The Best Things I’ve Read This Week

1. Last night I entered night owl territory, flying through David Grann’s riveting New Yorker piece on Antarctic journeyer Henry Worsley.

The story of Worsley is likely far more interesting if one has more than a passing familiarity with Ernest Shackleton–I recommend the documentary below, an excellent one that I’ve used to teach my freshmen storytelling techniques as they create their own documentaries.

2. Martha Nussbaum’s lengthy, wide-ranging interview here. Arguably the most important working philosopher today, Nussbaum’s archness here, with her regular precision and humanity, are at once inspiring and delightful. The Emotion Researcher site is having troubles this morning–The Atlantic’s article on her is also good.

3. Deep Work by Cal Newport posits a radical (to me) idea: that our brains don’t need light or shallow activity to recover from deep, focused work, they simply need a change, a switch to a different type of deep, focused activity. I have been guilty of glutting on Twitter at times over the past year, trying to make sense of things far and near, and I have been dogged by an unnerving sense that I’m shifting something fundamental in my brain. My students were often on my mind throughout this book; Deep Work seems to confirm my growing sense that my students likely are having more trouble with diving into deep work (such as timed writes) because of their regular smartphone use.

4. Speaking of timed essays, I read some good stuff this weekend from my smart scribblers:

• Children fear what they do not know, while adults fear what children should know.

• In this poem, the speaker pinpoints fear as the child’s biggest attribute to be stamped down by adults. For no one has more fear than an adult who has seen the horrors of reality.

• Collins indirectly poses the question, are such horrific events inevitable? Or can we change our fate if we change our actions and the way we educate our children?


Winter Solstice 2017

S. noticed that the hummingbird feeders were frozen this morning. We hopped to it, bringing them inside, putting them in a pan of hot water and within seconds of rehanging them, the little brrrds were filling up their reserves.

Maybe we’ll bring the feeders inside while the hummingbirds are in torpor at night and then put the feeders out again in the early morning.
IMG-1200K, our singing group, and I sang at the beginning of Bloedel Reserve’s Solstice Walk and then joined the quiet procession through the dark woods and gardens. (photo credit: K)

IMG-1208A couple of hours of darling children: gingerbread house building and crocheting next to the fire.

IMG-1215Tasha is one of the very best parts of a winter stay-cation.

Early December


A at his 14th birthday party. I was in anthropologist mode, listening to a complicated trivia game he made up for his partygoers to play.

The mornings lately start like this:


And get to this:


The Danish String Quartet is my current favorite group–they’re coming to Seattle in February!

The latest book I’ve read: Radio Free Vermont by Bill McKibben is a short, fun, what-if scenario about seceding from the Union. It references Trump and Tillerson but shies away from any really hard-hitting commentary.

Last, incidental student poetry from the back board:

  1. Seattle-area students getting their grumbles in:


2. Seniors already chomping at the bit:


3. But very much still kiddos:




K after performing three gorgeous songs at this year’s NATS competition.


Miss S and her mother


Much of the time now, Seattle from the ferry looks like an Impressionist painting with one serene color on the painter’s palette.


I’ve been more interested in chopping stuff up lately instead of baking or cooking–this is my new favorite salsa:

  • 2 pomegranates
  • 1 avocado
  • a bunch of cilantro
  • 4 or 5 green onions
  • salt and pepper

I worried that a mouthful would feel like a lot of woody roughage from the pomegranate seeds, but they’re completely hidden by the crunchiness of corn chips!


It’s the last leaf on our baby Japanese maple, and the week A turned 14.


Late Autumn Asserts Itself

November whirled in with hours of snow yesterday, though none of it stuck, with the temperature hovering at 34 degrees or warmer. We’re in this magical, paradoxical, liminal season of brilliant decaying leaves, crisp air that smells like wood fires and pine needles, and on this Saturday afternoon, tea, good books, and GF goodies from Jake’s Pickup.



The hummingbirds are still here!

I think they might be Anna’s Hummingbirds, which have started to stay through the winter in Seattle. There’s at least one of these minuscule beauties around our house who lets me get very close; it was one of my summer projects to tame it by stints of sitting right under the feeder to read. I had to turn my pages very slowly.

tasha at park

Tasha’s with her beloved egg for herding–she’ll stick her nose under it and drive it forward at mad-dash speeds, but because of its ovate shape, she can’t accurately predict its path. She’ll buck it up in the air, travel a few feet with it bouncing on her forehead, change directions and race with it crunching through the park leaves (cottonwood) or our yard (Japanese maple) while we cheer her on or giggle at her antics.

— • —

Last night we had fun with an idea from a Neil Gaiman tweet: type in ‘I was born’ and then write your autobiography from your predictive text on your phone.

Here’s S’s: I was born and I don’t want you so bad. My family is going on in my head.

Here’s B’s: I was born in the future. I have a patient who just consulted with the pharmacist for you to grab my love.

Here’s mine: I was born in the orange bag with the water in my house. Hi, I hope you’re doing good. Hope your day was wonderful. You are wonderful.

End of October


This is the majority of my costume this year: a diction fairy crown. 🙂

The afternoon of this Halloween was quieter around our house than any year before. It’s sunny and dry for the first time in a decade of Halloweens here, and in the garden, we’re still picking cherry tomatoes; I went out this afternoon and found some extra little jewels: late-ripening raspberries from our newly-transplanted canes!



This Saturday Bainbridge Island Art Museum opened their gorgeous Dia de los Muertos celebration.