Tuesday, April 30, 2013

tell me

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

If my life were a puzzle and, in the past, that puzzle has largely been put together, right now I'm feeling like all those little pieces have been lifted by a gusty wind and scattered across creation.  Some were left behind, years ago, in far away places.  But mostly, they've been tossed and flung right here around me.  Most are still within sight.  Some have blown over the fence and into the back forty, some into the neighbor's yard, some are lying in puddles all rain-soaked and swollen, some have been blown into the woods and as we speak are being carried away by curious squirrels and hoarding pack-rats.  Some are gone forever.

Which is all to say that I've been feeling a bit disorganized.  Not in a what's-for-dinner, or have-I-paid-the-bills sort of way; but in a larger, life-trajectory sort of way.  Where are we going?  Where have we been?  What do we want?  What do we need to let go of? How do we want to move in, and affect, this wonderful world?  What kind of movement do we want to own and model for our girls?  Are we there?  Are we getting there?  Are we even on the right road?  As Mary Oliver famously wrote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"  Tell me.  

In the last few weeks a conversation has been opened in our house, but it comes in fits and starts and is largely overshadowed by NOW: What's for dinner?  In which bed to plant the parsnips?  Damn, she's funny.  We should write that down.  Was that Hazel?  Hey honey, I put us both in for moose tags this year.  You know.

I have (almost) always been a journaler.  As a kid I had a little pink diary with a lock.  It was a Christmas gift and I wrote in crayon.  Often, my brother picked the lock.  The first several pages are filled, the rest are blank.  But in 1993 when I re-read The Diary of Ann Frank (or perhaps read it for the first time) I became a bonafide journaler.  When Juniper was 3 months old I started this blog and a year later I quit journaling (almost) altogether, only maintaining the act of putting pen to paper very sporadically.  And now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I could probably chart my lost puzzle pieces back to when I stopped journaling.  How do you know what you want if you don't write it down?  How do you find your honesty?  How do you track your changes?      

So that is my wish, or my goal, for Mother's Day this year: putting pen back to paper.  Thoughts into words.  Dreams into actions.  To keep the conversation rolling.

And now.  Snippets from the past week or so...
:: A laisez-fair afternoon at the river.  Fishing, hooking some, catching none, mostly playing.
^Hazel sporting her mama-made Easter skirt.^

:: Juniper's balance bike is this whole new thing now that she has a basket and a bell.  Truly, it made all the difference.  She glides and strides and coasts and is talking about pedals.  

:: Hazel's "orsie" obsession continues.  She is quite bull-headed.  If you correct her and say no, it's a giraffe (or a zebra, or a pig, or...) she just looks at you, cocks her head and says, Orsie!!
^Also, Hazel Iris nearly always has one bare foot.^

:: I must have been talking about how mama is married to daddy because the conversation proceeded like this: 
Juniper: I want to marry Daddy.  
Me: You can't marry your dad.  But you can marry a friend.  Like Charlie or Harrison or River or Quinn or Victoria.  
Juniper: I want to marry Mama!!  
Me: You can't marry me, I'm you're mama!  
Juniper: I want to marry Hazel.  
Me:  Well...that sounds nice.  
Juniper: Hazey, let's get married.

:: We took care of a friend's dog for a while.  He is 11 and reminded me so much of Osa.  The way he walked, that old dog shuffle.  The little snorts and groans of satisfaction when you scratched his ears.  The way he prowled the kitchen floor in search of fall-out.  The way he pretended to be deafer than he is.      
Juniper immediately took it upon herself to be his primary care-giver.  She gave him his medicine every morning, poured his food and checked his water bowl.  She also utterly harassed him.  
And smothered him with a non-stop barrage of questions.  Hey Pico, hey buddy, we're going to take care of you.  Are you doing okay?  Hey Pico, do you want a snack?  Hey Pico, hey buddy, you need to lay down right here.  Here's your bed.  There.  Now let me get a blanket.  There you go.  There you go Pico boy.  Pico, you need tucked-in.  Then she got out the ukelele and tried to serenade him to sleep.  
Every morning and every post-nap afternoon, Hazel walked into the living room all wide-eyed and eyebrows-raised, pointing and exclaiming, Dog!  Dog!  Dog!  Dog!  As though she hadn't seen a dog in months.  Every. Single. Time.  

:: Lately, when I hear thumping coming from J's room during naptime, this is what I find.  The animal doctor.  Sometimes she has elaborate examination tables set up, complete with an OR spotlight.  The other day, we had a special surgery for her polar bear, giving him stitches or, what Juniper adoringly calls, twitches.  

:: Hazel's been doing this for months but it's still endearing: signing "All done."   
Now we just need to get a photo of her wide-eyed, innocent, pleading look combined with an eyebrow-arched question mark saying, "Nur?" and making the fist-squeeze sign for milk.  She even does it at night: instead of crying, she juts one little fist in the air like an SOS for mama's milk.  

:: A (less than) 24 hour visit from family we'll soon see on another big adventure.  
 ^Cousin Owen showing off his summersaulting skills.^
Sam and Owen pushing Hazel in the swing.  She likes to go as high as you can push and she doesn't like to stop.  

Juniper was getting persnickety about sharing her little blue tent with cousin Sam.  Specifically, she cried and said he couldn't go in.  Two days later at dinner table grace, she says, "I'm thankful for my blue skirt and my princess band-aids and my cousins."  And a little later, "Maybe next time Sammy can come in my blue tent!  And Owen and Hazel and Pico.  And we'll all be together!"    

She's always been a snuggler, but Hazel utterly melts on my husband's brother's shoulder.  There's just something about him.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

greener grass

(Or, Grandma's House)
The bad news is, it has taken this long for me to finish up vacay posts.  So quite possibly, these tulips are done blooming ferociously and something else entirely is hogging the colorful spotlight of spring in western Oregon.
The good news is, I have been sleeping more.  Or, at least, trying.  Or, at the very least, trying to concoct that magic combination that puts a teething Hazel to rest.
I often fall into a grass-is-greener approach to life.  It drives my husband bonkers and, too often, infuses my own life with a level of anxiety most people are better off without.  Nonetheless, at my mom's the grass was, well, greener.  And I was green with envy.  We'd been reading lots of springy books to Juniper.  Most involved daffodils and tulips and neon-green grass.  So, I thought it was particularly awesome to be in a place that actually has those things a fortnight after the spring equinox.  Aside from dandelions, in Wyoming we are still a good month away from blooms.  
My mom's yard is her thing, and it shows.  Juniper and I started calling my mom's backyard "The Magic Jungle."  There are all these little pathways around rose bushes and rhododendrons that lead to hidden sculptures and tucked-away benches.  Anyway, I must have been a tad obsessed because scrolling through my photos from Oregon, the only solid, in-focus image I have of my mom is her mowing the lawn.  Same with my Aunt.  I took fourteen pictures of her yard and not one of her or the family.  The shame.  I was too busy spinning with envy.  I'd forgotten what springtime in Oregon really means.
:: Gorgeous, sunny walk in the park.  I specifically wanted to see this magnolia.

Oh, those *pink* leathery petals.

Tulips, daffodils, dandelions and daisy-chains.  We were living up all the springtime fantasies.
:: We did some big-city shopping, taking walks downtown.
Specifically, bugs wanted to see a train.
A lifetime ago, I hopped a freight train to California that rumbled over these very same tracks.  That adventure ended in the death of a friend.  I had just turned eighteen.  An entire story in its own right.  But this last trip to my hometown had me thinking a lot about memory and place, place and memory.  And how closely the two are intertwined.  It's as though memory exists partly within our minds, partly within our bodies, and partly, it is etched in the landscape of our lives.  When you move away from that land, you are literally leaving a piece of yourself--your memory--behind.  In college, I read a book about how Native Americans who were forced away from their native scapes had trouble remembering their oral traditions...so many stories were tied to that particular piece of land they had inhabited since the beginning.  And when they were torn away from that land, so much of their story stayed behind, or, quite literally, didn't make sense.      

:: When we first walked in the door to my mom's house, we stepped outside into her yard and almost instantly, Juniper said, "The hot tub!  The hot tub that changes colors!"  I was floored that she remembered.  We only soaked once when we were here last and never talked about it again.  Then she touched my mom's outdoor table and said, "This is where we eat corn!"  Granted it was less than a year ago, but she does this all the time.  She remembers weird little things, sometimes from well over a year ago.  We even think she remembers Osa, although we do talk about her a lot.  
:: We polished off our stay with a trip to the pizza joint that has a carousel.  Of course.  
Hazel ^ was born with a worried look on her face.  She truly was enjoying herself on the "ORSIES!!!"  
:: On the drive home, Juniper both surprised and entertained us by drawing pictures of each family member.  This one is my husband.  
And that's all she wrote.  Phew.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

clamming (part 2)

We had a foot of snow on the ground when we left, then came home to brown grass and the earliest of spring hopefuls.  Daffodils and garlic were the first to shoot up their neon hands, the teacher's pets.  The acid, rainbow-brain of rhubarb bubbles up from its dark soil bath.  Flocks of juncos litter our drive like confetti.  Robins happily pick worms from our yard and bluebirds try on our pines for size.  Yesterday we picnicked in the park with friends.  Tonight, as I write, it is snowing and blowing so hard the wind can't decide on a direction.  Welcome, springtime in Wyoming.

:: But I'm here to show you last week.  A time-zone and two states away from here.
This was our fifth time razor clamming and our third with Juniper (click for the first and second).  Most spectacularly, this was June bug's first time participating (Hazel taking her turn in the backpack).  
I grew up combing the coasts of Oregon, plucking the empty, open, butterflied shells of razor clams off the beach.  I never had any familiarity with the creatures that lived inside those shells.  I am so happy that my kids will, and do.     

:: This was our first spring-time dig and by far the best weather we've seen on the Washington coast.  
Clam "shows" ^ about as obvious as they get. 

The State of Washington has a 15 clam bag limit per day.  By regulation, you must keep any clam you dig.  So when clam shows are bubbling up all around your feet, you get both giddy and picky.  Each of us has our own theory on how to spot a big clam.  Most of us are wrong, except my brother's wife.  Some say it's the biggest volcano, some say it's no volcano at all, some say it's the clams that stick their black-ringed neck out, some say look for the clams shooting water high into the air, some say look for a little divot with some shifting sand, some say go for the loners, some say the closest to the water, some say it's a crap-shoot.  Anyway.  June bugs would get so...as she would say... essited! at each clam hole she found yelling, "Another one!  Another one!  Here's a clam!  Quick let's dig it!"
Juniper pointing out some clam shows (and drawing "H" for Hazel, her favorite letter to write).  

And then, "I wanna take it home and EAT IT!"  Or, "Awww.  Look at this cute little clam.  I wanna kiss it and hug it."  That's our girl, the hunter-gatherer, having a love-eat relationship with the food we grow/gather/hunt/catch.  
Juniper kissed a lot of clams that first morning.  

First morning:
J finding a sand dollar.  She ended the day with a pocketful: gifts as well as her own finds.  

What you look like when the clamming is hopping:
A skosh nutty, in other words.  

Washington limits their clam digs to once or twice a month.  This means that clams tend to be big and plentiful, and digging is this crazy, mass conference of clammers.  It isn't evident in my photos, but the beach is literally lined with people and their vehicles, parked well away from the tide-line.  My mom says it's like Disneyland.  You wouldn't think there would be enough clams, but there are, and then some.  

:: Second morning:
Hazel Iris ^ first time walking on the beach.  

:: Third morning:
What you look like when clamming is not hopping...

The third morning was slower-going than the first two days, but we did fill our limit.  The post-dig beach always reminds me of a battlefield.  
Up next: Grandma's house!  (And then, phew, we're back to regular programming.)