• Thursday, April 02, 2015 6:24 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, April 02, 2015 6:10 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    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

  • Saturday, January 03, 2015 11:14 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Saturday, January 03, 2015 11:03 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    The next time I’m back home in Seattle and someone at Whole Foods is reading a food label as if studying for their SATs, I want to remember this moment: I am in a tiny grocery on the island of St. Croix. My vegetable choices are limited. There are onions and there are potatoes. Both are moldy.

    It is 98 degrees outside, only slightly cooler in. The owner looks as if he’d like to flog me when, after circling the aisles, I say, “Excuse me, where’s the beer?”

    He pauses awkwardly and shouts, “This is a Muslim store. I am a Muslim. No beer!”

    “Oh, that’s too bad.” I say, and then it becomes painfully clear it’s time for me to go.

    St. Croix is one of  three American Virgin Islands.“This island,” the director of the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts (where I’m to be writer-in-residence for two weeks) says, “is the rougher island. If you want touristy, you go to St. Thomas. If you want upscale, you go to St. John. Here you have to watch yourself.”

    “Okay,” I say.

    “You might hear gunfire, but don’t worry, the drug gangs keep to themselves.”

    “Okay.” I haven’t even unpacked yet.

    “Use mosquito repellant, there’s Dengue Fever.”

    I look down at my mosquito bites. “Okay.”

    “And we’re sorry, but the air-conditioner in your room is broken, someone stole the copper compressor tubing.”

    Oh shiiiii... “Okay.”

    Frederiksted or “Freedom City” is the name of the town, named for the emancipated slaves from the sugar plantations who settled here. The mildewed ruins of the sugar mills only remind me of the brutal history of the island and the lives of abuse the slaves endured in the cane fields. Visually, it would take me much longer than a two-week residency to put all the misery behind me.

    Basically, by day I’m in isolation. Good. I have 257 pages of new editorial notes to flush out. Completing a book is…well, I was about to say brutal, but I will have to find another word now that I’m surrounded by strong reminders of the real thing.

    By night, I teach jazz in the universally-identical local ballet studio: Marley floor, mirrors, barre. Dancing is still the most enjoyable way of escaping real life.

    “What kind of jazz?,” one parent asks, lightheartedly, “lyrical, contemporary, imperialist?”

    “Ha ha ha.” In all my years of teaching, this is a first.

    Not to change the subject too abruptly, but have you watched the food documentary Fed Up? Apparently, the food industry adds processed sugar to just about everything now and it’s the number one reason obesity is epidemic. It’s impossible to pass the dilapidated sugar mills here and not think of the world’s addiction to sugar.

    Remember Darwin’s Beak of the Finch theory? Well, if you go to St. Croix today, you will see it in action. There is a variety of finch the locals call “sugar birds.” In nature, the bird is an insect eater, but the ones on St. Croix had modified their beaks within a few dozen generations to live on the sugar that was spilled around the mills.

    One of these finches comes to the picnic table I sit at. It could hardly catch a bug now. Its bill is formed into a perfect half-circle to feed on the granulated sugar people still put out for them especially when a cruise ship docks for the day. 

    The finch turns its head sideways, lays it flat on the table, and rakes the scattered granules into a tiny pile it can scoop up.

    “Check it out,” a man off the cruise ship yells.

    The bird flies away. Only the sugar remains.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Visit Mary Lou Sanelli’s website at

  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014 5:12 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Susan Grover and Richard Thurston opened Grover/Thurston Gallery in Pioneer Square in 1990, yet the concept started earlier. Like other budding artist representatives, the pair began by exhibiting work in their home. Some of the first art they collected was by Terry Turrell whose art, along with that of Anne Siems, is featured through the Grover/Thurston Gallery’s May 17 closing date.

    Grover/Thurston Gallery has sustained a signature aesthetic that seems to have partly grown out of Mia Gallery (not to be mistaken with M.I.A. Gallery) which closed in 1997 and specialized in showing work by self-taught artists, a genre that is related to both folk and so-called “outsider” art. Turrell, who exhibited with Mia Gallery, is a self-taught artist – a tricky genre that rides a fine line between knowledge and innocence. Dip too far on one side and the work becomes pretentious, dip on the other and the work comes across as unintentional.

    Turrell’s work — created out of wire, ceramic, wood, pencil, crayon, cloth, enamel, and oil amongst other mediums – rarely slips from the self-taught genre’s fine tightrope. He has written that he “strives to create compassion, humility, and humor along with a serious edge.” With hints of Alexander Calder, Alden Mason, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Turrell’s depictions of cats, birds, and figures in subdued hues with shocks of bright colors, continues our region’s craft arts legacy in ways that we can be proud.

    Keeping in tune with Grover Thurston Gallery’s folk art strain, Anne Siems has been inspired by “the European Masters, Early American Folk art as well as vintage and modern photography.” Her final exhibit at the gallery entitled “Old Growth” grew from hiking and photographing in the Pacific Northwest last summer. These signature large, square paintings depict Siems’ semi-transparent/transitional, historic girls posing with great stumps of old growth trees – double portraits that represent past and present. Like Sunday church hats the stumps, adorned with fungus, squirrels, and flora, seem to know just how astonishing they are.

    “Susan and Richard’s was a fabulous gallery to start out with in Seattle,” wrote Siems via email; “They were my hub and from them my career got going.”

    Part of the reason for Grover Thurston Gallery’s success is that the owners were disciplined. “In the whole time we’ve had the gallery,” says Susan Grover, “we’ve never represented more than 24 artists at one time. And we’ve represented artists that we cared about – we liked the artist and we liked the work. Work that we were interested in living with and collecting ourselves.”

    Along with Turrell and Siems, the Grover/Thurston Gallery’s stable of artists included Adrian Arleo, Suzy Barnard, Deborah Bell, Patti Bowman, Rachel Brumer, Larry Calkins, John Dempcy, Joe Max Emminger, Judy Hill, Fay Jones, David Kroll, James Lavadour, Kenna Moser, John Randall Nelson, Marianne Pulfer, Inez Storer, Francesca Sundsten, and Alicia Tormey.

    It is no surprise that after operating a two-person, brick-and-mortar business for twenty-four years that both Susan Grover and Richard Thurston plan on spending the next year on their respective travels. Yet they have enjoyed spending time with the art and artists they cared about. “There are some friendships,” says Susan Grover, “that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

    Edie Everette

    Edie Everette is a Pacific Northwest writer and cartoonist. You can see her work at

    Anne Siems and Terry Turrell exhibits are featured through May 17 at the Grover/Thurston Gallery located at 319 - 3rd Avenue South in Seattle, Washington with the hours of Tuesday through Saturday 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. and by appointment. For more information visit

  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014 4:47 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    New Possibilities

    Even if I consider picking flowers off potted succulents gardening these days, I realize there are many others who do not. As one friend with a reputation for frankness said, “Succulents need no maintenance whatsoever.”

    To which I replied, “Like people, we gravitate toward plants we like.”

    “Still, it’s hardly gardening.” (She is one of those friends, and I have a few, who likes to give me a hard time about living in a condo.)

    “This summer I’m teaching dance in two countries of the third world, so any more gardening is out of the question.” That silenced her.

    After that, she invited me, along with four others, to drive up to the Skagit Valley, and everyone of us was excited about driving north until the miles canceled every guilty thought we had about taking a weekday off from work.

    How is guilt like this even possible?

    We were a month ahead of the blossoming, but, as my friend put it, “we’re anticipating the color.”

    I loved how the wide open fields of imminent tulips and daffodils gave us something to marvel at. More than how six of us fit into a Mazda2.

    “You’re riding shotgun,” she said.

    “Sounds perfect,” I said. And off we went.

    As for how I used to garden? Well, for starters, I’d scatter poppy and daisy seeds (sure bets) and plant every bulb I could buy.

    Early into my marriage, I planted a container of Night Blooming Jasmine against Larry’s advice. “Let me tell you something,” he said in a bit of a huff, “I might not know much about living with a women, but frost I know. The minute I see a plant that isn’t indigenous, I know what’s going to happen, and it isn’t pretty.”

    I told him I’d read that if I placed it close enough to the house it would absorb the reflected heat off the foundation and eventually trellis over the doorway. “I can show you examples all over the city,” I said. “And why would our neighbor’s frost be any warmer than ours?” The next day he bought a heater to install overhead to protect what he liked to call my “potted pipe-dream.”

    Nasturtium seeds were strewn everywhere, too, because, to me, this is how to plant, a little recklessly. Because no matter how perfect I try and make things, weeds are still going to reverse roles with the flowers as soon as I turn my back.

    I remember Larry saying some women are turned on by strong abs, others by wealth and power, and others by tiny seeds in a packet sold by a nursery most of us have never heard of. Will it ever be even remotely possible to smell spring in the air and not think of him saying that?

    I used to take refuge in my garden and if I could have talked to my plants the way I can talk to Larry, I would have told them that in their company, I always felt a hundred percent like my best self.

    One last: Gardening taught me a lot about silence, too, things I never thought about before. I learned when to listen, and when to ignore my beds when enough is enough. I learned about peaceful silence. But also about livid silence when deer munch seedlings to the ground which leads to frustrated silence; and admiring silence like when I passed my tomatoes doing a pretty good job of pretending they’d ripen; and the sympathetic silence I felt when I had to leave that garden behind in order to dig into new possibilities.

    New possibilities. Luckily, it still satisfies just to say the words.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    First published in City Living Seattle. For more information, visit Mary Lou Sanelli’s website at

  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014 4:44 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In a Darkened Countryside

    Stars waken slowly as day dies

    again their distant lights arrive

    to the mind as thoughts dawning

    too faint to see past the day

    with all its intersections traffic lights

    its browbeating glare passing over

    its obsession with work half-undone

    its judgments to be gotten past

    while there was light left to see

    whether we did well or poorly

    till with dark at last we rest our eyes

    on sights beyond reach or reproach

    in motion far out on the edges

    pinpoints adrift mere smatterings

    rumored neighbors all but overlooked

    who still need to farm something like us

    Paul Hunter

    Paul Hunter’s most recent farming book is Stubble Field, from Silverfish Review Press. He is just finishing an autobiographical book of prose poems, called Clownery.

  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014 4:40 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Still Life in the Physical World

    We desire this ripening — 

    green pears in southern windows,

    shiitake mushrooms nested in a basket

    from the corner grocery —

    all the abundance of duty

    and want.

    No, what I want is more.

    How our lives collide

    like strange sketches,

    your small talk no different

    than a woman’s.  You are

    my double, the mirror

    message I leave for

    the visitor who pauses

    in the hallway.

    The mind creates the world,

    but the body inhabits it,

    draws all the edges we count,

    such as index finger

    tracing background air.

    Or, say we walk beside the river

    on this brilliant day.  How different

    to have hair defined by tree,

    clothes outlined by water.

    Still, there is always the body

    displayed against sheets — pale

    green or deep lavender. And

    there is this, the best

    any artist could ever do:

    the body outlined by body —

    arm across thigh, head

    to belly; this is the portrait

    we most desire, each of us

    separate, revealed

    by the other.

    Gayle Kaune

    First published in Still Life in the Physical World, Blue Begonia Press

  • Wednesday, April 02, 2014 4:32 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    The Day the Plein Air Painting

    class met it was hot,

    exuberant, after months

    of gray. I turned left

    at the Jesus is Lord sign

    and met six women,

    at the Jesus is Lord beach.

    Vermilion, orchre, cerulean blue,

    the colors were all out that day,

    and we learned to create

    the palest wash, search the horizon

    for light and shadow.

    We painted on the muddy banks

    of Chimacum creek, while heron

    kept watch and eagles circled.

    And we worked all afternoon

    until the tide filled the creek

    to overflowing.

    Then we stripped off our clothes

    and entered the water undefined

    left the shadows of the trees

    to become the light

    in our very own landscape.

    Gayle Kaune

    First published in All the Birds Awake, Tebot Bach.

    Gayle Kaune is widely published in literary magazines. Her chapbooks include, Concentric Circles, winner of the Flume Press Award and N’Sid-Sen-Star. Her books are Still Life in the Physical World, published by Blue Begonia Press and her latest, All the Birds Awake published by Tebot Bach. She lives in Port Townsend with her husband and a ghost dog. She paints occasionally, when she gets up the courage.

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