Archive for 2011

Writing companion

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

[IMAGE] catzilla

…click to listen:

…about the music

Music for fur-balls.

Artists have a tough enough time trying to believe that we’re not worthless, talentless frauds, without further assistance from those who live with us. Pictured above is the face that often looks down on me as I’m composing. It’s a face consumed by a mix of utter condescension, and muted disgust. On second thought, maybe not so muted. If the kibble bowl has not been attended to on some mystery timetable known only to the furriest creature in this household (hey, I shave), there is hell to pay. The emperor does not like to be kept waiting. Not when his hunger strikes. He will not wait in the name of Art, as I try to commit my sonic ideas to paper. And he will not wait in the name of 5:43 a.m., as I try to commit my weirder ideas to dreams.

When Catzilla is in his wake state, I am reminded that He Reigns.
Fortunately, as is the case with most house cats, this aforementioned wake state exists only about two and three quarter hours out of 24 each day.

His other 21 and a quarter hours are spent in various positions of recline and snooze-enabled, paw-trembling, imaginary kitty adventures. Most, with a big pink tongue dangling laughably (don’t tell him I used that word) from his cute kitty lips. Smudge was dealt some good hands in this life, not the least of which is the musical home that adopted him from the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles about a decade ago, when he was a 5 month old stray hiding in a paper sack from some dogs that were trying to, uh, eat him. His subsequent pampered and protected indoor-only, coyote- eagle- raccoon- pit bull- horned owl- vulture-free existence, has been something out of a fairy tale; he’s among that rare, lucky class of cats my grandfather used to refer to as “the one percenters.” Well, just about all of him is a “one percenter,” with the exception of his genetically terrible teeth, which are in the rock-bottom 0.14th percentile. Over the years, with each cleaning, a few more chompers fall by the wayside, making his already adorable visage (and, when not vying for instant feeding, his very adorable temperament) ever the more… goofy.

It’s hard to look too condescending and dictatorial when you’re asleep.
Not to mention, when you’re upside down, or when your tongue is hanging out of your mouth.

[IMAGE] sleeping kitty

[IMAGE] sleeeeeeeping

Such natural beauty

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

[IMAGE] glass ice

…click to listen:

…about the music

Patterned still life.

It’s been chilly here overnight, then bright bright bright stillness and warmer, 40-something temps during the day. Yesterday morning I walked out to my car around ten o’clock, accompanied by a sun that blazed low and hot on my back as I entered the prairie grass field behind the house. I was greeted with something extraordinary. And, so beautiful, I nearly wept.

[IMAGE] glass ice

A tsunami, of sorts. A giant wave to ride.
A set of fallen leaves.
A collection of feathers, gently landed.
Frozen, museum quality art.

Nature’s natural crystallization at work. Brilliant, Escher-esque patterns and perfect math and utter perfection. I’ve never seen anything like this.

[IMAGE] glass ice

[IMAGE] winter sun

Oh, and in case you can’t tell…. it was the ice on my windshield.

[IMAGE] glass ice

[IMAGE] glass ice

I live amidst wildlife.
I eat wild rice.
And now I can add wild ice to my list!

[IMAGE] glass ice

The composer in her natural habitat

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

[IMAGE] November beach

…click to listen:

…about the music

Still life that’s not the least bit still.

In the two days following the storm featured in my silly saltwater- and giggle-infused holiday movie below, I had to get outside to explore. Curious to see what odd items Poseidon might have tossed around in his wrath (see Flying Rock Moment at 1:14), I was ever-hopeful that some treasures, man-made or natural, would be mine for the taking. After all, to me, tide-pooling and hiking are scavenger hunts. Free shopping! And all with the fun of a Costco exploration: you just never know what the heck you’re going to find that you absolutely have to take home. Which, no doubt, someone else seeing it would never in a million years deign to put inside their house.

While I came up disappointingly short in the man-made category (what? after all that, the only stuff that’s dumped on my property are a lousy optic yellow tennis ball, a battered crab pot float, and a used firecracker end? Bah!), I scored with the natural. Problem was, the copious amounts of driftwood that were newly deposited on my beach included pieces as large as they were gorgeous, so those offerings from the sea’s tantrum will stay put right where they landed. Until the next storm arrives to tote them off to yet another random spot.

[IMAGE] Alex in her element
Since it was threatening to rain some more, I didn’t bring my Whoop-de-doo Camera with the Big Ass Zoom, and opted instead for my perfectly nice point-’n-shoot.

[IMAGE] driftwood
The scene at South Beach.

It was a great day for living creatures, all of whom seemed relieved to be able to walk, fly or scramble around without being pinned by 60 MPH winds. Watching birds attempt to maneuver in these is, admittedly, entertaining; seeing anything moving backward when it’s trying to go forward is quite a [pitiful] sight. But I do feel badly for them, since it’s doubtful they get much to eat on a day like that. No Thanksgiving dinner for these critters.

Walking on the rounded, multicolored stones of South Beach, I spied a Creature from the Deep and approached carefully, with great enthusiasm.
A giant squid??

[IMAGE] kelp ball

Nope.
Just some Feather Boa kelp, but with a beautiful, if terminal addition: its root ball is affixed to a rock.

As the wind picked up and the temperature dropped down, it was time to head back. Driving past the open prairie grasses covering so much of San Juan Island’s southern end, a herd of deer grazed, looking as clueless as always, except for two of them who were too busy kissing to be concerned about how they looked, anyway. Yes-sirree, here in Happy Island Camelot, even our black tail deer are in love. Awwww…

[IMAGE] Deer

Back home as the weather continued to shift, Bald Eagles flew past my desk…

[IMAGE] rainbow over eagle

…and landed on one of their preferred hilltop perches. They pay premium rent for this knoll with an unobstructed view.

[IMAGE] eagle pair

Meanwhile, a Great Blue Heron just stood around looking cranky. Business as usual.

[IMAGE] heron

Toward the end of the day as the light faded, a family of river otters had their holiday weekend meal just beyond my toes:

[IMAGE] Otters

[IMAGE] Otters

And inside the house, warmed by a wood stove fire, the only wildlife I’m allowed [highly encouraged, actually] to feed, Smudge, enjoyed the last rays of sun. He was blissfully unconcerned about any storms, past or future.
Be. Here. Meow.

[IMAGE] Cat nap

Uh, wow.

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

…about the music

I used to live on a boat part-time. Apparently, I still do.

I spent Thanksgiving Day at home, in awe of nature’s power– and giggling at it! 50 MPH winds, 10-foot waves, 8-foot high tide… and no, it wasn’t raining. The house, perched on a rocky ledge roughly 20 feet above the Salish Sea, is soaked in saltwater, as you’ll experience through my shaky, untalented, but enthusiastic lens.

Island Grrl

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

[IMAGE] San Juan Islands

…click to listen:

…about the music

I really don’t mind traveling atoll.

Home, pictured above.
I’ve just returned from the umpteenth of what seems like umpteen business trips in the past three months. I’m thrilled to be staying put in my house, surrounded by a big moat for a whopping two weeks in a row, before hurtling myself eastward once again. I’m curious to find out whether my brain will properly function at sea level rather than at 39,000 feet, an altitude at which I’ve been quite productive recently. I’m a Gold Medallion member of the Mile High Composing and Email Correspondence Club.

This past trip was unusual, in that after I returned home, it occurred to me that I’d just been on six islands in three days. That even outdoes the standard American tourist cruise ship “a different Caribbean island every day” jaunt. You know, the vacation that gives folks wearing way too much plaid and polyester a quick brush of delusion with what they’d like to believe the local culture is on a given island, from fleeting impressions gathered between the exact hours from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. By 5:30 p.m., Joe and Martha Tchotchke Collector better be back on the vessel, or it’ll sail away without them and their straw hats, refrigerator magnets and bottles of rum. I know this firsthand, from my amazingly cool gig this past January as composer-in-floatation on the Symphonic Voyages inaugural classical music cruise, which included five islands in five days and five opportunities for me to get so blissed out snorkeling or sailing or wandering around that I could have easily missed the boat. As it is, I already miss the boat, in the metaphorical sense, often enough. Doing so in front of 2500 people, a few of whom might have seen me emcee concerts with my music the evenings before, could have been more than just a little embarrassing. Phew.

So, my most recent itinerary included:

Manhattan Island (on which various meetings and friends were located)
Long Island (on which the borough of Brooklyn is located, in which the venue for my latest premiere, Spark was located)
Vashon Island (on which a chamber music series performing my Intermezzo was located)
Fidalgo Island (on which the town of Anacortes is located, which is where the ferry landing for the San Juans is located)
Orcas Island (on which some wonderful furniture I snagged for a song, and good friends with whom I lunched, are located)
San Juan Island (on which I am now located for fourteen days until my next temporary dislocation)

[IMAGE] Manhattan Island
Ok, this is not a great photo but it’s the best I could do early Friday morning. Looking south, the notable body of water is the Hudson River, and since I was lucky to be on a plane that did not need to make an emergency landing on it (go, Sully!), thus leaving my hands free from juggling life preservers, I was able to snap this pic of my original island home, Manhattan, with Brooklyn in view on the other side of the East River, at the foot of Long Island.

[IMAGE] Vashon Island
Vashon Island is to the immediate south of Seattle, floating quietly and not making a sound on the Puget Sound, except for some of the sounds my music and that of Martinu, Mozart and Schumann made Friday night.

[IMAGE] Fidalgo Island
Here’s what I see, if I’m awake (I love sleeping in my car on this ferry), when we dock at Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island, which is the gateway to what we Islanders refer to as “America.”

[IMAGE] Turtleback Mountain
I bet you can’t imagine why this mountain on the west side of Orcas Island is named, “Turtleback.”

[IMAGE] Orcas Island
This is a typical scene from the ferry to Orcas and other islands. That’s my car, in the very front– woot! Best view, ever! Waking up in the middle of bustling Manhattan and ending the afternoon here is, in a word, surreal. And in two words: friggin’ awesome.

All those ones

Friday, November 11th, 2011

[IMAGE] moonrise

…click to listen:

…about the music

Elegy of love.

Eleven eleven eleven.
A full moon has risen.
It is perfect and balanced and beautiful.

I was born on the eleventh of January.
My father was born on the eleventh of November.
1-11… 11-11…
We were both only children.

When I was little I used to talk excitedly with my father about our 2011 birthdays. It was the late 1960’s. The year 2011 was inconceivable; an arrival point so distant and unreachable as to be almost preposterous. Never much of a numerologist or mystic, I still enjoyed the vertical simplicity of all those ones.

“I’ll be 49!”
This was uttered with sheer amazement at how old that was. An eight year old is incapable of grasping the concept of middle age, and how she might ever get there. Nor, why she’d ever want to. Yuck.

I wriggled my nose as I tried to do the math. “And you’ll be 83!” I gazed lovingly at my father and had no reason to think that this was an unreasonable request.
It was.
He died thirteen years ago in 1998, at age 69.

It’s rare for a day to go by when the full moon of his wise glow does not envelope my life. In the best of ways.
His complicated essence: often funny, sometimes quietly tortured, perpetually intellectual, always kind, weaves a path through the music I create, much in the way my seaside existence is reflected in so many notes.
It is unavoidable.
It is resonant.
It flows.
It is permanent.

And it is valued, and loved, always.

[IMAGE] moonrise

Community ethic

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

[IMAGE] Gull at sunset

…click to listen:

…about the music

Observing, wondering, sighing.

It was 6:15 in the October morning. My body, and a reasonable fraction of my mental capacity, were at the airport in Seattle. I had just completed my participation in the competitive gauntlet-running sport of clearing the hurdles of airport security, and traversing miles of terminals via foot, tram and donkey in search of my gate, and was finally in line for a much-needed, overpriced cup of acidic, burnt-tasting coffee. I spotted my drug connection not far from the plane that was to hurl me to New York. And it was there that I spotted something disturbing, that made me wonder about humanity.

It was 11:30 in the August evening. As I worked at my desk, the power suddenly went out. Electricity wasn’t restored until late the next day. From my deck at twilight, I gazed an acre out to the distance. A lone, adult gull hung lifelessly from the electrical wires.

As I stood groggily in the long coffee line awaiting my fix, I noticed a neatly dressed woman in her early seventies, about eight yards from me. She was lying on the cold tile floor of the food court, nearly underneath the small table on which her purse and water bottle rested.

Throughout the late summer, hundreds of blackbirds migrated to this spot on San Juan Island, favoring these wires for an excellent perch perspective above the sea. Their busy chatter was incessant and lively. I loved the sound in the distance.

[IMAGE] blackbirds

As the woman lay visibly conscious, moving slowly in much the same way one does when trying to sleep, hoards of travelers walked right by. The sight of a human being splayed on the floor of a public space didn’t faze a single soul; each was too consumed with their travel needs to even consider pausing, much less stopping to investigate.

[IMAGE] blackbirds and gull

I watched the woman closely. When I first saw her hand graze her thigh and shin, I thought she might have been stricken with a bad leg cramp and was trying any position possible to alleviate it. Hey, I’ve had cramps painful enough that I could imagine lowering myself to any floor, no matter how filthy, in search of relief. But it soon became obvious that it was not a leg cramp. As she lay in the middle of the terminal, travelers continued to walk just a yard or two past her, patrons continued to sip their beverages at adjacent tables, and the other twenty people in my coffee line noticed her, and simply looked away. I turned to an older couple behind me, and asked them to watch my bag.

For weeks, the little blackbirds lined up all around the gull, unperturbed by its decomposing corpse as they got on with their daily routine.

[IMAGE] blackbirds

As I started to leave, the man of the couple asked, “what kind of coffee do you want?”.
Huh?

This struck me as both surprisingly thoughtful, and deeply disturbing. He, too, had noticed the ailing woman, and now saw that I was headed toward her. Apparently it was more important that he and his wife maintain their coveted place in the long coffee line. Flustered, I responded by rote as I pulled out of the queue, “uh, I dunno; just a small regular one.” I really wasn’t thinking about French roast at that particular moment.

I walked over to the stricken woman, knelt down, and asked her how she was. She was feeling very faint. I turned my head upward to a man in a business suit who simply stood there, watching us. I told him to call the airport paramedics, which he did upon my request. Why I had to instruct him, I’ll never understand. Pivoting back to the woman, I asked her if she had any pain, shortness of breath, diabetes, a history of fainting… had she hit her head on the way down… was she numb anywhere… thankfully, no. And that was damn lucky, since my music conservatory training failed to include an emergency first aid course for anything other than a No. 1 pencil stab wound, or a splinter from a broken conducting baton. It had been way too many years since my summer camp American Red Cross lifesaving classes for me to recall just how many seconds I should pause between mouth-to-mouth puffs and chest compressions, and while I’m pretty good with blood, I’d probably put a tourniquet in some bizarre place that would instantly kill the poor victim.

The woman said she suffered from atrial fibrillation, and asked me to check her pulse. I did; it was strong and fairly regular. Phew. In an attempt to keep her conscious, I inquired where she was from (Bainbridge Island), whether anyone was with her here at SeaTac (no; her husband was fast asleep on the island and she wouldn’t want to bother him), and where she was headed (Minneapolis, on a flight that was leaving in 30 minutes and, by my best amateur guess, now with one less passenger). I assured her that I would not leave her side until the paramedics arrived, which I had assumed would be within a minute or two. I calmly told her that it could just be nothing more than an electrolyte imbalance, complimented her on her great figure, and even got her to smile a little. As I knelt by her and held her hand, the older man from the coffee line walked over, delivered my 22″ roll-aboard, and handed me a cup of coffee.
Confused, I said thank you.

[IMAGE] gull and blackbirds

Almost as distressing as the many uncaring passersby, was the fact that it took easily fifteen minutes, maybe longer, for the EMTs to arrive. I was thankful that this wasn’t a dire emergency. What if this woman had been having a heart attack, or a stroke? Or had fainted from learning the price of her first class ticket, and bonked her head on the corner of the table on her way down? I felt utterly helpless; had anything been seriously wrong, apart from my strong voice calling out for a doctor, there would have been nothing I could do to rescue this person. In hindsight, I’m sure that had I screamed, “Terrorist!”, we would have gotten a lot more attention.

[IMAGE] gull /><br />
<span style=

Americans take for granted that emergency help is almost instantly forthcoming, especially in highly trafficked, public places. We tend to feel even more protected in venues under government auspices. But timely help is not always available: not from those who are trained and employed to offer it and, most sobering, not from fellow citizens who won’t have their need for a cup of coffee, much less their travel schedules, interrupted by a stranger’s predicament.

[IMAGE] gull /><br />
<span style=

After the EMTs finally arrived, I made it to my plane just barely in time to board. The man who’d bought me the coffee happened to walk by, and I thanked him again. He didn’t ask how the woman was. He was already perturbed by whatever the gate agent had just told him, and was consumed with the stresses of air travel. It was kind of him to take my sacrifice of a precious spot in the long morning coffee line into account, and even spend a couple of bucks doing so. For a mere stranger, no less. But really, it was all I could do to resist asking him why he hadn’t helped that woman. Why he could be generous and thoughtful to me, but not to someone in distress.

With his wife there, he wouldn’t have even had to give up his place in the damn coffee line.

I wonder about humanity. I wonder about the animal world. I wonder about the meaning of community, and inter-connectedness, for us all.
And if you’re reading this, I want you to wonder, too.

[IMAGE] gull at sunset

Seaside welcome wagon

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

[IMAGE] sea urchin

…click to listen:

…about the music

Island food.

I’d been up and traveling since 4:45am, gritty New York City time. Fifteen hours later, at my body clock equivalent of 8pm, I was thrilled to be walking on the deck to my front door, located more than a bit beyond the opposite coast.

I looked down.
A gift.
From a gull.
Who, in my five-day absence, decided to open a sushi restaurant on my premises.
Looks like the meal was wonderful.

I get fresh sea urchin delivered right to my doorstep. I tell you, this is one sophisticated island.

[IMAGE] urchin insides /><br />
<em>What it looks like when a gull cleans his plate. Good boy!</em><br />
<span style=

To the lighthouse

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

[IMAGE] Haro Strait from Lime Kiln lighthouse

…click to listen:

…about the music

Look out.

Lime Kiln State Park is perhaps the most iconic spot on San Juan Island, and during the summer months the easy walking trail to the killer views and the killer whales is padded with polite throngs of blissed-out tourists. When I happen to be there, I’m one of them, too. Tourism begins at home. After all, every time I get on a Kenmore puddle jumper to catch a flight out of Seattle, I look more like a newbie tourist than the newbie tourists, as I gape wide-eyed out the window, clutching my point-’n-shoot camera that’s poised for any great moments on the other side of the thin plastic plane window. Which is to say, all of them.

Tourism has its sonic aspects, which never cease to amuse the musician in me. The sudden oohs and ahhs spewing from the visitors each time an orca whale spyhops or breaches, probably lead the whales to assume that this is in fact the full vocabulary of the human species. I suspect they pop up to the surface just to check us out, viewing us all like some land-based zoo exhibit. Then they go down below and report back to the pod that really, there’s nothing particularly worth leaving the water for. Ain’t that right.

[IMAGE] Lime Kiln lighthouse

Last month one of my many, many (did I mention, many) visiting friends arrived on San Juan Island at the very end of the season: the final day of September. We ended up at Lime Kiln at sunset, met up with another friend who volunteers there, and were treated to guest access atop the old lighthouse.

It was special to be there during this exceptionally quiet, graceful time, enjoying the grounds without other people sharing the space. The three of us broke the silence of the sea air with our own zoo exhibit-worthy oohs and ahhs, however, as a pod of orcas decided to take a twilight swim just beyond our toes. The white spray of each exhalation floated in the dusk sky. The whales stayed for a long time, as did we, until it was nearly too dark to see our way back.

[IMAGE] Orcas

The photos describe the vista far better than my words, so I’ll just stop here. Suffice it to say, it was perfect.

[IMAGE] Lighthouse over Haro

[IMAGE] Lime Kiln lighthouse view

[IMAGE]  Lighthouse over Haro

[IMAGE] Lime Kiln lighthouse

Season’s Greetings from San Juan Island

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

[IMAGE] pig and cow

…click to listen:

…about the music

And they did.

Some folks have pink flamingos in their front yard.
These folks opted for the island-appropriate plastic pig and cow.

The pumpkins are real, though.

Don’t converse with your dinner

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

[IMAGE] canoeing

…click to listen:

…about the music

Trying to be truthful.

One of my island pals recently learned that I’d never been crabbing. If the view out your NYC window is another NYC window directly across a dark sooty air shaft, or, if it’s a billowing wheat field somewhere in the Midwest, then you may have no idea what “crabbing” is. I certainly didn’t, prior to moving up to this island with the theme from Green Acres in my head, as I pondered Eva Gabor’s wardrobe choices for that all-important transition from Park Avenue to the farm. That about sums up my life.

Upon hearing of my deprived and clearly uneducated existence, my aforementioned island pal immediately invited me to come along on his sunset paddle to retrieve the crab pot he’d lowered to the sea floor earlier that day. As keen as my awareness was of the pile of work that had to get out the door, just as keen was my awareness of the now balmy but fleeting summer. That latter keenness won my internal debate, and instead of the work getting out the door, I did.

[IMAGE] on the ramp
Notice the hi-tech driftwood boat ramp for superior launching.

Gleefully settling my 116 pounds into the very front triangle of the dented 1948 Grumman aluminum canoe, I was to be both the on-board photo journalist, and the ballast. My friend mostly paddles solo, and usually dumps a pile of stones where I now sat. Matter-of-factly, he declared that I was “prettier than a rock.” I was touched. We were off to a fine start.

The wind had picked up enough to offer small waves that bounced us along as we spotted the markers where his pot was sunk. In it dangled the bait of turkey legs; a Thanksgiving meal (or, last supper) for the Dungeness crabs that entered the one-way metal cage. Females are lucky; they get a free dinner and are returned to the sea. But males are fair game. As my friend hoisted the pot, many, many sets of legs (each crab has ten) waved in the air; it appeared that he’d thrown a rave party with a great buffet. But that wild bash turned out to be a sorority meeting: crab after crab he picked up was a female.
Except one.
Morty.

[IMAGE] Escapee
I called this one Houdini.

[IMAGE] Returned female
One lucky girl-crab, headed back home.

[IMAGE] Dungeness crab
Meal time.

Morty was impressively large– at least 16 inches across. An elder statesman, at probably over six years old. He was wise. He was beautiful.
And he was about to be my dinner.

[IMAGE] full sun set

[IMAGE] full moon rise

We returned to shore just as the full sun sank and the full moon rose above the trees, and loaded the truck back up with pots, paddles, seat pads and PFDs. Last to get in and buckle up for the bumpy ride back to my house was the guest of honor, sloshing in a plastic bucket filled with a mixture of seawater and hard cider. Yes, you read that right. My friend insisted that the alcohol would calm the crab down and, mercifully, make him a little drunk. It seemed to me that we’d need a few more shots of bourbon in there to do the trick. Peering down into the bucket, I asked in my best New York accent, “Hey, Morty– you want another round? How ’bout a slice to go wit dat beer? Maybe a pretzel or sumptin’?”

“Don’t converse with your dinner.”
My friend was cautioning me, even scolding me. He knew that I’d never cooked a live creature before.
I looked up at him with a very mixed emotion of delight for having caught a meal without a shopping cart, and remorse for my catch-of-the-day’s immediate future.
He added, “You would have made a lousy 4H kid.”
For the uninitiated reading this: those are the sweet farm children who lovingly raise Bertha the pig for years and then send her off to slaughter, presumably without shedding a single bacon-flavored tear.
My friend, growing increasingly impatient with me as I made cute faces at Morty, warned that talking to the crab was not going to make this easier. Nor would it result in particularly engaging conversation, for that matter.

Back at Shapiro Kitchen Stadium, we readied some lavash bread to create a pizza that would support our secret main ingredient. Well, at least it was a secret to Morty, who floated around patiently in the bucket as I grated fresh mozzarella and chopped organic basil. A large pot of water boiled. And finally, it was time.

I was right about needing more booze. Not just for Morty, but for me.

My friend reached into the bucket with woefully small tongs that were intended for tossing a small garden salad rather than the Loch Ness monster. Morty was not about to go gentle into that good pot. He flailed. My friend flailed. The whole thing soon became reminiscent of the lobster scene in Annie Hall, complete with me grabbing my camera. Then Morty, in defense of what little honor he had left, finally reached up with his big long claw and solidly nabbed my pal on the thumb, clamping down on it for quite some time until being released back into the bucket, along with the set of tongs he was now grasping like a hard-earned trophy.
Atta boy, Morty. You show ‘em!

[IMAGE] crab in control
“I want to thank the Academy…”

With the crab now firmly in control of the tongs, we went for Plan B: two equally under-powered plastic serving spoons. Geez, this was becoming pathetic. Despite his valiant efforts, Morty, not nearly drunk enough for all these shenanigans, ended up in the pot. It was a quick demise, thankfully.

[IMAGE] cooking
I promise, dear, gentle reader: it was instant.

[IMAGE] cooked crab
I was about to start another conversation with the fella.

[IMAGE] pizza prep
I almost didn’t post this since it’s a tad cruel. Yet, truthful.

As I Neosporin-ed and Bandaid-ed my friend’s digit, we both agreed that Morty’s attack was entirely justified, and that we would have tried to do far more damage had it been us being prodded with stupid kitchen utensils.

Dinner was, of course, delicious, and we thanked our crab for giving us this meal. But I couldn’t stave off a sadness and a lingering feeling that, given my numerous supermarket choices, his passing was avoidable.

After doing the dishes I walked outside with the shell and leavings of my crustacean acquaintance. I respectfully scattered Morty’s remains on a rock on the other side of my desk window and thanked him for feeding me, my friend, and whoever now may come along. When I awoke, shell pieces were strewn and it was evident that others shared the supper leftovers. In the morning as I sipped my coffee, a crow was eating crab’s legs. Morty’s legs.

[IMAGE] crow eating crab
“Now this is what I call a decent brunch!”

And that evening at sunset, after I put out the last bits of shell from the crab leftovers I enjoyed for lunch, a fox demonstrated his appreciation for the seafood platter.

[IMAGE] fox eating crab

[IMAGE] fox wanting more crab
Got more?

I even tossed out the last crab-infused edges of the pizza the following morning, thus expanding the culinary horizons of one very pleased seagull:

[IMAGE] gull with crab pizza

This all made me happy. I wanted to make sure every bit of ol’ Morty was put to good use.

I have not eaten meat or birds in over twenty years, not out of any overriding moral dissent, but due to my revulsion at factory farming. I take no issue with hunting what you need to feed your own family; that’s how it used to be and that’s the proper balance for the planet. Humans are omnivores; we have these sharp, powerful teeth for a reason and it’s not just because broccoli stems can be a little tough. We are designed to consume other animals.

I continue to eat seafood. So why is it that I wrestle so deeply with the concept of willingly ending another creature’s life? Why did I weep a little last night before falling asleep? Living in the spot I do, I observe animals killing and eating other animals virtually every day. Right in front of me, through my desk window, as I compose. An interesting juxtaposition, to be sure.

A sampling of my daily visual fare? Ducks and cormorants pop up to the ocean surface stuffing writhing fish into their gullets. Seagulls flit around with urchins and crabs dangling from their beaks. Bald eagles swoop down before my eyes and carry a young gull away in their sharp talons. I watch foxes trotting along with limp baby bunnies clutched in their jaws. Seals voraciously devour large Pacific Red octopus, ripping apart the beautiful tentacles. The resident orca whales consume vast numbers of Chinook salmon, and yes, the transient orcas eat sea lions (I’m happy to report that I have not witnessed this. Yet.). Indeed, they are known to the public as “killer whales.”

And all this time as you’ve read my bucolic blog posts over the years, you thought life here was just comprised of adorable critters and gorgeous sunsets.

Not one of these creatures shows any mercy, nor do they show a hint of remorse. Of course not. Why would they? This is how they, like us, are naturally designed.

What separates [some] humans from animals is a particular layer of empathy; for unknown reasons, we possess the DNA for squeamishness and regret. I’ve always referred to myself as a food hypocrite: I eat lots of fish and seafood that I purchase in a neatly cleaned and cooking-ready format, but have never been able to bring myself to hook and clean a fish, or dunk a lobster in boiling water.

So now I’ve experienced my first kill.
And I’m still squeamish, and regretful.
And I will still continue to eat fish and seafood.

Humans are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Which is then stuffed into a crab shell.
I am uncomfortably contradictory, and besieged with the oxymoron of being a “pescaterian”: a fish-eating vegetarian.

Thank you, Morty, for so, so much. You encouraged deep thought, in addition to making one helluva pizza.

[IMAGE] gulls on old pilings

In memory

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

[IMAGE] gulls

…click to listen:

…about the music

Toward the light.

In memory of the tragic losses ten years ago on this day.

And in memory of the equally tragic losses of freedom, civil liberties and ethical conduct by too many leaders of my country, ever since.