Thursday, June 30, 2011


Sanity is probably not all it's cracked up to be, but having a grounded approach to life seems worthwhile, and it feels like I might be getting better at finding that ground on those days when the world tilts too far to one side or the other and my feet are swept out from under me.  It doesn't take much to feel out-of-whack, and in particular on those days when being Alone would be challenging enough, but lo! There are wee children to care for as well? Egads. Here are some things that are steadying the boat this week...

Coffee. Mmmmhmmm, hate to say it, but when things are rocky, the act of making and drinking a cup of coffee makes me feel human again, and nearly grown-up.

Library books!! There are a few that I have been renewing for over a month now: The Joy of Pickling (did you know pickling could be so joyful???) and Print Workshop (and if you are at all interested in printing or stamp-making, this might make you drool.)  I also just finished a fantastic read by Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses, a band I was obsessed with in college - it's something of a journal, called Rat Girl, and while I would have read it regardless, it was so well written and interesting and well, I am sad that it's over.

Pickling things. Like beans. And cucumbers. I'm thinking about okra...

Bando. This is a Burmese system of martial arts; what we mostly do is Dandha yoga (which uses a long staff), with some jabs and blocks thrown in. I have only just begun attending this class, which is  for women and girls and is held two blocks away from our house, but already after a month I can really feel when I have missed class.  I had a moment tonight when Dan was running home from one thing and I was making supper and it was really time for me to literally run to class, and I felt torn for an instant between doing the class for myself or finishing dinner and joining the family to eat, and I chose to go, which might be a first for me. It still felt like the right thing when I came home an hour and a half later;  though I missed catching up on the day, I felt cared-for and energized by making sure I didn't miss class.  Nine years it took me to learn this.

Ok, I'm feeling better already. Also on the list might be: visits from a friend who is nuttier about food than I am and gets geeked out about trying the dilly beans I made, which makes making them even more worthwhile;  finding a mixed CD 5 years old with a beautiful rendition of Love Keep Us Together by Martin Sexton; and BLUEBERRIES, fresh, frozen, on the bush, any way and any how. Got'em.

The last time I wrote a list of what was keeping me afloat during my week, I was thinking of an old tradition Mon from Holistic Mama had started, called (I think) Thankful Anyway Thursdays - funny enough, Mon commented on that post, saying that she now calls them Joy Pockets and you can find them or join in here on her new blog...Maybe someday my need for this post and the timing of the pockets will coincide, joyfully...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wool, Sun and Paint

We had some Making last week that I wanted to share. We found out, kind of last minute, that we were going to see some of our favorite people over the weekend! So of course we had to make something to share with them.

Eliza first made this sweetest of little fairies, and I fell in love. Deep love. She took pity on me, and now this fairy lives on my dresser, where I can see her from my bed. You're never too old for toys, right?

Ani, meanwhile, made this adorable little chick. I helped her think about how to make a ball out of the wool, and assisted with a triangle for the beak, but the rest was hers! I love its little fuzzy self. She played with it all morning before deciding that she could give it up.
Here is the second fairy that Eliza made...
...and the little lady I made, carrying her basket of eggs (our friends have chickens, see.).
Another day we got out our photosensitive paper and played around with shadows and exposure.
Of course body parts got involved...
 My favorite creation of the week, though, was this painting Eliza made for Dan for Father's Day. It is a crow's head, as seen from above, and she wrote a riddle to go with it:
I am coal black and as light as a feather
I soar through the sky, not attached to any tether.
What am I? 

Monday, June 27, 2011


I already wrote about the trials of Eliza's birthday, but here is the glorious end of the day, with friends and good food and one tired and happy girl...a beautiful midsummer's eve.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I am aiming to catch up a bit on the past week of life, but I thought I'd start with Now! Dan and I celebrated our 11th year of being hitched this weekend (18 all together, holy wah!) by dropping the kids off at our friends' heaven-in-the-woods and driving to Marietta, OH, at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. It was quirky, lovely, relaxing and Away, which is totally new for us! It was awesome...

We stayed at the Lafayette Hotel, which has lasted through several floods and sports a steamboat decor.
The lobby of the Lafayette

The bed in our room!

We spent our time walking through the little riverside downtown, wandering through shops, eating good food, wandering some more. Heaven.
The pedestrian bridge to Harmar on the other side of the river.

Did I mention the stores? Very quaint. Oh, the wandering...

 It was mostly just lovely to be together, talking or not talking, not figuring out car schedules or dinner plans or what's going on with the girls - just being Us.  We even got to browse through a used bookstore and have breakfast out in a diner, favorite pastimes from our early days together.  Ahhh.
Just right.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

High Drones, Piercing Whines, Kissy Sounds and a purr...

"The friends were in an ecstacy of meeting."

"I am listening. I am listening intently."

Ani.  Some things just have to be recorded.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Our rented house is being worked on right now, which means a lot of dust and noise and an inoperable front door.  It's work that needs to be done (see that chimney around the front door? It's falling down), so I'm grateful and all, but as I stood in the backyard this morning, wiping down each and every leaf on the potted sungold tomato plants that I dragged around to get out of the shower of ground mortar, in order that the plant be able to breathe, I was musing about the sounds of summer in town. There is a jackhammer one street over, several lawnmowers, including the ride-on mower across the street at the school. There is the high whine and scrape of the blades cutting into the brick on the front of our house.

It amazes me what we humans are able to block out in order to live our daily lives. I mean, this noise begins at 7:00 in the morning, but if I needed to, I could talk myself into ignoring it well into the morning.  In fact, it is necessary, as I'm sure it is for the fellows who are actually doing the work (without earplugs OR masks, I might add. well, I see the masks, but they're in their plastic, resting on the mortar mixer, next to the safety glasses.); if I were focused on this screeching, how could I hear anything else, including my own mind?

So it was that my brain was marveling at this ability of ours to ignore really unignorable things like loud sounds, when I heard a hummingbird fly by, making its kissy "tch tch" sound. Then my compost pile started up with a small squeaking (which I know, probably isn't a good sign - either there are mice visiting our kitchens' spoils or we have created an animate compost pile, which I guess would at the least be interesting...), and I realized that the predominant sound of summer for me hasn't yet started up yet. Where are the cicadas??? 
 When we were in Virginia, over Memorial Day weekend, we found this periodical cicada in the water.  A boy who was swimming stopped tormenting it at my request, and pushed it ashore so Eliza and I could get a good look at it.  See its red eyes? The "dog-day" or annual cicadas which emerge every year don't have those.  This cicada appears to be a member of the XIX Thirteen-year brood, which emerged last in 1998 (according to Cicadas! Strange and Wonderful by Pringle.)

I have such a fondness for cicadas. I think they are a beautiful insect, and I appreciate that for their size, they are actually very benign critters.  They sure can make a racket though, the males tightening and relaxing muscles attached to thin membranes called tymbals. I remember camping during the summer of 1991 in Kentucky and Georgia, during the emergence of Brood XIV of the 17-year cicadas, and the sound was deafening, lasting long past sunset (making for a rather creepy tent-camping experience).
Something magical happened while Eliza and I were examining this guy, who seemed quite stunned by his time in the water, but revived fairly quickly to crawl around on E's hand. He started making a noise, much different from the high drone of his mating call. It was more like a little murmur, a purr. He was talking to us, and I'd like to think he was saying thanks for the ride to the nearest tree.

So, where are the cicadas around here? Where is that sound of summer? Wise old Ani tells me, it ain't time yet, lady. Be patient, they'll come when summer gets really really hot. Ok, I can wait.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Finally, a pause in life to say happy solstice! This past week has been a quintessential "kid" week - Eliza fell out of a tree, from 12 or so feet up, bringing down a number of branches which, thankfully, broke her fall.  No bones were broken;  she has a sprained foot and some lingering soreness in her back, which arnica and epsom salt baths seem to be taking care of quite well.  Thankfully, it hasn't turned her off of her love of climbing trees, but maybe it's made her a bit wiser...
 After a weekend without Dan, who drove home to Wisconsin for a memorial service and to catch a play in Chicago - a weekend that went smoothly with me and the girls, with a walk to get ice cream and some lovely time creating paintings for Father's Day and felt dolls for a dear friend - he arrived home for a late pizza dinner on Sunday, we all went to bed, only to have Anika toss and turn in discomfort...ah, pinworms. Haven't we already been through one plague this year???
What complicated this news was that Monday was Eliza's ninth birthday and first day of theater camp, and amidst getting her up and breaking the news that her potluck party might need to be postponed, and getting her to camp (I don't know how parents do this all year long. I feel like an ogre waking her up, ever, let alone every day.), Ani had an appointment with our doctor and we all started a round of medicine. (Side note: I think there are some very effective alternative treatments, like food-grade diatomaceous earth, but Ani's got them pretty bad. )  The day, which was just going south so quickly, turned around as Ani and I were finding some flowers for Eliza. My oh-so-wise friend called and calmed me down, assuring me that her kids have had pinworms many times, and that it wasn't anything like having lice, and that, as we were cleaning all of our linens and towels and vacuuming everything, wiping everything down at home, there was no reason not to have our party as planned. I decided to believe her, and let everyone know our situation, and left it to them to decide what they were comfortable with...and just about everyone came.
photo by OU Photojournalism student, Junru Huang
Eliza chose to have our weekly family potluck for her birthday; that is who she is. It was just as important for her to have the grownups here as to have her kid buddies. Making her cake, she asked that we use non-wheat flour to make sure her friend Osha's mom could eat it, and made sure that Dan's golf buddy Jim, a single man in his 60's, was invited. She is a gatherer of people, she spins with an energy amidst a group of friends - sometimes spinning beyond where she is comfortable, but she absorbs the giddiness, the laughter, the go-go-go, eyes sparkling, face glowing, love radiating...She said it was her best birthday ever, as she gathered up handmade gifts - several wands, a beautiful nature collage, and a collection of photos of her friends - and went to bed feeling happy and loved.

 So...a complete turn-around in the space of a day - from high anxiety and disappointment, to total joy - that sounds about right for this turning of the year, doesn't it? The peak of the sun's strength? I don't know what celebration we will muster for this day, as we unwind from our festivities, but we are feeling the power of this day, nevertheless. Happy Solstice...

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you... 
(Maori proverb)

*still without my current photos...until I figure out what I'm doing about that, I'm making do with photos you've possibly seen before, or in this case, using someone else's photo with permission...sigh! I have some wonderful shots of the birthday sitting on my camera. Maybe I'll get on Dan's computer...hmmmm....

Friday, June 17, 2011

so happy

 Sometimes I feel like there are long rubber bands that connect me, you, Papa and Eliza...
 They are bands of love that meet in the middle, and when I feel a surge of happiness, it is love twanging up the bands.  I'm feeling LOTS of love right now!
 I'm happy. I'm too happy! It's a hot day, I'm eating ice cream, and my Papa loves me super a lot!!!
~Ani, in the throes of Life

Monday, June 13, 2011

my time...

My friend Sasha leads a women's hike the second sunday of the month. Sometimes it's just the two of us, geeking out about plants for a couple of hours; sometimes it's a bigger group and the pace is more that of a Hike than a Wonder (wandering, and wondering about...plants.). This week we were three, and it was a perfect day, sunny but not hot, with all the time we wanted to pause and figure and admire.
I get a little thrilled when the vast greenness of the woods suddenly becomes an unbelievable gathering of individuals (oh, black cohosh! WOW, goldenseal???? really????). Sasha was musing on our way there that she is torn between really wanting to know the names of everything (and she is good at the scientific latin names) and just wanting to pay attention and notice things about the plant or creature, not allowing her knowledge to end at its name. I get that; if I know the name of a bird, for instance, I cease really observing it and my brain rattles off "chickadee" and I stop noticing its behavior, the time of day it typically arrives at my feeder, what it says to the other birds there. I've not quite gotten that way about plants yet. They're still new to me, in their personality and design, and it's more that once I am introduced, I start seeing it everywhere.
Goldenseal, with berries
I love hiking with people who don't mind if I stop and try to take a picture. Who will also take the time to touch and taste and finger and dig a bit to find something out.
Shield bug in a mayapple
These perfect little berry-like fuzzies on the wild comfrey are called nut clusters.
We used this unfamiliar vine-like plant to learn how to key out a plant in Newcombs Wildflower guide. What a useful method of divining its identity! The steps take you from flower (regular? irregular?) to  type of plant (wildflower? shrub?) to leaf orientation (alternate? opposite?), past whether or not it might be a vine, to what type of leaf it has (entire? lobed or toothed?), to some possibilities.  Luckily though, once we had narrowed it down and couldn't find the right plant in the guide, we had my Lone Pine Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and Southern Appalachia to cross check, and there it was, the Climbing Milkvine, a relative of the milkweed.
A perfect way for me to refill, while Dan and the girls were in another woods playing golf and climbing trees.
* I'm having troubles with my photo editing program (iPhoto) - as in it won't open. So...for now the photos are "as-are", unfortunately! I'll try not to post anything sideways in the meanwhile...