May 26, 2008


Blue-orange flames lick glowing coals; cedar resin fires up - intense bursts that fill the nose with forest scent; exposed skin searing while backsides stay cool; crackling, shifting, feeding, burning. Smoke follows beauty, anyone dare to jump over?, oracles in the fflames, can I have another marshmallow? Stories and remembrances flow from the kiln of cleansing fire. My eyes glaze, my thoughts travel the past and future at equal speed. My body is here ... on this log. My spirit has flown with the heated ether.

May 19, 2008


Angels, Thieves and Winemakers written by Joseph Mills, has come to my attention. Mills is a literary critic who has written a book of poetry about wine. A few poems for your enjoyment...

Wine's Beautiful Illusions

Opening a bottle of wine is an act
of optimism. We're confident it will
improve the moment, the conversation,
the relationships. Each time we pull a cork,
it's as if we're saying,
Here, I think this
will help make things a little better

Some Hypotheses on Why a Second Glass May Taste Better:

Perhaps the eyes see the refill
and signal to the body
At ease:
you're here for a while so
you might as well
loosen the tie
and settle in,
or perhaps the wine itself relaxes
slips out of its cork corset,
begins to breathe
and make itself more sociable,
but it's probably because
you are wiser
than a glass ago.
There is no mystery now
about what the bottle holds.
You no longer have
or illusions
but you still have

Twenty Years Later I Make a Realization About Her Shampoo:

What do you smell,
the winemaker asks,
and I hesitate to answer
because it's an old girlfriend
and weekends in her studio apartment,
milk carton bookshelves
and cracked walls and ceilings
whose stains we pretended formed maps
of countries like Mythica and Fornucopia.
He waits politely
but you can't say
you smell a lover,
broken plaster,
old jokes,
a life you used to have.

Finally, he suggests,
and I realize, yes,
that's it,
the nape of her neck,
her ears, her hair.

May 17, 2008


I'm delighted to have stumbled upon a new, very local winery -- Westport Winery. On the way to the beach to watch the surfing competition, my hubby noticed a new sign on the beach highway. When he called to tell me about it, I was incredulous that there would be a vineyard this close to the coast. Growing conditions are not ideal in our cool part of the coastal northwest. It turns out that the vintner has been making these first wine releases from grapes grown in eastern Washington, where we have a reputation for excellent wines. However, he has planted his own vineyard and is being courageous -- hoping that, in the future, he can make wines from estate grapes.

The reason I say "very local" is because the labels for the wine offered are each different and unique to the history of Grays Harbor county. In addition, the winery wins points with me for giving portions of each sale to various local service and charity groups. These include animal rescue organizations, the Surfrider Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, the county master gardeners' association, theater groups, libraries and even the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee (he was born near here). Because of my veterinary background, I am partial to the Jetty Cat Red! There are many jetty cats in Westport and I've been involved in the past with spaying and neutering them to control populations. But, that's another story.

I suppose one could talk about wine labels getting gimmicky. But, the quality of the wine inside is what counts in the end. If the wine is good, why not have a little fun with the marketing? And if some of the money goes for a good cause, so much the better!The gift bottle I received today was the Surfer's Last Syrah. I haven't opened it yet, but, when I do, I'll post my tasting notes! I do love my vino!

May 7, 2008


Nicholas decided to "help", as I planted seeds in flats and generally just puttered in the greenhouse today. The day was sunny, but the wind was quite cool, so the comfy warmth was just what I wanted.

The fig tree I have planted permanently in the back of the greenhouse has just leafed out -- I hope for fruit again this year. Last year was such a cool summer that nothing happened. I looove figs! Today's plantings were: another batch of butterhead and oak leaf lettuces, parsley root, celery root and more basil. No such thing as too much basil! The scent of pesto is green electricity to the nose, in my opinion. Heady with garlic, zippy basil, pine nuts, fresh Parmigiano ... knowing it will soon bathe hot pasta ... ungghhh. Seriously happy eating!

Already in the ground are leeks, sweet onions, potatoes, red and green cabbages, spinach and pac choi. I'm fairly sure the last frost has occurred (???), so it's time for the big push to get the rest of the garden in. Then it's the battle to keep the chickens from foraging among the tender seedlings! The rhubarb is going mad...I have more than anyone could possibly use. Tonight's dessert is rhubarb raspberry crumble.

I'm grateful to have such a big vegetable and herb garden -especially in the current economy. It'll be even more valuable this year, to be able to walk outside and harvest dinner! Wish I could have each one of you come share in it!

May 1, 2008


A friend wanted me to do this blog, so here it is. A few years after moving to the country from Seattle, I wrote this essay and it was published by the Seattle Times newspaper. About a third of it was edited out, as they have a strict 1000 word guideline. I tried to scan it, but obviously, that didn't work. So, I've typed it all out here...

City's energetic beat no match for nature's peaceful rhythms

The day's heat is suspended in the damp, humusy air of the woods. I walk on moss and step over rotting logs along a narrow trail under Douglas fir and alder. I'm going to the swimming hole, a few minutes behind my house, for a cooling soak.

My address for the last three years has been a town few people have heard of and even fewer have visited. I don't even live in it, but 14 miles away, on a river named for an obscure Indian tribe.

Shoes on, I step into the rocky-bottomed river and wade upriver 50 yards, my rough-coated terrier gliding beside me like an otter. Where the depth rises from my knees to my waist, I pull myself up onto the logjam and hoist up the dog. The unprecedented floods of the previous year deposited this natural dam and created a swimming hole behind it that beckons in the heat like a promised embrace.

I slip out of my clothes, heart beating faster at the thought of the icy plunge to come. With a ragged intake of breath, I jump high, knees hugged in tight. I hear a split-second of splash, then the gurgle of water as I sink until my rear hits the mud. Uncoiling, I surface with great, startled gulps of air filling my contracted chest. I may not reach beatitude here, but I can approach it, if only for a moment.

-Out of city, into Eden

I spent my first year in the country pining for the city. Against the advice of nearly everyone I knew, I persuaded my husband to move away from traffic, pollution, noise and crowds to the Eden I thought I'd find. But the perfect vision I'd had eluded me, at first.

Every two weeks, I drove the two hours to Seattle, feeling relief as the downtown buildings came into view, solid and familiar symbols of my early adulthood. Rushing from restaurant to bookstore to appointments, I'd absorb the city's energy like a solar panel. I had left my soul in Seattle. My body lived a hundred miles away. It took a long time for the restlessness of city life to seep out of me.

When I came to live here, I was unused to such enveloping quiet. Where I could hear a crow's wing beats as it flew overhead and the rain approaching before I saw or felt it. In the space of a week, I had a list of 11 bird species I'd seen on our acre. I was ashamed that I felt guarded in such an open place.

Before the move, I'd laughed at stories of city people who fled the country after hastily making the decision to relocate. It wasn't funny anymore. It wasn't only the sudden thrust into a place ruled by nature that put me off balance. The people were very different.

Environmentalism is profanity here. They laugh when I ask about recycling. People leave injured animals, wild or domestic, in the road to die slow deaths. This is the land of clear-cuts and slash burns, where every other man you meet either works for Weyerhaeuser or Simpson timber companies or has been laid off.

But trust and support are the norm in this place. In October of my first year, it became bitingly evident that I needed a cord of firewood -- soon! I called on a local ad, but the man could only come while I was at work. "Just leave the $100 on the door," he said. As I stood shivering in my dining room, I reluctantly agreed, expecting to find an empty envelope and no wood when I got home. But on my return, the wood was exactly where I'd asked it to be placed, with the opened envelope sticking out of the pile. That same winter, when we were without power, and therefore water, for 10 days, "neighbors" in the next valley offered a hot meal, the use of their shower and their freezer in which to store the Christmas ham.

-Listening more

I'm learning as I go along about the conflicts of ideas and values. Listening more, preaching less. The edges of my spirit are not as raveled. The mornings I spend with coffee and notebook at the battered picnic table are a ritual I wouldn't give up.

Gradually, I'm feeling this is home. It is no longer surprising to me to see deer on my way to work, eagles flying overhead, a herd of elk ascending a hill or a great blue heron flying over corn fields. I am still in awe of them all. This land is patiently weaving me into its fabric. I am becoming part of the design.



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Aspenglow / Buttered Lips by Gayle Nabrotzky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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