Sunday, August 21, 2016

Blackberries

the sun-hot fruit fills
our hands with sweetness I taste
summer on your lips

"Blackberries," August 20, 2016; photo taken September 2014, Salisbury, England

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Vacances d'été

I haven't had a camera for weeks, now. My faithful Canon SX120IS, which has accompanied me nearly everywhere the last six years, has decided that it's too tired to continue, and not even tasty fresh batteries can tempt the viewfinder out of its metal shell for more than a few moments, these days. So I just stopped carrying it around, and found this to be strangely liberating. While I still stop and appreciate the view/the quirky photo op/the beauty everywhere, I don't feel compelled to save it in digital format. That's one reason for the lack of posting here since the end of April; another is that I've been très occupée both at work and after work, and just haven't had the time - or rather, I've chosen to not make the time for this blog.

After I got back to Portland and took up essentially where I left off a year earlier, I stopped being in "travel blogging" mode, where my first thought upon seeing or experiencing something was "oh, I must share this with my far-away family and friends." You're all here, more or less, and many of you are seeing and experiencing the same things, often at the same time. And frankly, my day-to-day life is pretty generic, though highly enjoyable: I get up at 6am, do my hour's commute to work (bike or bus is about the same), work from 8:30am-5:30pm, and either go home again or go out alone or with friends. Weekends have been either packed with events or spent in a vegetative state, as I de-stress from the previous five days. In case you didn't know this, I was hired as a full-time legal assistant and trained by the part-time legal assistant who was then let go four months later, leaving me to fill both positions by myself. We just hired a part-time administrative backup/LA trainee this past week. February through July was a challenge, to say the least, and often hair-pullingly frustrating. But I had, and continue to have, the opportunity to both shape the workflow in the firm and to (very quickly, by necessity) increase my knowledge and skill in the area of family law. And the overtime reflected in my paycheck certainly made it easier to both justify and pay for my after-hours fun.

I often get off the bus on the east side of the river and walk the extra mile across the Morrison Bridge into downtown.

Freelance work has slowed to a trickle, and I think partly because I was falling behind deadline so often after I started my job in September. The time factor was a big part of it, as was the need to replace both my computers so that I could actually do the freelance work, but there was definitely a shift in my thinking towards other places to direct my energy. The first and most important was getting a full-time job with health benefits, then keeping that job, then doing my damndest to show my employer why my proposed changes to the workflow, when combined with my capability and productivity, justify the rather substantial raise I will be demanding at the end of this month. Because I'm saving up to move back to France for good this time, and will need a lot more in my bank account than I had in 2012. Therefore priority one right now is earning money, and I'm just lucky that I've got a job I enjoy, that I'm good at, and that brings me a decent wage.

The paved and dirt paths that wind up and around Mt Tabor are just a five-minute walk from the house.

Priority number two is shifting my freelance work focus so that I'm working on my projects. Writing under my own name, things that I want to write, things that have been in my plans and in my head for years, waiting for the right time to come out. This is the right time. When I did the poetry month series, I discovered that I have words bubbling up out of me in a surprising abundance, and that writing in a poetical format of some sort is as natural as breathing. Now that I've started outlining the short story series that came to me one evening in Tours, I'm finding that entire stories are in there as well. It's a very strange process, writing stories. I was going along jotting down notes for one the other day, and was just at the end when to my surprise another character entered the room. I didn't even know he was there, and his presence changed the whole dynamic in a way that made the story even more of what I wanted it to be. It's a lot of fun.

But again, that takes time. This takes time, this blogging; I've been typing for an hour, and haven't even finished. So in order to leave more evening and weekend time for to-be-published-someday writing, I'm going to do much less writing about what's going on in my life and in the world. Oh, I have political words in me, and flowery descriptive words, and double-edged swords of words. Flurries of words that blow across a white screenpage, that pile up in the sheltered corner where a half a dozen draft posts wait already, that snowball into an avalanche once I get out into the drifts and start patting them together. I'll still be writing, but probably not on this site more than once a week.

Hiking the Cape Horn trail above the Columbia River Gorge with my housemate Quyen, April 30th.

I really thought that after the April poetry series I'd continue the momentum with a daily blog post, but by that time I'd completely lost any desire to blog my days again. Ma vie quotidienne est intéressante et agréable (généralement), mais ça m'ennuie un peu, en la racontant après. And if I'm bored by what I'm writing about, writing becomes an effort, and I just don't have a lot of energy to spare these days since I'm putting so much of it into work. And also into having fun, which I could write about, I suppose, but generally since I'm not reviewing events until they're long over, what's the point? I'm using Facebook for that sort of sharing, and other people write better reviews of things these days than I ever would want to spend the time doing. And then I wouldn't have time to write non-me-focused things about philosophy or politics or poetry (admittedly still me-focused since it's my opinions, but it's not "look at me and how great my life is" which is what I feel this blog verges on anyway).

So if you're interested in what I'm doing day to day, there's a better chance you'll find out on Facebook. If you're interested in a recap of what I've been doing the last three months, keep reading, because I ...

bought a new bicycle (5/1)

enjoyed a performance by the Malpaso Dance Company (5/4)

went to happy hour at North Bar with food from Mi Mero Mole next door (5/5)

watched "Young Frankenstein" and ate expensive tapas on the outdoor patio at Pix Patisserie/Bar Vivant (5/11)

went to a family law seminar at the Multnomah County Courthouse - yes, I'm putting this in the "fun" category (5/13)

had one last dinner at Veritable Quandary with Mom and John before going to the opera (5/14)

saw my niece Leah perform in her last high school band concert (5/18)

went to happy hour with friends before having a massage (5/25)

went to the farmer's market every week for berries and flowers

house- and dog-sat for friends over Memorial Day weekend

A succulent selection from Flying Fish's new oyster bar at Providore on Sandy Boulevard.

enjoyed happy hour at The Observatory (6/1)

had Leah over for a sleepover and dim sum, then went to watch my brother-in-law play trumpet in the Willamette Falls Symphony (6/4-5)

snuggled with Kitt the cat during a multi-day sleepover while Mom and John were in town for Sweeny Todd and sushi (6/9)

... and also for nephew Morgan's Oregon State graduation and Leah's Reynolds High School graduation and party

climbed to the top of Mt Tabor for a midsummer night's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream (6/21)

saw the film "Mandorla" and met its director (6/23)

bought amazing sorbetto at Pinolo Gelato's one-year anniversary (6/24)

rode topless through the streets of Portland for the World Naked Bike Ride (6/25)

was blown away by Baroque instruments at Reed College (thanks again for the free ticket, Annabeth!)

Frozen smoked tunsoy from the Philippines, available at one of the many Asian markets on SE 82nd Avenue.

visited a winery for an evening of jazz with Morgan (featuring Ben on trumpet) (7/6)

spent a great four-day weekend with my grandmother Wini, during which we saw my sister Kate play with the band "Hey, Handsome" and got almost the entire family together for my brother Ian's birthday lunch (7/8-11)

ate dinner at Southpark before watching an excellent performance of "Eugene Onegin" at the Newmark (7/14)

rode my bike to Helen's summer barbecue at 6pm and Lark's Bastille Day party at 8pm before biking to Laurelhurst Park for the 10pm production of "Comedy of Errors" and then biking home after midnight (7/16)

had lunch with almost all of the people I've ever worked with in Portland law offices, in downtown's Director Park (7/18)

house- and dog/cat/chicken-sat for friends in Vancouver, which had its share of trauma (7/21-22)

dog-sat for more friends here in Portland, saw "As You Like It" in Laurelhurst Park in the afternoon, and joined Mom and John and Helen for dinner at Clyde Common (7/23)

rented a Zipcar and drove to Breitenbush for a day of river sun yoga vegan stretching forest peace (7/26)

laughed through a very entertaining naked magic show at the Schnitz (7/27)

played mini golf in the middle of downtown Portland (7/28)

walked through the Native American fashion exhibit at the Portland Art Museum (7/29)

voted in a chicken beauty contest at the Lents Street Fair (7/31)

Shh ... don't tell Mom and John that I let Kitt sleep on my bed when she stays here.

Last Thursday I went to see Rossini's "THe Italian Girl in Algiers", which I'd never seen before and which I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope Portland Opera does more of these opera buffa productions in the Newmark - the smaller theatre really draws the audience in close, and while you wouldn't want to stage the "Anvil Chorus" there, I think it's a better choice than the Keller for many things. Mom and John saw it last night, after we met at Shigezo for dinner with Helen. (Another advantage of the Newmark is that there is a wider variety of restaurants within walking distance, though we seem to end up at Japanese places more often than not.) Today I did laundry, and put this post together, and got a massage, and am about to go start some chicken cooking for lunches this week. There! Now you're all caught up.

This week I've got a Monday date to catch up with Nick the bartender at West Cafe, where I used to spend nearly every Wednesday evening after work studying for my French classes before going to choir rehearsal at St. Stephen's Episcopal just up the street; a happy hour with friends on Thursday; a lunch with Morgan on Saturday; and then a friend's birthday party Saturday night. Work is still intense, though now that we have a competent part-time admin person, it's much less stressful for me, though there is some added time in doing the training, so I'll continue to put in overtime in August. (A good thing, actually, as I'm obviously spending a fair bit of money on all of these fun events.) I've got my eye on a new camera, and hope to make that purchase in two weeks, so there might be the occasional photo montage here, though again most of my real-time posts will be on Facebook only.

Oh, and this happened.

What with the biking, and the walking, and the not eating much for lunch because the lawyer dumped three new tasks on my desk that absolutely have to be done by the end of the day along with all of the other tasks already assigned followed by the not eating much for dinner because I'm too wiped out to be hungry, added to the fact that I've changed my diet to accommodate my changed body (post-gall bladder removal, finally realizing that I have to eliminate a lot more than gluten and dairy, not able to consume mass quantities of alcohol and potato chips and takeaway Chinese food like I used to) has made a lot of extra E just sort of vanish, somehow, without my really noticing other than having to buy new clothes for work every two months. But when I tried this dress on, I thought "damn, girl, you are looking rather fine." Also, it'll work well as a choir dress - yes, on top of my already busy routine I am auditioning for the Bach Cantata Choir again - and a night on the town dress, once I get some non-Birkenstock black shoes. I think I'll get a black compression sleeve, too, just for a formal touch.

À la prochaine, mes bien-aimés!

au claire de la lune / les rainettes chantent de la fin / d'été, de la vie

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Writing On The Wall

Will anyone remember me at all
When I and all who know me now are dead -
When all that's left is writing on the wall?

(They say the One who sees the sparrow fall
Has my whole lifetime stored within His head.)
Will anyone remember me at all

Or will these poems fade away and crawl
Into a dusty corner, never read?
When all that's left is writing on the wall

What eyes will see, what ears will hear the call
And resonate to anything I've said -
Will anyone remember me at all?

Perhaps there will be those who can recall,
If only I will say what is unsaid,
When all that's left is writing on the wall,

The words half lost, a hieroglyphic scrawl.
And then when time frays memory's final thread,
Will anyone remember me at all
When all that's left is writing on the wall?


poem: a villanelle, and not my first, either

photo: Florence, Italy, May 2015

This is #30 in a series of poems that I wrote for National Poetry Month. All work is my own, as are the photographs.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Poem To Explain The Lack Of A Poem Today

empty
as the skies above the northern plains
as the towns abandoned by the last descendants
          of the first to settle that new land
          newly abandoned then and now the echoes blend
          ghosts of the conquered and the conquerors

stagnant
as the muddy shores of rivers going dry
as the dying pools where minnows gasp their last
          out of water out of breath out of time
          the land is begging for a cooling rain
          skeletons of trees stand sentinel

bare
as the pantry of an artist on the edge
as the canvas waiting stretched against the wall
          the only paint that's left is blood or tears
          abandoned brushes stiffen on the floor
          how can you summon inspiration at a whim?

how do you draw

a blank?


photo: on Amtrak in the middle of the Montana canola fields, July 10, 2015

This is #29 in a series of poems being written for National Poetry Month 2016. All work is my own, as are the photographs.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Siren's Song

I never dreamed that I could fly
The ocean holds my fantasy of choice
With sparkling shallows for my sky
A dolphin's song, or silence, for my voice
Deep breaths as liquid fills my throat
A single O enough to give me air
Disdaining snorkel mask or boat
I dive to seek the kraken in its lair
For now I'll live each landlocked day
Remembering how it felt to swim so deep
Until I find if there's a way
To be a mermaid when I'm not asleep


photo: the Silent Pool at dusk, Breitenbush Hot Springs, December 5, 2015

This is #28 in a series of poems being written for National Poetry Month 2016. All work is my own, as are the photographs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On What I Missed

the comfort that comes from
years of tradition
a time-lapse photo of
the family at the table
grooves worn so deep into
your daily routine
that you no longer have to steer
(and I never liked routines)

the security that comes from
someone beside you
there in all the photos of
adventures taken, decisions made
a future together
each doing their part
divided burdens weighing less
(and I carried so much baggage)

the peace that comes from
having a home
the rooms, the photos on the wall
familiar to the point of vanishing
no need to think
about how you're going to get
to where you'll be tomorrow
(and I was never satisfied with today)

and yes

this Rockwell vision is as true
as any other dream
and once inside it heaven knows
if I'd be happy
or if I would spend my time
finding ways to make thoughts rhyme
in poems mourning my lost freedom

and yet

the choices made were often mine alone
no room for regret in a tight-packed schedule
and now I can't imagine any other then
but when I think of what might come
sometimes I like to think
that what I miss
is waiting for me after all

a little further down the open road


photo: Museo Civico e Area Archeologica, Fiesole, Italy, May 2015

This is #27 in a series of poems being written for National Poetry Month 2016. All work is my own, as are the photographs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Poem Of The Open Road

Somewhere in my soul I'm
Still on a different time; in my
Heart an albatross cry
That sings of weeks I'd fly before
My feet would touch the floor.
Someday there will be more delight
As day gives way to night
And I sit down to write of all
I've seen, that sweet recall
Of what held me in thrall that day.
All of which is to say
I find it hard to stay at home
With so much world to roam.
What makes up my genome? Travel.


poem: done on the model of the complicated Vietnamese poetic style called "lục bát" (except for the tonal element, which made this poem a LOT less complicated), in honor of Quyen's parents, who left for their southern California home today

photo: on the Belgrade-to-Florence overnight bus, just over the Croatian border, May 5, 2015

This is #26 in a series of poems being written for National Poetry Month 2016. All work is my own, as are the photographs.