Chicken Blog by Natalie

*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.