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  • 06 Jan 2016 4:19 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    Crustaceans in a Bucket

    It’s Sunday, and I’m in my office, which is really just a little nook in my living room that doesn’t do justice to the word office. But it’s enough space for me.

    My famous-writer-friend calls my office “cute.” And when she phones to ask if I’ll look in on her cat while she’s teaching at a writer’s conference in Prague, something I ordinarily would have felt perfectly justified hanging up on her for, I am happy to do it. My husband is on a business trip and I’m a cat person.

    “Sure,” I say, trying hard to keep the jealousy out of my voice. “I could use the company.”

    I slip into a silent funk. In a word, I am green.

    But I like her. I’ve always liked her. When I think about her, I’m glad we’re friends, and as the years go by, I am more and more certain we will remain so. On the subject of friendship, it’s a pretty simple question I ask myself lately: Does the thought of her bring a genuine smile to my face or a wince?

    A smile!

    Unless I think of her in Prague.

    Or her trust fund status.

    Then, dang, it can feel as though the envy is never going to turn around.

    But it does. Eventually. It seems I have this large capacity for spending half of my emotional energy in a state of self-doubt, and the other half in a burst of confidence, with a dancer’s flexibility for balancing between the two. Until I wonder what on earth I was so jealous of until I want to kick myself.

    Have you ever seen sand crabs in a bucket? I’ll never forget the time I was walking the beach by the ferry terminal in Kingston and I came across a fisherman who stuck his hand into a white 5-gallon bucket full of crabs he said he used for bait. “Why don’t they escape?” I asked.

    “They’re crabs,” he said. “They ain’t too smart.”

    I watched as they scratched and scratched against the plastic, clawing over each other to get to the top, then as soon as one almost made it over the lip, the others pulled it back down.

    If they were smarter, I thought, they’d work together to make a kind of crustacean chain, like actors leaving stage hand-in-hand. Claw-to-claw, they’d file up and out over the rim until the last remaining crab is safely on the other side.

    I know why those crabs popped into mind just now. I’ve been caught in the scum of that bucket. I don’t want to spend one more minute feeling jealous of my friend. I’m glad there is no mirror in my nook. I would have hated to see myself scratching like that.

    And sure, I’ve written before about how jealousy can work as a beacon, too, steering us toward something we desire. But, like gossip, a little of it is fine, but too much and you’re one schlep away from embitterment.

    After a good long talking with myself, I gain control over my envies. The writer Daniel Gilbert calls this “babysitting our own happiness.” I just had to remind myself of the golden rule of a satisfied life, or “Comparing Leads to Unhappiness,” words that, ever since they flashed across my screen in the film, “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” I try to apply whenever I feel the sides of the bucket closing in.

    Like my friend’s cat, I just like it better when the woman who babysits me is happy.

    Plus, my friend always takes the time to write a real thank you note. With a stamp and an envelope! And you know how much I love that.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli’s newest book is A Woman Writing: A Memoir in Essays, What writing about writing taught me about determination, persistence, and the ups and downs of choosing a writing life. For more information and her author reading schedule, visit www.marylousanelli.com.

  • 29 Sep 2015 11:49 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    The Alaskan Way Viaduct sings a roaring in our ears,

    her hoary freight bears down—rebarred and quaking 

    to crush—we stop our ears at stria screeching to break 

    something.


    Sing a glacial aria. Picture her—she once rode 

    a surfboard ice floe ripping through solid water slipping 

    the firn, making breccia wakes, scraping 

    all matter of chattermarks.


    Harmonize a glacier-blue blush—she was whole mother of forward 

    surge for half an eon, could not be stopped, 

    shadowed the glacier that swept this same Sound. 

    Now we cannot hoist her out of her chair.


    Aphasia—she forgets the second verse.

    Words freeze midbrain, coda becomes hum. She falls 

    in a crevasse, off-ramps sequestering carbon—so much 

    concrete we recant, we can’t watch icebergs calving fast ice.


    She slows—cowers shifts direction like a white wind rose, 

    her petals shrivel in frazil. 

    She lies—this is not the full story. 

    Her tongue muddles in slush. Albedo lost, all reflection dulls.


    Once their song clamored.

    Now 99, glacier dwindle in cirques, caught in arête, 

    retreat since the last ice age, since the last 

    carbon storm.


    Janet Norman Knox

    Janet Norman Knox is a poet/playwright/performance artist who 

    bikes via the viaduct twice a day and shudders beneath its mass. 

    Her play, “9 Gs and the Red Telephone,” is forthcoming in 

    Feminist Studies, the first scholarly journal in women’s studies.

    Visit the online journal at www.feministstudies.org.

  • 30 Jun 2015 9:49 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Used to be what you’d see


    from back roads was random  


    bits of whatall going on




    pig lot wood lot cattle grazing


    whitewashed fences hay barns


    corn cathedrals looping on and on




    but now an open swath of road


    ravels away in the moonlight


    slow curves mown through the land 




    with ditches to gather the runoff


    country in its baffled emptiness 


    lain open to invaders




    with tumbleweed piling high


    against barbed wire till one 


    windblown survivor spills over




    Paul Hunter


    Paul Hunter is a Seattle poet and letterpress publisher who carves hardwood blocks to go with his lead type.  He won the Washington State Book Award for “Breaking Ground,” his first book of farming poems.

  • 30 Jun 2015 9:46 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Ode to the Seattle Viaduct


    She's lying

    on her side draped in Greek linen the color of concrete. 

    She flanks the waterfront, tides lapping her toes.

     

    She lounges her cold

    stone stare - not grin, not grimace - 

    the curve of cheekbone propped on elbow,


    no hint of heat welling

    from a pelvic floor - in fact, we're pretty sure 

    those pretty thighs are carved as one solid slab.


    We're not clear what she desires, 

    but we've got a hunch

    she'll get anything she orders.

     

    She lunches on mussels dredged 

    from pilings, steamed or bristling, 

    canned in cars careening


    up and down her spine craving 

    internal combustion engines

    to vibrate her cement skin 


    exhaust dusting the spots 

    where she shines - because horses once sweated, 

    men once perspired to build this highway,


    so she might glow with such gravitas 

    so elevated her position that she tests 

    the very fate she seals 


    as we dispense with all caution

    and come hither. 


    Janet Norman Knox

    Janet Norman Knox is a poet/playwright/performance artist who 

    bikes via the viaduct twice a day and shudders beneath its mass. 

    Her play, "9 Gs and the Red Telephone," is forthcoming in 

    Feminist Studies, the first scholarly journal in women's studies.

    Visit the online journal at www.feministstudies.org.

  • 08 Apr 2015 3:37 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    Grace Weston’s gorgeous, ironic, and often darkly funny photographs give the viewer both sensual and intellectual delights. Using miniature props, she creates vignettes of metaphorical psychological narratives, which she then photographs with vivid color and evocative lighting. The result is as alluring and hypnotic as a lucid dream, and as revealing of our subconscious fears and desires.  

    Weston is an award-winning artist whose work had been exhibited and collected widely in private and public collections in the United States, Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan. Her editorial clients include O, the Oprah Magazine; More Magazine; Discover Magazine; and several regional magazines.

    Your artwork has so much story and depth. What are you exploring? 

    Grace Weston: I started to realize a number of years ago that my pieces are psychological. Like most people, or maybe I do it more than most people, I’ve got voices in my head. So much ties back to my being a kid—I was pretty isolated as a kid, and we lived in the woods. I’d run around the woods and have these out-loud conversations. It wasn’t imaginary friends, but just scenarios in my head of something 

    I would say to somebody. I had an active imagination. 

    In our society, there are so many contradictions, things that don’t make sense, or assumptions we make about one another or ourselves that are only assumptions. I love questioning that kind of thing or getting that out in a picture. An older, really straightforward example is the “Nitey Nite” picture where that little girl is in bed and she’s got three devils floating around her head. We’ve all had nights like that, haven’t we? I have. Where we’ve woken up, not being able to sleep because of anxiety, things I’m concerned about or worried about.

    What are some themes you are interested in?

    Grace Weston: I think making art is a lot about learning about yourself, and not in a selfish way, but in a conscious way. It’s a way to reveal things to yourself through the work. I think that helps the viewer discover things about themselves, too.

    I know what the message is to me in my pictures, but I don’t like to spell it out all the way because the viewer can bring different things to it. Lots of times there are multilayers of meanings. 

    It’s almost as if we live on these two planes. We’re out in the world, interacting with people, doing our banking, doing our grocery shopping, keeping our lives together, having everything going, but I feel that we’re all walking around with our inner lives, too. It would be so interesting if we could really hear what everybody was thinking about in their soul. Not just their grocery list, but their questions about life, meaning, and connection, all of that. That’s what really interests me. And the fact that it is covered over with all the mundane things we do is fascinating to me, too.

    Some of my pictures have an almost nostalgic, vintage look—the housewife, the 1950s father. It’s iconic. It represents a certain way things are supposed to look. I like when it’s the way things are supposed to look—but not. I like the idea that there’s this whole underground of feelings and thoughts and questions.

    How do you get your ideas?

    Grace Weston: Sometimes I find a prop that inspires me. Or sometimes I find a prop that I feel one day I’ll use, and I put it in a drawer of my props. It can be years later that it shows up. Sometimes I have an idea first and I keep a little sketchbook where I’ll jot it down. Sometimes I’ll get a title first, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I’ll write it down because it sings to me somehow. Sometimes I’ll sketch a little idea, and then I’ll have to find the props or make the set and prop that will support the idea. Things change when I’m putting it together. Sometimes it’s spot on to how I imagined it, but usually it evolves.

    When I first started the vignette work, my first shot was human scale. It was a bird cage on a stand and a curtain. That set me in the direction of the narrative vignette, but that was the last time I did human scale. I have more control over smaller props—there’s less storage involved, I don’t have to have an assistant, and sometimes I can move things and reach them as I look through the camera.

    What sustains you as an artist?

    Grace Weston: Having a supportive partner has made all the difference in the world to me. I feel that I have an art career because I have somebody who believes in my work. As an artist, you have to risk and do things and approach things in your art, where, when you’re right in the middle of it, you think, my God, this is awful, or stupid, or doesn’t everybody already know this? Or it’s obvious or redundant. But I don’t think you’re working your edge at all if you don’t have doubts. It’s great to have someone who says, “You know what you’re doing, keep going.” That makes a world of difference.

    Christine Waresak

    Christine Waresak is Seattle freelance writer and the founder of the website Constellation617.

    This interview is excerpted and edited from an interview that appeared on the website Constellation617: Interviews with Creative People. To read the entire interview and other artist interviews, visit www.constellation617.com.

    Portland-based artist Grace Weston’s artwork is in a group show at The Shed Studio and Guest Shed Gallery located at 739 South Homer Street in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The Shed Studio and Shed Guest Gallery holds its Grand Opening on Saturday, May 9, from 6-9 P.M., during the Georgetown Art Attack. 

    For more information about The Shed Studio and teh Shed Guest Gallery, visit https://www.facebook.com/shedstudioandguestshedgallery.

    To view more of Weston’s work, visit her website at www.GraceWeston.com or Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara, California’s website at www.wall-spacegallery.com.


  • 02 Apr 2015 6:10 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Clara-fied

    For as long as I can remember having known her, I’ve been wanting to write about Clara. I’ve been putting it off for nearly a decade because, for one thing, my fondest memory of her has to do with watering my vegetable garden. And I haven’t watered a vegetable garden in far too long.

    But also, I just didn’t want to write a story about Clara that she could actually read. Clara was a very private person.

    To boil it down, my husband and I used to rent a cabin from Clara on her farmland, better known in Sequim as The Old Rhodefer Farm. One month we came up short of cash and Clara suggested we paint the cabin in lieu of rent.

    About a week later, with the scaffolding strewn all over the yard, Larry and I stood staring at our freshly-painted home, Clara joining us for once. But I noticed she kept looking down at my garden instead of at the cabin. Placing her hands on her hips, she looked directly at my pole beans and said, “Well, from here they don’t look that bad.”

    How many people would say such a thing?

    Sure, she’d pretty much ignored us until then. Sure, she’d lived in the main house for eighty years and felt she should have a say in what goes on next door, even what kind of beans I should plant. But it was nothing compared to the approval I felt when she finally walked over to stand with us. I felt our out-of-town-ness was finally being accepted. That we were finally being accepted.

    I stepped closer to her.

    She looked at me crossly. “Mary Lou, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

    “Really? What’s that?” I braced myself. Larry put his hand on my shoulder.

    “You should water your garden in the morning.”

    I smiled. But not grudgingly.

    “While the ground is still cool so the roots can handle the cold water.”

    Was it true?

    Somehow it didn’t matter. What mattered was that she wanted to share her lifelong knowledge, and it endeared her to me.

    I said, “But I always thought it was better to water in the evening after the sun goes down, so ..."I had to think for a minute, "so the water doesn’t evaporate in the heat of the day.”

    “No, the cold water distresses the roots when they’re still warm from the sun.”

    Farming know-how has been in Clara’s family since Seattle was a logging camp, and everyone has a desire to share what they know with someone who’ll listen. So that’s what I did.

    Larry hmmed. I could tell he wasn’t convinced.

    But I was happy to take her advice. And use it. “Thank you,” I said.

    As instructed, the next morning I watered first thing.

    “You’ve been Clara-fied,” Larry said.

    Sometimes I’d lift the hose over my head to reach Clara’s vegetables. When the spray hit, it made a splattering sound and I’d adjust the nozzle until there was a softer mist. I’d look up and see Clara reading the Gazette at her kitchen table.

    I remember telling Larry that I didn’t want the watering to feel like a chore I had to hurry through, “like cleaning the bathroom,” I said.

    “So don’t hurry,” he said, in the way men do when they sense a reflective conversation coming on ten minutes before, say, kickoff.

    But I didn’t read anything into his clipped answer. I knew it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that the scaffolding was still scattered about and Clara was about to crackdown.

    Neighbors can teach you a lot.

    Watering is a great way to start the day. The best.


    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Sanelli’s newest title, A Woman Writing (What Writing About Writing Taught Me About Determination, Persistence, and the Ups and Downs of Choosing A Writing Life) is forthcoming in September. For information, visit www.marylousanelli.com

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