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first light begins its
slow creep toward younger hours
dreaming of new life

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I wrote that haiku yesterday or, more accurately, I copied that down yesterday, as I awoke with it fully formed in my brain. All Things Natural have been “front of mind” lately, as this week we had our first real break from the rain, and I’ve been spending time outside.

Every afternoon this week, for an hour or two, I’ve been out in the gardens—pruning, raking, trimming, clearing, gathering—in a futile attempt to complete all my cold-weather chores before the season warms and the now-dormant plants awaken. While this is arguably less of a workout than time on the elliptical, I keep at it longer, so I’m calling that a wash.

One thing I cannot do while gardening, though, is watch a video (my go-to for indoor workouts). So, because I’m a over-achiever by training and cannot do merely one thing at a time if I can do two (or three), I indulge in the next best thing: I listen to podcasts.

I’m relatively new to podcasts. I’ve tried audiobooks, but since I have no commute and thus no regular activity where I must remain eyes-alert but idle-eared, I usually got a few chapters into a book and then didn’t have a chance listen to it for a month or more, disrupting the narrative.

Podcasts, though, are perfectly suited to this task, even the hour-long ones. Encapsulated, whole, pithy, geared toward the audible rather than the visual, I can set them up in a row and burn through them whilst puttering with ferns and maples, roses and lupines, listening and working simultaneously.

The two I’ve been listening to this week are both language-oriented, and I recommend them to writers and readers of this blog.

Science Diction:
This podcast is an offshoot/subset of the more well-known Science Friday podcast. I’ve never liked Science Friday, as the faux banter they use to tie together the various “articles” is—sorry guys—cheesy and painfully obvious. Science Diction is a subset of those “articles,” was hosted by Queen of the Vocal Fry, Johanna Mayer (at least through 2021), and focuses on the meaning, etymology, and historical context of science-y (and not-so-science-y) words. Ambergris, jargon, hurricane names, gene names, robots, mercury, these have all been topics of this 12–20 minute segments, and I’ve burned through them all, loving each one.

The Allusionist:
Helen Zaltzman hosts this language-centric podcast, with a voice that is the perfect juxtaposition of posh British tone and working-class American idiom. I’m only a handful of episodes into this (working from 2015 toward the present), but already they’ve covered the origins and history of words/phases such as “bra,” “going viral,” and the c-word. As with all good (IMO) podcasts, they spiral outward from the base topic a bit, to give a broader view of the surrounding context, showing the wider connections to the world at large. They vary in length from 10–30 minutes, and come out once a fortnight.

There are other language-focused podcasts out there, but I haven’t spent time with them so cannot recommend. If you’ve listened to any, please leave a recommendation in the comments. I expect I’ll be burning through a lot of them this season.

k

 

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I was born in fog
welling from the coast’s cold waters,
mariners’ mournful cautions
echoing ’round my infant hollow,
earth-bound cloudbanks
tumbling over the ringing hills,
billowing down our mist-slick street,
infusing my new world with ancient distance.

I grow old beneath rain
birthed by distant, tropical seas,
cooled by winds scented with
salt and sand and sun-warmed kelp,
sped by sky-high rivers
to beat upon these tree-clad shores
and wash down to feed the tidal flats
with burbling, silted waters of myriad streams.

Between them is stretched a life
where my limbs grew fast as springtime rye
beneath shadows chased by auspicious suns,
where towering guardians of wood and stone
surrounded the humid masses or arid wild,
where my heart tasted honeyed love and sharp-tongued disdain,
traveling inland altitudes redolent
of mineral earth, verdant crops, and heady loam,
but never the cold, deep cradle
whose primeval memory flows in my veins.

Bound by water,
I have slept in many places,
but only near the sea
have I lived.

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Today I am thankful for:
Two brothers, all bundled up in matching navy blue hoodie jackets, out on the cul-de-sac in the bright drizzle, playing a game.

The game is:
Proceed in stages from a starting point (the truck at the near end) to a goal (the far end of the block), by one player tossing a Frisbee ™ as far as they can but not so far (or wide) that the other cannot catch it. It must be caught, or the disc goes back for a rethrow.

Eminently scalable, simple and elegant in rules, it’s a beautifully cooperative game. They win together, full stop. There is no losing. There are only gradients of victory.

Looks like they’re going for a team best, now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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First, many thanks to those who showed interest in my new book, From the Edge (now available via Amazon). If you liked it, please  consider writing a review, as that helps drive its visibility.

Autumn figures strongly in From the Edge, as it is without doubt my favorite season (how’s that for a smooth segue?), so it should be no surprise that I’ve scheduled some time off for mid-October. We’re not going anywhere special—trips during the pandemic still carry too much anxiety—so we’re planning local activities and, as is our habit, we’re over-planning.

The kitchen white board now lists a few museums to visit and a couple of the bookstores we like to hit on stay-cations, but one category has grown out of all proportion to its fellows: Day Trips for Fall Color.

Seattle and the Puget Sound region are blessed in that we actually have four seasons. Much as we joke about us having only three—Summer (three weeks), Smoke (three weeks), and Rain (all the rest)—we really do have a distinct Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. And though we’re known as the Evergreen State, we have many areas of deciduous flora that make for stunning fall color vistas.

In combination, the region and the season have another advantage: variable elevation. Fall colors peak at different times at different elevations, so if (as has happened) our fall vacation arrives and the colors aren’t ready down hear near the Sound, we can drive up into the Cascades or the Olympics, where the colors get a two-week head start. Of course, if it is peak color time here at sea level, we have a great collection of parks and gardens from which to view them.

So, the Day Trips for Fall Color list on the white board includes the near (Kubota Garden, Washington Park Arboretum, Japanese Garden), the close and basically sea-level (the Mountain Loop Scenic Byway, the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, the Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway), and the not-so-close and higher elevation (Stevens Pass Greenway, Leavenworth, and if we’re feeling adventurous, the Chinook Pass). It’s an embarrassment of fall-color riches.

More than just driving around to view the colors, though, we like to stop and enter the autumnal world, for there are scents and sounds that only come at this time of year, in leafy places when the colors rage.

There’s the crispness, a bit of sass, that thrives in the morning and evening air. There’s the urgency of chipmunks, seeking oil-laden seeds on which to grow fat for the coming winter. Birds, their feathers adapted for camouflage amid deep summer shadows or against dark wintry limbs, dart about in deep contrast to the bright riot of translucent hues. And the scents! The smell of moisture has returned after summer’s sere mien has passed. The earth-wood aroma of fallen leaves and rising mushrooms are the umami of forest glades. Rivulets and streams chuckle, happy in rebirth, and all around are the tiny paper-rustles of birds searching beneath leaves, the pit-pat of squirrels covering their caches, and the tentative steps of blacktail deer mincing along narrow, leaf-strewn tracks.

Autumn, to me, is a reward. It’s a reward for surviving the busyness of spring and the chores of summer. It’s the year’s twilight before winter’s somnolence. Autumn is the cognac by the fire before I turn in for the day.

And I intend to enjoy it.

k

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I can handle triple-digit heat. I lived in Jerusalem for a couple of years. I’ve camped in the deserts of California, Nevada, and Arizona. In summers of my youth, my folks dragged us all to northern Minnesota to visit relatives where the humidity was 99% and the temperature was higher.

Here in Seattle, we can all handle high-heat days. We regularly get temps in the 90s and often have a few days in the mid-100s.

In August.

But June? Jeez, give us a chance to acclimate, why don’t ya?

The month of June in Seattle is often referred to as “Juneuary” due to its tendency to flip-flop between typically rainy days in the low 60s and gloriously clear days in the mid-70s. The average temperature for June is 69°F (21°C).

Yesterday, 28 June 2021, it was 107°F (42°C), the peak of the most intense, most protracted heat wave in our history, and the city stopped.

We saw it coming. We had a week in the 80s, then a week of high 90s, and all the forecasts were warning us: Sunday and Monday, the streets would be lava.

And they were right. Concrete sidewalks buckled. Asphalt pavements melted. Insulation on wires began to sag and slough off. Expansion joints on bridges shut as the steel girders expanded.

Seattle was not built for this. Our infrastructure was not built for this. Our homes were not built for this.

In Seattle, our homes are built to retain heat, not dissipate it. The vast majority of homes have no central cooling, and more than half don’t have any A/C at all. Businesses, especially in older buildings, are often in a similar fix, relying on fans to keep the air circulating for some evaporative cooling.

I’m lucky. Fifteen years ago, when our furnace died, we replaced it and also put in central A/C. But even with the A/C blasting, it had to fight our insulated roof and insulated windows that kept the heat in, and the best it could do was keep the house ten degrees cooler than the outside. For many of our neighbors, it was hotter in their homes than outside, and it was an oven outside.

It’s been this hot before. I went to a Moody Blues concert at an outdoor venue on the hottest day of that year: 109°F. We sat in the steamy heat with our frozen bottles of water and our wine spritzers, but we survived. It was August. We’d had a two-month run-up of increasingly hot temps, and we were ready for it.

But this. This is a classic case of too much, too soon, and for too long.

We had some respite overnight. The winds picked up and some of that blessed marine layer came onshore. The overnight lows dropped into the mid-60s. I’ve had all the windows open since the cat woke me at 5AM, but the mercury is starting to climb, so I need to go around and button it up, to trap as much of that coolth and I can.

It’s 7:30AM.

Gonna be another scorcher.

k

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Regular readers (and I have a few) may have noticed I did not post last week. Also (possibly) that I’m late with this week’s post.

There is a reason for that: oral surgery.

TL;DR: I had a wisdom tooth that had to come out. It did, but it did not go quietly. I’m healing and I’m getting better.

Long version: (more…)

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AH, AS, AF

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know from smoke.

And I’m not talking the cannabis type.

Recent years have educated us about the quality and character of smoke from wildfires, but these past two weeks have been like a full-on mandatory in-your-face master-class from an extremely pissed-off Samuel L. Jackson. (more…)

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