Dog Days of August

Last week sweat pooled on my cheeks while I was first and only waiting for a bakery to open in Seattle. August has been dry, the sun relentless in the Pacific Northwest. At 8:50 AM it was already too hot. I sipped the last of my coffee, wishing I had iced. My favorite neighborhood in Seattle holds not only this bakery, many divine coffee shops, the amazing Teacozy Yarn store but also the National Nordic Museum and best Farmer’s Market in town. With minutes to go until 9:00 I could already taste the first cut of their thick seedy rye loaf, piled high with heirloom tomato and smeared with mayo. Then, from behind the locked doors, I heard something shatter.

I peered closer to the picture window. No movement. Seconds later I saw a rack against the far wall tip over, heard metal rails fall. No human in sight. Should I knock and offer to help? Then something hit the wall and a bowl slid off the work table infront of me, flinging cornmeal across the cement floor. The sounds continued to escalate, metal ringing against metal. Not a human word said.

After a while I realized that someone inside was having a spectacular tantrum.

Funny that my very first response was a little bit of envy.

It has been a long pandemic. As the cacophony continued — five minutes past opening time, ten minutes past opening time — I felt complete solidarity with this person, yet to be seen. “Take your time!” I wanted to shout through the locked door, keeping my head down. Had someone not shown up to help? Did a batch of bread burn? Was it payday and the check late? But really, does any one of us need an excuse to throw things in August, 2021, still masked and another variant bearing down?

The way of the world has been one step forward, one step back, limping if you have a new hip, for seventeen months of uncertainty, fear and illness. The urge to throw things is completely understandable.

At 9:15 a woman came to the door, latched it open, set up an iPad on a small table, wiped her hands on her white apron, held up a finger and said sweetly, “be just a sec, takes the machine a minute to warm up.” All around her lay bowls, spoons, shards of baked rolls, overturned trays. She stood on a small hillock of flour.

I was so happy there were no apologies. I smiled, paid for my bread, and left.

I felt better, too.

Artichoke, gone to flower.


Pot Roast

This week a trusted pod texted an impromptu invitation for a pot roast dinner. I didn’t have to think too hard: comfort food, friends, we brought the salad. Masks on to the front door, masks off inside as we are all vaccinated, we did a lot of laughing then tucked into the tender meat, buttery potatoes, roasted carrots and let memories flow of family meals, the savory smell of our childhood homes on Sunday, why don’t we eat pot roast more often? The night tasted good and felt good.

A Tuesday night which was not, as might have been in the past, a huge, planned dinner party, or boozy, or late. The salad bowl sat on the table. My cousin was still in her hiking gear. The puppy was asleep on her bed next to our feet. We were stripped of the past so-called necessities and formalities, a new definition of certainly my needs: a few friends, as you are, sustained.

Halfway through the meal our host paused his knife and fork mid-air and closed his eyes. Then looked at us and said:

“It feels so good to have friends.”

We all paused: he had perfectly captured this moment of such extraordinary value; this moment we had all stayed home for and worried for and stayed healthy for through the terrorizing pandemic months. It was so sweet and heartfelt and true and important.

For me, this crawl out of isolation presents a critical opportunity: what comes next and what do I care about? I lie awake, recalibrating what I really have to do and want to do. Can I bundle these errands? Isn’t there plenty of food between the fridge and the cupboards to create a good dinner for a few days? I relearned time during covid; I made art I never thought I had time for, I wrote art I never took the time to explore. On the nights when covid anxiety creeps around me I try to breathe and tell myself to remember I thrived, in some ways, when I slowed down my world.

I am still managing the sense of danger. A crowded room makes me short of breath. Hiking the trails on Bainbridge Island without a mask makes me feel — well — naked. My face stings, uncovered, in the breeze.

I am collecting a constellation of those moments in this new, emerging world: learning bird song, standing still for the owl hunting next to me on the trail, acknowledging myself. Closing my eyes and listening.

That night the dishes were cleared before the sun set and we went home to good books, clean cozy pajamas, windows wide open. Well fed in body and soul.

It is so good to have friends.

Masks off. Travel on. Groups can gather. It is coming, the new post-pandemic world.

What does yours look like?

Just about everything is going on here and I am ok with that.



This morning I sawed off the head of a plastic honey bear, without a second thought, to get to the crystallized gunk stuck in his belly. The plumbers are ripping apart a living room wall to fix (read: saw, epoxy, hammer, Christmas tree swaying) a cracked pipe. My additional family pod, three adults and a reindeer-sized dog — quarantined and clear and ready to Christmas — are on the way, set to arrive in the middle of this. Bring it on, 2020, give it your best shot because I am DONE with you in a matter of days.

Note: Cone of silence since April due to hip collapse, surgery and quarantined, difficult recovery in Seattle. I don’t want to read whiny so why should you. But here I stand. There you stand. We did it.

I keep learning in my sixth decade: learning about politics, my body, my friendships, my soul, loss. I am more in love with the Pacific Northwest than ever before, not just for the King Fisher I spotted minutes into my first walk post-surgery, or the Bewick’s Wrens nesting over my head while I recuperated under the blooming white antique roses. Add the support of friends, extended family and cousins, the food, simple meals and beautiful cakes. It was an exercise is breathing and gratitude. It was a challenge in healing. It was a time to remember.

I am assembling ingredients for a fancy Empress Gin + cranberry punch for Christmas Eve, complete with my mother’s Steuben punch bowl our first Scottish Terrier slept in decades ago, to be served in cut glass cups, because, friends, why not. We will dress fancy and toast the gatherings to come and the sweet, sweet hard-earned chance to be together as family for a little while, safe and secure in our little pod.

I can’t wait to hug you. Smack my lips on your cheeks, squeeze the air from your body with my arms, sit close together and delight in you. Let the memory of elbow bumps fade. I have missed you. I might even skip across the room when I see you: bionic is the word of the year.

Merry and Fa La F’ing La. We are almost there.

Take that, 2020. #poorbear

Island, Uncategorized

Star light, Star bright.

I am on holiday where the stars are so bright my daughter and I didn’t need a flashlight last night. Olive could hop through the grass and hunt crickets along the roadway. The sky was actually crowded. We craned our necks and stubbed toes watching upwards, walking up a hill, silent for the beauty.

Here it is summertime and as the song goes the living should be easy. But we need rain in a bad way and forget social media. Have you noticed how the conventions escalated super-bad-form behavior on FB and Twitter? This week I have read a lot of good ‘take your finger off the keypad friend’ reminders. As well as a lot of ‘unfriending.’ A hearty dose of not very nice emoji, too. I turn on my phone and usually end up wincing.

When I first came to this island thirty years ago or so there was no technology: neither Internet, or cellphones, or television. One phone booth at the Fish dock. It worked just fine — I would liberally spray myself with bug spray, grab my piece of paper, walk down to the dock in the pitch dark and stand by the phone booth to await my turn to call in my groceries. This was fun, truth be told.

When I get here now I practice leaving my phone behind on walks and keeping it on silent. I remember to concentrate on what is happening around me. I am reminded on night walks like last night that I am very, very small. That I am part of a greater planet watched over by the sun, the sky, the stars and the moon.

Not to get too other-worldly here, but try this. Even in the city. Park the square of plastic and glass that bring you such distress and walk away — into the street, the back yard, the field.

I’m not saying this is easy. I have a love-hate-need-want relationship with my iPhone as great as anyone. But cast your eyes upwards and consider even that annoying drone. And let this sing though your head:
Star light, star bright, 
First star I see tonight, 
I wish I may, I wish I might, 
Have this wish I wish tonight.
I acknowledge answers aren’t that simple. But nothing ever hurt for asking.


Cuttyhunk Island, August, 2016


Sing We.

I did not want to jump into the fray of what has been monopolizing the media this week. Nope. Jumped out in the spring with the only promises to remain true to myself. But I would like to talk about you, me and a glass of wine. And singing.

This morning, two headlines were completely unavoidable on my email and I loved how much they contradicted each other and made me think. NPR, New York Times online and the print paper blasted this quote from the RNC:


Well. You know who said that. And nope to that, too. Neither are you my voice, reader, or the guy expounding over his double latte next to me this morning at Cafe Vita or anyone else posting long diatribes on Facebook, which I do not mind reading because they remind me of the diversity I firmly believe in. I have no control over anyone’s words, but I do know myself.

Today’s poem by Mary Oliver (Blue Horses, Penguin Press, 2014) on The Writer’s Almanac reminded me of what I needed today. Titled,

“To Be Human Is To Sing Your Own Song”

and read aloud by Garrison Keillor in his unmatched tone. Click on it. Think.

Writers, thinkers, tinkers, we humans have achieved nothing if someone else tells us what to do, or think, or wear, or believe. Let’s remember We The People. Let’s remember the Constitution that says we instead of I. That is what has made us the USA.

Sing your own song, to yourself in the shower, to your dog on the grass, to the seagulls on the beach. Make it your own and stand on it. Stomp on it. Believe in yourself. Your instincts are right, for you.

Nope to the rug and the mist for me. But you know what? If that works for you, then I can’t wait to talk over a glass of Rosé and hear why. You can’t change my mind but you can expand it.

That’s what our human brains are for. Let’s use them.


Olive and I found a friend on our morning walk. Random happy photo on this blog today.




After the last three days, I have renamed this blog post:”Resuscitation Is The Only Option.”



What is the first thing that comes to your mind here?

Well I stopped and stared and thought a while and this being Seattle, I allowed the possibility that this tree was rescued from demise and a neighbor was thanking an unknown… but then, no. This felt like a human rescue, a heroic passerby that knew to administer CPR, a stranger that then stepped back onto the sidewalk when 911 arrived. So the rescued painted this sign and hung it at the roundabout — which made me think bicycle wreck– and perhaps the stranger kept walking when she or he saw all was stable.

No name, no license plate, no record of this angel. Just a momentous moment of taking action.

I have a friend here in the city that was hit by a car a few months ago, a mess of braking and slamming and somersaulting and then — blacking out — an inability to recall details. Rattled passerby gave conflicting accounts, uninterested policeman wrote a one-line report, the ensuing hours in Group Health made this a lingering PTSD-like experience that has made him reluctant to take his bike out of the shed, unable to piece together what has scarred him.

What makes us good passerby, rescuers, observers and in the greater picture, responsible for others? Recently I have been unable to articulate how to take care of others in the wake of So. Much. Carnage. Since Orlando. And Medina. And Baghdad. And now, Baton Rouge. I know, with horror, I am not listing all the blood shed since June. Guns and more guns and more fire and more violence.

What do I do, some fifty-something gal working on her writing sitting in her nest so far from so much?

I start by looking closely — at myself, at the people around me, at the moss on the north side of the great tree that shades me as I type. How to take action, starting with myself?

At the coffee shop a few days ago I saw a man hunched over on the bench outside, weeping into his cell phone. Without a second thought I lay my hands on his shoulders, held him and pressed a little love into him for a few seconds. Then I kept walking.

It was my turn to make sure he knew he was not alone. It wasn’t CPR but it was action. Take some.



And so we go on.


The mother-of-the-bride status has been interesting. Sort of like being visibly pregnant and strangers feeling free to rub their hands on my belly. With the engagement of my oldest daughter, suddenly the subject matter of every conversation is weddings past and present. And dresses. And money. And the best way to do things is…

But here’s what keeps me up at night.

I regret many decisions or lack of decisions back thirty years ago when I got married. So I cannot help imposing my “what-if’s” on their “maybe’s.” Today the issues are not that different: While the costs are so much more significant, getting a wedding planned still makes it hard to remember that love drives us to these conversations about flowers, and dresses, and invitations. I keep a running mantra in my head, thanks to a friend — what will make this wedding feel wonderful to you? I repeat myself often to everyone’s frustration.

I have an Aunt who now has known five generations of women in my family. One of my favorite conversations with her over a cup of tea sitting in front of her bay windows wreathed in rangy red geraniums is listing them off and commingling our memories. My Aunt was a young adult when I was five years old yet our memories of Anma, my great-grandmother, her grandmother, are not dissimilar. As the eaglets fly outside the picture window and the sea lions dive for fish in Puget Sound just beyond our chairs, I never cease to be amazed how our ages evaporate as we laugh over these women, how pulling the thread of family and time tighter between us makes me so incredibly happy.

How do I pull the thread tight as our family marches towards the next phase, a new man at the table, new holiday traditions? My son watches us as we role model as sisters, mothers, daughters, women. I want all of them to be able to pull that thread tight in the years to come — with or without me — to laugh at the memories, to remember shopping for the wedding dresses, the successes or disasters of our first holidays as a new family. Our favorite colors. How we stayed in touch.

In the middle of the night I am filled with a fierceness that keeps me awake until the birds begin to sing. How do I make this feel right for all of us?

I want them to remember all the quirks and failures and fabulousness like my Aunt and I share together. I want to rub their bellies and swat the hands of strangers away. I want to welcome my son’s partner into our quirky house and applaud her for jumping into this family of strong women that will soon go back six generations in my memory when babies arrive. I want to rub her belly when the time comes and tell stories about a great-great-grandmother that embroidered the footrest for her swollen feet.

And so we go on. I just have to keep the faith I am a thread that will not break, despite any and all changes. That I cannot control much of anything.

But I will keep saying,

“What do you want to feel so this is the most wonderful day of your life?”

And ignore the eye rolling.



Me and the girls. Canton, NY May 2016


Holding Space

This article on holding space hits home. After holding space for so many family members, friends and strangers with my hospice volunteer work, I am reminded that there is nothing easy but everything rewarding by giving the gift of holding space for people who need us. Occasionally, I like to post something I have not written but would like to share with my readers.  Thanks again to Ann Teplick, here is this.

What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone



This morning at six I sipped tea and checked my phone, gearing up for the last seven hour trip up to St. Lawrence University to celebrate our family’s last college graduate. This was the poem of the day on The Writer’s Almanac. My cup runneth over. Enough said.


by Ronald Wallace


Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.

All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows’ ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.

Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There’s rest for the weary.
There’s turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

Some days I know
I am long for this world.
I can go home again.
And when I go
I can
take it with me.