Monday, August 24, 2009



Fresh off the truck from Yakima,
they arrive - flat brown boxes of velvet Clings
yellow and pink as mountain mornings,
days on end, weeks even, steaming
the kitchen days on end - Mom bending
over the water water bath, gleaming Mason jars,
a snowy dish towel tied around her
like a sarong, sweat rolling down her neck
days on end - golden rings like pirate booty
piled on the white enamel table -
she pushes wisps of hair out of her eyes
with the back of her wrist, screws the jar
lids tight - morning til night, days on end
blanching the skins off, paring slick
globes in half, pulling wrinkled pits
from red centers until her finger tips
are old and the last peach slides
round side up into the last jar
and the day ends and the memories begin.

This weekend I worked at my local Fred Meyer's giving out samples of iced tea and nut clusters. It's a gig I enjoy and it gets me out of the house into the heart of our neighborhood. Where better to take the pulse of a community than where everyone shops? And everyone in Burien seems to shop Freddie's. I see all the same people each weekend. Lately I've started observing what folks are purchasing, taking an informal inventory of their shopping carts as they stop at my table. This weekend I noticed that Burien is canning! Their carts are overflowing with boxes of Mason Jars, canning lids, pickling salt, sacks of sugar and packets of pectin. A nearly lost art rediscovered in these tough times. I imagine all over town people are clearing space in their garages for gleaming jars of fruit and vegetables.

One of my most cherished childhood memories is of Mom's late Summer canning frenzies, every surface of our farmhouse kitchen covered with cooling jars of peaches, pears, jams and jellies. Mom stored them in the cellar on neatly labeled shelves. How beautiful they were in the dim light of the single bulb that dangled from the ceiling. Yellow, red, white, green treasures. All through Fall and Winter we enjoyed peaches or pears with every supper. A few years ago Mom and I revisited the farm, meeting its third owner since we sold it in the seventies - touring the renovations, marveling at the changes - then down the remembered stairs into the basement were the concrete walls of the cellar were still lined with shelves my mother had so long ago carefully labeled "PEACHES", "PEARS", "BLACKBERRY JAM", "PEAS" . . . empty and covered with dust. But are they empty now? Or have the present owners been laboring in the farm kitchen all month filling sparkling new jars with bright fruit? I sincerely hope so.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Setting Sail into Retirement

Westport Morning

Past driftwood benches
dedicated to dead men
a rusty Ford pickup,
splashes toward the marina
through seas of ice rain.
Over the breakwater
rocks a thin mist moves
like a memory of past
catches lost in the wake.

Beating myself up that I haven’t been writing more since I gave up the day job a few weeks ago. I figured by this time I’d be well on my way to a stellar career as the next hotshot literary flash-in-the-pan. Find it’s taking a bit longer than I thought to reorganize my entire adult life - go figure, after 20-something years slogging around Geekatopia with a brown water bucket in one hand and pruning shears in the other.

I’m finding that the first lesson of retirement is it’s not what any of us imagined - not that golden carrot at the end of the stick making sense of all the nonsense we’ve been putting up with since our eyes were bright and our stomachs flat. Nope, it’s a whole new set of carrots and sticks. Only trouble is we are the ones tying the root crop to the apple bough these days - without which we grow mycelium into the couch before reruns of NCIS (How many homicidal Petty Officers can there possibly be?).

Not that I’ve been idle. I’ve redecorated the bathroom (see previous post), painted the west wall of the kitchen, reorganized the spice cabinet, cleaned the fish pond, processed a whole bunch of green beans for the freezer, baked two loaves of zucchini bread, and bought a whole new wardrobe (no longer have company uniform to wear so it’s either shop or go bare), (Hmm, nice rhyme.) Today I’ll bake some oatmeal cookies. Tomorrow I’ll pick up some brown stain and tackle the back deck. Seems like all those tasks I put off for years by saying: “Can’t start that. Gotta go to work in the morning” have caught me excuse-less at last. But next week, yep, I’ll start that vampire novel I’ve been meaning to write.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


As delightful
as the blossoms were,
who would wish
to miss this
lush and fragrant fruiting?

After months of living the half-life of half retirement, working half a route while the boss tried to figure out how to do without me I am as of last Wednesday a lady of leisure! No way of knowing just how long I will be content puttering around the house but for a few weeks I intend to putter indeed. Been a long time since I had the luxury.

I just finished painting the bathroom and have moved on into the kitchen with the idea that before midnight tonight the West wall will have a fresh coat of pale sky blue. Many retired friends warned me there is no busier time than retirement - I’m beginning to understand how true that is. Without the day job I have no excuse for not tackling the household projects that have up until now been caught in planning-stage limbo.

Of course having been technically “laid off” means I’ll need to cast around for another job so as not to run afoul of the system - but since it is no doubt fairly unlikely in this economy that I’ll be snapped up any time soon I feel confident there will be a few coats of paint on the walls before the work world intrudes once more (if ever). With that in mind I will put my feet up while the sky blue dries and count myself the most fortunate of mortals. And if it indeed turns out that plant ladies are as in demand as typewriter repair technicians, who knows?, could have the whole house spruced up by Fall!