You Moist Remember This

I’M HERE FOR THE weather.

Well, yes, I’m also here for the volcanoes and the salmon, and the exciting possibility that at any moment the volcanoes could erupt and pre-poach the salmon. I’m here for the rust and the mildew, for webbed feet and twin peaks, spotted owls and obscene clams (my consort says I suffer from geoduck envy), blackberries and public art (including that big bad mural the authorities had to chase out of Olympia), for the ritual of the potlatch and the espresso cart, for bridges that pratfall into the drink and ferries that keep ramming the dock.

I’m here because the Wobblies used to be here, and sometimes in Pioneer Square you can still find bright-eyed old anarchists singing their moldering ballads of camaraderie and revolt. I’m here because someone once called Seattle “the hideout capital of the U.S.A.,” a distant outpost of a town where generations of the nation’s failed, fed-up and felonious have come to disappear. Long before Seattle was “America’s Athens” (The New York Times), it was America’s Timbuktu.

Getting back to music, I’m here because “Tequila” is the unofficial fight song of the University of Washington, and because “Louie Louie” very nearly was chosen as our official state anthem. There may yet be a chance of that, which is not something you could say about Connecticut.

I’m here for the forests (what’s left of them), for the world’s best bookstores and movie theaters; for the informality, anonymity, general lack of hidebound tradition and the fact that here and nowhere else grunge rubs shoulders in the half-mean streets with a pervasive yet subtle mysticism. The shore of Puget Sound is where electric guitars cut their teeth, and old haiku go to die.

I’m here for the mushrooms that broadcast on transcendental frequencies; for Kevin Calabro, who broadcasts Sonics games on KJR; for Dick’s Deluxe burgers, closing time at the Pike Place Market, Monday Night Football at the Blue Moon Tavern, opera night at the Blue Moon Tavern (which, incidentally, is scheduled so that it coincides with Monday Night Football – a somewhat challenging overlap that the casual patron might fail to fully appreciate); and I’m here for the flying saucers that made their first public appearance near Mount Rainier.

I’m here for Microsoft but not for Weyerhaeuser. I’m here for Longacres Race Track but not for Boeing. I’m here for the relative lack of financial ambitions, the soaring population of bald eagles and the women with their quaint Norwegian brand of lust. Yes. Ya. Sure, ya betcha.

But mostly, finally, ultimately, I’m here for the weather.

In the deepest, darkest heart of winter, when the sky resembles bad banana baby food for months on end, and the witch measles that meteorologists call “drizzle” are a chronic gray rash on the skin of the land, folks all around me sink into a dismal funk. Many are depressed, a few actually suicidal. But I grow happier with each fresh storm, each thickening of the crinkly stratocumulus. “What’s so hot about the sun?” I ask. Sunbeams are a lot like tourists: intruding where they don’t belong, promoting noise and forced activity, faking a shallow cheerfulness, dumb little cameras slung around their necks. Raindrops, on the other hand – introverted, feral, buddhistically cool – behave as if they live here. Which, of course, they do.

My bedroom is separated from the main body of my house, so that I have to go outside and cross some pseudo-Japanese stepping-stones in order to go to sleep at night. Often I get rained on a little bit on my way to bed. It’s a benediction, a good-night kiss.

Romantic? Absolutely. And nothing to be ashamed of. If reality is a matter of perspective, then the romantic view of the world is as valid as any other -and a great deal more rewarding. It makes of life an unpredictable adventure rather than a problematic equation. Rain is the natural element for romanticism. A dripping fir is a thousand times more sexy than a sunburnt palm, and more primal and contemplative, too. A steady, wind-driven rain composes music for the psyche. It not only nurtures and renews, it consecrates and sanctifies. It whispers in secret languages about the primordial essence of things.

Obviously, then, the Pacific Northwest’s customary climate is perfect for a writer. It’s cozy and intimate. Reducing temptation (how can you possibly play on the beach or work in the yard?), it turns a person inward, connecting them with what Jung called “the bottom below the bottom,” those areas of the deep unconscious into which every serious writer must spelunk. Directly above my writing desk there is a skylight. This is the window, rain-drummed and bough-brushed, through which my Muse arrives, bringing with her the rhythms and cadences of cloud and water, not to mention the twenty-three auxiliary verbs.

Oddly enough, not every local author shares my proclivity for precipitation. Unaware of the poetry they’re missing, many malign the mist as malevolently as the non-literary heliotropes do. They wring their damp mitts and fret about rot, cursing the prolonged spillage, claiming they’re too dejected to write, that their feet itch (athlete’s foot), the roof leaks, they can’t stop coughing and they feel as if they’re being slowly digested by an oyster.

Yet the next sunny day, though it may be weeks away, will trot out such a mountainous array of pagodas, vanilla sundaes, hero chins and God fingers; such a sunset palette of Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Vegas strip, and carrot oil; such a sea-vista display of broad waters, firred islands, whale spouts and sailboats thicker than triangles in a geometry book, that any and all memories of dankness will fizz and implode in a blaze of bedazzled amnesia. “Paradise!” you’ll hear them proclaim as they call United Van Lines to cancel their move to Arizona.

They’re kidding themselves, of course. Our sky can go from lapis to tin in the blink of an eye. Blink again and your latte’s diluted. And that’s just fine with me. I thrive here on the certainty that no matter how parched my glands, how anhydrous the creek beds, how withered the weeds in the lawn, it’s only a matter of time before the rains come home.

The rains will steal down from the Sasquatch slopes. They will rise with the geese from the marshes and sloughs. Rain will fall in sweeps, it will fall in drones, it will fall in cascades of cheap Zen jewelry.

And it will rain a fever. And it will rain a sacrifice. And it will rain sorceries and saturnine eyes of the totem.

Rain will primitivize the cities, slowing every wheel, animating every gutter, diffusing commercial neon into smeary blooms of esoteric calligraphy. Rain will dramatize the countryside, sewing pearls into every web, winding silk around every stump, re-drawing the horizon line with a badly frayed brush dipped in tea.

And it will rain an omen. And it will rain a trance. And it will rain a seizure. And it will rain dangers and pale eggs of the beast.

Rain will pour for days unceasing. Flooding will occur. Wells will fill with drowned ants, basements with fossils. Mossy-haired lunatics will roam the dripping peninsulas. Moisture will gleam on the beak of the Raven. Ancient shamans, rained from their rest in dead tree trunks, will clack their clamshell teeth in the submerged doorways of video parlors. Rivers will swell, sloughs will ferment. Vapors will billow from the troll-infested ditches, challenging windshield wipers, disguising telephone booths. Water will stream off eaves and umbrellas. It will take on the colors of the beer signs and headlamps. It will glisten on the claws of nighttime animals.

And it will rain a screaming. And it will rain a rawness. And it will rain a disorder, and hair-raising hisses from the oldest snake in the world. Rain will hiss on the freeways. It will hiss around the prows of fishing boats. It will hiss in electrical substations, on the tips of lit cigarettes and in the trash fires of the dispossessed. Legends will wash from the desecrated burial grounds, graffiti will run down alley walls. Rain will eat the old warpaths, spill the huckleberries, cause toadstools to rise like loaves. It will make poets drunk and winos sober, and polish the horns of the slugs.

And it will rain a miracle. And it will rain a comfort. And it will rain a sense of salvation from the philistinic graspings of the world.

Yes, I’m here for the weather. And when I’m lowered at last into a pit of marvelous mud, a pillow of fern and skunk cabbage beneath my skull, I want my epitaph to read, IT RAINED ON HIS PARADE. AND HE WAS GLAD!


This essay is excerpted from “Edge Walking on the Western Rim: New Works by 12 Northwest Writers,” edited by Mayumi Tsutakawa with photographs by Bob Peterson. Due out this month from Sasquatch Books.

“Edge Walking on the Western Rim” is not a simple literary anthology. It brings together 12 writers from Washington and Oregon for a purpose: to reflect on their choice of the Northwest as a home for living and working. Why here?

In the following essay, local wise guy and novelist Tom Robbins gives us his answer to that question. Robbins was born in North Carolina but made his way to the Northwest during the 1962 World’s Fair and stayed. During different times in the 1960s he wrote for both Seattle metro newspapers, then moved on to novels with “Another Roadside Attraction” in 1971. His new novel is “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas,” by Bantam.


Originally published by The Seattle Times. Sunday, August 28, 1994

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Tandem Biking the Olympic Discovery Trail

We went from Sequim Bay to Port Angeles on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Here’s what we saw…More words to come. Enjoy the slideshow. 

We made it! 60 total miles. Go check out the Olympic Discovery Trail for yourself. The Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance has other routes/rides on the peninsula too! 

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ULTRAViolet Sparks

In the dark
ULTRAViolet 
cotton pad and jelly
add a spark
You’ve got fire!

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Helen Ayres

Helen was an incredible lady who lived a life that represented her Swedish and Greek heritage. What a combination and what an outcome in this lady we so loved.
            Her Swedish side showed itself in her strong independence and pride in her ability to care for herself, her house and her personal matters. That was so evident in these past few months in all that she did to have her affairs in order, never wanting to create a burden to anyone.
            Helen was extremely organized and precise in details. Her work at Standard Oil was met with praise and accolades. Her perfect handwriting was as precise as the other facets of her life.
            Helen’s appearance was impeccable. She was a blond, Swedish beauty but shied away from attention and compliments.
            Now, looking at the Greek side: Helen could have fun, laugh, and joke. That twinkle in her eye gave her away many times. She had a feistiness and a great sense of humor that kept us entertained and laughing. 
            Helen loved to dance! She talked about how she and Sam became dance partners and partners in life. She said Sam had two left feet, but his smile is what made her twirl on the dance floor. They made a happy couple, both fun loving, and joyous.
            One story we asked her to tell us numerous times happened after Doug had passed away and Helen found herself alone.  She decided to test herself.  She packed her little dog in the car, bought a big box of donuts and headed south on the highway to California. Stopping at rest stops, she made friends with the truckers who had passed her on the road. This blond bombshell had created quite a stir among those gentlemen.  Apparently, the truckers used their CBs to alert others along the route. Soon she was passing out donuts, along with laughter and smiles, enjoying the camaraderie.
 
            We’ll miss this lady who was quite the combo! We’ll miss sitting on her couch sharing family stories, photos, and peppermint patties. We’ll miss going out to lunch together and having her navigate us around those crazy mixed-up streets in her neighborhood. We’ll miss her Christmas cards with that beautiful handwriting. We are grateful for the times we had with her, we feel blessed to call her family as well as a friend.  I’m certain we all can agree, what a gal!

I Am – Violet E.

I AM
I am adventurous and friendly.
I wonder how the people back 3,000 years ago felt when they were in the solar eclipse
I hear the sound of my dog sprinting across the fresh grass
I see the tree outside our classroom window waving in the breeze
I want to be running throughout the forest with my friends on a bright, sunny day
I am adventurous and friendly.
I pre tend that everything I do and wish for will be real
I feel sad when one of my family members pass away
I touch the sand and rocks while I’m playing on the beach
I worry when something happens in my family that freaks everyone out and I don’t know about
I cry when someone I know gets hurt or killed by something terrible
I am adventurous and friendly.
I understand how the sun come to be
I say thank you when I appreciate something that is given to me
I dream about traveling all over the land and sea
I try to be the best of me I could ever be
I hope that someday if I work hard enough I can achieve anything
I am adventurous friendly Violet.

My writing gig – part three

As 2017 comes to a close, here’s the list of stories I enjoyed writing for playing in Whatcom County. 

My writing gig – part two

My writing gig – take one

German student looking for a Host in Bellingham

Dear Bellinghamsters (or other Washingtonians that live in a place as cool as the Ham),

Let’s give a kid from Germany a warm welcome to America, through the lens of our Bellingham bubble!

Caspar M. lives in Odenthal, Germany and would like to be a high school student in America this fall. His dad thinks that Bellingham would be a great place for him to have an international exchange experience.

Caspar’s dad, Stephan, is a friend of mine from high school. Stephan participated in a student exchange with my close friend, James Hanusa, in high school and visited me and Violet with his family four years ago.

The family is coordinating this through the International Student Exchange program. Here’s a page with FAQ’s for host families:https://www.efexchangeyear.org/host-a-student#how

If I had the space in our house, I’d do it!

We hope you can find the space in your home and hearts to welcome Caspar into your ‘Hamster home this coming fall.

Please email me at Todd@Elsworth.com if you are interested, have questions or you’d like to connect with the family to get this going!

Thank you,

Todd.

ps- Here’s the bio that Caspar wrote:

Caspar M. Odenthal, Germany

I want to spend one semester at an American High-School, to experience the lifestyle and the culture. I would like to see if it really is like in those movies to go on an American High School and I would love to try out leisure and sports activities that you cannot easily do in Germany. Another reason to spend one semester in America is to make new friendships and experiences that I would not be making in my every day surrounding living in small village near Cologne. I am also really looking forward to spend time with my host family. My father did an exchange during his High School too and he is still in contact with his friends and host family from that time. I would love to make the same type of friendship during my time there. This is also an opportunity to enhance my English vocabulary to potentially study in an English speaking country later. I am learning English since I am 4 years old and made vacation in America twice. In that time my English made good progress and I hope for a similar progress during my High School semester. I also want to get more independent from my parents during the time without them.

Description of myself and my Hobbies
I am a silent person but still very thoughtfully and inquisitive, I am open for many things and very enthusiastic. My Hobbies are motorsports (especially kartracing), athletics, skiing and reading books. Next to these interests I am open to try typical American activities in my time there.

Bellebrity for 15

Marla Bronstein dubbed the name, Bellebrity- aka, local Bellingham celebrity. We’re a relatively small town, when you get at the heart of it and I’ve had my hand (and mouth) in enough projects that it caught the eye of a student from WWU, Yvonne Worden. It also helped that we were named the Grand Marshal and (first ever) Marshalette of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

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You Heard it Here First, Folks!

Here’s some early Violet TV. We had gone up to “Mountain Baker” for some backcountry sledding (full story). When we got back, the hot chocolate was, well, NOT. To the ski area we went! Violet was warming up to the camera and getting her lines down.

“You heard it here first, folks!”

Chummin’ up Chuckanut Creek

Laid to rest
atop a rock
muttering
last words
cycle continues

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