: journal with notes from "falling upward: spirituality for the second half of life" by richard rohr, title 9 clothing catalog, novel "julie & julia" by julie powell, oregon battle of the books lists, cooking school business card, menu for "paulee", new indie booklist, and a sketchbook. life is good...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

cheesy goodness

i can't let may go without a tribute to fromage. and not just any fromage, but cheese from france. (goats and sheep and cows, oh my!) for st. honore's day, said bakery had the following samples: camembert le pommier (normandie), munster gerome (alsace), caprifeuille (loire valley), delice de bourgogne (bourgogne), agour brique (basque), and fourme d'ambert (auvergne). and all on ONE PLATE. i know, it's almost too good to be true. as i wipe the drool from my chin, who is st. honore, you may ask? he, honoratus (d. 600 AD), is none other than the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. where else could such aged culture (i.e. mold) become such a spiritual experience? pass the crackers and fig sauce, please...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Do. More. Art.

i GET to put on a school-wide art show each year. at a time when most districts
are having to cut the arts, i get to show the work of 360 very talented artists. this year we studied cultural art and asked the question, "how can this country/project show the story of God?" from aboriginal dot painting to chinese paper cutting, it was a world of of my favorite things was getting together with my Do. Art. Gals to weave this wall hanging out of two outdated classroom maps!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

grapes of place

i watched television not once, but twice this week; shocking, i know, considering the last time was--yes, we know lanette, the news for snow updates in january--but it's true! and what amounted to about 2 hours of shows, after dusting off said appliance, really taught me alot! consider the following video link from opb about farming (specifically wine-making) here in my very own backyard! (

a little mystery

in addition to reading "the mysterious benedict society", i'm enjoying the new sherlock holmes series. a little mystery is good for the brain; it's fun to try to solve things before the detectives do! in the show, holmes and watson are all tech; using text, skype and any means possible to rid london of evil and keep one step ahead of their arch rival the equally mysterious irene adler.

Monday, May 7, 2012

play all day

now that i've gotten your attention, i just have to share the hippest in activity books. if you haven't already, check out what taro gomi has created in his line of funnery (yes i just made that up) for ages 3-103! it's teacher appreciation week and goodness knows i neither want nor need a ceramic apple pin or another coffee mug (although i will take the coffee, hint, hint). yes, it's the thought that counts, however...what showed up today was delightful! a copy of "play all day" which i promptly explored. so, if you can't find me, look no further than a grassy knoll in the sun where i'll be happily making finger puppets.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

boat club, anyone?

as days lengthen and thoughts turn from book club to boat club, i nonetheless want to continue reading. i'm admittedly at the point in the school year where my mental capacity is akin to flipping mindlessly through the pages of beautiful magazines or looking at the pictures in children's books. a few fun reads going on: "the mysterious benedict society" by trenton lee stewart, "bringing up bebe" by pamela druckerman and "building BIG
" by david macaulay.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

on reading

"...that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of silence." marcel proust

Saturday, April 28, 2012


what started as me teaching the younger grades a south american art lesson turned into hours of fun for me! paper weaving. how simple. and yet, like so many things, once you know the basics, the possibilities are endless. words, paper, sounds, ideas many things to weave.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

lectio eclectica

i've always loved the fact that most monks read the daily newspaper right alongside their prayer books. right now, i have several materials spread out around me: farm guide, Bible, novel, financial index, children's story, recipe clippings, travel book, and city magazine. i think it makes for interesting living because of new connections and spunky ideas. (did you know that may 14-18 is national ride your bike to work day? or that there is a free architectural tour of historic homes on may 20? those kind of things.) while reading the local "oregon's bounty" farm stand guide tonight for example, i learned that the word asparagus actually comes from the Greek for "sprout" or "shoot". (i didn't know that, but any child would i think if they've watched veggie tales, see also asparagus junior who spouts, "asparagoso, from the Greek!") at any rate, this was timely because when i opened portland monthly and it contained a recipe for asparagus orzo, i already knew that april-june heralds this spring vegetable. as my posts will attest to from this time last year, i love knowing the growing seasons and have been thinking alot about how we measure them. not-so-side-rant: in 2012 the bee in my bonnet is the euro-american schedule that dictates 5 days of work and 2 of rest. *might there be other ways? (*see also the french-lanette way of 3 on and 4 off) and january first is ok i guess, but what if we measured time in light calendars? that way on december 21st we would have june 21st and longer days to look forward to. let's add a children's book into the reading material here from my shelf. "i'm in charge of celebrations" by byrd baylor (illustrated by peter parnall) says it this way: "friend, i've saved my new year celebration to tell you about last. it's a little different from the one most people have. it comes in spring. to tell the truth, i never did feel like my new year started january first. to me, that's just another winter day. i let my year begin when winter ends and morning light comes earlier, the way it should. that's when i feel like starting new. i wait until the white-winged doves are back from mexico, and wildflowers cover the hills, and my favorite cactus blooms. it always makes me think i ought to bloom myself." end of rant. so, here's to shoots and blooms of all kinds in their own due season. from my reading corner to yours, what does your eclectic printed pile look like and where is it leading you?

of filibustering and frissons

have you ever had that nagging feeling you were in the presence of filibustering but just didn't know quite how to elaborate on the experience? in addition to being a fun word to say out loud, filibustering, i learned from annie proulx in her novel "bird cloud", originated from the dutch word for pirate--vrijbuiter--(wouldn't you have guessed that too?) or, a freebooter seeking prizes. other languages borrowed the word until the spaniards converted it to "filibustero". it entered american english in the 19th century as adventurers tried to seize personal kingdoms in latin america. these rouge efforts were discussed at length in the U.S. senate, and comparisons were not lost there. (the tactic had also been used by the roman senator cato the young). uncontrolled talkers began to be described as "filibustering" and gradually the word took on the meaning of causing a delaying action by taking advantage of the senatorial right to speak interminably on any subject without restriction. the other word that intrigued me was "frisson" which i learned is from the french meaning a brief moment of intense reaction; a recognition of excitement or sometimes even terror. so, putting these together, now you can simply say, "a frisson went through my veins at the boring harangues akin to obstructionist oratory."

Thursday, April 12, 2012


i'm intrigued by a new book out, "imagine: how creativity works" by jonah lehrer. his thesis is all about loving what we do and doing it in such a way that draws others who love what they do...resulting in work that feels like play and newly unleashed potential. he just spoke in portland and i missed that lecture. did you go/have you read the book? what do you think?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

room for surprises

today, easter is just beginning. fifty days ahead of us, seasonally speaking. had you asked me three days ago what my easter plans were, i wouldn't have had a clue. which is rare for me, because i like to make the most meaning out of each day and generally have a sense for the flow of events or activities. friday ended up a most joyous day filled with fun (which is another blog post in itself!) concluded by coloring beautiful bright easter eggs at a friend's kitchen counter. yesterday it was having time to sit down at the piano and write a "spring song" literally inspired by the 6:30 am songbird outside my window. and today as the sun rose over the silhouette of mount hood, i drove up to bald peak state park (which provides a stunning view of the valley) for their easter sunrise service. people have met there faithfully for over 80 years, which i pondered while standing under the same fir trees. i recongnized a friend and so gathered with them amid the early morning crowd, nudging in toward the center bonfire to sing along with a simple guitar. the speaker, a police chaplain, spoke of hope and gave the following acrostic: healing, optimism (i love that one!), peace and eternal life. coming down from the mountain, i decided to go for a run (thinking about how the disciples ran to the tomb) and then walk a local labyrinth. For You are good and Your mercies endure forever. You are beautiful. You remember that we are but dust. I'm alive because You're alive. these and other phrases lingered with my breath and cadence of steps. a friend happened to already be there when i arrived and afterwards she spoke of the "ketubah" (a jewish marriage contract) and also the hebrew word "yada" (to know) and how Jesus' sacrifice is like that contract; for the purpose of knowing us intimiately, face to face. thankful to find the spirituality of breakfast and stumptown coffee by this time (did someone say worship?), i read old testament connections to the new testament story of redemption, ultimately landing in psalm 136:8 & 9 "...the sun to rule by day, for His lovingkindness is everlasting; the moon and the stars to rule by night, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." now for the courage to live out these truths intentionally. as i write, friends have invited me to a lamb supper. it's true, i may not have had easter plans, but Jesus had plans for me; good surprises for you and i long before the creation of the world. (*original artwork by caroline coolidge brown, agnus dei, 2011 mixed media)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

eyebrow windows

i've always loved design. i used to spend sunny saturdays in college walking around town taking pictures of historic homes. yesterday on a city walk, i learned a new architectural term: eyebrow windows. i am excited to learn more so that when i see a row of distinctly different homes, i can name the style and building date. right now i only know i'm not wild about columns (unless essential to a porch and very well done) and somewhere in my archives i can recall the terms doric, gothic and corinthian. but i have miles to walk and books to read before i can speak with any intelligence on the subject. do you have a favorite architecture or design book to recommend?


loved this short blurb on a shoe box: "create, play and care" and loved that it was also written in french, "creer, jouer, prendre a coeur...c'est une facon de vivre" (it's a way of life).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

palm sunday

this bread i break
by dylan thomas

this bread i break was once the oat
this wine upon a foreign tree
plunged in its fruit;
man in the day or wind at night
laid the crops low, broke the grape's joy.
once in this wine the summer blood
knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
once in this bread
the oat was merry in the wind;
man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
this flesh you break, this blood you let
make desolation in the vein,
were oat and grape
born of the sensual root and sap;
my wine you drink, my bread you snap.

Monday, March 26, 2012

i am poking you!

kids think it's so funny to jab each other repeatedly with their finger while repeating "i'm not poking you!" (adults do too, the facebook version). not to scoff, perhaps persons with such a penchant have gone on to world class olympic levels of...fencing. if students are rough housing in my classes, i like to tell them, "literature is not a contact sport". well, this one is. with a myriad of layers (chest guard, arm sleeve, jacket, helmet, outer jacket, cordage, swordage) you are ready for fencing 101. if you can see, that is. with my head swimming in new terms and my eyes peering out from behind the mesh with arms contorting in vain efforts to zip my jacket from behind, i tried it. amazingly fun sport. complex. (inigo montoya makes this look easy in princess bride, by the way, it's not! and zorro must have practiced...alot. newfound respect there.) within 45 minutes, you are actually out on the gym floor hooked into ceiling cords and competing (who am i and why did they give me this sharp thing?) it's not actually sharp, but rather electronic. and i was lucky enough to come on a monday when it's all about foiling (just at the chest). it seems other nights are epee (all body is fair game?!) especially if you're going more than one round, as we did, this is a very important word difference to know, my fine fencing friends. (repeat after me, "foiling" you want foiling!) i would have had someone take a picture to prove i had done it (since this item is afterall newly crossed off on my bucket list) but it took me over 10 minutes just to get out of my uniform and by then most of my class had gone home or were otherwise engaged in, yes, professionally poking one another. p.s. if you try this at home, use very dull things, like maybe wet noodles. trust me on this one or have a bandaid handy.