Friday, May 28, 2010

Free Show

One of the sources of utter joy around our place (it would be udder joy if we had cows) is the simple pleasure we get from critter-watching. Free entertainment is something to be treasured in these difficult economic times...and a summer evening spent hanging-out, seeing what the animals are up to, is Vaudeville at its best.

I’m not quite sure why, but there’s also an amazing sense of peace to be found out among the fur and feathered types. I guess that the knowledge that we’re providing good care to our dogs, cat, goat and sheep, and good habitat to the wild birds, just makes us feel good.

I remember comedian Steve Martin once saying he sometimes puts salami in his shoes because it makes him feel funny. Leah and I are like that about our critters: We’re living proof that the quality of a human life is elevated greatly when one sprinkles a generous amount of chicken feed in one’s work boots.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Birthday Suit

Seattle is a city where it’s okay to be weird.

It’s not all that unusual:

To wear Birkenstocks to the theater;
To hear stories about a mellow workplace decorum at local corporate giant Microsoft, where frisbees supposedly sail from office cubicle to cubicle;
To attend a tres informal wedding ceremony held in a city park, where the groom wears a Hawaiian shirt, the bride her running togs, and the wedding reception is marked by the happy couple dancing around a bonfire.

Therefore, I wasn’t at all surprised when Leah called from her cell phone this morning, happily giving me a live report about her ferryboat commute into the city to work: She said the boat was filled with professional men and women wearing suits, probably dressed for a day at the law firm. There was also one guy who had a beach towel wrapped around his shoulders (the weather today is cloudy, spitting rain, and something like 50-degrees.)

Leah said the guy reminded her instantly of a wonderful friend we made in Nepal, a jaunty fellow whose Himalayan trekking outfit (it was chilly up in those high mountains) included a wool cap, a fleece jacket, and a beach towel. Our friend is Nepali but perhaps he was a Seattleite in another life.

Today happens to be Leah’s birthday, and this feels like a day I’d like to audition for a role in Seattle's Let’s-Be-Goofy street theater. Leah and I have plans to meet for dinner this evening at a restaurant in the city. There’s a very good chance Birthday Girl’s husband might show up wearing nothing but a "Happy Birthday, Honey" smile, and a beach towel.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Seeing Food

I am married to someone for whom food -- the buying and preparation and eating of it -- is an act of mindfulness, a rite, a celebration. While I can write you a short list of the dishes I can cook and I’ll need maybe ten words to do it -- eggs, scrambled and fried; garden burgers and soup, microwaved...(that’s nine words, if you are counting)... my dear mate puts the kind of energy and intention into making meals that I put into making photographs -- and that is saying something indeed.

Last night we had quinoa with fresh asparagus. The night before we had amazing taco salads (vegetarian) made with fresh, local greens and veggies that Leah bought from our community’s Farmers’ Market...where she also bought locally-grown-and-ground flour, which she used three evenings ago to fashion homemade pizza. All these meals were put together with what appeared to be effortless ease, but the reality was that there was a great deal of tender loving care involved.

Most of the time Leah puts incredible foods in front of me and, though I like to think I’m aware of her artistry, I also grew up being taught that one should not talk with one’s mouth full. And so I eat the meals Leah makes and I nod appreciatively -- I nod a lot -- but too often I’m probably too busy enjoying the meal to enthuse about it in the way it deserves.

It happens that this week my son is working on a web site for a Seattle client of his who sells tasty and beautiful chocolates, including the truffles you see above. My son asked me to do some truffles pictures (after the shoot we invited neighbors over to help eat the goods.) Another evening Leah and I were out for beers at a local pub and I did an artsy-fartsy picture with the camera pointed toward the bottom of a pint of stout.

Some might say that what you’re seeing here are the two most-important Food Groups: Chocolate and Beer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I shot the pictures I’m posting today at our community Farmers’ Market last Saturday, but the smiling, energetic kid faces take me back to a time 20 years ago when my son played on a youth baseball team.

The kids in that baseball league (both boys and girls played on the teams) were around 10-years-old. My son had two heroes at the time who played for the Seattle Mariners: Catcher Dave Valle and second baseman Harold Reynolds. When my son’s coaches asked him what position he’d like to play in the field, my son said he’d like to split his time between catcher and second base.

When my son and his teammates would go up to bat, the main coach would remind the kids to choke-up on the bat, to wait for a good pitch, to have a nice, easy swing. What I remember most vividly, however, was that there was an assistant coach who, once our kids were dug in at the plate and were staring intently at the pitcher, would yell to our batters to “Smile!” There was, in my mind, something just a tad incongruous about the timing of that assistant coach's cheery advice, but apparently that fellow was all about wanting the kids to play the game for fun. One could not fault his good intentions.

Anyway, the happy faces in the pictures you see here remind me of that time, 20-some years ago. That memory -- and these pictures -- have me grinning.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pub Crawl

There’s a harbor town near here -- I guess one might say that it’s kind of a hippie village -- with a great Saturday Farmers’ Market, a wonderful used bookstore, many cool restaurants, and a pub with a cozy wood stove and a pub dog who wanders from table to table, looking for a pat on the head and french fry handouts, not necessarily in that order.

Every time I visit that town, it seems like I find a picture that I like. This week was typical in that way.

Spring was afoot and blossoms were yelling to me from here, there, and everywhere: “Take my picture! Take my picture!” I often hear voices when I'm in creative mode and I’m connecting visually with a human being or a place... but it’s possible that in this case I had just spent too much time hanging out in the pub.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Golden Years

Pumpkin purrs.

I don’t know how else to describe the contented little noise our adopted, senior citizen goat mama makes when she’s eating, or anytime her simple, uncomplicated goat-life is going well -- which is nearly always.

Finding a spot in the warm spring sunshine seems particularly pleasing to Pumpkin, and will get also her to purring.

It feels good to us, knowing Pumpkin has settled in and is content with us here -- that her golden years will be good. Leah and I don’t purr, but when we’re around Pumpkin we sure do smile a lot.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Boys of Summer

I’m not a huge sports fan, but, as a male, a certain knowledge of sports is required of me if I’m to maintain membership in good standing in the Guy Club.

My problem these days is this: Summer is here and I should be paying at least a bit of attention to my city’s baseball team, the Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately the Mariners so far have a record of 11-17 and have lost their last six straight games. Sports might be a good form of escapism but when one’s team is as hapless as mine, it becomes necessary to escape the escapism.

Thus (and I'd appreciate it if you don't tell the guys)...uh...I’ve become a bird watcher. There are hummingbirds at a feeder that Leah has hung in a tree outside our living room window and when I have a few free minutes I go outside and watch the aerial show. Only as big as my thumb, the hummers eat like pigs. They dart and dash about like laser beams, intent on feeding, but I've been surprised to see how often the hummers are playing offensive defense, simply trying to keep their brethren from feeding. The pictures I’ve shot of the hummers kind of make them appear to be beautiful, winged miracles of nature -- which they are -- and I’d like to be able to write something here about the hummingbirds being gentle and peaceful creatures.

The truth is that they’re the most aggressive dudes you’ll ever see.

Zzzsssdt: One flashes this way heading for the feeder. Zzzsssdt: Another flashes in, as if to say “that nectar is mine, sucka.”

It occurred to me yesterday after the Mariners lost 8-0 to Tampa Bay that maybe it’s my Guy Club duty to invite the city’s Boys of Summer out to my place to watch hummingbirds (for inspiration, you know?) We can scratch and spit and maybe the team can have a Man Chat about competitiveness.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Saturday Market

Of course I can’t know how other people feel about the news we’re hearing this week about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but I can tell you that the stories are breaking my much so that I’d like to say something about the story here...but what to say and how to say it, well I’m afraid I feel the need to tread lightly.

I mean, on the one hand, I consider this forum to be diary-ish, kind of personal. I can write my feelings and if you don’t happen to like them, well then you can go someplace else. On the other hand, I don’t want you to go someplace else. I don’t really want to talk to an empty room.

Not only do I like talking with you, I have to add that my feelings about the oil spill might come off sounding like I’m telling other folks how to live or what their values should be. I don’t want to be a Mister Bossy Pants.

But I'm afraid that I have a diplomatic problem because a phrase keeps popping into my head as, with each passing day, the oil spill gets worse and worse. That phrase is: “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Nearly all of us drive cars and we all consume energy. The oil that's causing such problems in the Gulf was being pumped out of the sea floor because you and I buy gasoline, and oil companies are more than happy to drill for it and sell it to us.

Maybe we can all try to drive a bit less, consolidate the trips we do make?
But what about the food we eat? Many experts point out that locally-produced foods get from a farm to our table with far less fuel burned in shipping and transportation than strawberries grown in Mexico or grapes that came from Chile.

Leah and I went (by bike, I might add) to our town’s Farmers’ Market last Saturday. We bought fresh, in-season local produce, grown by our neighbors or folks who live just a few miles away. We also visited and chatted with smiling, congenial vendors and other market-goers (how many good conversations do you have with your fellow human beings when you're engaged in get-out-of-my-way shopping combat with the hoards at Costco, where much of the produce has been transported from half-a-country or half-a-world away?)

I suspect being thoughtful consumers is something that we all can work on to be part of a solution.