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It has been a month since I said goodbye to my sweet Ella. I can finally write about it, I think, without falling apart. I’m just gonna write this and get it over with.

About a week into February, she was diagnosed with metastasizing likely pancreatic cancer, based on an ultrasound done to figure out why her abdomen had been swelling up with fluid. Nodes all throughout her abdomen. Her vet withdrew 300-350 ml of fluid from her tiny body (6 lbs back when Ella was healthy), on two occasions about a week apart, to help relieve the swelling. After a week of steroids and pain medications, she seemed unable to get comfortable when not completely stoned, and then had a night of vomiting followed by not wanting to eat or leave the water bowl. I didn’t want her to suffer further. With the kind assistance of a hospice veterinarian, Ella passed at home on her favorite sleeping spot, a fluffy towel folded over a heating pad.

Ella had turned 16 in the fall, and I was lucky enough to have been her food lady for the last 10.5 of her years. My heart and arms still ache for her. During the previous 10 months or so, working at home included an afternoon ritual wherein Ella presented herself on my desk at around 3 p.m., ready to be picked up and cuddled. The above photo was taken at such a time.

This evening when I again remembered she was never again going to be ready for her pre-dinner treats I broke down again.

Lucy, who was usually jealous of Ella (even more so when I started spending nights on the living room floor with Ella knowing there wouldn’t be many more to spend with her, instead of in bed with Lucy), seemed to be looking for her for the first couple of days, then waiting for her for several more. Now she seems to enjoy not having to share the attention and the litter box. Still, when I rearranged furniture over the weekend and doubtless stirred up faded Ella-scent, Lucy spent some more time sitting and looking, as if waiting.

I moved Ella’s last towel, but can’t yet bring myself to wash it and put it away. Each time I’ve tried, I ended up hugging it and crying. For now it is in a corner where Ella didn’t spend much time, but I can still imagine it is waiting for her, just a little longer.

… move to Vermont, or anywhere else.

… go to London in March to see two of the world’s greatest ballerinas in Swan Lake on consecutive nights from those amazing seats at the Royal Opera House that I was so lucky to obtain last November.

… want to also cancel a trip in May to see the Boston Ballet’s Swan Lake, but that production has been cancelled and indeed it doesn’t look like any elective travel is going to an option any time soon.

… lose my livelihood or worse from the novel coronavirus response, thank goodness, knock on wood.

… mind donating those three N95 masks I had purchased last summer in anticipation of wildfire smoke.

… look at my 401k statement and don’t plan to until we’re on the other side of this.  There’s enough stress as it is, and I’m counting my blessings that I’m still working and have health insurance.

… expect to become a microgreens gardener or a kombucha homebrewer, or to have a bottle of Everclear living on my kitchen counter, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

… realize how much unnecessary toilet paper and kleenex I used to use.

… realize how lucky I am at times like these to be a naturally-inclined homebody.

… realize how much I love walking around my own neighborhood that I didn’t move away from, or appreciate how many cherry trees live here, with their different varieties and blooming times.

… leave the apartment yesterday except to accept a delivery and check the mail.  It’s time to take a walk.


Other random gratitudes:

  • what previously seemed like a ridiculous quantity of tea towels
  • what previously seemed like a ridiculous quantity of stockpiled soaps and hand creams (wish I could say the same about toilet paper)
  • what previously seemed like a ridiculous quantity of art supplies (wish i could say I’m actually using them… soon…)
  • the box of disinfecting wipes my sweetheart kindly mailed to me.  Best Easter basket ever!
  • the plethora of food delivery options in my city, and all of those brave souls out there working those delivery jobs.  They and the grocery store workers truly are heroes and deserve to have employer-provided personal protective equipment, hazard pay, huge tips, etc.

Things I will miss about Seattle:

  • The friends I have made here
  • Many local businesses and the nice people who work there
  • The Pacific Northwest Ballet (but I still plan to fly back for the swans)
  • My quirky old apartment and the wonderful light it gets
  • Spending time in the garden with my 92-year-old neighbor
  • Most of the summer weather
  • Anhalt buildings


Things I will not miss about Seattle:

  • The junkies.  The seemingly chemically impaired people just hanging out on the sidewalks, the neighborhood parks, the bus stops, wherever.  The odor of piss along the sidewalks of Belltown and from every alley of downtown.  The used syringes left in our garden.
  • The contrast of ground level poverty at the feet of the magic growing glass structures/behemoths of the burgeoning wealthy tech industry.
  • The fact that I will not be able to afford to live here (even if I wanted to) when I retire, and even with a pretty well-paying job I will never be able to afford more than a one bedroom apartment in a building with problems (though I realize I am fortunate to have a job that lets me afford this, and I don’t need more than one bedroom for myself, but now and then it would be nice to have guests).
  • The overcrowded buses.
  • The weed clouds at downtown bus stops.
  • Wildfire smoke when it drifts over here from elsewhere.  It was pretty bad last summer; this summer I’m prepared with masks and DIY box fan filter.


I am so over Seattle.


Things I am looking forward to:

  • Snow
  • Glorious autumn leaves
  • Fireflies
  • Thunderstorms
  • Visiting Montreal, Boston, and Maine
  • The Boston Ballet, and popping down occasionally to NYC to see ballet there


Things I am worried about:

  • That much snow.
  • The slim likelihood of finding a place to live that is within a block of a veterinarian (see also: That much snow).


The where, the when:

  • Most likely Burlington, Vermont
  • Most likely early October mid-late April


So after the Seattle Swans, where did 2018 go?

I worked.

Most of this year has been very, very busy at work. I’m ready to rest.

Paris Encore

Oh, right, I returned to Paris one more time, in late March, with the hopes of seeing cherry blossoms and other springtime beauty.  But I had to work.  Yes, I telecommuted from Paris for several days. And missed most of the cherry blossoms.  And failed to make it up La Tour Eiffel, which I fully intended to do this time (stupid online ticketing system). And didn’t ride Le Batobus because the Seine was so high, many of the stations were flooded and the water too high under some of the bridges.  And felt too self-conscious/time-crunched to dine out this time. And failed to realize being there over Passover meant L’As du Falafel would be closed.  And was not feeling self confident enough to enter a Diptyque boutique, which was on my list.  But the apartment was wonderful, I did get to enjoy early spring buds in several lovely parks, and I had the thrill of a local lady at a bus stop asking me about the bus times, I think.

A New Addiction Blooms

Hey!  I became a fragrance junkie in 2018!  Or at least went full-on into my fragrance journey, seeking my one true love. Turns out I found many true loves, depending in the season, the time of day, my mood, etc.

I blame this on the room spray that was in my second Paris apartment back in December 2016 (that trip when I saw Swan Lake several times), the one with the macerating toilet that really needed a room spray, and it was labeled Muji fig balsam or something like that.  I would have loved it even without the macerating toilet. When I returned to the States, I unsuccessfully searched for that spray fragrance.

Fast forward to July 2017, in the lovely small inn in Milan. The bottle of body lotion in that bathroom smelled so much like that room spray!  When I returned to the States,  after the remains of that bottle of lotion were released from the six-week bedbug quarantine, I enjoyed it for a few more weeks, then unsuccessfully searched for that lotion fragrance.

Until I discovered Diptyque Figuier room spray.  This was it!  That fragrance!  Yay!

So then I got a sample of the corresponding Diptyque Philosykos perfume.  Which isn’t something that smelled good on me.

But then I bought a bunch of other Diptyque fragrance samples from And fell in love with Eau Duelle.

And discovered And started reading about and collecting samples of all kinds of fragrances to test.  And couldn’t stop.  Or wouldn’t. And discovered you can buy a sample of just about anything from eBay.

And now I have more perfume than I will ever use up in my remaining years.  Plus a bunch of samples that aren’t fragrances for me that I hope to re-home.

Driving and Driving around Washington State

For work.  In June and July and August.

The Cat Health Issues

Lucy’s chronic UTIs, Ella’s eye meltdown, Lucy’s basal cell tumors (to be removed in a couple of weeks), other things I’ve already forgotten.

The Chicago Swans

That’s not the name of a sports team, is it? I saw Swan Lake again in late October in the Windy City. The ballet team this time was the Joffrey, performing Christopher Wheeldon’s story-within-story retelling, with imagery straight out of a Degas painting. Lovely.

The Stories within Stories of Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I read The Shadow of the Wind early in the year, then The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven in the autumn.  Today, I finished The Labyrinth of Spirits.  I read other stuff this year but can’t remember what in the wake of these epic works.

And also …

Probably other significant things I am forgetting.

Achilles tendinopathy that came on this fall, fortunately repaired with physical therapy.

Too much attention to national news, consumed too often on the hand-held device, resulting by being sickened by each new low from the evil brat in chief and his greedy obsequious enablers.  Resolution number one for 2019 is to break the steady news habit.  (Although SNL and Last Week Tonight are encouraged because they make me laugh.)

Not enough drawing or painting. Resolution number two is to try once again to make that a habit.

I have begun pining for the northern part of the east coast, dreaming of returning to my childhood homeland. Oh, New England…

So goodbye to 2018.  Here’s hoping for good things in 2019.


Impressions from this run of Swan Lake at PNB, after seeing all nine performances, are listed in no particular order.

After seeing Swan Lake in Paris, San Francisco, and Milan, PNB’s/Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake is still my favorite version, because of the fourth act, and the corps staging in the second act. The swans, the ruins-like set, the lighting are magic, dreamlike.

All five of the Odettes in this run were exquisite, with Noelani Pantastico’s performances as standouts for me.  Tonight she was also especially dazzling as Odile, seeming to take risks in timing. (WOW, the fish dive/drop with stellar partner Seth Orza… did they plan that?… and that centrifugal force spin near the end?)  And this afternoon, Lesley Rausch was dazzling in a more controlled way… a flawless performance, with triumphant joy after thrillingly rocking the fouettés. Laura Tisserand’s beautiful lines and emotional performances, Elizabeth Murphy’s clarity and vulnerability, and Sarah Orza’s achingly beautiful arm ripples and timing choices (what a debut!) all wowed me. All five of them broke my heart at the end, especially Noelani.

All five of the Siegfrieds were very fine.  The standouts for me were Karel Cruz (as always … if not for the music, would he spin forever, and hover in the air forever?) and Dylan Wald, who made an impressive debut while still in the corps de ballet.

Regardless of the leads, the 24-swan ensemble is the real star of this ballet.

And the orchestra. And that epic score.

Beyond the swans, the czardas is my favorite group dance.  I especially enjoy watching Steven Loch dance this dance (as well as the Spanish dance) with such gusto.

In the role of Wolfgang, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite between Ezra Thomson and Kyle Davis; both steal the first act show.  Both played the character with increasing richness as the run progressed, and both made me laugh out loud today.

My favorite seats in the house for this ballet are front role left of center, because I get to see the comic relief unfold up close, have the longest possible view of Odette’s final exit, experience the flock rustling when they are running circles and serpentines, and have no one else between me and the orchestra. It’s also a convenient location to quickly exit at intermission and dash to the secret bathrooms near the lecture hall that almost no one else uses.

It was a dream to be immersed in this run.  Now it’s time to catch up on sleep and return to regular life, but hopefully carrying a bit of the magic inside me until the next time.

It’s swan season again in the Pacific Northwest. Once again I’m seeing all of them.  It’s what I do.

Last night’s Odette/Odile, Noelani Pantastico, was transcendent. I feel unable to articulate how beautiful and moving her performance was.

The entire production was especially magical last night.  Whatever the next six performances bring, and all the future swans, last night was a dream that I hope lingers for a very long time.




green on green on green




westward ho


down and around


On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier


pretend Italy


Note to self: next time you feel grumbly about living in a building that sometimes feels like it is held together by duct tape applied by volunteers that comprise only 15% of everyone who co-owns it, just go for a walk. Be it ever so humble, at least home is in walking distance to all this beauty and more.

Having slept better than most Sundays into Mondays

This morning’s excitement:

A moth on the bedroom ceiling

Struggling to get to the moon

Both cats trying to get to the moth

It’s still up there, no longer in motion

And after their breakfast

They’ve returned to

The stakeout.

It was called Trader Giotto’s Bruschetta Sauce.

It was lovely on tortilla chips. Or simply on a spoon would do.


But then I ate too much and, um, made myself sick from it.

The journey ended with three nights in Venice, an architecturally magical city I had visited for several days in May 1994, and been captivated by then. This time I arrived at the end of an exhausting journey, still badly bruised from the fall in Giverny (my ribcage has only just returned to unpainful, but my right knee hasn’t quite yet), and still fearful of carrying insect stowaways. The original plan was to be a houseguest in a family-owned apartment, but rather than risk leaving said stowaways with them, they generously put me up in a nice air-conditioned vacation rental a short walk from their apartment.

Venice in July was hot, humid, and burgeoning with tourists and mosquitos. My body craved rest. These conditions were not ideal for enjoying the city. But I did thrill in seeing the buildings and bridges and boats, eating some very yummy meals and gelato, and visiting the La Fenice, which we toured during the second day and to which we returned for an evening of chamber music. The day before, we visited San Michele, which was beautifully peaceful and fragrant of cedar (or some tree that reminded me of cedar), but uncomfortable in the heat and limited mid-day shadows. The highlight of my last night there was a lovely evening cruise around the city on a vaporetto.

The vaporetti are Venice’s water-borne buses, and practically demanded Sailor Babo coverage, as did the ubiquitous gondolas, which I rode once to cross the Grand Canal in a form of public transit service called the traghetto.


Look closely, and you may notice that the gondolier is doing something on a hand-held mobile device.

For a glimpse of what else caught my eyes during this time in Venice, I invite you to scroll through the photos posted here.

(Eventually, photos of Milan, Giverny, and Paris will be uploaded to Flickr as well. I’m slowly working my way backward through thousands of images.)