I hear today was a penumbral eclipse of the moon. Maybe that explains the following:

1. Why one of my students insisted on writing her page for our field guide to local animals on a velociraptor.

2. Why another one of my students found a spider and seriously wanted to know if it was edible.

3. Why another pair of students chose the wheelbarrow race as their general mode of transportation.

4. Why yet another student had to be told no she couldn’t jump down the stairs for fun.

5. Why Squinch ran off and flushed a coyote larger than himself in a park in the middle of Seattle at two o’clock in the afternoon.

6. Why an evangelical brass band stopped my class on the way home from the park with stories of how they hugged people at Sandy Hook and a climate-change-denying book about religion, leaving me to explain that yes, children died but most children do not die and everyone must die someday and I do not know where the grandmother of the non-edible spider might be.

Or maybe it was just one of those days.



Squinchy is the kind of dog you have to talk to. This is a fact; my friend Brigid, who is reading up about dogs because she doesn’t have one yet, said so. It is a characteristic of his breed. This is good, because I’ve always talked to him in full paragraphs. This is also good because if I wasn’t talking to him I would be talking out loud to myself. DSCN2457

More than just talking, though, Squinchy invites song. You are my Squinchy, my only Squinchy, you make me happy, when skies are gray, I sing when I scratch him in the morning.  If I’m feeling silly, I make a parody out of my mom’s parody of a Comet commercial I’ve never heard. Squinchy: you make my teeth turn green. Squinchy: you taste like gasoline…. I sing him into everything. Christmas time was full of Oh Holy Squinch, and Squinchin’ Around the Christmas Tree.  “In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine is a frequent one, especially the part about he ain’t got laid in a month of Sunday — I caught him once he was sniffing my undies, which needs no modification. (Sorry, Squinch, I know that we cut your balls off and sent you into a life of cross-species platonic devotion. But remember, He’s my Squinchy. I’m his honey. Never gonna let him go.)


Of course, this could say more about me than about Squinch. After all, the five year old I babysit is always telling me to STOP SINGING! But I’m not the only one. Nate adapted a Presidents of the United States of America song: Squinch sat alone in a boggy marsh, totally emotionless except for his heart. Mud ran up into Squinch’s pajama’s, totally confusing all the passing paranhas. My cowboy flea classic “Oh Home on the Squinch” isn’t the only surrealist Squinch song, I guess.

My class wrote him a ballad, with lines like Squinchy is awesome. He loves his possum. He looks like a blossom and he loves to do summersaults.

And even Nate’s roommate sings, Your brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Squinch.

Weather Update

So I lied. It is not sunny in Seattle. In fact, when I wrote that last post, the sun had already sort of gotten hidden behind some fog and it has been foggy ever since. I keep expecting Sherlock Holmes to pull up in a hackney cab.

But the thing is, in my head fog is pretty much the same as sun.

Gratuitous picture of Squinchy as a puppy -- but note the boring clouds.

Gratuitous picture of Squinchy as a puppy — but note the boring clouds.

Here’s why fog is like sun:

1. Often it burns off and the day turns into a sunny day.

2. Even if it doesn’t, I know the sun is really close, just on the other side of the fog.

3. It is Interesting Weather, as opposed to week after week of strato-cumulus drizzle.

4. Fog is not rain. This, I know, is a logical fallacy, but I’m comfortable with that.

Weather Report


Don’t tell the Californians, but it has been sunny in Seattle. We have had a week — more! — of pure sun, broken only by atmospheric fog. Vitamin D is in the very air. This is the week in January that keeps the whole Northwest from going postal.

Not only has it been sunny, it’s been cold. We’ve had frost. We’ve had ice. And, in the words of an infinitely quotable five year old, “if it rains it will snow.” Give that one to the Zen masters.

Squinchy knows how to enjoy the world. He rolls on the frozen puddle in the vacant lot like it is a ripe dead salmon. He sleeps by every fire.

If you are needing any help making the most of winter, curl up somewhere cozy and listen to me read you a story. It will only take a minute and fourteen seconds. If that’s not enough, click on some of the other ones. I can promise you British accents. But don’t do this during the daylight. Get out into the sunlight, if you have it. We want you to stay sane.

A Bad Way to Go


Squinchy almost did me in last night. We were sleeping at my parents’ house in the room off the bathroom downstairs.  I was sound asleep, when Charlie, my parents’ dog, woke me up by scratching at the door. He wanted to go drink out of the toilet, thank god. If he hadn’t, I don’t know what would have happened to me.  But he pulled me up out of a deep, foggy sleep into the awareness that something was very wrong.

I was sweating like crazy, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, and felt nauseated and loose at both ends. The air felt like poison. I stumbled into the bathroom, threw open the window, interrupted Charlie’s drink, and collapsed onto the toilet.  I was sweating and shaky and had a roaring in my ears I have only had once before, standing naked except for a pink stocking cap on the side of a frozen mountain in Idaho. That is a different story, but I knew the roaring meant I was on the edge of passing out. I braced myself on the wall, leaving invisible sweat prints I’m sure you could find with your tongue if you felt the need to lick my parents’ bathroom wall.

Turns out, the air was poisoned: poisoned with dog farts. Dear, sweet little Squinchy, who slept through it all in his own haze, was poisoning us both with his terrible Special Christmas Dinner and Compost Pile Foraging Gas. I worry about his old age. And I never thought I would say it, but thank goodness for Charlie’s toilet water habit: dying of dog farts on Christmas night would be a bad way to go.

Kind Friends

I have kind friends.  Last week, I took my car in for a new timing belt. I need my car back tonight, I told them. If that won’t work, I can come back next week.  They assured me it would be done, but when I called them at 4:30 to ask when I should pick it up I was told that they had taken it apart and then sent the technician home. The parts just got here. It will be ready tomorrow. I didn’t know what to do — not only did I have to use my car to cart all my teaching supplies to Frog Hollow the next morning, but the supplies were in the car, in the shop. Cara doesn’t have a car. Nate has a mean commute in the opposite direction. There I was, standing in the thickening dusk, teetering on a minor catastrophe.

So I called Alice and Mark.  They are the folks I babysit for, and are two of the kindest, most loving human beings I have the pleasure of knowing. I have a huge favor, I told Alice.

And she lent me their Mercedes.

Alice and Mark inherited this car. It is an old green boat of a vehicle, and was missing a window from being broken into. Next time take the whole car — we need the insurance money. God Bless, read the piece of cardboard they had propped in the hole. Classic Mark humor. Usually, they drive a Honda CRV with three car seats crammed in the back. Until recently, their other car was a mid-eighties golden Honda Accord they had dubbed Goldmember, which has now been “crushed up for metal!” according to their five year old.

These guys have busy, lively lives, but they didn’t even hesitate to lend me their car.  There’s Cat Power and some reggae CD’s, Mark told me. You can’t tell it at first until the turbo kicks in, but this car’s got power.  He showed me the basics of the car. Thank you, he said.

No, thank you.

Oh right. Well I’m so used to thanking you. Which is true — both Mark and Alice are consistently appreciative and considerate, and if you want some test subjects on the link between gratitude and happiness, just look at them. These guys know how to live.

Alright, And he gave me the key.

And that is how, instead of having a hellish logistical disaster, I got to drive a Mercedes. I picked up my supplies from the car shop — they lowered down my car to let me into the trunk. I drove to my class. Cara watched Squinchy for the day. The Mercedes had great speakers and the pleasing air of a well made thing. And driving it, I could feel the good people who have my back. People like that keep life okay.

I got the car back to them just in time for Nate to steal me (and the Squinch) for a secret romantic weekend in a cabin on the coast, with plenty of tranquility and seagull chasing and good, good, Nate-cooked food. Like I said, I’ve got some good people.

And don’t be surprised if someday down the line, I turn up driving my own Mercedes.

Blame it on the Dog

Two weekends ago, on the way home from camping at Mt. Rainier National Park, I stopped for a burger at Naches Tavern, where a sign in the window reads IF YOU ARE UNDER 21 BE PREPARED.

Naches Tavern
After a conversation where of all things we mostly talked about William Blake and skiing and interpretive dance, an ex-ski bum/firefighter named Mike gave me his number. He wrote it on a Mac and Jacks coaster, and I put it in my pocket.
“Oooo, her boyfriend is going to see that,” teased Mike’s buddy Fred.
“Actually, it’s my dog you have to worry about,” I said.
Then they drove off in a big truck.
I had all good intentions of calling him. I almost did it Monday, but thought I’d be cool and wait. Tuesday morning, the coaster disappeared. It surfaced on the front stoop, a little altered. The corner where the number was had been chewed off.
So sorry, Mike, my dog ate your number.
And all you people who eternally wondered why that certain person never called after you wrote down your number for them: who knows, maybe they have protective dogs too.  However, if they put your number in their phone instead of just on paper, they probably do hate you. Or they have super dedicated dogs.
And all you people who think that William Blake can’t help you pick up cute guys in small town bars, hah!
Also, Squinchy totally made up for it by a) being awesome and handsome, and b) befriending the interesting guy at the dog park’s dog today. I think I’ll trust Squinchy’s nose on this one.