Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA

I walk to work
The same hour each day
And make a time-lapse film
Frame by frame
To capture the passing year.

Buildings fall into vacant lots,
Rise from the rubble.
Storms flash overhead.
Cars blur past
Dreary commuters
Taking dreary steps
Toward dreary jobs.

But along the sidewalk,
Sweetgums grow
Tall, stately, serene,
Life in the grey and black canyons.

In winter, they sleep.
I walk wet pavement
Beneath dark, dripping skeletons.

With springtime sun,
Acid green buds
Burst open in an eyeblink
To shake new leaves
In the morning air.

My summer path leads
Beneath crinoline branches,
Silken leaves rustling,
Lazing in the light.

Autumn comes and the sun,
Tired out by long days,
Grows tardy.
The sweetgums sport fall fashions and,
For a few brief frames,
The sunrise and I,
Collars turned against the season’s chill,
Walk the streets together.

The sky is a purple shell.
The air is still.
The trees are dark,
Their branches garbed in orange and rust.
They do not rustle.
They do not shake.

They sizzle.

Deep within them, hidden by dying leaves,
A thousand starlings wake.
They greet the sunrise with
Gricks and whistles,
Creaks and pips.
I stand smiling
Beneath a thousand chittering mouths,
Listening to
The sound of butter in a hot skillet.

Sizzle. Pop. Hiss. Flutter. Zing.

A few more days,
A few more frames,
And the sun lags behind me.
The sweetgums now are silent,
Branches laden with sleeping birds.
Later still,
Once the trees drop their leafy frocks,
The starlings leave the city to winter’s cold,
And once more I walk alone
Beneath dark and bony boughs.



Listen to Them

Dragons AheadLocker room talk. Harmless braggadocio. Boys will be boys.

If you’re a hetero male like me, you might feel that we’re getting a bad rap, that we’re being slandered and libeled, being painted with a big stinking brush. We don’t talk that way. We don’t even think that way. OK, sure, we like looking at women and yes, we are guilty of crudely expressing our opinions about female anatomy, but that’s different. Isn’t it?

Is it? Continue Reading »

Pike Place MarketThe Pacific Northwest is in a tizzy today. Why? It’s gonna rain.

[I’ll just wait here until the laughter dies down… Okay… Finished? Good. Onward.]

Yes, it’s gonna rain, and it’s gonna rain good. We have a series of deep low-pressure cyclones heading our way, one of which is the remnants of Typhoon Songda, and the gradients are setting up to rival the historically massive Columbus Day storm of 1962: sustained winds (not gusts) of 50+ knots, 5–10 inches of rain in the mountains, flooding, power outages, The Works.

These storms are going to wallop us from today to Sunday; already the heavy rains have begun.

To prepare, yesterday we went out to get a few punkles of firewood. Our neighborhood is not prone to power outages, but this weekend may be the exception, so I thought it best to lay in a small amount of supplementary fuel. We drove up to WinCo, where they usually have a couple pallets of firewood out front.

Nothing but pumpkins. Ruh roh.

We went to Fred Meyer. Pumpkins. Central Market? Pumpkins. Safeway (yeah…right)…pumpkins.

The world has gone pumpkin crazy.

Hopefully the power won’t go out here or, if it does, not for long. We have a couple of punkles left over from vacation, plus a bin of scrap wood from old projects down in the garage. And there are some large branches in the back garden, trimmed and laid out as nurse logs, that I could chop up. We’ll be fine. Besides, these systems aren’t particularly cold, just wet and wild.

I hope to take a walk in the teeth of it, to enjoy the fury and strength first-hand.

See you on the far side.



At the Limit


I walk the wavering limit of sand and sea, the Pacific’s grey serrated edge. The wind, flavored with salt and sun-dried kelp, pushes me, smudging my glasses with briny thumbs. A foam-white gull hunkers down against the wind. It glares at me with a yellow eye, wary but unwilling to move as long as I keep my distance. Plovers weave up and down the sand, dancing with their watery partner, piping and whistling. At my approach, they burst upward in a seething cloud of wings that veers drunkenly along the shore before settling down at a safer distance.

The waves hesitate, gathering their courage, then rush up the sloping shore. The first one covers my feet, the second my ankles, the third, calves. The water shocks with skin-tightening cold, but once the waves caress the sun-kissed sand, they recede with warmth and slip gently out to sea.

It is low tide, the time when the ocean rummages through dark cupboards, searching for trinkets and loose change to toss up on land when the next advance begins. Past offerings make ripples beneath the retreating waves or lie bright in the water-dark sand. Razor clams, splayed wide like nacre butterflies, are brittle and sharp splashes of dark purple or brilliant white. The pale skeletons of sand dollars lie strewn about, all broken, metaphors waiting to be used.

I walk through the dirty, heavy-handed rip current and the calmer, cleaner slack. I feel the tug of the water, sense the shifting sand beneath my feet. I taste both sea and earth on the ceaseless wind.

This is the edge, the limit of the world, the place where both land and ocean end.

Or begin.



Simple LivingMy world has become meaner, of late, and I’m guessing yours has, too.

Mean, in the sense of “harsh, spiteful, and cruel,” but also in the sense of “crude, lowly, or ignoble.”

Work, politics, society, and even some relationships have taken on a more callous, retributive aspect. People don’t want to listen — They don’t even want to care. — and it feels like the whole social contract has begun to unravel.

My world has indeed become more mean.

In response, I find that I have becoming meaner, as well. Patience has vanished. Reactions have intensified. Empathy has hit rock bottom.

And I hate it.

So I’m doing something about it.

I’m changing the only thing I can.

Me. Continue Reading »

Too Late

Mouse RoadCats have their signs.
The twitching tail.
The flattened ears.
So do I.
Know me?
You’ll see them.
Esteem me?
You’ll heed them.
No fireworks.
No tirades.
No hiss and lashing claws.
Just silence
And the snick of the closing door.
Too late.
Too late.
Call it what you want.
I no longer care.
Cats have their signs.



PlumsWant to bring a little pizzazz to that sandwich? Want to add some zip to that cold-cut platter? Here’s a suggestion. A complex mix of flavors — earthy, sweet, tangy, spicy — designed to enhance rather than smother.

Cook up a batch of this, set it in the fridge for a couple of weeks to mellow, and enjoy.

Plum Chipotle Chutney

Makes about 4 pounds


  • Glass jars and rings/lids for preserving (optional, for long-term storage)


  • 2 pounds plums, halved, stoned, and chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • Scant 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped (use an oiled knife to keep them from sticking to the blade)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon black/brown mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sweet (not hot) paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1  2/3 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar (or 2 cups light brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons molasses)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


  • Put all the ingredients (except sugar and salt) into a large pot over a medium heat and stir well.
  • Bring slowly to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes until plums are tender.
  • Stir in sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved.
  • Keep at a light boil for 20–30 minutes, uncovered, stirring to keep it from sticking, until it thickens.
  • Store in the fridge for two weeks to mellow. It’s great right away, but it’s better if it rests for a while.
  • Optional: For long-term storage, spoon into sterilized jars, seal, process, and store for up to 6 months in cool, dry place.


  • If you’re not going to share or can the result, make a half recipe. Four pounds is a lot of chutney.
  • I prefer to roughly chop my plums/onions, as this gives more texture to the chutney. If you prefer a more homogeneous texture, chop finely.
  • For a smokier flavor, use smoked paprika.
  • You can substitute raisins or sultanas for the cranberries.



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