Friday, May 27, 2011

Sedona wasn't really a dog who had much interest in letting us near her. She was vigilant, keeping an eye on the goats and slinking around with the grace of a little fox. I never got a good portrait of her, the get down in the dirt, look a dog in the eye kind. It takes a certain kind of dog to make that kind of portrait. Sedona was too elusive. 

Emmylou is just the opposite, and I missed her for that and plenty of other reasons. When I came home from 5 days at farm camp, it was with a digging fork and four-tined hoe for the mini-farm and a stuffed bunny for Emmy. At dinner, she came and put her head in my lap and wagged her tail, looking up at me.    

The day after I got home was heaven, waking up on my own land, with what felt like a day stolen from work. In the afternoon, Tom came home and we took a long walk in the tall grass at the duck fields, Tom and I picking our way through the mud, using the tiny islands of grass to make our way through the marshy landscape there, Emmy just trotting along through it all, legs and belly dark with mud. It was too late in the afternoon for sunburn, but bright the whole way, small green frogs hopping out of the grass leaves and everywhere the calls of birds I don't yet know by sound.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Small Act of Faith

Rooms Where Writers Sleep

This is a dream about road conditions, this is a dream of
the library. Other people love cowboys, love liberals, love
men who say “I want you to feel safe with me.”
The next morning in the dream, she was wearing
a bathing suit the color of goldfish, saying “He wouldn’t
want to hear something like this”, heading into the basement.
Someone else was there. I can see you leaning back
in your chair, black and white postcards in hand.

If the Denver Art Museum is so upside-down, why
isn’t it closed on Saturdays, open on Mondays?

I wanted bewildering Modern Art, I wanted the way
the mind string words together, writes the poetry for me
like it should in an industrialized nation. Out comes a pun
and we love it for the automated nature of it’s creation.
I love to linger and confess. We spend time together,
someone loves the word “swarm”, someone loves
shimmering, someone loves Sunday, someone loves
the terms of taxidermy. When we go home, we take with us
the overstuffed bodies of the poems we’ve hollowed out
and filled again with what we all love.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The whole neighborhood seemed to smell like lilacs when I got to the Ballard house tonight. Kate and Jason had the front door open, and it felt like time to look at the garden, so Kate and I wandered out into the back yard to look at her little bed of shallots and greens and climbing pea vines. I thought about our new peony plant at home, a gift from Peggy's lush garden, and how tomorrow I would be home in Bow and could check on it, the first thing I've planted there myself. I want it to live forever and ever, and I don't care what color the flowers turn out to be.

Our writing retreat was good, ultimately. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I have a notebook nearly full of scribbles from my new Montblanc pen - thank god for that pen, I'm not sure I would have kept going if it hadn't been such a pleasure to write with. There wasn't much in there that I was tempted to go back and edit or fiddle with, not typically a good sign, but being in those little writing studios was so pleasant, and reading was so pleasant, and the conversations with the other writers there were so worth having. A little writing habit was built up, just somewhere to start from, as though I had taken a long walk every day for a week, on my way to building up to a run. More words, every day, that's all there is to it.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


So much. Yesterday at writing camp was hard. There were no good sentences and I was missing home, wishing I was home with my dirt. That turned out to be the key, ultimately. I had been hoping for fiction this trip, or maybe a few little prose poems, and those things were just not in me. When I gave in to that longing for home, my notebook filled itself up and I didn't mind at all that the writing had nothing to do with anything but me. 

Friday, May 06, 2011


All the words until now have been longhand, computer left behind in my cabin with the cell phone, and no photos to write from. The eight of us retreat participants plus Ryan met the first day, at a table in the middle of a recital hall, all wood paneling and one whole wall of windows, a piano on a dais in front of the windows, and I kept thinking things like "naps!" and "manicure!", thoughts of leisure and vacation. But after we left the recital hall, I sat down with my notebook anyway, and just started to use ink. I made a manicure appointment and then cancelled it, and was sorry when I slept in until 9:40 the first day. No naps yet. 

My writing so far has been constant but scattered, concerned more with the problem of writing than with any story in particular. This second full day has been tainted with migraine, and at lunch I felt that odd migraine-related grief draining the words out of me. I sat and looked out the window at the shaded picnic tables, the practice rooms converted to writing studios for us for these five days, the small birds in the trees. When at a loss, I do come back to the birds, the house finch with it's rosy crown, the white-headed woodpecker pecking out a lacy pattern in the bark of the evergreen it mines for bugs. It's the simplicity of it that I love, the pleasure in naming something, in noticing it. White head, black body, white arm band, the tree-clinging shape. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Clearing out

 The night before, I kept saying "I'm on vacation!" and Tom and I stayed up later than we should have, and I lingered in bed longer than I meant to and then there was coffee for me, made by Tom, and the walk around the property, and new blossoms on the apple tree and more weeding to be done in the circle of the middle of the driveway, and it was hard to leave. I wanted to stay and eat the good salad from dinner, with leaves from the garden and I wanted to open the watermelon I had brought home from the co-op, and suddenly it seemed like clearing out the spare room upstairs would be possible if I actually had a work day off, and I would have been happy to just move gravel around, for that matter, any of the things that would mean the mini-farm could be a still better version of itself.

But I got in the car anyway, headed off to a five day writing retreat near Leavenworth, with a box of books and a bag of knitting and two camera bags and enough clothes for three times as many days as I'll actually have away. It started before I even got out of Skagit county - little fragments of writing, nothing special, just throat-clearing sorts of things, a few words strung together to articulate the most obvious things. But a certain kind of writing, my mind starting to write itself, is how I tend to think of it.