Poetry in a Fishbowl- Recap

2014-01-31 08.41.27

Last night I had the good fortune to host a reading with Aaron Barrell, Carrie Kahler, Arlene Kim and Jeff Encke on The Glass Slipper. It was a small crowd, but the perfect group of folks for an inaugural reading that had me just a little stressed beforehand. We had about 15 people in attendance, including the poets, and one very friendly puppy named Craig who tried his best to eat Jeff’s manuscript.  The boat rocked gently on the dock, welding flared in the background, Lake Union shimmered and I think everyone had a good time.

2014-01-30 18.20.13It’s been at least half a decade since I last organized a reading and the flurry of making sure I bought crackers and cheese, a couple bottles of wine, distributed the address (an unknown stress factor- planning a reading on a boat means the venue has potential to move!), setting the order, telling enough people but not too many, and remembering to print bios meant…. oh yeah, I’m reading? Oh hell. What am I reading? I told everyone the theme would be water, which the poets kindly wove into their selections. I, however, pulled together a few things looking more at time than anything else.

In looking at the few poems I chose, there was a little bit of a sultry undertone.  I’m not entirely surprised by this—it’s a cold dreary time in Seattle and I confess my mind is on heating up and warmer company. I say passion is fluid and so, water themed? Sure.

Here’s one of the pieces I read, and if I had to draw it to the theme—ISON is basically a ball of ice, right? Or was? Water is everywhere, so I think even if folks hadn’t tried to tie it in, we would have been a liquid bunch.

Ison's Bones

Big thanks to all the poets for joining me, and big thanks to Captain Geoff for donating the space and talking me down from near panic on Wednesday morning.  Last night left me thinking again, how on earth am I so lucky to know the people I know?


2014- Year of Something


If I’ve been walking around in a daze the past week, I’m sorry. I haven’t been great about responding to people’s messages or answering emails.  A lot has been going on. Which is to say– I have a new job! It wasn’t an easy decision… I really love my co-workers, but this is the year of Yes and I’m excited to step out of where I’ve been and try something new.   The work will be much of the same, but with new faces, new projects, a new location and new systems.  I have a chance to learn, a chance to lead, and I’m starting to get over the fear of change and move towards excitement.

I told everyone at my current job today and the general response of kindness and support shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.  I’m going to miss this gang.

What a year. January isn’t even over and already I’ve thrown wrenches in just about everything that I can. I suppose January isn’t a great marker– I started to mix things up in October of last year. At the onset of October I was upset and heartbroken, living in a small apartment.  I’ve since: moved into a place that feels like a real home, gone on international travel, climbed harder than ever, started a poetry series, begun training for a triathlon, welcomed a roommate, started to learn to ski, shed clutter, taken on a new job…. Life is careening forward, as it should. There’s so much more to do.

If you’re in Seattle, come join us as we figure out how to turn a glass fishbowl into a poetry venue.  My dear friends Geoff and Ryan have volunteered The Glass Slipper as a poetry venue and we’re testing it out this Thursday, January 30th.  We’re starting at 7:30 and you can come listen to Arlene Kim, Jeff Encke, Carrie Kahler, Aaron Barrel and myself with a beautiful view of Lake Union in the background.  And if that doesn’t work for you, I’ll be up on Capitol Hill Friday night for our company party. I expect it’ll turn to a little bit of crying and a lot of celebration and you might even be able to convince me that I want to debut my karoke skills if you play Robyn. Or mention Robyn. I might start singing. I’m sort of in love with this song. Come find me, come dance with me. (I’ll dance at the poetry reading if you play Robyn as well…)



Nakedness and Jewelry

Forrest Glade

There are many forms of nakedness—sometimes it’s emotional vulnerability, sometimes it’s a physical disrobement. I think it varies person to person and I know that physical nudity isn’t the same as nakedness, for me. I’ve simply done too many figure drawing classes, from both sides of the canvas, to see an unclothed body as a naked one. It can be, sure. But for me, the two don’t go hand in hand.

I never feel more naked than when I’m without my jewelry.  It’s funny—I don’t think of myself as particularly feminine, but I am almost always adorned. These days I’m wearing six rings, earrings and a bracelet. This is my starting point—I routinely add necklaces, additional rings and additional earrings when the mood suits me.  At my barest, I wear two rings, stacked onto one finger, and a bracelet.  This is my base and come off only to climb and are returned as soon as I take my harness and shoes off.  While I like the physical weight of jewelry, it’s the significance of these three pieces that keep them close to me at all times.

The stacked rings are for my grandparents.  The lower is the engagement ring my grandfather gave to my grandmother, bought in the South Pacific during World War II.  The diamond is barely more than a chip, set into a flat square, and the band is thin gold. It’s a little loose on my finger, which is why it’s stacked below the second ring.  The second ring is a simple band of white gold that coils around and overlaps, each end joined with a wrap of yellow gold.  The rectangle of overlap is slightly larger than the square the diamond below is set in.  The ring is from a store that’s no long around, Beautiful Things.  My grandfather paid for the ring when I turned 16 but sent my aunt out with me to pick it out, and I’m pretty sure my father picked the store, as it was one of his standard places to buy things for the women he loved.  I don’t remember why I picked it, but I do remember that it was resized for me and for a long time it was the most expensive thing I owned.

The bracelet is my forest.  It’s a band of silver, also sized to fit me.  The clasp is the focus—a piece of glass with green and gold fused behind it.  The glass is set in a silver drizzle and when I saw it I immediately thought of a deep forest glade with golden sun streaming through branches.  It came from a woman who was a man at the time, selling jewelry at a craft fair I worked with my mother.  I can’t remember if we bought our bracelets or bartered for them, but I do remember the artist being very tall and that the artist had a thick French accent, dark streaming hair and eyes rimmed with black liner. I also remember not being surprised when my mom told me she ran into her next year and that she’d transitioned into a woman.  I’ve worn the bracelet every single day since that craft fair, which must have been when I was seventeen or so. I’ve lost it twice– once found in my own bed, having knocked it off in sleep, and once misplaced on a night of adventure that took me all over Seattle and had me devastated until my roommate found it on the parking strip outside our house.  Thinking of all the places it could have been and then where it was, right there, still gives me hope that lost things return when they are important enough.

It’s strange to realize I’ve worn something for over a decade, let alone a few things. Jewelry can be baubles, but it can also be something so much more. I’ve been thinking about the pieces I wear mostly because of my friend Olivia.  I’ve known Olivia since high school, when we ran together on the cross country team. Olivia now makes beautiful jewelry and I strongly suspect her pieces are the kind of pieces that become part of your life.  I recently bought a necklace that I’m sure I’ll wear often, and it’s really only a matter of time until I buy a ring to add to my base layer.  I love that she’s making art that feels so essential—I think it’s a hard thing to do and something I can only aspire towards.

So this is kind of a long way to say, look at Olivia’s work and support her. You can find out more about her process here.

Twig rings, by Olivia Ewing


Crawling out of the Angercave

Around this time last year I met my good friend K. She and I were in the same ski lesson and we became fast friends and climbing partners.  When we met we were both seeing men that weren’t ideal partners and she was by my side as the dude I was seeing went our separate ways only to later reconnect and start adventuring together again.  She was there when it all burned in a flaming disaster that made me so upset that I barely ate for two weeks, got horribly sick and lost my voice, and probably dropped a few pounds more than is healthy. And then I got back on my feet, threw myself into climbing and yoga and turning my body into a thing of strength.  It was over this past year that K introduced me to the concept of caves; the sadcave where you cry, the angercave where you rage. I spent a lot of this past year in and out of either cave—with brief bouts out for sunshine.

The thing is—I know my life doesn’t look cave-like.  Adventures are beautiful and writing is inspiring and those are the things I want to share. It’s easy to forget that what you see is a specifically catered experience. I’m working to remember that about what I see of other people’s lives, but I think it’s time I take a social media hiatus (and probably time I buy myself a happy light to combat the short winter days).  There are too many weddings and babies and climbing trips that I’m not part of. I know from experience that the difficult parts aren’t what are shared.  My trip to Iceland with my sister was full of disaster—but we came back to “It looked amazing!” and “What a great time you guys had!”  We didn’t show the screaming argument in our hotel, or the hours spent walking on cold and wet streets only to find out that we were at the wrong zoo entrance and our guide was long gone.

Instagram is a catered collection of photographs and facebook is… I’m not really sure what facebook is. A billboard and a water-cooler and an email chain letter and a high school cafeteria all rolled into one easily bookmarked page. It’s also an easy place to organize events and coordinate carpools, and that’s been my excuse for not leaving the whole thing.  I don’t like what social media does to me, but I also find it inspiring. I follow climbers and photographers and it makes me want to adventure more, create more art, and be a better and more exciting person.  And that’s the problem. Better. Better than? Than who I am now? Than someone else out there? I’m too naturally competitive, with myself and everyone around me, and during the grey short days it’s easy to get caught up in an angercave.

So I’m working towards letting inspiration be inspiration without competition.  Here and here are some of the photographs I’ve found through artists I follow on Instagram, and I love them.  I’m working towards loving them, and not letting them pressure me into feeling as if I need to grab my camera and hit the streets.

Also: may I suggest this for your listening pleasure? I love Sharon and I’m so happy to see her with all the amazing followers she has, making music that people love. Sharon Van Etten- We Are Fine (remix). Now if only I could find that CD of hers from college with White Lines and You’re No Good on it….

Cole Rise – Dubai blog entry


Bex Finch- II Series

You’ve come a long way sista!

Last night I was driving home from the Seattle Bouldering Project, talking through a few of the routes with my best friend who is finally back in town and staying with me until he finds his own place again.  He started to laugh, and when I asked he said I was just thinking about when you started. How shaky you were, how frustrating it was. Just step up! Just do it!Now you know why it was frustrating. He’s right. I was awful. Everyone who starts is awful, because you have to start somewhere. Out of everyone that I climb with, B knows better than anyone how far I’ve come.  I remember sitting in his room, saying, I think I’d like to learn to climb. He responded with something along the lines with, are you sure? Don’t just do this because you feel you have some family story to follow—it’s expensive and an investment. He took me out on my first climb with another friend and they put up something I was never going to be able to finish. I think it was Human Foot, out at Exit 32.  This summer I stood at the base of Human Foot, belaying one of my bad ass climbing ladies as she led her first 5.8 outside.  I’d just led my first 5.10 outside, a route a few to the left of Human Foot, and I did it clean.

Are you sure you want to learn? I wasn’t sure, at the time. I was mildly afraid of heights, I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into, and climbing was more a theory and a story than anything else. I understand his hesitancy, but I will always love him for taking me on that first climb, and for continuing to take me out. The past two nights we’ve climbed in the gym together—first at Stone Gardens, then at the Bouldering Project.  I like to think he was surprised as I moved up routes he’d been working on.  He’s out of climbing shape but will regain it back quickly—I’ve been in the gym and outside a lot.  He’s probably still a stronger climber than me, and will be able to send things I can’t touch as soon as he has his endurance and finger strength back.  Still—for the first time I’m able to work through a sequence and offer suggestions.  He asked, for the first time, How did you start that? and I ran through the moves easily for him.

On Sunday night, when we were talking about plans for the week, I said I’m climbing Monday and Tuesday.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to come along—Monday was a settle and plan for the week evening while he lived in Hawaii.  It’s that for me too, though not with any household chores.  My Monday night climbing crew helps keep me more centered than anyone I know.  They are my best friends and the people who watch me fail and succeed and we share so many stories and so much laughter. I need Mondays with my friends to set up for my week, and I was glad he decided to come along instead of tending to laundry and grocery shopping.  There have been bumps, bruises, scabs and tears—but I can’t wait to get outside with him again and get some more battle scars. 

Granite Mountain and how I’m not a hiker (kinda)

Photo credit: Greg Orlov

Photo credit: Greg Orlov

I don’t consider myself an avid hiker, but as I started writing this I realized- I’ve been on some pretty grand hikes. I’ve done the through hike of the Enchantments and I’ve hiked out to Robin Lake, so apparently I’m not really daunted by an 18 mile day with some stout elevation. I’ve done smaller hikes too, out to Rachel Lake (dismissively called Girlfriend Hike by some of my friends for the amount of couples you’ll see slogging out), Garibaldi Lake in BC and Sunfish Pond back along the Appalachian Trail.  I’m not sure what would qualify as a difficult hike—Dirty Harry’s Peak was a haul up a logging trail that had turned mostly to stream bed, but it wasn’t really that long of a hike. 

When a friend asked if I wanted to do a winter hike, I paused only to say I didn’t have the right gear. You can borrow my microspikes. Ok. I’m in. And, what are microspikes? (Have I always said yes so readily to things?)

The hike was absolutely beautiful.  There were 10 of us (12 if you count the other friends that arrived at the trail head right as we were heading out, but we didn’t see them all day, so I’m not sure if they count as part of our group). We all knew a few folks but I don’t think anyone besides S. knew everyone.  The first part of the trail is full of switchbacks and very large, straight trees.  Sunlight filtered through in golden beams like a movie set and morning fog tangled in the branches as our bodies warmed up and layers started to peel off.  I ended up with almost everything in my pack—my body steaming into the cool air and my sunglasses completely fogged over.

granite mountain avalanche shuteWe hit the snowline slightly after the first mile.  It was as if a switch was hit and suddenly—snow.  The wind knocked loose crystals off of tree branches and despite the bluebird skies a gentle dusting fell around us.  As the sun warmed everything up that gentle dusting turned to thick clumps thudding on our faces and packs, but at first it was just kind of magical.

We ended up taking most of the summer route instead of the winter one—the snow wasn’t very deep and it seemed like the safest option.  Out of the tree line it got a little colder, but there was barely any wind.  Our group had spread out a bunch by this point and I could look up and see dots that were our bodies, moving towards the ridge line.  To my side my shadow was a deep dark slate and the foot prints in front of me had a clear pale blue glow to them.

Granite Mountain Summit- Sarah Ward

Photo credit: Sarah Ward

I’m starting to understand why my best friend will cancel plans in town to be out in the mountains if it’s at all possible.  This was a simple hike compared to his backcountry trips. A little over 8 miles, 3,800 feet in elevation, full of people and well groomed trails.  Even so, as I caught the image of my shadow against the snow, something inside me cracked open.  I was suddenly inside a poem I haven’t written yet and it felt as if everything were suddenly both weightier and more full of joy than I’d ever realized.  I keep finding these moments.  A shadow against snow.  A particular sequence of moves on rock. Sitting with a summit log in my hands and the ground hundreds of feet below.

Of course it hurts, I’m not saying it doesn’t.  I came home and directly soaked in the tub.  I woke up this morning to aching muscles (though that was probably also from dancing for a few hours with R and H on his last night in the States before he’s off to Thailand).  As I took H to the airport this morning he got a bit lost in his head, and said I was thinking about how amazing it is that our bodies will adjust to what we need. Oh you’re going to do brutal hikes? Let’s break down and make muscle.  Paraphrased, of course, but that’s the general gist of it.  He told me about a mountaineering course he’s going to try to take, and I’m going to look into it.  I have to climb Rainier.  It isn’t a have-to as in a bucket list—I’ve never wanted to do it.  But my father wants his ashes scattered off of the top, and so that is what I will do. I wish he could see what I’m doing now, I wish I could tell him about it, but I also think that throwing myself into the mountains is partly a way of having all the conversations we never had and never will have.  I climbed before he died, but I became a climber after, with his carabineers attached to my chalk bag, his guidebooks on my shelf.

I feel my body changing, breaking down and rebuilding itself for what I need it to do.  I hope through this that I will find more spaces that feel like poems, and that I’ll be able to translate them onto the page at some point, but I’m not worried about it.  No one is sitting, waiting breathless for my next collection of work to come out.  I have so much more to learn.

Photo credit: Greg Orlov

Photo credit: Greg Orlov