April 2018

It’s Earth Day! My April author newsletter has a small poetry study, and a writing tip, “Improvisations,” featuring the work of poet William Carlos Williams. Take a look!

Theresa J. Barker

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I am sitting at my desk this Sunday morning, looking out at the overcast sky that promises sun later on. The 100-foot Douglas Fir tree outside my window is popping forth with small orange mini-cones – pollen pods? – on the tips of its green-needle branches, like little kernels of orange popcorn dusted across its boughs. A squirrel prances along a long branch inside the sheltered-needle casing of the tree, two – no three! – stories above the ground.

Squirrels are so amazingly unafraid to scamper along waving boughs of maple trees in my neighborhood, or atop the thin wire of an electrical connection to the power pole outside. They seem to think nothing of it. It makes me think: what am I afraid of, and how might I overcome my fears? Years and years of evolution have probably given the squirrels in my yard their…

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Tattoo Girl, part 15

This week I wanted to write more about Jaime, our Tattoo Girl.  This is becoming a long-ish tale, and readers have been so encouraging about hearing more on the story – thank you!

This post is standalone, but if you’d like to read earlier installments, please see links at the end of this post.

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The day Jaime got her cat tattoo she was mad at André.  That’s what she told her friends afterward, but it wasn’t the truth.  The day Jaime got her cat tattoo she was sad, empty and lonely, even though she was already married to André the lawyer and they had moved to Houston for his job.  And she was painting her art in their apartment’s second bedroom, but the painting wasn’t going well.  Something, something, something else was needed.  She thought, maybe it was a tattoo.  She knew friends who had gotten that first little butterfly on the nape of the neck, or a small rose at the ankle, or a heart at the wrist.  New friends she’d met in Houston at the art collective.  But even though she made friends she still felt lonely, André working long hours (It’s a new job, I have to show I’m committed), and she’d only married him (she realized later) for security.  Her father had been a lawyer.  It was classic transference, at least that’s what the psychology wags would say.  She wouldn’t say that.  She’d never say that.

She’d say, it was a mistake.  We all make mistakes.

Security.  The day she got her tattoo she was ready.  But it took some months, more than a year after the tattoo, to finally make the split from André.  Why?  Well, you think, it’s not so bad.  It could be worse.  But what you don’t know is that little part of you that is dying from inside.  The part of you that wants affection, that hopes to be close to another person, that wants to feel like you’ve been chosen as a partner, not just married by default because no one else was in sight.

Okay, she’ll admit to herself, it took finding out that André was involved with someone else to make her finally leave.  But she was ready.  When she saw those emails to “Cheryl,” a paralegal at his office (paralegal?  not even another lawyer?  what was that about?), discussing their meet-up arrangements at a local hotel, she was ready.  Back to Seattle, back to art.  Back to being who she wanted to be, not the person André thought she was.

The cat tattoo came with her.  And Mr. Mittens came along not too long after.

Fate brings strange and wonderful things.

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What do you think?  Have you made mistakes that you didn’t see until you were beyond them?  How did you recover from those mis-steps?

Tattoo Girl – Part 1 here.|Part 2 here.|Part 3 here.| Part 4 here.|Part 5 here.| Part 6 here. | Part 7 here. | Part 8 here. | Part 9 here. | Part 10 here. | Part 11 here. | Part 12 here. | Part 13 here. | Part 14 here.

Thanks for visiting!

What you see when you are on the street

I’ve been spending time downtown in my city recently, and I took this wonderful shot of a utility box that had been painted into a piece of art – a box of popcorn!

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I love these little art mini-murals, for two reasons:  1) it’s great to see something unusual made out of a utilitarian piece of industrial equipment like a utility box, and 2) it keeps the box from becoming trashed by graffiti and vandalism.  This particular box happens to be across the street from a special movie theater, the Cinerama (upper left of the photo), which runs huge 70-mm films, and calls itself “Seattle’s Most Epic Movie Experience.”  Yeah!  History and info herehttps://cinerama.com/History.aspx  Isn’t it fun to have a big box of popcorn mural on the street in front of a historic movie theater?

Update:  neglected garden re-planting

My friend and fellow blogger Dahlia has been asking me about my little garden plot that I posted about a few weeks ago.  It’s still going well!  I’ve got a few update photos:

This was the little area that has been neglected and abandoned at the edge of our yard, and over the past few years it became overgrown with invasive plants.  I took the time finally this March to clear out the troublesome plants and to plant it carefully with native plants, then I added compost on top of the soil to help get it going.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

In my post I was reflecting that so often we do little jags of writing here and there but don’t give our writing the concerted and kind attention that helps it grow and become stronger.  – Like this part of my yard!  Dahlia’s question reminded me of my topic for that post, which was the value of paying attention, regularly and with kindness, to one’s writing as well as one’s gardening.  I am happy to report that both the garden, and my writing project, are benefiting from regular and kind attention.  I hope you are giving your own writing or photography or art the same!

Fiction:  “Garden”

I wrote a small story (101 words) about a recent visit to our Seattle Japanese Garden, which opened for the season on March 1.  It’s beautiful there in all seasons, but especially this time of year just before the trees start to leaf out and before the summer blossoms come.  Here is the website: Seattle Japanese Garden

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In the Japanese Garden
Theresa Barker

Stones line the pathway to the Tea House.  Invisible waters cascade down the brook bed.  Red winter branches of delicate maples pattern the emerald moss below.

Does the moss think:  I am here to pad the way for falling leaves?  Does the tree think:  I am here to scatter my leaves upon the moss’s head?

Stones growl and sigh with anchored certainty while the trees sway and steal the wind’s transience from the air.  A woman, a man, passing, understand nothing of the musical whisperings that float among the botanical beings of the garden.  Only the earth understands.

Thanks for visiting!

March 2018

Now when we’re really starting to see signs of spring, I hope you enjoy my author newsletter for March, posted earlier this week. I’ve included a poetry study, a writing update, and this month’s writing tip. Happy writing!

Theresa J. Barker

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Ah!  It just turned to spring, didn’t it?  (March 21st)  Does it feel like spring where you are?  Thinking of my writing colleagues across the country and across the world, I’m sitting at my desk imagining what spring is like for them in Phoenix, Los Angeles, New Jersey, India, Australia, Tanzania, and Cambridge, England.  And even though the calendar says it’s spring, this week we had snow.  Big sloppy snow flake packets dropping from the sky to the ground, not sticking, but still – present.  This morning the sun is out, there are sounds of birds in the budded or blooming trees outside, and the grass shimmers green, almost vibrating in the early-spring light.  That kind of light makes you feel like you can do almost anything.  Doesn’t it?

I would love to share this inviting poem…

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Tattoo Girl, part 14

Let’s drop in on the Tattoo Girl again!

This post is standalone, but if you’d like to read earlier installments, please see links at the end of this post.

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It was harder than Jaime expected to find a new job.  The only thing that came up was retail, retail, retail, and while she had nothing against working in retail as a practice, she didn’t think it had much to do with art.  She had promised herself to make sure the next job had something in it for her, art-wise.

But looking for a job while holding down a full-time job was not especially appealing. Even off-loading much of the management questions onto Corey at work, she still came home at night and collapsed on the couch.  She asked her friend Yvonne from down the hall about it.  Yvonne had mentioned she’d been a manager at the local Game Stop store when they met a few months ago.  Jaime ran into Yvonne in the laundry room in her building and she told her how she’d been asked to be a temporary co-manager at work.

“Yeah,” Yvonne said, sorting clothes on the long table in front of the machines, “they say management is the way up.  But really, it’s just more responsibility for slightly more money.  At least in retail.”

Jaime loaded her laundry into the washer and wanded her card across the reader on the front of the machine.  “Why do you do it?” she asked.

“Pays the bills.  Why else?” Yvonne answered.

Huh.  “What would you do if you could have your choice of jobs?” Jaime asked.

Yvonne sighed.  “I’ve always wanted to be a chef.”

“Own your own restaurant?”

“Nope.  Pastry chef.”  Yvonne stacked her rolled towels into her bright purple plastic laundry basket and started on the other items.

“Oh, yum!” Jaime exclaimed.  “Cakes?  Cupcakes?  That kind of thing?”

“Sort of.”

“Do you have to go to pastry school to learn how?”

“Yeah, I’ve done that.  It’s just that you need an internship, and those are unpaid.  You know.  So, until I save up the money for it, I’m Ms. Game Stop Manager.  For now.”

Jaime clicked the app on her phone that would tell the washer to text her when it was done. Then she said, “There’s no other way?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I’ve thought about opening my own place.”

“Cupcakes are big, right?” Jaime said.  “That might work out.”

“Nah.”  Yvonne frowned.  “Cupcakes are over.”

“Really?”  Jaime thought there was still some cachet in upscale boutique cupcake stores.  But Yvonne would know.

“Yeah.  It’s cookies  now.”

Oh!  Cookies!  The taste of buttery sugar cookies flooded into Jaime’s mouth.  Her grandmother’s snickerdoodles, with the cinnamony topping and melt-in-your-mouth body.  Cream cheese puffs.  Chocolate-chocolate toffee bites.

“That sounds scrumptious,” she said.  “Why don’t you open a cookie shop?  I’d go there!”

“Well, yeah.  But there’s a big barrier to entry when you open your own place,” Yvonne said.  “I’ve done the numbers.  It’s pretty awful.  – First and last month’s rent, a year-long lease, at least.  And that’s just the outside.  Then there’s furnishings, tables, baking cases, ovens, all that stuff.  Costs as much as buying a house.”

“You could get a loan -”

“Even then, you’d have to wait a couple of years before you made a profit.  At least, that’s according to the SBA.  – Small Business Administration.”

There had to be a way.  Jaime thought about it all the way back to her apartment.  I mean, cookies, in this neighborhood!  A shoo-in.  Down the block they were developing that old brick store-front that used to be a hookah lounge.  Ugh.  Cute building.  And there were plenty of twenty-somethings in the neighborhood, didn’t they go for that kind of thing, quick sugar kick, specialized menu?  She could add an espresso bar – Jaime had read there was a huge markup on coffee drinks.  It might make enough to cover what might be a small margin on the cookies themselves.

But . . . there was that problem with furnishings and equipment.  You needed a kitchen to make baked goods, no getting around it.  Even if you got a few café tables from a used furnishings place, there were regulations involved in setting up a food business.  Yvonne was probably right.

But . . . all evening Jaime couldn’t stop thinking about it.  There must be a way.

Mr. Mittens sat close to Jaime as she watched reruns of “Modern Family” on cable.  Phil, the realtor, was always trying some hare-brained scheme to get more real estate business.  Maybe she could pick up some ideas.

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What do you think?  Have you ever worked in a small business or opened one of your own?  What was it like?  Does Yvonne even have a chance, or is the idea doomed?  And what about Jaime’s longing for a new job?

Tattoo Girl – Part 1 here.|Part 2 here.|Part 3 here.| Part 4 here.|Part 5 here.| Part 6 here. | Part 7 here. | Part 8 here. | Part 9 here. | Part 10 here. | Part 11 here. | Part 12 here. | Part 13 here.

Thanks for visiting!