Friday, December 7, 2018

Mother Nature Decks the Halls (outside)

I'm scurrying around, trying to stay ahead of all the things I need or want to do this time of year, but getting nowhere fast. I've all but given up the idea of setting out anything Christmassy in the way of decor.

 In the last few days, Mother Nature has taken it upon herself to decorate the out-of-doors. It's been spectacular, and more than makes up for what there's no time for inside the house. How lucky I am to be able to walk outside in the morning to admire this incredible beauty.




Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Who isn't "In Search of Lost Time"?

Two months ago I set myself a literary goal to accomplish by the time I am eighty. Granted, I'm nearly four months shy of seventy-nine, so why did I need so much time? Because I've set out to read Marcel Proust's entire work, now known as In Search of Lost Time, not by its older translation, Remembrance of Things Past. Today I reached my first milestone for my goal: I finished Volume 1 (of 7), Swann's Way!

When I decided to push myself to read Proust before my next decade, I wasn't sure my timeline was realistic. Like many people I know, I had tried reading Proust multiple times in the past, rarely getting beyond the first twenty pages before flinging it aside in frustration and annoyance. What a boring, dry, long-winded work, I'd think to myself. But something kept niggling inside me over the years. If it really is the greatest work of fiction written in the twentieth century (as it is frequently called), there must be some way I could make it accessible. And that's when I thought about reading it out loud to myself. Why not! I live alone, and at least I wouldn't fall asleep reading! That turned out to be a fantastic breakthrough.

Reading it aloud has made ALL the difference. Instead of being daunted by Proust infamously lengthy sentences running upwards of a hundred words with minimal punctuation and maximum divergence from the first topic the sentence introduces, I was gripped by them. (See? I can write a long sentence, too.) Reading aloud made sense of the words and let me hear them, the bursts of thought with all the asides and deviations of a manic conversationalist. By the time I was a few dozen pages into Swann's Way, I was weeping from the pure ability of one man to express the inexpressible, to elicit emotions and reactions with thoughts and phrases and words and descriptions that come together to smash open closed places in the reader's own heart, life, psyche. Within a week of my project's undertaking, instead of setting a timer for ten minutes of reading aloud, I just read until I'd absorbed all I could. Sometimes it was only ten minutes; other times almost half-an hour. Occasionally I reverted to silent reading, becoming so swept up in the narrative.

It wasn't the storyline that kept me going. It was Proust's words drilling into my own internal blockages that made this book so memorable. My own experience and memories continued to open and reveal themselves to me. As the fictional narrator's memories explode and pour forth, they resonate on an almost unconscious level. Just when the storyline gets thin . . . so wispy it's hard to grasp, there's another aha moment  that speaks so loudly it literally takes my breath away. It's weepingly wonderful! I am beginning to understand why Proust is so esteemed. No doubt it's partly my own lifelong experience that has let me get to a place where I can let his words in and really hear the truths transmitted through this work. Am I "In Search of Lost Time?" Most definitely, in the Proustian sense. And I'm grateful to be old . . . old enough for Proust.

 As soon as I get to the bookstore, I'll get started on Volume II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. I'm optimistic I will reach my goal by March of 2020. I'm also thankful for the newish translation of all 
seven volumes from Penguin Books, which has probably helped me more than I realize.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Don't 'leaf it' to others

My walk was so pretty recently, I couldn't help but grab the trusty cell-phone camera.  As I passed by the grove of cedar trees and saw the fledgling Big Leaf Maple tree with its few remaining leaves, I was struck by how the tiny tree had giant leaves, and the giant tree had the smallest  leaves--needles.

Maybe that's a lesson for humans. The size of the impact--whether it's action-based or visual--isn't commenserate with the height, weight, age, or education of the person. It isn't how loud you shout because you can make a huge difference with a quiet voice . . . but you do need to exercise it.
Vote!







Friday, October 19, 2018

Looking around on a sunny day

In the autumn it's fairly easy to see evidence of insect and arachnid activity, such as the lovely web (slightly the worse for wear, but still functional) that practically shouted at me on my morning walk recently. Because of our beautiful, sunny days and cool nights that we've been having in the Seattle area, the morning's condensing mist tends to highlight the intricate work done by spiders.

An amazing sight was right by my garage today when I drove in. I've been watching this particular spider for several weeks because she dives behind the garage door molding each time I activate the garage door opener. It's clear she's greatly disrupted whenever I use my car. But today she was too busy binding up her latest ensnarement--an insect as big, if not bigger, than she is--to even be phased by my car passing close-by.

Last, but not least, is a leaf I saw on the ground, which caused me to do a double take. Some insect had eaten it in such as way as to make me to wonder if it might hold a hidden message from an alien. Maybe if I spent enough time, I'd be able to decode a wise phrase (maybe even a complete sentence), or a formula holding the answer to some big scientific mystery.






Saturday, October 6, 2018

Ok, already, it's autumn

"Yeah, I know, it's getting cooler.
The angle of the sun is lower.
The party is winding down. I've
heard it all before. So?"
 At first, there seems to be a resistance.

" All right, already--just a few more days, OK?
 It's gonna be awhile before I get back here."






"There's always one hanger-oner,
someone who doesn't want to leave the party."
"It's over! Don't you get it?"

"But it was so much fun, I don't want to leave."
Sometime soon, the hostess will turn out the lights and go to bed.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Leaning tower of cedar

THE ANGLE OF THE CAMERA MAKES
IT IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW
DANGEROUSLY THE TREE WAS LEANING
AFTER THE CITY MADE THE TRAIL
SAFE AGAIN, IT'S EASY TO UNDERSTAND
THE LEVEL OF DANGER THE TREE POSED.

Sometimes we take for granted how seriously a city takes public safety. We can rail about shortcomings of a city, but we need to notice the good stuff, too. These pictures were taken very near my house. 

They are a testimony to my city's responsiveness when a formerly healthy looking tree toppled onto a local, city-owned trail.

Thank you, City of Bothell. First, you blocked off the trail so unwitting walkers and bikers wouldn't be traveling under the unstable tree's trajectory, and then you had the worst of it removed. Let's hope the remaining section is removed before it falls of its own accord. Between the lack of rain and summer heat, a great many of our local trees are stressed.
 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The difference between NOTICING and SEEING

For almost a year, driving on the main drag between my house in Bothell and the three-mile-away "Town Center" (a charming, eclectic mini-mall) in Lake Forest Park, I've passed a sign announcing the office of  a psychic reader. The business is housed in what used to be a modest motel, now completely out of favor as a place to stay. The motel sagged into chronic "Vacancy" until one day it emerged as an affordable location for small businesses. It was with delight I noticed a spiritual advisor had taken up space there, and every time I passed the sign, I'd imagine maybe stopping one day to have my Tarot cards read. Believe it or not, having a Tarot reading is on my bucket list, but I'm just a little too chicken to actually do it.

When one of my sons was visiting this spring, we were driving to Town Center where he wanted to visit a fishing tackle store. He was looking out the passenger window, then began to chuckle as we passed the sign announcing the psychic reader's place of business in the converted motel. "What's funny?" I asked him.

"The sign . . .Spritual Advisor! That's hilarious. What--do you suppose--is a SPRIT-U-AL  Advisor?" he asked rhetorically. "How would that differ from a Spiritual Advisor?

I didn't believe him at first, thinking he'd misread it. But sure enough, closely noticed, it does indeed say "Spritual Advisor." And that just goes to show the difference between really seeing something--looking at it--and just vaguely noticing something.

I don't know anything about how the sign came to be, but now that I've seen it (thanks to my son), I think about the lesson it teaches me every time I travel that road. It's worth taking the time to really see what's out there instead of making assumptions based on a glance.  It's a great lesson in how to live the best life, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I'm not sore about not soaring . . .


Yes, that is an eagle flying! I know, it's like
an inkspot here. . . pictures cannot do justice.
I live in the land of eagles. Until the past couple of years, there has been an active eagle's nest on my street, approximately one-and-a-half blocks from my house. The nest is still there, but there have been no hatchlings for several years, despite what appears to be a nesting couple that claim the nest each spring atop a tall Douglas fir. Nevertheless, everyone on my street takes pride in 'the eagle tree,' and we all spend a lot of time looking up when we're outside near the tree. We have quite a population of eagles in the surrounding neighborhood, and it's thrilling to see their incredibly impressive wingspans and the gorgous dive-and-glide they do with such apparent ease.
And yes, the eagle is on the tippy top of the tree

On Sunday morning this week I walked along a trail that skirts the edge of Lake Washington. I stopped at a lovely little park (Lyon Creek Waterfront Preserve), accessible only on foot ( huge NO PARKING signs greet the visitor, although there is one spot marked for Disabled--a nice touch). Walking to the end of a dock that extends into the lake, I sat down to enjoy the serene view. Within seconds, I became enchanted by two eagles overhead, flying, then landing, then taking off again, swooping, gliding and occasionally calling to each other. Sitting quietly on such a beautiful morning in such a lovely setting made me grateful to be alive and to have the use of legs that propel me along walking trails and shopping centers, move to music at the WMCA, push the pedals of my car, climb stairs to my loft where I write, etc. Legs are great, but maybe wings would be better.

No wonder I adore the notion and image of angels; soaring overhead without the need of friction or traction would be a divine way to move through the world. Wings are great, but only, only if I could have arms too. I don't want to be a bird, even one as magnificent as an eagle. I would never trade the pleasure that comes from cradling an infant, cuddling a child, hugging a friend, or embracing a beloved grandchild. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Farewell, Senator McCain


Not that it's unique to me, but in the past several days I've noticed a lot of flag poles I previously haven't thought much about--maybe never. The first one to give pause was at the park across the river from my home on Friday evening. The time was right around sunset, and I was facing northeast. There was no wind, although I scarcely need to mention that to anyone seeing the picutre. The flag at half-mast struck me as incredibly sad, a fitting feeling, given the occasion. Losing a true statesman in this era of insults and mean-spirited accusations feels devastating.

The second picture is from the Farmers Market in Lake Forest Park, a Sunday event I never miss if I possibly can help it. I approached the market from a different angle this morning, because I had taken my morning walk along the shoreline of Lake Washington before shopping. There was a slight breeze, and the glory of the flag, even at half-mast, struck me. Yes, we mourn the passing of a great man, but wouldn't he have wanted us to see 'Old Glory' flying in this perfect way? What a fitting tribute. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Do clothes make the man memorable?

For years I gave my husband grief about his choice in casual shirts. They looked so similar! There were the blue-and-white tattersall button-downs; the blue-and-white striped oxfords, the blue-and-green tartan flannels. If you set them out in a row and squinted, it was just a blur of blues—light for summer, dark for winter. When we walked through a department store, I'd point out other-color shirts—maroon, olive, purple, crimson—colors he looked great in. Sure, he had a few different shirts, but the majority of them stayed in his preferred color palette and pattern schemes. Even the Hawaiian shirts he purchased over four trips in two decades had the same colors.

Fast forward four years to July 2018. I have just been appointed to help write a Voters’ Pamphlet statement. I will be working on the project with a man I’ve never met, so we set up an appointment with the Fire Chief to discuss the ramifications of replacing two fire stations in our city. I tell him to look for 'old with white hair.' We greet each other at the coffee shop where we’re meeting—shake hands, and get down to business. 

The next morning I am out walking on the trail near my home when a passing biker calls out, “Sallie? Hi!” The man turns around and pedals back to where I’ve stopped, and I recognize him underneath his helmet. Yes, it’s the man I’m working with on the Voters’ Pamphlet project. After we chat a minute, I say, “I’m glad you called my name—I rarely recognize even good friends underneath their biking helmets.”

“Oh, it was your shirt I recognized,” he says . . . and grins. As I laughed, I realized this was, indeed the same shirt I’d worn at the meeting the day before. I frequently wear ‘yesterday’s clothes’ for my exercise walk the next morning.

YIKES! They DO all look alike!
Fast forward to mid-August 2018. By now the man and I are well acquainted, having had a lot of communication over our project. He tells me he has watched a City Council meeting on YouTube, the very meeting during which we were both appointed to our project. He says he saw me in the audience. “Huh? I wasn’t on camera,” I replied.

“Not your face, but your back was . . . and I recognized your shirt,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. I laughed at this comment, but I could hardly believe it. Was I really wearing the same shirt then, too?  After I hung up the phone, I looked at the YouTube, saw the shot of the audience's back, and realized I was not  wearing the same shirt!  And then this whole topic came full circle. My closet rack has morphed into a monotone color scheme and similar patterns, just like my late husband’s. I may be the only person who thinks I wear a variety of clothing.

Takeaway:  Maybe the saying should be, ‘clothes make the [wo]man easy to remember,' especially if everything looks alike.'  


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New meaning of Shoe Tree



From a distance, it's just a log. Then, as you get closer you realize there are shoes on it. What? so many? And then it abruptly explodes as a  hilarious, delightful permanent  installation. Who did it? Its clever and anonymous creator devised it to the delight of shoreline walkers on the beach near Fay Bainbridge State Park on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Was it someone in a private residence adjacent to the park? Was it a whimsically minded visitor who had seen so-o-o-o many shoes left behind on the beach? And don't we always leave them on a log when we wade in the calm waters of a summer shoreline? What a treat to enjoy a stranger's legacy of humor memorialized for beach visitors to chuckle over.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It feels like the day before Christmas

Here I sit, a seventy-eight-year-old woman, feeling like a six-year-old on December 23. Why?

All my children, two of my three granddaughters, and two of my three daughters-in-law will be arriving in Bothell within the two days. It's been four years since all four of my of offspring have gathered in one place. And that wasn't for a happy occasion. This one will be.

Oh, I'm so excited!

Bothell is a beautiful place. Here is a picture of the morning light on a routine walk I like to take. I live adjacent to the junction of two wonderful biking/walking trails that provide year-round beauty and pleasure. I'm always amazed and delighted at the quality of light on a summer morning.

But in the next few days in my Bothell neighborhood, anyway, there will be a different light. The one that eminates from a family being together.



Monday, July 9, 2018

When your hairdresser is your therapist . . .

As I was leaving my last hair appointment, I thanked my stylist for being such a good listener, not only for that haircut but for the past twenty years.

"Thanks, Karlynne, it's great to have this time together--you're a great hairapist." It just flew out of my mouth without forethought, and struck us both as hilarious.

"I've never heard that in all the years I've been working as a hair stylist," she said through her giggles. "Can I quote  you? I'll give you full credit!" She continued to laugh until tears came.

It occurred to me that if she's using the term and giving me credit, I ought to give myself credit, too. HAIRAPIST. You saw it here first.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Looking back to 1962

In 1987, a quarter-century after the Seattle's World's Fair (Century-21), our local newspaper put out a call to its readers. "Send us your memories of the world's fair," it requested, "and we will publish the best/most memorable ones."

Even in those twenty-five years later, Jay and I still distinctly remembered an experience we had as newlyweds attending the 1962 Fair. We we were pretty sure it was unique to us. And we were pretty adhament in our hopes that it hadn't happened to anyone else.

"Should I write it up?" I asked him.  He laughed and nodded positively, so I began. Before I knew it, the memory was turning into a rhyming poem--and the next day, I mailed it to the Times (before Internet submissions). Not surprisingly, it did not warrant a place in the final picks to be published (I think 21 pieces were selected).

Recently I came across the poem in some of my archived writing. It's certainly not a great poem, but it's a great anecdote. You'll know why we never forgot it when you read the poem. It made me laugh, and I hope it does the same for you,too.

Century-21
It’s a beautiful day
Not a cloud in the sky.
So off to the fair
Go my husband and I.

We check out Flaminco
at the Spanish pavilion,
sip Chilean wine
and dance a cotillion.

Then it’s on to Bugaku
with actors reclusive,
imported for fair-goers—
its patrons exclusive.

No trip to the fair
is complete without rides—
carousel, centrifuge, and
cable-car glides

Last not but least
is the Ferris wheel trip.
We have saved it for last
to see setting sun dip.

We are feeling fulfilled
as we’re scooped up in air,
but suddenly raindrops
start to fall in my hair.

I say to my husband,
“Wait! How can it be?
Not a cloud in the sky
but it’s raining on me?”

“No, it isn’t,” he says
and points up above.
“Someone is losing her
cookies, my love.”

That is the reason,
needless to say,
we avoid Ferris wheels
to this very today.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

When the cut flowers and the onion start talking . . .

For those of you who read my blog on your cell phones or ipads, this post will appear completely nonsensical unless you also read the captions for the photos. They do not display simultaneously on the iphone/ipad format.
I was sitting on the living table and no one
seemed to notice. All of a sudden,
I knew what to do.

I know what you mean. I was sitting around
 waiting  forever for her to make spaghetti,
and I just couldn't wait any longer.
Good job! You made her look!
Keep going . . . maybe she'll
 learn how precious our time together is!
 And a postscript on June 7:  Who would
have thought flowers were copycats! 


The following week . . . it happened again!


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Small World Unfurled


A really fun ‘small world’ story surfaced last week. I was talking to my all-time-favorite busker  at our Farmers’ Market, the man who writes poems on demand and for any occasion.  
Each poem is written to order
Since encountering Mr. C. Stavney for the first time two summers ago, I’ve been interested in following his successful pursuit of a B.A. in English from the University of Washington. 

Last week he had a little down time as he waited for his next poetry-patron to arrive, so I felt free to take up a few of his  minutes. With a big smile, he informed me that in just a couple of weeks, he’d complete his degree and then would work for at least a year. The obvious question was a no-brainer: “Do you know where you’ll be working?” I asked.

“Yes, a corporate mailroom for a local company,” he responded—and briefly told me in metaphoric language how he’d been hired. “The process was a Russian nesting doll,” he explained, and proceeded to describe how an outsourced company utilized another group to facilitate his hiring for the Seattle-area job. Of course, I asked him what was the company, and nearly fell over when he replied, “Symetra Financial.”   
ARTISTS at the market
C. Stavney, poet, composing a requested poem
and Ilona, artist, drawing a requested subject

Symetra Financial is the company from which I retired in 2005! Then it was a new company very few people had heard of. Even now, thirteen years later, I've met only a handful of people who seem to register the name when I tell them where I used to work. The common response to my answer is, "What's Symetra?" And here I was, standing in the Farmers' Market, learning that Mr. Stavney's first job out of college was to be at the my old company! 

Not only did I retire from it, but I actually worked to help create its image. Symetra Financial was created from Safeco Life Insurance Company, whcih was spun off from its parent company, SAFECO, in 2003.We  had one year to detach from the parental name and create a fresh, new separate corporate identity for the same admired and stable products. A handful of investors bought us from SAFECO, one of whom was Warren Buffet. The investors planned to hold the “new” company for a limited time until it was ready to go public. (Note: the plan was successful—Symetra Financial is publically held today.) With great care the image of the company was honed. Naming it was a huge part, not to mention creating its logo, its mission, its business plan, etc. This work became a short-term primary focus and spilled into every department. My position was in product marketing, so I was very aware of, and peripherally involved in, the task of branding the new company.

I’ve been thinking about C. Stavney and his potential career in a company that might seem remotely connected to his degree in English. I spent almost twenty-five years in corporate America, working for four different insurance companies. Unequivocally I can say that the most broadly educated people—those with degrees in traditional arts-and-sciences, non-techie fields—frequently find employment in the Home Offices of companies like mine: Northwestern Mutual Life, WM Life, Safeco Life, and Symetra Financial. People who studied History, English, Poly-sci and Sociology, Geology, Astronomy, History or Classics can all be found on the payrolls of insurance companies. I can attest to the fact that people starting in the mail room can end up as team-leaders and supervisors, managers and even CEOs. I personally promoted a number of industrious entry-level workers into more demanding and exciting positions—and a number of them have gone on to have highly satisfying careers.

As counterintuitive as it may seem for a poet to work at an insurance company, I’m excited for Mr. Stavney, and tickled to think he’ll be at Symetra. If he puts his heart into it (and if he has a good boss), the sky is the limit. Even if he spends just one year there, he'll have a great foundation for whatever he intends next. Plus, he'll likely meet a lot of interesting people and form some lasting friendships.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Royal weddings? Appeal is real!

I've always loved royal weddings. In 1947 after Queen  Elizabeth and Philip were married, I pored over the issue of Life Magazine containing photo-coverage of the event. I was seven-and-a-half years old, and clearly royal life reflected the fairy tales I was now old enough to read to myself. When my sixth grade teacher arranged for penpals from an English school, all I wanted to ask my penpal about about were questions about the soon-to-be coronated Queen and her royal family. After the coronation in 1953, I kept a scrapbook of the pictures of the event. So this fettish has been with me nearly all my life.

In July 1981, another royal wedding was all the buzz. Without the unlimited possibilities of seeing thousands of photo-stories on the Internet that we now enjoy, the only real way to experience the wedding was to watch it live--and that's exactly what I did! I had friends just as interested in seeing the real event in real time, so I put together a party!

Please don your fanciest hat, the invitation read. Feel free to wear bathrobes, pajamas, etc. but don't forget your gloves! Please arrive by 5:30 a.m. in plenty of time to enjoy tea and crumpets before gathering in our family room in front of our TV to watch the pomp and circumstance live!

And yes, all seven party guests all wore hats!

  
In Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (where we lived in 1981), no street parking was allowed  between 2 and 6 a.m. I contacted the police department ahead of time to let it know there'd be a number of cars parking outside my house before the 6:00 a.m. restriction was lifted. "Thanks for letting us know," was the response from the police clerk. "Your party sounds like a great idea!" I'm pretty sure she would have accepted an invitation, if I had extended one to her.

 My friends and I had a great time watching. With sixteen or eighteen eyes on the boxy TV's screen (albeit black and white), there was little about the ceremony that we missed. Unlike the guests who were at St. Paul's in person, we could chatter and exclaim aloud over every little detail. My three sons and their father slept through and/or ignored the event, although my eldest, seventeen-year-old Andrea, joined us with at as much enthusiasm as anyone.

Everyone left shortly after the wedding because a "regular" Wednesday loomed. The dishes were washed, food put away, and table-cloth and napkins in the laundry by the time I left my house that morning for work at Northwestern Mutual Life in downtown Milwaukee. I remember telling people at work that it had been the easiest party I'd ever given!

Tomorrow morning in Bothell (two hours earlier than Wauwatosa), my alarm will go off at 3:30. I'll don a bathrobe to stave off the morning chill, pour myself a cup of coffee and serve up a sweet roll as I watch, transfixed, the pomp and circumstance surrounding the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan. I breifly considered asking friends to join me, but judging from the gasping responses when I relay the story about the 1981 party, I'd have no takers. So this one I'll watch by myself, sans hat and gloves. Even without the party-commeraderie, however, I can hardly wait for the pomp and circumstance to begin! 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

CHEAP FUN (continued from many months ago): Put on the Ritz

Are you wishing you could go to a fancy restaurant? Make your own fancy restaurant at home. Substitute your same-old menus with a good-brand frozen dinner (or a carryout meal). After heating it up in the microwave or oven, dish it up on your best china. Put an exotic beverage—say, a hearty ale or pomegranate juice—in that crystal mug someone gave you years ago.

Or go ahead and use that fragile stemware you've been saving for decades. What's the difference if you drop one and there's not an even number anymore? (You can also buy just one glass or one plate from your local thrift or discount department store--it's amazing what a difference different china makes.)

Try cooking dinner-food for breakfast or breakfast-food for dinner—or switch menus for your noon and evening meals. Marie Callender's chicken pie for breakfast? Why not! Your favorite canned soup tastes better in Lenox or Wedgewood bowls and becomes be an appetizing, light dinner. Offer your partner or friend a tray of finger sandwiches and pink lemonade instead of the usual mid-afternoon cup of coffee.

Light candles for yourself and get out the cloth napkins. If you don't want to wash and iron them (who does anymore, anyway), just  throw them away after you use them! That's one less thing for your kids to get rid of. Go ahead, shake it up a little! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Problem with Selfies

Living alone has a lot of advantages. I can make dinner when I'm hungry, watch whatever TV show I want, go to bed when I'm ready, leave my shoes in a heap in the closet, and change the setting on the furnace thermostat whenever my body wants the house to be warmer or colder. I don't have to consult anyone on what time to set the alarm, and if I don't want to fold my towel, so what. I love having autonomy in a lot of ways.

Of course, there are disadvantages, too. It's lonely. I have no one to talk to (yes, I can talk to myself, but I hate that tendency!) I have no one to plan a vacation with or decide on a spontaneous adventure together. No one to laugh with on a regular basis, no one to tell me my outfit looks OK or that there's soup on the corner of my sleeve. No one is here to leap up on a stool to reset the smoke alarm when goes off because of the oven and no one to give feedback on a public speaking event. Did I say it's lonely? And there's no one to snuggle with? The list goes on . . ..

This week I had a new challenge: I was asked for a picture of myself for an event. But how to take a selfie that both looks natural and that I like--well, that's quite the challenge. It isn't that I don't know how to use my iPhone for selfies, but the resulting photos this week were horrible. And then there's the decision (which is the least worst?). Shown here are only two of about twelve I took. If I had to take my own picture, I sure would have liked someone to confer on which shot was the least awful. (Does this really look like me? Ouch!)  Posing with the photographer calling out smile! and say cheese!, or cracking a stupid joke just as the shutter is tapped is challenging when the photographer and the subject are one and the same!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

YMCA--truly a community organization

Anyone who reads my blog knows my affection for the YMCA. Not only do I exercise there, but I am uplifted whenever I walk through its doors. The sounds are so wonderful: chatter, giggles, hellos, and "Don't run," spoken by moms whose children are so eager to get to their class or their special area, they cannot just walk there. There're muffled sounds from the pool and, on any given day, ball-smacked pounding from the racket-ball room, lively music from a Zumba class, or the instructor's voice in a spin class. There are also quiet rooms where meditation and yoga classes are taught.The best part, for me, is the age diversity at the Y--from toddlers to octogenarians and beyond.

I'm currently extremely involved (uh, I'm actually its Community Chairperson) in the Annual Fund Drive the Y sponsors every year. It's a short period, just five weeks. This year I was one of the people who helped set the amount of our goal: $225,000. With the money, we subsidize all ages in various health programs, from Livestrong to Pedaling for Parkinsons, and a wonderful Y based program known as ACT--Actively Changing Together--that targets families who have a child whose weight has become unhealthy. Instead of a parent scolding the child for eating unhealthily and trying to manage by herself, the family attends the program together to learn new habits of exercise and eating. We give scholarships to summer camps and completely fund Engllish Learners' Camp for kids whose families don't speak English at home. And the Hunger Initiatives the Y pays for cover backpacks of food for the weekend and free lunches hosted in several locations summer long. Our fund drive covers the cost of these programs so they can be offered at NO CHARGE to community members (no Y membership is needed).

This year, our Y is piloting a program in Water Safety for fourth-graders in three of the multiple grade schools in our school district. It's both a classroom and pool program that teaches children how to behave in the event that water suddenly overcomes them--such as playing in the water when a wave washes over them, or tumbling off a dock, or falling while wading along an uneven shoreline. Nearly 400 fourth graders will be bused to the Y in May to have this experience because of the funds we are raising. There will be no charge for participation. When I learned that sixty percent of all drownings happen within ten feet of safety, I was shocked! The skills fourth graders are taught in this program will help them manage to get to safety, even if they don't know how to swim!

Our campaign is over soon. We haven't quite made our goal yet, but on Tuesday, I'll be emcee for the Campaign Closing Rally. We will celebrate all the good work our volunteers have done and enjoy great food and lots of cheering for our accomplishments.

And, just in the off chance a reader might like to make a donation, I'm including a link (Northshore YMCA) to my YMCA donation page. Please don't feel pressured--but I thought you might feel sad if you didn't have this this opportunity. (I wouldn't want anyone to be sad, would I?)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rants of an old, albeit famous, man . . . Mark Tobey

My parents were friends with Mark Tobey, Northwest artist, visionary, and mystic whose work is held in major museums. One evening in 1959 after Tobey had been at our house, I was struck how wise, how deep his thoughts were. (He was approaching seventy—and I nineteen.) As a university freshman, I also felt wise. After all, I'd learned to smoke cigarettes without coughing, hold my own in philosophical conversations, and stay awake half the night cramming for an exam. That particular evening it struck me how amazing it was that such a great and wise guru had been our guest—this extraordinarily talented man sitting in our living-and dining-rooms, chatting away with my family in the same relaxed way an ordinary neighbor might. The difference was that his thoughts were profound, his comments scintillating. I was enthralled by every aspect of the man and wanted to remember his words—immortalize them. As soon as Tobey departed, I began jotting down in a spiral notebook what I could remember of that evening’s conversation.

M. Tobey  Self-portrait 1949
Four years ago I discovered those notes in an old box stuffed with odds and ends, marked “Treasures.” Multiple sheets of notebook paper were folded in the box, unopened since the very night I recorded them. The notes are of a one-sided conversation only—Tobey’s—as he chatted with my parents. Although my parents provided the other half of the dialogue, Tobey’s musings were all I bothered to capture. After all, he was a great artist, wise beyond others, while my parents were just ordinary people.

What follows in italics is exactly what I wrote at age nineteen—words spoken by Tobey—but I’ve augmented a few words [in brackets] and added several footnotes to help today’s readers make sense of them a half-century later.  

Seafair: [1] I just stay away from downtown [when it’s going on]. Miss Universe, Miss Washington, Miss South Dakota, Miss Florida . . . [they] all look alike. Same smile, same crown on their heads. Glamour is substituted for spirit. They have no spirit, so they straighten their teeth, pluck their eyebrows, paint themselves with grease, and there is glamor! They look—like the devil? No. They don’t look like the devil. I’d like to imagine that the devil looks like something!
Sex: One thing about the twentieth century—we’ve discovered sex, and “they” won’t let us forget it. Aren’t we wonderful! We’ve discovered sex! Sex in soup, sex in . . . you name it, but don’t put sex in abstract art! The critics don’t like it.
Fast-paced modern times: I used to like to go into Safeway about dusk. It was nice. Now I go, push a go-cart up the aisle four times—then I ask where the coffee is. All you hear now is ‘ding, ding, ding.’ People hurry. Why, you can’t even get to know your butcher now. Occasionally an arm sticks out [from] behind [the] glass. We do all this so we have time to live. We hurry in and out, but when do we live? We don’t know the butcher. When do we live? Only humans make life—we can get as mechanized as possible, but only humans make life.  White Henry Stuart Building[2] [now has] automatic elevators—music comes on. What for? One street in Hong Kong has more life than the whole of Broadway[3] because it is completely human. Only humans make life.
Young artists cannot grow when snatched up in [their]youth—[I] don’t approve of early discovery of talent. ‘Debutante [now], then wallflower. Now days, [there is] no young, exceptional talent that hasn’t been “discovered.” Scouts all over—too many.
Urban blight: Trees soften the hardness of life—the only thing [that] rests your eyes downtown. [For instance, take the] Pike Street Market[4]—every race, creed, color, culture. Saturday – [I] took five Yale students there. Top part of their trip. Never enough time. So many things to watch, to wonder at. Color of vegetables and fruit seem to put everyone in a good  mood. If you go, take lunch up to second floor—see the whole sound. Beautiful view! Two blocks [away] at second and Pike, what is there? Nothing. Nothing. Not a thing to look at . . . except the trees in the front of the bank.

A few catalogs & books about Tobey
As a then seventy-four-year-old woman reading the newly rediscovered musings (I'm four years older now), I found myself incredulous. In retrospect, Tobey’s comments seem no more insightful than any other old person’s. Having revered him all these years, I realized the words easily could have been spoken by any one of my own peers, railing about the contemporary scene. Mark Tobey was a mortal, after all, with the same kinds of opinions and notions about the ruination of the younger generations and deterioration of services that we all notice as we age—the “wisdom” of hindsight. He continued to admire Pike Place Market, however, something that is still easy to do, despite its periodic updates and gradual gentrification.

Time changes perspective: a universal truth. That very constancy stitches us together—whether we’re rich or poor, famous or unknown—into a continuum of humanity. And what’s perceived as the decline of civilization continues to be lamented by people on the downward curve of life as they mourn “the good old days.” I still adore the work of Tobey and revere his genius, but now that I’m older than he was when last we met, he seems less a deity to me and more an ordinary mortal who happened to have extraordinary talent.                                                                                       

Copyright ©2018  by Sara J. Glerum



[1] Seafair is a Seattle month-long summer festival 
[2] A Seattle landmark  in the first three-quarters of the 20th century. Sited on Fourth Avenue and University Street, it was torn down in 1974 to make way for the home office of the then Rainier Bank  (once an inverted pyramid design, the building is currently under complete redesign) 
[3] A lively commercial street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district
[4] Currently referred to as Pike Place Market