I am a Strong, Independent Woman™ but I am not kidding, on today’s sojourn to Spoon Creek Falls I missed my partner more than once. A mile prior to reaching the trailhead, while pulled over at a remote camping/resort facility to make sure we weren’t getting lost, my eyes fall on an official poster exhorting dishearteningly-detailed strategies to survive an attack by a mountain lion or bear. So when we finally get outside on foot I keep thinking how we’ve been having cougar sightings in town (as well as local Great White Sharks but, I wasn’t too worried about those) and that you can’t hear these creatures, until they’re on you, jaws fastened on your neck. Between the intense heat, the isolation of our location, a busted-ass car, my fears of ravenous predators (including scary hillbillies), and an impending ice-cold swim – I figured I’d be nicely tuckered out by the time I got home (I was right on that account).
The kids were bickering just a little as we disembarked on the trail. It had been a long, hot, and unfamiliar drive – and the kids had caught my irritation that even official directions to scenic locales are often a bit wonky. But when we rounded the first trial switchback, barely off the gravel thoroughfare, the view to the 70-foot falls and crystal-clear punchbowl immensely cheered my travel companions. “This was worth the drive,” my son tells me, skipping ahead. “And that’s an understatement!”
The falls were private, and magical, in a way my camera couldn’t capture (but hey – here’s a panorama anyway). And while we were there – not a soul to disturb us.* Clear water and the reflection of the ripples dancing on the tree trunks.
The kids thanked me profusely for taking them there. I thought to myself how I’m not at all a natural – exploring, trying to find something new. If it weren’t for the kids, who knows if I’d do it at all!
The ascent back to the trailhead is as steep as one could comfortably walk. We’re wearing flip flops so it’s a little treacherous. I tell my son – “Be careful,” and he says, “Why?”
“You’ll fall and sprain an ankle.”
“Fall into a ‘sprankle‘? What is that?” His voice is that same bright, cautious, very alert tone he’s had his whole life. Nels like Danger. What can I say? He’s hoping for something scary, something fourth-dimension and treacherous. He lives for that stuff. You already know this.
As we pull back onto the first gravel road, rehydrated and ready for home, my car odometer clicks over to 205,000 miles. The road isn’t so dusty we have to keep the windows up – thank God, as my A/C doesn’t work. Our trip back to Hoquiam was at turns loud – listening to music and singing along – and at times quiet, contemplative – driving through miles of sun-dappled road, the tree-soaked hills roaring up around our ears. We took Donkey Creek back, to avoid the massive amounts of Friday traffic heading to our beaches.
For a day trip it was pretty special, and I’m glad we made it back – a heat wave, a car with a cracked radiator, and isolated backroads are a little nerve-wracking for little ol’ me! Especially given such precious cargo.Read More
Exactly no one is surprised that I have a child’s “suit library” – that is to say, that I meticulously traced every pattern piece for every sized I could. That’s sixteen pieces per suit, and eight sizes – a total of 128 pieces that I traced, color-coded, labeled, hole-punched and reinforced, and then hung up on a board with hooks my husband made me.
I am that prepared to make up suitcoats, y’all.
In Burda 6918, an out-of-print vintage-ass pattern, I found the Holy Grail: the missing range for tween/teen boy. Tween/teen boys have perhaps the fewest sewing patterns out there. I know, right?
The seafoam suiting with beige pinstripes has a wonderful hand and the suit will keep performing through many, many children. I put in a little extra length for my son, who is growing at a rate of six inches a year
Recommendations? If you make your child a suit, make two pair of trousers to go with it. My experience has shown that, even though children will wear the suitcoat without the trousers – thus wearing the coat much more – the trousers are the first to look shabby. Torn at the knee, frayed hem, et cetera. The only alternative is requiring one’s child to don the garments only during special occasions, and to behave with utmost decorum while wearing it. But – where’s the fun in that?
Today the children and I wrap a few presents for their father, and tidy the house for his return. He’s out meeting with someone he’s mentoring. Once a week, even with his schedule, he makes this time. I’m impressed by him. As always.
He shares the dark chocolate bar in his gift, with the children. They adore him.
Another beautiful sunny day – with that crisp bite of beachy air that I frankly am not willing to live without. I bake honey cornbread, first melting a stick of butter in the cast iron, and whipping the batter into a lightness. Yogurt and coconut flour additions: nutrition, growing children. I simmer beans on the stove while I instruct my daughter in dressing roasted chiles. We’ve an antiquated pressure cooker and can go from dried beans to tender in forty minutes – but I like the old-fashioned way, when I have the foresight.
My body is fatigued, more so that seems reasonable. I am continually amazed at the energy of my children – and it must be said, my husband as well. A few errands in the day, out to a volunteer gig this evening, then home for dinner where I feel wasted. I lie on the couch and, with my son, watch a full video game walkthrough – an impressionist, creepy 2D puzzle-play.
Evening falls outside and the house seems to settle. There comes a point when we know the work of the day is done. My daughter comes in and puts her arms conspiratorially around my waist – she asks if we can host her beau at our house for the day, tomorrow. I am on a one-day-at-a-time program: somehow finding the means, the methods, to care for my family (and others) as we await payday. There is a curious comfort to such methods; life is simpler. I don’t have the burden of making plans, and can set aside these ambitions.
Darkness now, in earnest. The evening rituals of hot showers; time for vitamins, brushing teeth. A last glass of water, perhaps. I’ve been having nightmares, small bouts of terror that wake me minutes after I fall asleep. For many months I’d been spared these episodes – but the last two weeks, I am terrorized more nights than not. My husband has noticed and asks: What’s going on? But I tell him: the whole point, is that my conscious thought can’t figure it out. I endure these unpleasant episodes as best I can. I am nothing – if not patient.Read More
My children’s first year at school together, come and gone. Not much fanfare after all; I brought out some homemade food on the last day of class – simply to be relevant, to impress upon the children there that their time is honored, that we do indeed see them and love them. And yes, I am glad to be there if only for this brief hour. The food in hand: deviled eggs and pretzel sticks, the eggs created in my kitchen only the half hour before. I carry the parcel to a few other classrooms, teachers. My footfalls are weary but I’m glad to ghost about the hall and experience the privacy of my thoughts.
The edifice, the institution, the classroom, is as it always has been now that I’m an adult: a bit dirty, small-minded, housing implausibly-cheerful young citizens and adults paid a wage for honorable work. My throat constricts and my heart thunders with hope, and despair. My children are happy – everyone seems to be! – but I am ambivalent, an experience that will follow me the rest of the day.
And I am distracted. Our grocery reserves are limited to a bit of folding money in my pocket, and we are paid Thursday next. But even this is familiar, an adventure. Only distressing if I decide it is. Instead: it just means on our last school roadtrip I text my husband to send me coupons for take-and-bake pizza; I think of what we have in the fridge, and of when in the next week or so I can reasonably set up something special for the kids. They have, after all, completed a year on their own steam.
Driving home I know the car full of children – four in all – are feeling joy, and sadness, and a since of pulsing life. Even now today’s memories are blooming in their chest, to be touched upon lightly in years to come. Music and singing, the wind through our hair, the sunshine painting the winding road flanking the Wishkah river. They can afford to let the moment come and pass, while it lives wretched and sublime through my body, manifested in my fingers resting on the steering wheel, tapping out a rhythm more cheerful than I feel.
Summer, then. And already my son is half-feral: he has plans to do his banking – he packs his stamped-leather piggy bank in my car and is querulous I don’t make the time to stop at his branch. He tells me he will stay a week at a friends’, someone he hardly knows. His summer tan returns seemingly overnight, his hair lightens from honey into an earnest, bedeviled blonde. He is outside and running the neighborhood as much as we let him; home, he cooks meals at late hours, and tries to take a bowl of soup to eat in his bed, although perhaps I have scolded the children for this kind of thing hundreds of times. He painstakingly arranges his most treasured effects in the many small wooden boxes and metal-clasped receptacles he’s squirreled away over the years. In one such repository: miniature Lego pieces, a geode, a key, foreign currency, fossilized sharks’ teeth, and nondescript rocks imbuing a meaning known only to he. “I wish I could keep your heart inside,” he says – then, with a quick glance lest I misunderstand, amends his statement to mean my soul, my spirit, not my anatomical heart.
He tells me he will forgo school next year – but who can tell? This time last year, we had no hint he’d want to attend, and we wouldn’t have predicted how that would go in any case.
I have a leadership role in my household. This is evident to anyone who knows our family. This is something we four know. Yet in so many ways I am blind and striking out, making way in hostile, confusing terrain so the family can grow into themselves. They thrive in confidence in this shadow, lush and verdant greenery twining in the loamy darkness, growing strong. They fall asleep easily while at night I am prone to anxiety.
And tonight – as evening falls, sitting on our couch with my legs folded underneath my body – I talk with my husband. I speak of the disappointment and sadness I feel to watch so many I know, falter in their spiritual path. I speak of Doubt, which is so much harder for me than Fear. A mirage of illusion. “There are a small number of people I have found to be faithful,” I tell him. “You’re one of those people -” I say, and turn my head strategically for just a beat, to let this pass, before I complete my thought.
I am glad of their faith because, if I cannot always be happy, be sure, they are still the best thing to have come along, to awaken me to something beyond my own machinations and limited understanding.Read More
A few days ago I was suddenly struck with the knowledge I had to, had to, get to sewing some swimsuits. In fact, I have this silly little dream of running a little web-thingy whereby people donate the funds for materials, and I make up amazing custom swimwear for young women who are otherwise without a kick-ass summer suit. Like, I’d like to make suits like this for EVERY young woman who wants one! Body image issues are rubbish and a custom suit goes a long way to demolishing them for the season.
But – for now, I’ll concentrate on making suits for family & friends.
First up: skulls and lightning. Because, OF COURSE. A (to my taste) seventies-inspired suit with a surplice bodice.Read More
Life is confusing. I was going to wait to share my feelings, wait for things to be less disturbed, but it hasn’t been happening. Life continues to confuse me. I put a step in front of the other, and make my way around the sharp rocks. I don’t stumble, I don’t put out my hand to averse affect. I do not feel a falseness to the path, but I am lost.
Life seems to be smaller, somehow. I have a social life, and a busy one. It isn’t a joyless life. But nevertheless I am somewhat diminished, particularly with regards to human contact. It isn’t just my imagination, as I have a special type of journal that reveals my activities, contracts, and experiences from previous years.
As of the last year, or so: I am receiving fewer requests for paid work. I receive requests often enough – but few actual pieces are commissioned and completed to mutual satisfaction, as most who ask are not serious about the whole business. I have at least, learned to spend my time well on this record. I am receiving fewer comments on my online writings – in all the places I write (there are many, and many you here are not aware of). Fewer donations through my blog, and a damn sight fewer emails. I reach out, but the reciprocal is rare.
You can imagine how wonderful it is when someone asks after me, or writes me!
It is wonderful to be alive, but it is easy to suddenly experience isolation. It is the oddest experience, and not entirely comfortable. I know it is temporary, but nevertheless I stumble.
Sometimes I think people mistake my Buddhist practice as one of self-sufficiency. Buddhism and self-sufficiency don’t go together at all, of course. (and yet they do!)
I have fear. I used to think I had mastered fear; now I know I never will. Today while reading North & South (listening to it, rather – via podcast/audiobook), and contemplating Bessy Higgins’ plight, I was suddenly overcome with concern for my daughter. Her lungs aren’t well and people really do get very ill from this sort of thing. We haven’t sorted it all out, and it’s all new to me, and not comfortable whatsoever. There isn’t really much that can be done to help me feel more comfortable – there is no remedy, nothing I can buy or work I can do.
The whole business makes it quite an effort to complete my requisite tasks, to care for myself and others, and to keep up the effort. It is like speaking into a well, a vast and dark space. Waiting for an echo and none returns. Am I to shout? To grow more bold? Or to look into the deep dark and feel the fear, wash over me like the damp creep, the gloaming, the mysteries that are never known but rather chased away by sunlight and bits of flame and the day’s distraction.
The sun outside is a pleasant companion; it warms my house and in the morning I go through a routine, opening as many windows as I can easily,
and keeping curtains closed such that we remain cool.Read More