Monthly Archives: September 2012

Over Our Heads

Sometimes you just have to do something that is outside your comfort zone. “Do one thing a day that scares you” is written all over the Lululemon bags. I don’t know about you, but I always listen to my tote.

When my friend, Lynn, and I found that each of our submissions had been accepted for publication in “Minerva Rising,” a new literary journal for women, we thought, this is great. We’d show it to our families, mention it in our bio’s, and then it would retire to our shelves…. Or, we could throw a party! A perfect excuse in this case, as it’s the debut edition. And so, The Seattle Launch of Minerva Rising was born.

I’ve lost track of time, that was a few weeks back. Shortly after releasing electronic invitations to all the local literary illuminati we could think of, we lost control of it. With four or five files where there should have been one, we could never be certain of the count. (I knew I preferred paper invitations).

A few years ago on an island off Seattle, an ancient Japanese woman named Sally lived next door to me. Sally and I saw a lot of each other because both of us were always out, weather permitting, to garden, weed, clean up, and in the course of it, exchange conversation and plants. Sally owned a block-long warehouse in downtown Seattle, worth millions in real estate alone.  She and her husband had built up a wholesale floral business, after what I can only imagine may have been a period in internment. (She never mentioned that). Her husband passed away, and well into her nineties or hundreds Sally was retired and their daughter ran the business, but every now and then Sally insisted on going to the office “to be sure the money was flowing in the right direction.” I loved that line.

Well, Lynn and I may have lost count with our event, but acceptances have trickled in daily, assuring us everything was flowing in the right direction. The day before the event we will round up fresh flowers from Pikes Market (most likely from Sally’s warehouse), and arrange them. Lynn’s son will man the door, my husband will play bartender, and the Northwest Girlchoir will make an appearance at the event and sing a few songs. We will dim the lights, light candles, and pump in soft music when the girls aren’t singing. It will be a reunion of sorts among Goddard MFA alum and friends. We will treat our guests to readings, always our choice for entertainment at MFA residencies. And from our coast and our fair city, we will help, I hope, launch this new literary journal for women.

The editors are flying in from Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Maine. They will stay at our house and we will drive them around town like dignitaries. The beds are made, steps are swept, and yesterday I added purple pansies to my window box. (Purple being the color of “Minerva Rising Literary Journal”). Afterall, it isn’t everyday one’s friends start a new publication. And it isn’t every day you get published in one. Soon we will pass the mark where we’ve done all that we can anticipate, and there will be nothing more to do but celebrate.



Filed under electronic invitations

Everything Matters

This week the world has been shocked to witness what in chaos theory is called The Butterfly Effect, whereby “when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.” Or in other words, when an amateur filmmaker in Los Angeles makes a hateful anti-Muslim film, it can cause riots, death, and destruction throughout The Middle East. We witnessed this too with the Qur’an-burning pastor in Florida.

Personally I’d like to see the film maker behind bars as well as the pastor, but the problem is bigger than that. Free speech, for one thing. Democracy demands it. Civility, however, has its own demands. To put it simply, we must respect others.

Civilization is eroding and evolving at once, and perhaps this has always been the case. We know how fast things can erode, as a mere snowball turned into an avalanche while we sat frozen in our seats.  But let’s remind ourselves that The Butterfly Effect works both ways, toward healing, understanding, and enlightenment as well.

Robert F. Kennedy expressed it elegantly, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

What we say and do matters. What we write matters. It all matters.


Filed under mindfulness

The Memory of Food

I remember my grandmothers in food. The grandmother I called Gram often had a cook in the kitchen. Holidays were huge affairs at her house, all the best silver, glassware, and china, all the best dishes, all their sons and their wives, and a cotillion of dressed-up grandchildren of all ages, making every effort to be mindful of manners.

These dinners began with cocktails and fresh pink shrimp in the living room. Children took note of candy filled bowls on high buffets and soda bottles for the taking in a walk-in ice box. The candy was not so easy to reach, but hang around long enough beneath the buffet and an uncle would go by and pass them down to you. Hard candies, they were always hard candies. We would have preferred them soft, or say, chocolate, but I suppose if you are going to leave it out like that…. which, of course, struck us as wondrous.

Cocktail hour was followed by the procession into a dining room that seemed to seat thirty, paneled in a deep dark mahogany that had once graced the boardroom of a bank. Between the crystal chandelier and enormous window of leaded glass, prism reflections bounced around the high ceilinged room when the sun was at that ‘certain slant of light.’

Young ones started at the children’s table situated near the window, and over the years, graduated to the long table—which meant that maybe an uncle would pour you a taste of champagne. Food never stopped coming. Grandpa had a buzzer by his feet at his end of the table to summon Susan, the cook, but we all knew that Gram had worked her tail off too. This was how she showed her love. ‘Never enough food for the family’ must have been her motto.

Dessert was multiple choice, as at a restaurant. I don’t know where the Southern influence came from, but there was always a pecan pie at Gram’s table—the richest thing imaginable—served with vanilla ice cream on top. And plates of her homemade cookies passed around with coffee and tea, to top off dessert.

My other grandmother, Nana, was as thin as a rail. One dinner at Gram’s would have lasted her all year. Nana had a funny relationship with food, starting every morning when she would mix assorted cereals to make the perfect combination. “A little bit of Kix, a little bit of corn flakes,” (the emphasis always on “little”), followed by the proclamation, “mmm, this is so good!” It didn’t take much to make Nana happy.

One grandmother couldn’t feed you enough. The other grandmother was watching your weight before you were, but both are remembered through food. While Gram’s silver candy dishes were perpetually polished and filled and on display, Nana, I discovered, kept small tins of confectionary sugar-coated hard candies squirreled away in her little pantry. (What was it about grandmothers and hard candies?). And she never said a word about it over the years as I would sneak in, open the tins, lick off all the sugar, and stick the hard candies back in there again. It didn’t take much to make me happy either.


Filed under food, grandmothers, hard candy, memory