it’s like falling in love

My son is tall; his coat from last year, a favorite, reaches the top of his hips and the sleeves end above the wrist. His hair is growing out from a short cut; in the morning, there is invariably a disturbed cowlick on the left side. I’ve taken to calling him “Tufty” and when he comes in close to hug  me, he is fast approaching my height.

He calls my mother this evening and – although I can’t hear her end of the conversation – it is obvious she is asking him on a date. Good; as Phoenix will enjoy undisturbed study time. She has a very hefty Biology book  – the sucker must weigh several pounds! – and today we discussed isotopes, radioactive decay, covalent and ionic bonds. The material is familiar to me but the last time I studied it was two decades ago! The rhythm of s and p orbitals, however arcane and antiquated in my memory, is nevertheless a familiar one because that long ago, that was my world.

So strange to be discussing quantum physics with my “little” girl.

I enjoy a walk with a mama and her young son; he is happy and scampers about, mindless and with a runny nose. Then he falls and cries; inconsolable. No one can carry him except his mother, who is heavy with another child. Eventually he calms and he carries his little stuffed bear in a blanket; we retire to his home and he shows me how he puts the bear down for a nap. I’m unsure if there is anything more beautiful than listening to a two year old putting together sentences – crude but, if listened to, easily understood.

The day draws colder; now, with my family and another neighborhood moppet in tow, we head for a lunch of hot noodles and then ice cream for the younger children. Home and Phee and I will hit the books; Ralph will eventually make dinner.

And to bed anon.

A good Sunday.

a fleeting glimpse / out of the corner of my eye

This morning on my walk back up the hill, with my faithful dog at my heels, I am suddenly reminded of my father. He ran long-distance, so several times a week he would set out for a few miles by himself. He had such a distinctive gait that, if I ever saw it again, I would be knocked into stillness at the recognition. A stride I don’t see reflected in my brother or I, my father’s two children, but it’s such an indelible memory it is a part of me nevertheless.

My dad would lift his hand in acknowledgment when a car passed, or perhaps another runner headed the other way. I don’t know how many times I saw this hand motion – hundreds. Thousands? Sometimes I was the driver, or passenger – it’s a small town so I saw my father running many times. Such a familiar sight to me too, this movement on his part, this acknowledgment. He would be deep in his meditative space – that’s what running was for him – and he’d lift his hand, that’s all. But I can see it, and see the cast of his head on the path, and his mind was elsewhere. But even now if I close my eyes and try to remember much more than the flow of the gesture, or the feeling it instills within to remember it – it vanishes.

The dog and I arrive home and two of our cats ask to be let in; a third sits placidly on our kitchen table and calmly moves off when he sees me. (Naughty!). The dog has a quick drink of water and pads over expectantly for my praise, and a scritch between the eyes. I settle his blanket over his bed and somewhere in all this I realize that to support our family – our too-young college student, our spirited son, our dog, our five cats – is quite an accomplishment. It is a labor of love and nothing else. I hadn’t quite seen it that way, seen what a good job we do. Not for any other reason in that there’s always that next step. Today, for instance, we will be replacing the light above the sink. I have bills to pay by phone, on my work break. Two packages to mail out, and a final late Christmas present to wrap. We get to plan the evening meal – a little trickier as Ralph and I have both been ill and unable to eat for the last thirty-six hours.

The dog now sleeps on his bed – he is chasing and barking at something in his sleep. All the funnier as he does not bark when awake. I suppose a big part of our life, Ralph and I, is delivering safe dreams to more than few sentient creatures.

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

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.

WALKIES

the fox in the snow

WALKIES

It’s cold. Cold and windy some days; merely cold others. I dress as best I can for the morning walks with my dog and frankly I’d rather end up over-bundled than the opposite.

My dog is a fit and hardy soul; he traipses across large puddles encrusted with thick ice; these frozen lakes groan under his pressure and he takes a quick drink, then he’s trotting ahead again. I find myself enjoying the fresh air and some contemplation; small brown birds abruptly blossom into colorful flowers – slam into the tenacious blackberry shrubs at trailside. I see a fellow dogwalker now and then, but mostly it’s just the sound of the water in my ears, and my dog’s companionable tread.

Winter Walk

They’re pulling the paper mill down, across the river. There’s a part of me that can’t believe it’s gone. I stop and really get a look – as long a look as I’m willing to take given the cold – and I think about my past, my future. I’ve lasted longer than the mill. Huh. See, I started my engineering life at that mill as an intern, after my sophomore year at college. I remember all the other engineering students and how all they’d talk was money and job prospects and the cars they’d buy.

It depressed me long before I earned the degree so maybe I was fated to let that life fall aside.

I think about when I quit engineering and the few who told me I was wasting my “good brain” by leaving a technical field.

But I’m still standing; the mill isn’t. It seems like each attempt, each vocation, each series of struggles and failures, and I’m left humble, less-than, and in a satisfied smallness.

Winter WalkToday I line my eyes in black eyeliner; powder, line them again. I tuck my blonde curls away up in my watch cap. I adorn myself with the one necklace I own – a cheap little affair with a black cross. And hoop earrings. I make the bed, stopping to kiss the small kitty who asks for my attention. He reclines on his back, his paws up, lazily paddling the air in his ecstasies.

I wash the dishes, and care for the animals, and sew two simple garments. I meet with a friend, and attend to my duties: picking up the children, chairing a meeting, attending pickup rehearsal.

My children are old enough to have a life of their own; this happened very swiftly, and it is taking me quite some time to get used to this. I find myself teetering on the balance beam; realizing that they have formed of themselves most of the persons they will be, and that my job is no longer so much to help them manifest, but to support them in their ever-blooming self. So when my children are well, I feel well; when they suffer, I suffer more than seems possible, and certainly more than is logical.

My daughter’s manicure, deathly deep blue – chipping. The blonde tendrils of my son’s hair, clinging to his perfect skin as he emerges from the bath, wrapped in a threadbare towel. The cozy clink here and there from the kitchen: Ralph washing the dishes. My own anticipation of a hot shower, and a hot lemon and honey to drink. And hanging the last of the clothes to dry and wiping down the counters.

And last night, when my son had so much trouble sleeping, and couldn’t settle, and cried out. And I brought him a warm milk with honey and after he drank it

he fell

into silence,

and slept.

 

Bowerman Noir

i want to be good to you

Bowerman Noir

My children are my everything to me. They leave me helpless and I’m always treading water trying to make it work. I have never struggled so much nor done such a poor job or found more endless reasons to triumph above my own meager failures. I pretty much don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks about me but I am occasionally tortured by the fact that so much of how I behave matters to them a great deal. There’s nothing I can do to change that. I just have to pray for their safety, somehow. The world isn’t really safe and neither am I.

I didn’t know the meaning of the word “responsibility” until I had children. From the moment they were born: 24/7. I have never caught up. Not even close.

Our family life is idyllic; it is messy but full of life. The children are a constant flux of love and quarrel; of seeing the goodness in everything day after day. How do they do that?

Our newest little babies; they too are making a home for themselves.

The Sinister Urge

 This picture is kind of great. It sums up my private life. A horrible B-movie. A sleeping little one. My bills organized in old cigar boxes.

Unusual Beetle

 The children find a new kind of beetle: a new kind of bug to my eyes, on a regular basis. And I’ve lived around these parts twenty-five years!

2 Syrups

 A friend brings me some homemade vanilla syrup; coincidentally, I have homemade blackberry syrup. The two sit companionably side-by-side until one leaves my home to flavor the Italian sodas and milkshakes of another family!

#selfie#selfie

 

Citron

a wolf without a foot!

It feels odd to sit on our new toilet seat. I was used to the one with the broken hinges, such that using the facilities meant this kind of gentle balancing act at the same time. But Ralph replaced the seat yesterday. I’d been holding off because I had no idea how much they cost – forty bucks? A little less? Ralph picks up the nicest one in the place and it’s $7. So we could have been sitting on a good seat these last weeks.

One of my favorite lines from a film – Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck, speaking drily to a womanizing cad: “What you don’t know about women, is a lot.”

What I don’t know about Life, is a lot.

The kids and I are out on a walk. I have voice control over my dog which feels immense. He trots ahead of me by about three feet, swinging back to watch me now and then. Sometimes he falls right back at my side. He no longer gallops off to eat horrible things that make him very ill and affect our pocketbook.

It feels good to have made a difference. 

So the kids and I are walking and the wind is blowing. The wind blows the braid-crimps right out of my son’s hair and turns it into spun gold and honey. The wind is strong, but it feels perfect. Soon the rains will come again and I’ll miss these perfect balmy summer nights. Already: the days, getting shorter.

Footfalls on the rocks. I am tired from poor sleep but I know I can walk alongside my children and be in the moment. I can walk without checking my phone – probably because I meditated this morning. The children are, themselves, far more delightful company than I – always. They still notice the right things to notice: they find a snakeskin, they comment on the length of the grass, the blackberries. They find a new fuzzy caterpiller in a vibrant citron hue I’ve never before seen. 

It is amazing to me that they do not get bored or tired of the really wonderful things, the small things. The minutiae. Those things that really matter.

Citron

I got it all on the back of my hand / I want your answer so I won’t forget

 
Early ghosts of summer. Night walks. Sunshine through freshly-washed curtains; newly potted plants.

Too tired to cook, much.

Sore shoulders: yoga, bike riding. Tallying up: money for groceries, dinners out, new doctor bills. Debts.

Plans; worries. Set them aside. Anger; fear. Set them aside. Sage smudge stick, a candle, metta-meditation. Not quite enough, but all I have.

some things never seem to fucking work

Just in case you aren’t following/friending me on Facebook, WHY YES I wrote a massive post on Roadhouse‘s twenty-fifth anniversary. I am kind of upset you thought I’d do anything else.

Life is – good. I am still recovering from illness. Mostly I’m tired – but I have a lot of my strength back. At a volunteer commitment on Sunday I had my Ego bumped down a notch when I made a mistake – and it still smarts. I’m trying to be kind to myself. A lifetime practice.

I am a little sad, too. Today I found out that on June 14th my maternal family will be scattering my grandfather’s ashes – my last grandparent. There is no way I can afford airfare and accommodations to be there. I am saddened by this. I’d like to be there. I’d like my children to meet their extended family on that side. It’s not going to happen and I can live with this. I just need to make a little space in my heart.

In other news:

Swimming

Evening Walks

Snuggles

Thug Life

1 year since I quit smoking. Yes. Go me! Because seriously!

Life goes on. For us.

you’re motoring / what’s your price for flight?

My dog Hutch and I have some kind of bromance going on. But it’s not one of these rude, crass, and fumbly kinds like you’re seeing in so many films today. No our bromance is like – Appaloosa‘s. Or Casablanca‘s. Or “ST:TOS”‘s. Like we’re talking TOP NOTCH bromance. A classic one.

Ralph and the kids are camping this weekend and I’m still sick, and stumbling around like I’m high. Today I was too ill to do much but drink water, eat food brought to me, and care for the pets. As it was, the walk for my dog just about did me in.

It’s ironic – or maybe it’s not, because I never really do “get” what irony is – that the first weekend in a very very long time I have it to myself, I am too sick to do anything really. To sick even for the modest assignments I’d given myself – housework, a sewing project, a few gatherings. Tonight a girlfriend invited me out to a dishy movie and I’m too sick to sit in a theatre. That is just: BALLS.

I’m patient, though. I no longer think of being ill as some persecution or trial. It is rather practice. Practicing patience. Today I had the opportunity of helping out a few friends who called me, and one acquaintance who wanted to borrow something. In fact it was rather odd that just by breathing in and out, and being willing to take calls, I was still able to help people – even in my weakened condition.

Lights out on the porch: windchimes and a summery balm to the air. I’d like to be out running around but it’s okay to be in and having a fever too. #sanguineAF, that’s me.