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.


Bainbridge in Bloom and BARN

The Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour is an annual event on the island, hosted by private garden owners, and produced by the Bainbridge Arts & Humanities Council. They hire musicians to play throughout the gardens, and yesterday I got to experience two gorgeous places as I sang with my women’s chamber group, Byway.
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I figured out what these are: Allium Nectaroscordum, or Mediterranean bells. The bees love them.

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Also, Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) had their open house on Saturday afternoon. The concept is progressive and brilliantly executed; it’s a community gathering point for physical resources and materials as well as knowledgable, talented individuals who teach and guide. There are 11 studios: Book Arts, Fiber Arts, Glass Arts, Kitchen Arts, Metal Arts, Electronic and Technical Arts, Jewelry and Fine Metals, Media Arts, Printmaking, Woodworking and Small Boat Building, and Writers.

I want to do it all!

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Prom 2017


Heading out for BHS prom (K lent me a dress, so even though she wasn’t there, her sparkle was).

Dinner at Cafe Paloma with P and D beforehand was such a treat that I was tempted to stay and talk much longer. We did stay until closing once, with R and her brother J when she was here on a rare visit to Seattle.

I love Seattle in the summer–when we left the restaurant after 8 pm, the light was still glorious against the downtown buildings while we walked north to the art museum. As a prom venue, the Seattle Art Museum has some cons: required catering service so pricey that the food for the evening was ice water; echoing space=few smaller rooms in which to congregate and talk. It also has some pros; the art collections on the third floor are very cool, especially their Northwestern Native American collection.

I was struck by the hi-low atmosphere of young adults in formal dress wandering through the galleries while rock music surged through the museum. It’s representative of late adolescence, which embraces contradictions and is extraordinarily open to multiple ways of seeing things. I’m really going to miss this graduating class–In Don DeLillo’s words, “it is not possible to see too much in them.”


Personal identity: a concept worth investigating in nearly every work of literature and art.

The etymology of the word is an interesting angle; identity (from Latin idem) means “the same”, so I suppose maintaining the same characteristics over time gives us our identity.

The Picture of Dorian Gray raises the issue of exerting influence over others’ identities and being open to influence. K’s character, Sibyl Vane, undergoes a radical shift in her personal identity–from actress/chanteuse to beloved and lover of Dorian. This is the important take-away: In the first identity, she is an independent agent. In the second, she is dependent on someone else to help her maintain that identity. Therein lies the tragedy.

Look: K on the cover! The article inside neglects to mention Scott Breitbarth, the musical director and choreographer for the show, so this is my shout-out to the brilliant work he’s done!

2016-10-30-09-57-21We went to the 5th Avenue’s production of Man of La Mancha last night, and this was the question the play raised for me:

How does a person’s commitment to their personal identity play out for tragedy or triumph?

A truth about life: change is all there ever is. So does someone inflexible in their personal identity suffer? Similarly, does someone too malleable or changeable suffer?

Man of LaMancha reminded me of 1984, which I’m re-reading right now. The scene with the Knight of the Mirrors who disabuses Quixote of his illusions is strikingly similar to the later O’Brien scenes with Winston Smith. Smith, who looks in a mirror and has a difficult time coming to terms with the person he is, or was, or will be.



Late October

2016-10-22-14-43-06Grading: this is currently my favorite set-up. Screenless.

2016-10-25-16-39-02Really thoughtful student S made cookies for us!

2016-10-25-16-46-01Quince jelly from the Bs. This is the most amazing concoction. Like honey and wine and sunlight.

I spent Friday evening (the pay-what-you-can show) and Saturday (the opening night) at BHS’s fall play The Picture of Dorian Gray:

2016-10-27-20-08-54This is K singing Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as Sibyl Vane in a desperate and bereft state. It absolutely works–K and the rest of the cast are superb, the script is a brilliant adaptation by my colleague K Polinsky, and the period costumes are delightful.


2016-10-01-12-50-48This is K at 6 days old–mouth, nose, eyes, all the same. Fiery spirit, intense personality, love of flannel, all the same.

I’d given my Sounders playoff ticket away so I could go to the Thursday Dorian Gray show; a good decision–while B was on his way home from the match, I watched the highlight videos of Valdez’s score and Frei’s saves more than once. Soccer is strange in the way that life is strange–many slow stretches and then things happen very very quickly. It’s a relief to watch the re-play, to analyze, to dissect, to understand.

Watching Valdez and trying to determine whether he was offside makes me think of recent class discussions. I’ve been teaching The Winter’s Tale in AP Lit and talking with my seniors about epistemology–how do we know what we think we know? Sometimes it’s because we trust our eyes, our senses. Sometimes we reason something out. Sometimes we trust an authority’s say-so. Sometimes there is a strong, bright feeling, an intuition.

Seattle Evenings Out

Of the books I’ve read this past year, my favorite is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. He spoke at Benaroya Hall’s main auditorium this last Wednesday evening to a sold-out crowd, including giddy me along with B.DSC_0056

That evening Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction, which was announced as “breaking literary news” and applauded with whoops. Coates’ Between the World and Me is on my to-read list for this summer.

This interview captures a little of Doerr’s delightful personality. His talk was on the beauty of failure, and at one point he told the audience to read Wislawa Szymborska’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. So now I have, and  here’s part of it that I’ll use with my seniors close to their graduation:

inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners – and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.”

Last night we saw the extraordinary Mark Morris Dance Group at the Moore Theatre. Waiting in the restroom line, I was standing by someone who said to her companion, “Did you like Anthony Doerr’s talk?” Her friend replied, “Yeah, he was just fabulous. He was…goofy!” 

It made me wonder how many people there had gone to both events and how many people circulate in Seattle’s arts scene. I thought of my Proust professor’s lectures on Belle Époque Paris and how, though the city population was somewhere around two million, the arts scene was small enough that regular attendees would have been familiar with each other.

This article on the reason for theatre (and I would argue, art of all kind) and its inability to reach a huge number of people continues to intrigue me.

A four-hand piano version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 accompanied the dancers’ performance of “The”; I watched the pianists as much as the dancers.

MMDG was humorous, transporting, inspiring. Modern dance makes me want to write poetry and talk to strangers and leap around outside–all at the same time. I usually sort of carry on as usual until the feeling subsides.

Koru Quilt

I’ve finally finished the quilt I began in New Zealand, almost exactly three years ago!

It’s not perfect, but I still love it. The light that breaks through stained glass reminds me of New Zealand light, and I wanted to represent stained glass panes and the koru unfurling within them.

I’ve entered the quilt in the upcoming Bainbridge Quilt Festival, and I’m looking forward to seeing many other quilts to inspire my next project!

Here’s the sketches and piecing.

Here’s the quilt top finished.

Here’s the quilt being worked on two summers ago, a precious picture to me:

The quilt is almost entirely hand-stitched and hand-quilted; the exception is the main black cross, which I machine stitched right before we left to UT so that the completed top could be put on the quilt frame there.

The audio books I’ve listened to while stitching: The Girl on the Train, Maisie Dobbs, Frankenstein, Station Eleven, The Power of Habit, and probably 10 others I can’t remember.

S’s 15th Birthday

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S at 15: invisalign, never wears makeup, excited to be in Victoria, B.C. for the first time, loves extreme dot-to-dot, regularly makes up new recipes, considering medical school and psychiatry, vivacious, confident, helpful.

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Butchart Gardens in early August is a riot of bloom and a green oasis in a rather dry year on Vancouver Island. We wondered how much water they must use to keep it all so lush, and pondered the use of finite resources in the pursuit of beauty. The gardens are accessible to the public (though not available to all due to cost of entry and location), and serve as a sort of living museum as well as natural art gallery.

When we saw this gorgeous mimosa tree, we told the kids about the mimosas in Alabama that gracefully spring away from touch, relatives of the sensitive plant we have growing on our kitchen window sill. I waited while S went to see if this one would respond to her.

People are funny–when the leaves didn’t flinch from S, K and A had to see if they would have a different effect on the tree.

In Victoria proper.

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This chalk art cracked me up because it looks like this game A’s been playing called “Goat Simulator”. It’s hilarious and horrifying in equal measure, with the goats licking things and dragging them around by their long stretchy tongues. There were a couple of others that took my fancy:

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In the gorgeous Munro’s Books, where we found plenty of good reads for the ferry ride back to Port Angeles:

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And back at home, look what Grandma V made for S: A memory quilt that includes fabric from 6 decades of sewing clothes and quilts!


Christmas trip 2014, part 3

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Departing from King’s Cross Station, destination: Cambridge. The hour-long train ride north was a nice chance to rest after a lot of traipsing around.

When I realized several years ago that the annual Christmas Eve service at King’s College Chapel was open to anyone who could get themselves to Cambridge and then stand in the line, I decided that someday I absolutely had to be there. Unsurprisingly, we met several people in line who said that they’d come to England (from the U.S., from Canada) just for the service.

Up early the next morning in order to join the queue by 7:00 a.m.! So excited, we breakfasted on (cold) hot cross buns we’d packed in our bag of provisions — already stamping our feet in the cold — while hearing American accents drift around the queue.






As our provisions ran thin and our hands and feet grew colder, we took turns going into the coffee shop to warm up a bit.


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S and K made friends with O, a student of archaeology at Cambridge.





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When the sun finally broke through the morning clouds, it shone like a blessing. Carolers, pastoral landscapes, punters on the River Cam, and friendly folks in the queue with us made 6 1/2 hours in the cold part of a beautiful experience. At 1:30 p.m. we were let into the chapel, where the stone floors are warm with radiant heat and the stained glass walls glow.

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The most exquisite fan vaulting in the world. You can listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols we participated in here.

Christmas trip 2014, part 2

When you are young, you don’t know what your future holds — you don’t know what applies to you. So when you travel or read or encounter anything new, you soak it up — not through any special effort, but because you’re potentially going to use it all.

Teaching is so rewarding because it puts me right back in that open mindset of potentially using anything and everything I encounter — the tiniest things become brighter and more interesting; they become metaphors and examples of larger truths about humanity.

Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock

In Trafalgar Square, there are four plinths, or stands for statues to perch on. The first three were occupied early on, by George IV, General Havelock, and General Napier. The fourth remained empty (due to a shortage of funds) but now has become a stage of sorts for contemporary works of art to have their time in the spotlight, and just now it’s this broadly humorous, overtly feminist, bright blue cockerel. Shakespeare would have loved the pun.

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Buckingham Palace

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on the south side of the Thames, was a treat to visit. This is their off-season since the theatre is open-air, but they do year-round tours.




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After nightfall, we saw the British Museum’s antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone!

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British fish and chips! S: “I prefer New Zealand’s.”