gun powder shakes

My new part-time work involves clerical duties and data validation for a local official concern. It is important work, which makes it rather meaningful. It is also skilled labor, although the pay scale is low, which keeps me humble. And grateful. It’s very much “civic/citizen” work, and very soothing. Working it fulltime would absolutely wreck me, but that’s not what I’m doing, so I’m okay.

It is nice to have time on that is not really my own, bits of my life I have slotted away for someone else – no more nor less than a certain precise amount. Today, for lunch, I walked down a sunlit hill to find a good cup of coffee at the quaint little shop on the corner of our county seat’s modest thoroughfare. I’m so used to my little patch of the world I sometimes forget how lovely it really is – and how remote it would seem to those who live in urban areas. Lifting my eyes off the modest street, I see green, forested hills snugging us in. A blue sky booming with cumulus clouds almost too majestic to seem real. The air has an autumn chill but the sun is still cheerfully hot, and warms my cheap work-casual wardrobe.

The coffee shop fellow is friendly and asks, “What’s on the agenda for today?” I am so unused to being asked this by strangers, it takes me a moment to grind into the routine of friendly chit-chat. I tell him: “After work, I’m taking care of the family. Then yoga and a date with friends.” He tells me he’s off to work on the brakes of his car. Truth is, most times, I’d rather hear about someone else’s plans than talk about my own. But even so I’m thinking – I’m terrible at this, at asking people about their day. Maybe I’ve got some learning to do, about connecting to people in a real way.

At the end of workday I file the last bit of bureaucratic ephemera, check the desk for tidiness, log off the computer – then swing my bag across my shoulder and bid adieu to my new officemates. Home and my car has a “CHECK ENGINE” light on. Radiator, still cracked. Brake linings need to be seen to. At week’s end I will owe a phenomenal amount of tuition for my daughter’s new educational ventures.

It’s a damn good thing I know better than to worry – about anything.

Because right now, I have to get home. Feed my family. Ask my kids about the first part of their day. Try to rest.

It’s been a busy few weeks.

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

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!

we’re really not so clever as we seem to think we are

I don’t know how much the world really is changing, but something tells me you didn’t used to often see t-shirts like the one I’m looking at now: “I Just Might Fuck This Bitch!” in garish letters surrounding the figure of a hand pointing off the shirt’s regions. I’m putting a few dollars in my gas tank and this fellow stands just a few feet away doing the same, shrugging his arms across the shirt, a shirt that it’s a little too early in the morning for. Finally he says to me genially, “Oh man… It’s raining!”

Boy is it raining. Buckets. The kind of rain we get in Grays Harbor and it’s kind of indescribably lush. And I’m in a t-shirt and it feels wonderful; all morning as I’d packed up for our trip the windows were open in my home and I could hear the absolute roar of the rain and it is down-to-my-bones home in a way I’d never be able to accurately describe. I tell this fellow now, “It’s warm out though,” and experience that moment, just a joy to be alive, a joy to have a few dollars in my gas tank and have food for my children.

I kept feeling home, and feeling this joy, throughout my day, even though I was very tired for this-and-that reason. The rain dried up for our outdoor walk at Northwest Trek, and we enjoyed a wonderful warmth almost like a greenhouse. I had a surreal sense of place over and over this afternoon, to be at a wildlife park and with regularity hear people exclaiming over flora and fauna I can’t remember not knowing: blacktailed deer and red cedar, raccoons and red huckleberries, the last of which were consumed in vast quantity by my son and my friend’s daughter I. consumed a whole lot of by the way. I often feel fortunate to live here and just walking down some paths today reminded me of this.

Northwest Trek 2013

Phoenix, Nels & I. wouldn’t look up for me to take a photo, so I gave up. Looking back upon our trip a year and a half ago I was shocked how much my children have grown (aren’t I always?). Today Nels was very tender to his new friend I. and they goofed together a lot (Nels’ grouchy face in this picture is a weird coincidence as he loved the attention), and my daughter led us through the park through the use of her map.

Home after a bit of traffic, we ate dinner – a black bean and quinoa salad, sliced baked potatoes, and buttered broccoli – then Ralph and I painted a bit more on our current home project and the kids ran the neighborhood like they do.

Now, late tonight: windows open again and hoping for rain.

I don’t need too much / Just need somebody to love

You’ll probably never see me again as one of my Christmas gifts from Ralph was a nice phone – and because he’s all S-M-R-T it came completely set up with my tweeter and texting and chat and contacts and music service and every single thing I could ever want besides another human life and heartbeat – and this development is concomitant with a hardcore case of BIEBER FEVER* (yeah, I know I am late to the game on that one) so I’m mostly located in the kitchen making bread or washing dishes and listening with very perky pop at volume 11. Bieber gave way to some New Wave about the time I was rolling out some pumpernickel bread while the kids ran through the lights-out house playing hide and seek – donning caving lights on their heads. Of course.

I have been out and about a little bit.

Amore In Aberdeen

The darkness means photo-opportunities have been slight. And since this is my first ever mobile phone (seriously… I’m like a frikken corny commercial here) I’ve taken pictures of my own finger and all that, blah blah, oh well.

Here’s Ralph this morning. He recieved several gifts from my mother and I that were entirely PNw-clothing related, a lined flannel and handknit hat and neoprene boots and such. He accused us of exploiting his new beard and trying to dress him all sexy-lumberjack. I am SO GLAD I did not opt for those Carhartts with the buttcheeks cut out!

My Husband The Stoic Lumberjack

Not everyone’s too thrilled with my new gadgetry (Phoenix has intuited the awesomeness of my phone but Nels is mentally comparing it to an iPad and finding it lacking).

Post Sleep Marathon

However, despite the grouchy mien, some people are thrilled with their Christmas robe. We’re past 24 hours wearing it.

Christmas was incredible and beautiful but also exhausting. Oddly enough I need a break. Fortunately I’m getting one soon; a day with just the kiddos and I, tomorrow, when our sleepover guest goes home.

Gadgets, gadgets, more gadgets.

Post-Christmas Computer

* Here

Flow & Commerce

Even in my days where nothing happens, or it feels like not much, I guess I’m rather busy. Busy doing things I love more than anything. The time flies by.

Today I got up to find a Freecycler had dropped off two sets of bamboo knitting needles in sizes I didn’t have previously: 11s and 13s (I’m looking forward to knitting either some chunky scarves or hats-in-the-flat). I brewed coffee and finished laundry and dishes and sat down and worked on a wee knitting project (which is truly STELLAR; I will be posting pictures soon!). While still in sleepwear with my pillow-hair (very tangly) another friend and Freecycler stopped by with a dress for Phoenix (a lovely little import number) and I gave her my bellydancing practice skirt for her daughter to use for Halloween. Just as this woman left my mother called and asked me out to breakfast. Entirely thrilled with this I made ready and as she got here the kids stumbled out of bed all lovely and sleepy. My mom is always happy to have them along and she coaxed accordingly; Nels came with us while my daughter stayed at home. We went out to breakfast (it was really lunch) and had a long talk while Nels played PvZ and then at the questions of our server did indeed elucidate on the game and strategies (people, do NOT ask Nels about his computer activities unless you really do want to hear his answers!). I paid for lunch which made me feel all awesome. Usually my mother pays.

After my mom dropped Nels and I off at home I asked my daughter along to my errands and to my glad heart she said Yes (I was hoping to have time alone with her). I have the inkling to set up a little display of my sewn pieces in a shop or caf̩ around here so locals know there is a custom / homesewn seamstress around these parts. I have a few ideas about where and how to do this, and I have a few people I want to talk to. On our way to our first stop we talked with the proprietress of the local indie book store Рopening on Saturday!, and by the way, will be the ONLY bookstore in Hoquiam/Aberdeen with a population of 25,000 or so! Рand chatted for a few minutes. Phoenix introduced herself clear as day, stepping forward with her hand extended, her eyes clear and freckles popping.

In our recycled clothing shop I turned in a pair of Old Navy jeans and earned consignment to buy a new (to me) purse. Phoenix selected a lovely fall-color poncho and was very pleased with this. I bought her a burger on the way to picking Ralph up from work; the three of us then headed to the bakery in Aberdeen and I picked up a consignment form, coffee, and a cream puff.

At Thrift City we shopped, primarily with the goal of finding clothes for Ralph (and P.S. good sir, your total aversion to pleats is seriously hampering your choices). He futzed around in the electronics section while I came away with five pair of pants and two longsleeved work shirts for The Man, two trick-or-treat buckets for the kids, a pair of shoes for Phoenix, a few LPs selected by Ralph, and a – yes, a sewing machine, a vintage Wizard heavier than you can imagine. All of this cost $25. Doing laundry later today I reflected I’ve developed quite the system for our clothing, not formally or by design but in ways that make absolute sense for quality and frugality. I wear mens’ jeans and recycled clothing for cheap/sturidiness along with my trusty doc martens (and yeah, a big part of my Plan is to mostly just look a bit shoddy). For the kids, most of their gear is stuff I’ve sewn augmented by the occasional hand-me down and thrift store purchase. Ralph’s digs come from Thrift City as the men’s clothing there is well-made, great brands and in good shape. His socks we buy at Ross, his boxers I sew, his sunglasses he’s always losing and then buying new cheap ones (like we do here in the PNw).

At home Ralph made dinner while I resumed knitting and visited with a friend who dropped by looking for discussion/advice on her children’s schooling. Her preteen daughter sat at our feet and we all caught up together. After they left and I stitched my last on the now-finished project, Ralph and I walked down to my mother’s in the lovely fall inky-black night where I picked up some more yarn from my mother’s stash.

It really was a perfect night for a walk.

And of course, in addition to all this there were emails and tweets and IMs and reading articles and scratching kitties and a few other friends I ran into and wrestling and snuggling with my children while a handful of other kids ran in and out (in the evening Phoenix’s good friend S. came over and my kids went for a walk with her to a neighborhood fort).

If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite moments (so far!) were on my walk with Ralph, or even the moment he invited me – or maybe the hugs I shared with my face in Nels’ warm sunny hair – or maybe the minutes alone with Phoenix in the car. She was heart-achingly “appropriate” in the store; my used jeans had earned me $7.50 and she judiciously looked for pieces that cost under that – no hinting on her part for more, and no need for me to state that requirement (which in this case, I didn’t have). I told her to get what she liked and the knit poncho ($9) was something she was very pleased with. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and looked at her beauty in the sideview mirror of our car and my heart skipped a beat. I wish when she was younger I’d worried less and felt less stress as a mother. Here she’s practically raising herself and she’s doing an incredible job.

So see there’s usually nothing particularly sublime to my days, or maybe actually everything about most my days really is phenomenal. I don’t know. Days like today are typically the way I spend our time – nothing especially exalted, but exactly the kind of bliss I’m used to regularly experiencing.

I feel very fortunate. It seems like life used to be a lot more work for me a lot more of the time.

ISO a starfish

Ruby Beach, today

My son’s been obsessed with sea life lately; twice in the last week he’s taken me to the Swansons boat launch in HQX to find a “fish skeleton” he saw there once with his father. Ralph later told me this incident was over a year ago. After yesterday’s most recent failed search Nels suggested we go to a “real beach” and find a starfish. So we decided to make that our mission today.

All four of us love roadtrips; the children always request we parents get up early and “snuffle them out to the car”. This means as they sleep we pack up the food and clothes and supplies and then slip our (still-sleeping) babies in blankets out to the warm car, with breakfast on the road. I literally do not know who likes this ritual more, the children or Ralph and I.
Footwear For The Damp

Roadtrip Toes

Breakfast On The Road

It’s been a year since our last trip to Ruby Beach but the weather is similar: warm and lovely with some soft rain. Once again we have the dog and once again we do our best not to get wet but get wet anyway. Ralph builds a massive driftwood bridge over a freshwater outlet that would otherwise not be crossable unless you’re able to wade knee-deep.
Ralph's Damn Bridge

Patch

While Ralph and Phoenix build the bridge (with fake-shivery dog in tow) Nels and I search for our starfish; we nearly get beached on a few seastacks (I can’t tell if the tide is going out or coming in which compounds this issue). Nels seriously loves nothing more than to get “caught” along with me. He knows it’s dangerous but since I’m with him he’s happy to do it anyway.

Nels Runs

My son and I find mussels and barnacles and limpets and kelp and a neon-orange sea snail – but no starfish. I remember toward the end of our searchings that he’d found last year’s starfish in the open water (likely dead or injured although it had been impossible to tell). We play and play and play, spending over two hours in the warmth and damp. The ocean is gentle and tender but ferocious and unrelenting. My son talks to me joyously and musically and almost non-stop, but listens to every rejoinder I make. Alone with my children I am often prone to silence, rather like my departed father (this is odd becasue with grownups I am quite talkative).

Phoenix is a stormy presence, alternatively cheerful and open and then snapping at Ralph or I. She wades through the warm water and stirs it with sticks; she tenderly shepherds the dog and in her ministrations calms his decrepit timidity.

Nels says: “I want to live here!”

Back at the car we get the kids into dry clothes* and feed them from the large basket of food Ralph had prepared. Driving home they both fall asleep, their sea-kissed faces flushed and happy. At home I knead dough and wash dishes; I launder our wet clothes and wash the dog and clip him and dry him and clean out the tub. Ralph spirits off to band practice, afterward bringing home bandmate and friend F. We drink red table wine and eat homemade pizza and smoke on the porch and F. and I talk circles around Ralph about our favorite movies and a variety of hodgepodge subjects and before we know it it’s 10:30 and another wonderful weekend draws to a close.
Oregon Trail

Crossing

Carried Away

* We got wet and no other beachgoers did: seriously? Every. Single. Other. Beachcomber was all decked out in REI and North Face wicking-gear and driving newer Hondas, VWs, Subarus; most carried huge, expensive cameras (and only one other group had kids!). We four were trudging in our soaking-wet cotton and Ralph had split the ass out of his pants (for reals). And yes, people were giving us side-eye.

"they’re really reelin’ in, down here" – wtf ?

Our camping township Ilwaco is somewhat incomprehensible. Part working class coast ghost town yet sprouting tourist boutiques and cafes with “OPEN” signs that suddenly wink enticingly between shoddy canneries and trailer parks that look as if the swampy earth heaved them up. The sparkling morning air reveals the irrepressible and distinct busyness of a successful fishing town; that is to say, honest activity, vital weathered men bounding up dock ramps and stomping through town looking to satisfy huge appetites, rumbling diesel vehicles with saltwater damage and crab pots and winches and other massive-looking work-seasoned equipment. The daytime Ilwaco feels open to possibilty and full of vigor. Yet in the dusk, with the town’s one four-way stoplight inexplicably disabled and darkness swallowing the place up, there is a distinctly sinister air. It feels like the town has vacated or hid, all home with family and warm beds and leaving the outdoors to the wind and pounding surf that threatens here at the mouth of the Columbia.

This town and indeed many on the peninsula have the carnie atmosphere I associate with northern Oregon’s toursit destination of Seaside, but smaller and with fewer out-and-out lusty tourist enterprises. As you head north on the Long Beach peninsula the burgs of Seaview, Long Beach, Breakers, Oceanside, Klipsan Beach, and Ocean Park give way to one another along Pacific Highway in an indistinguishable ebb and flow of businesses, groceries, kite shops, sandwich eateries, antique malls, and that odd video / tanning / internet enterprise we’re seeing in so many small towns.

Only locals can tell Ralph and I when we are in “Long Beach proper”; it seems one large strip of township. Retirement money pops up in the form of expansive manors erected and lording over a view of the long-rolling coastline and foggy hills; a stone throw from one such home and in plain, bald sight crouches the absolutely most run-down yet functioning laundromat I have ever seen. There are very few chain stores or eateries in these towns. Instead there are dubious or friendly-yet-modest looking businesses rising and falling with past promises of cozy eateries or current hawking of kitchy treasuers; perhaps a promising homestyle pizzeria truncated by an abrupt “CLOSED” sign stapled to the front marquee, left to rot how ever many years ago. The businesses are all along the strip: funeral homes, realtors camped in ex-sports bars, lawyer offices sandwiched in strip malls between coin-ops and a TBA opening eBay store.

While drying a load of laundry in one of the ten percent of operational washers in aformentioned laundromat Ralph and I took the bikes out and instinctively headed to the coastline. We immediately fell upon a well-paved and wide path that wound up and down the coast. It was a unique biking experience for me as the trail incessantly headed up and back down small hills and wound around countless dunes whispering with pampas grass. It was pedal pedal cost. Soon you wanted to keep rolling on the trail, working then floating, rising and falling in the mist-kissed sun, talking about nothing in particular and hoping you ended up back in town near a taco cart. The trail winded us to who-knows how far down the coastline before we turned back.

On the trail, in town, at the yurt at night. Here the waves pound the shore with a ferocity that creates a dull roar remarked upon over two hundred years ago by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Perhaps due to the local efforts to keep connection with the exploring pair and display the history in a number of exhibitions and museums, to experience this place invokes the spirit of exploration, newness, and savagery. Despite the resort motels and moped rentals and fly-by-night nature of some of the aspiring businesses there is still a deep and profound connection to the natural, beautiful, and ferocious state of the place.

love at Y89

When word got around to our friends that Ralph and I were yurt camping at Cape Disappointment there were two reactions. The first was open-faced envy – who doesn’t want a vacation, especially one with your mate / spouse / lover? – and the second was a laugh at just how unappetizing to some the phrase “yurt camping at Cape Disappointment” sounds.

Ralph made the plans for the vacation, including reserving the camping site, arranging childcare (our capable friend Paige), taking time off work, and researching the local area and activities thereof. He also secretly squirreled away money from our household operating expenses the last few months; because although a modest camping trip might seem easily doable to many of our friends it is far less so to us. The combined expenses of babysitting fees, food for all parties, gas, site rental, laundry quarters et cetera have thus far been enough for us to put off, and continue putting off, a getaway of any kind.

We were on the road yesterday by about 2 PM. I was feeling horrible. I knew that being away from the children for four days and three nights would be like diving in for a swim in ice cold water – unpleasant at first but with a little acclimation absolutely exhilarating. On leaving the children I was deliberately casual, saying goodbye as if I were only leaving a few hours. I was trying not to think of three endless nights without being able to hear their breathing or stroke them in their sleep. As we drove out of Aberdeen I sat in the car and somewhat woodenly responded to my husband’s (very cheerful) conversation. I felt worse than not crying; I felt the impending doom of something going wrong, of making a bad choice in timing to leave my children. Please understand it doesn’t matter who I leave them with – no one can love them like I can. It was a tiny, weird little nightmare that I knew my husband did not share. I breathed through it and took my time with it and told myself it was a temporary adjustment period.

And this unreasonable and morose mood passed, just as I thought it would. After a beautiful drive through windswept sea scenery and sharing an audiobook with Ralph I had almost accepted my fate at having my family split up. We checked into our site, unpacked, then headed back to Long Beach for a delicious dinner with ice cold beer. We headed back to the site in the wet and unfamiliar night and on the way we were beset by frogs; tiny reddish-brown creatures that would suddenly form out of the first of the fall leaves on the road and alarmingly bound across the street. At my request Ralph caught me one; it took twice for him to brake, secure the van, jump out, and dive to catch the little creature in the headlights and it reminded me of years and years ago when he’d gone out kicking mushrooms to lift me out of a sad mood, up in Mason Lake during a Thanksgiving with my family. At the campsite we took quarter-operated showers to warm up, shared some wine in the yurt (after Ralph had dispatched a few arachnoid specimens), and watched a date movie. I think it was about 1 AM when I fell asleep, a little uncomfortable in a bed other than mine (packing up a king-size was just not in the cards for a camping trip) but so glad to be with my husband.

And here’s something crazy; when I woke up with Ralph, at 9:30 in the morning, both my children had been awoken, fed, dressed, and taken to school – and I didn’t have to do it.

Getting time with Ralph alone is amazing. I can cook for just two and it takes about five minutes. We can eat together without him having to cut someone’s food and I don’t have to bolt my meal down. I can talk to him without interruptions. I can decide to take a shower or go for a walk and I don’t need to secure a list of to-do items before I go nor worry a child will run into the street or try to drink drain cleaner if I turn away for one minute. I can think and be quiet in my own mind and no one is asking for attention or needs help getting dressed or washing hands. This is perhaps the most amazing aspect of a vacation sans children; being able to choose and complete a task in the quietude of my own thoughts.

I joked yesterday that in these parts a thirty percent chance of rain is like a hundred percent chance of rain (perhaps you’d have to live in the PNw to understand). But today we wake to clear skies and a day with nothing we particularly have to do and nothing we can’t do – as long as we temper our expenses to keep the total trip under a very modest $100. It would have been more but our van busted a CV joint and a good chunk of our “fun” money was spent in necessary vehicular repair.

And so continues our modest but ever-so precious vacation together.

the times we had

Today the kids and I took a day trip to Pacific Beach and now I want nothing more than to do something like this every day. The weather was so warm, so stunningly sunny and all of this fell on the most lush and beautiful countryside I’ve ever been a part of. My children were so happy to be taking a trip and we were listening to Andrew Bird’s “Armchair Apocrypha” (I finally caught the bug from Ralph who is listening to it incessantly). The soaring orchestration of the music and the sunshine, heading out to the beach my father recommended yesterday while he was (once again) at the hospital getting his Special Poison and my two very, very precious children in my car – it all kind of overwhelmed me for about twenty minutes as we drove and listened to music loud and us silent.

Lunch was packed in a basket; another basket held enough extra clothes, towels, and sunscreen to make sure nothing much could ruin our excursion. The beach itself was beautiful, the sand like warm silk and hardly anyone else in sight. We wandered up the river outlet, looking for sand dollars and my children being happy with literally any significant or not-so-significant find.

Nels beachcombed very specific items: a startlingly green slimey stripe of seaweed, a smooth oblong sandstone rock (why this one was special I don’t know), a lovely spiral shell, and a thick leaf with a bruise on it. He carried them over a mile of wandering – I finally helped put them in his hoodie pocket (later on the drive home he politely asked for them to hold). Regarding the four inch strip of seaweed he led me all the way to the river outlet and asked me to put it back in. By this point it was 100% encrusted with sand. As I gently tossed it in the water it magically became new and I realized he’d led me to exactly the spot he’d first captured it.

We finally made it down to the Ocean Proper and after some wading I sat and watched my children run and laugh and make their own games up. The air was just incredible; salty and warm and refreshingly wet. The one other family there disappeared into mist and for a large swath of my view it looked as if we were at the End of the World with no one else.

My daughter hurt her hand playing; we made our way back to the kids’ boots and then the car, a cold rinse off (next time, bring quarters for hot water showers), fresh clothes, and bundled back inside, refreshed and invigorated. For ten minutes or so we lunched in the car (cucumbers and carrots with hummus, whole wheat rolls with string cheese, and an apple) and I put the music back on and we drove home.

Days like today are a paradise of their own.