Comfort Stations

Feeling fragile? Frayed, or afraid?

Yes. Hi. Me too. There’s a bunch of us in this…boat, this space, this era.

I want to share two things I’ve been leaning on a bit when the pressure of words and feelings builds up.

Number One: I try to capture magic sensory moments in my day. This morning it was the unexpected scent of wild roses on my walk. Yesterday it was the gentle breath of the air when the wind finally dropped. And a couple of days ago, at the Dump, it was this stunning image inside the glass dumpster:

good thing I had my camera, ’cause I’m not sure I could capture this in words

Someone–maybe one of our community’s glass artists?–had dumped a large pile of crushed glass on top of the usual bottles, and then, in a fit of artistry I guess, added a small glass sea star on top.

I took that photo, then got everyone else at the dump to take a look themselves. Voila–instant joy, in a dumpster.

Number Two: You know the game Bananagrams? It’s lovely, and I recommend it. But my sons and I play a variation on the game that we call Scramble. I won’t describe Scramble here, because it’s as fast & furious as it sounds–lots of fun, but not at all restful or comfortable. But SOLITARY Scramble is both. Here’s how it works.

  1. Dump all 144 Bananagrams tiles out and turn them blank-side-up. 2. Turn 4 letters over and try to make a word. If you can’t, keep turning over tiles until you can. 3. Once you have a word, continue turning tiles, one at a time. But (HERE’S THE FUN PART) 4. Try to fit each new letter into an EXISTING word before creating a new one.

A few rules, of course. Adding letters to existing words requires re-arranging the word. You can’t just make something plural, change “bask” to “basking”, or “world” to “worldly”. You CAN change “bask” to “basket,” or “world” to “whorled.” Or even “latrine” to “relating.”

Get it?

Unlike regular Scramble, where you’re trying to use letters before your fellow players do, Solitaire Scramble is deliciously slow. Deliberate. No backsies–whenever you’ve used a letter, you can’t later move it to another word! So take your time.

Hint: pay attention to “ING” and “ED” and “TION” possibilities. If you find the 4-letter-word minimum too challenging, start with three.

And if you’re both careful and lucky, you might just end up with a PERFECT ROUND, using up all 144 letters:


Now THAT is comfort: a good 45 minutes spent on nothing but language.

Anyone else? Comforting little moments to share? My spirits will thank you.

Project 562: Awakening America to Native Reality

“Let’s shift our collective consciousness and remember that we belong to each other.” So says Matika Wilbur, a fellow Northwesterner with roots WAY deeper than mine.

Wilbur is Tulalip and Swinomish, a member of two of the tribes closest to where I live. For the past two years, she has been traveling around the West, on a mission to awaken mainstream America to the fact that Native Americans’ vibrant lives have little to do with the “leathers and feathers” stereotypes of a vanished culture.

Since she’s a Seattleite, I’m embarrassed to admit I first came across Matika Wilbur in a Radcliffe alumnae magazine. She’s won awards, done a TED talk, and her work has been featured in museums. I’m just late to the party. But now I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about Project 562.

The name reflects the number of tribes recognized by the U.S. government in 2012, when Wilbur embarked on her project. (It has since risen to 567, according to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.) The photographs reflect the settings, hopes, and realities of everyday Native Americans, people we non-Natives almost never get to meet or see in any kind of media.

And the effect of Project 562? I could describe it from my perspective: heartening, heart-rending, joyful, painful, hopeful. But I would rather hear about its effect on you. Please look at Wilbur’s video and tell me what you think.