Friday, December 22, 2023

A rainy reflection

For me, the word reflection conjures up perception of a quiet time. A peaceful mindset and intentional desire to understand meanings and feelings resulting from a personal experience. Sometimes I reflect on a book I've just read, or a poem. Sometimes it's what I see or hear from my window, and sometimes I reflect on why I'm feeling am angry, sad, or lonely. 

Today as I walked the city sidewalk near my home, I came across a puddle leftover from rain that had fallen steadily all morning. 

The sky was blue-ing up and the outdoor light felt bright and hopeful. As I approached the low spot in the sidewalk, I was struct by the physical reflection of the tree directly overhead. It was stunning. I'm not sure I had ever even noticed the trees on this particular block. As trees go, they express the stress of urban living as it dares anything natural to thrive. In looking down (to avoid stumbling on the uneven sidewalk), I saw something above me, and that realization made me consider a new dimension of personal reflection. This pooling on the ground of liquid that fell from the sky and the glasslike mirroring it provided on this temporary basis was an invitation to look up. And that is exactly what I try for with intentional interior reflection. Thank you, rain, for this wonderfully direct reminder.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

An old woman writes to Santa

Dear Santa,

I can't recall the last time I wrote you a serious letter. Maybe third grade? I feel compelled to write this year because of my own experience of aging. Even though I’m quite a bit younger than you, I’m equally white-haired with a roly-poly circle of fat that’s quickly catching up to yours. For the purposes of this letter, I’m considering myself your peer.

As our bodies age, the filters wear out—you know, the ones that keep our negative feelings to ourselves or the rude comments shuttered. So . . . I’m just going to blurt it out—Santa, it might be time to step aside and let another have your esteemed job. You’ve been in the spotlight for several centuries of delighted anticipation and excitement. How about letting someone else have a chance at it now? Not only would the younger generation be ecstatic to have a say in North Pole Management, but as we age, self-care is increasingly seen a big factor in health.

Most likely you’re noticing that your memory isn’t as good as it used to be, not to mention your balance. What if you overlooked one of the children in a family? Stumbled or fell as you climbed into the sleigh? What if you missed a town during your deliveries, or couldn’t find your way to a specific house? What if you faltered over your famous words? “Merry Christmas and to all and uh . ..  uh . . . a good day . . . to all!  What if you called out “On Commet, On Cupid, On Dandruff and Vixen!” An anecdote like that would stun the world.

I can only imagine the challenges your eyesight must encounter on all those Christmas Eves with snowstorms, darkness, wind, and rain. Thank goodness you have Rudolph, or you would have undoubtedly given up driving years ago. I can’t imagine the stamina that it takes from you, year after year, to do your kind of global trotting. You have millions of devotees who would love to see you retired and getting well-earned ‘me-time.’

Believe it or not, I’m much more tolerant of old people, now that I’m in a retirement community. Old, frail bodies house more wisdom and insight than the young ones you regularly connect with, Santa. Plus we have delightful senses of humor and endless stories. You’d have activities to enjoy, and I’m guessing Mrs. Claus would be so-o-o-o happy not to have to cook and clean-up every night. You’d have time for legacy writing, too—and oh, how we would love the stories you could write. We’d devour them, then share with our children, our grandchildren, and generations to come.

Of course, you’re free to continue doing your job, but stepping aside would mean you could nurture the next-generation Santa to carry on with your heritage, as well as making millions of families happily overjoyed that you’re safe. I’d love it if you moved into my community, and I’ll bet I’d get a bonus if you did.  

Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. Claus, and thanks for such wonderful memories.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Look up, look out . . . great advice

We can get so focused on what's going wrong in our lives, it can be hard to look away or step back. I don't know where I first heard this admonishment when I was feeling down, but it has served me well: Look up, look out. Very few troubles don't fade back into the right perspective if I can get out of my own head for a short time. Looking up as I take a deep breath almost always helps me. Yet it can take emotional energy to do so when I want only to wallow in my own interior issue.

One of the best things about the location of my retirement community is that it's a high-rise, and I have an apartment on the tenth floor of the twenty-four-story building. My vista overlooks comparatively low buildings, allowing me to see a huge expanse of sky. Long story short . . . it  has never been easier to look up and out. After sixteen months of living here, I still cannot believe how lucky I am to see this much sky from every room in my apartment. Even though the location of my former home was very near the Sammamish River, I didn't see much sky because of the trees along the riverbank. Yes, it was a gorgeous outlook, but I had to walk outside and step away from the building to see the sky. NOTHING like what I see now.

No, I don't see stars anymore and I miss them. City lights are too bright. But when it's dark outside, I can see the moon and the brighter planets (Jupiter and Venus) from my easy chair, at least when their trajectories are aligned with my outlook, and there are no clouds. I also can see airplanes on a flight path that's frequently directly overhead. During the day I frequently seeing crows and seagulls flying on the same level  I'm standing while gazing out my windows. But the best view is just the enormous expanse of sky, especially at dawn. 

With the recent change to standard time, sunrise has become the highlight of own entry to each day. I'm still groggy from a my nightlong sleep when I round the corner to my combo living room/kitchen to be greeted by beginnings of morning light.   

How can a person be in a bad mood when the day starts this way? Yes, I look up and out every day in my apartment and feel fortunate to have the opportunity.

I have dozens of sky pictures, many taken during other parts of the day, too. I've just picked three sunrise shots to share. I sit at the table in the morning by the window and just stare as long as I want into the changing light. Even on heavily clouded days there are often color stripes that leak into the clouds through the rain. No wonder we imagine heaven being above us when we look up at such beauty.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Time to watch ice melt? Not lately

Today I was looking over the statistics on my blog to see if anyone is reading it. I can't tell who reads it, but I can see how many read a particular post on a given day or month and cumulatively how many pairs of eyes have seen it over its published lifetime. I'm impressed when I see the total number of published posts: 523 (since late 2009) and 397,830 overall views. That sounds more impressive than it is because judging from the world map of where viewers live, a great many are in countries that would have NO interest whatsoever in this drivel. However, based on some of the advertising comments that I routinely remove, my blog is interesting to readers for a lot of "wrong reasons," some of which--no doubt--could even be evil.
In the process of cleaning up stuff today, I found a few posts that never left their 'draft stage,' just hiding away waiting to be released by me for my readers. I'm deleting most of them, but I decided to share this one. If nothing else, it reminds us of the little things in life, and speaks to how I spent my time during Covid-shutdown. 

I am so grateful I can again go to the theatre and music performances, museums and shops. Thinking about having time to watch bubbles rise from hard-boiled eggs as ice melts is almost incomprehensible now. But it is also a lesson in the wonder that awaits us if we really look at what's around us

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I always chill my hard boiled eggs as soon as I take them off the burner. I am under the impression they will be easier to peel if they cool fast. Someone told me that years ago--maybe in high school. And I've always believed it.

To prove it's true would mean a scientific approach. I would have to cool half the batch slowly and other half with ice, then label the two batches, and pay attention when I finally turn them into deviled eggs (as these are destined to become), but that would be too much trouble for this old woman. I always just trust that advice and have a bowl of ice ready to dump into the pan as soon as I pour off the boiling water.

Today after I dumped ice into the pan, I noticed how pretty the ice was as it was melting. It was almost sparkling, so out came my cellphone and I shot pictures. An idle day, apparently, to have time for such silliness. But it's fun to look down and see the hard boiled eggs beneath the ice. I actually recorded several videos to bring into this post, too, but the videos refuse to be shared. I loved seeing the little bubbles of air escaping the eggs as the icy water cools them. It became a meditative experience--calming, actually--gazing at the patterns of bubbles. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

PIN-UP GRIL(L) -- Halloween 2022

I had lived in my retirement community just three months when 2022 Halloween rolled into focus. HALLOWEEN NIGHT PARTY! announced our activities director. Live music, dancing, refreshments! Costumes welcome! One of the community's mid-October optional activities was making masks, so I attended the class and created a half-mask out of paper mache. The process took two-weeks: one to form the mask from paper and paste: the second to paint/decorate it for the party. Only a couple of people were painting their masks at the same time I painted mine, so no one paid attention to what anyone else was doing, each of us focusing on our own creation. I still had no idea of whether or not I'd attend the party and no plan on a costume, but the activity was fun.

As it happened, several days before Halloween I opened one of many plastic containers not glanced at/in since moving to discover my collection of  at least a hundred advertising/marketing pins I'd collected over the years. You know the kind, you get them at a fair, your kids' sporting event, a small shop trying to spread the word about itself, etc.. Many of the pins came with memories, and some were just something I wore for a couple of hours--then tossed them into the 'pins box.' I wondered why on earth I had ever moved them into my downsized apartment (except for a handful, including one with a granddaughter's picture). 

I decided to throw out most of them just as an idea came to me. I would create a Halloween costume with them, which is exactly what I did--and I could wear the mask, besides. Happily, a silly play on a misspelled word came to me, which fueled the imagination.

Now, a year later, the 2022 photos of my costume popped up uninvited on my iPhone, and I found myself remembering what fun it was to go to my community's party--despite the need to be masked for COVID-19. No one at the party recognized me for one entire hour! I refrained from speaking and without my voice and my body I was invisible behind both the Covid mask and the Halloween mask, plus the clothing that included hair covering. In just three months, not a lot of residents knew me, anyway, so it was the perfect storm. Meet Sallie Glerum, the Pin-up Gril(l). It's a 'forever' highlight for me, Halloween or not.

Saturday, October 28, 2023


There are many interesting trees in my current neighborhood--not always the majestic beauties so prevalent in my former more countrified suburb--but trees that are old, crooked, stressed, and apparently insistent on survival. Every one of them looks as though it has endured a lot, and still it keeps going. Maybe that's why I have been noticing them. 

As a person who's out of warranty, I feel like some of those trees look. Not my best look, but, dang it, I'll keep pushing through whatever I'm getting handed by luck, age, genetics, and eight decades of choosing less-than-healthy options. The result may not be pretty, but I'm still here!

I have taken a lot of photos of the trees near me, but the blog-software I use (Blogger) has become much more challenging regarding picture placement, so wrapping/tucking photos throughout written narrative is not an easy task. 

In fact, last evening I spent more than one hour trying to manipulate where I wanted the photos to appear in my Scarecrows post and finally just gave up. Some of the best scarecrows (photos thereof) do not appear for that reason. But back to trees. Not only do they serve as consumers of carbon monoxide--our human pulmonary exhaust--they also enhance our landscape to create beauty and interest. Would that all of us could be both beautiful and useful.

To close this silly observation, I am going to include one tree painting I did during an in-house art class offered by my retirement community. We were painting with acrylics (which I find challenging), using photographs of trees as inspiration and model. I was hating what was happening on my 'canvas' (as if it had nothing to do with me), when I decided to dress up the tree with imaginary color and movement. The result is this silly little painting to end my tree remarks. Perhaps for Halloween I will put on all my colorful costume jewelry and call myself 'fantasy-tree-inspired elder.' 

Thursday, October 26, 2023


There are at least six life-sized scarecrows in the vegetable garden that belongs to St. James Cathedral. It has been a delight to walk by the garden over the seasons to see that wide variety of produce growing in a fertile section of an otherwise asphalt block of the city. Volunteers tend the garden, and harvest its produce to use in the cathedral's food program that feeds many unhoused people each weekday.  

I don't know who made the scarecrows, but it is such fun to see them stuffed with straw with wide smiles grinning from their pillow-case heads. It makes me proud of our human race, willing to labor throughout the year planting, tending, and harvesting food solely for the benefit of others. The garden provides much pleasure in every season to pedestrians, as well as drivers (and passengers) of cars and buses hastily passing by the busy intersection of Madison and Cherry in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. I'd like to think it also provides inspiration for all.

Monday, September 25, 2023


I recently revisited a draft of a poem I began in 2015, just a year into my widowhood. Quite often setting something aside to revisit in a few months has the effect of clarifying the work to its originator. I call it 'aging the words like wine.' Widow's Lament almost wrote itself upon reading its beginnings eight years earlier 



I’m not going to pick up the mail today

I’m not going to open the shades

I’m not going to give the neighbors a glimpse

Of my life as I live it today.

I hate the way they peer out their windows 

I hate the odd little questions.

How is it, my dear? Are you doing OK?

Let me know if there’s something to help with.

I hate looking out my window to see

Couples driving off in their cars

Friday night’s promise of lovely exchanges

While I sit watching TV.

I’m not going to pick up my mail today

I’m not going to open the shades

It’s none of their business what I do with my life

Now that my husband is gone.


I’ll brush my teeth

I’ll fix my hair

I’ll make the bed

And start some wash

Solitary confinement

Others have plans

Too busy to phone

I’ll walk

I’ll write

I’ll think

I’ll buy eggs

I’ll listen to music

I’ll fade of loneliness

Not Monday, a fun day

Not Tuesday, a muse-day

Not Wednesday, a friends day

Not Thursday, a hers day

Not Friday, a sigh day

It’s Saturday, a no matter day.

            Copyright © 2023 by Sara J. Glerum                  


Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Best Way to Shed Worry

One delightful feature in most senior communities is the easy access to a variety of activities. Without needing to leave the building, residents can participate in various leisure-time opportunities. In my community, there's everything from exercise sessions to lectures, movies to games, discussions and interest groups all under the same roof. 

My favorite is art. A talented artist, Everett, who works fulltime in our food and beverage division, leads afternoon art sessions twice a month on his day off. Anywhere from four to ten people participate, and the art studio gets really quiet for sixty-to-ninety minutes as we concentrate on what we're doing under his guidance. We chat very little as we draw or paint--which, oddly, is one thing that makes it so fun. It is relaxing to be concentrating on the matter in hand--a brush or stick of charcoal.

A few months ago, Everett introduced acrylics to us. For those of us new to the medium, the transition was challenging. The photos here show just one project in which we got to choose whatever photo we liked from a stack of colored landscapes and replicate the subject and color values with only the three primary colors plus black and white. What a challenge it was.

Whenever I take part in 60-90 minutes of this kind of dabbling under Everett's encouraging eye, I love the end result: how I feel.  I wash my hands and walk back to my apartment, noticeably refreshed and even walking with a lighter step.  I am unable to think about anything else while painting, and when the medium itself is new, it's like a vacation from all the thoughts typically whirling in my head. I rarely keep the result (i.e. painting/drawing) of the art session, but I keep its residual  effect for the rest of the day. The project keeps me fully engaged, and I love it. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Tribute to a Life Influencer

I WROTE WHAT FOLLOWS IN NOVEMBER 2006. I had reason to think about it recently, but when I searched Beats Talking to Myself realized I'd written it soon after John Gilbert's obituary appeared,  three entire years before I had the blog. I found my essay using the search function on my computer and am publishing it now--nearly seventeen years later. But the man doesn't deserve ever to be forgotten, so better late than never.

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John Gilbert PR shot as
character in unknown role
November 2006:  Last Sunday my sister called me to alert me to a death notice in the Times she knew I’d be interested in. As soon as I hung up the telephone, I located my paper, opened it to the obituary page, and read the announcement. I was horrified. The words were strung together in neutral, dead sounding—no pun intended—sentences. I felt desperately sad all day, not so much because of my friend’s death, but at the indifference with which his passing was reported.

John Gilbert was a college friend whose influence I still feel. For the first few years out of college we remained close. By the time we had turned thirty, our friendship had waned for a variety of reasons, our contact dribbling away to a hello and a hug whenever our paths crossed. A passerby, glimpsing us on a street corner as we did our quick catch-up every few years (“How are you, nice to see you”), might imagine we were old work buddies, next-door-neighbors, or once-removed mutual friends of someone else. There was little residue visible of what had once been.

How can I explain what John meant to me?  He was the first agnostic I ever met—at least the first person who admitted to being one. I was eighteen. He lived a life of Secular Humanism and explained to me what that meant within days of my first encounter with him in a freshman drama class. I was dazzled by him. At age twenty, he already was showing the beginnings of a receding hairline, but compensated for it by growing the most beautiful, full beard I think I’ve ever seen. He rolled his own Bull Durham cigarettes and wore ratty, tattered clothing and work boots to his college classes. In the late ‘50s, that was nearly scandalous.

In addition to being an extraordinarily talented actor, John was an exceptionally  gifted intellectual. He challenged his professors in a way, I suppose, they either relished or loathed. John resisted taking things at face value. Instead, he dug deep to reconcile in his head each particle of information. His acting was self-assured, intense, genuine. He could be chilling onstage—Hotspur in Henry IV, as well as hilarious— the drunken livery driver, Malachi, in The Matchmaker. He was never better than he was as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, a part he felt was custom-made for him. His Jamie in Long Day’s Journey into Night was spectacular; his brooding Hamlet at Seattle Repertory Theatre was an audience gripper, and regionally he will never be forgotten as the meanest-ever first-act Scrooge ever in The Christmas Carol, only to become a big-hearted softy in the final act.

I was in awe of his talent and enamored of his intellect. I also found him mysteriously attractive in an out-of-bounds kind of way. He exuded an underlying chemistry of rage that sizzled and felt dangerous to me. In my freshman year, I yearned to be in his crowd and worked hard at my acting to gain entry. As a sophomore, he was a mentor to me as I worked at becoming educated in the arena of social justice and philosophy. During my junior year when he began to seriously date a girl, I realized I was a little-bit in love with him, now that he was off limits. By the time I was a senior we had established an easy friendship—confiding in each other, discussing serious topics and arguing fiercely as good friends often do. As a graduating senior, one of my proudest moments was standing next to John to receive our citations for outstanding acting.

After we were both married, he and his wife and my husband and I enjoyed occasional social evenings—drinking and discoursing into the wee small hours. In the mid-sixties, the upstairs apartment in the house we were renting became available. The location, only three blocks from the theatre where John was part of the repertory ensemble, made the apartment exceptionally appealing, so he and his wife became our immediate neighbors. It was wonderful for us because we could get together on the spur of the moment and didn’t need a babysitter to just run upstairs for a few minutes.

In the capacity of neighbor, John became an easy visitor who often dropped in to chat on afternoons when he had a break from his acting job. Sitting in our living room with  my toddlers bouncing like Mexican jumping beans, he’d smoke a cigarette (so different from today’s sensibilities) while he drank a cup of coffee, chattering away with my small children in a way that was comfortable and homey. “Uncle” John loved to open their brightly colored picture-books and read aloud to any or all of them.

I remember one afternoon when he rapped on the door loudly, then burst into our living room with a newly purchased LP, and asked me to play it on the Hi Fi. As we listened together to the newly released Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he proclaimed—way ahead of the critics—that the creative brilliance demonstrated in this album would put the Beatles down in history as some of the most extraordinary popular musicians ever to live.

He was the person who opened my eyes to social injustice and taught me to be outraged at socio-economic prejudice in a way it had never occurred to me to be. He was cynical, smart, passionate about life, and an active socialist. He drank heavily, smoked non-stop, brooded regularly, and stroked his beard incessantly. His eyes crackled with intensity; his mouth twitched with energy. His laugh was infectious and his voice deep and resonant. John was a character many people recognized on the street in his Greek fisherman’s hat and Levi’s jacket, and the way he carried himself and strode—wound-up, spring-loaded—was unique.

By the 1970s our friendship had slowly deteriorated, diluted into a watery imitation of what it had once been. One of the last times we had a social evening together John began to shout about Malcolm X being a saint. My husband was arguing with John and I was cringing over the use of the word saint applied to anyone advocating so much violence. A part of me wanted to protect my young children from people like John. My parent-formed values had evolved into something very different from those of my socialistic and atheistic friend, John Gilbert.

It’s been nearly forty years since that time. So why was I so upset at the notice of his death? Because it was flat, written in expository sentences without color. It read like the story of a man who hadn’t mattered. Oh, it ticked off a few of his accomplishments, but gave him little credit for his passion, his commitment, his search for truth and his willingness to stand up for what he believed at the expense of others’ opinions of him. That man changed the course of my life, and certainly others’ lives, as well. 

A person couldn’t be indifferent to John. One way or another, he changed you. And that’s what I wanted so much for the readers of the paper to know. The last sentences written about him in death should wield the same kind of power he had over life.

R.I.P. John Gilbert, 1939-2006




Thursday, August 3, 2023

A profoundly moving experience

Two wonderful tree images are leafing out in my head as a result of Seattle Opera’s Creation Lab 2023, a showcase for short new operas produced in June. It isn’t as much that the allegorical images were particularly new, but because they appeared in two back-to-back productions. The resulting impact was stunning for me. I hope I never forget them.

I attended all six of the short new operas over two afternoons and was mightily impressed the overall project and the talent exhibited in each work. Each opera had something to admire, enjoy, and be impressed with. Afterwards, I spent a long-time reading bios and backgrounds of the unknown-to-me librettists and composers who created the operas, and googled all the vocal and instrumental musicians.

In Ghosts in the Forest by Darby Sherwood and Mieke Johanna Doezema, the ghost who is searching ostensibly for her body, but more likely for peace of mind after trauma, finds comfort in the wisdom of the tree who lovingly sings its truth. “I lose my leaves each year, they drop away and die. Then new leaves and life appear and I am born again. I start all over, fresh.” (Apologies to librettist Darby Sherwood—these are not her words, merely the message I took away.)

In Everything After by Elizabeth Howell and Spencer Edger, the sadly frantic twenty-nine-year old tenor searches in personal turmoil for the person he has yet to become. He mourns that he is almost thirty but feels as lost and unformed as he did as a thirteen-year-old. His grandfather appears in a dream to reassure him, explaining he is like a tree still rooting in the earth. He is growing his foundation but it’s unseen by him and others. Roe will emerge and fill the space, take his place above the surface when the unseen is finished. “You are still rooting, dearest grandson.” Again, apologies to Spencer Edger, the librettist—this is the message that has stayed with me, not even close to the exact words.

Both operas brought me into a surface shiver, and tears formed in my eyes as I squinched my face to keep myself quiet. Flowing tears must not turn into sobs when a performance is underway. I wanted to hear the music. I wanted to linger in the beauty and the wisdom of the moment. But even now, when I recollect those two works, I have teared-up. And that they were serendipitously presented back-to-back made the tree imagery exceptionally powerful. 

Thank you, Seattle Opera, for this beautiful experience. I enjoyed each of the six operas of Creation Lab immensely, but the final two, for me, were unforgettable.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Sharing a Cookie

As I took my morning walk, I was intrigued with pigeon cookie-sharing protocol. These are just two of the six photos I snapped while I stood watching, surprised at how willingly they were taking turns pecking away at a cookie that someone had dropped on the sidewalk.  I'm always taken aback by how close a pigeon allows a human to approach before it flies away. I was, at most, just two-feet away from this scene. Very few birds tolerate humans being closer than ten feet, and many, such as robins, detect danger when we get as close as forty feet from their ground feeding. That said, part of me believes I could easily capture a pigeon with a net . . . but I don't plan to test my hunch. Maybe we aren't a threat because they like our discarded food so much, not to mention the items intentionally supplied by some people. Unlike other cultures, currently, anyway, we're not serving roast pigeon for dinner.
It was an entertaining several minutes spent watching. I applaud how each bird had a chance to nibble and none seemed to need to become Alpha pigeon to chase away the others. Of course, it could have been a lousy tasting cookie . . . 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

To Bring New Memories and Meanings

I’m waiting in a Goodwill line to dump a load of clothes,

 lighten up the cupboards of redundant stuff I’ll never use

when I begin to watch the U-Haul truck up front.

Two men are lugging furniture, dragging it across the drive.

A middle-aged woman points to which item to unload next,

no doubt hoping they'll bring new memories and meanings.


A spigot inside my head breaks open and now water is

running down my cheeks. I take off my glasses to dry them

which messes up my vision and all is blurred.


Instead of strangers panting, walking back and forth,

I see my sons heaving with exertion as they dispose

of the last bits of family furniture when I am gone.


Goodbye, little wicker-seat rocker, once

just right when age-six-someone had a mommy,

now too low for same-someone now a grandma.


Farewell, handsome console table my mother set

the candelabra on and lit them all for festive meals,

now displaying artifacts I'd otherwise lock away.


So long, Governor Winthrop desk dear Grandfather 

brought so he could work at home sometimes,

now storing my scattered treasures, paperwork and dust.


They’ll all be in a massive Goodwill place

awaiting for the “o-o-o-h, look at this,” and

taken away to fill an empty space or need

to bring new memories and meanings.


For minutes I am in another place,

looking down from another life

seeing the final march toward nothingness.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

In Memoriam


June 26 marked the ninth anniversary of Jay's death. It’s hard to believe I’m closing in on a decade of widowhood. Every year on this date, I’ve made a point of commemorating him. Most were modest activities, with two exceptions: the first year and the fifth. The first year I rewarded myself for making it through the year, which had been filled with loneliness and grief, by attending the Spoleto Festival in Charleston. There I immersed myself in musical performances for a week, a passion not shared by Jay, which was the precise reason I chose it. It was like blowing fresh air into oppressive sorrow and helped to heal my soul.

On the fifth anniversary of his passing, I drove with a dear friend to Washington’s Pacific coast where we stayed two nights in a condo at the ocean’s edge. I lingered on several solitary walks along the water’s edge, recalling the beautiful quality times he and I had spent walking that beach together. In the other years my commemoration was far more modest—taking a favorite route for walk we loved to take together, or a visiting a saltwater park in Seattle to sit on a driftwood log and think about him. One year I spent time on a long dock at the north end of Lake Washington where we often went on Sunday mornings to watch cormorants in the winter and water-skiers in the summer. Last year I bought his favorite meal at Dick’s Drive-In and ate it in my car, remembering how I never had to ask Jay what he was going to order when we stopped there: a Deluxe Burger and a chocolate shake.

For the past eight years it was easy to come up with a meaningful activity because I was living in the neighborhood that he and I shared. Passing a familiar spot made commemorative ideas pop up easily for the 26th of June when he would be the first person I thought of in the morning and the last person on my mind as I drifted off to sleep.

This year, however, was different because I moved last July to retirement community in a neighborhood we’d never shared. I still hadn’t decided what exactly I would do when I woke up June 26. I drank my coffee and read my emails while my subconscious was strumming through ideas. The emailed activities-list for the day sent by our Activities Coordinator jolted me. That night after dinner, a Jeopardy Game was going to be hosted for our community. Because Jay loved watching Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy and always made time for it when he was home, it seemed like a perfect commemorative activity. Decision made: I would join a Jeopardy team and participate in his honor.

After we formed our teams, the leader explained that the overarching theme for our Jeopardy game that night was Brain Health Awareness, reminded us of the rules, and read the categories for the first round. The categories were tantalizing—Brain Games, Memory, Parts of the Brain, Stupid Answers and two more. The leader reminded us to use our buzzers and frame our answers in the form of a question. She arbitrarily directed someone on the other team to start: “Pick a category,” and we were off and running.

“MEMORY, for $300,” the appointee called out, whereupon the leader uncovered the clue and read: A Two-Word Latin phrase meaning to remember someone who has died. I rammed my buzzer—no need to confer with teammates—and was promptly called on. I nearly shouted the answer, “What is ‘In Memoriam’?” And with that, our team won the first $300 (purely pretend money) and was headed for our ultimate win, after the double match.

I couldn’t let myself think about it while playing the game, but the minute Jeopardy was over, I found myself almost shivering in awe. Of the thirty boxes holding invisible clues in the first half, any of them could have been chosen as the first. What made the first picker decide on Memory $300 instead, of, say, Brain Game $500 or Stupid Answer $100? That “In Memoriam” was the correct answer to a randomly chosen clue couldn’t have been a coincidence. . . could it? 

I will never forget how I commemorated my late husband in 2023.

R.I.P. Jay O. Glerum  Aug. 16, 1930 - June 26, 2014   Lover of Jeopardy

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

An Embarrassment of . . . oops,

 Bed, Bath, and Beyond was one of my all time favorite retail stores. I never visited without a coupon, which is saying a lot for me because I NEVER use coupons! Well, not at least since my children were small, and my budget was a $50/week budget to feed a family of six. Yes, that was a challenging parameter and any/all coupons definitely helped. But in the last thirty (at least) years, I haven't usually bothered with them, the one exception being BB&B. Reason? Its paper coupons never expired, as long as they were presented 'in person' at a bricks-n-mortar location. Only ONE was allowed for one excursion. I would take my bundle of paper coupons sent via USPS regularly and select the one that provided the best deal for whatever I was purchasing. The clerks were great at ascertaining which one would save the most money--dollars or percentage off purchases of defined minimums. The willingness to take old coupons and help decide the best savings for the customer was enough to make me a faithful fan of BB&B. 

Today I was searching my desk for something and a wad of rolled up coupons fell out of a slot-compartment. And to think I even packed them up and moved them last summer--that's how much I loved those coupons!  From bed linens to flatware, from small appliances to kitchen gimmicks, I always enjoyed shopping there. And even Hubby was actually happy to accompany me to BB&B when I needed something, and that's saying a lot for a man who prided himself in 'buying' not 'shopping' (and was happy to explain the difference).

I am sad that Bed, Bath, and Beyond is going out of business. And now those coupons are in my recycle bin to announce the end of an era at my home.

Friday, May 26, 2023

A Clean Break and Holding It Together

We often use the expression, "Make a clean break of it," when referring to a toxic relationship or a job we dislike whenever we want to be done without blowback. Today I appreciate this metaphor more than ever, as a literal enactment of what just occurred in my kitchen.  

A tiny houseplant needed watering. It was sitting a beloved Cambodian Celadon plate. I picked up the plant from a table to carry it to the kitchen counter. The much heavier plate stuck to the bottom of the plant's ceramic pot for a split second as I lifted it, then bam! It unstuck itself and dropped to the floor.  

Halves of the plate
close, but with a 
visible break
I knew my floors were hard (concrete slab covered with a fake wood-grain vinyl for disguise), but I was astonished to see what a clean break it was. With the sound of plate smashing, I imagined shards of pottery everywhere--under floor-cupboards' overhang all the way to the rug where the living area starts. But nothing . . . just ONE tiny 'crumb' of pottery beside the two plate halves. Fitting the halves together confirmed there were no missing chunks of plate except that crumb from the underside. 

Nothing to clean up (except my sadness at losing the plate)! It was a powerful visual image of a clean break. Not a rip. Not a tear. Not a perforation, shatter, or splat. A near perfect clean break. Wow--what an image for leaving behind whatever unpleasant relationship we're untangling from. No hard feelings? No residue of any kind? We can hope. 

Holding it together.
Who would know?
When I decided I wanted a visual record to help me remember the plate after I placed it in the garbage, another metaphor announced itself: "Holding it together." To make the plate look whole again without the break showing, I literally had to hold it together. Because I needed one hand for my iPhone camera, I pressed the plate's halves together against the kitchen splashboard to depict it without the break. Yeah--it took effort, just like it does to figuratively hide hurt, disappointment, or annoyance. But . . . the break was as close to imperceptible as I could have imagined.  

I'm going to try to keep these images tucked away in my brain somewhere as powerful reminders of what we mean when I casually use the metaphors. Perhaps the photos will help you, as well.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Happiness & Kris Kringle

THIS IS NOT A NEW POST, but technology can get the best of me and did so today. I opened this thirteen-year-old post, intending to update the labels (key words used in internet search engines). Somehow I failed to process the tiny change correctly, so now Google Blogger thinks it's a new post. I would completely delete the post except that, for whatever reason, it remains statistically one of the most read posts I've ever shared on the blog, and I wouldn't want to disappoint. :)


Happiness is getting positive feedback about my writing--stuff on this blog, an essay published in a newspaper, or even, as happened this morning, a rave about a press release I wrote for my Senior Center Exercise class.

But the phone call that just came in will be a highlight of my year. When the caller, identifying himself as Kris Kringle, told me how much he liked my Christmas letter, I nearly swooned. You see, I recognized his voice immediately as belonging to John Doty, my high school Creative Writing teacher. He and I have exchanged Christmas cards for a number of years. This was the first year, though, I included my annual letter in his card. I felt fluttery when I sealed the envelope, as if I were turning in a writing assignment in which I revealed too much of myself.

The call this afternoon felt like the equivalent of getting an A+ on a class assignment. I'm walking on air . . . while doing the laundry. Not bad for January 4, 2010.

Friday, May 19, 2023

JOKE? or MISTAKE? WHO CARES? (as long as you TAKE care)

Barely visible, you can
just make out the
number 648 just left of
the open car door
Who cares WHO it was or WHY they did it. Maybe it was an intentional screw-up from a disgruntled employee or maybe just an honest mistake from setting the number-6 stencil upside down on the cement. 

This photo was taken at the Mercer Street garage, a heavily used facility near the Seattle Center, a culture and sports magnet drawing thousands of ticket paying consumers of everything from theatre to rock concerts to operas, ballets, museums, special events, hockey playoffs and more. The garage is in constant use as the Seattle Center host thousands every day. 

Adjacent spaces
Over the years I've learned it can save time to photo a parking space number in any garage, lest there be confusion in the elevator in the aftermath of the particular event. This day was no different--my friend and I were going to Seattle Repertory Theatre and I offered to take a quick photo of the parking space number. 

That's when we got the joke---or the mistake. She called out 949 from the driver's side, just as I stepped out of the passenger side onto space 650. Huh? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Loving Batch

Recently at a Seattle Chamber Music Society concert that was quickly filling with general seating at a formerly-a-church venue, a middle-aged man stopped at the second row where I was sitting on the aisle to scan availability. Quickly the woman sitting next to me and I scooted apart to make room for him in our pew. Soon the lights dimmed and we became immersed in the spectacular performance of the Isidore Quartet, winner of the 2022  Banff String Quartet Competition.

At intermission my seatmate and I began to chat, each of us sharing how much we had loved the genre of chamber music from an early age. My passion began in eighth grade when I first heard Dvorak's Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, recorded by Pablo Casals and friends at his festival in Prades. Not only did I love the work itself, but Pablo Casals could be heard singing along as he played during much of the recording. Something about his irrepressible urge to sing during such spectacular ensemble work transported me to an emotional place I'd never been. From that point forward and ever after, chamber music totally eclipsed other forms of music. 

But the man next to me had an even better anecdote about his love for chamber music--one of the dearest I've heard. His mother loved classical music and played LPs as background in their home during his pre-school years. She bought an album of Bach's Trio Sonatas when he was in first grade and did her housework while listening. When he heard that particular album he was mesmerized and, as a beginner at reading, inspected the album cover closely. He was learning how to sound out words he didn't know. He then sought out his mother to proudly announce, "I love Batch." 

As we parted ways after a standing ovation for Isadore, the man thanked me for making room for him where he could see and hear so well. He introduced himself by his first name, Sean. It's unlikely I will ever see him again, but his story will linger forever. An appropriate punchline might be, "Thank you, Seen."

Sunday, May 14, 2023


Naomi Elmendorf Johnsone

As promised last post, there will be a few more poems coming. This one I wrote in response to a prompt from our semi-monthly poetry group through the YMCA. 

PROMPT: Write a poem centered around someone or something who drives your spirit and fills your soul.


When I wanted to tell a story, you’d hear me out

When I wanted to pretend, you’d take a role

When I wanted to write, you’d spell a word

When I wanted to draw, you’d find a tablet

You listened to my piano compositions with visible delight

You clapped long and hard at my acting and my plays 

You praised my drawings and showed them to you friends

You took dictation for the poems and stories I made up

I grasp now how you saw the spark and fed the fire

I appreciate now how you fanned those flames to burn for life

I thrive now because your gift has lasted more than eighty years

I write now this tiny tribute to you, dear long-gone mother 

With joy 

With awe

With love

With gratitude

                        Sara J. Glerum
                        April 2022

Sunday, May 7, 2023

To Share or Not to Share, that is the question

I have written poetry nearly all my life. I can still remember in early grade school when I would summon my mother after she had tucked me into bed and kissed me goodnight. It didn't happen more than once or twice a month, but I would call her back within a few minutes of the last snuggle-kiss because a poem would have formed itself in my head. Mother was
always willing to write my poems down for me, no matter the time of day or inconvenience factor. She would sit on my bed and take dictation, as if she were my very own private scribe. I must add here that she continued to support all of my creative efforts throughout her life. Yes, I was spoiled that way. Lucky me!

Recently I came across a manila enveloped stuffed with my early-life writing (from grade school through high school) and I'm still reading my way through at least one hundred pages. Much of it will meet the waste basket instead of the filing cabinet, but it's been a trip through my emotional life on a narrow and winding road and memories come flooding back, most buried until the writing dredges them up. Some might be worth sharing--I'll decide after I read the entire oevre.

Just last night I was retrieving a poem from another paper pile written in the last couple of years. I had told a friend about it after we stopped to admire a vase filled with fresh peonies and offered to send it. Oopsie, that meant I needed to find it. Sometimes my computer filing system isn't as logical as I think it is, so I resorted to looking through recent poems I've printed out to read in the my poetry-writing group sponsored over Zoom by the YMCA. It's equally fun to read two-plus years of poetry from the pandemic era. I found a number of poems I'm not ashamed of. As a result of reading my random thoughts in poetic form, I decided to spend the next several blog posts sharing a few. So here's the poem I shared with my friend. It's a ridiculous and silly rhyme but the message is dead serious (pun intended). Enjoy! 


 As I age, I wonder more and more

how it is I’ll exit out the door.

I look at bouquets brought inside,

consider them, and then decide

what I wish for my demise.


Stately, tall. Majestic, trim

then slowly drooping toward the rim

of the vase. One by one

the petals drop. They’re done.


Tight, then open. Scent

prevails. Stems unbent,

but all too soon diminish

to dull and withered finish.


Sphere-like buds start small and round

then quickly to their full size bound

for explosive scent and amazing size,

then—poof—drop petals before my eyes.

It’s obvious to me I’d like the latter

and despite this poet’s foolish patter, 

I wish to disappear in splendor

not fade away as my up-ender,

and hope my wish will be the way.     

                        Sara J. Glerum

                        May 2021


Monday, April 17, 2023

Obituary for a Lost Art

Throughout millennia, she graced the lives of countless people. She made them laugh or weep, nod, grin, sigh with pleasure or burst into angry tears. She enabled relationships, re-kindled old ties, enlivened fading romances, mended broken ones, and broke off those not working. She helped clarify misunderstandings, heal emotional wounds, and declare allegiances.

There was something comforting, almost stately, about her presence. She gave dignity to the harshest of words, integrity to the ugliest situation. She was a constant that could be treasured over a lifetime and beyond. She might in a legacy scrapbook or even put on display in a museum. Conversely, she could be ordered out of one’s sight with a venom that could send her disappearing into the wind in tiny pieces or fiery smoke. Perhaps most often her gentle presence helped transform tumult and fury into mellow acceptance. Tears helped blend her sad words into soft blurs, and her funny words could be repeated or recalled over and over by the simple act of referring to her.

Taking the time to frame written words around an experience can be healing and productive for the person communicating. Rarely does a cutesy cartoon overlaid with “Thanks” convey personal appreciation of a memorable evening at a friend's house. Never does a somber “Sorry to learn of your bereavement” on a preprinted card come close to giving grief the same dignity as do the heartfelt words from the soul and the pen of a communicating friend. Nothing heals both the sender and recipient like a letter that can be held, wept over, laughed about, reread, and tucked away for a second reading later the same day, the next year, or even decades later. 

By the end of the twentieth century she was fading from view. Card companies were marketed to people in a hurry and thrived industry-wide as they stood in for her with cute sentiments and feelings, often expressed in simpleminded verse. As she aged into the twenty-first century, she noticeably  languished and withered from inattention--from not being needed anymore. Modern technology could have saved her, but no one thought to try or really cared. She ceased being glamorous, sexy. This senior monarch of communication faded into obsolescence. 

Tools eager to replace her appeared: Facebook, Twitter, email, Bluetooth. Smart phones and laptops using with Zoom and Teams, Facetime and What's App. Electronically delivered notes and cards proved to be the final blow. Through all these quicker, more immediate and easier options, she could not recover and ultimately met her Maker.

The Art of Letter Writing has passed. R.I.P.

Thursday, April 6, 2023


I have left this personal essay in tact, just as I wrote it, about a "non-event" that occurred almost sixteen years ago in 2007. Back then, I was sixty-seven years old and the grandmother of a one-year-old, a pre-schooler, and a grade-schooler. My husband was alive and we lived in our Lake Forest Park home. Oh, how my existence has changed since then! And yet . . . it still contains a basic truth about my life. 


I’m crazy about my recently acquired clothesline. It’s the central-pole type, the kind you use while standing in one place and twirling it to reach the next empty line. Loosely categorized as compact and portable, its arms fold up like an umbrella that’s blown inside-out, making it look like an oddly shaped lightening rod or radio antenna when it’s not in use. Then, when it’s needed, a snap of its latch brings it cascading down to enfold the grateful laundress—me—in its aluminum and rope arms.

My husband reminded me this morning, as I joyfully bounced into the kitchen after a bout of hanging sheets outside, that forty years ago I was equally thrilled to get my first electric clothes-dryer. With three children at the time—two in cloth diapers and one who’d graduated to nighttime-only diapers—I was hanging up laundry year-round, in wet weather and dry. Four or five times a week I cajoled the children into accompanying me either into the yard or down the cellar stairs where they played and I worked, snapping clothespins as efficiently as an assembly worker. In the summer our clothes smelled wonderful; in the winter they were just stiff, brittle garments, towels as scratchy as sandpaper and socks resizing themselves in the hold of capricious fasteners. When we had finally managed to save enough money for an electric dryer, I felt giddy from its precious by-product—newly acquired time.

My “new” umbrella-style clothesline originally belonged to our son who has moved to Canada with his wife and baby. He had planned to consign it to a thrift shop along with myriad household encumbrances, but when I expressed  interest in it, he offered it to me as though it were a bowl of potato chips. “You want it? Help yourself.” As I drove it to my house, I planned where to situate it, much like I would if I had just purchased a new shrub. What corner of the yard would be most convenient for hauling laundry baskets? Which was the sunniest spot?

Since its installation, my hubby and I are sleeping like babies between line-dried sheets, our nostrils drinking in the scent of linens hung outside. That fragrance—sunshine-drench—is unmistakable and inimitable, no matter how hard detergent and room-freshener manufacturers try to create it artificially. When the rainy season sets in for good, we will resort to the electric dryer, but until then I am hunting down things to launder like a madwoman, just so I can hang them outside to dry. The cool edge of autumn air, the warmth of direct sunlight, and the fluttering of maple leaves combine with this utilitarian task to make me feel inexplicably happy.

As I stood out this morning, pinning up sheets and dishtowels, I found myself thinking how this folding apparatus loosely parallels my experience as the mother of adult children. Sometimes I am useful, sometimes superfluous. At a time of need, I spread out my arms to accept the cares, burdens, joys of my offspring. During the times when I am not needed, I stand with arms figuratively folded up, extended in yearning and resolve, prayer and well-wishes. My four adult children are scattered across the continent, but they can press me into service on a moment’s notice by the push of a telephone keypad. I like to think I have no rainy season. My arms are available anytime.