Book tour: segment 9!

The delicious trail through Washington and Oregon.

I couldn’t help but feel pioneer-ish overlooking the pristine views of the sound and remaining portions of the ancient forests. Though I was hardly of the pioneer’s agenda, nor even that of a missionary (despite selling books out of the back of my rental car).

I found Pacific Northwesterners (is that what you’re called?) rather hip and savvy when it comes to house and home. This trip was a lovely opportunity to meet a whole bunch of kindred spirits and celebrate the energy and enthusiasm of learning to do stuff for yourself.

After leaving California and its many charms, we pulled into Portland Thursday afternoon starting another series of events. Later that evening, my other half had the opening night of the first traveling exhibition of her project, Proud to Serve. [The exhibit’s next stop is Colgate University, tentatively scheduled for November 2011 in a combined show with Catherine Opie and Sophia Wallace.]

The following evening I finally got to meet IRL (in real life) Bethany of Sustainable Food for Thought and Chris of Lost Arts Kitchen. Bethany and Chris hosted a houseparty/food swap event.

Here’s a lovely write-up of the evening with gorgeous photos to boot! Portland partiers wiped out my remaining stash of trunk-of-the-car books. I had to put in a rush order to have books in time for Seattle houseparty events. Hooray Portland!

The next morning we headed north to Seattle for my early afternoon signing event at Elliott Bay Books. Upon my arrival at the bookstore, Rebecca introduced herself. Rebecca is a potter based in Vancouver Canada; she emailed me earlier this year asking if I’d be up for a barter. She’d read about my last encounter with the PNW and offered up a solution to my ceramic coffee cone lust.

She made me one in exchange for a copy of the book. I love her ingenuity and creativity in offering up the idea for the swap, not to mention her beautiful craftsmanship! Down into the Elliott Bay basement (aka author event area) I go…

Photo courtesy of Jo Ann Santangelo

Later that evening we headed over to Meg and Jen’s house for a book celebration cocktail party.

Our fine hosts prepared rhubarbaritas and cucumber lime gimlets (and non-alcohol versions for the little one in attendance, their daughter Lucy aka Babylady). I was overwhelmed by my friends’ thoughtfulness when I arrived to find an array of jars o’ yum send from blog friends across the country. Julia, Shae, Kaela and Marisa sent food for us to enjoy. What a truly lucky lady I am to have such fine friends.

The spread on this potluck table was entirely amazing, including Jeanne’s fine gluten-free baked goods, Sean’s specially-sent recipe for snap pea and radish salad and the just-foraged strawberries and snap peas offered up by Lucy.

I wrapped up the evening by poking around the garden with 3-year-old Lucy. We raced around sharing strawberries and other edibles all around the garden. (I learned that if we were to truly share one, I’d have to take the first bite; they otherwise disappeared whole in her mouth.) Meg’s garden is utterly amazing. I was super-impressed by her creative use of window panes at blocking out under-deck space. A girl truly after my own outdoor decor heart.

The next morning we hopped in the car and headed up to Bellingham for their inaugural food swap! Kim took some great shots of the small, but lovely gathering of Northern Washington food peeps. This small swap guest had her (gorgeous) eyes on the madelines on the swap table the whole afternoon. Her name is Chiku, which means “chatterer” in Swahili.

We of course did some driving along the sound, down Chuckanut Drive.

Where I finally met an opportunity to photograph the “cathedral of my enchantments” (courtesy of a Czelsaw Milosz poem entitled Autumn), the roadside foxglove.

Seeing these magnificent flowers all along the roadways on this West coast tour delighted me to no end. It’s a wonder and entirely humbling that such a beautiful thing could exist uncultivated and for the most part unnoticed. The PNW makes me want to curl up with my poetry books for days on end.

Enough roadside philosophising, Seattle-bound we were.

Monday had in store a visit to the Pike Place Market, an overwhelm of food, flowers, wares and tourists. I managed to survive in there for about 20 minutes, just enough time to snap a shot of a fun novelty, pickles on a stick!

The following day held in store another Seattle event, a fine houseparty potluck party hosted by Kristin and Sam. The photo below hardly shows the wonderfulness that ensued, but you do see Julia’s jelly (my inspiration for making my first jelly) and some Yakima Valley cherries granted to me by Emily, LA food swap host and my co-collaborator on establishing a food swap network main site, who was in town serendipitously touring cherry farms.

The party grew to a whole lot of fabulous food and farm community folks. I will never take for granted the experience of walking into the home of a prior-till-then stranger’s house and being welcomed and made to feel as if I’ve known the hosts and attendees forever. We stayed late into the night sipping, chatting and enjoying our new friends’ company. I even swapped books with a fellow author attendee, Becky Selengut, who wrote Good Fish.

Photo courtesy of Jo Ann Santangelo

And we signed them to each other.

Photo courtesy of Jo Ann Santangelo

On our way back to Portland the next day (to fly back home to Austin) we stopped in Olympia, where my cousin Carolyn works for an amazing org called GRuB. She gave us a farm tour.

Of course I dallied in the strawberry patch, entirely jealous of the season’s proliferation here.

The flowers in this part of the world are absolutely spectacular. Per the discovery of my new obsession, nature’s colorful frivolity, I’m starting to wonder if I’m in the wrong line of work.

On that note, this concludes the West Coast adventures. Let’s tally:

Books sold out of the trunk: 35

Opportunities to pull over the car and gawk at scenery: 100+

Delicious food consumed: many times daily

New friends made: more than I can count