The letting go, again

Like the dog, I’ve started taking morning naps. One of the things I’ll miss most about contracting is these times, taking walks with the dog during sun breaks or running errands on weekdays, staying on top of the laundry. I haven’t set my alarm in three years now (except for early morning flights), but the work has a way of waking you up, despite. Driving Lily to school…walking up the road with Charlotte…our goodbye routines when she gets on the bus. It’s time now to go back to an 8-5 work place, and I’m excited and sad at the same time.

I started contracting a year and a half ago, never thought I could really work from home. But I got a desk from IKEA and set it up in our bedroom, in the corner by the windows, and found I could do really good work through a mix of going into the office and working remote.

When I started working at Microsoft it was terrifying. I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying; I tilted my head like our dog, pretending I did. “Pretend” goes a long way. I discovered that by being older somehow I was valued more, and that’s a narrow window of time to enjoy. I used my age, though at times I felt slower (most times).

When I interviewed for the new job the people interviewing me both said they’d read my blog, and I was glad and frightened by what they saw here. But like my hair stylist Donnie says, they’ve seen you naked, and now they see you for who you really are. And to be accepted or valued like that means a lot.

I used to view my work and creativity as two separate things, but I’ve worked hard over the past year to bring them together. Corporations need creativity — if you view creativity as connecting — and I still do my best work long-hand before prettying it up on PowerPoint.

I work odd hours and deliver whatever I need to, to keep my clients happy. But I take morning naps and afternoon walks and sometimes, Friday afternoons off. I’ll work Sunday mornings, or a few hours during the week before 9 AM. In a way it’s a more natural work rhythm, working when you feel inspired to work, or when you have to, based on the needs. I’ve enjoyed watching the seasons change vs. being confined to an office, and it’s possible I’ve done better work as a result.

What excited me most about the new job was the idea of working with young people out of college starting their careers in consulting. The firm needs help coaching and managing these people, and it will be hard, but rewarding. And I will be tired driving home in rush hour traffic, through Redmond.

I fit the eye pillow over my head and set my cell phone for a 30-minute nap, and fell back to the sound of our dog smacking her lips, to the laundry machine downstairs, the leaky shower head in the bathroom dripping into a bucket…the drip-drip sound that’s just like the days, it’s either a leaking or a falling away — or an accruing — depending on your point of view.




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Blurred passage to poem

How the poem appeared an object in the mist I paddled toward and circled round

And though it was odd and lustrous, with living things nesting and squirming inside, it was too tall and slick for me to climb. Better instead to paddle away, to keep it for myself, to leave it untouched, although it had touched me:

and in the distance there were more of them, but they were more fantastic from afar, they stood there anchored by something I could not see,

they were unchanging, not like me.

Photo by Loren Chasse, poem inspired by this one at The Disappointed Housewife.

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Sonata for flute and harpsichord

Happy plumes of smoke from the chimney, the log house behind ours. Now that it’s for sale, they leave the lights on all night and day, and it glows through the trees and bushes, happy plumes of smoke like a tugboat, an old man’s pipe. I drove to work and saw myself sitting in my new car at the light, not thinking about anything. They moved to a new building on the Microsoft campus, the old one getting torn down, time for a change. And though I’m not an employee, I felt like I belonged there that first Monday, with everyone moving into their new offices and me still with my laptop, a strange fraternity. I drove home, stopping at the store for milk, eggs, rice, wine. And then Dawn joined me in the den and we talked about our days, I warmed dinner, the kids joined in, and then it was time for bed — and in the morning Dawn got up before I did and started the coffee, Lily’s alarm kept going off and I had to go in to stop it — and the happy plumes of smoke from the log house carried on in the morning dark, I thought about the people who once lived there we’d never know, what they were like, we never met, we never really noticed that house it was set so far back.

Image by Albert Neuhuys (Middagmaal in een boerengezin)

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Stormy skies one Sunday

After all the noise from the weekend, it was good to come down to our den and just sit in the morning quiet. Outside the skies looked stormy, and I thought about the porn star and the president, the interview with Anderson Cooper, what it felt like in high school when two kids got into a fight and a large crowd gathered around, how they transcended for a brief time and raised themselves to star status, stars about to fall.

I kissed the cat’s ear and she shook it off, and when she does that the charm on her collar makes a sound like sleigh bells, like a tambourine.

The weekend noise came from the kids, kids of all ages at a school in eastern Washington where Charlotte competed in a tournament called Destination Imagination. It was a long day with a lot of time spent waiting. On the grassy hill by the school, kids tossed Nerf footballs and frisbees, and nearly hit us several times: kids not prone to athleticism or the arts, but rather team problem-solving and improv, future executives in the making.

When it was all done, Charlotte’s team placed third but did not advance to globals, and we had a group talk about the value of learning over winning, that was mainly lost on them.

It was after 6 with two hours of daylight when we left, and I gunned it all the way from Blewett to Snoqualmie Pass, to the ski slopes by dusk, lit up in orange light, fresh mountain snow.

By the time we got to Fall City, an Italian restaurant and 8:15 dinner reservations, the family mood had dissolved to close-quarter shouting, to Dawn and Charlotte announcing they’re getting out of the car and choosing a crowded entryway to wait vs. another moment with me or Lily in the car.

And the 8:15 turned into 8:40 before they seated us, but we all got complimentary drinks and the lighting and music were just right — and though we knew the dog would probably pee on the carpet if left too long, by the time we got home, we didn’t care — and in the morning I came down and sat in the den in the quiet thinking wow, we really lived those last 24 hours. And maybe later, I’ll get a nap.

Photo by Loren Chasse: fire from NE Portland scrapyard, claims the lives of 16 cats.

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Leading the witness


Pulling into Wenatchee on a Friday night just before dark. The Olive Garden family restaurant, a long time since I’d been to one and longer still before I’ll go back. Charlotte, slap happy / punch drunk on two Cokes, then back at the hotel with the roll-away cot quibbling, arguing, fighting, going to bed mad, waking up to hotel lobby coffee and non-dairy creamer, the distant hills of Wenatchee covered in clouds, snow squalls, still winter on the eastern side of the state. Passing through the Swauk prairie I said look, girls–buffalo! And right after, a sign posted Buffalo Meat For Sale, the cycle of life Dawn says, a reminder, we’re all buffalo meat. Telling my client I’ve got a new job, her saying she still wants us to work together in the future…felt so good I almost offered her a hug, but thought better of it. Driving home happy, going to Wenatchee for a night.

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Moss-petting in Portland (March, ’18)

Signs for deaf children, hand-painted Volvo’s, driving into Portland on a Friday night.

By morning the rain had brought down the cherry blossom blooms like confetti, and the children across the street were young enough they could walk on walls still.

They were closer to spring by a few days, further along than Seattle.

And the pitter patter from another room, Saturday morning cartoons, a little boy wrapped in the blanket of fancy and imagination, the art of distraction learned young.

In the mirror in my friend’s bathroom my face was flattened, puffy and pale, not as I remembered it, like my dad’s or my uncle’s, not mine. Someone had taken an eraser to my head and smudged it sideways a few degrees, a late night of male bonding.

Ginger tea, with turmeric:

Everyone on bikes, basically Holland.

Even the crows look cleaner…

And the hillsides and bridges take me back to Pittsburgh, another time:

Signs for Gresham, Mt Hood, Ross Island bridge

People driving with their windows down, smoking

The weight of life at different orbits, from children’s pizza parties at Chuck E. Cheese, balloons…hurrying through, spit out the other side, older.

Trees growing along the cliffsides, the look of kudzu, moss sweaters, knobby fists in the trunks, some of them dead but still standing, home to transients and nests.

A sign that just says CONGESTION, another WATCH FOR ICE.

Bad lawn art.

When we believed in leprechauns and made traps from shoe boxes, and the magnolia out front starts to bud, it falls like furry sentiment, a rabbit foot’s charm…and I pocket one for Charlotte, who still believes in good luck, the unbelievable, it falls at our feet.

Loren (48) now has a skateboard he uses to ride to the coffee shop on days he doesn’t feel like walking. His neighbor gave it to him after he fractured his hip, and broke his elbow trying to hop over a curb. Because the elbow break is on the same side as the hip he can’t use crutches, is in a wheelchair instead. We went to see John, who’s recently off opioids and has neck tats, lives next door. I recognized him from the Christmas card on Loren’s fridge, a picture of John and his wife holding their tabby cat Max, who’s quite fat. John does copies of abstract impressionist paintings and they’re hung around the house. He had a bag of Grateful Dead CDs someone gave him from the Goodwill, and a blanket with dancing bears in the same style. He and his wife said we could take the blanket too, along with the CDs, if Loren and I wanted to cuddle up later. They’re called Dick’s Picks bootlegs, and when Loren picked out which ones to borrow, I said there’s another “Dick’s pick.”

And when I got home later I sat outside listening to a woodpecker drumming a dead tree.

Signs advertising Kratom for sale…leaving Portland on a Sunday.

Raymond Street, Portland

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When the saints go marching in

Softly the deer who live behind our house burrow down in a patch of green at night, and in the morning appear outside the abandoned house next door like figurines. The house has been abandoned for three years since it went to auction and the new owners now want to tear it down and put three new ones in its place. But it’s tied up with the city and architect, all the greed and bureaucracy that comes with large projects.

In the morning I walk to the lake to shake off what patterns I can’t undo from home, the four or five topics my mind returns to—outside the world is so much bigger on foot, without the distraction of a phone—and I come back revived, reminded of the natural world and the feel of the wind, the scent of fallen branches, what’s in bloom.

Charlotte’s a Purple Belt now with her musical recorder, having passed the latest test, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” She was at the kitchen island when I got home from work, said she wanted to play it for me—I said I need to get settled first, and when I did she demonstrated each of the notes, the fingering, the F-sharp, the A, the G: and how I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.

Photo by Loren Chasse, Portland: song reference by Louis Armstrong, New Orleans.


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