Chicken Blog by Natalie

Some Kind of a Farm - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 13:08
In a humble, modest tone, I have been known to say "our farm," and to use a hashtag "little farm"

But are we? Or, do we? Is this a farm?

We keep chickens, and have goats. The goats are more like vegetarian dogs, than draught animals, and they don't give milk. I've never slaughtered a hen. I have been tempted to pummel a rooster, or two. The garden does produce vegetables, and we have fruit trees, but our regular produce comes in a Trader Joes bag. Our best home-grown tomatoes have been whatever volunteers pop up. We might subsist if we could live on rosemary, lemons, lilikoi and lavender, with loads of apples in June. It concerns me that much of what we get in abundance is produce that is best served baked, sweetened... pies, breads, cakes, preserves, anything with eggs, butter, and sugar. And eggs have been scarce since about last October, because our hens are old.


1. an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals
synonyms: ranch, farmstead, plantation, estate, hobby farm

1. make one's living by growing crops or keeping livestock.

Well. I think it's safe to say we are not the verb. No one here is making a living at this. We have a noun farm. We grow crops, we have land and buildings that we have put to the purpose of growing food, and rearing animals (however coddled and useless they may be.)

And maybe "useless" is mean. The goats don't give milk only because I won't breed them. But they make us laugh, make us happy, keep us amused, and engaged, and moving. The chickens have laid dozens and dozens and dozens of eggs, and every time I see a hen run across the lawn to greet me, I feel light, encouraged, humble. Those are almost intangible gains, I know, but they are not useless. I think I am just exploring these thoughts and feelings, because sometimes keeping nine old hens, and building up flower beds, again, seems frivolous, and makes me feel sheepish.

I admit, I am loathe to say hobby farm. It sounds like I am Marie Antoinette playing at living a provincial life, and... I may as well add, I don't want to be be Marie Antoinette, playing at a provincial life, because I am more inclined to fancy myself Elizabeth Bennet, at Longbourn... geese in the courtyard, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight. Hardships aside, I cannot help fancying the cottage, in Devonshire, where Elinor and Marianne wove reed hats, and set off on long walks, read poetry, did needlework. True, they could not afford to keep horses, or eat meat regularly, but they did have Betsy, the maid and cook, and Thomas, the handyman.

There is a meme I added to my "This is Me" Pinterest Board... Princess Aurora, looking gorgeous, but fraught, declares "Sheesh... after talking to the birds all morning, all I want to do is go home, do a little sewing, and take a nap!"

It's true... I am not a busy bee.

For the longest time, especially when the children were smaller, younger, I would have those same Jane Austen scenarios playing in my head, and I would despair at how far removed I was from the romantic pictures, the pastoral scenes with women in long gowns and clean aprons, hand-sewing, while reciting French poetry, and a nicely laid table for dinner. Even their chickens looked productive, yet well-rested, never molting, of course. It wasn't until recently, when I popped in the Pride and Prejudice disc to play while folding heaps of laundry, that a very obvious detail became clear to me... maids, cooks, gardeners, butlers, field hands! We are lucky enough to get some help with jobs around here, and that's lovely, for sure. But all those years when I felt small and incompetent for not having three meals cooked, and a garden tended, hand-sewn clothes on the children, knitting on needles, a pie cooling in the window, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight, it turns out I was not incompetent... I was understaffed!

Starting this post, it wasn't my intention to confess that I harbor romantic ideals about housekeeping and farming, and yet am quite disinclined to labor tirelessly. Our goats are silly, and so am I. Our hens may not lay another egg, and neither... oh, never mind.

There is a heap of clean laundry obscuring the sofa. I'm about to play a Jane Austen movie, and delight in the wit and beauty of an idealized time and place, while my chickens scratch and peck around our little farm, and then I may get to the bottom of that laundry. This is not a hard life. It is complicated, and has its challenges, but it has an abundance of goodness, too... choices, views, opportunities, birds we can talk to, and time for naps.

Cat Portraiture in 23 Steps - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 10:01

Step One: Find a cat...

Step Two

Step Three

Step Four

Step Five

Step Six

Step Seven

Step Eight

Step Nine

Step Ten

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Step 17

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Step 23
And voilà!

Quoting a Physicist... - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 18:42

January 2

Coming up with a title for this post was almost as hard as deciding to blog at all. Then I remembered a favorite quote, actually, it's a book title, from Richard Feynman, the physicist. He wrote "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" I recommend the book, and I would like to embrace the sentiment... because I really should care less what other people think. Far too much of my blog slow-down is a result of being concerned about criticism from certain people over what I write, don't write, overshare, and take interest in.

There it is.

I have grappled with remarks and accusations that directly admonish, accuse, ridicule, and criticize me and my social media presence. And it has just about shut me down completely... here, on FB, emotionally, physically. It's made a hard year (or three) even harder; quite crap, in fact. I have been introspective, and confounded, self-critical, embarrassed, and apologetic. And I have been miserable. And the thing is... as concerned and inward-looking as I have been, as much as I've worked to assess my values, efforts, narrative, presence, it occurs to me that the critics aren't here. The critics don't hang out with me, or know me... they aren't involved in our daily lives, and I am not calling on them to bail me out, or asking them to 'like' my posts, fight my battles, sing my praises. I've been waiting... waiting to see what shutting-up could yield, waiting to see if those critics would like me better, find me more worth their time and interest, if I just backed-off, sat back, made myself smaller. I can't deny it... I want to be liked and likable, I want to be successful, admirable, especially to the people I have liked and admired all of my life. But, it's no good trying to be someone else, hoping to be the kind of whatever that makes me appealing to them. It's no good not being me, however objectionable, loud, messy, weird, liberal, or sensitive people see me as being. Either I am the embodiment of my body, mind and soul, my interests, skills, and ambitions, or I am nothing. I have cared a great deal too much what other people think, and it's made me small and despondent, meager... my soul feels gaunt.

And the critics? They're just people with their own bodies and souls, agendas, and ideals, and they're carrying on, living, believing what they do, and I am not stopping them. But I want to take back my will, and a sense of self-worth that is not so dependent on what other people think. In the time that I have been quieter, smaller, I have noticed that the people who do care, who are here, who can accept my good and bad parts, they see me. They aren't showing up out of obligation, or begrudgingly. They aren't asking me to be anyone else, act like someone else, be less than my own self. I used to still worry about what I could lose by showing my dance, singing my songs, being myself. I pay too much attention to the ones who don't like me... demonstrative, over-sharing, objectionable, loud, messy, weird, liberal, sensitive, clumsy, uncool me, and I want this to change. Time is running out, and I don't want to waste any more of it worrying what other people think...

January 3

Our winter break has been sweet. And bittersweet. I miss so much of what, whom, we lost. I miss my Grandmother, terribly. "Terribly" is that adjective that we use, a figure of speech. But now, I think I know it better. The missing, the longing and sadness and deep grief I feel is dire and unspeakable, awful, and grave... it is terrible to feel so emotional, to have such a longing for what cannot be, can never be. I won't speak of it, cannot speak of it, but the truth is: I am inconsolable. And it's not much better with Mister Washburn Foo. And so, you see... our holidays, and liberties, company, the lights on the tree, the carols, and old movies, the spirit of Christmas has been sweet, but always with the unspeakable terribleness that I cannot seem to cope with.

My Instagram page is all cats and sketchbooks, flowers in the garden, and an almost insatiable yearning to see beauty, to hold it, and feel it, and make any of it that I possibly can.

January 4

January 5

January 6

He's a junior! Being more emotional than rational, I cannot understand how this is possible, already. I am sure if I would look at a calendar, add units, and count months, it would all make sense. But just going by my feelings, it seems so soon. He'll be starting a last semester of classes to pass the time, while he waits to hear from the school he hopes to transfer to, then he can be a math major, like he always wanted.

January 7

The day after Christmas we set off a chain reaction that is, to do this day, sending shock waves through the Bird House...

*Chango cannot retract his old man claws, and he made a tear in our bed sheet.
*The tear grew, and made the sheet a total loss.
*I decided to wash the mattress pad cover, while the sheets were off... and realized the foam pad was awful. Gross. etc
*After 23 years, we decided that buying another foam pad was a waste, if we were only covering a horrible mattress.
*We were reminded that our king bed is "eastern" and Costco only sells "western" and so we had to go to Ikea.
*I fell deeply, spinally, horizontally in love with a mattress, and all of my economical and rational inhibitions were dashed!
*Ikea promised next day delivery!
*We had to race home and clean our room.
*I got the harebrained notion to finally arrange our furniture the way I had been dreaming and imagining and plotting to do for seven years... and that entailed huge, huge, huge upheaval and lugging, which Geoff could only observe, because he's still in recovery from surgery.
*Things and parts and stuff shifted from our room, out of the hall, down the stairs, and throughout the house, in preparation for removal of the old mattress, and the arrival of the really big, new one.
*I chased dust bunnies from here to the curb, for what felt like days.
*The new mattress (even without a real boxspring) is so ginormous, that we can hardly see the headboard or the footboard, and I was afraid of falling from the bed... but I love it. I love it. I love it. I think I am even getting stronger abs from launching myself up to get into it.
*I love it. I love it. I love it.
*There has been sleep. You guys, I am tearing up a little. Actual sleep.

This was the little family meeting we were having about a very special visit, and Alex and Max having their wisdom teeth pulled. I got another harebrained idea, and each of them were about to have four wisdom teeth removed, because I thought it would be easier to get all done at once.

Sorry, boys.

The Very Special Visit! Max, Tamsyn, Maria, William, Alex, and Bambi. Tamsyn! From Virginia, no from Edinburgh, wait, no, from Paris, by way of India! It's been way too long since we last saw her. She's in graduate school, in Paris, and while on break, she came to California, and this moment... seeing these children together, it made my heart overflow, and feel so thankful and joyful. (Pinching myself, and gently reminding me, too, that I have been very fortunate.)

January 8

This is my submission for whatever photo contest calls for "The Epitome of Ungulate Love and Adorableness." I will win that contest with this entry.

No pictures of Alex and Max, home from the oral surgeon. No video, either. It was rough, and they were dear, sweet patients, that would have loved to spend a better quality of time with Tamsyn, while on their school break.

January 10

Do you do this? Accommodate a pampered fluff nugget when he won't get off the bed, so you make the bed around his fluffy butt? Apparently, it's what I do. And then I take a picture and share it on Instagram. It's who I am, it's what I do.

Maria was inspired by the birthday card Belinda gave me... from when I turned fifty. The original photograph was taken in Venice, 1952, by Georges Dambier, of Francoise Dambier. Maria's drawing... well, it just keeps getting better and better. And I guess it's not a surprise, considering how much she practices and studies. And the best part is... she enjoys it.

Tamysn was such an easy going guest. And really, more like one of the family than a visitor. It was so nice to have the kind of visit where ordinary pastimes and relaxed time together was the order of each day.

And she made us dinner! A fabulous Indian dinner. How good? So good that we had her make everything, again, the next night, so William could learn the recipes. (Still recovering, Alex opted to be out of the picture. But he did love the soft, vegetarian meal.)

I miss her singing. So much. When we were neighbors, when she was like one of my own, we had the regular enjoyment of her singing. I think Chango remembered her, just at this moment. He is very hard of hearing, but if you could see how he watched her, and moved closer and closer, peering into her face... I know he was remembering her.

And. I kept thinking, Mister Foo is going to walk over here, any minute. He loves music, and singing. And I kept waiting, thinking, Where is that Foo? It was only later, I recalled, he's gone.

January 11

Tamsyn, and Mister Foo, and old blog posts... this is why I had to come back here, and post, again, so I would have more stories to look back on, more memories to revisit, plans to recall, moments to share. Years from now, I don't want to find that I was too shy to write something down, too conservative to discuss an idea, or self-conscious to post a photograph. I could do this in a paper journal, and leave it on a shelf, I know. But Tamsyn is in Paris, and so is Grant. And my Mom is in Oregon, and other family is in Wisconsin, and I have a friend in Massachusetts, others in Australia, one in England, another in Spain, and it's nice to stay in touch, to hear from them, and let them have some glimpses of how we are getting on. It was really dear finding old pictures, and details from ordinary days when we lived next door to Tamsyn, when we tried new things together, and shared adventures, even from other times when we had to say farewell.

January 14

Maybe, Chickenblog will just become a Cat Blog, with loads of expressive cat photos.

Maybe, I'll post artsy photographs of chamomile tea, the damp texture like a watercolor painting, and I'll add a few lines of obtuse poetry about dappled sunlight on winter mornings. Or I could write long essays about the nature of art, and ratastic expressionism in the modern era.

Something. I think I will keep doing something, here.

January 15

Cairo had it coming.

Now I need to take care of laundry. It's okay if you didn't read all of this post, if you only skimmed through the pictures. It's okay if you think blogging is weird or obsessive, or pointless, but... please, no need to mention that to me. I am just trying to do good, where I can, to think about things, deeply, or just scratch the surface.

The first sweet peas. I'm pinching myself.
January 16

Once More - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 11:26

Calm. We have had cheer and celebration, abundance and rejoicing, food, food, food, and sparkle and all of it has been lovely. I cannot wait for next year, to anticipate and prepare and enjoy all of the holiday gaiety, again. In the meantime, I am reveling in the post-holiday effect, when I clear surfaces, rearrange furniture, try (once more, once more, once more) to put things in order, to redouble all effort and resolve to be a neat and tidy woman, with neat and tidy spaces.

I thought a lot about this space, the blog. Thank you, by the way, for those comments. They were reassuring and kind. For two or three days, I was very sad, then only a little sad. Then someone mentioned that 'blogging is seeing a resurgence in usage and purpose, because the large and very corporate social-media sites have become too monopolistic and controlling,' and I felt a surge of giddiness. And this interest and flickering hope seems a sign that I am not through, here, that I still want to play, and see this through, a bit further. I am going to think about this.

Stepping Away - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 14:29
Looking around me, assessing what’s left undone or long neglected, I conclude: It’s time to to step away from this space. It’s time to reconsider what brought me here in the first place... what makes me hang on, clinging, almost. But never mind any lengthy introspection, for now. I will say I cannot help writing, and I love taking pictures, and I’d have loved to be an artist, a “success.” Maybe something of that is possible... but I am going to take some time to look for my path elsewhere.

Thank you... I’ve made some dear friends, here, and have many, many happy recollections of connecting. So much so, that I won’t say “the end” or even “goodbye,” but just, “hold on a sec.”

Do you Have a Minute? - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:56
Maybe a few minutes, actually. I have a story to share, and it's a long one, with lots of pictures, and best of all... for one family, a happy ending.

This story begins with hot, dry days, with a wind blowing off of the dessert, through mountain passes, to the Pacific Ocean. This is the kind of wind that plays with fire, making embers and sparks jump and leap, sending up new flames, with billowing smoke, and all of it moves as fast as the wind itself. We were all watching reports of such wind, and fires, blowing and burning in Ventura, then Los Angeles. And then, much closer to home, we saw a dark plume of wind-driven smoke traveling from the east, moving toward the ocean. Fire. When I confirmed that it was near a friend's home, I started texting them. I wanted to be sure they'd seen reports, knew what was going on. Even a fire that is "far away," if it's east of your location when the Santa Ana winds are blowing, then it is too close for comfort. The more I thought about their situation, the more anxious I became, and in my messages I offered, We could house your critters if you have to evacuate.

The Lilac Fire started small, but it grew fast, and vicious. And our friends, their pets, their home were in its path. Having been in their situation, I knew the fear, and the logistical load of getting everyone safe, especially scared pets, or big livestock. This offer to help them, felt like an easy choice to make... and while they suffered the angst and worry of what was coming for their home, we spent some days lending a hand, and enjoying some sweet, funny, dear pets. It's real nice to tell this story from today, because in the beginning it was sad, and scary, but spoiler alert... now we know everything turned out well for our friends, their home, and their little farm.

Thursday night Bobbie came to the Bird House with Mabel, and Sammy the bunny, and two hens, Oink and Dot. We kept Mabel and Oink in their respective crates, and moved Dot into my old portable chicken cage, and we even had a bunny cage for Sammy. The wind was blowing fiercely. With flashlights in hand, and determined resolve, we made sure all of the animals were safe and secure that first night.

It was a relief to greet our guests the next day.

Here she is! Mabel, the mini-pig.

Sammy lived on our porch, and he stayed about as calm and cool as any bunny could.

Oink the chicken... she discovered our spoon tomatoes, and I think that made all the difference.

Pretty Dot... we hope she remembers this adventure as a few odd days at camp.

Cairo. Now, Cairo was just stunned. There's no other way to describe his bewildered expressions, and skittish antics. He watched Sammy bunny warily, and kept a wide space between himself and the flopsy fur boop.

Also in shock... all of our chickens and both goats. Evidently, none of our critters can tell the difference between a little pig and a big bad wolf, and so they huddled in corners, with raised hackles and mournful expressions. (Are hackles only a dog thing? Our goats express both glee, and terror, with a ridge of raised hairs along the tops of their necks.)

Meanwhile, Mabel cruised the entire yard, merrily, with all of the confidence and self-possessed equanimity of an Instagram celebrity (mae-mae_minipig).

Friend was unfazed, and came around to see the new campers.

I was just getting my head around making salads for Mabel, and keeping an eye on the sky and horizon for signs of new fires, when Maria brought me the Advent book, day 8. She's 100% flexible and understanding, and looking around at all we were managing, said brightly, "I had no idea we'd be doing this, now. We can do pie any time." I smiled, gratefully, and asked her to bring a pie crust out of our freezer. We might not ever get to it, but we stood a better chance of baking a pie if the crust were ready.

Nothing much else, besides the usual laundry and school studies, were on our calendar, so these guests of ours had our full attention. We wanted them to feel welcome and happy. And we wanted our friends to have at least one part of their lives to give them some peace of mind... and to that end, I enjoyed sending them new pictures, so they could see all was well for Oink, Dot, Sammy, and Mabel.

Evacuating is terribly stressful... you leave your home behind, taking as much with you as necessary or even possible, and still you have to go to work, and manage your affairs, while your home, and memories, stand in peril. Bobbie and Jesse had Leo and Bosco, their dogs, with them, and jobs to go to, and their son had his finals to complete. Everything we were doing felt easy, in comparison with what our friends were coping with. Bobbie took a break and came to see her pets, and to finally meet those goats!

And would you believe? We baked a pie!

The next day our Advent book had another lovely suggestion, and the calming winds put everyone in easier moods. And... word was getting out, about a certain little, pink, celebrity pig in our midst. We were getting calls and texts... Can we meet Mabel??

Mabel is so well socialized and smart. She knows some commands, like turn and reverse and stop. She'll do just about anything for a Cheerio... almost anything. Like any smart animal, she also has a mind of her own.

When she discovered this back section of the yard, she never wanted to leave. Can you see our scaredy goats and nervous hens? They're all cowering from the little, pink pig rooting through the leaf pile. It took a lot of Cheerios to coax her out of there!

Alex's friend, Max, and his mom, came in the morning to meet Mabel. Then Max and Alex went to check on horses, and to lend a hand there with other volunteers, and the many hundreds of evacuated horses and livestock.

Alex and Max returned with two more visitors.

Paul, Janece and Amira were over. Paul knew just the spot to get Mabel's hair happily raised.

Amira and Mabel saw eye-to-eye, too.

And just in time for dinner, Bex, Spencer and Simon came to meet Mabel, Oink, Dot, and Sammy.

I really wish I had started a guest book for Mabel... a happy keepsake of all the new friends she's made.

Maria has had uncanny timing. By day ten, I was ready for this... for lights, especially. Geoff was taking the day off, and with William, Alex, Max, and Maria, outdoor lights were hung all around our home, even Totoro got festive.

Bobbie would send me texts, thanking me, and making helpful suggestions. The best one was about adding canned pumpkin to Mabel's meals. There may not be much that is as hilarious as Mabel eating her chow, with a bowl of water, and when I added the pumpkin it got ridiculous! There are videos on Instagram (chickenblogger). I recorded every meal for my own amusement, forever.

And this is where we are getting to the happy ending, which is also a little sad, strangely. The only thing we could ask for was for the fire to be put down, for lives and homes to be spared. The losses were real and horrific, and we despaired over every report. But we were feeling connected and delighted with our guests, and it wasn't going to be easy to part with them. We rejoiced for our friends, when we learned the evacuation orders were lifted, that the Lilac Fire was contained, and we took longer, even more dear visits with our furry and feathered and hoofed visitors.

Maria confided, "Mabel is fun, but, Mama, I love Sammy. I don't want Sammy to go."

Can you guess what she's been asking for?

Dear Santa...
She's in love.

Friend returned, again. Our blue bird of happiness seemed to appreciate we needed a little support. Thank you, Friend.

I use the hashtag #littlefarm. Now that we've had an actual pig in our barn, I feel totes legit.

Chickenblogger, and farmer.

In the last decade we have come to know fire season... late summer into October, then November, now December. Any wildfire is bad, but California with its Santa Ana winds, and history of droughts, with it's canyons, and mixed topography is susceptible to fast moving fires with loads of fuel to keep it going, difficult terrain to manage, and for firefighters to cover. We all learn that when there is a Red Flag Warning any spark could become an inferno, and any wild fire will move, jumping across highways, traveling like a raging river up canyons, over ridges, pushed by wind gusts that can be as fast as 50 miles an hour. It means a small fire, in the far distance, can be forcing evacuations with only minutes to prepare. Red Flag Warnings mean the humidity is low, and the Santa Ana winds are blowing dry air from east to west, and any fire that is east of where you are could easily be dangerously close in no time at all.

A Red Flag warning is serious, a Purple Flag warning... well, I'd never heard of such a thing, until last Thursday. It is the highest danger level, it meant single digit humidity and wind blowing at 80-100 miles per hour, with sustained winds of 20-45 miles per hour along the coast, and ninety mph wind gusts.

During "fire season," which has practically become year-round, we take safety steps, and during Red Flag Warnings, we take extra precautions, like not mowing, or grilling. There are things we can do, and there is more we will learn to do, but it's not always in our power to control. Individually, we cannot manage every acre of dry brush, accidents, or any irresponsible acts. We can consider the bigger picture... our environment, changes in climate, how we want to care for our planet and resources with long term conservation and management in mind.

There were some terrible losses in the Lilac Fire, as well as the Ventura and Los Angeles fires. We happened to get lucky, this time, and we will try to do more, to be better prepared for next time. I want to add some thoughts in reaction to negative comments I read regarding the deaths of horses in Bonsal, California. The deaths of those horses was awful, and will hopefully lead to improvements in how livestock and farms are set up, going forward, but if anyone thinks that people were 'indifferent' or in some way 'slacking'... well, those critics are ignorant, and cruel in their remarks. Ranch hands and jockeys had to remove over 500 horses from a wild fire that began and spread in less than an hour's span... that is an impossible thing to accomplish. With wind driven smoke, soot, embers, and flames coming at them, and very limited resources, the people on hand did all they could. Period. We all have a lot to do to keep tragedies like this from playing over, again, and again. Our planet is changing. I hope anyone that is criticizing or pointing fingers, will stop and consider that we are all capable of helping, of taking less, and giving more. I am deeply touched by the kindnesses offered, the bravery displayed, and the generosity shared by Californians during these tragic events.

This Is Making All The Difference... - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 11:41
Maria made something that has been pure holiday magic. Her gift has been giving me a daily smile and inspiration, as we countdown the days until Christmas.

In her secret workshop, Maria created this little book, A Little Pocket Advent Calendar. I love it. I love each handmade page, the glitter, the thought and effort, the ideas, and suggestions. I have been waking up with a bit of that Christmas wonder I remember feeling when I was her age... excited, eager, full of hope, ready to see something special in the day.

We ordered Mexican hot chocolate when we met our friends for breakfast.

She's not insistent on doing exactly what the book suggests. We made cranberry bars, and shared them with friends. We'd still love to host a cookie exchange.

Her beautiful origami! This reminds me of the beautiful ornaments my mother made from Christmas cards. I bet Maria would love to recreate those.

Now this one we really went for! We invited a few friends to come and make flowers with us. Carol and Leo were down for an impromptu playdate, and we made some tissue and napkin blossoms.

These lyrics, "Oh, the weather outside is frightful," are ringing true, but we have nothing at all like snow in California! We are under a Purple Flag Warning in our county, and further north, things are far more dire. We've had our fill of wildfires and evacuations in our lives, and so at the end of the day a little make-believe and home comforts were very much welcome. As real winds blew, we slipped into our pajamas and watched It's A Wonderful Life.

Yes, more home comforts, and simple pleasures. I am looking forward to this evening, and all the days ahead. This time of year can be hectic, and full of urgent demands, but Maria's gift is making a nice difference, every day, and sweetly reminding me that it's a wonderful life.

The New Year Resolution - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:24

At the end of 2016, I turned fifty, and a friend dared me to try 50 new things, in the year, as an exercise in growth, a challenge to make adventures, seek new experiences. And, of course, the New Year prompts us to think of resolutions. I decided it would be a new thing to be an art student. I have dabbled, and been wishful, all my life... "Gee, I wish I were an artist. Golly, I'd like to paint pretty things." But I hadn't seriously applied myself, practiced, pushed through the phase where I made truly awful stuff, or endured the dull practice-practice-practice. So, I made a New Year Resolution... be an art student, an amateur. Be humble, ask questions, try different styles, and practice-practice-practice. I made myself buy a sketchbook, and I didn't tear out the bad sketches, or lean too heavily on an eraser. I just kept trying. And... the really hard part is sharing. No. Actually... even a little bit harder than letting people see what I've painted, is looking through Pinterest, or Instagram, or in books and magazines, and seeing beautiful art, skilled works, talent, success. Knowing that, even with all my practice, all my earnest attempts, I am still in a phase of truly awful stuff learning. I am a student, and amateur... to love. Maybe my best talent is in being familiar with my humility, so that I can encourage others to try something new, take a chance, be unskilled and open to discovery. It's not easy, but I feel thankful to have taken the chance, to have begun.

Sharing is hard. And sometimes it feels like my greatest success is not dipping my dirty brush into my tea. I don't have to share, I know. And I'm not sharing all of them... I counted 89 paintings done since the end of December, last year. So, what makes me dare to share? I think it helps me gage my progress, and it forces me to work harder. I know I need practice, to gain more skill, and work at learning. Honestly, I am more convinced that I should stick with chicken wrangling than pursue art. Retreating would be a relief... almost.

When I began all this painting, I stuck to the dare... to paint a variety of subjects in a variety of styles, even pushing myself to tackle "hard" things, like architecture, anatomy, realism. Eventually, I found myself drawn to rat-mouse-people. So, what's with all the rats? I even have a Ratty-Rat" label. I think it's to do with Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, the dearest ratty-rat ever. She inspired a lot of wishful art daydreams, because I wanted to depict her, her sweetness, her appeal, and charms. She was like a little person, with personality. She was enchanting, and I wished so much I could convey everything I loved about her, create adventures and stories she could visit, live in.

And so, it's mostly rats. Rats that could be mousy, and are a bit like dear little people, Borrowers, maybe. Pure fancy, whimsical, hopeful. Ratty-rats by an amateur, for me to love.

Works in progress. I keep sketching and practicing. I still attempt new subjects, like a dog, or a snowy village. I cringe seeing them in photographs, because the flaws seem to blow up, glaring at me, taunting me. I think, oh, that needs work. And the shading is all wrong. How did I miss that spot? But. Never mind. They are works in progress, like me.

Luz ~ Akari ~ Lumière ~ Licht ~ Malamalama - Mon, 11/27/2017 - 21:00

It's been hard to find the words... the words to describe how I feel, what I think, to tell stories. But, as I turn to the pictures I've been taking, I can say, Light. It seems to me that I am looking for, and trying to make, light. And too, making light of heavy cares... somehow.

That Was Easy - Mon, 11/27/2017 - 09:36
*Sarah, Amira, Emma, Maria, Izzy, Adrian, and Leo~

This milestone birthday has been eagerly anticipated, and it would have been a shame to let it get lost in the shuffle... the truth is, things have been heavy, sad, and full of obstacles around here. Thankfully, we had a moment of clarity, and Maria's simple and easy request was irresistible... some friends, chocolate shakes, burgers, a movie. Oh! And our Christmas tree! Even on short notice, friends came through. And there were turkey burgers, and running around on a brisk fall afternoon, chocolate banana shakes, The Lord of the Rings, and an apple crisp. Sweet gifts... so generous, and fun!

New art supplies from cousin Izzy! Stencils and paints, and a handy storage, too. Love-love.

Leo and Carol came with this beautiful wreath they made. Truly breathtaking. Really, every gift was generous, fun, but I know Maria loved having her friends around, playing, sharing laughs, thoughts, and happy company, most of all. She's so thankful, and beaming from a merry celebration.

*All of us grown-ups were gobsmacked seeing our "little ones" lined up for this photo... when they're running around, hanging out, it's less apparent, but! Wow! When did our youngsters stretch, mature? For sure, they are not "little ones." Oh my heart! Naturally, I had to go back and remind myself of just how much they've grown, and in the memories I found even happier reminders... of friends, and family, celebration, love, sweet gifts, all.

Turning 11...


Cowgirl at 8! Hey, would this theme work for a 51st birthday celebration??

Simple Pleasures - Sat, 11/25/2017 - 09:05

Just so I can remind myself that between laundry loads, we did enjoy some simple pleasures... of course.

A tree, already? For a time I would take care not to let Maria's birthday get mixed up with either Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I needn't have worried. Last night, as we finished a lovely family dinner, there was an earnest discussion on the subject of Thanksgiving cranberry sauces, and where were we going put our tree this year, punctuated with thoughts on Maria's thirteenth birthday. Maria chimed in enthusiastically, "Well, I know what I would like for birthday presents: a chocolate shake with bananas, and our Christmas tree." We are making shakes on Sunday, when friends come to play. And our tree is standing, pretty and bare, in the living room. It smells wonderful.

End of the Day - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 09:05
It wasn't my best day, but by evening, I was in a very comfortable corner of the sofa, with something to keep my hands occupied. Alex got a fire started. Max was teaching Maria a card game. I sent a picture to my Mom, through messenger... isn't that miraculous? We can take a good quality picture, and a second later send it to a grandmother, a friend, around the world, or around the corner. In an instant our thoughts and love are shared, we connect.

Later, upstairs, under the covers and in the company of the cat, Maria and I watched The Snowman, with Geoff. Geoff read the Wiki about the story, the music. Maria and I agree, the music is our favorite part.

Speaking of favorites... one of my favorite bloggers is sharing a free download of her pattern for a winter crown, perfect for Santa Lucia, or any winter holiday celebrating light. Alicia Paulson also has a beautiful new cross stitch sampler kit in her shop, First Snow... such a pretty scene.

*delete* - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:41
Does it seem like this is becoming Kitty Blog? The chickens are just barely beginning to look like they may start to consider recovering from their Molt-aggeddon. I don't know if anyone's interested in seeing ravaged, zombie hens, rat sketches, or embroidery floss. I'm taking a break from crochet, haven't quilted since forever. And I only cook popcorn, toaster waffles, or spaghetti... it feels like that, at least. It's just cats, cats, and kitty cats in my iphoto albums.

I was all set to share a post about Maria and I painting ceramics, and our eager anticipation of picking them up today. But... pfttttt!! They couldn't find us in their system. Uh... we were in your store for two days, for seven hours! Hello? No record of us, or our plates, or anything. And I can hear the studio dude assuring me, You won't need the receipt. Don't worry. Why did I believe this? Why? Ok... they found our paperwork, and figured out that our plates are in the kiln, and not ready, yet. But the shop is out of our way, and traffic, and timing, and just the long span of time when we were standing in front of them feeling anxious, and replying, Yes, we exist. Yes, we were here. No, my name is not Judy, or Mary, Susan, Steven, Trish. Yes, we paid. Yes, we are quite sure.

It's not an actual crisis, I know. And nothing about this is interesting or compelling, worth repeating... it's just that I am having a kind of hard time week month year. I am only whining, this little bit, over nothing, to relieve some of the real pressure. Do you ever feel awful for complaining, guilty for stressing, apologetic for being weepy, or wimpy? I think I am over-stressed just from the strain of trying not to be too sensitive, needy, weak, selfish, emotional, and dismayed that I have internalized those messages and labels, which distort and undermine my ability to cope and manage the actual issues. Well, now this is getting meaty. This might be a good time to post another cat picture, or just hit *delete.*

Two Cats In the Middle of November - Sat, 11/18/2017 - 12:50

This November, the sky, everyday, has been a gift. It seems like everyone is sharing pictures of beautiful clouds, backlit tree tops, sunsets, double rainbows over the pacific, sunrises, deep blues, and silver linings. Has it always been thus? Has November always been a month of beautiful skies, and inspiration? I cannot say I have been paying attention, but I am glad to notice it now.

Also, cats. Our Chango, and our Cairo. Their whiskers, and tails, their sweet moods, and drama moments... these I notice all the time, happily.

Yesterday Maria and I received a holiday treat concoction that was just ridiculous. It was cereal and pretzels and crunchy bits, all bedazzled and drizzled in shiny nibs of confection, and white chocolate. It was a recipe with something to offend just about everyone on your list, and ohmy-ohmy was it ever yummy! It was like trail mix went through a sugar blizzard! Have you heard of this? Do you think you know what it's called?? I wonder if it even needs a recipe. I think I could just buy Chex Mix, then dump frosting on it. I would show you a picture, but we inhaled it so quickly, there's only a twisted and ravaged little baggie left. All the evidence is consumed. Undaunted... I will spend this week doing my level best to reproduce this atrocity, then I will be sharing it all over town, like a sparkly sucrose fairy. Wish me luck.

Fatwood and Home - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 09:06

Seems I am always finding some curbside-dumpster treasures, and bringing 'em home, like the neighbor's tree stumps that were headed for the landfill. I called the boys to come roll them home, and we've been using them ever since. Stump tables, stump chairs, stump forging bench, stump viewing perch. The goats hop on them, children hop on them, birds visit them, and wildflowers grow around them. Now we are mining the stumps for the heartwood, which has a mother-lode of resin. It's no surprise to me that Alex would know all about fat wood, that he'd find us some in our own backyard. He's keen on practical knowledge, history, survival, outlasting zombies, natural disasters, and other scary things. It's thanks to Alex that we all have bug-out bags, and well managed first aid kits.

The fatwood smells wonderful, spiced, warm, like a walk, deep in an old growth pine forest. Maria saved me a particularly pretty piece. It's firm, almost luminous as though it came lacquered and polished. It's not sticky, because the sap aged, and hardened. Now it will burn quickly, even if wet, which is why it's such good kindling. I learned all of this from Alex, and Wikipedia... both are good, researched, and helpful resources, and I appreciate having their knowledge, and interesting topics so readily on hand.

The goats are well. This is the time of year when our trees provide plenty of their favorite snacking leaves. This is the time of year when we watch their coats for signs of winter. If Ada gets a wooly undercoat, then we may be looking at a good chill. If Tasha's coat gets extra long and thick, we may even see a good amount of rain. I can't say my weather prognosticating is as well-informed, or reliable, as a Wiki article, but it suffices.

I finished embroidering the last hanky from the four pack I bought. Two were painted and embroidered, and two were done in redwork. And now, I wish I had more blank hankies, though I don't know what I'll do with them all.

In a fit of brave resolve, I planted our big garden bed. It seemed like the hopeful and optimistic thing to do, an act against grief, against curling up in the corner. Maybe I acted too soon, though. The irrigation is all cattywampus, and the whole thing depends on me to hand-water it all. And if the chickens get out, or worse! the goats, I could lose it all. Gee, that doesn't sound hopeful and optimistic of me. Guess I won't mention the skunks and squirrels, or the damned rats.


Where was I?

Gardening. For faith, and pleasure. Right. Well, maybe it's not the cure. Maybe, it's just there to coax me, little by little. If one pea survives and blooms in the spring, I'll be thankful.

Did you know there is a hashtag on Instagram for the plush rats from Ikea? Honestly, I am not selling Instagram, or Wikipedia. Well, actually, I do support Wikipedia, gratefully, because I use them, often. But Instagram is just fun for me, and I thought you should know there is a #ikearat, and it's hilarious.

More Than Mere Coincidence... - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 10:34
This is a very silly little once upon a time, that I cherish for the coincidences, the improbable attachments, the happy recollections, the bittersweet reminders.

Once upon a time, we were in Boston, and it seemed there was nothing that did not delight and enchant me. Jennifer was our guide, and we were seeing marvelous sights, touching history, meeting the scenes of storybook pages. It cannot surprise you that I was trying to take pictures of everything... the man on the curb painting, each maple leaf, and sun dappled surface, walls, streets, the air and light. There wasn't anything that wasn't captivating to me, that I didn't want to carry home, revisit.

The city was busy. It seemed like everyone was out to soak up the fleeting warmth of sun and the color of an ideal fall day. We walked through the Public Park, across Boston Common, we strolled row by row through the Granary. And then Jennifer led us to The Parker House. It was a kind of perfection... the kind that is warm, rich with history, a gentle mood, quiet, refined.

I ordered the clam chowder.

Is that just too cliche?

I will not apologize. Boston. Clam Chowder. However much, or little, I know about New England, about Boston and Massachusetts, about a cold autumn day exploring an old city on an Atlantic Harbor... I knew I was going to have a bowl of clam chowder, sooner or later, without fail. And this seemed the time to enjoy that experience.

The soup was delicious. The crackers... the cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers were delicious. New England Original, Naturally Good. I savored each little, crisp puff, reveling in the curious way the button sized crackers have a natural line that cleaves open, like a cap popping off a teeny box. Are they bland? Well, yes, I could say their flavor is not strong or distinct, but that is not to say they are dull. To say something is tasteless is to miss their subtlety, to disregard the distinction of enjoying a simple flavor, a modest pleasure.

Like then, I feel peculiar for the regard and thought I gave to oyster crackers. I felt, though entirely sincere, that my eager affection for the crackers, for every leaf and acorn, for expressway signs that read "New York," "Rhode Island," "Nantucket," was effusive. Wholehearted and heartfelt though my impressions can be, I sense that lavish praise, aggressively friendly gestures, are sometimes a weakness of mine. I distinctly remember curbing my impulse to take a picture of the the cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers. I did sneak a self-aware and hasty picture of the chowder, but it's out of focus... I was probably shaking a bit from giddiness.

One year later... Jennifer sent us a care package, full of New England, thoughtful reminders of our visit. It was like revisiting our adventures, our time together, our friendship. And here you see Mister Foo, who, so cat-like, plopped himself down on the gifts and goodies, nestled onto the bag of stoneground corn from the Plimoth Grist Mill, made himself cozy on the felt leaves. And between his paws, what do you think? Jennifer, kindred spirit, sent me a cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers, those crisp puffs. I teared up... not because oyster crackers make me emotional, but because Jennifer knows me, remembers details, appreciates even seemingly little things, and she lets them matter, shows she cares. For some silly cat reason, Foo wanted to be in the midst of all this sentiment and attention, and he wanted to hold my crackers. I took his picture. I shared it on Instagram, and in my own bemused fashion I even: #westminsterbakersco.

One month later, one day after realizing our losses, reeling from the newness of grief, I sat with a bit of sewing to do while waiting out a long appointment.

It was late in the afternoon. While I stitched, I thought about Foo, about Grandmother, about untangling strands of red floss, about what to make for dinner. I was hungry. I'd only had one thing to eat that day... earlier, when putting things away, I came across the oyster crackers. I was saving them, for a special occasion. I ate them, then and there, reasoning that the thoughtfulness of my friend was just the kind of special I needed. And, yes... I cried, then, too. I missed my friend, my cat, my Grandmother, and I missed being away on an adventure, feeling hopeful about the world, and excited for our beautiful New England days. The crackers, simple things, were like a taste and reminder of all of those ideas and memories, and sentiments. I was in a hurry, running late, I folded the cellophane bag, and crammed it down my back pocket.

I posted a picture of my redwork mushroom in progress on Instagram. And then I saw a "Like" for an old post, and I saw it was the Westminster Bakers Co., liking the picture I had posted of Mister Foo, with his arms around the oyster crackers. It was a month ago that I shared the moment... and to the day, a month later, they were reminding me of Foo, of our dear kitty, of Jennifer's care package, and the very same crackers that I'd waited to finally savor, and had finally eaten, this day. I reached into my back pocket, pulled up the empty wrapper, and thought... what is that word, when something is more then mere coincidence? Synchronicity.

Synchronicity fascinates me.
#oystercrackers #mylunchtoday #favoritecracker #westminsterbakersco #newengland #thoughtfulgift #comehomemisterfoo #misterwashburnfoo #gratitude #strangetiming #morethancoincidence

I know... it's a simple story, told with elaborate, effusive detail, and maybe it is only happenstance. Random events, read with an active imagination, and a penchant for fancy, but that's like calling a cracker bland, missing the nuance and pleasures of something worthwhile, something serendipitous, fanciful, dear, puzzling or inspiring. I cannot help myself... noticing details, lavishing admiration for simple things, offering aggressively friendly gestures, are sometimes a weakness of mine. At times, I manage to curb my impulses, and at other times I write the story down, and share, here.

Pure Distraction - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:48
PDX Day :: October 25

After our days with Grandmother, with Mom and Dad, walking, waiting, comforting however possible, we had to face leaving. I knew it was going to be hard. It's never easy leaving family, saying a last goodbye, until next time. And this time would be almost impossibly hard, more final than other visits. Maria and I took a night shift, our last night in Albany, and Grandmother's first night in hospice. We shared a pull-out, and sometimes we were able to speak with Grandmother, and a couple of times listen to her share fragments of stories, recollections. We had golden moments, and we saw the certainty of the transition she was making. I woke every hour, when she called my name, when the kind aides came into change her position. I wrote everything down... a record in details, a chronicle of the night, a means of holding on.

As I knew it would be difficult to say when, to pull ourselves away, and be at the airport, the next leg of our return home, I deliberately defined our exit and our own transition back to daily life. I set aside a day, before the flight, to visit Portland, to treat Maria to pretty sights, and familiar, happy places, to distract ourselves and balance our emotions. Somehow, we packed, somehow we said goodbye. I squared my shoulders, shared last hugs, and aimed our rental north, with the single-minded purpose of pursuing joyful, pure distraction.

Dear Portland, thank you for autumn weather and color, without rain, thank you for kind drivers, scenery, inspiration, natural beauty, indulgences, and amusements. Thank you, Airbnb, for cozy, affordable accommodations, with hardly any advance notice. Thank you Collage, and Petite Provence, and Pip's Original, and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, and thank you, Instagram friends, for pointing us in wonderful directions. Thank you, Maria... you are patient, and a generous, kind, happy, loving, helpful traveling companion, with stamina, and curiosity. At all the right times, and with tender compassion, you put your hand in mine, and said, "It's alright."

We explored and walked, and walked and walked, we visited new places, sat in favorite spots, found Halloween, and dream homes. I collected sticks, found one way streets and dead ends, and brought us 'round where we were supposed to go. And we laughed. Tingly bridges! And long after dark, we stopped for sleep, before our early flight home.

Time for a fruit cup, before we board.

Last Time... - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 14:34
Cairo and the thoughtful sympathy flowers... November 5.

The last time I posted to the blog I was keeping vigil, waiting, from afar. Maria and I'd left Oregon, my Mom and Dad, other family, and my Grandmother. My Grandmother, in hospice, fading little by little, and my Mom and I texting back and forth, staying in touch.

The last time I checked in here I thought I was ready for what was inevitable... not necessarily "prepared," or totally at peace, but aware of what would happen, what to likely expect. I wasn't aware that I was relying on some degree of "normalcy" to prevail. There is something profound, or maybe utterly meaningless, in before and after. We have these markers, sometimes happy, like before Christmas and after Christmas, sometimes tragic, shared, big, like before 9/11 and after 9/11... and anyway, I seem to notice the things that are pronounced or seemingly significant in before, and after.

This was before, and I remember it distinctly, because Mister Foo was just out of shot, and I tried to coax him into the picture. I wanted the sweet moment of the three kitties together, but he held back, watching Chango and Cairo, and I felt disappointed that he wouldn't sit with them. And that's the last time I remember seeing him.

Mister Foo. Did you know? He would give these hugs, with his paws on your shoulders if you were crying. He'd sleep on your legs, if you were sick, or if he just wanted to. He had this mass to him, and it was such a comforting thing to have his sympathy, to feel he cared. And he sang. Honestly... we would come padding up whenever Happy Birthday was sung, and he would meow, and look so besotted and charmed. I wrote about his musical interest, before. Lately, we'd been singing to Mister Foo a lot, usually Happy Birthday, but more recently, Christmas songs. The last time I sang to him it was I Saw Three Ships and he dashed to my side, looking me in the eyes, and meowing.

The last time I blogged, we had three cats, and only Cairo and Chango would have their picture taken. About one in the morning, November 5, William woke us, because he hadn't been able to get Mister Foo in. Mister Foo always came in, sometimes a bit late, but this was unprecedented. We looked everywhere. We tapped a spoon on his favorite can of food, and opened every door to every room, calling his name. It was a cold, damp night. Our shoes, or bare feet, were wet, we murmured hopeful assurances, and looked further, and further from home. Geoff drove around the neighborhood. We walked outside our fenced yard. We called, we breathed slowly, through pursed lips.

For more than a week every phone call, each new text, rang like a portent, a heavy, solemn thing, perhaps the one. Each day, every long moment, was passed knowing it was coming, Grandmother's passing, and I thought I am ready. This is what is inevitable, and I felt sad, distracted, and sometimes relief for her, sometimes anguish for what I wanted to cling to, hope for, but I was not prepared. The call came after two in the morning, and we would have been asleep, at least some or most of us would have been in beds, dreaming; that is what I would have expected. So when the phone rang, and we were all awake, cold and worried, dreading the unspeakable likeliness that we had lost our darling Foo, I knew, with certainty and heartbreak, that we'd lost Grandmother, too.

One, or the other, but one at a time. Seriously. It's wrong to conflate these. Right? It's two things, separate, unequal. And I want to deal with each of them, mourn, process, and think of each incident in its own way, time, order. But. No... what can be reasoned, and understood intellectually, will not always stay neat and tidy in separate files, not for me, it seems.

I am sad, and anguished over my Grandmother's death... yes, she lived long, she loved and was loved, and I had every blessing of time and happiness with her, and my truth is, that it only makes me want her more.

Someday, I hope to feel easy, peaceful, like I can simply rejoice in the strength and grace of this woman, in every good thing she means to me, in every happy memory, and favor she inspired in our lives... it's there, in my heart, in my being, but too tender, and mixed with grief to be spoken of, to be rightly expressed.

November 5, and the low tide.

Nothing I can say or do is going to come out right. I will say things poorly, overshare, or be so reserved that I feel myself disappearing, shrinking. And that's just what I am contending with in my own head. Conventions, and other's opinions, assure that what I do or say, what I omit, or shy away from, will be misconstrued, or called into question. A part of me wishes I were not inclined to write, to blog, to love photographs and photography, to chronicling details, moments, ideas, feelings. If I could hammer nails all day, that could be a good thing. If I didn't feel compelled to sort my thoughts and emotions, and look at them on paper, it would be easier to feel private, unjudge-able.

A part of me longs for traditional ceremony, a system and order. We would all agree to to make a statement, wear black, close our doors, fast, or feast, get drunk and burn things, or weave a tapestry and sing hymns... just something arranged, understood, approved, so I can know what to do, how to be, when to go outside, when to sit still, where to put my hands when people are speaking to me. Everything is mixed up, contrary. I want to be held, but sometimes I fear a hug will make me fall apart, like it's all I can do to make myself hold together, contain everything, walk upright. I want to share this post, but I don't want pity, or attention, or to "make a fuss." I want my cat. I want to curse, eject all of the really sharp, profane expressions. I could break things. I forget to eat, but I want to consume everything... a whole cake, all of the tamales. Everything is mixed up, and I don't want to expose this to anyone, but if people knew, if people know, then I won't have to say, I am very sad, and I don't know what to do, and I may not say or do the "right thing." Yes... to have that much understood, that could be a good way to start.

Yesterday Friday, Today Saturday - Sat, 11/04/2017 - 11:35
The garden gate was rebuilt. Like, a month ago. And even though it was desperately needed, it was in such a sorry state, I barely let it register that it was done, and pretty, and easy to open and close. I feel strange that I was indifferent. I feel strange that I still have only a foggy recollection of any of it, though I bought the lumber, the paint. It's sturdy, now. And white.

As I was preparing photographs for this post, I remembered that a pretty Queen Ann house in Oregon was supposed to go on the market this week. I met the owner, at random... she wants to move to the Big Island. Honoka'a. Kohala, maybe. Life is strange. Then, almost suddenly, I found myself engrossed in real-estate porn... glossy photos, tax records, square footage, built-in storage, all so alluring, affordable, even. I was in another state. I felt like a housing adulteress, my cheeks flushed, and I closed the browser.

Halloween is packed, and the house looks a bit bereft. It's like a holiday vacuum in here. Maybe this time, and these empty spaces are like an aperitif, something to cleanse the palette before we dive into our next fête.

I was going to confess about how neglected the garden beds are, about wanting to rebuild the soil, start over, and to remind myself that I have intended to plant bulbs and sweet peas for eight years... but, then I felt too tired to write about all of that, which doesn't bode well for the effort required to do more than write about gardening.

November Sky, day 3. I seem to have begun a daily sky picture, which I am keeping at Instagram. Others are playing at Gnomevember, and there was Inktober, last month. Last month. So soon, the ink's barely dry.

What is this tree with the odd mini-leaves that grow around the stems, between the larger leaves?

Here is our autumn, at the lagoon. It is dry, faded, going to seed. It may seem a forlorn thing to note the dwindling flowers, the falling leaves, but I like them. I like transition, the hopefulness of seeds, the muted shades under gray skies. There is a calm, restful appeal to this time of year.

Today's November Sky, a blue almost improbable. I stepped out this morning, looked up into the Torrey Pines, and had to reacquaint my senses with this brightness. So blue, it felt foreign, startling, and then I imagined that if we were in an upside down place, we could fall into the sky and swim.

Ha! A Gnomevember. And Chango and Cairo, Caturday.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

In Between - Fri, 11/03/2017 - 13:08
PDX :: October 20... when we boarded the plane, I called my Mom, We're coming to you.

Twelve hours before, Maria was waking-up to me with my hand on her shoulder, "Maria, we're going on a trip, today." Geoff made all of the arrangements, and the rest of the day I attempted to do every single chore, errand, and gesture of love I could make for my family, before leaving for Oregon.

I love traveling with my children, and always have. Of course, some trips are difficult in spite of good companionship. This post is to recall moments during our visit to Oregon when we found beauty in nature, in family time, in walking and seeing whatever was around us.

Sometime during the day we stopped for chai tea, and then I was too busy, distracted, and flustered to think of eating. The flight was so turbulent the attendants couldn't come around with snacks, and by the time we landed, we were famished. With ten minutes to spare before closing, we slipped into a familiar cafe. I went to the Airbnb app, and found a place for us to sleep. It's always worth noting when things are simultaneously challenging, yet everything works out well enough.

Good morning, Portland :: October 21

Good morning, Petite Provence.

We had our oatmeal, croissants, fruit, butternut squash. I had coffee. Details. The walk down Division Street, the trees and homes, and rain, crossing the Willamette, adjusting my driving from California urgent to Oregon easy, remembering to breath. Details.

We found our way to Grandmother, to my Mom and Aunt, to the days ahead of being company, of doing what we could to be helpful, to support, and... anything of use. Shifts were being shared between my mom and her siblings, with dad coming in between conference meetings. Maria and I would try to give relief to anyone in need, to fill in gaps.

Maria made origami figures, as gifts, for all. And she drew. A card for her great-grandmother, other sketches, and portraits. I can't not say this... she was tireless, selfless, throughout. Maria went where I went, helped, listened, waited, walked, sat quietly, shared generously, and was an affable, sweet, loving companion. I check my words, and tend to be reserved with praise, so this is not effusive applause. Her warmth and sincerity, her patience, maturity, and considerate intelligence were highly commendable, and in all fairness, not exceptional, just especially appreciated in difficult circumstances.

Delia and Maria :: October 22

Morning at Aunt Becky's house, before we took the day shift at the hospital. Henry and Eve were there all night, now Maria and I could go in, and share the time with Aunt Becky and my Mom.

We slept in Eunice's room, where I was happy to be surrounded by Grandmother's things. African violets.

And this tiny photograph of Tia Maria, her aunt that raised her from when she was four years old.

In the hospital room were new things that will remind me of Grandmother, like this shawl the volunteers made as a gift for her, and it is as soft and warm as the sentiments they sent with it...

This shawl was crafted especially for you with love and prayers... may you be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace and wrapped in God's love.

Passing time.

Scenes from our lunch break and walk downtown.

Later, Maria and I went on a second walk, in search of the pink house we could see between trees, through the third floor window.

Trees and leaves, and all of the sights anyone would expect to see in fall, but for us a novelty, and uplifting to notice, enjoy. We loved the colors, the cold air, and the gentle twirl of each falling leaf. We found one or two, or a dozen, homes to fancy as our own, and we found the pink house...

There is, I am sure, a comforting poem about light, guidance, support, about the hope one candle or lamppost can impress. I felt it, there.

October 23...

There were not enough leaves outside. I brought this bunch, and a small rose, into my rental. Mom and I went out on a mission to find that one particular brand of lotion that Grandmother loves. We had to go to Corvallis. Were we away an hour? It was a quick trip, including business-life chores Delia needed to accomplish. It was almost a trivial excursion, but we filled it with laughs and connection, and it felt like breathing when you've been swimming far and deep, and you break the surface of the water before kicking and paddling, again. A relief, and energy for the next lap.

No truer words. This was one laugh we shared... how can dish towel philosophy so succinctly sum up my home-style?

For the fourth time, I have been to Corvallis, but too briefly. It's too beautiful, appealing a town for these short visits. I'll be back, I promise.

Maria and Aunt Becky kept company.

Eunice, Mexico City, 1953, By Maria

Sometimes Grandmother would say a few things, and we offered what we could. We searched for a book she was interested in reading, and played it for her on Audible. We found the lotion she loves, and she accepted massages.

And then another walk... and more houses to imagine, to ask what if?

What if?

This was an angel's work, showing us backyard hens, fat and free-ranging. Chickens are my therapy.

And nature, too... gently, without words, reminding me that there are cycles in life, seasons, and that changes and transitions can happen gradually. Was it poignant, intentional? Or was I just receptive? Flowers seem a fitting messenger to evoke my Grandmother, her life, her loves, her journey.

Night, in Aunt Becky's home. My cousin, Debbie, had some thrift shop finds to share with us, and we settled into things like... laundry, taking pictures of old photographs, and filling the first page of a new sketchbook.

A new home :: October 24... Hospice.

Grandmother asked me and Maria to hold the quilt up so she could see it. We lifted it off her legs, holding it until she nodded. We sat at her bedside, pointing to each print we recognized, running our fingers lightly across the patchwork strips. What is this pattern? I see half-square triangles. And then? Details. Distracting myself with questions about details. Recording details. Grandmother slept. Maria and I stayed the night with her.

There are many reasons I blog, remembering is an important one. I like to write, I love to take pictures. The blog makes for a nice place to keep my pastimes in order, and to give us a story, memories to revisit. My head, even my heart, are full of that last night we spent with Eunice. I could write it all down, literally every detail, by the hour, by the minute. Something in me feels a sense of capturing, holding her in those recordings. I dread losing any memory, as though she is in them, as though I can retain a part, any part, of what I love about her.

It's a terrible and muddled place where I am, in my head. At once heartbroken, anxious, even in denial, and then thankful, humbled, in awe. Every bit of our time there, at the hospital, in the hospice room, was sacred, private, dear for it's blessings, anguished for the suffering. The muddled parts comes from wanting to write it all down, to keep all the details pinned to paper, sealed, and even to share it... because I want everyone to know her, to see her, to feel how precious and dear she is. But the scared pieces, intimate aspects... I couldn't do it justice, it's not right. We cannot pin things down, we break them, when we try. It's a blessing that we felt it, and in time, in natural and gentle ways we will share what we can, and always hold the memories dear.

And the vigil, the time between, is with us still. My thoughts are on my Grandmother, and with my Mom... and I am thankful, humbled, in awe, again, and again, as I hold them, and all of my family, loved ones, close to my thoughts, in my heart.