chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

Monthly Archives: July 2011

my father’s workshop…3

LRK chain sculpture 1969 ~ 1 and 2

Most evenings after dinner, and for a large part of each weekend, my father could be found in his workshop in the garage, carving. Stacked in the basement and on a long, deep shelf in the garage were pieces of trees – orange, lemon, grapefruit, walnut, olive. Bark removed, sorted by size and identified by species and date, the logs lay untouched for seven or more years, drying slowly as he monitored them for pests and checking.

Eventually, his workbench cleared of another project, he would pull a piece of wood from the stack and consider it for long hours, turning it this way and that, standing it on end, sometimes sketching a form on paper, or on the wood itself. Looking for the sculpture within the wood, he slowly began to release it.

He took great pleasure in the labor, in the tree’s lingering personality, in the slow reveal of contour and grain…

LRK chain sculpture 1969 ~ 3 and 4

LRK sculpture #132 ~ orange wood ~ 1969 ~ collection of Jon & Chet Lappen

clock season…

clockTwice a year, May and July, a parenthesis around the solstice, the sun rises through two sets of high windows at the corner of my living room. A pale square of yellow light caroms off the glass and into the house to illuminate the kitchen clock, brightening and moving downward as I watch: 6:14, 15, 16. The clock’s shadow deepens, a glinting sunspot on its face. As the sun moves — the earth rolls — the reflection passes across the clock, dims again, its edges all blur. Three minutes and it’s gone, an incident, an accident of watching.


Binary Chalkboard by Ruki OygarEach morning, there were smudges on the chalkboard, indecipherable scrawls, blooms of dusty chalk, as her dreams escaped, rushing away ahead of her awakening. Rarely, a shard of sound or the image of a word lingered or returned to her unbidden later in the day.

She had been such a good dreamer, remembering, recording the tableaus that unfolded each night in the theater of her sleep. But now, even the pen and paper at her bedside, the words of encouragement she spoke to herself before sleep, had little effect. What had changed? Some chemistry of the body? Some artifact of aging? A subtle shift in the patterns of her sleeping or waking? She saw it as a failing, a weakness, a disappointment, this unremembering.

She wanted her dreams. She wanted the image and sound and texture of them to loiter in her memory. She held the chalk, ready to chronicle their return.
Binary Chalkboard painting by Ruki Oygar


shovel dirtThey had hardly spoken, the birds in the cottonwoods saying all that needed to be said, answered by the crunch-scrape of their shovels in the moist soil. A shovel tip would clank and one of them would bend to free another grapefruit-sized stone, tossing it to the side. Their shoulders and arms and backs understood this labor, moved in silent rhythm in the white glare of the summer dawn.

her rules…

cameraMy mother’s insistence upon her rules had little to do with safety or civility. It was as if our house was monitored by some invisible watcher, some arbiter of gentility, and we must constantly demonstrate what she imagined was an upper-class suavity. Posture, tone of voice, command of silverware and napkins were essential and symbolic. We must be vigilant to enforce the coveted status she attributed to “people like us.”

People like us? The small family of a hard-working middle son of a poor Hungarian rabbi? She was the watcher, afraid that our sloppiness and inattention would disqualify her in the race to grace.

Her measuring extended to her friends, acquaintances and even relatives for whose admiration she would hunger before executing her harsh censure and cutting them off. Nor were my friends immune, their manners examined and disparaged to highlight my own poor judgment in choosing them as friends — in having friends…other than her.
security camera


trying to write…

bucketAs the water warms to bathing temperature, the cold runs into a bucket in the shower. Later it finds its way into the garden.

As I sit down to write each morning, the first dribble of words sputters onto the screen, not yet warm but clear, untainted by the day’s distractions: sometimes just a few words, other times a thick, icy stream plunging toward the garden…


white mothIn the lush green-gold of summer, there is so little white: daisy, pea blossom, halibut belly, and a white moth clinging to the off-white wall outside the front door. Drawn to the false sun of the porch light, it warms now on the morning wall, invisible to birds. It is dressed in a feathery cap, black and white stockings and furred pale gray antennae, plus two tiny, vestigial eye spots that fail to make a face of its wedding-gown wings.

Surprising, motionless, it lures me out into the cool dawn.
guessing: spilosoma virginica? leucoma salicis?


chivesFor her, waking clicks once, Off to On, asleep to alert, dreams wisping away.

For him, the morning comes on like an ache, a low throb that weights him into the burrow of bedcovers. The gravity of sleep pulls him back, a seduction. Each part of his body seems to return from a far uncharted journey. A diorama of dreams glows under the slow lamp of his attention.

Meeting at that curving intersection, along the quiet contour of warm skin, they linger, listen, laugh.

lost stitches…

unravelingHaving yanked the needles out of my knitted days to go on vacation, I now attempt to retrieve loose and lost stitches, to figure out where I am, what I was making, how to resume.
unraveling photo by Wendy Briggs


crocheted bed detailFor years I slept on the floor on a sort-of-double-sized mattress crocheted of foam rubber strips. Neither as smooth as a sheet of foam rubber nor as evenly bumpy as egg-carton foam, it was actually quite comfortable. It was also lightweight, imperfectly rectangular and completely incapable of holding onto a fitted sheet, or a sheet of any description. The bedding was always in a tangle, one untucked corner often pulled back to show the huge foam stitches to curious friends.

I made it because I didn’t know how to buy a bed. I had always lived in places that already had beds — the house I grew up in, dormitories, apartments — and finding myself in an empty storefront studio, it seemed more expeditious to make a bed than to figure out how to purchase and transport one.

It was a good bed, hospitable to deep sleep and vivid dreams. I slept on it until the foam rubber lost its oomph, then rolled it up and stuffed it inside something else.
another photo here

mackeral sky, salmon sea…

salmon scaleYesterday’s painterly sky streaked with fleecy cirrus, showing a light, full blue above and a brilliant aqua lower down, cumulus bunched at the far horizon, stratus clinging to the near green hills. For a while, a halo around the sun, a few whitecaps on the ocean, sooty shearwaters, gulls, eagles. And salmon — fat and muscular, rising in silver flashes to the net.

I notice a shiny spot on my finger: a scale, slightly oval, slightly rough-edged, completely clear. On my boot toe, another, half-dipped in silver. Unseen, the tiny rings — the ciculi — that tell the fish’s history: growth and migrations, freshwater and salt, hunger and spawn. A tiny jewel, radiant armor.
salmon scale

Seattle morning…

…the city view is bright, the building faces turned to the rising sun like shiny flowers, a single hot glare sliding from window to window, gulls swooping low, below my 5th-floor vantage, a jet angling high and silent across the blue…

A Bowl of Words…fragment

Rosemary waved at Stephanie, who emerged from the house across the street on the heels of three Westies. The small white dogs streaked to the ends of their 25-foot leads before she slipped the hand-grips of the retractable lines over a stout pole. Until they became hopelessly entangled around the tree, or around each other, the dogs had the run of the large front yard, their leashes holding them just short of the driveway and the sidewalk.

Stephanie turned back into the house and reappeared a moment later pushing the side-by-side stroller. She wheeled it down the ramp that sloped along the front of the house from the front door to the driveway, then went back and lifted the dogs’ lead from its stanchion. The little dogs clustered around her ankles eagerly, then bolted toward the stroller.

“Yikes,” Laura said.

“Yeah,” said Rosemary. “The twins have just started to crawl. Wait till they’re toddlers. So how ‘bout some lemonade?”

She handed Laura the shoebox, having replaced the things she had removed, rose from the step and led the way into the house.

happy 4th of july…

bulletin board…

bulletin board
The bulletin board gene runs true in our family. My father had bulletin boards next to his desk and in his workshop — places where treasures would accrue and sketches reside as he puzzled out the mechanics of his vision. In my mother’s studio, an entire knotty-pine wall was covered with fiberboard that held newspaper and magazine clippings, drawings, small paintings and various natural objects she would bring home — a bird’s nest, unusual seed pods, a string of dried seaweed.

My own bulletin board, actually a pair of large side-by-side panels, is a chaotic layering of photos (primarily friends, animals and other people’s grandchildren), maps, things made and received, intriguing charts (the alphabet in sign language, A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods), poetry, calendars, name badges and my father’s slide rule. It’s visual compost; it’s a window I turn to as readily as the one across the room. It’s a collage, a time line, a changing prospect, and each viewing recalls moments, ideas and wonders. It’s Home.

trying to write…

switching it offthis will not be about the sky…it will not be about the hour…i will not describe the bird’s chipping bark or the robin on the lawn…you have already met the fluttering leaves of the plum tree, the blaze of yellow sedum in the yard…what does it matter if my glasses steam, if a thread of sweat gathers on my lip, if my washed hair drips onto my shoulders? of what consequence last night’s distant fireworks thumping late into my sleep? i will not say more about the taste of coffee or introduce the photograph on the calendar’s new page…

to stop the chattering, i reach for the switch, and