Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones the first time in 1990. I was twenty and had just decided that I want to be a writer when I grow up. I had never imagined such a book: a writer writing about writing. It’s a simple concept, I know. But it blew my mind. I devoured every word and then went back and read it again. I was so full of hope and ambition and passion. I went out and bought myself a big beautifully bound journal in which I would practice my craft.

I went to a bustling cafe, sat down with my big steaming cuppajoe, got out my new pen and stared at the blank page while I waited for a jewel of inspiration. Nothing. Nothing in my head was worthy of that fancy journal. Crap. Drivel. Cliche. Not a single thought that tickled my brain or twitched the nib of my pen was good enough to commit to paper. How the hell do writers do this? Everyday?


I missed the basic premise of the book: just do it. Don’t wait for it to be perfect, don’t repaint your walls to create the perfect writing room, don’t wait for the soundbites that everyone will still be quoting 50 years after you’re gone. Just write. You find the good stuff in editing.

Eighteen years later I reintroduced myself to an old passion that never died; the dream of making a living as a writer. It’s different this time. I write every day. Most of what write is crap, and that’s a beautiful thing. I celebrate the shit. I write in spiral bound notebooks that pile up and clutter our apartment. I write, I doodle, I daydream, I do timed writes, I write even when my head is completely empty. I write when I don’t know what to write. Sometimes I just write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until my pen writes something else. It’s not glamorous, it’s not inspirational, it’s not perfect. It’s just writing down the bones.

I re-read Writing Down the Bones and this time I got it. You have to be willing to be not perfect. I still have times when I find it critically important that I reorganize my files, or transcribe an entire spiral bound notebook into my computer, but on closer inspection that usually means I’m procrastinating and I’m afraid I might write crap. So then I sit down and write crap anyways.

Fish Tacos at Aguas Verdes

Fish Tacos at Aguas Verdes, originally uploaded by coffeejitters.

On the south end of Seattle’s U-District sits a little lakeside cabin that houses the Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club. The cafe menu is short and simple: Mexican food made with fresh, healthy ingredients. Fresh house-made juices, such as the watermelon juice, taste like summer. Fish tacos are a house specialty with cabbage an avacado dressing, and your choice of bacalau, smoked salmon, mahi mahi, or catfish. I come back for the smoked salmon taco time after time and can’t get enough.

I’m not a fan of most of their salsas, I find them much too sweet. And the guacamole is merely a mash of onion and cilantro, what little avacado is in there lends no flavor. But the fish tacos have flavor enough on their own and any additional salsa would detract from this amazing balance of flavors.

Come for a day, come for an hour. Rent a kayak and explore Lake Union and Lake Washington, then follow up with drinks and dinner in the cafe. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy this beautiful city.

Watermelon Juice at Aguas Verdesaguas verdes paddle clubaguas verdes094
Agua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club
1303 NE Boat Street, Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 545-8570

Agua Verde in Seattle

Dahlia Lounge

Dahlia Lounge

This afternoon when I was visiting Grandma, I told her Aaron and I were planning to go to the Dahlia Lounge for the first time. She said, “have the pie.” When Grandma tells you to try someone else’s pie, take notice. She knows pie.

So we’re not rich and I’m trying to lose weight – yet our favorite thing in the whole wide world is to eat really good food at nice restaurants. We’ve found that the best way to protect my waistline and his wallet is to share a starter and entree rather than each of us getting our own. This doesn’t always work well for us when it comes to service. Sometimes the server will just bring us a spare plate. Sometimes this results in distainful looks from the wait staff. But at Dahlia Lounge we were treated like rockstars.

Our Tuscan grilled bread salad with pesto, olives, mozzarella and spicy coppacola was artfully presented on two separate, smaller plates – with a smile. This salad was amazing. Very earthy with warm smoky tones – I feel like I’m describing a wine – yet the salad was good enough to warrant such pithiness.

Also artfully presented on two smaller platters was our shared entree. The five spice Peking duck was delicious: perfect herby crust, juicy inside, served with a super hot teriyaki and plum jam. Yummy.

And by the way, Grandma was right. The coconut cream pie was heavenly, topped off with a towering mound of toasted coconut and white chocolate shavings.bird-2

The meal was not cheap, even sharing the dishes. One soda, one scotch, one salad, one entree and one desert came out well over sixty dollars. But definitely worth it.

Come if you can, save up if you need to.

Save room for pie.

Dahlia Lounge on Urbanspoon


Dahlia Lounge

Zephyr Grill & Bar, Kent

The most recent addition to the new Kent Station , Zephyr Grill & Bar is easily the nicest restaurant in Kent. Taupe walls, dark wood booths topped with sculpted glass, elegant lighting, and white fabric napkins (yes, in Kent that’s a step up) all add up to a nice ambiance, with a skilled wait-staff and the food was excellent too. Why, however, do they not put some kind of padding or buffering in the ceiling – or is it just that deafening restaurants are currently en vouge? Just a touch of buffering makes a world of difference in allowing you to hear what your partner is saying, and in drowning out the laugh of the obnoxious blonde on the other side of the room.

When we were seated in the dark-stained wood booth by the window, our server immediately brought out the bread basket: a selection of olive loaf and sourdough breads with sweat cream, pesto, and red pepper butters. The menu was a bit pricey, the entrees ran from the high teens to the low thirties; mostly around $25 a plate. We decided on a starter each and then we would share an entree and a side dish. Mr. H had the yellow pepper soup, which came out in a huge bowl. I’m not so much a fan of the yellow pepper so I didn’t taste the soup, but he reports that it was excellent. My caesar salad was delivered in a huge wooden bowl, large enough to be a meal itself.

Mr. H ordered a glass of the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir which arrived in a glass much more empty than full. As we pondered the two fingers of wine and the air that filled the remainder of the glass we discussed the glass half empty/half full pessimist/optimist distinction and whether it was relevant when the glass was 1/5 full. I stuck my nose in the glass and inhaled, then took a sip. Not bad, not noteworthy, just a decent red wine. As I whined about the quantity of wine our server arrived with another glass, this one filled to a more appropriate depth. Apparently, the bartender had not completed filling the glass before the server ran off with it so they sent another glass of wine over with their compliments. Giving me free wine will always make points.

Our entree arrived on a huge platter: two filets of salmon on two puddles of sauce, one was a cabernet marionberry sauce and the other was lemon butter. The center of the plate contained a mound of rice pilaf, topped off with broccoli florettes. We also ordered a side of asparagus. The asparagus was amazing. The chefs treatise on asparagus is apparently “Don’t so much cook it, as threaten it.” The theory paid off with perfectly grilled asparagus topped with a light butter sauce. Would that he had held the same theory for broccoli as it was woefully overdone and floppy. The pilaf was hearty if a little bland. The sauces were good but the real treasure of the meal was the salmon. It was perfectly prepared with just the right herby crust. I found I preferred the salmon on it’s own, without the sauces.

All in all it was an exceptional meal at a very nice location. I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Meme & Company

First of all a note about the weather: This is Seattle people, it rains here. There is no reason whatsover to be driving 20 MPH on I-5 just because it rains. It rains all the time. That’s what we’re famous for. Get over it or get off the road.

Once I arrived at my appointment, 20 minutes late and completely frazzled, I was more than ready for a massage. Meme & Co is a tiny little salon in a new strip mall in Federal Way. The web site needs help and the salon is a bit too small for it’s own good as well. There were three (taken) chairs in the waiting area so after checking in I ended up standing by the door while waiting for the massage therapist to come out. When she arrived she presented me with a couple diagrams of the human body and asked me to draw on there where my pain was. I was standing in the middle of the room and after looking around a minute, I walked over to the reception desk, pushed some things around to make space and used the counter as a surface for illustrating my tension. After a few quick scribbles she walked me back through the salon to the room where the massage would take place.

The salon area reminded me of backstage just before a performance. There was a palpable energy in the air, a rabbit warren of twists and turns marking off stations where people were attending to each other, running around with their hair in curlers and others sunk back in corners with their eyes closed in meditation. The only difference was the melon colored walls and huge windows.

Once we made it back to the room where the massage was to take place, I felt much more calm. The room was sage green with nice lighting and a big easy chair in the corner. She shut the door and turned the music up, a little loud for my taste, and asked me a couple more questions. Most notably she asked if I was allergic to any of the scents, herbs, and essences that they use. This is huge. Past experience at spa’s I had to make a point of stating clearly that I am allergic to grasses and echanacia.bird-4

Previous exchanges went like this:
“I’m allergic to echanacia”
“That’s nice. Here, have a cup of tea.”
“Does it have echanacia in it?”
“Yes, this tea will boost your immunity.”
“But I’m allergic to echanacia.”
“Oh, don’t worry, it’s organic and all natural.”

Spa people rarely want to admit that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for everybody. People with allergies are allergic to natural things. Duh!

Ok, moving on. Suffice to say, she made points by acknowledging that not all scents, herbs and essences are good for everybody.

As it turns out, she had turned the music up loud in an attempt to drown out the noise from the salon. The music was not to Yanni so it was ok, and almost loud enough to do the trick. The massage was very good. She’s she had great pressure control and by the time she was done, I was complete jelly. And to top it all off, it was only $65 for a 1 hour massage, which around here is an excellent price.

Good the massage, but find somewhere else if you’re looking for the overall spa experience. Much to chaotic for that.