Tuesday, December 1, 2009


As I approach my birthday and the end of 2009 I am in awe at the profound transformation that has quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) breathed through my life this year. Last December I never would have guessed that in 12 months I'd be back in Portland and an entrepreneur bringing to life several creative projects. As I survey my somewhat unexpected harvest from the year, I come to this blog, which I'd begun as a kind of annex to my freelance writing business as well as an avenue to discuss the things that are important to me, and share some creative work.

I knew I wanted to be here but wasn't exactly sure all that it was going to entail. The most surprising thing required was to simply endure great stretches of what felt like nothingness, doldrums, being stuck.  Frustrating patches of time where nothing seemed to be moving forward. Mostly what I needed to do was relax and allow many ideas and perspectives of the past fall away, making room for new energies and opportunities to enter my life and take root.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Plot of Origin

If you were to ask me where I come from
I would say without hesitation it’s not a story of birds and bees,
mothers and fathers, even seeds and soil.
I come from the time before time, when the nascent elements
were chemical fire dust of minerals molecules
and love. This is the primal answer, the truth.

But today, for a more immediate frame of reference
I come from the garden,
where my tomatoes have been rendered inert;
dozens of ghostly green fruit frozen in time.
As gardener, midwife to the plants, I withdraw my shears
and begin cutting away the abundance of lush green foliage;
sacrificing the fragrant leaves and doomed yellow blossoms.
As I sever the tough, gristly stalks the iron sky drops rain
dappling my bare feet, my blades, my plants cut down in their prime.
And I see then it’s of no use, an insulating membrane of plastic;
my tomatoes are destined for an unconventional recipe.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Veg Fest 2009

Yesterday Justin and I went to Veg Fest at the Oregon Convention Center. I'd been anticipating this event since August and found the cool, drizzly fall morning to be a perfect backdrop for a Saturday of free vegan food, cooking demos, classes and info booths from some of the coolest companies on the market right now. We got the entrance of exhibit hall A and waited in a line for about 5 minutes. It was exciting to see so many people eager to be exposed to veggie culture. In fact on our way out 2 hours later there was still a steady line at the door! Once we got inside and it became clear that everyone's main priority was downing the free food. Having attended Expo West, the massive annual natural products trade show in Anaheim, for the last two years I was prepared for crowds of sample hungry people but this scene was truly comical in its unapologetic crush for free yummy treats. So we dove right in.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ransom Poem

September Garden

The corridor on the south side of the house (where my magnificent tomato plot resides) is lined with dahlias and roses. The flowers reach beyond their beds and wrap me in a fragrant embrace as I make my way through to water, harvest or simply admire. 

I wasn't sure if this pumpkin plant was going to yield any fruit. This only child emerged in the middle of August much to our delight.

Almost ripe! Their intense color and fang-like shape makes me think HOT, but these Banana Peppers are sweet and will temper a spicy chili.

Looking for some folklore on Amaranth this story from Aesop's Fables continued to surface:

Rose and Amaranth are often found blossoming side by side. Amaranth says to her iconic neighbor, "How I envy your beauty and your sweet scent! No wonder you are the universal favorite." Ever gracious, Rose then replies, "Ah my dear friend Amaranth, my bloom is but for the summer season. Come fall I wither and die. But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut; for they are everlasting." 

My feminism notes how these anthropomorphized (female) flowers are portrayed as competitors for the affections of the masses. Amaranth the country mouse, practical housewife or bespectacled best friend and Rose the city mouse, model or homecoming queen. I've got to get my hands on a feminist retelling of the great fairy tales. Or write them myself... in any case I see a bouquet in my future.

A brilliant bouquet...

At this rate we will have fresh tomatoes through October. Another tomato tart for dinner tonight. I'll never tire of them!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From my notebook

I go through periods of time when poetry or its seeds rise brilliantly from the mud and I begin to write spontaneously. But when I sit down with an intent write poetry - inspired by some inner tickle to say something- and the images and ideas don't coalesce into words I stop trying and take a more playful approach. Lately I've been coming up with little assignments and prompts for myself. One of my favorites involves flipping through a dictionary and writing down the last word on the page it opens to and doing a quick stream-of-consciousness writing using these words. This afternoon I flipped up a couple of really interesting lists. The first one:


And here's my free write: 
                   I turn to any page and my word is
                    bludgeon, something heavy and unforgiving
                    too much to eat.
                    My heresy is a heart that locks,
                    a caution my friend
                    against nostalgia, though I invite you
                    to peek as my satin hips rumba,
                    cross yourself in superstition
                    against the sin you cannot erase.

The next series of words was:


Love this list! And the free write:

            bourbon spills down to the floor
            covering ground like this dreadful drama.
            garish darkness hyenas fornicate
            and a joker howls to the moon whose light will
            magnify the odious shade of evil
            glowing in spasmodic delight,
            a temporal virus eating us alive.

Monday, September 7, 2009


For millennia people have taken to water to both clean and infuse themselves with the healing properties of this ubiquitous element. Appropriately named Matsya after the fish incarnation of the Hindu Lord Vishnu, I have always sought the solace of a hot, fragrant bath at the end of a long day. Swimming has also always been an especial joy to me. As a child I plunged right into icy creeks, Oregon coast waves and plastic-rimmed swimming pools whenever the opportunity arose. Needless to say it has always felt like a decadent treat to go swimming, which for me only enhances the activity's magical, restorative properties.

This weekend when I woke to a wet, grey day the urge to go for a bike ride or a hike was buried beneath sheets of cold, dark rain. I considered the weekend in bed with a book but my commitment to exercising is pretty strong. Honestly my sanity depends upon it. So I've been going to the gym and swimming laps in the turquoise blue pool. 24 Hour Fitness is a far cry from a marble bath replete with hookahs, exotic fruits, and incense but in the bright tiled windowless room I somehow descend into a peacefulness perhaps transmitted by the welcoming embrace of a body of water. As I swim I notice myself in a very present, meditative state. I'm not the strongest of swimmers so I do have to focus to get successfully down my lane. I'm also reminded of yoga as I naturally focus on my alignment and experiment with micro-adjustments (primarily in my core) to achieve greater (or keep) balance, kick stronger and move forward faster.

With September and October (perhaps my favorite month) stretching before me I do see many more bike rides and hikes among brilliant foliage, but for now I'm a little thrilled with the idea of swimming through the winter. Here's a somewhat related post I wrote for Touchstones of the Sacred, ME2 Challenge: Exercise and Seasonal Change.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Poems from the forest

Two weekends ago I had an amazing experience at Opal Creek in the Oregon wilderness. With a group of 7 other women I set off into the woods for 3 days of yoga, writing and simply being in nature. The workshop was offered by Becca Deysach's Ibex Studios and was rejuvenating and magical beyond my wildest dreams. An orange butterfly walked calmly onto my finger and sat with me until our hike continued away from one glimmering opal pool to the next. If that's not an auspicious omen or creative blessing I don't know what is. Also with all the gifts of the experience, I busted through a persistent creative block I've been carrying around for a long time. Gillian's opening, grounding and strengthening yoga classes, Becca's intelligent writing prompts, and the experience of sharing writing with a group, was the holistic medicine I needed. The majesty and peacefulness of our surroundings, the easy friendship and natural pace of living were also profoundly healing and inspiring. I wrote more on the experience in a blog post titled "Retreat", for Touchstones of the Sacred.

Anyway, on Skull & Quill I want to share some of the writing that came out of the workshop. Both of the following poems were culled from the writing that came out in free writes after Becca's prompts on the second afternoon of the retreat. After a blissfully slow morning of tea, sitting in the sun and yoga, we hiked through the forest and sat in a circle on the earth. The ground was unbelievably spongy - thousands of years of fallen trees accumulating moisture, moss and vast cities of minute creatures. A perfect nest for the 8 of us, within earshot of the creek.

Normally I don't share my poetry until I've gone over it with ever-finer toothed combs (about 25 times). Here I'm going to share both the stuff that came out of the free write and these first draft poems. I suppose I am cultivating openness with process. Friends and strangers, I welcome your feedback on the poems and will share future revisions here.

Free write prompt: we were asked to find a place alone in the forest and looking through a lens no larger than our two hands held in a spyglass circle, find a place that spoke to us. After some time alone with our place, we began writing by describing what we saw through our lens. 
This hollow goes deep beneath an ancient tree. Deep to the center of the earth. If I were an inch tall this hollow would take me into a dark, mysterious cavern. Spiderwebs with lacy patterns glisten in the sun - angelic stained glass. This hollow is gilded with light, death, decay and new growth. Draped across the silent hollow the webs of light catch what drops down, returning to the earth. If I could put my heart in this hollow it would rest in the cool silent dark, until the steady infinite pulse of life seized my weariness, my fear, my hope. Beating now with a simple, timeless rhythm. Have I ever sat still before? Time passes, water flows, the forest decays and is reborn, and now my heart rests at peace with time, decay and rebirth. But the buzzing of yellow jackets, flies chase me from my peaceful retreat. So what is this hollow? A space big enough for my whole heart. And the ceaseless buzzing of thought comes upon me in massive waves flooding the cavern with noise, energy, darkness.

Poem draft
Contemplation in the forest, Opal Creek OR

This hollow goes deep beneath an ancient tree
to the center of the earth.
Draped across its silent mouth spiderwebs glisten in the sun
like angelic stained glass. The luminescent strands
catch what drops down, the returning descent to the earth

If I were an inch tall
this hollow could take me whole,
into a dark mysterious cavern
where I could live in quiet refuge,
a solitary Thumbelina. Instead I sit beside this hollow,
gilded with light and death and decay, my warm hand pressed
into the textures of the tree,
spongy moss, rough lichen, damp powdery bark - united.

Ignoring the frantic buzzing insects, anxious
that I might take from them
their brief existence. Thoughts buzzing too, afraid
I may no longer need their hollow sustenance.

Time passes, water flows, the forest decays and is reborn, nursed by its own fallen grandmothers.

If I could put my heart in this hollow, it would rest
in cool, silent dark
until the steady, infinite pulse at the center of life
seizes up my weariness, my fear, my hope
in a great resuscitating breath.

Then the beating of my heart would match
the simple infinite rhythm, at peace with timelessness
and continuum.

Free write prompt: after creating a (vexing) chart that depicted the poles in our life, and our current place of balance between them, we wrote about our experience of polarity.
What would it mean to surrender - to drop the tension between being and doing? And plunge face first, heart first running through the river running quietly through my life? I am tired of writing about it, tired of thinking about it. Can I just be with this question? I don’t have the answers and it makes my blood itch. I don’t have the time but the hour is here. A gentle rain gathering. I cannot remember the first great surrender when my mother’s womb quickened and the time for being became a life of doing, but I think this is where I must begin. At the beginning when all was unknown and my feet were bare, my trust infinite, my curiosity without purpose. Clouds becomes rain becomes river becomes ocean and this is my blood. Don’t tell me what I should do, must do, cannot do. Amid the chaos, a gentle intelligence emerges speaking another language entirely. The language of water, soil, blood. Let me carry you it whispers. Let me take you there. Where? Curiosity without purpose, mystery without knowing. Being. Forget what you know, swimming will not get you there.

Poem draft
Contemplation in the forest II, Opal Creek OR
What would it mean to surrender
and drop the tension between being and doing,
to plunge heart-first into the river that runs quietly
through the center of my life,
to embrace curiosity without purpose, mystery without knowing?
How would I release the confines of physics
and take the helm of my heart, and be carried safely
down this eternal waterway?

I cannot remember my first great surrender -
when my mother's womb contracted and no longer fit,
when my time for being grew to be a life of doing
but this is where I must begin.
A gentle rain is gathering, promising transformation
with the breaking of water.
Clouds become rain becomes river becomes ocean
and this is my blood.

Deep in the forest now, so far 

from the chaos of emerging on that first cold, bright, deafening day
there is a whisper that speaks another language entirely -
the language of water, soil and blood.
Let me carry you, it whispers.
Forget what you know, swimming will not get you there.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Recipes from my August tomato harvest

This August we have been well-fed from the garden, especially from my beloved tomato plants. Tomatoes have two interesting colloquial names: love apple, which comes to us from the French pomme d'amour. This is a phonetic derivation of Italian's pomo dei Mori (apples of the Moors), as 16th century Europe was supplied with tomatoes from North Africa.

My favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes are sliced raw on my morning toast, diced into salads or simmered all afternoon into a ruby-colored chutney. Last week Justin made one of his amazing curries with naan. He makes the dough and forms each piece of bread by hand, grills it on the stovetop and finishes it off in the oven. It is so freaking good. The tomato plants were really producing and the neighbors had given us some of their tomatoes too. I couldn't bear the thought of any of them spoiling. To round out our Indian inspired feast I made a hot chutney with some of our giant heirloom tomatoes.

Spicy Heirloom Tomato Chutney
1 c coarsely chopped sweet onion (go for Walla Walla's)
2 1/2 c fresh, chopped heirloom tomatoes
14.5 ounce can of diced unsalted tomatoes (omit if you have more fresh tomatoes)
1 tbs olive or coconut oil (for a sweeter chutney)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried, ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin seed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/4 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp crushed red pepper (cut to 1 tsp for a medium-spicy chutney)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 tbs agave nectar

Heat the oil over medium heat and stir in the onions. Sautee until they are well coated in the oil and begin to soften. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic cloves and all spices (except salt and agave). Stir well so the onions are coated with the spice paste and continue to cook for a few minutes. If the spices begin to stick to the pan add a few tablespoons of water.

Add the fresh tomatoes, stir well, add canned tomatoes and increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Once it is at a healthy boil reduce heat to low. Leave the chutney to gently simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in the agave nectar toward the end. The chutney is done when it's reduced by about half. If you happen to have enough fresh tomatoes to omit the canned (about 5-6 cups fresh) it may take a little longer to reduce. Keep a close eye on it especially if you are using an electric stove. I've noticed how much the heat settings on electric stoves vary. The 1950's relic I'm cooking on now will scorch rice and sauces even on the "warm" setting if you leave them alone for too long.

Monday morning there was a massive ripening of cherry tomatoes. Enough to do something really interesting with. That day the Oregonian ran a recipe for a Southern Tomato Pie and inspired this fresh, light vegan tart. The absence of heavy dairy-based ingredients really allowed the flavor of the tomatoes to shine. Inspired by our tiny bumper crop I made up this recipe for an Heirloom Tomato Tart and served it with our runty, misshapen corn harvest and the 5th wave of snap peas, served raw with a homemade balsamic-tahini dressing.
*A raw foods variation on this entire recipe is to make the tart filling as directed below (you may want to reduce amount of garlic) allow it to marinate for a few hours and serve as is. It also makes a good bruscetta topping, raw or grilled.

Tart Shell:
20 phyllo dough sheets
1/3 c melted Earth Balance
The phyllo dough will need to thaw at room temp (takes about 2 hours) before you begin working with it.
For Filling or Raw Salad:
3-4 c sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes (I supplemented the cherry tomatoes with another variety, chopped)
4-5 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c raw pine nuts
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Spike
2-3 tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Place all filling ingredients into a bowl and stir well to thoroughly coat all tomatoes with the seasonings and disperse garlic and pine nuts. Melt the Earth Balance. Carefully unroll the phyllo dough.

A few words about phyllo dough: The directions on my package said to immediately cover it with plastic and then a damp towel and always keep it covered while working with it. This sounded a bit hysterical to me and I'm not down with using plastic on my food nor do I generally try to make "pretty" dishes. So I threw caution to the wind and left my phyllo dough vulnerable to the air. So it's up to you, follow the directions or don't. My tart was a little soft on the bottom and had a rough, peasanty edge to it. When cut with a sharp knife it held together pretty well. My vision was for a round tart, a savory-sweet moon of flaky dough and a warm, slightly saucy center. So I defied the logic of using a rectangular dish to match the shap of the papery thin phyllo sheets and made my round tart.

Once you've selected your baking dish, layer sheets of phyllo dough with a brushing of the melted Earth balance until you've built a layer of 7-10 sheets for the bottom of the tart. Because I used a round pan I carefully ripped off the squared excess and formed a somewhat jagged perimeter, flush with the rim of the dish.

Once you've built up the bottom of the tart, pour the filling into the dish and repeat the phyllo/Earth Balance layering to form the top. I really like the super-flaky effect from ripping the edges of the dough sheets. Next put it in the oven for 30 minutes and allow to set for another 25-35 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fruit of the Earth

This morning's cool cloud cover is a nice break between a week of 95 degree heat and the upcoming week of 100+ degree temperatures. I spent some time watering the garden this morning, enjoying the sweet, earthy perfume of all the plants. The entire yard felt cooler and glistened with the look of a gentle rain. I harvested a handful of snap peas for a midmorning snack before I descend to my office for an afternoon of writing.

I'm 2 weeks into a new job writing pages for a start up website, TownMe. Their idea is really cool - to create a Wiki for every city. Right now they are launching in major cities nationwide with hired writing teams. They're still in the beta testing stage but ultimately the site will become a living, breathing entity as Portlanders (and her visitors) update and elaborate on content.

Last week I wrote a page for them about farmer's markets in Portland. During my research I discovered the Interstate Farmer's Market and can't wait to check it out. They have some raw food and vegan vendors I want to check out. A vegan diet is fun and delicious to me - a way to celebrate the perfect beauty of Earth's bounty (and honor the equality of all species) and this summer the Earth has been especially rewarding. My family is half-way through the 8 pounds of blueberries Justin and I picked out at Bella's Organic Farm on Sauvie Island 2 weeks ago. I baked an ultra delicious vegan blueberry pie, making up a simple recipe . First I must confess I always use those frozen pie shells they have at Whole Foods or New Season's. Here's my quick and easy 3 step vegan blueberry pie recipe:

3 Step Vegan Blueberry Pie

6 cups fresh blueberries.
1/4 cup water
2 heaping tablespoons agar agar flakes or organic cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar or 1/4 - 1/3 cup agave nectar
1 pie crust

  1. Smash about half of the berries with your hands and stir them together with the remaining whole berries.
  2. Stir the cornstartch or agar flakes into the water, pour that and the sugar or agave over the berries and stir it well.
  3. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
The pie may be slightly juicy still but will firm up after sitting for 2-3 hours. If you use agar instead of cornstartch when you remove the pie from the oven you may notice the agar flakes didn't totally dissolve. If so, just stir the hot filling up and allow to cool. Agar thickens as it cools from hot temperatures and cornstartch thickens as it heats after being dissolved into cool water.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Midsummer Harvest

After June's gentle ripening of strawberries, the blossoming of vegetables and fruits emerging from the branches, July brings a moderate harvest. Every morning I step outside to wake up, meditate and visit the garden in fresh morning air. I spend time visiting with the midsummer harvest, before I get to work. There's a hum in the air. Almost an electric pulse. The intense, vital heartbeat of a burning hot sun, hundreds of insects fighting for dew drops and birds calling high and carefree. This elephant garlic has been grown by the same woman here for over 40 years. She passed away earlier this summer and left a beautiful, serene garden. Every year asian pears go to waste. Giving them away and eating them every day is not enough. I need to find a good recipe for these fruits. Maybe a sweet-spicy-gingery-peppery chutney?
This view reminds me of being 3 or 4 years old. It's a timeless summer lawn, that to me, is only in Portland. That particular mix of grass and "weeds", our sweet, rather accomodating honeybee drones...
Amaranth grown by the previous owners of this house is one of the perennial surprises that come with the property. Green and red varieties. Perhaps enough grain to steam and serve with fresh corn? I hear the leaves are good steamed or shredded in salad. I need to be more adventurous with the greens I eat. It was just within the last year that I began eating kale!
A garden is not complete without roses. Spicy, lemony their perfume is heavy in the air. This Queen of the Flowers inspires passion and compassion. It's very existense soothes my heart and proves that beauty will exist no matter what. I especially enjoy a strong black tea brewed with rose petals and a touch of agave.
The plum tree is heavy with fruit and I hope the harvest isn't a misery of wasps and hornets. They seem to have alot of business in this tree. Justin and I are going to infuse the plums with orange oil and dry them for healthy desserts.
First harvest on a blueberry bush from the Olympia Farmer's Market.
Garlic harvest. Soon to be chopped with the final harvest of the kale and maybe some snap peas if we can stop eating them raw right off the vine like candy.
I await impatiently for the tomatoes. We have 4 heirloom varieties and I harvested 3 cherry tomatoes this morning. My favorite summer breakfast is toasted Dave's Killer Bread with a little flax oil or Earth Balance, a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast and layers of thinly sliced, garden fresh tomatoes doused generously with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Soon these banana peppers will add a sweet dimension to Justin's kick-ass chili. Someday he's going to enter a chili competition and blow them away with his vegan masterpiece.


Lately I've been thinking about poetry, what is it? why do I write it? and where does it go when I'm not writing it? It has been said that it is not so much what poets say, but their ability to tune into poetic language rhythms that makes their poetry great. In the case of Dr. Suess this is completely true.

About 16 years ago I began crafting and publishing poems, and for about 10 years poetry was within my grasp constantly. I wrote poems sitting on the floor of overcrowded buses, at my desk surrounded by candles and incense, curled into scratchy plaid chairs at the campus library, wandering lonely through parks; I even wrote poems in my dreams.

The word poetry is originally derived from the Greek poiein, to make or create. From agriculture to architechture humans are driven to create order. We make our world systematically, efficiently and beautifully. When we say something is poetic, it generally has an elegance (from the Latin root eligere, to choose out, select).

One reason I write poetry is for the satisfaction (or is it a need?) of creating an elegant structure for the raw, chaotic, fertile mud of existence. Indeed when I am in sync with the poetic energies of existence there is a rhythm, an orderliness to that feeling. The anxiety, existential quandries and whatever else climb out of the archetypal earth of my mind is soothed by the meaning and purpose of composition.

Here's a poem I wrote during that first prolific period of poetry -

A Half-Sleep Dream

Night, when it is still
The dark air offers its voice
And the house settles
As a man of soft
moldering bones eases in
to his rain-damp grave
Strong black boots echo
slow steps, sauntering to the
far end of the hall
The giant starfish
of his hand sliding along
the cool milk white wall
The wind stirs the chimes
their song, and the rains', distant
like him, at my door
I see this in my
head, as the clock ticks away
the silence of night

I wrote this poem in the Americanized haiku form of 3 lines, with 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Do you feel the rhythm? Footsteps, rain, chimes, a clock ticking. My heart beating.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June, the Glorious Month

Cycling through Portland is my new drug.

Whenever I'm feeling stuck I get on my bike and go. Whenever it's too gorgeous to bear another minute inside. Whenever I have a book to pick up at the library, or need some sewing supplies, to make a bank deposit or meet a friend.

I've been covering SE 122nd to about SE 20th and from Powell to about Stark and notice how each neighborhood seems to have its own smells. The winding neighborhoods east of 82nd smell like Round Up and cut grass; the spicy lemony nectar of thousands of roses drifts heavy in the air and I feel safe and electric pedaling down the worn streets.

Cutting down SE Mill to parallel Division and cross 82nd I discovered a shady emerald aisle. The entire 10 block stretch from 92nd is lined with tall whispery trees that form a shimmering canopy. The shade smells like mettalic soil, rich in minerals and decomposition, the base stuff of life.

The closer I get to 39th the houses gain height and ancestry. It gets warmer, the air heavier and I smell sweet blossoms like lily and mock orange, peppery stock and silvery birch.

My bike is a black and silver Schwinn with just 5 gears. Since I've been riding in Portland my strength is up and I can pedal up hills that were out of my league back in Olympia. I've been thinking about making some upgrades so I don't have to go out of my way to avoid really big hills and be more comfortable for longer rides. Can I swap the big chrome fenders for something lighter and is it worthwhile to regear a bike? For now my bike serves me well as it is but I like the idea of modifying it as my needs change rather than just buying a new one altogether.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Settling In

I have always been especially in tune with the collective energies of my surroundings. The city of Portland for instance, has always been Home. When I moved to Olympia to attend Evergreen I developed an inner sense of home, that I suppose all college students must. My time there was temporary and when I was ready to leave I completed my move back to Portland in a matter of weeks.

This time around the circumstances were much different. When Justin and I settled into Olympia in April 2008, we intended to be there for about 5 years while we launched and nurtured our nascent businesses. Despite that intention, I soon felt stagnant in the small pond of Olympia and missed the people and culture in Portland. I felt the energetic fabric of my life spread thin over the 105 miles between the two places and realized I wanted to move back to Portland as soon as possible.

Much of my heart remained firmly in my hometown; with family and friends but also by the entity of My Life, which seems somehow married to the fabric of this city, stitched in place by my history here. Major events like my wedding, the birth of nieces and nephews or simply the feel of a certain period in my life are still alive here and I am more connected to the current of my existence here.

It's been just over 7 days since we've arrived. People ask if we are "settled" and I think deeper about that question. I'm not someone to leave boxes unpacked and miscelleanea scattered about for days. Our boxes were unpacked, the bed made and my office set up within 24 hours. I was back to work for my regular clients within 24 hours too and even picked up a new client within a few days. Surely that's settled. But still here now, a week later I haven't established any routine and I find that the days are speeding by. Is this unsettled or simply a new lifestyle?

Self-employment is still fairly new to me so the constricted existence of 9 hours or more a day in an office or retail store is not a distant memory. For a long time my job provided structure and unbreakable routine. Freedom from this was initially exhilarating, but now it simply feels natural, as if there could be no other way. Coming back to Portland is something like that.

In the last week Justin and I have visited so many favorite places and several new ones as well. Each day has been a treasure hunt of activity. Cathedral Park, where we were married, was one of the first stops. Above is a photo of that park and part of the view from the ceremony site. We also went to First Thursday and enjoyed works by Dali, Chagall and Picasso at the Lawrence Gallery. We discovered a (new to us) vegan-friendly restaurant in SE Portland called Hungry Tiger and have taken several walks in gorgeous old neighborhoods drooling over all the Four Square houses. Last night was bargain night at the Hollywood Theater and we saw an awesome documentary on the heavy metal band Anvil.

Today is a work day, but I'm sure the city will be calling soon and I will find myself out and about. I love that the possibilities are almost endless. We're going to hike at Multnomah Falls later this week and with summer coming I look forward to walks in the Washington Park rose garden, berry picking on Sauvie Island, weekend bonfires at the coast and long warm nights of live music downtown. Settling in was like piecing together a puzzle - I'm home!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So long cruel winter

From my windows in March the world is a tangle of dry bramble, skinny deprived branches scattered over a low, frozen sky and hesitant birds that scuttle through soggy brush, fat and slow in winter their down.

A vast improvement from the scrawling mess and drear of February, the utter absence of hope.

In a matter of weeks and then days, things change. At first a more favorable rotation, then the gentle gilding of the sun gives way to thorough solar impregnation. The world is a riot of blossoms and buds and birdsong. Everything drinks in the warmth and the light and the rich fertile atmosphere.

Finally, we emerge from winter with a slow kindling of life, mounting before our eyes. Then in those first few days of long sunshine and air thick with pollen and wings, Spring born. The ground is a dynamic carpet of life - nests and burrows and nascent plants all shimmering in richness of ancient sea bed. The camellia tree with its hundred red flowers, vibrates with a dozen hummingbirds and five times as many honeybees, droning for sweet nectar.

The pear tree, once utterly lifeless, timidly sprouts pale green buds - they pulse bigger and more complex, then you see how this is an incubating, unabashed flower. Blackberry brambles once left to drown in the dark neglect of winter, revive - their once barren stalks bearing spines of hardy young leaves. Overnight, raspberries and mint put forth shiny green tips, confidently stretching upward to meet the delicious radioactive ambrosia.

The animals execute their prayers of passion, their singular way of being alive - uncomplicated, without ambition or regret.

Duos of birds soar in exhuberant arcs, drawing halos of simple joy in the gentle morning sky. Shy rabbits make steady and effective work, giving to and taking from the grasses, so they are a rich emerald, blades thick and glossy. Giant bumble bees, solid as baby mice, hover along the ground, nesting beneath strawberry leaves and at the base of a pink-blossomed cedar. The deer wait in the forest behind our field, ducked behind leaves that spread open in slow motion, hands reaching out to hold the sun.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mission Driven

There are many reasons I've chosen self employment. Overall, I work very hard and dedicate my very essence to the work I do. Self employment allows me to choose the companies and organizations I work for and ensures that my work doesn't support a cause that goes against my personal ethics.

In the past, I have worked for several mission driven organizations: the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Alaffia and Project Network. Working for mission driven companies demonstrated to me that it's possible to acheive personal economic stability while participating in social change. Working in fashion retail I even managed to make it my mission to help my customers find beauty in their reflection or at the very least, be the kindest person they would encounter all day.

The mission of my business, Scribe Writing, is to write about the things that move me and to use my creativity to influence positive change in the world. By providing creative and professional services to businesses and organizations that promote a healthier, more sustainable marketplace, I manifest this mission.

Marigold, one of my current clients, is a perfect example of the kind of company I want to work with. Marigold is engaged in fair trade, women's empowerment, cultural preservation and they use vegan textiles. They offer a range of really fashionable and beautiful clothing, accesories and house wares. As a former high-fashion junkie (who still needs 3 closets, one of them a walk-in, so I can hardly claim reform) I am so impressed with the designs, craftsmanship and price point of their line.

I have always envisioned a societal turn back toward nature and hope to see the green movement continue to thrive and for sustainable lifestyles to become the norm. I am fiercely independent and I count among my life's goals to be off-grid for my energy needs and to grow most of my own food. Now this personal philosophy of mine is fueling my career and there's a great sense of wholeness that comes from that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What to do?

Today I am preparing for our moving sale and procrastinating my way through some personal business involving taxes and a dental surgery co-pay. The job boards have meager offerings, but then I’m not ambitiously seeking today. I have a few upcoming deadlines, but there's time to work on the move and tying up loose ends. The next 3 weeks will go by very quickly so it’s best to start now and save myself a stressful scramble toward the end.

Boredom has been a constant companion here in Olympia. In Portland I will be surrounded by so many more opportunities and creative outlets. I have been thinking about joining a writing group. The Attic looks like it has a lot to offer and the public service aspect of Write Around Portland really intrigues me.

Beyond writing, Portland offers much to feed my arts and crafts passion. The DIY movement has strong roots in PDX and I can't wait for the 2nd Sunday in May to attend Crafty Wonderland. When we move, almost everything is going into storage at first, but my sewing stuff is definitely coming with me! It seems Mufftastic is destined to be launched from Portland. Above is one of my favorite Mufftastic designs. I've been looking for the best method to transfer images like this into fabric.

I really don't recall ever being bored in Portland. Justin and I were just there for the weekend and for less than $10 we had a lovely springtime date. Beginning with a drink at the Alberta Street Public House, we walked around until dusk, admiring the beautiful old Four Square and Victorian houses in the neighborhoods we are looking to move into early this summer.

There are endless things TO DO, and once the move is complete I look forward to taking a few days to just BE.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Working from home is my dream come true. There are so many reasons why this lifestyle suits me best. I need the flexibility to work in the early morning when the world is still and dark and I find a magical pre-Dawn creative current. I also need the freedom to take a bike ride or practice yoga at mid-day and the simple luxury of wearing a vintage kimono and listening to punk rock or Edith Piaf while I work.

The house I live in now is absolutely perfect for working at home. When I've reworked a piece for the 3rd time and need to step away and refresh before giving it another go, I can take a walk around our beautiful acre of yard that meets up with forested wetlands. I see deer tracks in the strawberry patch, bunnies running in and out of the berry brambles and green/black snakes among the Oriental poppy and peppermint. Or I can take a walk within this gorgeous house and admire the stone fireplace, mahogany inlay floors and starburst deco-style window panes.

Justin and I had been dreaming of a big old house for months while living in Portland and events conspired to bring us to Olympia. Moving to this 1930's farmhouse was a long drink of architectural nectar after being aesthetically parched in our efficient little townhouse with beige carpet, blinds and view of I-84. Here we have our own little island of tranquility with a barn, fruit trees and enough space to literally wander the grounds - how's that for an afternoon break?

Today begins one of our few remaining weeks here and a new roof is being installed on the house. Just as well we are moving now, the old roof was one of my favorite features of this house. Gently curled shake shingles gone silvery brown with age and a patina of lush brilliant green moss made the house look like an enchanted cottage. I'm sure this isn't good for the roof, but it was so lovely to behold! We rescued a few shingles from the roofers' bin for posterity.

Despite the construction racket, I am thrilled to be working in my home office. Gomez, like all good cats is simultaneously irritated by and afraid of the noise, and is staying close by all day. Right now I am trying to absorb the inherent tranquility and loveliness of each room. Even the stairwell, with 25' ceiling and bright Western exposed window holds a sense of majesty. We will miss this house terribly. Olympia however, has proved to be unsatisfying for Justin and I and we have much to get back to in Portland. This has been the second, and last time attempt I will make to live in Olympia!

This may be the most beautiful house I have lived in (so far!), but absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. While we must pack up the lovely lovely home we have created here, and it sounds like the roofers are dismantling my home right above me, my heartsickness for this beautiful place can't beat the homesickness for neices and nephews, brothers and sisters, parents and friends, not to mention a massive creative community and gorgeous old houses on every block.