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.



Friday, July 5, 2019

Jarring juxtaposition awakens a memory

Milwaukee Sentinel November 8, 1980
 Milwaukee Sentinel  
Recently I 'Googled' myself--that is to say, I put my name into a search engine just to see what would surface. About a dozen hits--mostly because of this blog and several links to my published articles online, plus some volunteer connections and donations made public by various non-profits I support. Nothing too surprising except for this: "Sara Glerum, Wauwatosa, Wis, Finds Bible Inaccurate."

Well, that got my attention!  I immediately clicked the link and rediscovered a letter I'd written published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on November 8, 1980, entitled 'The Value of Life.' The letter summary of someone else's letter was adjacent to my name, thus confusion of erroneously associating my name with that other letter (I added the big X for clarity's sake). Click on the link below the clip here:
Rereading what I had written The Sentinel in 1980 took me back to how indignant I had been at a front page story the newspaper had just published. But I'd also forgotten how thirty-two years later in 2012 I received my first-ever "Private Message" on Facebook. It was from a woman named Deanna--a total stranger to me. She explained that friend, Beth Umolac, was the woman who had been murdered in 1980, and how she, Deanna, was willing to keep on looking for the right Sara Glerum to thank, if I wasn't the  one.

I'd all but forgotten how hearing from Deanna made me feel then--sad, of course, remembering the story of a murder, but also gratified because apparently my letter had made Deanna feel a tiny bit better. I was incredibly touched that after more than thirty years, she was still wanting to thank me. That she searched me out and found me still strikes me a beautiful gesture and proves the adage, "What goes around, comes around."

I've written posts on this blog about people from my past finding me because of something I'd written on it, and it never fails to thrill me when a connection is made this way. Meanwhile, I do encourage my readers to 'Google' yourselves, and you might find yourself recalling things you'd all but forgotten. And besides, it doesn't hurt to know what's out there floating around with your name attached.  

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Color spots (and more) connect the dots

A recent road trip to Westport, Washington, with my long-time friend, Lucy, brought back memories and plenty of nostalgia. There's too much to say in a short post, so I'll start with sights and sounds and smells.

Colors: Certain colors are so specific to locale, such as the yellow of blooming Scotch broom in and about the dunes. Yes, I know it's an invasive plant and I should detest it, but I can't help loving the way it looks in contrast to the prevailing beach grass and pine.

Likewise, the purple of wild lupine scattered among the tall hay-colored grass reminds me of children peeking out from behind curtains--imagining they aren't seen by anyone. Golden and pink highlights accent rolling clouds as the sun sinks low in the sky. And then there's the biggest expanse of blue I've seen in years! Something about standing on the beach without skyscrapers (even three-story apartment buildings) or tall trees delivers a message about our human insignificance that becomes freeing. Nowhere else on earth can provide such a breathtaking glimpse of sky as an undeveloped ocean shore.

Sounds: The ocean's steady roar (maybe closer to a loud hum in summertime) is a sound I'd all but forgotten . . . until I heard it again. The foghorn (far away on buoys) is the oboe of an orchestra, periodically tuning up the instruments for the concert--gulls, other birdsong, and the steady din of waves breaking.

Smells: The sea. The salt. The seaweed. The wind (light but always there for those three days of June) makes it impossible to escape the pure ambrosia of locale-specific scents.

Only at the extreme western edge of a continent can the shadows get this long. And for me, the shadows also were mental and emotional--recollections of many visits to this beloved spot.

Lucy and I both agreed that this visit couldn't have been better, even if it had been (we wished) longer.