in company

small stone #16
My friends saw me in my mom’s old pickup truck –
In the dark, in the cold, in the wet night.
“Who’s that with Kelly?” they asked.
Brake lights flared up:
My dog’s companionable profile revealed.
My friends laugh.

small stone #17
I get a headache listening to you,
but I think that’s just a coincidence.

keep making me laugh / let’s go get high

Today I was talking and I would look up now and then to the room I was addressing and a man was looking at me with a lot of love in his eyes. It wasn’t a wrong kind of love, meaning lust or Ownership, it was the right kind, like that shining-eyed feeling we get when we love a friend and there’s no veil between us.

I’m grateful for one running car. God-willing, the other car can be repaired cheaply. But even then I have no need to be angry as if the repair costs money I simply can’t do it now, and that simplifies things.

Ralph cooks up beans and sweeps the floors. So much pet hair! The cold weather hits and the heat’s turned up and the pets just dump out their new winter coats. Today: a milestone – we train Hutch to sit patiently while Bun-Bun the rabbit lopes about the room. Hutch is triggered by the bunny and fixates on him; with careful observation and with a few sharp commands soon our dog is relaxed. He startles and looks at the rabbit, ears pricked – then glances away, and relaxes. More supervision is needed for some time but we’re on the road to our rabbit being consistently safe from a large, muscular predator with jaws that could swallow the lupine whole.

This pay cycle I will need to be near-prostrate with prayer to get through. But that’s okay, I know how to live by faith. Faith and hard work (mine), but always that gratitude and that openness. We’ve had a roof over our head and our utilities have been on and our debts are getting paid off at a glacial pace. Maybe we’ll “make it”! Look, we are making it!

Somehow!

I miss smoking, myself, sometimes. Smoking felt good and gave me that edge. It’s like: I need a cigarette to calm down, to relax, even though as we know the act of smoking rather amps us up. I haven’t had to smoke in quite some time, coming up on a year, and I am grateful for this. I’ve got no vice to supplant this twisted urge; sometimes I just gotta breathe and take a hot shower and know I Am, I am here for now, just keep breathing.

Nels, Pho

letting it rain

It’s like, already enough of a slog to get by bike to the treatment center in the rain. A lot of rain. Over the Riverside bridge the storm is severe enough to threaten my balance. I’m thinking, OK well through the town streets it might not be so bad. I just have to proceed more slowly, with caution.

I’m leaving a little late, too. I don’t like being late. So knowing what time it is, and deciding not to obsess about it, I settle into acceptance. I practice knowing I will get there on time. Even if I’m late, I am actually on time, because I cannot be there sooner than I can be there. About this time, just starting out on Cherry, I realize my back tire is pretty flat (I’d been thinking my sluggish pace was the wind). That’s when my sense of humor kicks in. Biking on a flat isn’t super-fun. Especially in a biting-cold storm rain.

The way I go, I disembark and walk up Scammel. No matter how much I bike, my knees don’t benefit from biking up hills. So I walk the steep ones. The tree-lined hill is blowing fierce with that warm storm wind – it’s quite thrilling in fact, and for a brief moment I feel very alive. I am amazed only a short time ago I was biking in as little clothing possible, to withstand the heat of the ride.

Treatment center work is a rock for me. For a few minutes I can get out of my own troubles. I cannot believe how grateful I am that I didn’t shirk on volunteer work while life was really good. I cannot believe how much I could have screwed up, if I had.

Today I am grateful because the weather created both perilous driving conditions (earlier in the day) and biking ones as well. Today I am grateful we are all safe, we are at least safe today. I try to tell myself this even if I don’t believe it.

Gratitude is not always effortless, I am finding.

Nels, Pho

Earlier in the day: pho with Nels. Nels who is my absolute treasure. Nels who got up this morning and came in the kitchen. And I said, “Someone rumpled you.” And he said, “It was you, Mama!” as he then hid in my arms for a hug. Nels who is now almost up to my shoulder in height and who’s hair smells dusty-sweet. Nels who one day will live out in the big scary World and incredibly that’s what’s supposed to happen.

I can’t exactly handle this but I literally pray that one day I will be able to.

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.

of stitchery & water-witchery

Today I have commitments elsewhere and gotta leave the kids in the lurch. This is rare; almost every single day I can easily construct my day around their needs – which is a really wonderful way to live when you think about it. I hadn’t really thought about it until I started typing just now. So anyway.

Yeah, today I owe a few hours of my time to an enterprise and after helping the kidlets with a few morning practicalities I tell them: I gotta go. I briefly run down my schedule and they are cheered at the thought of a morning to themselves, getting up to their own work without grownups. Who wouldn’t want a day like that?

When I arrive home I bring in a hot pizza and some fresh flowers. The dishes are done and put away perfectly, but I can’t help but think the little ones’ hearts aren’t in it too much since Nels, without fail, leaves the cupboard doors open after he puts away the dishes and cutlery (sometimes in exasperation I tell the children, “Do the dishes/clean the living room/vaccuum the sewing room like Mama would do it“, and they always get what I mean by that). We eat our pizza and I hold each child in turn for a moment and then they’re out the door to a friend’s, promising to return at 5:30.

Glad for a little time to myself, I am sewing up a dress shirt for my son – we will be attending a wedding this summer and I have several garments to make. The fabric I’m using is quite fine, semi-sheer, and wonderful to work with. All the fiddly bits of the shirt – the placket, the collar stand, the cuffs – flow together and the pleasant hiss of the iron’s steam accompanies my singing voice. Hot coffee and laundry and stitching, trimming, pressing. I fall into the trance of craftsmanship.

The children return just a couple minutes late and my daughter stands in the office doorway and apologizes. She is tall and scruffy-looking with her spikey hair and her baggy jeans. Her cheeks are pink and her nose is wet. She asks if she can bring friends over and I say, Sure. Yeah I like other people’s kids in the house, just not when their parents are there at the same time. So anyway, soon my daughter is sitting down with another child and they are painting watercolors and cutting and glueing collages. I listen to my daughter’s patient and confident assistance and I marvel at her tact and generosity. My mother visits, in and out, and expresses admiration for the girls’ artwork. She leaves. Nels leaves. Nels returns. He has Oreo crumbs on his face. Grandmother’s pantry.

My family life courses around me. I’m in the flow still, stitching and trimming and finger-pressing and threading my buttonholer; tying invisible knots and running fingers through the bright-busyness of glass jars holding hundreds of thrifted buttons. I remove hot bread from the oven, and stand to eat in the kitchen: a fold of fresh pita around breaded tofu, cucumber, and sharp cheddar cheese. Ralph, home now, sets plates for the children.

Evening; the house hums into a different state. Ralph to bed; the children playing Legos first loudly, then softly; now reading. The washing machine shudders to a halt for today. The dog slumbers at the foot of  my bed, folded into a muscular comma-shape, settling his bones. Without fail he woofs in his sleep, every night. So funny as he is a silent dog during the day!

A glass of water

And a purring cat

And a turned-down bed.

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.

a little sunburn by the glare of life

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.”

A little after four AM I hear my son’s voice like a pebble tossed in a still pool. “Mama. Would you be willing to comfort me in some way?” His voice is calm but sad. I realize, surfacing from sleep, he’s been under the covers, shifting silently, his body giving off heat like fresh-baked bread, frightened and trying to cope on his own for several hours. I hold him close and as I wake up more I collect myself to care for him. First I bring him to the bathroom to pee, then wash his hands and have a drink of cool water and then I feed him a little cereal. His body in his little underpants reminds me of my childhood books, Mowgli the “little brown frog”, legs and arms and a little fragile neck. His hair is long and tangled and every color of blonde, the smell of a dusty sunshine, a special heaven made just for me.

We return to bed and like a stone sinking in a pond he sinks into sleep, gradually over minutes but the minutes feel like much longer, laying beside him and in a state of half-sleep as I’m ready and willing to rise with him again should he need it; should his sleeplessness be the beginnings of a flu or fever. I stroke his back; smooth as velvet, living ribs rise and fall beneath my hand. It is quiet and the earth is spinning and soon I spin down to join him.

In the morning I hear my son telling Ralph about his restless night. He tells his father I’d held him, and got up with him. “And I got a glass of lemonade and I didn’t even have to rush because she was waiting for me. She was very kind.” I am tired, but I am content with being tired. I am learning how to rest, sometimes. And now I hold his hair gently off his neck and kiss him at the nape of his neck; his body folds up against me and his dusky little voice tells us both about his plans for the day, which include swimming and showing off his “fort” (at the bay side) to his father.

Later in the day my daughter arrives home from a beach trip and does not go in the house, but instead finds Ralph and I in the garage where we are doing the dusty work of cleaning. “Mom, a little assistance?” she asks now, unwilling to track sand through the house. Good, my four hundred thousand exasperated remonstrations over the years have made some effect. I gently whack the sand off her as best I can and with her cooperation tug off one of her t-shirts; we travel into the shower where she stands while I bag up her sand-laden clothes. I leave her there, treading to the laundry room to wash her things, and she turns on the tap. I remember how good a shower feels after a beach date.

My children show the evidence of the season’s change; they are outside immediately when the weather improves and they stay out for months. It is a cheerful ritual I have almost nothing to do with, but that helps me immensely. Even cooking hot meals in the kitchen while the family is out, even pouring scalding water and suds into the sink, there is a privacy I experience in keeping the home while they are out, that is much-appreciated after the winter months being cooped-up. I cook beans with chiles and pour strawberry lemonade for my husband; before I go out in the evening I change into a thin white shirt and step out into the sunshine, a bit cooled from earlier in the day.

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

slant rhyme

made some hats
need some scratch

Pom-Poms

buy this batch?

Also: if you are a local, I am looking for babies and kids as models, so I can photograph some of my creations. I have several items that are not being published in any way because I do not have children to model them. I am hoping especially for newborns in the zero to three months’ range; also kids up to three. AND of course any child model (and carer) gets a lovely Hoga-playdate plus a hand-sewn or hand-knit bit of loveliness from YOURS TRULY.

So. That’s it, for now.