14th Anniversary

“no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company – than a good marriage”

14th Anniversary

Today marked our fourteenth wedding anniversary. And it was a beautiful, lush day, as September often is here.  It’s also a busy time of year – and busier than typical, for us.

I had wondered – as it became obvious our house-buy and move would be right on top of both “the first day of school” (irrelevant, as homeschoolers) and our anniversary – if our day would get swallowed up. Would we be too tired, or angry with one another, or embroiled in detail, to spend a few hours in appreciation? (No.) Would we make time to gift one another (Yes!) Would we have a lovely evening together (Yes!).

Dinner was lovely – but the drive, and the beach view, were sublime. I am fortunate to live in an absolutely beautiful, remote, idyllic corner of the world. I don’t regret it, not for a moment.

And here’s hoping for many, many more years together as a couple.

14th Anniversary

Night Walk

waiting for a gift from the sea

My son tells me, upon waking, he thinks he may have developed a case of mycelia. “It’s a state, often observed in ants or other insects, where a fungus uproots the function of the brain.” He is very serious, very sedate as he shares this horrific thought with me – before breakfast, even. Then, he adds thoughtfully: “It’s either that or a highly emotional fever.”

(JEEBUS!)

I am amazed I can get up to a body of work – both professionally, artistically – with the kids in the house. Yesterday while I tried to sew I couldn’t get five minutes without an interruption; on days their friends visit it can be even worse. Feeding extra kids is Extra. I don’t mind, but I also have to give myself credit for how much I do get done.

“Do you work from home?” a child asked me today. I got to tell her. Maybe she will stay less ignorant than so many Grown-Ups.

But today, “working from home” took us on the road, as it often does. We spent the better part of the sunshine on a little highway and back again: delivering a child to a counseling session. It was hot out, and my car – clocking over 200,000 miles – has a busted A/C long since fallow. The windows down, and the air roaring through, it’s good enough. Tying my hair up into a couple buns and wrapping with a headscarf and still by the end of the day I feel wilted. Hot shower and into pajamas a little early, methinks.

The children and I enjoy a late-night walk with the dog, most nights. And every time we do at least one of our cats – and sometimes up to four of them! – follow us. Our little tuxedo Herbert Pocket races alongside, flashes of her white grabbers at the end of sleek black legs. She waits in a dusty lane for us, and I know coyotes or even a mountain lion could meet her there – it’s remote enough. Life is scary!

We’ve always had the highest quality air here, but this summer has had some wonderful, beachy breezes. I’m aware as we walk that we are approaching the end of our turn in this neighborhood: off to a new house, a new adventure soon. I make my preparations: sewing a quilt, selling bits of furniture, putting together a wishlist, going through our clothing:

Working From Home.

Night Walk

Take Me 2 The River

a bend in the river

Take Me 2 The River
I live somewhere incredible. Only about twenty minutes from my house you find pristine waterways – with no one else there, even in 80-degree weather. It’s like a little bit of Paradise, and I grow fonder every year.

Above? That’s me after our trip. Nels probably has chocolate on his lip. My hair is two shades lighter than when I went in the water at noon! It was hot as Balls.

That said, today’s three-hour river-float down the Wynoochee (yes my lovelies from far far away – we have the best names where I live – especially for rivers!) – was also a lesson in anticipatory terrors. Most of these terrors were experienced last night while planning the trip: the fear I’d select the wrong leg of a river, and we’d end up (best-case scenario) having to squelch a few miles on foot, in our swimwear – or (worst-case scenario) drowning and/or skinned alive by an errant black bear or redneck murderer. I am an Adventurer in very specific ways, sure – but outdoor unknowns that involve the safety of my children? I’m more of a Planner. (or an Obsessive.)

So I did all the planning, and last-night’s worrying. This morning after Ralph and I take a brisk morning walk with our dog, we roll the kids out of bed and pack up five kinds of sunscreen. My husband makes up some food and secures some water, then straps our huge truck-sized inner tubes into the back of my mom’s old pickup.

And I resolutely ignore the silent pleas of my all-time-bro Hutch, who knows we are up to something fabulous. Maybe next time, li’l dude! (so many regrets!)

Finding our base and access points is easy – for the upstream put-in, a friend lets us park at her lovely place. We have the obligatory, run-into-a-super-local who says a bunch of cryptic stuff that makes me think we are going about the whole thing wrong.

Finally, we’re in the river. The water is cold, the sun is hot, and I am still a little worried. I mean we are talking crawdads, leeches, horseflies (seriously!), sunstroke or hypothermia (or ye Shit Gods, both!) if I’ve misjudged the right distance – and fishing hooks hiding in the riverbed! As well as: I am terrified of water that is over two inches deep and not crystal-clear (for obvious reasons).

So: the first forty minutes is a little edgy. For me. The river is about as low as it’s been in about a hundred years (no joke), so floating over the occasional deadhead is a little unnerving. My husband and I are sharing the largest of our tubes when we hit our first rough rapids; he immediately and inadvertently almost drowns my ass with his frantic scramble to avoid a nasty stump and branches snarl. He is apologizing as we are still flying around the bend to our doom and I am laughing uncontrollably at the transformation from placid meander to sudden deathfall, and I am angry at his mistake, and kind of stuck in both those places for a bit.

Ultimately we have a wonderful, trip, and a safe one, Saints be praised. We also met my friend’s donkeys (unbelievably sweet!) –

and after all of this, ran right into town for pizza and Pepsi, which after all that sun and water was more satisfying than can be expressed in words.

It was a beautiful trip, and just the right amount of time out on that river.

Maybe the best memory of the day is showing my daughter how to pull the straps down the swim top, to avoid strap tan lines. Maybe the best memory is knowing my kids will remember our trip the rest of their lives.

Summer? It’s a little different.

More, please.

On Like Donkey Kong

Post-Blood Donation

only a little

Today I spent some time in an in-depth mentoring session, then gave blood, then ran my mom over across town for errands, then got my ass to yoga, then went to a meeting. On top of the kidcare and housecare and petcare. I’m beat.

Post-Blood Donation

It’s been a very busy summer. But a beautiful one.

Walking Buddy
Moral Support
WHO'S A GOOD BOY
I have these ethereal beings in my life and I don’t want to spend one moment of the day forgetting this.

Spoon Creek Falls

‘PAVEMENT ENDS’

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!”

Spoon Creek Falls
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.

Spoon Creek Falls
* ETA – Except horse flies. I had a friend visit the falls the day after I wrote this post – and she reminded me I neglected to note this! So – you’re warned!

darkling / darling

Some days the rituals that keep me sane, and let me fall asleep in the late hours, are simple and few: my evening journal entry. My nightly gratitude meditation. Making sure the kitchen is tidy as night falls.

And then tonight: a walk in the gloaming with the children, and Ralph, and our dog. Whatever we talk about, sublime or mundane, and whether Ralph and I get to talk or are interrupted by our children (tonight’s lively discussion: what film elements make a film a “Western”?), just being out in the night air and in their presence is immensely grounding. We’ve had these wonderfully beachy fogs lately, bringing a chill to the air that is nevertheless alive with the promise of spring and summer.

Daily I give up somehow trying to keep up with the children – their interests, their growth, their projects, their social lives. Not so long ago I was their everything and knew what they did, and what they thought, and who they saw. Now they fly back to me, little fledglings to the nest, and tell me their every thought. Yet I still try to grasp and to wrest control of it all, to be the one who is calling the shots, instead of being carried along.

It isn’t true that it is only infants who seek out their mother’s breast. My children are half-grown and yet in my presence they are forever coming close, putting their arms up – or merely out – to hold me. Kissing me, wrapping their bodies around mine, or tangling their legs between my ankles on the couch, or in bed. If anything the physical intimacy is the same as it has been since they were very small. I am humbled to find I did not create this exactly, nor earn it, it is simply the nature of things, time flying by as it must.

We reach the end of the kids’ first year together in school. Their grades are exemplary, their rmemories are many, and happy. They are well-regarded by peers and staff at the school. One and a half band concerts left, and we will be free of the school schedule for some weeks. And I will have my babies back, if on such terms as remain unfamiliar to me.

the thrushes too

My son takes my hand; he kisses me. His freckles are surfacing, now, with the spring changes. His face lean like a young wolf; no more baby, even though I search his features for that memory. And as we walk the sun floods our path downtown, lighting up the fresh green grass and the old crumb-bum sidewalk. At my right hand, our dog Hutch pulls at his leash.

And now Nels says to me – by way of affectionate teasing:

“Little bird,

“with a crooked beak.”

Then:

“… Nasty thoughts in its head.”

and he smiles slyly and I pull him close, kiss the top of his head. I don’t even have to stoop.

My car is busted, and sitting at the shop. I can hear the meter running, cha-ching!, more expense. And even after mine is fixed – I have some concerns about Ralph’s car – the power steering, for one. The busted driver’s side window. Our children’s choice to attend school is a difficult one when it comes to working cars, and gas expenditure. A new(er) car isn’t something we can pull off any time soon, either.

The bathtub faucet has a drip: my dog has some mysterious ailment causing him to scratch, and chew on his skin. The house needs an overhaul: a winter’s worth of home clutter is gradually being sorted, categorized, recycled or used. Today I handed a large paper bag full of hair dye and half-used shampoos and other toiletries to a gentleman in a big truck, a liaison arranged via the free Facebook community.

We’ve got an upstairs art studio that needs to be tidied; I’ve a resume and cover letter to send out in the morning. I’m behind on our budget. I’ve been ill – kidneys acting up.

Maybe that’s why it matters. Putting my arms around my daughter and feeling her belly. Holding my husband close, feeling the strength and warmth of his body against mine. The sound of my children’s laughter while they play basketball next door – bounce, bounce, bounce. My cheerful (but small) little sewing studio; ironing the selvedge of new denim. Hot coffee, hot water for an evening shower.

It’s good to be alive, even if I’m usually lost as to what to do with the blessings scattered about at my feet.

Nels

the longest

Is it special, when you’re lonely?
Will you spend your whole life
In a studio apartment
With a cat for a wife?

On my mind today is a sense of illness – it steals upon me during a perfectly sunny walk in the woods this afternoon, and creeps through my belly, blooms in my chest. My head swims a bit. I want nothing more than to rest, to lie down. Instead I get to drive and haul children, a dog, a friend or two.I get to do the minimum amount of housework at home so we can visit a new family with a new – brand-new, as in born today – baby!

My children’s interests, activities, appetite, and clothing consumption seem to have escalated here, in their pre-teen years. Their needs for scheduling, and for talking out peer issues, and our plans for their upcoming birthday celebrations, do not make for idle time. Tonight I sit on bleachers in the rural school’s immaculate gym – splashed everywhere with the school colors of black, orange and white – and watch my son and other boys dribble basketballs, run pass-drills, and work on shooting form. I feel a softness in my chest for these boys – the little boys, and the “boy” coaching as well. I stand up and pocket my phone at four as Nels proudly hauls his backpack up his shoulder – before asking if I’ll carry it. My son puts his arm around me when we leave; he is growing so tall, so fast. His neck is flushed and his body elastic and warm from practice.

Nels' 1st Day At Basketball

Preachers Slough

Greedy For Babies

 Today’s exertions have left my cough a little deeper than it was this morning; my neck and head ache. My body feels ill-used, and misses the weekend-night cuddles of my children, who go to bed before I do on school nights.

But tonight I am grateful to have once again discharged the day’s duties; to have remained true to the purpose. To have walked the dog and pet the cats and helped the children and held hands with my husband and looked into his eyes deeply and when he asked me how I was, to tell him, “I love you.”

Life is a gift and today although my bones are cold and brittle I’m grateful to get the chance for another 24. Breathing in, breathing out.

and miles to go before I sleep

I’m standing in the classroom, stirring a fragrant broth loaded with vegetables, shredded chicken, garlic, spices, and pasta. The classroom I am borrowing is a somewhat-converted Home Ec facility: the stoves serving as counterspace, now, and counters cleared of kitchenware and hosting physics experiments and water testing equipment. Sinks and cupboards full of scientific equipment and rinsed Tupperware. A fridge housing God-knows-what. A dingy space but, as far as classrooms go, a fairly cheerful one. The teacher here loves his job and it shows in how he attends to the children in his care.

I come out every Monday to lead my son’s class through either a bit of arts-and-crafts – or, as in today’s case, cooking. I’d set forth volunteering to cook during Phoenix’s inaugural year, in the sixth grade. Parents who actually spend time in the classroom are as rare as ever. I think it’s because, although schools serve at our behest, they still feel like foreign territory.

This week’s Monday, however, the hot plate I’d purchased for my son’s class proves inept at getting a good boil of soup on; thus my return on a Thursday to finish the job – borrowing another classroom. A lot of driving back and forth to this rural little school but it is worth the effort, time and expense to support my children. The drive is a pleasant one, too. Often on the trip I come across a herd of about thirty Roosevelt elk – I’m so used to it I give them only a cursory glance. Until I think it through and realize many people in the world would be in awe at such a sight.

Finished now, I tidy the kitchen space, thank the resident teacher, and carry the large tureen through the hallways – carefully, arms out ahead so I don’t slosh on myself or the floor. I’ve the soup – which the kids have been looking forward to since Monday – and two loves of day old bread donated by a local deli. The class is happy to eat what they helped prepare – children will dine in a much more democratic fashion when included in the cooking work.

It is a cold and soggy day outside; as a few other classes filter out for a wet recess, I talk with my son’s teacher about her pregnancy – her first. I’m tired, but content to have a job to do, a simple one at that.

***

Tonight, finally – the last work of the evening, making a pan of homemade double-chocolate brownies at my husband’s suggestion. My son stands on a stool, putting clean and dry dishes away. “Mama, I love you. Who wouldn’t love you?”

“Oh… lots of people don’t love me. Don’t even like me.” The moment I say it, I know he will be shocked.

Sure enough: “What? Who? Who doesn’t like you? Mama?” Nels is amazed.

“Oh…” I tell him. Thinking of a few names. Then I say, “I can’t tell you. Because actually – I don’t know for sure.”

“Who wouldn’t love you?” He is less distressed than confused.

Then, when he sees I am still not forthcoming:

“Can you tell me a little bit, maybe just someone you guess might not like you?”

“No, Nels.” I am firm. “It’s not my business anyway.”

“Oh. … then can I have some cake batter?”

We finish up in the kitchen – I place the batter in a pan in the oven. Nels finishes the dishes. 

Today was a good day.

A Little Bit Damp

here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool

We’ve been hit unbelievably hard with flooding.

Sunday night after yoga class I noticed the rain was fantastic – even for an area known for its rain. Deep in that evening while we slept the county – especially Aberdeen, and to a lesser extent Hoquiam – absolutely went awash.

By nine in the morning my entire family and I had (carefully) made our way to a grocery shop to get enough supplies for a day or two – as many roads were impassable. I passed someone in the aisle I’d known since I was eight – I was to find out later, they’d lost a house only hours before.

Both the kitties’ trip to the vet (offered by a friend helping us out) and my daughter’s doctor’s appointment were cancelled. School was cancelled. Ralph’s workday: cancelled. Almost all the roads in and out and everywhere: closed!

My social media stream began trickling in photographs of basements and homes flooded – cars submerged, streets absolutely awash. I comforted my friends and neighbors, I updated my own feed with our day’s events. I thought a bit about those working hard to help – especially the road crews, police, aid workers, and all who had to brave the elements.

Our house stayed warm, and dry. Our animals and human family members stayed safe. Nels even made a little newscast last night.

Life goes on even during catastrophe. Last night at 1:30 AM, and quite improbably, the neighbors across the street – who yesterday had a lengthy, out-of-doors, screaming, I’m calling the cops! fight – suddenly blast a soulful, sexy R&B tune.

My son: kept up into the wee hours by night terrors. This morning, my heart is sad.

The doctors don’t seem to be in just yet. My attempts to reschedule Phee’s doctor’s appointment – I am concerned with her cough – go in vain. A glass of water, a couple ibuprofen for my own sore throat – and then falling into bed with an anxious little boy, who is home from school.

A Little Bit Damp