It’s not hard, not far to reach / We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Natural Beauty

This weekend included a cross-country interview (will post soon) as well as the composition of two articles I was rather satisfied with. Also, and more on my mind for healing properties: many sunny walks (one of them rather long, and involving salamander-catching along a slough), a bike ride, a trip out to the bay, and the meeting of, right-proper, new neighbors across the street. The seven, nine, and eleven year old children new to the neighborhood are already adhering quite quickly to my own kids. Today when Ralph and Nels and I came back from our grocery run we found Phoenix with one of our quilts, lying in the neighbor’s yard alongside her new friend L. In the sunshine, my daughter’s strawberry blonde hair shimmered like golden floss and it felt pretty damn good to think when she was ready she’d run in and grab lunch real-quick (chicken noodle soup, milk, and a banana) before running back out again, grass stains on her corduroys.

More touching than just about anything I’ve experienced in a while, my friend Dawn hosted us for lunch on Saturday and cooked for me – fried chicken (and chard, and potatoes). The kids and I brought homemade peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream (practice for Wednesday). All of it the food was delicious – I maintain there is no fried chicken to be found better than someone doing it out of their home, and Dawn did a great job. Besides my mother, I rarely get anyone homecooking for me, and it’s a wonderful treat.

Speaking of the kitchen, I’ve been baking a lot of chocolate cakes – and, just to be clear, I have more than one chocolate cake in my repetoire.Two sour cream Guinness stout cakes are currently cooling in my kitchen; these involved two cups of the beer and lots of good chocolate melted carefully and a cup and a half of sour cream and very very fresh eggs. One cake is for a friend; I borrowed her bundt pan to bake it right in there for her (I shall, of course, remove the cake and apply the chocolate ganache, and clean the pan before returning). Much like I’m so very into making baby buntings as of late, I would pretty much like to make chocolate cakes many times a week for people – and I do think mine are better than what you can get in any restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery ’round here. The price of dairy and chocolate being what it is, I can’t do so nearly as much as I’d like. Funny thing about baking is, I love to bake for other people but I hardly ever eat anything I bake. And another thing, I think the smells that fill my house are almost enjoyable for my family and guests as the food itself.

We are back down to not having a running car, and in fact will need to acquire a tow as Ralph miscalculated and believed he could have a few days’ more starting power in order to deliver it to the garage. Fingers crossed we can convince the garage to allow us to finance the repairs (tires and brakes plus, I suspect, betcha anything, glow plugs), because it’s pretty depressing to have two rotting cars laying fallow in the driveway.

But. I can’t do anything about any of that, really. So why worry?

Kids

Flats

Watermark

As I type, Nels runs out from the bath with a towel wrapped haphazardly around his wiggling, clean little body. “Freshly-baked buns, just for you,” he tells me, a joke he made up himself and repeats now and then because he knows how much I like it. I’m going to read to the children again tonight, the mines of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring. Last time I read to Nels I was on the kidnapping of Frodo by a barrow-wight; my son’s eyes held huge and his mien quite serious as he listened to the resolution of that spooky chapter.

There are some things money can’t buy, and those are some of the best things. Good health, sunshine, an appreciation for the natural world. The love of other human beings and the love for them as well.

Love the one you’re with

Pristine

I’m a bit disturbed that in my once-yearly visits to Port Townsend I continue to be beset by ugly thoughts and feelings – each time I visit. Yesterday and today, in fact, I experienced the strongest negative feelings and thoughts so far. All my baggage, sure and whatever, and maybe I’ll write some of it out sooner or later, but that’s not my point. The oppressiveness of it all threw me for a loop. It was like my brain had all this static noise.

And I didn’t have much time to process. Within about five minutes of driving into town I was at a party and spent almost every waking second after this around other grownups. I didn’t have time to defrag. I did my best to be present for my friends, who along with their children are deeply precious to me.

The friends, the kids? AWESOME. I felt high as a kite to be around them. That might have been the Stumptown coffee, too.

Darts At The Undertown

After hot chocolates and hot coffee we walked down to the beach. The children played and played and played, showing no boredom and only a total interest in the beach and one another.

A Place of Interest, #3

And they agreed to assemble so I could take a group picture. This is because guess what, tomorrow they will all be about six inches taller and with more or less teeth and telling different stories and doing different things so we wanted to get them, just grab them RIGHT NOW.

Preparing...

Assembling...

Almost There!

El Grupo

El Grupo[grimacing]

At some point some of us had to move onto a warm place with hot food. At this separation, Phoenix cried mightily. But in the way of small kiddos she was very happy only moments later on our way to lunch, stopping for a comically incorrect-sized kiddie ride – one she used to ride on as a tot that is, I suspect, not much longer for this world.

Triumph

The kids sat at their own table and Cynthia, Jodi and I got to catch up. I ate this huge-ass chile relleno. I’d hoped for the Noodle House but that was not in the cards. Maybe next time.

Like The Punchline:

As we ate it got darker, and colder, and darker…

So my daughter and I said goodbye to our friends and to PT and warmed up the car to hit the road.

On the way home, the little girl fell asleep (“Mom, may I take a snooze without interruption?”). We’d sung the entire drive up (Jazmine Sullivan and Justin Bieber, volume at 11) but it was nice to have time to myself on the drive back and I was glad she got some rest. In fact, both drives were very pleasant for me and I usually hate having my ass in a car.

Andrew Bird, and the twisty-dark of Highway 101:

Ode/Speed

On The Way Home, Phoenix

24 hours and there-and-back.

I’m ready to take a hot bath at home and cuddle up to the warm and beloved bodies in my life.

Port Townsend Gloom

Beach
(Small Stone #21*)

Beneath my feet, deathly chill, the shock traveling up through my legs.
Today I don’t mind.
I’m one with the elements.
Cold and fierce.

24 Hours
(Small Stone #22*)

My son puts his arms around my neck and buries his face in my breast.
“You were gone such a long time!”, he sighs.

Small stone project

snap snap snap

A day of sunshine after a drought of grey. I went running. The sun felt black-hot on my body after a while. It was glorious.

Post-Run

A few minutes after I got home my mother showed up and took the kids out to the beach. Both kids. Time in my own home, by myself! Holy shit! A bath. Alone, in quietude. Making coffee. Playing the new Decemberist’s album while sewing. I know it doesn’t sound like much. But still.

The children showed up hours later after Ralph got home and as I was still stitching away. They each had one of those shark grabber toys in one hand while brandishing a giant ice cream cone in the other. My mom had taken them out to lunch, the beach, and some touristy shop full of fun kiddo toys before getting the ice cream.

Now that’s how it’s done. Nicely played, Grandma!

Getting out and about? Swimming, running, walking, soaking up some light and fresh air?

Yeah. This week’s turning out okay.

Post-Diving

Without artifice
(Small Stone #19*)

My children’s laughter
Is a constant in my life, these days.
Like glass and sunshine
Bathing the walls inside my home

Small stone project

man of mystery

Man Of MysteryYou can tell he has much wisdom behind the cold, austere visage. You can see it in the keen gaze, the manful handling of the steering wheel, whatever weirdness he has shoved in that plastic bag behind the driver’s seat. Stopping for a bit of bracing sea air before tearing off on the next adventure, the next mastery, conquering the mountain, a man we mayhap not see again but will always live on in our memory.

So what really happened is Steve helped me dig my car out of the beach. This took about an hour and eventually included shovels. We missed almost all of Phoenix’s soccer practice.

Digging

twelve years hence

I Don't Think You're Ready

Today went from pleasant, and nice out, and calm, to kind of ONE HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR AWESOME – and at times, overwhelming.

I’m speaking specifically of my friend J. and her daughter E. calling us up to re-invite us to Westport. Realizing we had not missed our meetup window, the kids and I threw together snacks and water and a lunch and made our way to the fishing township as fast as we could given we were slowed down by the neighbor inviting himself along, a bridge closure, and hot hot blacktop roadwork.

The beach town was lovely – the heat ameliorated by a rich breeze – and the walk, and grownup conversation, and child conversation, and taffy at the candy shop, and verdant water and working class environs and massive, massive schools of anchovies (you can see some in above picture but a close-up would have been brilliant) and sea breeze and sunshine and happy, happy, happy kiddos were great. The children spent most of their time running along the rocks and shoals and on floats and watching the working fisherman. They needed no diversion or touristy purchases.

After our plunking around town we decided to go looking for the swimmable old rock quarry I used to frequent as a young woman. I hadn’t been there in years. We drove through the sunshine and I used my phone to call Ralph and accessed my brain to try to remember where the road to the quarry was, driving along and remembering a girlhood friend who’d lived out here and the lovely times we had, green grass halfway up to our chests and running about in the gloaming…

We found the quarry (after some travail). That is, we found the road. Then there was the parking and the hike –  not a long one, but a steep one. The four small children navigated this well and cheerfully, with littlest ones Nels and E. bringing up the rear and playing so sweetly together.

The swimming hole itself… the quarry had not only changed vegetation-wise (there were large trees and a fair amount of algae carpet over the once-clean rock bed; salamanders and crawdads still reigned as in days of yore) – but –

the real change was the stunning amount of human refuse. I have literally never seen so many spent shotgun shells. And there were mattresses and auto parts. And food wrappers and beer bottles and kiddie pools crumpled up and discarded. And spent condoms. And broken glass. And coolers and torn-apart teddy bears. It might be easier for me to list what wasn’t there.

Two things occurred to me. One was how upsetting these changes were. They weren’t just dismal but they also hit me in the chest regarding the passage of time and the occasional ravages committed. In my mind and heart I’d been diving off these shores with my young boyfriend (that would be Ralph) only months before. But it had been some years and the place was utterly changed. After some time I realized I was making too many hard-humored jokes about the nastiness of the garbage, and I made myself stop. It was an effort. I made myself stop because:

That leads me to the second thing that occurred to me: the children were merely curious and cautious about the garbage but accepted it as a reality. They delighted in the trees and the water and wading and salamander-watching and did not complain we required them to keep their shoes on, because even the water, yes, was littered with dangers. They did not pull back or complain about the venue. It was humbling to see children, once again: how quick they are to see the Beauty in our world, mixed-bag as it often can be. They shared snacks and splashed and swam and waded and quarreled and explored. They were, really, the picture of enjoyment and agency.

After parting with our friends, I had lead-foot to make the RSVPd social engagement back in HQX. Which had some awkwardness including my accompanying extra kiddo who’d not been invited (I didn’t have time to return him home first, but I also think when there’s tons of extra food no one should begrudge an extra guest) then an old beau there walking about while I looked like Hammered Ass and felt pounded flat. Look, in the best of circumstances I am no beauty but after our “Shotgun Shell Swim” as J. called it I was particularly bedraggled (my clothes I put on after the swim were still damp with sweat and my swimsuit bunched unbecomingly under my dusty tank top) and so were the kids and I had mild heatstroke and was horsefly-bit and I didn’t want to press the flesh and talk to everyone.

Probably the worst thing was I was Unable. To. Deal. with any of this and I spent some time wandering the cool, silent, and totally secluded rooms of the local museum adjacent to the festivities, pretending to look for a sink for Nels to watch his snake-musk hands in (he and his sister caught a reptilian beauty) but mostly just being Silent with my son at my side like my most precious personal haunt. I realize this was rather ungracious and assy of me. But I am a Human Being and not always the picture of etiquette. I did my best, hanging on with my fingernails, and when Ralph arrived (he, frustrated, retained at work late today by his boss) he took over our kids and I escorted the neighbor boy home.

And now I give thee “Tetanus Meadow”:

Tetanus Meadow, Tentative

Tetanus Meadow, Assured

Yeah. And you know me. I’m pretty confident in my kids’ abilities to navigate without injury. But I was a bit concerned, given we were much distance from the car and my First Aid kit, and who knows what may have lurked on sharp edges ready to poison his bloodstream.

Of course Nels didn’t hurt himself one whit.

And seriously? Today was the most fun I’ve had in some time.

Question: A callous parent?

On May 30th a reader writes:
So, I was thinking about your post yesterday after a little accident on the beach yesterday. [My friend] G. and I make a great team with her kids. I know her kids and I know how she parents, and since we’re together all the time she gives me the right to draw boundaries and set consequences if need be for her girls. It works for us. Her kids are tough and if one hits the other and the other punches back, she just sits back and waits for them to work it out. I’ve learned to be comfortable with that.

So, another woman comes down to the beach with her two boys. They live there, so I’m sure they are much more familiar with the terrain. She seemed largely unconcerned that her one year old was tottering around near the quarry sans life jacket. Okay. Then her oldest sits down on the swing and the littlest toddles over and gets a little too close and bam! The bar on the bottom of the swing beans him on the head and he goes tumbling several feet. I jump up because the mom is nowhere to be seen and then the whole swing collapses and falls backward, most notably knocking the wind out of the oldest. I run over and no one’s crying, everyone seems fine and the mom saunters over and asks if everyone’s okay. I tell her that the youngest got hit on the head and went tumbling and she asks if everyone is okay and then walks away, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. I do likewise. Because – it’s not my deal. I feel like it was okay for me to run to the rescue, should someone have been bleeding or unconscious, but since she seems unconcerned, I have to do the same. But I felt weird about it.

Anyway, just wondered what you thought about it in light of what you wrote.

A story like this is rather hard to get a read on because I wasn’t there. First off, of course it was okay for you to run to the little one’s rescue. Had they been hysterical and hurt, you could have helped (although most young children usually want their mommies/daddies/carers when they are hurt and frightened). When I was a child I liked knowing grownups noticed when one of us had trouble, and I was comforted when they stepped in to assist whether I took them up on it or not.

As for the mother and your thoughts on her, I will say many parents I observe run the gamut of heavily managing injuries/crying to barely reacting. If I were being judged from outside by someone who did not know me I would likely often look like more of the “barely reacting” type. Not so much my kids don’t seek me out, though: they come to me for a hug and wipe their tears on my clothes and move on, and I always give them exactly how much love they need (How do I know? While I am still there, present, holding them, they release me and move on.)

Funnily enough when the kids have a huge throwdown (like what people call “a tantrum”) I am also usually pretty calm through that too. Last night we had a dinner guest (childfree) and I could tell she was watching me like a hawk to see how I’d handle my daughter’s “drama”. But the thing is, it is the very part of me that “allows” drama that also enables my children to move through it quickly and for the most part remain quite even-keeled through many stressors (as far as I can tell). My daughter had a few upsets at the beginning of the dinner and then she was calm and happy throughout the evening beyond 11 o’clock when our guest left. Not that I think anyone has the right to judge my parenting and my child based on her “convenience” for guests; my point is that I did not need to lecture my daughter about her “bad behavior” (or whatever) for her to move on to “better behavior” – but I often feel a social pressure to do so.

Back to the beach: those kids sounded pretty young and when I had young babies I tended to react more than I do now. It isn’t just because I love(d) them, it’s because I felt expected to (or else be judged a “bad mother”). I now believe I did not need to react and rescue and moderate as much as I did. But then, I was new to the whole bit too. Now instead of social mores I have my intense knowledge of my own children. A parent in tune with their kids recognizes relatively quickly when they really do need cuddling, a bandaid, some attention, etc. and when they don’t.

Was that mother in tune with her kids? I can’t tell because I wasn’t there, but you might be able to make a reasonable guess if you think back on what happened. I do see people here where I live who seem almost callous to their children. But often these people have a look like things are rough, their lives are rough, or at least they’re having some sort of terrible clusterfuck of a day. A sort of drawn look not to mention their clothing and their cars (or lack thereof) or their tone of voice or what they’re talking about or the look in their eyes – it reminds me I have things more fortunate than many others. I am not saying everyone who’s an ass-hat to their kids has some tragic story as to why. But I’m far less likely to jump to any conclusions than I used to be.

Another possibility is the mother felt shamed for not being there or shamed/angry for having another person “infringe” on her territory (I hasten to add again, you did nothing wrong) and she might have responded from a hardened place. I just don’t know but you might have a sense.

And finally, the life jacket thing. Well this is not only cultural but varies within families and if we needed to keep our kids safe 24/7 we, well, we wouldn’t HAVE kids. Anecdotally I am very, VERY paranoid with my children around water – and they both can swim. Since they were babies I’ve worried about drowning; even when I had them strapped to my body and was crossing a safe bridge I’d have terrible fantasies about them plunging in. At a quarry I’d probably have crazy-eye with worry over my baby.

And finally, off-topic a bit, anytime I hear adults judging one another about parenting I think of this video:

http://www.break.com/index/two-year-old-toddler-smokes-cigarettes.html

The truth is parenting is a hard job and most people are doing the best we can. It is wonderful you help your friend out and you are one of those valued friends who shares family life with us. I have several of those childfree (or childless, depending on your preference) friends and they are very treasured by myself, my husband, and my children. G. is lucky to have you.

what a great day! no, wait. shit.

It sometimes occurs to me that many days I get to do the sort of things other people consider day-off activities. Probably the first amazing thing the kids did for me today was, upon leaving Sophie’s swim practice, they ran over to the landscaping and asked me to come look at a bush with them, some unremarkable shrub with tiny clusters of purple lilac-smelling blossoms. “It’s the bee bush,” my daughter tells me. And indeed the thing is prolific with these insects – many and varied, we count at least four different types of bees – and most magical of all, we got close enough we could see the tiny, perfect little parcels of pollen on their legs. This is the sort of miracle I technically already knew about (thanks to nature shows or public school), but had never really discovered for myself. Each little bee busy collecting smaller-than-grain size bits of pollen, hoarding a little share. The three of us blissed out just a few minutes outside the YMCA and I thought, without these children I would not have even noticed.

This afternoon the kids suggested we go “exploring”. First we had to stop home to grab the necessary requirements. Each child found a backpack and outfitted it appropriately. Sophie donned Spongebob Squarepants gardening gloves (and they did come in handy in navigating through blackberry bushes) and brought bottled water, a sketch pad / observational notebook, a science field book of some sort, and a bug net. Nels brought a “rock collector”, extra shoes, “a napkin in case something smelled bad”, and magnifying glass.

I chose to take them to the beachy / semi-wooded / train track spur of land we called “The Flats” when growing up here in Hoquiam. It was a lovely little afternoon jaunt, one where my kids were so deeply happy they had no behavioral problems and as we clambered through grass and up hummocks they regularly and fluidly delivered several factoids about how much and why they loved me. They also foraged through bushes and stopped to view flowers and insects and go “fishing” in a brackish little pond and they climbed around driftwood fortresses and scaled trees with an almost alarming alacrity and skill.

Things change so quickly as a parent; only an hour or so after we’re home and I’m busy in the kitchen, finding myself increasingly anxious, tired, overworked, and pissed at the kids’ occasional fights or accidents. Ralph got home at five and I had all four burners of the stove going and the kids spied a fraction of a brownie I was snacking on and (charmingly, but persistently) commandeered it. I was feeling overworked and claustrophobic and though the kids did nothing wrong in clamoring for my one thing I’d tried to keep to myself – well, I just gave in and cried, a little. Everyone deserves a collapse now and then.

Tonight: company, cooking a bit, packing up for tomorrow’s 30 mile family bike ride.

a visit to the beach

Ruby Beach is beautiful today. Each round, smooth stone looks like it was laid there precisely. I do not spot one piece of garbage on the wild-looking, lovely coast. A rain falls but it is not cold. The sea has tossed up almost all non-living detritus one could think of: driftwood, large and small, seaweed, mussel shells and limpets and razor clams. The kids pick up this and that and run into the shallow caves; spy a way to climb up to the sea stacks, only a few feet away but separated by fierce surf. I am holding the leash of my mom’s dog and walking through the satisfyingly coarse sand, smelling the sea that’s been a part of my life since time immemorial. On the shore where I walk I watch my feet, entranced. It’s almost like garbage, but nature’s garbage: each little tangled pile of vegetation and bleached-bare twisted branches is like a sculpture tossed artfully together: a tuft of seaweed looking like shag carpet, a shed kelp pod glimmering like clouded glass.

We don’t feel wet until we’re headed back to the car. The dog, the kids, Ralph and I: soaked. Shaking out sand at the car and putting ourselves in and the heat cranked up as high as it can go.

We take the extra twenty mile detour north to visit the town of Forks, to get coffee at least. I haven’t been there since a high school boyfriend’s soccer game, long ago. The town has changed, but also retains the same characteristics I remember. It’s wet, like everything else always feels up in the rain forest.

I decide to stop in one of the handful of Twilight-themed touristy shops. I love that evening is falling in this little town but the occasional tourist trickles into the cheerfully lit store of bric-a-brac. The two women working there ask me where I’m from, then are soon treating me to a sour treatise on the wrongs beset on them by Hollywood and co.: the film was not even filmed in Washington State, Governor Gregoire, grumble grumble. I’m not here to buy anything but I’d like to end the conversation on a good note. “My family and I were going to stop in at the Chinese restaurant right here,” I say, “Do you recommend it?” “I don’t care for it, but she likes it,” one of the women says. Her companion responds, “It’s OK. It’s different. I mean there’s another Chinese restaurant up the road but they can make it lousy up there too.” They don’t give me any advice on what restaurant does have good food. I tell them, have a nice evening, and step back out to the car, still slapping at my soaking-wet jeans.

Ralph and I are laughing as we head out of town. I guess we’ll wait for HQX for our fried rice. Nels, who’d wanted so desparately to eat in a Forks restaurant, fell asleep only minutes before the city limits. We haul him out of the car on the way out to take a picture by the town’s welcome sign, as he sleeps on Ralph’s shoulder, then drive south with our wet dog and hot coffee.

blowing shit up like true Amuricuns

awesome possum
(Skirt handmade that day by Jasmine!). Last night even before we got back in town from the beach our daughter had fallen asleep in the car. Nels was awake, listening to the grownups (myself, Ralph, Jasmine and Randa) talk. Then he’d say quietly, from the very back of the van, “Hey, dad?” He had an idea: he wanted to go home and put bells on our door – “with a needle” (meaning a small nail). We drove to a few lookout spots and talked. I felt pretty sick from the over-exertion of the day; or, My Lung Spot Is Acting Up as I’ve been saying.

By the way, in the picture above it was slightly normal when we first arrived at Copalis Beach, where we thought we’d put our chairs up and enjoy a small, quaint little fireworks celebration. After we parked things rapidly got more and more pyrotechnic, voilent, and crazed – the quintessential low damp fog of this beach combining with the spent remains of so very many, many fireworks being set off by revelers in cars, trailers, trucks, mopeds and motorcycles and including one charming (= shitty) camper with a Confederate flag prominently displayed and some jerk next to us who thought we’d all like to listen to Toby Keith, full blast, out his hatchback. Still, I like people-watching and I like relaxing into these minor circles of Hell where there’s way too much activity and it’s wasteful and gratuitous (the only thing that really bothers me about the 4th of July is the litter) and really viewed on the whole, kind of creepy. It’s also kind of joyous and hopeless too. And the final mediating factor: my children love it, through and through, and seeing their joy forces me to be a little less uptight.

We had a few dinner guests this weekend:

mmmMMMMMmmmmm
Of course I’ve been cooking a lot, it almost goes without saying.

one day of spring and then summer?

Today I spent most the day on my bike and on the beach. I know this sounds nice and all, but it was very hot for me (HQX reached 93 and considering last week we still had winter chill I guess I just wasn’t ready). On top of this the bike trip with my mom was harder than I’d thought it would be. In my tube-top dress and bright red face under a bike helmet I wasn’t exactly getting wolf whistles, in fact I’m sure I made a few lads puke in their mouth a little bit.

Our beach trip was lovely. Friends Mikey and John picked Sophie and I up at 3:30 and we hit two separate beaches toting water and sunscreen as backup in the van. On the shore John repeatedly braved the waves while I watched my daughter over and over running into and out of the surf. After dinner and ice cream we journied home and hit the barely-cool house just prior to 9 PM. Quite a day for both Sophie and I and I count it up to my Good Mommy my daughter’s skin remained entirely free from sunburn.