Winter weather

Up until last week, this Seattle winter has been quite mild. For instance, my fava beans were blooming on January 19th, and the kale was giving me a healthy harvest every week:

And then, on Sunday, Feb 3: Snow, magical snow!
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The school week included a snow day, a late start, and an early release.

By Saturday, Feb 9: Snowfall and icy road conditions made driving inadvisable; the good doctor made his way into town to visit a patient.

Sunday, Feb 10: Skiing around town.

Monday, Feb 11, 4:30 p.m.: 13 inches of accumulation. Schools were closed, grocery stores intermittently out of bananas, bread, and hot cocoa, power outages all over the island (gratitude for power at our house), sledding and igloo building down every side street. It felt like evening all afternoon; the perfect day for one of my favorite poems: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”.

Tuesday, Feb 12: Rain and temperatures above freezing started to melt the snow into densely wet drifts and banks. Walked to barre class in the slush, spent most of the day cozied up with the dog and a fascinating book: Why We Sleep. Family movie: Mister Rogers documentary.

Wednesday, Feb 13: We have a late start for school today, and thereafter we’ll hopefully resume a normal schedule.

Both magical and treacherous, interludes like this remove some pressures and introduce others. We are impelled to start at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and consider how we will stay warm, how and what we will eat, etc. For many of us, these lower-tier needs have long gone largely unconsidered; in fact, they are called “deficiency needs” since we generally only become anxious about them when they aren’t being met.

There is a paradoxical aspect to snow: when it’s been falling for long enough, it muffles the world and swathes it in blank quietness–and at the same time, it amplifies tragedies (weather-related deaths) and kindness (people going out to tow strangers out of ditches, offering their warm houses, etc).


Late Summer

This summer, the bioluminescence in the Puget Sound was breathtaking. We waited until it was just dark enough to see the sparkling churn of the water, about 11:15 p.m. Slight movements of tiny fish near the surface were darting fireworks; walking sticks we trailed through the water became magic wands that stirred smoky, melting curls of blue-green light. I had never seen bioluminescence in the ocean before, and cupping a handful of watery stars that clung to me and ran down my arms, I felt the astonishing wonder of childhood again. When A. jumped into Hidden Cove he became a magical outline of a young man, covered in sparkling jewels and trailing glorious blue fire.

S’s 18th birthday and family pictures:


Propagation success! This summer I started 10 new angel wing begonia and pothos plants. This is day 3 of the stems in water in a line-up of mason jars on the kitchen window sill: img-1955.jpg
After a month on the windowsill: IMG-2026

This has also been the summer of Poor Tasha with her Broken Toe. We don’t know how her toe broke, but she’s had to be in a splint with a wrapped cast from June until August, with weekly vet visits. She’s still not supposed to walk on it very much, which is utterly depressing for a Corgi. A day after the cast was put on, she still wouldn’t acknowledge the leg as part of her body. I thought a visit to my classroom would cheer her up, but nope.


IMG-1614Lots of cuddle time.

IMG-2004Walking to the vet to get the cast off!

Some of the books I’ve read lately:

Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark

What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte. This audiobook has been a revelation–it feels like the poet-philosopher is authentically speaking with the listener, pausing to choose the right words and phrases. He also reads poetry in a repetitive, recursive way that makes it intelligible and crystalline. I realize that I could do much more of that kind of re-reading aloud with my students.

The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot by Rebecca Mead (I found this one at Chapters book store in Dublin; the U.S. title is slightly different)

• Mystery novels by Elizabeth George (beach reads set in England)

B’s 47th and the early June Garden


Carrot cake and creative roman numerals by S, pansies from the garden.

B wanted tortilla soup for his birthday dinner. The recipe we make calls for mint, preferably fresh from the garden (which we can do for at least 7 months of the year). I used a combination of peppermint and apple mint–look at the size of the leaves!


Also coming up: Indigo rose tomatoes



Really exuberant oregano:


And a bed of greens and herbs that I’m growing from my collection of last year’s seed pods!


Happy, happy birthday, B.

Tortilla soup:

  • 1 quart of chicken broth (or stock, or veggie broth)
  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a shallot
  • 1/2 clove fresh garlic or pinch of garlic powder
  • sprig of fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a blender, combine tomatoes, shallot, garlic, and some of the broth. Puree and add to a stockpot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. This will be a fresh-tasting and light soup; we make a buffet of additions: chicken, avocado, cilantro, lime, tortilla chips or tostada shells, and cheese.

Mother’s Day, Books, and My Students on Poetry

What a glorious day today!




This little bunch of bluebells was sitting on our doorstep a few days ago 🙂

I’ve had a little more time to read lately; I finished Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. It’s the kind of exquisite book I feel curmudgeonly about pointing out any flaws in–and yet, I found it a bit repetitive in parts or at least predictable. Still, certain sections of Perry’s prose are breathtaking–the first paragraph, for instance:

One o’clock on a dreary day and the time ball dropped at the Greenwich Observatory. There was ice on the prime meridian, and ice on the rigging of the broad-beamed barges down on the busy Thames. Skippers marked the time and tide, and set their oxblood sails against the northeast wind; a freight of iron was bound for Whitechapel foundry, where bells tolled fifty against the anvil as if time were running out. Time was being served behind the walls of Newgate jail, and wasted by philosophers in cafes on the Strand; it was lost by those who wished the past were present, and loathed by those who wished the present past. Oranges and lemons rang the chimes of St. Clement’s, and Westminster’s division bell was dumb.

I’ve also been reading Michael Robbins’ Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music, in which he says, “You don’t decide to go deep into words. Something takes you there.”

That reminds me of some of the things my AP students wrote last week in response to my question: What makes a good poem?

“A good poem makes your hair stand up. It is entirely up to the individual.”

“A poem that leads to serious assessment or thought about something.”

“One that emotionally involves any and all readers and leaves you thinking.”

“A good poem is able to illustrate a relatable and complex feeling in a unique and powerful way.”

“A good poem can be almost immediately recognized as true.”

“A good poem is one that is simple, easy to read but has sophistication and deeper meaning; I don’t want to dissect it like a puzzle but rather more contemplate it.”

“A good poem is any poem that changes your outlook on its subject in any significant way.”

“A good poem conveys emotion, any emotion.”

“A good poem makes you imagine the poem in real life.”

“A good poem always needs to make me feel something new or something I haven’t felt in a while.”

“It should make one consider and re-evaluate one’s own life as it makes one feel.”

“A good poem has music and rhythms coursing beneath its surface, regardless of whether or not it rhymes. It conveys its images in surprising, interesting ways, and the poet shows a mastery and command of language.”

“A good poem makes you compare it to what you know about the world.”

“A good poem casts a striking image in one’s mind and intelligently conveys its message.”

“A good poem has a thoughtful structure that compliments the topic itself.”

“A good poem is able to describe and create feelings that people have always known, but never been able to explain.”

What an insightful, emotionally intelligent group of students I have! Typing out their handwritten answers is part homage, part hallelujah, and the beginning of this year’s bittersweet goodbye.

Early April



Eggs and greens for K’s 20th birthday celebration! They made a delicious frittata. S collected the eggs from chickens she’s taking care of over spring break; the greens and herbs are from our garden.

Easter books this year for B and A:IMG-1329

For K:


For S:


And for A:


The camellias on the table are courtesy of this great beauty:




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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May Garden


102_9756It’s like it can’t contain its joy!

102_9754The pea shoots are very happy in their garden box. So are the weeds this warm, wet spring. I’m being selective about where I point the camera just now.

102_9761Wide exuberance shortly before the end.

Mid-Winter Break

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Today’s glorious sunshine brought Christina Rossetti’s first verse of “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” to mind:

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Here’s a re-worked verse for today:

In the mild mid-winter
Camellias all abloom,
Earth inhaled the sunshine,
Water like a loom;
Weaving roots and blossoms,
Bloom on bloom,
In the mild mid-winter
Come so soon.

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A and I started preparing the garden beds and discovered some of my purple carrots happily wintering over! They’re going in the coconut curry tonight.

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Tasha got a new rawhide bone and the houseplants all got a little direct sunlight on the outskirts of our badminton game. I had my teeth cleaned this morning (do I dare admit it had been since 2008?), still no cavities, no problems–this sort of history is why I can be so blasé–and I feel like I’ve been to a spa. Now to curl up again with one of the 7 books I’m trying to get through before the break is over!