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

"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.

"Let the games begin! Hi-oh!"

“I’m very aroused.”

Well, that’s it. We did it. Come mid-February, we are getting the hell out of this shit-hole. Oh, did I say “shit-hole”? I meant, “the town that I love and will cry and cry and cry upon leaving.”

Yeah, my husband took a job. In another town. It’s a better job, but his current job was a good one too; it wasn’t an easy choice. It was a difficult choice, in fact. The poor man has been in tears for the last 24 hours (note to Ralph: SEE A PSYCHIATRIST).

If you live anywhere near me, please know I will be calm for a couple weeks, then things will get really bad, and there is going to be drama. No, no. Positive self-talk. This will go well and easily. I won’t end up crying randomly in an undignified fashion, nor going hysterical on my husband for any reason whatsover. I think I can I think I can.

How do you move a family of four? Last time I moved it was across town, it was me and my man, and it took three trips in a pickup truck.

I am so fucked.

new kinds of festive rituals

Today I stumbled upon pictures of our foursome from the last two Christmases at the little cottage that we rented in Cannon Beach, Oregon. I grew inexplicably misty thinking of our mini-tradition away from home; the familiarity of the Christmas-lit shops, the beauty of the wind-torn beach, the familiar pub a block down from our home away from home. Our trip back up two years ago where Sophie rode with my parents and they reported she spent half of the ride viciously giving her new stuffed animal (Goodebunny) discipline: hissing “Do you want a timeout?” in the meanest duck voice possible. The fun of the Oregon lack of salestax which allowed our $5 Christmas rules to be observed de rigueur.

For us this year, Christmas is being celebrated in an increasingly unusual fashion; never mind we are not in Oregon, we are also (for the first time in my life) without my FOO. I was sad for half a car ride (as I talked it out with my husband) until I re-oriented myself to my own little family and the projects therein. Now I feel a sense of wonderment as the holiday gently spirals out of my control and out of my plan. The plan to have a series of packages mailed out to closest friends? Derailed. Presents entirely handmade? No. A Christmas dinner complete with guests? Cancelled. I did manage (with minimal help from my spouse) to send out our homemade Christmas cards (every year, after careful selection, addition, and culling, we hover at sixty to seventy cards), our own tradition that we enjoy immensely. About half of the changes in our Christmas routine were due to my illness which put me out of the running for a solid three days (and I’m just glad no one else in my family got sick).

With an absence of Christmas precedents in effect, new activities must be planned. In that vein today ended up being beautiful, but rather exhausting. The first thing I did this morning was a (near-)three mile hike with Erica (I got to see her “new” baby to boot). As soon as I got home my husband took to a full shopping day with a friend and I found myself gifted with my children (who I am growing so familiar with as to not even contemplate alone time much anymore) to run my errands. First, the once-a-week menu planning, shopping list, and grocery (which included a large Christmas Day dinner plan) then the entireity of my family gift shopping downtown in torrential rain – half the time, with one increasingly-heavy child sleeping on my shoulder.

Christmas pajamas have been opened and donned. We have taken the drive to our town’s “Candy cane lane” to look at the lights. The stockings are up. One million presents remain to be wrapped and inserted under the tree (actual number will be reported tomorrow). Thank you baby Jesus and happy holidays, one and all!

power up!

Port Townsend’s Windstorm 2006 has abated for the time being. Last night after our dinner out we ventured to the store for candles and matches. Then home to our dark house to pack soap, shampoo, towels and pajamas for showers down at the Boat Haven. I took a lovely 4 1/2 minutes (three $0.25 worth) of hot water while my naked daughter stamped and splashed. After we were clean I sat in the heated shower stall bench and combed out my daughter’s freshly-washed fine tangles and realized how very, very comforting it is for me to bathe or shower. I bundled her in her pajamas, socks, rain boots, a hoody of mine to cover her wet head, and her winter coat over all. We ran out to the van to join the boys, also freshly scrubbed.

Home and time for many candles, coloring books, piles of blankets. I set aside some laundry to take to the laundromat should our power still be out in the morning. But at about 10:30 PM the fellows from the power company arrived across the street; two cherry-pickers and a spotlight truck. They remove the offending tree limb and saw it in huge chunks; pieces fall and bang on the mailboxes below (nailing Cynthia and BJs but missing ours by happenstance). We watch the workers brave the storm and cold. At midnight or so our bedroom light clicks on; my husband and children shout, “Thank you! Goodbye!” out the window to the departing trucks.

To bed late, my daughter nestled against me as I read a few chapters of my latest book. Then finally sleep for us all; a nightlight glows in the hall. The small economy of light is comforting for what we briefly lost.