salt skin

Today Ralph and Phee took the day off to hit Olympia, so Nels and I got up, had breakfast, donned as few clothes as possible, lathered up with sunscreen, and biked an eight-mile trip in the heatwave to pick up groceries. I biked slowly, for me, as I have something wrong with my knees – especially the left one. I remind myself: I don’t have to have knees that work or get my exercise or go to the doctor or take medicine or get an xray, all I have to do is be here right now and ride the bike with care and take the time I need. I’m not doing anything else right now, just This.

On our trip – against the wind on the way there, bolstered by it on the way back, thank Jeebus – my son clings to me and talks mostly about his exploits outdoors and I enjoy the sights of the sidestreets of Aberdeen. I pass a man nodding out in the alley in a not-insubstantial pile of fast food wrappers. At first I think he is a pile of refuse until he moves in a very human way, which spooks me. A moment later I am thinking of the addicts and alcoholics who perish from exposure during extreme weather. I pass a group of brown-skinned children playing with a hose; five boys taunting a girl who with seriousness chases them down to spray them. Nels and I smile and laugh and are both secretly delighted when we get a few drops from a dashed water balloon.

At home I rest with a root beer float and then a tomato sandwich. I bake a Brooklyn-style pizza for dinner and make Ralph a Vietnamese coffee. The extreme heats of oven temperature and olive oil and kalamata olives curiously satisfy me in my kitchenspace, which I’ve learned to keep cool, or at least cooler than the out-of-doors. Despite my precautions, I am a bit sun-fazed, tired from my ride (and my knee did get worse, despite the care I took in not straining it), a little scattered. At nine o’clock we take a walk out by the bay and I limp along and our dog, happy with not one not two but three long walks today, smiles alongside our conversation, padding in the deep grass in the dark, a gliding white shape accompanying our travels to nowhere in particular.

is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment

I’ve spent so much of the last dozen years in near-constant company of children you’d think I find them quite unremarkable as companions; but in fact, they are a special type of experience to me, still. I often feel uncertain, and think I am supposed to be providing them more food, more cuddles, more baby-talk. However I have very little to offer on all these accounts – sometimes not much for my own little ones.

The girls visiting tonight are, as per usual, excited about our life and they explore it frankly. They are enamored of our home; they enjoy my mother’s property next door, with the witchy garden and koi pool and fire pit. They are excited our children do not go to school and they are enthusiastic about Nels’ lemonade stand (he spent all day out there; cheerfully greeting, pouring, mixing – and when alone, singing songs and saying, “I’m a winner!” to himself).

In the evening Ralph leaves for a meeting and the four children and I venture out to our favorite little walk along the harbor. Within a few moments the younger sister N. sits behind me on my bike, completely at-ease with a grownup she’s never met before. She has a wicked sense of humor, very dry – a lot like my daughter. She is pretty in a winsome, Scout-from-To-Kill-A-Mockingbird type of way. Her sister is a real beauty, clouded blue eyes and long lashes and dark hair falling across her clear brow. They are very composed little girls and quite game to shift bikes back and forth when we are joined by another child on foot, woefully protesting the unfairness of not owning a bike. Phoenix, for the first time, rides my X with Nels on the back while I carry N. I feel a sting of pride. A little later my daughter rounds a corner too fast and ditches the bike too, falls right over although she and Nels are very good at dumping bikes without being hurt. Phoenix gets up and dusts off. “It’s not a maiden voyage of an Xtracycle if you don’t fall,” I tell her cheerfully; she brightens up.

The children know where to look for animals hidden here and there in the hot, muggy wetland – we find all sorts of creatures, including many centipedes criss-crossing our path, a long-toed salamander (rare for our area of Washington), and a small nest of nubbly purple-pink rodents. The children entreat me to take photos with my phone although in the case of the little baby nest, I don’t want to get too close.

Long-Toed Salamander

Rodents Of Generally-Expected Size

***

Back at home the visiting girls stay until the last possible moment before they’ll be late getting home. They keep asking about my sewing and my sewing room. Finally it occurs to me they might like some of Phee’s hand-me-downs. I step into the closet and begin pulling out this and that, garments my daughter has grown out of that haven’t found a new child. I hand over a few things then start straightening the hangers, lost a bit in preoccupied tallying of my children’s clothing needs. A moment later I turn to find one of the girls still standing, expectant, hoping for more magic to be pulled out of this dark and dusty little closet. The girls try on the garments and one of them, the older one, brightens up considerably at Phee’s leopard-print-and-lilac-rose dress. She changes into the frock then skates into the kitchen and twirls; the dress suits her even more than it did my daughter.

Giving clothes to children is funny. The kids have to like the clothes and then who knows if the parents will let them wear them. And then there are the unintentionally-comic requests; a friend of my daughter asked me to make her a Justin Bieber t-shirt. As if you can’t find one of those for $5 at Walmart! Still, I am gratified to think these particular garments will find another happy home. All told, the girls left with the Blue Dragon Egg Jacket, the Bleeding Heart Dress, the Rayon Tiered Leopard Dress, and Blue Goth.

(A retrospective:)

Happy As A Clam
Supermodels
Up Close, Flowers, Leaves, Vine
Pensive At The Coffee Shop

everyone becomes a poet

The other day in the lightning storm things got dicey, and Phee and I figured we might not make it out of there. So my daughter says, “I have to tell you something,” and tells me a secret about a boy. AND I JUST ABOUT DIED FROM THE ADORABLENESS, that she told me this because she thought we might perish together in the car, meeting our demise in a storm. And no, I haven’t told anyone the secret. Not the one. Not even her father.

So today she came home and showed me a bracelet she’d been gifted, engraved with the word, “LOVE”. And I asked if it was from the boy in question, and she said Yes. When she later asked me to fasten it around her wrist, I asked how that all went down and she said, “He kinda threw it on the ground and said I should have it.”

So, at their age. That sounds about right.

My kids made a cake today while I was busy; it wasn’ t quite finished baking at 1:40 PM when they were due for their dentist appointments. They biked down there and I finished things up and joined them. And seeing their little bikes all parked and them taking care of their dentist shit. It’s pretty awesome.
 

dentist

Being a mother is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It has pieced back everything good and blessed of my humanity.

We have a busy few days. I’m making a birthday snack for a friend tomorrow; we’re hosting a band for dinner and a friendly tour or two of HQX. The kids are featured in an art show opening this week. And I get to make my other commitments including daily walking the dog a few miles.

It’s all good stuff; I hope to relax and enjoy it as much as possible. I need to slow down and expand my prayer life. Here’s hoping I remember, tomorrow morning.

not trying to impress anybody

Yesterday: a linen dress.

Linen Dress With Reverse-Applique

Linen Dress With Reverse-Applique

Today: Nels catches a bumblebee. She races around on the coffee table, before we let her free. It was hard to get a picture of her. She’s really booking, here:

Bee

Tonight: we went on a cross-town bike ride with a group.

BIKE GANG!

Ralph & Phee (Phee eats an apple.)

At the end some people wanted pictures and we all gathered up. Except one: our daughter Phoenix sat in the gravel and said, “I don’t need my picture taken, to prove I did something.”

She’s frakkin BALLS-awesome.

a funeral, sketchy tire shops

Tire Store Boy

I lie. The tire shop wasn’t sketchy. It was just a used tire shop, we’re bumped down from the days of Les Schwab and young handsome men running in slow motion out to the car.

I should say, our finances are, though. Sketchy. We’re scraping by to afford our little conference trip. And in the last couple days we’ve had to “emergency” surgery a cat, then “emergency” replace tires that were sprouting a crop of wire. I use the air dick quotes because, I guess it was all emergency stuff. If we didn’t surgery the cat she could have fallen gravely ill (and she was in pain), and if we didn’t fix the tires, we could have crashed on the road. So, damn, kind of non-negotiable expenses.

The kitty is fine. She’s all stitched up and hopped up on kitty drugs. I’m very grateful for her recovery. She is very dear to us.

Nels, a funeral for a bird. He voiced a lovely and earnest and powerful prayer before we buried her.

Bird, Elegy

In other news: cute husband, who has helped create cute daughter. They are dressed as nerds today, for some theme. It works.

Sexy Nerd-Spouse

Beauty/Hipster Glasses

I also gave blood (of course) and my daughter held my hand through it all. Later, Nels rode on the back of the bike and held the basket with my embroidery supplies, for the class I taught. It was fun stitching, and showing people how to do some simple things. One student was an eight year old girl and that was about a thousand percent awesome.

It was good stuff.

the seal of melancholy on me from the beginning

Swimming, Lake Aberdeen:

Defiance

Defiance.

Phee

Weasel-belly

Giggles

Freckle-hiding

This evening: off on the bike to the Treatment Center. It was beautiful out and it felt wonderful to bike. I had the most oppressive and dramatic soundtrack in my earbuds. Perfect.

#bike #positiveday

East Campus

Tonight: friends let us borrow a telescope, I’m pretty sure because they knew how much my son is into planets, the solar system, the universe. Exhausted after biking, working, and yoga, I’m inside reading while Ralph fools outside with the scope. Nels finds Mars and with the help of an app they locate Saturn. Ralph tells me you can see the rings on Saturn. The rings? What the fuck. I wrap myself up against the cold and out to the backyard where the telescope is set up. And I look. And I am stunned.

My son even more so. “Mama… it’s my dream. My dream came true. Please no one wake me. The best dream of my life!” My son is in tears.

I look again. I can’t believe it. It is so small yet precise, so incredibly beautiful, clear and crisp. You know we had an eclipse a while back and I knew it was up there and somehow I never looked up once, not all night. I don’t know what was wrong with me then. But tonight I’m crushed flat and I’m amazed and I won’t take things for granted as much as I did before.

the “s”s keep me up at night

2 Chocolate Milks

Back to my old routine – out on bikes to conduct business in downtown HQX.

Yesterday I got started sewing in my new place. I figured just what felt right – an old skool vintage grunge flannel, child-sized, in a pretty and soft cotton semi-flannel (Yes, semi-flannel! Such a thing exists). You can see just a wee bit of the fabric on the left, under rulers and interfacing. You can also see my 60+ year old Singer I’ll be sewing on, through the doorway.

Sewing

Tonight I heard a wonderful poem.

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside.

― Rumi

Beware! I bear more grudges / Than lonely high court judges

Today I had the opportunity to learn a few lessons about myself – lessons I am sick and tired of having presented to me while I remain stagnant. I realized after a lengthy conversation with friends that I have been stuck on a particular issue for quite some time. The issue is more personal than I will write about here. At root – of course: fear. My fear of being noticed in a particular way, and of being infringed upon. Some part of me that still lives in reaction to things long past, events that no longer threaten my safety today.

Anyway, It’s old stuff and an old familiar way of life: Why can’t the world play according to my rules? Why can’t people stop asking certain things of me? As you may imagine, it’s a horribly precarious and pinched way to live. It leaves me less than whole, less useful to others, fragile and unappealing – and taking myself way too seriously.

As I’ve said, the awareness came after a conversation familiar to me – and a discussion with people I care about. I dislike (inadvertently) exposing my sick traits to friends and family that I love, but sometimes I can’t stop running my mouth while this happens. Comes down to it, I worry these loved ones will tire of my imperfections and sicknesses and leave me. I worry they will seize onto that seed of self-loathing I have deep within, and of course they will leave because that self-loathing is right, I really am not worthy.

But ultimately, when I think this through, I realize I have been abandoned many times in my life and I’ve lived through it. So while I would like to be a better friend, and I would like to be less sick than I am, I must accept who I was today. I would also like freedom from the obsession on my character defects. I would rather cultivate some gratitude upon the discovery that Yes, I am stuck, I am in this place.

A close friend told me the other day I have a martyr complex, and that I hadn’t fed it in a while and it was hungry. “It’s going to die of neglect.” She also told me, if I understood her correctly, it would grab onto anything it could eat. I sense this is true. It is highly unflattering to realize the extent guilt and shame has played in my life but this does not make the reality any less true. It isn’t a pretty picture. However I can’t be any more well than I am. I brought my best Self to today, and tomorrow is a new day.
 

***

When I bike with a handful of other grownups I feel like a bike gang, kinda West Side Story all snapping our fingers and a little bit silly. Wednesday, G. is wearing a garbage bag as a simple poncho/windblock, having donated his jacket to J. once the night got gold. We stop at the AM/PM to get air and the two of them service my bike like a personal pit crew. I tell them thank you and then we’re back on the road and it’s perfect and simple like when we were kids.

***

I have always enjoyed this turn of the season. Today walking home with Nels, his hand in mine, I sensed the experiences and feelings of my childhood, good experiences. Yes, they’re in there, deep inside! I perceived my son feeling the same way, shuffling through the first of the fallen leaves and with the crystal-clear sky and neighborhood kids hailing him. I love it when the kids put their hand in mine. I don’t know how many more times I will experience it. It is really an amazing gift.

it starts in my belly / then up to my heart

One of life’s many pleasures for me is stretching out for a run, or one might not even be able to call it a run, as I am just now training again and I am slow-slow-slow. But soon I have a good sweat worked up and my body feels great and the blues are bluer and the greens are greener. A fellow in maitenance, working with two others putting football lines on the high school field, when I pull up to the track at a fair clip on the bike, he says, “Looks like you’re getting some exercise before getting some exercise.” He’s got long white hair and a big white beard and he’s skinny in work jeans and how I miss my father so much.

Another wonderful pleasure is later, slipping into a hot shower after a run and then pouring coffee. The kids wake up just as I’m about to duck out and join my sister for coffee (she’s heading back to Portland today) and Nels comes along. He and I both enjoy a toasted Everything bagel with cream cheese, some Superfood juice, and I sip coffee while he plays YouTube on my phone so Jules and I can talk (and talk and talk and talk). Afterwards he and I hit the store (pears, banana, pasta, a Hemplers’ ham) and I come home and make fresh vegetable soup for the kids and soon I need to rest as we’ve a dinner guest coming over at seven. After a simple dinner of Ralph’s creation (chicken piccata, roasted cauliflower, spinach and pea salad) we grownups take a walk over the scary clumpy sidewalks and pick up ice cream and talk to the Night People along the way; my mom picks up the kids for a date at her house, and Phoenix stays over. I’m seated on the porch and she comes and holds me and kisses me because she knows I’ll miss her but she knows she’s coming back. Her body feels lovely and substantial in my arms and her little boychick head of spiky hair smells divine.

Two days ago, for $10, I bought myself a lightweight jacket to wear on bike rides or running, and a $5 3-pair sock set. This tiny amount of self-care is harder for me than others may realize, but once done, I feel the better for it. Sometimes I think I should make a list entitled “self-respect” and see what I’d do for myself if I cared as much for my own body and heart and mind as I do for others. It’s a work in progress.