Monday, September 30, 2019

Only three more weeks

I've written a lot over the years about how much I love the farmers market in Lake Forest Park. Just twelve minutes away on a Sunday morning, it's my chronic Sunday destination regardless of other activities I've scheduled. This year I've only missed two Sundays since it opened on Mothers' Day--both absences were days I was out of town.

Regular readers of this blog know my penchant for the typewriter poet, but I have lots of favorite vendors with always-dependable produce. Every week for years I've purchased fresh flowers from the same stand, rarely spending more than $10 and always being delighted. Now I'm just looking at some of the photos I've taken over the past few months, thinking about how much I'll miss having locally grown color on my coffee table when the market closes for the season on October 20--just three more weeks. There is nothing like the spectacular variety of bountiful nature, and a gifted grower to bring joy to this old woman. Yeah, I'll start buying color-spots from the grocery store, but it's not the same.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Does Art Imitate Life? Or vice versa?

Janitor by Duane Hanson
photo taken in 2019
One of my all-time favorite works of art owned by the Milwaukee  Art Museum is a lifelike sculpture called Janitor by Duane Hanson (1925-1996). Janitor was a favorite work of everyone in our family, especially our children. Acquired in 1973 by MAM, we always made sure we looked for the piece whenever we visited the museum during the fourteen years we lived in Wisconsin. 

The first glimpse of Janitor is startling. The sight of a museum (or any) employee standing around, obviously doing nothing, makes a person uncomfortable--or maybe even giggle. Does that man's boss know he's slacking off? Only when you get close do you realize this is an exceptionally realistic sculpture and not a real person. You also realize Janitor depicts a man who is not liking his day very much, most likely fatigued--maybe even depressed--wondering how long until he can punch-out on the time clock. Over the years we lived in the Milwaukee area, we had many visits to the museum and inevitably one of us would sidle up (as close as the guards would allow) to Janitor for doing nothing, or maybe pretend to be just as tired as he seems to be.

When Jay and I last visited Milwaukee together in 2013, a visit to the MAM was a priority for both of us because it has a fantastic collection of modern works, among them Kandinsky (one of Jay's favorites), my favorite 19th century angel painting (by Abbott Handerson Thayer), and an amazing collection of modern and German Expressionist works. When we saw Janitor, Jay couldn't resist; he imitated the statue's pose. I know I have more than one photo of Jay similarly imitating Janitor, but I could only easily locate this one.

 Janitor and Jay Glerum photo taken in 2013
Last week I visited Milwaukee alone--my first time since becoming a widow in 2014--and headed to the museum for an afternoon of luxuriating in front of some of my favorite artworks. When I rounded a corner at the museum, I had to cover my mouth so as not to sob aloud. There he was--Janitor--leaning against the wall. Of course, there was no way to know Jay would never be at this museum with me again when I took his photo in 2013, but the realization that Janitor was still holding up his wall, and Jay wasn't holding up anything anymore, nearly undid me for a few minutes. 
It's good we don't know when the last time for any activity is, or we'd be so frozen in our own angst. Maybe we'd feel exactly how Duane Hanson's Janitor looks. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Debt Retired; Legs Working

I pride myself in keeping my bills current. I'm generally successful in not to incurring ordinary expenses I can't pay off within thirty days. Imagine my horror when I discovered I'd been carrying a balance at the library for eight months! I've never clicked on the 'account' section of my check-out page online, but when I did I was shocked. I had owed a dime for eight months! Oh, how I love King County Library. No interest charges on my ten-cent debt! Where else does THAT happen!    
Today I walked to the library (it's a little less than a mile from my home) to return another book, which was due today, and put a dime in my pocket to pay it off.  However, that triumph dims in comparison to what happened on my journey there. As I crossed a main drag in Bothell--actually, a state highway with a well-marked pedestrian cross-walk and controlled by a WALK signal (with a robot intoning "WAIT . . . WAIT . . . WAIT" when there's a red light and WALK . . . WALK . . . WALK when the light changes)--I was almost struck by a car whose driver was turning left and apparently didn't realize the crosswalk was occupied. 

I didn't know I could move so fast until this experience today, and my heart pounded the rest of the way to the library. I try to find things to be grateful for every day instead of feeling sorry for myself (it's way to easy for me to fall into a daily pity pot), but today's gratitude becomes GRATITUDE for legs that moved fast enough to get out of the way of the turning car. Amen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Everything is better with a poem

In response to several readers' requests, I asked the poet busker and the butter merchant for permission to publish the poem written by the poet for the merchant at the Farmers Market. (See post from July 28. ) I don't have to tell you his answer:

BUTTER

Distill from that life giving
substance, the essence of all
things flavorful and wholesome

Bring forth the force of other
fields and weave a tapestry
for the palate, eyes one can
only see with from inside

To each dish a special form,
to each viewer a special meaning
this is, of course, the
foundation of art, the spice
of life in food

C. Stavney

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Echos of the Past


Written July 28, 2019 
This won't be news to anyone who's read my blog for a couple years: I am enamored of a particular busker who sits at his portable typewriter and composes poems on the spot, on the whim of the requester, based on any idea, word, or concept offered. In addition to being enamored, I am awed, inspired, impressed and just plain grateful to be acquainted with such a talented person.

This past Sunday, much to my delight and surprise, I ran into C. Stavney, the "busker-poet"at the Lake Forest Park Farmers Market. I hadn't seen Mr. Stavney for more than a year, but I've thought about him consistently when visiting the market. I'd pretty much given up any hope he'd return to the market since he was last there over a year ago. After all, he had finished up his English Degree from the University of Washington, had a full time job in Bellevue and, presumably, a 'life,' as well.

After smiles of delight and general chit-chat, I asked for a poem. Topic?  Two acquaintances encounter each other unexpectedly after more than a year

When he is done tapping out the poem, he pulls the paper out of the typewriter, signs it, snaps a photo of it, then folds it in half and hands it over.  I usually wait to read the poem until I'm home, or--at least--in my car, because my hands are full with purchased produce and flowers. As I walked away from Mr. Stavney's perch, situated between a honey table and a produce grower and across from a merchant who sells flavored butters, the butter merchant beckoned to me.

"Hey, how much do you pay that guy for a poem?" he asked. 

"Whatever feels right," I said and continued. "I'm such a fan, I try to be generous, but I've heard him tell people the poem is free if they can't pay, or if they don't like what he's written. Personally, I try to be generous because it's amazing to suggest a topic and watch him tap out an original poem within minutes to hand it over."  Suddenly inspired, I asked the butter-merchant, "Would you like to hear my poem?"

"Yes, sure!" he replied enthusiastically.  I opened the folded paper, explained what I'd asked the poet to write about, and then read it aloud to the two of us, noting that it was the first time hearing it for me, too.

"Wow," said the butter merchant now grinning broadly. "Do you think he'd write a poem about butter?" I nodded yes. "Then I'm going to ask him to write a poem about butter and then set it out where my customers can read it."  I refolded my poem and tucked it into my produce bag, agreeing with the merchant it was a great idea.

I can hardly wait for next Sunday to read a poem about butter!


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Farewell, my Macy's and other shops

One of Seattle's oldest shopping centers (and the first enclosed mall in the U.S.) is undergoing a redo, which involves closing most all of its inside-facing shops. Macy and J.C. Penney, along with many more stores, have already left the Northgate Shopping Center, and other personal favorites like Nordstrom, the Loft, and Gap will be gone by the end of the month. Northgate is being developed into the Pacific Northwest home of the National Hockey League, complete with a hockey rink and training facility for a team Seattle has yet to procure.

Loft Mannequins
stand around bored
Eventually some of the stores will return with a reduced footprint, small specialty shops will arrive, and housing will become incorporated into the complex. But for the past three months, stores have been disappearing like melting ice. Northgate is now a mere shadow of its illustrious past. And that makes me nostalgic.

Peeking into empty Macy
When I arrived Monday morning for a quick errand, I was startled to see that the M and Y of Macy had already been removed from the side of the building. Macy's last day was just the Sunday before! When I returned to my car less than half-an-hour later, all traces of the store's name were totally gone, as were the man and the ladder.

Eddie Bauer clerk
is also idle
The Loft was down to four racks of drastically reduced clothing, and its unclothed mannequins were tagged for sale. Eddie Bauer had two tables by the front door touting 70 percent off last sale price and one solitary clerk who looked lonely and bored to death for lack of bustle.

Looking through Macy's locked doors made me sad. Once a store I complained about--for being so jammed with inventory it was hard to pull an item off the rack--is now a totally empty of merchandise, a ghost store.

I will miss the ease of dashing through a medium-sized mall. Now I will need to visit the local "mega-mall" to shop at Penney's, Macy's and smaller favorites. Just parking there adds ten minutes to the errand. I'll need a half-day just to run little errands (like replacing socks or a colander) that I could have accomplished at Northgate in an hour. I don't mean to glorify the "olden days," but mall shopping sure was easier.  

Saturday, July 20, 2019

How to achieve an EXCEPTIONALLY worthwhile life

If, in fact, “the unexamined life is not worth living”—thank you, Socrates—then my life today must qualify as exceptionally worthwhile!

I’m re-reading letters written to friends long ago, retained by the recipients and returned to me years later.  I have two sources: ten-or-more years ago Margaret, whose acquaintance I made at my first job after college, returned letters I’d written to her in the ‘60s after she and her family moved to southwestern Washington; recently Tony, the son of my dear, deceased-friend Karen, sent me the letters I wrote his mom in the ‘70s after my family and I moved to Wisconsin. 
I also have a few taped memories: some are letters, retrieved in the ‘90s after my mother-in-law died, dictated on the then ‘newfangled’ portable tape cassette player; others are narratives made on a reel-to-reel machine and were transferred to a thumb drive (although much of the content is inaudible) in 2018. One of those reels contains Jay’s practice-session for a TV host job interview in the early 1960s and my critique of it. Both were excruciating to hear fifty-five years later.

Needless to say, I am reading and hearing things I had completely forgotten: depictions of family harmony and conflict, mother angst and worry, anecdotal joy and concern from high school through widowhood.

To this odd time-capsule comprising one-off narratives, then add a lifetime of hobby writing. Two weeks ago I had FedEx print out four hundred pages (just a start) of personal essays, poetry, and short-fiction pieces I’ve written, reaching back as far as the ‘50s. No wonder I feel bogged down in terms of my everyday, household routines. 

Reading over these pieces about both my families (one of origin and one of choice), relationships and friends, anecdotes and events, triumphs and disappointments, has created a very self-centered person for the moment. Silly things, sad things, and bad things in my life are depicted and have settled into the forefront of my thoughts. It’s all I can do to look up and look out . . .  beyond the me who has created all this.

I know—as most of us do—it’s only natural, while on a long road trip, to pull out the map to see  how far we’ve come. What started out as an unmapped journey can be traced by looking back, and it’s satisfying to see those long miles highlighted along the way—be they interstate highways or back roads. This look-back on life through memoir is like that, and it’s probably a good thing. But it feels almost incestuous to be so preoccupied with myself after thinking I was living as much for others as myself. If it weren’t for Socrates’s almost clich├ęd dictum, I might feel very guilty about the self-centered aspect of this experience. Yes, I know he was talking about philosophical examination, but I’m choosing to take the quote literally. Thus, you could say I’m just making my 'almost twenty-nine thousand days' worth living.