Saturday, March 28, 2015

SLIDE SHOW, OLD-SCHOOL, SEATTLE


Welp I have had quite a week and never let it be said that I am one to lie abed and neglect to explore my environs.

Of course I am utterly depleted, drained and exhausted but hey, someone has to jet about, eat seafood on other people's dime, merrily ferry-hop, gaze out from the deck of his or her room at an eagle's nest, watch the tide go in and out, and wonder...

Anyway, before I leave I wanted to post these last (many) pix. Even so, they represent but a tiny fraction of all I have seen and experienced.




 



THESE WERE ALL TAKEN ON OR AROUND THE GROUNDS AT
THE ARCHBISHOP BRUNETT RETREAT CENTER,
30 MILES SOUTH OF SEATTLE


THESE ARE IN INVASIVE PLANT COLLOQUIALLY CALLED
HORSE TAILS. THEY GROW IN MINIATURE STRIPED FORESTS.
 










FROM THE FERNS DOWN WERE TAKEN AT DASH POINT STATE PARK,
FEDERAL WAY


TO ADD TO ONGOING
"RANDOM LEAVES ON SIDEWALK" SERIES




CALLING RESIDENT BOTANIST MICHAEL DEMERS.
WHAT ARE THESE?
THEY GROW IN MARSHY AREAS AND THE BRIGHT YELLOW FLOWER
LOOKS LIKE A COBRA'S HOOD.
HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE!.

OKAY MY NEW BOOK IS OUT FOR REAL



Marketing is not my forte but I do have a new book out and thus am making a stab:

To that end, this week's arts and culture column is entitled Called to the Outskirts: Stumble: Vice, Virtue and the Space Between. Click to read it.

Probably the best thing about the book is the foreword by Brian Doyle. Here it is:

"Listen, my friends, we have all read forewords that are fluffy or pompous or inane or insipid or pap or mere lists of the ingredients in the text to come. I refuse to write that sort of piece for Heather King, because Heather King is the most honest blistering succinct emotionally-naked blunt writer in headlong bruised pursuit of the holiness of Everything That Is that I know, and I am an ink-junkie who reads ravenously looking for writers that tell it real, that say real things with passion and humor and a healthy dose of raw humility.

If this was another kind of foreword I would use interesting prickly words here like alcoholic and barfly and divorced and breast cancer and you would conjure up a certain idea of the terrific essayist Heather King. And you would be right, I guess, for all those words are true enough about Heather. But you would also be utterly totally completely wrong, because all those words are not definitions of the terrific honest observer and storyteller Heather King; they are places she has been, parts of her, but there is a roaring urge for witness in Heather’s work that makes all those interesting thorny words mere signposts along her tumultuous road.

Why should you read this book? Because Heather King writes the kind of sizzling tart prose that Flannery O’Connor did. Heather King keeps trying to punch through the mere religiosity of Catholicism, and get down to the wild illogical unreasonable nonsensical furious genius of it, like Andre Dubus did. Heather King, like J.F. Powers and Ron Hansen and Alice McDermott, hands you bruised people trying with all their motley might to listen to the revolutionary message of the Christ and live by its awful implications.

Heather King would be an unforgettable character in a glorious novel by Mary Gordon about a brave wisp of a woman trying, against all sense and reason, to witness the One in every moment, and to live in the ferocious flame of the Love, and hold fast to hope and mercy in a world of blood and rape, except that Heather King is real, and in the ancient tradition of the essay she uses herself as reporter, as wick, as prism, as muddled guide through the dimness between us and the Coherent Mercy.

Why should you read this book? Because there are pieces and passages in here you will never forget, and they are brutally honest, and funny, and searing, and they will remind you that we are all on the suffering road, holding hands as best we can.

Also I think that if you, like me, have the slightest belief, deep in your bones and way past sense and reason, that there is a roaring Love, that there is a vast Mercy, that there is an inexplicable Imagination that breathed everything into being and set the stars to spin in the void, that there is a Force filled with fire and unquenchable tenderness, that the gaunt Jewish mystic who walked this dust two thousand years ago told no lies and Love is the law, then you should read this book, and then go read the rest of Heather’s essays. They are not only fine pieces of prose carpentry; that’s an easy compliment. The bigger and better compliment is that they are some sort of naked artless prayer, stories of a desperate brave relentless search for ways to crack the ego and walk into the light, to shed masks and disguises and habits and greed, and reach, shaking with fear and awe, for the miraculous Love everywhere available, if only we can find the humility and imagination and cheerful defiant courage to see it and sing it.

Which Heather does, in tart and wonderful ways. See for yourself."

*****

Brian Doyle is the author of many books of essays and fiction, among them Mink River and Leaping and Grace Notes.

And he is a treasure.

Thank you for supporting my work!




Friday, March 27, 2015

VASHON ISLAND



I have been in the Seattle area all week and I have so many as-yet-unposted photos it's not even funny. Tuesday I went to Bainbridge, Wednesday I hung out downtown, among other places at Pike Place Market, and Thursday I took the ferry with my rental car to Vashon Island.

I was kind of scared of the ferry and actually thought it might be open to the somewhat frigid air but these things are like ocean liners! Huge and unbelievably comfortable, with room to stretch out,  a ledge for your coffee, whole big seats yourself, and time to dream as you gaze out the window at the shoreline and gulls. The one to Vashon (less than 15 minutes) had half-finished jigsaw puzzles on some of the tables! So you could pitch in by placing a piece or two, and commuters maybe work on them each day. Plus a large gruff-voiced woman in a baseball cap who looks like a man takes your money, barks "Lane 1," and off you drive straight onto the boat! Couldn't be easier. Also this is interesting, you don't have to pay to go off the island. You only pay to go on.

Anyway, I've been meeting people and visiting and being taken out to eat and peering over ferry schedules and google maps so have not had time to reflect/report back as I'd like.

I will say, however, that I'm staying at the Betty MacDonald Farm on Vashon and it is probably hands down my favorite place perhaps in the world. A woman named Judith Lawrence runs it and if you want to reserve a room, you have to call and talk to her so she can make sure you're not crazy or a whiner. I had a delightful half-hour talk with her on the phone before coming and she sent me an envelope with a hand-written note, brochures, maps and a ferry schedule with the appropriate routes high-lighted. When's the last time you got that kind of service from oh, say, the La Quinta Inn?

Anyway, I'm staying in the "Cedar Loft." It's the third floor of a gambrel-roofed barn in which one of my also all-time favorite writers, Betty MacDonald, used to use to raise chickens in. An entire wall of east-facing windows overlooks Puget Sound. There's a deck with chairs, tables, and a pair of binoculars. There are daffodils, tulips, flowering Asian pear trees, all manner of things I can't identify on the acres of grounds. The air is thick with birdsong. The loft is filled with kilim rugs, daybeds, stacks of books on Native Americans, gardens, birds, antiques, architecture, and of course Betty MacDonald who I don't have time to go into it but you should love, too!




PLUS A FULLY AND I MEAN FULLY STOCKED KITCHEN,
AS IN PILES OF LINEN NAPKINS, VOTIVE CANDLE HOLDERS,
NUTCRACKERS, CORKSCREWS, ENGLISH CERAMIC CREAM PITCHERS, ET CETERA.
AND CREAM, ORGANIC EGGS, GOOD COFFEE, BUTTER AND ENGLIGH MUFFINS IN THE FRIDGE.
WIFI.. HIGH COMFY BED. MASSES OF EXTRA BLANKETS AND COMFORTERS.
A WOOD STOVE AND CORDS OF SPLIT WOOD. CLOISONNE CONTAINERS WITH BOXES OF CLASSY WOOD MATCHES. TWO HUGE ARRANGEMENTS OF FRESHLY-CUT CAMELLIAS.  A PRIVATE-ISH BEACH.
IT GOES ON AND ON...








BABY FERN AND HORSE TAILS
Crazy, right? This morning I am taking the ferry to Southworth to give a mini-retreat for some mothers in Bremerton, one of whom is offering me (I think) her cabin for the night. And I might come back here for Saturday night before heading back to LA Sunday.

Truly, this is my kind of spot. 

Thank you to everyone I've met this week. So much hospitality, so much kindness and generosity. I'm kind of overwhelmed.

MT. RAINIER/SUNSET.
A BALD EAGLE NESTS IN THE FIR TREE, DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM MY LOFT.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

THE FERRY


THE FERRY FROM SEATTLE TO BAINBRIDGE ISLAND


EXULTATION is the going
Of an inland soul to sea,—
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep eternity!


Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?

--Emily Dickinson

CHERRY BLOSSOMS
(I THINK)

Monday, March 23, 2015

I HEART SEATTLE


I SO WANT TO LIVE HERE! A MOSS-COVERED WINDOWLESS CABIN IN A GLEN.
LOOK, EVEN THE CHIMNEY HAS MOSS ON TOP OF IT!
Oh my God, who knew? People, there is a whole beautiful part of our country known as the Pacific Northwest.

In it, everything is covered in moss!




7th  STATION OF THE CROSS


TWO WEEKS AGO I WAS I PALM SPRINGS.
I FEEL LIKE I'VE GONE FROM THE DRYEST PLACE ON EARTH TO THE WETTEST.
Eighty-five women and I had a stellar retreat over the weekend. Seldom have I felt such responsivity--is that a word; responsiveness?--and warmth.

I'm here for a week, during which I'll explore downtown and at least one of the islands (Vashon), and possibly Bainbridge as well.

But today I'm going to rest. Today I'm going to wander among the trees, walk down to the nearby bird sanctuary, and drink in the quiet


MOSS, MOSS, THAT WILL MAKE THEM SLEEP...
MOSS...