Monday, October 26, 2009


Last week I went to a Contra Dance & I've been musing on the geometry we dancers were "writing" in our movements to the caller's instructions. I found myself inside a new experiential relationship to the Celtic knot work which I've studied & used for so long it has become a structural part of my design language.

I understand for myself that there is a deeply ancient, broadly pragmatic, sub-verbal, mostly visual "alphabet", if not actual language. I have found, for example, identical knot patterns in Chinese bronzes, Aztec decorative work & Celtic illuminations... seeming to be a glyph of an idea. One sees it labeled as a "endless knot" or "treasure knot" in current marketing of imported oriental goods. I would observe that its real treasure is perhaps hidden in the roots of what must have been some proto-language, useful to form & hold an idea so fundamental to human consciousness that it gets submerged under what developed into the more iconic glyphs we use to denote spoken & written communication.

It seems the "idea" of an idea... not yet a symbol nor even a glyph... a path, perhaps, through the earliest brain. I sense It as spatial thinking which can have parallels to written language while yet having more to do with actual or implied manipulation of material. a practical communication born of the fingers as much as the mind. It is one way makers still think. It is showing an explanation before the meaning of words can have any basis to compare & communicate the abstraction. It has much to do with the prepositions of demonstration: one makes a knot learning what "over" or "under" looks like. What it feels like as one turns it over to verify what must otherwise be extrapolated. We still say a picture is worth a thousand words... artists might quip that we might have saved a lot of effort if language had not become the defining human accomplishment!

Maria Gimbutas has done work of an incredibly more evolved system of such notion. Her books are a wonderland of drawings of prehistoric pottery & stone carvings she catalogues into a visual glossary. I've found inspiration in them at a similar level. I have used her concepts of such iconography even more than the richly drawn illustrations of those archaeological images to inspire my work.

While Jungian archetypes dance more conceptually in similarly deep territory, they always are layered over with much complexity of history in verbal & written language. While each of the dancers last night exhibited archetypes of personality, we were involved in learning to be parts of a evolving concept of geometry... each learning the path of a pair of lines [remember learning to line up with your kindergarten [now preschool] mates? Remember also the rudimentary sexual education begun in identifying boy/girl, boy/girl?

That is the beginning lesson to contra dancing. Two lines of humans facing each other boy/girl boy/girl, partnered to the one across & neighbored to the one above... the top being the end of the floor with the musicians & the caller... two couples making a square. We eventually accumulated four squares,

Pattern begins as perception of simple formation, often linear, so we have now the conception of a warp, the parallel cords over & under which the more active weft cord is woven to make textile. Basic polarity in action toward function. Simple utility inviting new interaction into what is straightforwardly implication of further complication. We learn simple steps, spinning ones partner, then spinning ones neighbor before crossing the square with our four left hands while turning in a circle before changing partners in a do-se-do, for the repeat of what becomes a social braid of subtle complexity inside communal effort to understand bodily the pattern of those who hold thrall for this musically driven instruction.

I came to this train of thought as I began looking from inside our effort to see familiar visuals in this line dance. It was as if there were those kind of footprint illustrations, explaining with arrows the dance steps we made over the progressing course of a song... I saw we were tracing the pattern of a basic Celtic knot work border... I was dancing the wedding rings I used to carve.

Such activity is something far from my usual. A new monthly event instigated on the Island by some remarkable folk, one of whom has become a good friend. [I must write about Tom one day.] They have also begun our local Free Range Folk Choir. I was not the only novice. The form of this old English tradition seems always to have that basic social educational aspect. Its currency in this new time rather requires bringing almost childish reminders of wonder to aging adults like me.

We all were learning simple skills: basic steps, then making them again & again into processional progression. Some of us had to take remedial lessons... again!... in learning our left from our right hands, or which way the clock's hands go. Most must have, like me, reacted variously to being called tops or bottoms. Several women tried to break in while another friend was giving me a waltz lesson, whether desiring the fun themselves or believing I might prefer to not be following the lead in another man's arms, I'm not certain, but I taught my own lesson when I declined to stay with my partner. ll was all good natured, of course.

I found this happy description on the web:
... Contra dance is Real People in Real Time with Real Music. It is Real Life. You cannot experience this while sitting on your duff, VR helmet or not. Get out more often! You know you spend way too much time in front of your computer and/or TV. In other words, it is impossible to record the incredible synergy and spirit that occurs when you combine enthusiastic, connected, happy dancers, hot musicians and swell choreography. It would take quite a talented multimedia author indeed to capture just a tiny slice of that magic that takes place.

On the way to such spirit, our group experienced the curious vicissitudes of polarity, beginning with a lack of gents enough to pair everyone by external gender. Some ladies necessarily became honorary gents. While such unequal proportion too seems part of dance tradition we needed to be aware which of us were temporarily trans-sexed as we dance boy/girlboy/boy/girl. The confusion brought us to laughter any times.

Saturday, October 10, 2009



I find myself piqued to quill by a questioning post on cousin Anjana's blog... was the bride of the wedding which we went to India to celebrate...

How much do you want to document your experiences ? Will recording them help you make better sense of your own evolution ? Has it helped you evolve in the future ? How much do you [return] to the documentation and is reviewing it interesting enough that it was worth the effort?

How much nostalgia is healthy and appropriate for you ?

I've kept a rather regular journal for most of thirty-five years, beginning seriously when at 30 I embarked on a rare journey of rich exploratory travel into a new period of my life.

While there are several other small volumes with some few pages written during my late teens, such attention was obviously short lived... only beginning dreams toward this time of my turning 30, leaving Denver, evolving toward a less urban, more solitary mode. I was ready to bring new maturity to the process.

What began as a typical road-travel diary came to include the I-Ching readings I made for contemplation during this extended solitary road trip. I was in a Jungian stage of individuation. I was working with an already well developed ego & had the time to indulge myself in deeper work, much of it dancing out of my involvement with a play therapist named Austin Delaney, making two dusty drives down to his remote retreat in Baja to spend time sifting & soaking in sandbox symbology.

My use of words like "play" & "dancing" for describing such adventure of my life began then & I celebrate that they still are some of my most preferred & useful verbs.

I now have a trunk tightly packed with the collection of bound volumes accumulated over these years, plus another matching trunk of photocopied letters written back when I tried to share similar writing with family & friends. I consider these papers part of my journal.

All these pages are handwritten, usually in the india ink [I wonder if I am I a fan of India first by default of a misnomer?!!] from the rapidograph technical pens to which I was so long addicted... reassured by the sense of permanence that ink suggested. My fingers became almost as permanently stained. Flying with one of them was quite an adventure, as they often reacted to the changing cabin pressure by leaking or even burping exuberantly... I dedicated myself to the ritual of holding the uncapped pen bedded in a handkerchief during takeoff & landing to prevent the cap from filling with that dangerous black to ooze out when next I wanted to write. A handkerchief which long lived inside the book's covers became an archive of marks & blots from years of grooming the nibs of those tetchy writing instruments!

I've had sleek leather slip covers [barely seen in the photo above as background for a datura blossom] made to hold my chosen size of standard blank books, one for each, writing & drawing.

I became quite serious about my journal & perhaps, even obsessed!

i developed the calligraphic block style of my handwriting from my father's curious mix of caps & lower case handwriting & my art student's fascination with the rather standard draftsman's block style & those old speedball pens we used for making posters in high school. I lettered myriad signs for the department store where I worked during High School. I abandoned cursive when my handwriting was quite young, as can be seen if I try to use that form now. After years' habit & development, my handwriting has developed a strong familiarity as part of my identity & even a certain fame.

Long before any sort of writing style with the ideas words can convey, I was developing a sense of how they should look... indeed, that is no small part of how I think with words now. Committing one's everyday thoughts to such ink invites fastidious forethought... even as the first mandate is to capture the moment.

I wanted it to look good as well as being legible. At first I tried the notion that each page was a calendar day, but the accumulation waste of paper quickly became evident as I would almost never finish writing that much in 24 hours... even as I attempted using the blank trail to guilt-trip myself into more diligence.

I began to read the unwritten tales of some pages... analyzing my state or mood by the slant of the lines. I sometimes tried to project my life through it, making affirmations. That was as iffy in ink as it is in the ephemeral world... but I appreciate the clarity of idea that notion teaches: "Be careful what you wish for..."

I studied my calligraphy, practicing nuance to reveal or disguise the word's wells & walls, to enhance one glyph's relationship to its neighbors. Early on I needed to consider whether I would draw in my journal, or reserve it for words alone. I love that the proper verb for making an Icon is "to write" rather than "to paint"... so I appreciate how drawings can be "literal", but I decided that the obviously more messy process of drawing was better kept out of these pages... I maintain other books for that kind of thinking. Still my love of symbols & glyphs required some visual notes.

I played with my journal. I studied myself inside it. I was often literally living it.

Over the years the questions about to whom & for what I'm making all these words has been omnipresent & never quite answered. Writing for oneself must be what brings one to writing in the first place. Before writing what one wants to say, one must say/write those things to oneself. God knows I often sermonized & still can. I veer not enough toward poetry. I write dialogue between parts of myself & with a second person, trying to clarify what I do not say so easily in actual conversation.

For all my lack of it, I practice to simplify & clarify... realizing that is a life's work. I long wrote in curiously punctuated [or often not!] stream-of-consciousness rambles: Sentences full of parenthetical wanderings [inside more & more brackets... ] strung vaguely out between a noun & its far flung potential verb, which needed to change tense several times for all those clauses. It has taken me years to learn to think in paragraphs... indeed, my early journals & letters were often nightmare rides through my immature mind!

Because I wanted to watch the accumulation of words representing myself in ways unlike, if parallel to, my visual work, this archive has often been useful to help me see myself more honestly. As I write toward Anjana's questions about the values of the journal processes to explain one's experience, I feel my own sense of those values. I'm obviously still doing it, so I believe in it even as i must suppose I will never know the end of its story. I've heard stories of the destruction of journals in apocalyptic ritual or fits of pique & fear. I'm happier never yet to have had one of those.

I've always had faith this trunk of books would find its own journey into the unknown after me, my gift to the plague & blessing of words humans have unleashed as history. Accepting as well that they might not make it beyond the next flood [in spite of that potential protection of waterproof Indian Ink!] or fire or a slide over our edge & down the cliff, much less into another century. As an art history lover I've always wanted some of my own work to pass the test of the ages, being chosen again & again to save. I peg my second chances on my journal...

I do occasionally go back to read in the writing, especially when I'm trying to remember some detail of time or relationship... but I've learned that I often do not write what I would want to read later, being so busy with the doing that I did not have time or presence of mind to write much at all in such memorable times... I trusted to unsupported memory itself the very things I later wish I hadn't forgotten. To my frequent dismay I find boring menus or guest lists rather than the spark of excitement I want to recover. So the process is inevitably flawed, or at least, incomplete.

I have found it useful & fun to read from my old journals to someone aloud sharing selected notions of my earlier life. I see change & growth. I see ever old habits & ideas cycling new through the sense of time which has days quite full of words & those left inexplicably equally blank.

Journalizing renders present into immediate past while inviting past to remain present toward the future.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


As the season turns toward cooler colors & becomes typical more rainy I realize that the birdsong so abundant in the mornings several months ago has quieted. I've been missing that early morning music, while wistfully appreciating the singers' capability & choice to fly south...

It is now the time of spiders. One cannot walk through doorways or along garden pathways without destroying hours of diligent web spinning. I feel quite badly even if I thus only can see my carnage through newly web blurred eyeglass lenses... all the while reflexively doing yet more damage as I flail to rid myself of the tickling on my pate & in my ears.

Chagrined, I still must suppose that makes me just a common vandal... finding my conscience too late.

But I have been enjoying continuing to learn from watching them, reminded of Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Fountains Of Paradise which I read at least 25 years ago, in which he speculates the possibility of a "space elevator" begun by spinning a single lightweight strand of hyper-strong filament out beyond earth's atmosphere, quite as do these spiders between doorposts & bushes, dancing with air currents to seemingly fly... spanning between otherwise improbable distances & thus gradually building a series of intersecting strands to support their web structures in the spaces I must walk through.

His fantasy of then similarly adding more filaments, increasing the strength held "up" or "out" from earth's gravity, just as one can swing a ball on a string, to then lift material up such an "elevator" toward a building satellite like our space station -- without the complicated launch system we use now -- doesn't seem so preposterous to this observer!

Well, I've destroyed a lot of arachnid art once again this morning, just going down to the studio, even as I know it is being rebuilt, albeit not to the desired specifications of their original beauty & organic symmetry,,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Here's a post about beauty around this fjord called Puget Sound... that word coming from the process of sounding depths. This is a very deep, very complex water-way, a submerged geologic fault zone... sometimes known as the Salish Sea when combined with its Canadian sister, the Strait of Georgia, about which I posted last year.

[Vashon Island is tucked into the bottom of the Sound...
deep in the very lower right hand corner]

For 8,000 years people have plied these
myriad river estuaries & channels,
circumnavigating islands & peninsulas...
the gigantic gouges & middens of the last ice age.
Each geographic feature obviously had other names
before those of interloping European explorers
who put their own names on maps but
who seem now quite disembodied by
what are obviously more organic &
spiritual forms of being.

Still, such mixtures continue to be our culture, as seen
here from a favorite small park with totem poles
near the Pike Place Market overlooking the waterfront.
Cruise ships at our dock juxtapose new
with the more traditional images.

Later evening, sitting in the car on the dock waiting for the ferry back to the Island, a couple of seals in the water next to us attracted my eye & my camera. Their diversion primed my awareness toward the beginnings of a promising sunset.

[Click on the images to enlarge them.]

The Olympic mountains are to the west, unexpectedly between us & the Pacific Ocean. The sun slipping low often finds a slice of open sky between our usual layers of clouds to treat us with fine color. This is always a treat. Living on the eastern side of Vashon Island, we know sunset better in its reflected form... bathing Tahoma in pink alpenglow.

Beginning low in a spectral orange, the light filtering through deepening clouds suggested a quicker & quieter denouement. We all gloried as the lowering disc seemed to pry open new lens covers to project color onto diaphanous scrims which previously had combined to block the source of such subtle brilliance.

By now we were on the ferry & my camera was only one of many clicking around the upper decks, gorging on eye candy as the contrast heightened with rain ...

Pelting us more in earnest, driven by the higher winds once we were out on the water, we photographic stalwarts crowded under the slight shelter of a covered, but open, deck grabbing with our various capabilities with inevitably faltering lenses our own versions of the final finale.

I would like to see what those with longer telescopic equipment managed to capture...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Our friend Tom recently returned from a long travel to India, where he has lived, & where he was working on several writing projects. He made this photo to bring home more evidence of my growing international fame...


GRB Bells obviously needs some kind of lubricant for these slow labors [See my previous post] so I suppose clarified butter might be a fine candidate. Even though I'm not eating dairy for now, it should be OK as an external application...

I uploaded these photos six weeks ago when I still could not sit at the computer for long enough to write much. I'll try to bring currency with recapitulation to continue to fill-in the lengthy gap of time I've not posted.

[Remember you can click on the images to enlarge them.]

Tahoma is my ever present, if not always visible, best teacher in the grounding I've needed during this period... here I sit darshan with her one Mayish morning.

The garden is my sandbox where I ground myself more than visually, although dirty hands don't prevent enjoying the vantage of its beds.

This bed of lettuce, arugula, & mizuna was planted in anticipation of Stephen's mother Helen's birthday in mid May, but the greens sat as sproutlings for weeks in our cold gray... not ready to harvest until after the event. We ate lots of salad from it well into July.

There were bounteous beds of cool-loving kale & red mustard for greens to steam & braise. Here is one harvest including a nice variety of the edible flowers I love to garnish our plates with: forget-me-not, wood ruff, chives, nasturtium & arugula blosoms.

It is displayed on the bed of Roman chamomile first planted to mark Gertie's grave... which circle I've been enlarging over several years. It is satisfyingly tedious work to divide this easily rooting plant giving it space to spread. I designed a plan to cut patterns into the carpet to collect new planting material. I've always loved parterres as a foil to my obviously wilder preferences...

One day a spiral began to develop...

Stephen celebrated it on the way taking drinks to the Prow Deck when our neighbor friend Taylor dropped by with his dog Oochee.

It developed over the next while to open the archetypal symbol of the question... of the quest. Appropriate for this time of actively searching for my path to health.

Only weeks later it had begun to grow into the space I'd cut out to transplant at the edges of the enlarged circle cut out of the lawn.

Another spiral grew in quite a different form in the bed close by... Romanesco is a veritable Fibinacci universe of brocolli.

Savoy cabbage is so ruffled its difficult to see that it is growing on the sme plan...

Red Orach is all about rare intense color[s]. I enjoyed tea with the sun behind it tomake me wonder how red could look also blue... like some of the silk saris we saw in India.

By now the chamomile has grow over, obliterating that spiral. However questions, quests & growth are continuity, always ready for another & deeper search... a next adventure. I've no doubt the spiral will return...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar Khayam's moving finger writes in some early, 50's movie memory of a God-like, pen nib-shaped fingernail inking velum pages, oversized heavily bound volume... with perhaps a chorus from "Kismet" as soundtrack...

My early notions of fate were inevitably rather biblical.

A serious young man, I left the farm an unwitting pioneer joining the yet-to-boom generation about to embark on some joyfully inevitable explorations of a more colorfully sensual & sexual reaction to our starched & chromed childhoods.

But by the time the Beatles were asking "will you'll still need me when..." I was graduating from college into a revolutionary worldview making any thought of actually reaching such an age untenable & laughable by the admonition never to trust anyone over thirty.


I came out inside a trust for my parents capability to honestly love. Putting a name to what could not otherwise be talked about. Still, no one was really very surprised, in the sense that I had always been somehow more comfortably fae than typically masculine. I'd constructed a self protective banner early on... embracing, if not actually flaunting, my capacity for difference & independence.

Fertilizing fate.

I was already losing my hair when those boys from Liverpool began changing the idea of long locks for men. I had to learn to celebrate an even more difficult difference as my own...

Bald fate.

Inevitably crossing that threshold of age, I turned thirty with more resolve than distrust. I was reinventing myself inside a short & curious mentorship with a Jungian play therapist... leaving my first long term relationship to move from Denver's city life toward the experience of becoming a more playful independent student of life & a hiker of the Red Rocks while working with other gems in Sedona as a jewelry artist. I eventually came to love solitude & celibacy during the decade of my forties. I managed to grow healthier through that difficult era, moving into my fifties richly prepared for new growth inside my relationship with Stephen, continuing the charmed life to which I've always felt born...


Stephen is currently involved with a biographic film project about his mentor, the poet/filmaker James Broughton, whose commonplace quote here at Soundcliff has become a useful mantra for me during my health difficulties this year, implying that what fate does best, perhaps, is to offer itself as teacher.

"Adventure, not predicament."

Opportunity wasn't the first thing I felt inside the fate which seized me in late May which required dealing with a very painful systemic inflammation in my body.

Whether fate or age or simply the beginnings of a new era in my life, my being was disrupted by what was diagnosed as bursitis/tendonitus. There seem to be no drugs to be prescribed & I felt fairly dismissed after it was ascertained I wasn't a candidate for hip or knee surgery. I was referred to see a physical therapist, of which I think I got the Island's best. She has helped me explore inside & through this cramped state, finding ways to dance with the tangle of muscles, tendons & bursa which seemed a more confusing kind of knot work than any celtic design.

It moved from alternating shoulders down to hips & knees... then, & most disconcerting to my artist, it settled out into my hands & fingers as well.

My symptoms matched the list a local herbalist described as those she was working to ameliorate with an anti inflammatory diet. While I did not take her class, I kibitzed from my sideline & stopped eating wheat, corn, dairy & refined sugar [including wine & alcohol], which are considered to be the biggest culprits. Two-thirds of each meal is to be high fiber greens, fruits & vegetables. Such simplicity becomes complicated by more complex chemical theory, but all with the goal to restore balance in intestinal flora, the cause of chronic inflammation... seeming cause itself to a broad range of maladies including diabetes & fibromyalgia.

Its quite the hot topic now, so there is lots of internet information...

I believed we ate rather sensibly already, which we did... & do. Still, one aspect of my age is the experience of watching science, particularly nutritional science, change over the years. While science certainly ought to evolve, especially over the course of years, in our culture we mostly hear or read about the "science" useful to some corporate entity for product promotion... using carefully edited language about carefully crafted research... which changes with the market sufficiently that we all have noted the rather temporary aspects of such "scientific evidence".

Frankly I've learned to take "popular" science well salted. Remember that I grew up on a farm where we put out big blocks of salt for the animals, so while the saying suggests taking something with a "grain of salt" I can jokingly choose the size of the grain... fortunately salt doesn't seem to be particularly problematic on this diet.

My independence appreciated being challenged with the theory's expectation to find one's own cure. The process of first eliminating those problematic foods allows discovery as increasing comfort becomes tangible proof before beginning to experiment with adding back various foods individually with intention to test tolerances, find balance & develop a personal formula to maintain health.

I am beginning to reliably attain the comfortable results I want during this elimination phase. I've taken months while the theory suggests benefits might become evident for some cases in only weeks. [Too much of my salty reservation?] But I began slowly to observe increasingly reliable relief inside what has long been an irregular rhythm of good & less good days.

I've never known pain as such a constant. The ubiquitous "How are you feeling?" piqued a word collector's cleverness & creativity. "Crinkly" [I would spell it "krinkly"...] became a useful everyday description. It suggests anticipation that things might straighten out in spite that they would remain somewhat rippled for the memory. There was always that constant memory of the last vestige never far enough away to believe in comfort as anything quite less than temporary...

For fun I've begun to collect a hierarchy of such descriptors for pain. Above the quiet pervasive memory begins a murmuring, which increases to mumbling. Sighing can signal pain both on & off. Hissing does similar duty as both taking in or releasing out. Simpering rarely works so snipping comes along, teasing some belief in the possibility of giving it away. Creaking edges toward groaning before actually croaking. Singing is for the pure stuff. Squealing is for the hell of it... some yelping came in surprise. Screaming, yelling & keening were happily well beyond where I've needed to go, thank you very much...

This is pain I own. It is not external. No one is assaulting me. I've come to see it simplistically as a deep internal discussion sometimes verging toward louder argument between my selves: the gardening slow-foodie & the indulgent one who secretly in believes nothing if not celebrating excess...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Creative work at the wax desk has been more difficult to establish this winter. I began the the long dark hours of traditional deep design time in the studio suffering some bizarre symptoms of a fine case of shingles which tantalized the right side of my forehead & that eye with nervy sensations suggesting I'd blown a fuse in my aura or had ants walking on my eyeball... not a state conducive to my best concentration!

Our wet was unusually cold & we had too much snow. Of necessity I let myself be slow. I elected to stay home from events I would ordinarily have attended with Stephen. It furnished excuses with explanations I can rarely find better to secure the hermetic space so essential to my preparation toward such work. I know well that non-social time is so foreign & frightening to some that they simply are incapable of realizing the mirroring wealth of true solitude. I'm happily omnivorous on that score as well!

I knew there was a break scheduled, ready or not, to meet him in Florida after his Journalism That Matters Conference in Saint Petersburg several weeks ago. [See his blog for that story:] for a week visiting Mother Helen. His brother Mark also joined us for some great & welcome sunny beach time on Long Boat Key, near Sarasota, where they all have spent winter holidays for some 40 years...

Of course, the calendar didn't respect that I was just finally beginning to see some progress on the waxes & would happily have stayed put to continue working in the studio, but there was this gift of a ticket...

Happily this year we scored with the weather department & I brought home a bit of a tan line! It's rusting as I write, even though I'm happy to be back waxing, so ultimately I wasn't ready to come home... such ambivalent signs indicate having had a good vacation.

The social life continued with a weekend pairing back-to-back overnight guests for whom I felt inspired to cook. Still, I managed to steal carving time in useful increments, finding some of the balance so essential inside the complexities of the life I choose. I celebrated spring by impulsively going out between Saturday morning's rain squalls to pick nettles for that soup, which has become a tradition using those weeds from our slope. I varied the recipe this time, gaining kudos from both Stephen & our guest, Kana. The original recipe follows, although I used dried Shitake mushrooms in the recent version...

Erica Meade's Nettle Stew
1 large sweet white onion chopped finely
5 large cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
4 med sized Yukon Gold potatos diced
1 large bag fresh picked nettle tops
3 tbs. quality cooking oil
aprox 2 qt water
1/4 - 1/2 c white miso
1/4 - 1/2 c high quality sesame tahini

heat oil in large soup pot. add onion, garlic,
potatoes. saute until
tender. add nettles.
simmer covered for 15 min or until nettles
limp and have no sting.
boil remaining water in tea kettle
and add
to pot. in mixing bowl mix white miso,
and 1c. water. whisk until
lumps are gone.3-5 min before serving
add the
mixture to the pot. do not boil.

[I never measure, so
all measures are approximations.]

The HUMMING BIRD wax has evolved considerably in detail & I've got the clapper mostly carved as well. I'm still feeling quite slow against various impediments. There won't be a bumper crop of bells this year...

To attempt capturing gesture as both solidity & whir is proving to be a challenge...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I am carving nocturnally in this dark season even as it also waxes toward spring...

Above shows a progression of the blocking-out process to begin the carving of a bell wax. Sawing & filing out of the raw solid a rough "canvas" onto which I can begin the searching drawing process to find the specifications which might render a bell. I've written about this process here.

Hummingbird has eluded me for years. Indeed, I'm not certain I've quite synthesized into static sculpture such blurr as seems better seen in one's imagination...

I've also been meditating into a bell for Equal Rights Washington

I relish these periods of solitude when I can hold in my mind the tenuously evolving form in ways deeper than the never distant actual wax... which, as I turn it 'round, must hold only its current form. Condensing my idea from all its previous forms, I find myself wondering whether I am pilot steering a process or the tool of some tide...

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I'm returning after weeks of dark silence with a bit of regatta, having been collecting shots toward a blog posting such as this for several years. If everyone loves a parade then this flat-lander, who grew up on a wheat farm in the waterless central plains, hopes you might enjoy this endless variety of boats as seen from our perch. I love realizing atop this cliff overlooking the lower Puget Sound... I'm most certainly not in Kansas any more!

To give a bit of orientation, here is a photograph from the air of Dilworth Point, the easternmost point of Vashon Island. Just to the south of that is Soundcliff.

[To see any of these images larger click on them...]

Stephen named Soundcliff as both a description & a prayer for this sensitive site perching some 40 rather vertical feet above the high tide. Lower tide on the rocky beach shows the result of eons... the erosion of alluvial layers built from melting ancient glaciers, rocks ground from wherever north it might still take days to drive by car, laid down between the residual clay resulting from stress under such immense weight. Still, that relatively recent construction of geologic compaction is far more fragile than any bedrock. We are rather vulnerable to rain & wave. We are indeed quite frail against tidal forces. We sit atop the cliff here... you can barely see Soundcliff just above & to the right of the two green patches of this bleak winter shot at low tide. We celebrate the stone bulkhead, even as it looks ultimately inconsequential to the obvious history...

From up here, however, even from bed, we enjoy an expansive view over the shipping lanes to & from the port of Tacoma. Beyond the water is the mountain known commonly now as Mount Rainer, but we prefer the native name... Tahoma. Here she is with one of the huge container ships which pass by daily.

We can hear them well before they come into view from the north around the point where they fairly fill the view with their broadside before turning to shrink into the perspective of distance... looking rather more toy-like as they move toward Lady Tahoma.

I enjoy the mystery of what is inside those sealed steel boxes, knowing that most are filled with the mundane stuffs of everyday trade, but at least some must be fair troves of treasure bringing finer dreams from faraway...

Especially when the sun strikes from under our fabled cloud cover to inspire such speculation with golden light!

The real treasure here, visible or not, is always the mountain...

Of course others, like these barges of crushed automobiles wending their way to further recycling behind tugboats, are obviously trundling treasure of quite a different kind...

As often come gems...

As go lumps, blending into the intense vagaries of our ten thousand grays...

One recent day I was amazed to see a barge loaded with four of the huge cranes seen in the harbors of any modern port, used to load & unload those containers onto truck beds or railroad cars to continue their journey by land. They look like prehistoric science fiction hard at work in that usual place, but in this situation are themselves a rather precarious & uncomfortable looking cargo! Birds mimicking cage?

They too fade into Tahoma's much sturdier story...

Another rare sight is one of our Washington State Ferry System's vessels sailing far from any of its usual runs, presumably out for a maintenance test drive or perhaps for training?

This colorful dowager looks like a quite the floozy version of fun for cargo of the human variety! She looks to be a remnant of our famous old "Mosquito Fleet" of ferries which once plied the Sound in a veritable swarm of possibilities no longer possible in today's economy. There were numerous docks around the Island served daily by dozens of such boats. That was before we had so many roads up on the Island. Now we are constrained to an ever decreasing schedule for the same commute to the mainland from only two docks...


More placid times give us glimpses of small sailing craft, sometimes in true regattas...

Occasionally they come close enough we might shout to them...

Here is a view, from one ferry, of another just pulling into the dock on the north end of our Island. A sail boat uses it's engine to make it's way across the route we were using to get to Southworth, on the Olympic Peninsula. Thus I come to liken these waters unto the freeways of my Midwest filled, in something approaching Biblical abundance, with cars, buses & trucks.

A photo earlier showed our view from the bedroom of fishing boats, which during the various salmon seasons often wake us early with the racket & roar of their process. We love to eat their catch, quite literally, since there are fishers on the Island who also sell directly & tell us that the fish we are buying was caught within sight of our house, one of the landmarks they use for the rich situation resulting from the Point's sheltering of the tidal currents.

The method involves the spreading of a long net across the current with a smaller, but quite noisey boat which strains, holding that length against the flow & circling back to close the hopefully bulging net & reconnect it to the large boat in a dance of a struggle.

Our theater often boasts a troupe of 4-5 rigs all doing & repeating this process in turn as the tide tugs them past our vantage point.

In a quick pas d deau the smaller boat passes off its end & ducks under the upper line of the net to continue its roaring work, closing the lower line of the net into a purse to secure the catch which will be hauled up onto the deck & into the hold of the fishing boat... if the catch is good we sometimes hear shouts of exclamation in celebration.

More often we don't hear a thing except that infernal sound of fuel being burned.

Our fish stock is being depleted. Living so close to that life cycle we must accept only a temporary custodial joy on this fragile cliff. The clay which slumps from our garden is the major nutrient for the eel grass which, growing in the tidal shallows, hides & shelters the salmon fry [baby fish] until they are large enough to protect themselves, or not, on their years of further migration out into the Pacific. We must share our security as part of theirs.

We thus become students of the food we eat. The reality of our situation allows & requires us to make peace with this moment in time. Everything always changes & we live on an actual edge of all that. We must trust one day we too will become useful as part of that food chain. Better to accept that gracefully than the alternative of no survival at all, which is what the salmon must be trying to tell us.

More important is the message from the magestic Orcas, who do not show up so frequently as they used to, even in my short experience on this cliff... they eat salmon too. We live in each other's back yards. If they can't survive, how much oil will it take for us to learn the same lesson?

I suspect we are becoming the fossils to fuel some next intelligience...

So, I now offer an example of how much fun the problematic interim processes can be. We accepted an invitation one summer evening to go for dinner at a dockside restaurant in Tacoma with friends whose family speed boat was moored, along with many sailing vessels, in Quartermaster Harbor, the boater's haven enhanced between what once were more actually two islands. Maury Island still keeps a certain identity even as it was long ago attached as an ithmus to Vashon by filling the tidal spit with more sand to make a connecting roadway. Once the tide sloshed over to help refresh the harbor... but, that is another lesson learned lately by the prey of environmental process. Try banking on any "safe haven" these days...

Our Wheee! exuberantly spends our temporary dividends in the wake...

Motoring out of the inner harbor & around the Burton Penensula we passed the camp with the same name where most summers finds us as counselors for a group of differently abled adults. A favorite part of each day with them is canoeing after dinner out into the same channel, just as the sun begins to settle... [see Stephen's blog] Boats become an evermore intimate part of my life far from Kansas.

Since I've already strayed out of our immediate baliwick I'll hold a couple more boats which I want to share... later, perhaps. I close this already long post with a view of Our Lady Tahoma in some furious drag several days ago, with my best wishes for clear sailing into what is.