Chicken Blog by Natalie

For the record... - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 09:59
My children decided to make secret guesses of how many pictures I would take while we were in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Each of them wrote down their number, and I carried on in my usual manner, taking a picture of anything I saw beautiful, interesting, note-worthy, funny, or strange. They had one clue or intimation and that was... in eleven days traveling to and from Oregon, I took 2,300 pictures. So, how many pictures did I take on a twelve day visit to the Midwest? Oh, and I wanted to travel light so this was only with my iPhone. Do you want to guess?

The pictures are still uploading to my computer. And to be honest, I am already regretting the shots I didn't get, the moments I didn't capture. And though packing light was a good idea, I am not sure how good a job I actually did. I probably should have brought the Sony camera, and left my paints and brushes. I never embroidered. But I did crochet. Never wore socks, and I could have got by without the dress. One pair of shoes was fine. Funny... I am tired, and still buzzing from this trip, but am I thinking of the next one? How to do it better? What not to do, etc? Maybe. No harm in daydreaming a little. Can't hurt to be prepared, am I right?

Still loading...

Not all of the pictures are keepers, of course. On the plane home, I went through my phone and pulled out the obvious duds. There are duplicates, but I like to see those on my big monitor, before deciding which ones to delete. Some pictures are notes... a memory device for names, numbers, addresses, ideas. It really bugs me (read: Crushes my soul) when I take a beautiful picture, but don't notice that someone blinked... take two, that's my rule, but I forget.

I love seeing the pictures as they load onto my Mac, and then finding that 1 in a 1,000 that stands out, the one that really touches me, makes me glad I take pictures. It's not always the best picture, but it tells a good story, makes me connect to the moment. I love it when that happens.

Still loading. I am seeing our afternoon at the Milwaukee Public Museum appear on the screen, a moment at a time. All the butterflies, then dioramas, then pictures from the car window as we drove through old Milwaukee looking for Café Hollander.

Sector 67 pictures... still loading. This is going to take a while.

I should unpack, start the first load of travel laundry, sort the mail, send thank you cards, start a diet, pull weeds, clean my car.

No... ah, gee. The vacation is over. The adventure is done. It's back to "normal" and trying to keep the dust buffalo from herding, stampeding. I should probably should get a real job, a paying one, clean my desk, do sit-ups, eat kale. When traveling, I keep it all together. I can manage... my world in a suitcase is small enough to figure out, maintain. I love that about traveling. Now we are home, and... let's just say, I should pack light in my daily, "real" life, too.

Is that why it's so easy for me to fall in love with the places I go? Is it because I am traveling light, and have room to see the beauty? There's something to that, I am sure. Of course places seem wonderful and the grass is greener, when I am on vacation, traveling. But, it's more than that. I mean, for one thing, the grass really is greener in Wisconsin, so are the trees, and the fields. Verdant, lush. And there is water, and moss, and even though those will be gone come fall, then winter, it's the tenuousness that adds to the appeal, that gives the sense of awe, appreciation, and urgency to enjoying it all. To combat the siren's call of big homes, screened porches, tree lined sidewalks, with corner cafes, and lakes, canoes, fireflies, and all of the Midwest's charms, I (m)uttered the following... Chiggers, mosquitos, and ticks, over and over, again. Geoff added, Twenty below, to be sure. And still, in spite of bug bites, and the threat of sub-zero days, I fall in love, all over again, with Main Street and Willy Street, barns, and cornfields, all that green, and the hope for snow.

Now the Door County pictures are loading, and I could cry. I wish we were there, but with our cats, and goats, the chickens, and any of my friends that want to canoe on a lake, pick strawberries and raspberries, then play Scrabble on the porch as the fireflies come out.

Chiggers, mosquitos, and ticks. Twenty below, oh my. Keep saying it.

Alex, Bambi, and Maria went out with Georgia to pick strawberries, and they came home with 16 pounds. They washed and hulled them, and that was our breakfast, with whipped cream and biscuits.

Chiggers, mosquitos, and ticks. Twenty below, oh my. Keep saying it.

I really should start that laundry.

Remember to guess... just for fun. How many pictures do you think I took?

Beautiful Oregon - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 07:00
June 1~

Driving in Oregon, even in the city, is a pleasure. Oregon drivers are patient and considerate. Oregon scenery and highways are beautiful. I just thought I'd mention this, because even though we had a "long" drive to my folks' place, it was a breeze. We stopped, too, to see my aunt and her new husband, my cousin. We visited the Carousel... which we have been watching progress for a few years. We paid a visit to Trader Joe's for my mom, and we went over rivers and through woods, and arrived at our next stop practically invigorated. And then... we slept, cozily, before waking up to a gorgeous day on the Oregon coast.

Visiting the Marine Life Center, in Charleston, Oregon...

Another happy visit to Sunset Bay State Park.

Lots to enjoy in Cape Arago State Park...

We didn't drive far but we saw a lot. It was the nicest kind of day... without stress, or a tight schedule. We followed our impulses, taking in the sights. It was the kind of time one looks forward to sharing with loved ones, and I am so glad we were there to enjoy Ron and Delia's company.

A Mini Portland Tour - Fri, 06/22/2018 - 10:00
We've had three full days in Portland to see sights and take it all in, but before we head out of town, we put in a small order for just two more stops. And while it wasn't an intentional theme, I think our mini tour, though short on time, filled a tall order for fun!

In our own, limited, survey of Portland donuts... we vote Pips Original as our #1. They have a spirit for community like no one else, and that's what makes them inspiring to follow on Instagram. Nate Snell sells mini-donuts, coffee, and chai... but he delivers a warm and compassionate attitude about people, fellowship, and engagement. Fresh and original donuts make a tasty treat, and a perspective that promotes cooperation, kindness, and activism is a recipe for success we can get behind.

After those warm and yummy strawberry-rhubarb mini-donuts... how about some mini figures and bricks? We couldn't leave town without stopping to see 3,000 square feet of LEGO bricks and mini-figs, at Bricks & Minifigs.

Overall, I'd say we finished our Portland visit quite nicely. We never ran afoul of anything, and we stayed focused. It was a snap putting together this mini-me, but I'll be a good egg and lay off the puns...

Portland After The Falls... - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:29
Do you know about the Horse rings and the Portland Horse Project? We noticed these old rings in the curb when we were in Alberta Arts neighborhood. Alex did a search about them and learned that the few horse rings that are still around sometimes have little horses tethered to them. Naturally, we were hoping to discover one, and the next day we spied a piebald mare. Should I give coordinates for this find? Or is it better to leave a little mystery? I felt like we had stumbled upon treasure! The little ratty-rat I adopted from The Fernie Brae, mug of chai in hand, stood with the horse for a touristy snapshot.

On our last full day in the Portland area we were determined to squeeze in more, so we visited the Columbia River Gorge, and the Bonneville Dam, and it was wonderful. The next half of the day was dedicated to visiting a few places that we didn't want to miss out on. We already have a list of places we are sorry we missed. It's not an easy assignment... See as Much of Portland as You Can, Because It All Looks Awesome. We did our best.

It just happened that the very neighborhood we were staying in is full of interesting attractions, and so we set out on foot, and Max led us directly to QuarterWorld Arcade! This was definitely a striking contrast with our morning in the ferns and waterfalls. In it's own way, it was happily mind-blowing! We found ourselves in an old-school arcade, a place that was once a theater, but is now packed with pinball machines and new and old arcade games. And air hockey. Air Hockey. There also happens to be a bar, a musical Tesla Coil, and it's totally family friendly. All we needed were quarters, and Max, again led the way... the arcade visit and game play was Max's treat.

Air hockey makes me laugh so hard, it's like a work out... my abs were sore!

We walked out still laughing, and wishing real hard that we could have a neighborhood arcade. Portland, you're so lucky. And cool.

Por Que No? We were thirsty, and for once, there was no line, so we seized our opportunity to see what all the fuss was about at this local taqueria.

This was no pre-mix, watery, over sweetened horchata concoction. No. This was thick. It was almost like some champurrado spilled into the horchata. I should have asked. I wish I'd asked. It was not like any horchata I've ever had, and it may be reason enough to go back to Portland, and why not?

Que bueno.

And more walking... and more roses, and cats, and gardens, and hints of the character and charm, that makes me think why not? for just about any whimsical whim. I really miss seeing children sitting on curbs, reading books, people on their porches smiling warmly, as the day turns to dusk, and soft lights glow from inside homes. I miss neighborhoods mixed in with shops, cafes, community spirit.

The last order of business for the day... finish the pizza box art for American Dream Pizza. Alex and Maria left ADP with blank boxes, so they could add to the gallery of pizza box art and they'd been steadily working on their boxes, but now we were pushing the deadline. We wanted to hand in their boxes before closing, and we just made it...

Here is Alex's, in progress. A lively and magical art gallery.

Maria chose to illustrate her original characters on her pizza box.

Mission accomplished, and a happy end of our last full day in Portland.

To The Falls - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 03:00

Okay. So. It's basically our last full day in Portland, and we are really eager to see more, and do more, and this motivates us to get up and out the door, almost early. Our first stop... Fleur de Lis, where can have coffee, tea, someone got a croissant. We enjoyed the brisk morning air, the friendly dogs, and the prospect of driving up the Columbia River Gorge. I like Fleur de Lis, and I like that Max pointed out to me that I seem attracted to French places in Portland. I am ok with this. I am 100% certain that the city of Portland has about 142 amazing places just for coffee, or tea, and another 1,000 for breakfast, and so on. Finding good eats and great ambiance in this City is not the issue... the difficulty is deciding on which amazing place to go.

Now, about the rest of this post. It is an apologetic, merciless photo album. I am not forcing anyone to sit through my slide show. I promise I won't ask you to tell me your favorite picture. It's possible you will question the necessity of posting two nearly identical photos, side by side, even. The thing is... I want to. I took the pictures thinking, God, I love this place, and it was a prayerful and solemn declaration. At moments I felt tearful and overcome with the beauty and tranquility. I was in awe of the the story of Sacagawea, carrying her son, exploring with Lewis and Clark, coming through this wilderness. And I knew, that in a matter of days all of it would be inaccessible, again, maybe forever. No more fern groves, no more waterfalls over basalt columns, no more quiet paths around tree lined creek beds, soft mounds of green moss. Mosses growing on mosses, growing on gnarled and noble branches. I can't take any of these things I love home with me, except in pictures, and words. Most times I share about a quarter of the pictures I take; this time I am posting at least half, because I want to see it, all of it, again, and again. I won't say much about the pictures. You should go. I hope you can go. The Columbia River Gorge is beautiful.

Vista House.

Latourell Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls

Eagle Creek Fire Response, United States Forest Service.

Multnomah Falls.

The fish ladder at Bonneville Dam.

Take Us To The Columbia River Gorge, posted August 23, 2016. Maria and I will always feel fortunate to have seen these places before the Eagle Creek Fire. We feel sad for the damages and losses, for the closed access, and missed opportunities to enjoy these natural spaces. We so wish fire prevention and good stewardship of our planet would to be a priority and concern for everyone. We stand to lose so much if we don't act with care.

Tourists in Portland - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 09:00
Waking up, and ready to head out, to be tourists!
a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure.

Yeah. That was us. Some people balk at the idea of going to a place, doing a thing, eating something, lest they be labeled a "tourist." But, not I. Mostly. I once missed ordering the best salad in France, because a stupid guidebook cautioned against eating from a particular part of town that was strictly for tourists. My mom got the salad, and I took a bite... now that salad haunts me, and taunts me, and I should have behaved like a tourist when I had the chance.

On our third day in Portland, we rented a vehicle (and we named it Doughdge,) and we drove it to as many places for pleasure as we could manage. No regrets.

Now that we weren't dependent on public transportation (which, btw, is actually quite awesome in Portland,) we could go further afield, and squeeze more into our day. We began in Alberta Arts, which will always be a sentimental favorite, because it was my introduction to Portland, when I chanced to land in this gem of a neighborhood before a flight home.

We parked on a side street. And walked. Up Alberta, down Alberta. And it was delightful.

I hesitated... do I always take a picture of the giant white bun?? Ah, well, then why break with tradition?

Tradition is what brought us to Petite Provence for breakfast.

Maria and I needed the brothers to know the tastiness of their croissants and especially their raspberry preserves.


And the oatmeal. Maria declares that she likes it better every time. I hope this is a tradition we can keep.

A hard part of being a tourist is when you are reminded that you'll have to go home, eventually, and that you'll be too late for the Frog & Toad Musical, and you're going to miss the Pinball and Arcade Show.

But we did get to visit both Collage locations, and meet a lot of great dogs.

Rest in Peace, Free Hutch. This was such a cool stand, like a Little Free Library, but sharing all sorts of things. I'm glad I saw it when I did... it made a nice impression on me.

Grant. This place is waiting for you. Let's all be tourists here, together, someday. Yeah?

Oh, man. This is a lot of pictures, even for Chcikenblog. Are you still with me? Actually, no one reads blogs any more. I read that... probably in a blog, but the glossy, commercial kind that post everything in numbered lists, and leave a funny after-taste. Anyway, I figure since no one is into blogs, then I can post tons of pictures, and ramble on, flitting from one topic to another, and it won't matter. But if you are here, and you have kept up: Thank you. And if you ever go to Portland, I hope you will try the ice cream at Salt and Straw, because they have amazing and unique flavors, and they give lots of samples, generously, kindly. You deserve generous kindness. (This is not a sponsored post.)

Portland, which smells like roses, knows... sometimes you just want to eat flowers.

Orange blossom sorbet with edible flowers.

Mt Tabor Park~ walking...

Neighborhood walking~

Artifacts... where we found things.

Still walking~

This was the spot I spied from afar, and I mentioned it to WAMMO... there's this place, it says "Magical Gallery," we could check it out. And so what began as a chance sighting, then was a curious moment, soon became a highlight of the day... the whole Portland visit. The Fernie Brae was a magical gallery. William recognized artists and their work, right away, and his knowledge and delight enhanced the experience. Alex and Maria, too, were enchanted with all of the original art, the sculptures, the quality of the collections, for sale, and displayed.

Kim, I wanted to fly you over, and walk through this wonderland with you. Some pictures I took, thinking "For Kim. For Kim. For Kim." Your art belongs here, too.

Scott Foster... SAATCHI Art

Maybe you recognize some of the art? William, and Alex did. I was glad to have William to describe for me why it was familiar, that we were looking at original work by Brian Froud, conceptual designer and costume designer for The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. This darling, yet unassuming shop also has work by Wendy Froud... she worked on Yoda!! (geek squeee) And! They have art by Toby Froud! (geek squeee) The babe with the power? Labyrinth? Ok. I'm cool.

This was an epic tourist moment. Traveling, and visiting places for pleasure.

Now, dinner. Away to American Dream Pizza, and as it happens, some more art, of a kind...

Maria and I have a fond place in our hearts for this place, because we stumbled upon it when we were lost in the Portland wilderness, overheated, turned around, hungry, and searching for Pokemon!

St Johns Bridge. It's still light out! We are still being tourists, and driving, and walking, and finding beauty everywhere we go!

And finally, as tourists, we make a very tourist move... can you guess where?


We did this.

Split five ways, over two days... the Voodoo guy was the favorite. And. Oh, I am so embarrassed to say... that cereal crusted donut mashup? Uh, it was tastier than I care to admit. I feel like such a total tourist.

The Next Day in Portland - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 09:52
Our first day in Portland began late in the afternoon, at Union Station, walking to our new neighborhood. We had dinner at Petite Provence, then walked further still, in the other direction. And about all I could do was take pictures of flowers. And the next day... almost the same. More flowers! More blue sky and bright light, more houses that look so inviting, I start asking where would we put the goats? Is there room for a router and a mill? Our second day in Portland could have been much like the first, except this time we took a bus back downtown and visited Powell's and ate at Anna Thai Basil...yum, green bubble tea, for me. Those were nice differences... but still, with flowers.

I explored a bit while everyone else was starting showers, waking up. That's when I discovered even more cool and intriguing spots along Hawthorne, and moss, and lichen, and fungi... honestly, this town doesn't even have to try to impress me, I am so easily amused.

When we first arrived at our Portland home (Airbnb) we met Luther, and his family, and this big lug of a puppy-doggo brought me a shoe he was jealously holding, and he almost let me touch it. "When you come to the gate, Luther will bark a lot, but don't worry. He's always friendly." He hardly barked, and he was friendly, but for the rest of our stay, Luther was mostly shy, and this was that last good look I got of him... still claiming that shoe.

We didn't go directly to Powell's. With the all day metro passes, we enjoyed hopping on and off busses any place that we pleased, so Maria and I chose a few memorable stops to revisit, and we walked around some more. Then Alex got a terrible nose-bleed... there's not really really any point to this, but it was memorable. And while we waited for the 20 bus, I took this picture. Later, I considered all the ways the mural felt relatable, and it goes like this... we know a Portland firefighter named George, and he has a mustache, too, we were waiting for the bus, I quilt, and had a buff orpington named Lady Betty Orpington, we love cats and rockets (though I question the practicality of combining them.) There's not really any point to this, but it does illustrate how easily amused I am.

This view delighted me to no end. And I am going to begin wearing more flowers in my hair.

About an hour before we got to Powell's I remembered to not over-sell it. I tried to play it cool, so they could enjoy their own first impressions of the awesomeness that is Powell's. Let's not kid ourselves, I was maybe not as cool as I hoped, but in the end, none of my descriptions or gaga-faced exclamations mattered, because Powell's is cool, and big, and incredibly well stocked. I could have said everything, or nothing at all... that book store impressed all on its own. We had a great time, together, in our own favorite sections, absorbed, distracted, inspired, and awe-struck. It was totally cool.

This. Tempted. Me. So. Bad. I had to resist surrendering to my dark side, my cynical, sarcastic, and recently very disgusted with the state of the disunion side. But, cathartically, humorously... I could fill these little journals in a snap!

And here... here I am just judging a book by its cover. Like looking in a mirror. I had to take a picture. Now I've Googled Nicol J Georges, and I think I should have brought this book home.

I don't know how long we were in there, but after a time I landed here, on a long bench, and just steadied myself, breathed deeply, and wondered How big will our rental vehicle be? How much of the children's college savings can I dip into? Then reasoned, Heck, buying books is like investing in their college success.

Too much rationalizing. It was probably time for lunch.

Somewhere, in a quiet Portland neighborhood, beside the sidewalk, are some sparkly dinosaurs on a stump, and I stopped to stand the little orange one upright, then I took his picture, and sighed contentedly, because I am easily amused. Then I noticed the greeting and invitation to play. Portland is this wonderful, and inviting.

This may be one of my favorite pictures of the day. I wish I could paint it, or make a quilt inspired by it... but I'd be sad not to get the light as I see it, to miss the colors, or botch the details. There's something here that is so compelling to me, and I am not even sure what it is. I am so glad I took the picture... at the time I thought it would be too busy, and rambling, that the colors would be discordant. It makes me happy to discover a new kind of beauty, to realize that life can do this... show new beauty, more inspiration. Thank goodness for next days.

Portland In Bloom - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 14:38
We stepped off the train with all of our bags, and we set out for a bus stop. Was it up 3 blocks, and over 1? Or was it down two blocks and over 4? Well, we found our way, and were safely delivered to our new neighborhood. I had this vision of Portland that was locked in late summer, mid fall, and very early spring, and I was eager to see those familiar seasonal gardens, colors, varieties. I was wholly unprepared for Portland in full spring, in dappled sunlight, beneath blue skies... which is to say Portland in bloom! Springtime in Portland, Oregon is stunning. The streets we crossed and followed, from bus stop to Airbnb, were lined with pretty homes with even prettier gardens and it seemed as though there was not a single square inch of earth that was not green or floral, sprouting or fragrant. Portland smells like roses! Not like a perfume or a florist's shop... it smells like flowers covering picket fences, abundantly cascading over walls, dancing on gentle breezes, and making the air light, rosy, sweet smelling. And these are my favorite sorts of gardens... untamed, loose and carefree, lovingly tended but not too fussed over.

Walk with me?

Just a few blocks.

Even the petals, fallen and fading, were captivating to me.

I won't say anything... for a while.

One Way All Aboard - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 20:51
We are so lucky. Seriously. We have been places, and seen things, and we have plans to see more, do more... and I guess, I can't start sharing this trip without acknowledging how thankful, and delighted I am about what we get to do, travel. Boats, trains, cars, planes, in an RV, by bus, walking... there are small and great ways of seeing the world, and we have had the pleasure of enjoying so many journeys. This is just one more.

"Travel is not reward for working, it's education for living."
~Anthony Bourdain

We boarded the Surfliner just after sunrise. This commuter line took us to Los Angeles, and along the way there were beautiful views of our Southern California coastline. I watched Max, and Alex, and nudged them occasionally, giving them what was probably an awkward smile. But I was trying to convey that glowing maternal look that is meant to say, "This is a special event, isn't it? I know you remember when we did this before, the trip you loved so much, and here we are making the journey, again, 14 years later." But yeah, pretty sure it mostly looked like an awkward smile.

I certainly remember when we made this journey, roundtrip to Eugene, Oregon. I was seven months pregnant. Thirty hours on a train is one way of putting your feet up, but I wouldn't call it "restful!" Luckily the memories are all happy ones, and revisiting this adventure, this time with Maria, felt like a dream come true.

This time, our Coast Starlight train ride would be one way, to Portland, where we would rent a vehicle for the drive south, and home.

When I reminded them that we were a block away from Olvera Street, they left the Union Station waiting room and went to have a look around. I pictured them outside, having a glance from the curb, but they went many steps further, and walked the entire length of the Old Los Angeles lane, all the way to the plaza. I stayed with the luggage, which was fine, necessary, but I do envy them that nostalgic stroll.

Aboard the train, settled in.

By timing our lunch just right, we had an ocean view from Ventura, and through Gaviota.

Actually, most of this line is very scenic, picturesque. I love it.

We were probably passed the prime of spring blooms in California, but the scenery was still very pretty, and we were never disappointed or bored.

Maria had her laptop, and Max carried one, too. So there was music, solitaire, and Scratch. Plus, we had origami paper, drawing paper, yarn, lengthy discussion, and naps to enjoy.

I can never resist trying to capture artful photographs of the views from our car, even though I know they'll be blurry or reflect too much from inside.

But... maybe the reflection is artful. I enjoy trying, and having snapshots that remind me that I love riding trains, and watching the world as we whirr by.

Poinsettias were blooming at the station in San Luis Obispo... that's one of the stops where you can step off and walk a bit while they take on supplies.

By dinner time we were rolling through the Salinas Valley, with the beautiful Santa Lucia Range to the west. It always looks so inviting, especially, with the marine layer of low clouds blanketing the mountain tops.

The night rumbles along... Emeryville, Martinez, Davis, Redding. By Shasta, I am wide awake and peering at the change in scenery. The volcanic mountains, the forests, lakes, and rives.

Maria and I eagerly made our way to the dining car, for breakfast, but especially to have more windows, more view.

Almost Albany.

Crossing the Willamette River, and Portland's Union Station is in view... uh, well, but out the other window!

(Full disclosure: Amtrak removed the Parlor Car from the Coast Starlight Line, and it is a big loss for sleeping car travelers. The Parlor Car was a place to walk to and to socialize, meeting fellow passengers, enjoying the big viewing windows. It was, honestly a brilliant aspect of the whole train experience. Without any indication, discount, or apology, Amtrak took this away. They made no mention of the changes when I made reservations and paid for our rooms. The lounge car available to all of the train patrons can only be reached by going through 2 dining cars, and a coach... which means disrupting an already busy, crowded kitchen scene, in the hopes of finding any space in an already cramped, and much in demand car. It changes the entire experience, and I can't so enthusiastically recommend the Coast Starlight Sleeper-cars as I used to.)

Great Expectations... - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 13:26
The start... our freshest faces, our peak of anticipation and good intentions. I love this part of a trip, and many other parts, really. And, it goes back even further than this. The anticipation, and eager, good intentions, hopeful envisioning, began months before, when I bought our train tickets. My giddiness rose every time I saw an Amtrak traveling north, or south, watched children waving from the train window, and imagined our journey, our train window views. I would shiver with happiness and a certainty, a conviction... when our turn came, it was going to be fantastic.

So here we are, about a quarter after six in the morning, and I am running on about 2 hours of sleep. We took the train to Portland, Oregon, spent a few days there, rented a van, and travelled south to my Mom and Dad's place, before driving all the way home. But that's not how I want to tell the story, or remember our journey. I want to write down all of my impressions, the funny incidences, and best meals, favorite sights. I wish I could have posted from the road, but the Blogger app doesn't work any more. I posted some pictures to Instagram, which I enjoy doing.

From the Coast Starlight, Vandenberg Air-force Base, where we could see the Space-X launch pads (nerd swoon.)

I wish I could have posted from the road, while we were in the middle of our trip... to keep it current and fresh, to stay on top of the details I love so much, to feel caught up, and not fall behind. Now I am home two days... the first day home we were sort of exhausted and turned around, having spent two long days driving, and I was feeling like I was between three worlds... the redwoods, and rose gardens, and the 405 Interstate during rush hour. That is disorienting, for sure. But today is our second day at home, and I am feeling melancholy, and to be very honest... kind of sad. And I want to be clear: I am not disappointed in our trip or about being home, but there's just this transitional phase, where I miss what we had, where we were, what we left behind. And I am a bit loathe to jump back into laundry, cat litter, bureaucratic flaming hoops, spam email, post election analysis. My sweet peas are mostly dead, and I have a garden of things that need attention. In fact, everything needs my attention, and... well, I need a vacation.


The thing is... this is not the best time for me to blog. I want to capture the beauty and wonder of all we saw and experienced. I want to recount the humor and patience it takes to arrive in a city, managing five bodies, luggage and sleeping bags on a city bus, walking to a strange house, and settling into the adventure. I am anxious about forgetting little things, like how every home had a garden simply exploding with the most gorgeous flowers. The air smelled like roses. Not perfume, not a floral shop... just natural, rambling, abundant, sun dappled, home-grown roses. I want to write entire posts dedicated to and celebrating flowers I have never seen before, blossoms whose names I can only imagine. But now is not the time. I am sad, and overwhelmed, and feeling insufficient. Is that the right word? No, but maybe. Inadequate? Scant. Deficient. Yes.

The truth is, I built up an idea, and got on the train with a belief, that I would make this journey and be restored, find answers, and new resolve. It's even more naive and irrational than that... I was going to put ailments and anxiety behind me and jumpstart my life, get fit, reverse aging, make art, restore confidence, connect with new friends, meet goals, find my mission, feel my worth, and discover my destiny, then come home and clean the house top to bottom, and buy new bras that fit, without underwires.

What in the...

Well. It's true. I did that to myself. It wasn't an agenda, outlined and deliberate. It was just beneath the surface, a feeling, a wish. But I think it was pervasive, nonetheless. Bits of the scheme and hope, prodded me on, and led me to believe, to lean in, optimistically. And, naturally, things didn't quite work out as my ambitious psyche aspired.

If I had blogged during the trip, I would have recounted the day we travelled up the Columbia River Gorge and found the Vista House, the same intriguing little structure atop the bluff that caught my attention the first time I was visiting the Gorge. I would have posted about hiking around Latourell Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, before we came to dear Multnomah Falls.

But now, in this little pity party mood, I think... The best horchata I've had in ages, is 1,062 miles away.

This is not the best time for me to blog.

From the road, I would have loved to write about Alberta Arts, and walking to the food pod for our post-Powells lunch, discovering Quarterworld, being in the same neighborhood as Fernie Brae, which truly was a magical gallery.

I'll need some time, a little space, to get through this funk. I started the laundry. There are a few last things to dig out of the rental van, which I return in a few hours. But there's already a long list of things that need to get done, and I have this doleful foreboding that blogging will fall further and further away from my focus and I'll start to lose track of our days in the PNW, motivation to write it all down. I still haven't finished sorting our New England stories. Sigh.

June 1, Sunset Bay, Oregon

I love Portland. I love Oregon. We walked a lot, and there are well over 2,000 new photographs on my computer... pictures that will remind me of the flowers, the smiles, the amusing moments, and beautiful ones, too. Nonetheless, I have not reversed time, or reduced the miles between here, and there. There is where my Mom and Dad live, where the drivers are friendlier and neighborhoods feel like small worlds, that can be sampled on foot, met with a smile. Here... well, for now, here is where I am face to face with "real life" and the things I have not managed well, the stuff I gotta do, and issues I have not resolved, which is why I really shouldn't be blogging right now.

June 2, Coquille Lighthouse, Oregon
Max, Maria, William, Alex, Delia and Ron, Natalie

I was going to mourn and grieve and let it all out... there. That's a big truth, or hope. I am afraid a lot of hard things, and losses have been bottled up inside me, and pushed down for later, and I thought, or believed, that this would be the time when I could talk, and cry, and release, heal, understand. I still have not poured my heart out, opened up, made a ritual or gesture of... I don't know. My grandmother's death still feels so recent, so unreal and tender, that even there, with my Mom, in her home, so close to all of it, it felt too soon, too raw. And I am sad, because of those thousand miles that make it near impossible to try again, to take small steps, linger again over a cup of tea and let the conversation flow.

Sometimes I feel guilty, apologetic, for not accepting that life is unfair, that we can't always get what we want, for hoping I can have more. I know life is unfair. I know we can't always get what we want. But that knowledge does not take away the sorrow, or make me any less frustrated, disappointed. And I see that this applies to many things... even the blessing of my grandmother's long life, 95 years, does not make me "happy" or "thankful." I want her. I want more. I love good things, beautiful moments, meaningful relationships, views, train rides, art supplies, and I want more. And I feel kind of guilty, a bit apologetic for saying so, and maybe this isn't such a good time for me to trying to blog about this.

We ran around, and laughed. We got real hungry, ate good stuff, played, explored, all of that. I really do hope to share more, and include links, and more pictures. I would love to tell the stories from our train ride to Portland, the morning at the labyrinth trail.

I want to recall all of it, because I loved our trip, what we saw, and did, the redwoods, and the rivers, the heights, and expanses, even the way we missed our cats, and wished Geoff were with us, or how we ran out of time, and needed to get home.

Now we are home, and unpacking. I have some souvenirs... the pictures, the new ideas and impressions, and some pretty things, like a drop spindle, postcards. The pictures are my favorite souvenir. I always wish I had taken more pictures, and I know it's because what I really want is to bring home a redwood tree. An actual tree, and the riverbank, the smell of Portland, its front porches, and neighbors that say Hello, isn't this a beautiful evening? Enjoy! as they walk by. I want to have my mother's bathroom shelf here, so I can touch the little bottles, and gaze at the pictures, the art hanging above it. My souvenirs are the stories, the details, the smell and feel of places, the sentiments I enjoyed when we didn't run out of gas, when we found the right bus, when the pizza place was closed, when we figured out our accommodations and laughed in the dark, as quietly as possible. Later, when I have time, and the dryer isn't buzzing, when I don't feel this transitional haze and melancholy, I hope I will say more, hold more down before it can fly away, to enjoy, to savor.

If we were Lego figures... we might look like these. Just a funny moment from our last day in Portland.

Anticipating - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:09
We haven't left, yet. We haven't finished packing. I still have delusions of grandeur about how much housecleaning I will accomplish before our pre-dawn train departure. We won't be out of the country, or even this time zone. But, I am already homesick. Or, at least, I am feeling anticipation. I will be homesick. I will want Chango to sleep around my head, and talk to me in the wee hours. I will want to see Cairo carry his ratty-rat around the house, and curl up at Geoff's feet. I will want to cut new bundles of sweet peas, and watch the peaches for signs of ripeness, catch them before the birds. For several happy months I have been in a giddy state of happy anticipation of traveling to Portland, of introducing the boys to moss, waterfalls, tree shaded streets, and countless other PNW delights and joys. I have been imagining the Oregon coast, late night pajama parties with my mommy, sleeping in the redwoods. It will be a wonderful adventure... I know it. So, why? Why am I already a bit homesick?

Oh, Cairo. How will I last without your withering look of judgement? Geoff, if I find a riverside cottage, with a huge workshop, will you bring the goats and chickens and cats, and all of our friends, and meet us there? If not, then I will be home, soon... I miss you, already.

Dear Friend, - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 12:46
Dear Friend,

This week marks the blogaversary of this space, Chickenblog. I just realized this, right now. And, just now, I am granting myself a little grace, because normally I suffer from guilt for not writing letters, hardly ever, and for consistently dropping the ball with greeting cards, too. I am a total greeting card in the mail failure. No argument. But I blog! And this blogging habit began as a means of communicating with family and friends when I was struggling to keep up with regular letter writing.

Dear Friend,

I am delighted to realize that this is the anniversary of my blog, where I have been writing and sharing photographs, staying connected, making new friends, and enjoying exchanges with people, around the world, for 16 years! I have been the lucky recipient of generous expressions of support and encouragement, good advice, and even hilarious spam. I've met fellow bloggers, travelled to meet some, and welcomed others in our home. There have been gifts, received, and given, and a few promotional giveaways, drawings for prizes, silly games, pointless posts, and effusive ones, too. I struggle with all that I am not, with what I wish I were, but all of that aside... what I mostly have here is a lovely collection of good memories, and reminders of the best days, and moments of overcoming life's twists and turns.

I painted a love letter to my mother for Mother's Day. And I am bringing it, and her grandchildren, to her. I'm also thinking of bringing this new crochet project I started. I had three works in progress sitting on my bed... all appealing and satisfying crochet projects, and still, I had a compulsion to learn a new stitch and pattern, so I looked up "shell stitch blanket." It was a hard start at first, as all new enterprises are, but now it's gotten to the satisfyingly challenging point, and I don't want to leave it alone while we are away. Really, in anticipation of this trip, I should be cleaning, planning, packing, and tying up loose ends... practical, adult-life loose ends, not actual yarns.

So, the cliche is... a picture is worth a thousand words. And the thing is I want to write those thousand words. I want to tell the story behind every loaf pan, and sweet pea petal. There is a memory, an anecdote, or a whimsical daydream to go with any of these photographs, but the day and hours are slipping by. It takes so much time to format the images, and then type in each one, and writing, of course will take even longer. I need a better office chair. My neck hurts. I need to run errands, write notes for Geoff so he'll know which can holds goat food, and when to collect eggs. I gotta clean house, and pack to leave, and double-triple check tickets and reservations. I should maybe probably for sure make one more reservation, unless I really believe I can drive straight home from San Francisco (it's not impossible, but 10+ hours on the road is an easy way to blow all the rest and peace gained on vacation.) I am just going to leave these pictures up, and hope to come back, check in, and add notes and observations. I'm not sure I'll be able to blog from the road, but maybe I will be able to edit this post... we'll see.

Oh... and any suggestions? Must see spots in Portland? San Francisco? Along the central coast?

Springing Along - Fri, 05/11/2018 - 11:31

The days continue to whirr by, and so I have another huge batch of photographs to share. The pictures help me to pause and reflect, to gather some memories of what we have seen, where we have been. We have seen art and flowers, and the fruit of labors. Alex has had his art in two exhibitions, first Gaslight Gathering, then the school gallery. By the way, he doesn't sign his name across his painting... that was my own signature work, trying to give it a protective watermark. The truth is, he's not keen on sharing his art... we don't want his work "borrowed," so I defaced it a bit.

Geoff has been doing so much to the workshop, I cannot keep up. His efforts have been Herculean, and the results are terrific. We've reached the point where it's tour worthy, and there have been talks about having one of our Make parties. Maria laments that we have not had as many gatherings, or parties, lately. We seem to have seasons, like crunch-mode, when geoff works all hours at the computer, away from home. Then there was the time he had when it was all hours working to convert the carport into the workshop, which is technically ongoing. And of course, there's been school, chores, the usual errands, and demands. And waiting...

I lost my train of thought.

Then I remembered something else.

I think perhaps, rather than ramble on about "waiting," and the hoops we've leapt through, bridges crossed or burnt, fires put out, I'll just move forward. Move forward, and maybe find a therapist. I could use some counseling, and long, cathartic, emotional purging.

Geisel Library~

Fallen Star~

Earl Warren College~

Stuart Collection, Bear~

Dr Seuss~

"Toward a Life in Balance..."
Justice Earl Warren

Max did it. He got himself into UCSD, again. He was accepted before, and chose UCI, where he did very well. But then there were some glitches with housing, so he made new plans. The details! Oh, the bits and hurdles... but things are working out, and he's being resilient, and as diligent a scholar as ever. So, ahead... it's Warren College, and pure mathematics.

There has been so much anticipation and hoping about this school, and now a sense of relief, and gratification, but of all the bells, whistles and perks in Max getting accepted... that game arcade was probably a highlight of the transfer day event! Lol. Free arcade games? Like, totally, no tokens and coins?? I played air-hockey 'til my sides ached from laughing. I love air-hockey. I've heard rumors about another tuition hike coming up, but heck! Free arcade games!

I need Earl Warren's philosophy in my life... balance! Jennifer sent me a beautiful card, with a long and thoughtful message inside, and if I'd found it in March, when she sent it, it would have done me a world of good. As it is, I found it in May, and it didn't do me any less good, honestly. The tangible connection to my dear friend, her words, her art, being reminded of our special relationship, was welcome, needed, timely, and better than good.

What if, instead looking for a therapist, I just booked a flight to Massachusetts?

This day wound up getting nicer, and nicer. First, I discovered misplaced mail, then Ruth arrived with tulips, and irises, and a little tea-pot planted with tiny succulents.

She got the first tour! The workshop is nearly complete. Oh-so-nearly! I think she was impressed.

Ruth could give me good lessons on balance. She's got a knack for keeping things in order, staying on top of things, and probably would not misplace mail. She brought her list... news, questions, plans, ideas. There's a satisfying sense of accomplishment when we go through her inventory of queries and reminders, and it was nice to get caught up, over a relaxed lunch, and happy visit.

Maria and I (finally) made a visit to her grade school. She's been asking for months, Can we see Ms Green? Can we visit my old school? Can we go to the Sage Garden? Well, there are some school chickens that got a bit passed around, and my friend Karen has become their new patron and benefactor. (I have been a crazy chicken lady for a longtime! And pretty much riding solo in my obsession, but Karen is all on-board, now! She has fallen head over feathers for her three charges.) Anyway... Karen had a few questions, and so she invited us, me and Maria, to talk with the Junior Master Gardeners about the hens, their care, and give the hens and the ol'coop a check-up. We had a wonderful visit. Maria (finally) got to visit her teachers, and see familiar faces, spaces, and we had the pleasure of being back in the school garden, with friends.

All this reflecting, combined with my slow typing, is taking up a lot of time. I need to get on with this day! We are springing along... with school lessons, and sketching, painting, tending our flowers, digging trenches, filing forms, collecting eggs, and finalizing details for both spring and summer travel. I am happy to reflect on our May days, but I really should get away from this computer, apply myself, and move forward...

Sweet Peas and the Shore - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:10

The stems of the sweet peas are getting shorter, and the leaves are turning gray. But still there are plentiful, and beautiful. I should invite everyone over to cut themselves bouquets. They won't be around too much longer, and it'll be a shame to see them all just fade and drop from the vines.

We had a lovely bit of rain, and so of course I had to take more sweet pea pictures, more affection and appreciation for these undulating petals, iridescent, soft, veined, supple. Oh, what a romance.

I remembered that we will be driving home from Oregon, later this spring, and I wanted to have a state park pass for parking. It's both an indulgent convenience, and a token of affection and support for our dear California. With our pass we can stop at any state park, skipping the parking fee, and enjoy a visit, a hike, a bathroom break. Imagine a road trip where you stop at every state park... that's the sort of daydreaming I enjoy. I wonder if an Internet search will help me find the unique services and specialty treats in every park... like the shave-ice at San Elijo.

Cairo Blog* - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:58
*Warning: This post mostly consists of pictures of a cat, and creating it was a blatant act of open defiance and procrastination in the face of domestic perils, such as too much laundry, and an office that needs torching dusting. The cat is adorable, to be sure, but there is little or no substance to this post. Proceed at your own risk.

Someday I will create a chart that illustrates my Blog Cycle, which is basically a rotation of emotions and behaviors around how I cope with being a B Blog, chronically unnoticed, yet inevitably irrepressible... like resistant bacteria, but nicer.

In the meantime: Look at my cat!

Choose your favorite Cat for an entry into a drawing for a fabulous find out of the office, which I am *dusting.*

Last Days of April - Mon, 04/30/2018 - 11:54

April 14~

Let's see... there was an Earth day and a Tax day, and all sorts of other significant days, I am sure, but now we are at the last day of April, and I am struggling to think of the particulars. The month has been a blur. It may be that I was far too preoccupied with waiting-hoping-stressing about a response from the school Max applied to, and it obscured all other thoughts or feelings of ease. It could be that the colossal, and ultimately awesome project of turning our weathered and beaten carport into a top-notch workshop has been all-consuming. It seems the days, and activities, have been busy and consuming enough, that I can't immediately distinguish details, or stand-out moments. But sorting through just a few of my pictures, I can see that there have been some very good and memorable days, and I'd like to record some of it...

April 15~

For sure, there has been a lot of painting, drawing, sketching, and creating. We seem to have convinced Cairo to behave, most of the time, and not walk across our works. I love it when he is a quiet observer.

April 16~

Alex has been painting a lot, and there have been serious offers from people interested in buying his work. He's looking into figuring out the best way to sell, and considering options for printing. If anyone has any suggestions, we'd welcome advice. Maria is prolific, too. On her screen is a challenge she accepted to create a digital image from a single point, extruding the original shape to create a portrait. I'm glad she continues to explore both digital and traditional mediums.

April 17~

With Janece's recipe, Maria has become the resident Banana Bread Chef, and we love it! Personally, I think every loaf should be covered in pecans.

April 19~

The sweet peas... oh gosh, those sweet peas. I've shared bouquets and kept a vase or three around the house, for weeks now, and still they keep coming! I waited (too long) to plant these darling flowers, and now that they are here, I cannot stop admiring and enjoying them. Even when I know that I've taken a hundred, or more, pictures, it doesn't dissuade me from taking just one more. Soon, they will be all bloomed out, and we will plant something else... I will be looking forward to planting new sweet pea seeds, and passing the time looking through these pictures. If only I could save their fragrance, too.

Sean and Alex~


Robin, James, Pat~

April 21~

Well, this day was definitely a stand-out... when we went to Robin and Sean's for pizza making. That's their home-made pizza oven... diy par excellence! And then there were blueberry-hibiscus macarons, and a sunset, and laughter, and bat talk, and glow in the dark tiles and mosaic plans, and the company of friends. Really, just the company of those friends would have been enough. I'm still still smiling, feeling the glow.

April 22~

Smiling and feeling the glow, and motivated to get our home and lives in order... it's that same lesson, about starting over, adjusting the sails. Part of me says, dust those cobwebs, and file those papers, so you can have friends over, and part of me says don't wait for "perfect" before enjoying life, and throwing open your doors to welcome fun. I am sure there is a middle ground. Well, wherever the middle ground is, I seem to be doing the dance... one step forward, two steps back, and cha-cha-cha!

April 26~

I reclaimed this shelf, upstairs, that had been placed there "for a minute," which became more like five years. Well, it took me long enough, but finally I concluded that if it's there, it may as well work, and look good, too. Over time it had become (another) drop-off station, collecting the odds and ends that no one seems to want to claim nor reject, dusty, and an invisible eyesore.

Do you get those? Invisible eyesores? I find them all the time... a surface, or corner that is basically awful, but so well-established and long lived that no one seems to see it any more. Which reminds me, please don't let me forget to do something about the lamp in the entry, and the straw sombrero on the bookcase.

So... now we have a bookcase with my travel guides, atlases, and other travel themed literature.

Oh, that is so satisfying... to have a completely orderly, and aesthetically pleasing corner. This ought to inform me about all other corners and surfaces in my home. I am inspired. Honest... one step forward, two steps back, and cha-cha-cha!

Increasingly, since practicing illustration, and sticking to my learn to be an artist resolution, I notice shapes, patterns, textures, colors, shade, light, forms, curves, lines. All of it seems more pronounced, more interesting, which is kind of funny, because I feel like I have always noticed those things. The difference may be that I noticed and liked shapes and patterns, but now I think about them, and study them, too. And I think this may hold a clue into why I am enjoying the dip pen nibs and India ink... having to dip the pen in ink, and not smudge it when it's wet, forces me to slow down. And when I slow down, I allow more time to observe, to contemplate all of those textures, lines, curves, and patterns. Ah, insight... now I am thinking about how much I have learned, which is nice, but also humbling, because I see ever more clearly how much more I have to learn.

Please, let me be as comfortable in my own skin, as my goat is in her wooly coat.

(I have not been aging "well." It's emotional, as well as physical. Attitude with latitude versus gravity and time. But if I could harness just a bit of Tasha's regal air, life is beautiful mantra... well, it couldn't hurt.)

It is the last day of April. Next comes May, and if this pace keeps up, it will be time to clear a space for a Christmas tree.

No! We have trips in the works, and hot summer days ahead. We have new schools to prepare for, birthdays to celebrate, new months, new plans, more dances to do, and friends to laugh with. It can be a blur, and move along quickly, but I will take pictures, and reflect, and make time to notice the many and good stand-out moments.

Before... - Fri, 04/20/2018 - 16:17
This may be the moment I most enjoy... when I've sketched in pencil, dared to add the permanent ink, and then I erase. Erasing is when the image is revealed, the commitment shows itself, and I can see what stays. I see the flaws, find the missteps, and the lines that are tethered to the paper, that don't disappear... they are the truth, my mark. It's a bit magical, and somewhat agonizing.

New Day, Same Lesson - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:09

Good habits can unravel, best intentions need to be revisited and revised, when I fall... I gotta get back up, when off course... adjust the sails. Basically, the lesson I seem to need reminding of, again and again, is to do with entropy: The gradual decline to disorder, that things can come together, and they can fall apart. All too often, I get discouraged, or overwhelmed when things fall apart, when there is too much to do, when I get sick, or someone else needs extra care, when I've watched too much news, or faced plagues in succession. Actually, entropy is the first part of the lesson, and where I get stuck is between recognizing the entropy, it's natural and inevitable appearance, and impact, and accepting that I must start over. All too often, I feel like I have failed, like most of my efforts are exercises in futility... (not productive or empowering reactions,) and then I wallow a bit (quite a bit, honestly), and then I rationalize, and writhe and flail for a time. Oh, dear.

I wrote an entire paragraph about what I have come to believe are the origins of my attitudes and bad habits, and then I realized that none of that is particularly compelling to anyone, but a small self-satisfied and grasping part of my brain that wants to understand everything, and feel exonerated or absolved of wrongdoing. Sorry, brain, but this is just one of those things. You may have been duped or misled, but you simply must move forward. And so, to put it more simply... I am not good at maintaining order, and I feel incompetent and trounced, but here I go... it seems we are not moving, and fairies are no where to be found, so old patterns, and wishful thinking, will not do. I will pick myself up, and begin again.

Dear Maria... - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 12:54

Dear Maria,

As you know, I have fallen in love with chamomile. It's my favorite tea, along with chai. Chamomile tea has come to feel like a gentle friend that will keep me company... a quiet, uncomplicated companion, warm and supportive. Now, even the fragrance of the tea relaxes me, puts my thoughts at ease. And so, when I discovered that the fresh cut flowers smell like a bowl of steaming tea, like a meadow of flowers, I became completely enchanted. I love their button-cushioned faces, and the tiny petals. They are like the first flowers children draw... simple. But when I look into their faces and really see them, I am drawn into the complexity of their parts, the tiny details that belie their easy form.

Last week I discovered that there is another variety of chamomile with no petals. They are all golden yellow button-cushioned, on long and slender stems that sway gracefully when I turn the vase. Someday you and I should make chamomile crowns, or wreaths. Yes?

Golden yellow. It's the color that, lately, has captivated me. It began after Christmas, when I put yellow roses next to the tulips from Paul and Janece, then we tidied up the holidays, and reorganized the table at the back of our sofa. I love the holidays, and then I feel a slump when it's all over, but I think my second favorite time of the year begins when we've put away decorations and found homes for the gifts, when everything is restored, and even refreshed. Then, when things feel decluttered, and new, I get the feeling that we have a fresh start. The yellow flowers brightened my mood, and the room, and I have been craving the color ever since. And doubly more, since the workshop was painted blue. I love that blue... the blue that I post about, and share, and have been contemplating since forever. Wall by wall, bit by bit, we are getting our Bird House Blue, and I think it looks really pretty with golden yellow flowers.

Dear Maria,

There it is. I keep taking pictures of the shop. When I am at the kitchen sink and looking out the window, I can see it through our garden. From the spot at the dining table where I sew, or the other corner where I paint, I can see it, too. And of course when we are outside, feeding chickens, or watering the seedlings, or picking chard... we see it. Our workshop. And we see your brothers and dad, working away at all of the renovations. Of all of the improvements we dream of making for our home, I think the one that I most wish for and imagine, revolve around a fantastic workshop and maker space, with open areas and worktables, with lots of storage, good light, ventilation. It's inspiring to imagine what could be built and shared in such a place, how much easier and safer it could be in a really good shop, which is why I am so glad that Geoff, William, Alex and Max are tackling the job, doing what they can with the space we have. It's going to be amazing, really. I wish it could be bigger... but never mind. What they are accomplishing is pretty great. I am beginning to think of this summer as a time for great making, all because of the efforts and investment being put into making the carport a real workshop.

There is a lot in life that can be made better, can give back to us, when we put our work and planning, our time and care into it. I am thinking of our garden. I am so glad we planted chard, and sweet peas, and snapdragons. Clearing out an old garden bed, amending soil, pulling weeds, and starting with little seedlings, then watering, and minding the pests and willing things to take... it's an act of hope, and effort, work. It can feel pointless, at times, or we can lose sight of the benefits to come. In fact, there may not be any benefits. The goats could escape and eat the chard down to nothing, or snails could destroy those little seedlings. I guess that's why we need the hope to go along with the work. We've been fortunate this year, and hard working, too. Now, when I pick flowers and we fix onions and chard, peas, with our dinner, I feel lucky. Really lucky, and we are fortunate, but I like to remind myself that planning, and effort, months ago, and every day since, made the luck grow, made the garden possible.

You know, mi'ja, I didn't always understand that... about planning, and foreseeing good things, and then working for the results. Believing that a good outcome is a result of hoping and working, being steadfast to a plan. Your Dad, taught me that, showed me, countless times, by example. So much of what we have accomplished has been by hope and work, and patience. We have been lucky, of course, but it's not enough to wait for an opportunity to come around, or to hope things get better. I guess that intellectually I understood it, but sometimes what we know is not as powerful as what we believe, what we take to heart. With your Dad, I have come to believe, to trust in what is possible... maybe it's the optimism and faith that has made the difference.

Dear Maria,

The banana bread you made was delicious. Over-ripe bananas aren't usually what one hopes for, but I wish we had some now! At least we have plenty of eggs on hand. Let's buy bananas, then wait...

How many yo-yo's did we make at Gaslight Gathering, I wonder. I'm glad I brought so many little blue circles. After all of our fair and event experiences, exhibiting and teaching, I was happily surprised to have so much free time, and now I am looking forward to turning our tiny yo-yo's into the mini quilt. What did you think of my idea to appliqué them to a little bedspread? Otherwise, it will definitely have a lot of gapes.


Leslie and Ido, with Bex~

Meeting the band~

We were both surprised, I think... to have such a relaxed time. We work so hard at Maker Faire. It's fun, but whew! I think it's pretty amusing how easy this event felt, and how much we are now looking forward to committing to returning, next year, to exhibit and to play. We had a good time, and it felt familiar, and comfortable, being back in a steampunk crowd. I enjoy all of the outreach, hands-on activities, and exhibiting we do with our BOoM making group. Making things, sharing and teaching... what is it that makes it so compelling, so gratifying? It's satisfying, and feels good. Now, I feel even more excited for Scratch Day, too. I know Geoff and William had a good day, but I think we can agree... Alex had a really, really good day! It's nice to see his art recognized.

Thank you, mi'ja. I won't say it all here, on the Internet, but I can't help saying a little... you are a joy, and bring immeasurable pleasure to your family. You raise my thoughts and give me courage. I thought a great deal about the lessons and support that I hoped to offer you, but that you could teach, and inspire so much in me... this has been an amazing gift. It is an honor to be around you, to observe your journey, and share your days. You are one of my best dreams coming true, and I love you.

DownSideUp - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 10:16
Last night a friend and I texted each other our woes, in strictly vague and generalized terms, and then we groused a bit over the utterly vacuous, and violent, state of things, from the Tippy Top, down. Then we sighed, then we lol'd, then we agreed to get together soon, in real life. And then I asked her, "Did we fix something?" And I asked, because I felt better. I had been wound up and feeling hapless (I am not even going to Google that, because in this instance hapless means... helplessly unhappy, needing help, and essentially drained of hopeful sentiments.) I was feeling hapless, but with just that little exchange, with no resolutions or platitudes, I suddenly had the lightness of feeling some relief, as though a stone were removed from my shoe, or a leak was repaired, a puzzle solved. What a gift it is to have a friend... especially the kind that addresses you as Chica hermosa, or Honeybun, or My sweet baboo. The world may be upside down, but I've got a sweet baboo on speed dial.

My nerves and soul need soothing, calming. I need pure chamomile, straight, concentrated, unrefined. I am taking it in tea, in bouquets, in wholesale.

And yellow. Golden petals, sunshine hues. Anything that complements the new coats of blue paint on the workshop. I love love love the blue I see out the window from the kitchen sink, from the dining table, when I walk to the chickens, and around the garden. I pay it homage with egg yolk yellow ranunculus, and daydreams of towering sunflowers.

Alex is painting. Max is studying. William is figuring things out. Geoff is winding things down, and sees a break coming, any day now. Maria is registered for high school, and diligently preparing, happily anticipating.

And I am still sketching. Still playing with India ink and ratty-rats. I have stacks and books, and nests of ratty-rats, and other works. Works in Progress, attempts, sketches, rough drafts... I am still using the language of someone unsure, a student, an apologetic novice, and I don't know what to do with all these rats and other works. A long time ago, I dreamt of writing books, especially for children, but I wanted to illustrate them. I wanted to illustrate them, but I was no artist, and I was too shy or lazy or busy or doubtful to learn. Now, I am learning, and I think, "Maybe now I can write a book. Maybe." Only, I seem to have lost the muse for writing. Is it a muse? Or am I too shy, too doubtful, or busy? I have been trying. It feels downside up, not having a story, but feeling closer to having the pictures.