oregon coast

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The oregon coast.  There’s just nothing quite like it.  The forested walks that lead down to the beach, the miles of soft sand flanked by cresting sea on one side and creviced mountains on the other, the bending caves and nature-made kiddie pools and the thick, steamy fog that sits just overhead making a glimpse at the ocean never a sure thing.  This was our vacation week, and it was glorious.  Orlis leaped from every fallen branch, made sand castles, and ran (always giggling) ankle deep through the water.  And dear little Lenox slumbered, snoozed, and napped away to the epitome of white noise.  And we, family of four, (still getting our feet wet with this two-kid business), enjoyed small town pies and ice creams and the novelty of a woodsy cabin.  We marveled at how wonderfully relaxing (and cleansing) this kind of computer-free week can be, and also how, even on vacation, you never do get to sleep late with these munchkins.   Bleary, but still wide-eyed, we thanked our lucky stars for this magnificent setting, for the wonders of the woods, and for the endless gifts of the natural world.

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these days (waiting)

These days…oh, these days.  I am waking early and noticing, “hmmm…still pregnant.”  These days are those strange and sacred ones during which I inch so humbly close to an elusive “due date” knowing, at any moment we’ll begin.  It’s these days that are, I think universally, a challenge for many of us going through this rite of passage.  The psychology is odd — yearning for something that we know is likely to be a bigger challenge and also a bigger joy than any we’ve known and not knowing how or when it will start, but knowing it will…it will…at just the time it should.  It’s a peculiar place to sit for days on end.

Dearest friends and family are checking in, daily some of them, wondering if I feel anything.  (ha!  ”yes.”  I tell them.  ”I’m feeling every move my body makes with the most acute awareness.  Who needs meditation practice when I have this waiting game on which to feast my every sense?”)  Other dearest are, I think, deliberately not checking in, but I know the pins and needles on which they sit.  There is just nothing quite like this anticipation.

Well, what are we doing with ourselves while we wait, you might be wondering?

3.on

*Playing with the neighbors.  The youngest among us donning our bicycle helmets and going belly-forth on the skateboard.  (The maternal among us holding her heart and breath with every such endeavor.)

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*Checking and double checking the birth supplies we’ve organized.  Appreciating how many of the things that are gathered in these baskets are homemade and handed-down and otherwise used and loved so well already.  What better to wrap up a new baby in than an already beloved blanket that holds some legacy and embedded warmth?

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*Making birth art.  Toddler-style and mama-style.  Loving the way watercolors work and move together.

fixing

*Fixing, fixing, fixing.  Using our tools as much as we can.

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*Ah!  Enjoying bringing in the bits of spring that so abundantly grace our out-of-doors.  And loving the streaming sunlight too.

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*Just…waiting.

dress

*Beginning, at friends’ insistence, some sewing projects that I know won’t get finished for awhile.  Being okay with the idea of a long, unfinished project.  Loving the challenge of sewing projects that are well beyond my skill level (and the knowledge, too, that my mama is coming soon and will know how to help me).

mama.birth

*Appreciating the thoughtful things I was mandated to include in the Mama Birth Supply Basket by the midwives.  Oh, those midwives have mamas in mind all the time.  I am so grateful for that.

collecting

*Staring dumbfounded by the amazing versatility of sticks.  All day long we pick up sticks.  I had no idea they were so very much fun.

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*Applying bandaids where we have no ouchies and wearing them like costumes.  Because what is more fun than bandaids to a 2.5 year old?  (And what is a better lesson for this mama than embracing and loving our scratches, bruises, and scars?)

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*Employing every natural induction method I can think of ….acupuncture, pineapple, wild dance parties.  And doing as I’m told and making my way to Portland’s Mount Tabor Park (affectionately nicknamed Mount Labor Park to those in my situation) to walk the stairs.

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*Bringing my sidekick with me.statues

*Imitating statues together and having a good giggle.

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*And doing my very best to cherish this precious table for three — with hearty meals and silly moments and a bushel of lilac from our generous yard out back.  We are in the business of falling in love here, I remind myself.  And we don’t ever really get to know the precise moment that will happen.

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springing

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This baby-in-utero has not, as of yet, sprung forth, but in the meanwhile, spring has.  And oh, in such glorious ways.  I’ll take it — all of it.

I’ll take these friendly and most perfect blossoms outside my window in the morning, and I welcome, wholeheartedly, the sun, yes Oregon sun, that pours in, rendering my own home almost unrecognizable.  (Did someone accidentally leave the lights on last night?  Oh, no, that’s the morning sun.)

I’ll certainly take the blue skies that beckon us, Orlis and I, outdoors to sit quietly together and make tools with sticks and rocks and mud and fallen dead blossoms.  We can spend hours “fixing” the steps to our driveway and “washing” them with rock “soap” and brown, wilting petal “washcloths” and I’m floored by the way this enchants him.   I see the imagination of my 2 and 1/2 year old exploding with the simplest of found-object “toys” and I’m so grateful to have stood my ground about keeping things relatively spare and simple in the toy department, even when it makes me unpopular with some well-intentioned gift-givers in our lives.  Because nothing, truly, could be more engaging and engrossing than the mud on our shoes and the way spring, in particular, has offered us a little something new each day with which to make our world.  I don’t always love getting my hands dirty but I adore seeing a little brain believe so wholeheartedly in the stories he creates.

And, I see nature offering me some very timely reminders that good things do happen in their own, sweet time.  The faces of flowers emerge just when they are ready, and then, I notice, open so very wide I am amazed by their vulnerability; their unabashed showing of their true natures.  These things, these offerings are not only metaphors for what’s to happen in our home in the coming hours, days, maybe weeks…but also simple gifts in their own right.  Nature knows just what to do.

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winter chores

Ohhhh, this time of year.  Not my favorite in the garden, but I remind myself how lovely the light is for picture taking.  I know we need to be out there some, with chilled fingers and cold bones raking some leaves and cleaning out the muddy planters, and I remind myself how much the composting food scraps in our bin love having the leaves mixed in — these things go together, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.  I know just 10-15 minutes here and there in the chill will do it, and I remind myself how many wonderful hand-made knits we have to layer on our bodies.  The rituals of piling on layers and taking off layers are sweet and seasonal in their own right and I remind myself how much I’ll appreciate fewer layers when the summer months come.  The ground is soggy, the puddles seem to never dry, and I remind myself how strongly I believe in the Green Hour” — how good is it for body, mind, spirit…and not just for kids.  The leaves are smelly and our shoes get muddy and I hear resistance from my boys, and I remind myself how lucky we are to have a warm home to retreat inside when the relatively small amount of outdoor work is done.  I remind myself, too, that a vegan meyer lemon coconut bundt cake awaits us, and life is so so good.

 

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the 5 senses, early January

These early days of 2013, all of the senses are alive and noticing…

I’m seeing:

*last year’s calendar turned into quite the opportunity for imaginative story-making

*the sky do miraculous things — one morning, opaque fog; the next, only pinks

*my pile of “to-finish” sewing projects heaping up again

*someone doing the timely dance of doll-play that warms (and settles) this mama’s heart for what’s to come so very soon

*houses, airplanes, cars, and whole cities being built, torn down, and built again with what’s around the house, and whoever feels like lending a hand

*the fresh empty pages of a January calendar that beckon one of my very favorite things: plans

I’m hearing:

*still, in my heart, the laughter and pounding feet of young cousins playing together.  There is so, so much for me to discover as a mama, and lo and behold, last week’s visit with family illuminated an important insight: the very best age for a babysitter for my rambunctious toddler is seven.

*sweet piano duets.  my two boys and their four hands find a way to make each other sound interesting, cheerful, and altogether surprisingly good

*the soulful expression of Michael Kiwanuka on my stereo morning, noon, and night.  My sweetie stocked my stocking with some much-needed new music.

*old favorite books read over and over and over and over and over again

*rain, fairly consistent rain, pelting softly on my lucky plants and trees, and lulling me to sleep as she lands on the rooftop.  sometimes, for a moment, there is a brief respite because it’s snow…and then some sunshine

I’m smelling:

*pine.  wet pine.  drying pine.  pine in the sunshine.

*the last of our dear neighbor’s dried japanese pears — their sweetness filling our noses and our bellies.  This alone, another reason to look forward to next year’s batch

*the lingering smells of Christmas — cinnamon, clove, cookies baking, peppermint — still alive and well in our dwindling but ever-present cookie jar

*citrus of every kind, gracing our table and our breakfast and lunch plates.  ’tis the season, for both the sweet, orange winter treats that offer a boon of color to our meals, and also the extra boost of vitamin C to ward off colds

*a pot of my mother’s beef chili recipe currently cooking away slowly on the stove.  If you can’t have mom’s cooking, in the deepest chill of winter, you can come close with her handwritten secrets

I’m tasting:

*soups, stews, and more soups — ’tis the season, too, for getting creative with both the season’s winter squashes and my immersion blender

*winter root vegetables finding their way onto the table in surprisingly beautiful ways, like Peter Berley’s Barley and Beet Risotto with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese 

*lots of hearty fare coming out of our beloved slow cooker.  Just the words “slow cooker” conjure up the month of January for me.

*sweet, crunchy Millionaire’s Shortbread for a New Year’s party.  What better day than New Year’s to eat something with “millionaire” in the title.  A girl can dream….

I’m feeling:

*temperatures drifting towards the mid-20s which, for around these parts, means we deserve some snow.  Snow that sticks.  We are donning layer after woolen and flannel layer and enjoying the thousands of fun things to do indoors

*with these low temperatures and bygone holidays, justified in my “good enough” reasons to stop for a brief mid-day snooze with my little one.

*gratitude for warm water and the magical healing, soothing, sedating nature of a nice hot bath

*big elbows and hefty kicks in my midsection — large enough to see and to share with visiting hands

*tenderness towards all who come and go from this house, warming it with their big smiles and gracious gifts. Perhaps a house feels most like a home this time of year

*anticipation for a fresh start, a thousand yummy projects, and so many people to love and know in 2013

 

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ducks in a row

A recent trip to the duck pond proved, as these things so often can, much more meaningful than the sum of its parts.  Orlis and I spend the good part of an hour shivering in the still, crisp air and trying to get as close to the ducks as we could.  I enjoyed the ripples in the water.  He enjoyed the quacking.  We both enjoyed imagining how very cold that water must be for those little ducks.  Modeling some good shivering techniques and lip blubbers for our audience of ducks helped warm us both — both in body shakes and in laughter.  Despite the temperature, there those ducks went — in and out and in and out of that cold pond knowing their livelihood like the back of their little webbed feet.  Oh, the reminder of how simple life really can be.

Ripples in water — anytime, anywhere — always sends my mind and heart to my family tree, wondering about ancestors and thinking about loved ones scattered near and far; how they are faring, and how very connected we are.  It also gets me thinking about the simplicity of a ripple effect.  The volume and sheer intensity of a live duck quack never ceases to surprise me a little, reminding me to speak up in my own voice and also to include those around me when I’ve found some good eats.  And then there’s the way these ducks fall into line with each other, forging a strong distinction between leader and follower, but also rotating roles.  I see, too, how easy it is for them to fall in line with one another, and think to myself how very apt that expression is — getting one’s “ducks in a row.”  And my mind turns towards my lists for December and how easy it might be to get my [crafty and culinary and gifty and decorative and logistical and financial and professional] ducks in a row if I would just remember to breathe, perhaps create a few ripples, and turn up the volume a bit.  Maybe I’ll even switch up some leadership roles and put Orlis at the head of the table and see what kind of mayhem might turn into magic.  You never know.

And now that I think about it, didn’t I write a version of this post just a few weeks ago — reminding myself to slow down and remember what’s truly important to me?  Oh yes, we writers do like repeat ourselves, don’t we?  And yes, some of us may need the reminder more than once during this fitful, flurry of a season to stop and notice that the other species (yep, all of them) keep on keepin’ on, looking for food, keeping themselves and each other clean enough, and offering up a whole lot of quiet.  Oh, winter.

 

 

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falling

Fall is truly falling, and I dare say I’m noticing it more this year than perhaps ever before.  Not because it seems more gorgeous than ever (though it is), and not because I now own a few rakes of my very own, for the 1st time in my life.  I think, in truth, I’m noticing because Mary Oliver helps me to.  Poetry is powerful in that way — and I’m so glad to have it on my daily to-do list.

What I notice, when I’m really looking, is that these leaves — in the parks, in our yard, all around me — are falling nearly at the rate of a light snow, which is to say, constantly.  They fall all around me and everyone else, yes, making what most of us would call “a mess of themselves” that we are just going to have to clean up.  And while I don’t love raking necessarily, and a certainly don’t love the stockpiling smell and sludge that happens to these leaves if you don’t rake them, I do very much love the moment they fall.  It feels as romantic as a snowfall…and maybe even more so.  More so, that is, because you know it’s finite.  Snow could keep creating itself (and magnificently so) but a final leaf will fall from each of these glorious trees and then she’ll be left naked — for a whole long winter.

As I take a moment to stand and watch these leaves — these leaves who have, by their own estimation turned just the perfect shade of themselves and, in their own time, loosened their grip on a branch and given way, I can’t help but attempt to decipher some human metaphor to help me make sense of this miraculous act.  I want to believe that we animals, we humans, do this same thing: we turn colors, we decide when we are ready, and we let go — to land where we land, leaving our rooted place naked for the elements; leaving our home in the cold.  I want to see that the wind carries us and we (hopefully!) land in some compost heap and, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we return again in another form.  Seeing the grace of this in my own neighborhood and each one I pass through, it seems possible we might humanely mimic this perfectly strange routine.  And then again, maybe not.  Maybe some miracles in nature are for observation only.   We need something to keep us humble.

 

 

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the 5 senses, late October

These days, all 5 senses are alive and noticing…

I’m Seeing:

*leaves of a thousand faces find a temporary home wherever they can tuck themselves

*Orange everywhere.  I just never tire of the look of a pile of pumpkins or squashes.  And so very soon, I know, it will be replaced by red and green.

*a shift in what can be discovered in our nature corner – from seashell and rock collections to gourd collections.

*a little baby belly poke his/her way out under my t-shirt…and the return of the “postpartum clothes” box out of basement storage

*my “inbox” sewing basket of unfinished projects looking tempting once again

*a new quilt pattern arriving in my mailbox and a fabric stash that might have just dwindled enough that I’ll need to go replenish (I have been so good)

*that it’s time to change the calendar over again (wasn’t it just a few days ago I flipped to October?)

 

I’m Hearing:

*my tummy grumbling for food in the late afternoons as darkness begins to fall earlier and earlier

*Alison Krauss on Pandora Radio, as she steals my heart and beckons my singing along in her endlessly perfect way.  I want to buy every last one of her records…

*…except the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack which was a very favorite, until I sickened myself to death of the two tracks Orlis insists be on repeat.

*the rustle of all things falling from the trees — leaves, acorns, and fuzzy “ouch” balls from our neighbor’s yard…and the scurry of the squirrels who are getting smart about the winter to come

*duets of guitar that make me cringe a little, at my own rustiness, but smile too, at the naive and welcoming ears my toddler has for my playing

*the Mary Poppins soundtrack, and the most unexpected member of our household singing along at top volume.

*a change in the bird calls outside our windows and on our walks — the chickens next door shout to announce an upcoming egg, and the blackbirds and bluebirds have raised their volume to alert each other: “more good stuff over here!  get it quick!”

I’m Smelling:

*wet leaves, dry leaves, composting leaves — where did all of these leaves come from?

*the aromas of a 8-hour meal filling my home.  I received a slow cooker for my birthday and am not sure, at this point, how I ever lived without one.  I’ve been making my way through the book, “I Love my Slow Cooker,” making stews and soups and long-cooked meats, and it’s true!  I love my slow cooker!

*the accompanying scent of fall: apples.  Bowls of them filling my kitchen and our bellies, and the scent of them filling my heart with nostalgia and warmth.

*wet pavement, wet soil, wet shoes — our great rains return, relieving us from a generous summer sun and replenishing the earth for the year to come

I’m Tasting:

*apple cider, apple pie, applesauce, apple-millet muffins, and an apple-a-day which, knock on wood, is keeping the doctor away

*the last the gorgeous red tomatoes filing in with the rest of the weekly CSA vegetables and onto the top of my bagel in the morning.  Hmmm…I’ll miss these gals.  We had a good summer together.

*potato leek soup, butternut squash soup, and any other soup that calls for pureeing.  I also got an immersion blender for my birthday which feels, in my arms and my mind, like a magic wand

*potatoes, pretzels, pasta, pizza — the 1st trimester does, indeed, call for a moratorium on purity, right?  Eat what you crave!

I’m feeling:

*nesting energy intensify: I’ve got quilts to make, final boxes to unpack, whole rooms to organize, articles to write, workshops to lead, lasagnas to freeze, and only 6 months to do it all

*the warm replacement of flannel sheets, and their effect on my ability to roll out of bed in the morning

*immense love and gratitude that across miles and differences, my mother, brother, and I can agree on at least one thing: Orange is the color of the season

*a drop in temperatures that signified the return of the hat and scarf basket, another dig into the old quilt trunks, a more frequent nightly bath schedule, and a rise in the power bill (and subsequent return to the hat and scarf basket for indoor wear)

*the terribly faint but totally unmistakeable flutter in my belly that reminds me, moment to moment, of the joy who will be here soon enough

*a brisker pace, a deeper joy, and an enlivened imagination that signify, for me, the bustle of this season, the holidays ahead, and the great haul of winter just around the corner

 

 

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spring secret

A few weeks ago, as I drove my mom to the airport after a long weekend visit she says to me, “now don’t forget, October is when you plant your bulbs.”  What??  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Oh!  The daffodils and lilies and tulips and crocus and all the flowers that spring up in…yep, spring — you actually have to plant those?  Ah, go figure.  Last spring — our first in this house and this city — I do remember feeling totally excited about all the yellow popping up everywhere.  And then a few tulips came, and then it was time for purple — and I saw iris and hyacinth sprouting — a few around my yard, and lots and lots of them around the yards of my neighbors.  This was just before the lilac trees bloomed and spring started to smell like heaven.  Oh yes, it all comes back to me now as I recall how colorfully that marked our transition to spring.  It seemed like each week something new was sprouting up and it felt a little bit like Christmas.

“But I don’t remember where in my yard the tulips are…or the daffodils, or the iris,” I said.  ”Oh, but you know where things aren’t,” she said, and proceeded to gently give me, from her memory, a visual tour of some quite barren spots in this jungle yard of mine.

So, one day, in the October mist , Orlis and I headed to the garden store to buy ourselves some bulbs.  He demanded hyacinth and demanded even more strongly that they be purple, and I also packed a dozen or so tulip bulbs in a brown bag.  At the suggestion of the kind woman working, we took several handfuls of bone meal too and headed home for digging.

Locating a prime strip of neglected dirt along the driveway, we hoed, dug, dropped, bone-mealed, covered up, and watered like we knew what we were doing.  Hands were muddy, feet were soaked — it was a success in every way.

And I must say, I do like this bulb planting idea.  I like that the bulbs themselves look like little shallots — you’d never guess the beauty and bounty they hold within.  I like that the strip of dirt adjacent to the driveway looked exactly the same after we were finished as it did before we started.  In fact, if either of us had any secret-keeping abilities, we could have kept it from his Daddy all winter long, and one day he would have come home with Orlis’ purple flowers blooming and wondered what kind of magic we had made.  I like that, collectively, we good people of the earth have somehow figured out that spring won’t really be spring unless we think about it in the fall, and give it a head-start.  I like that, too, we’ve figured out that some well-timed color in the grey of March, the wet of April, and the sogginess of May is a boon to the psyche.  Mostly, though, I like that we have to wait awhile.  Planting a seed  – knowing it’s in there doing its thing, but having to wait 6 or 7 months to see the flower — well, my goodness, it’s almost like being pregnant.

 

 

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October all over

Oh, ’tis the season, right?  This time of year with it’s endless orange just slays me.  The crispness, the pumpkin everything, the farm themes, the reason to wear scarves — what’s more delicious than fall, really?

One of the most wonderful aspects of moving somewhere new (as we did, just 8 short months ago) is that so many things feel like the beginning of a new tradition.  ”Oh, we’ll do this again next year,” I hear myself saying about everything from the earliest organized city bike rides to the first summer concerts to our amateur canning session from our own little backyard fruit orchard, and all the little seasonal rituals that have packed themselves into our days along the way of this first, knee-scraping year.

And so it was, with our inaugural trip to the pumpkin farm over the weekend that set yet another family tradition in stone.  The sea of pumpkins (aka climbing apparatus) was so thrilling we never even made it to the actual pumpkin patch.  The baby pigs with their head stuffed into a pumpkin held our attention a good long while, and so did the big mama pig with her low grumble and her chicken friends alongside her.  The corn maze was truly a place to change directions every 5 seconds (a favorite activity in our house) and engage in a game of real hide and seek.  We lost ourselves in the scent of hay, tall corn, and farm animals doing what they do.  And we quelled our hunger with caramel apples and cider, thinking to ourselves, could any Saturday morning activity be more lovely than this?

Of course, it being Portland — the city that never stops eating well — we also made a lunch of it among the various delectable food truck offerings and then filled our trunk with the funniest-shaped pumpkins and bumpiest gourds we could find, and headed home for a nap.  Waking up that afternoon, I found we still carried the smell of farm in our clothes that is just so compelling this time of year, and the sound of the chickens in our heads, and together made a front porch display that reminds us, it’s October.

 

 

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