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:



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.

Autumn is Here

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They had blue New Zealand pumpkins at the Suyematsu pumpkin patch! A had his picked out in one second flat.

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A, Grandpa R, and Grandma V (up for the weekend!) had a ride all to themselves while the girls were still finding their pumpkins.

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K’s in the fall play this year, The Laramie Project; one I’m very happy to support and proud of our school for presenting.

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S’s going to carve hers upside down. S’s done such a great job of adjusting to high school, running on the cross-country team, and keeping up with her classes–this is a typical scenario at 6:15 a.m. when I patter out to the kitchen for hot water, to find S up, dressed for the day, packed for her away meet, doing homework.

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I rarely know who exactly makes the poems in the poetry corner of the board, but just like my students, they’re often funny, insightful, and full of random spontaneity.

student poem board
[Make me a poem! You relax]

student poem 1
[Intuition withers at dusk when quiet and color flower over the gentle blue night]

Exquisite Corpse 1

This evening I showed A. the gorgeous poem my 5th period class created collaboratively. He loved the idea of creating something piecemeal and shared, and jumped up to get a piece of paper and a pen to bring to the dinner table. Thus, we have our first family exquisite corpse poem:

Winsome winds carry my wish

My hope, my dream, my vision of us:

Happiness, truth, love and respect

Are the ideals of many fallen nations

S ! P ! Q ! R !

The kids explained that last line’s significance (they’re Percy Jackson aficionados, which means they knew it means the Senate and People of Rome). Lookee here: In a mere quintain, we’ve got assonance, alliteration, enjambment, and a volta at line four. And all while eating hunter’s stew and pumpkin spice cake!

Birthday reflections

B and I have birthdays exactly a week apart and this June was 42 for B and 37 for me. If you’re a Douglas Adams fan, you’ll know that 42 is the answer–and B is expecting this year to be auspicious, if not the best year yet. I’d say the forecast is looking good. 🙂

B’s birthday dinner: homemade pesto-chicken pizza (so good, we reprised it a week later for my b-day dinner).


A year in the sunshine has given me definite crow’s feet/laugh lines/extra character:

Photo on 2013-06-13 at 14.24 #2

A little digital manipulation takes care of those, though:

Photo on 2013-06-13 at 14.25 #2

But really, as long as I get a good night’s sleep, I’m feeling physically better than I ever have. I’m very fortunate.

A copy of Barry Crump’s Hang On a Minute, Mate was my birthday present this year, intended as a read-aloud to the family, and I’ll start on it as soon as I’ve worked my way through his A Good Keen Man. He reminds me of Steinbeck: ordinary, down-and-out folks. Straightforward style. Crump makes us roll on the floor groaning with laughter, though; it’s really great read-aloud stuff.

One of my favorite writing tricks when I’m feeling uninspired is the cut-up machine. The following is a combination of lines from my journal on 6/14 and part of Kipling’s poem on Auckland (can you find it?).

the loneliest comes from one
loveliest exquisite year
in my face the golden harbor
kids come sun-squinting
up the grassy old harbor skirt
home and now
away and


This is a slice of the view driving back from Kerikeri. It can feel like a long drive, and on Wednesday I had a poem running through my head as I drove through the green hills and fields.

It comes from the walls of the primary school’s main room, posted among the windows, art, poems, song lyrics, and prayers.

Me piki te huarahi
Ki te tutaki ki a koe
Me whakamahana te ra
I to kanohi
Me haere pai koe

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine
Lightly on your face
May you tread lightly on your way

Hokianga sunset

Finally the gray film that held the sky taut and one-dimensional all day broke into discernible clouds at sunset.

Taken from the back deck at the house. The whare.

My whare

Stands on stilts, nude boards
weathering unevenly with grays
among the strong young browns.

My whare has many windows
but no screens,
a fish smoker
and a beach.

My whare isn’t my whare
it’s a gift that I sleep in,
cut my nails in,
sometimes shout in
and say sorry in.