Thursday, July 28, 2011

Methought I Saw the Footsteps of a Throne

"Methought I saw the footsteps of a throne
Which mists and vapours from mine eyes did shroud--
Nor view of who might sit thereon allowed..."
      --William Wordsworth

Newsflash for anyone who's been a guest at my house:  I FINALLY replaced the upstairs bathroom toilet!  Hally-looyer!  The old throne was susceptible to clogging up if you looked at it wrong. It had not flushed properly since a plastic pirate was accidentally dropped in by a kid and upon trying to fish it out, I pushed it through the front hole in the bowl, condemning it and the toilet to a watery death. It only took me 4 years of plunging and swearing and apologizing to guests to replace the ding dang thing.  Check out its replacement; she's a BEAUT!
 Notice the base?  See how it's rectangular and minus the nooks and crannies that make a yucky cleaning job even yuckier?  Sweet, isn't she?  And cute!  She was the cutest toilet at Lowe's by a longshot.  So, come on over people and give her a whirl.  Put more than 2 squares of TP in and be amazed when you don't have to plunge.

It's the little things that please me the most!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Dolorous Chords of Unwritten Songs

"...The city of the future I now envision
could be a city of ice, a city of candles,
a city of shoe horns or empty frames,
a city of desire and facing it, 
across a river, a city of no desire.
It might not be a city at all, but a meadow of grass
where the horses of tomorrow will lower
their mild heads to graze,
or a vaporous landscape, the valleys flooded
with the dolorous chords of unwritten songs,
the mountain tops cold and forbidding,
waiting for the climbers of the future to seek them out."
     --Billy Collins

I've been feeling very contemplative today, sitting outside in the sun, drinking my coffee and watching the chickens.  Thinking about Sofia Coppola's latest movie, 'Somewhere,' that I watched last night.  Thinking about how this whole world fits together and considering all of the people and animals as the moving parts.  

The movie was slow-paced and seemingly uneventful, even a little underwhelming, initially.  As I ejected the disk and slipped it back into its envelope, I didn't feel much one way or the other; I wasn't automatically moved.  But I slept on it, and I've been thinking about that film all morning, and how there actually was so much going on throughout it, and I think I get what Sofia was doing after all.  The movie is a story about this guy, a famous actor, who lives a very empty life.  It's a fancy life, he drives a Ferrari and lives at a swanky hotel and money buys his every whim, but it's empty and he's so bored.  A long visit from his 11 year old daughter sort of wakes him up to this emptiness and the movie resolves with him making change, but Sofia doesn't giftwrap it, she just shows the possibility.  Much like in Lost in Translation at the end where Bill Murray is leaving Japan and he sees Scarlett Johansson on the street and he stops the cab and gets out and whispers something in her ear and she smiles and then it's over.  It's up to us, the viewer, to fill in the...

'Somewhere' is very visual, and it's stunning.  Sofia gives a lot of time to slow moving camera shots panning in on something or out, or as in the beginning of the film, a steady shot of the guy's Ferrari driving laps around a track, probably for a minute.  She's not afraid to stay on something for awhile, she knows she's got me and that I'll hang in there.  Brave filmmaking, indeed.  

The actor guy is treading water the whole movie until the last minute or so, when he decides to swim.  His condition isn't unique.  There are times in all of our lives when we tread water.  The trick is, how to kick out of it?  We all have our dolorous chords of unwritten songs.  What are we going to do about that? What will inspire us enough to write them?   

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gratitude to Wild Beings

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
     freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk,
     self-complete, brave and aware
                           in our minds so be it.
--Gary Snyder from 'Prayer for the Great Family'

This bit of poem made me think of my kids, who are true Wild Beings in the best sense of the phrase.  All kids are.  They truly are self-complete and brave because those qualities have not been conditioned out of them yet. The recent birthdays have brought the whole 'growing up' thing up to the surface for me and I've been thinking about it a lot.  I love that they're growing up.  I dread that they're growing up.  Will they trade imagination for knowledge?  Will they trade wildness for conformity?  I sure as hell hope not! I have a big job ahead of me, that's for sure.  

OM and I were talking about education the other day on our outstanding field trip to Seahurst Park (pics will be below in a second, just let me finish my sermon).  I think that for a school to be good, it really just needs to have staff members that are nice to kids, who nurture and encourage their passions (or help them find a passion that's not a mf'-in' video game), and provide a safe and welcoming school climate.  I'm mostly talking about middle school, since that's where I work.  I think the 'education' part is good enough at most schools.  We spend a lot of time trying to improve education, blah blah, improve teaching, blah blah, and improve kids.  BLAH!  Most of this nonsense is aimed at improving test scores, if we're being honest here.  If our kids get high test scores they can go to awesome colleges (and we can make our neighbors jealous with the braggin' rights), get sweet high-payin' jobs and buy a big ass house and fill it up with fancy bullshit.  And it feels so much like this is our society;  this is what our society values.  It's crazy.  OM and I talk about how sometimes it feels like we're the little girl in 'The Emperor's New Clothes' who points out that the emperor is NAKED.  Why does it feel like the majority of those around us (especially in the community in which we work) don't see it?  Weird.  

It's sad to me that wildness, as in kids using their Wild Mind (also a Gary Snyder concept that he spoke about at length when I heard him talk a few years ago), is not highly valued, or revered even.  I think about the amazing teachers at my school, there are many.  It's a staff of smart people who are thinkers.  And dreamers.  They do what they can, but there is a lot of mandatory stuff they have to cover, which replaces what they'd like to teach, I'm sure.  Many of our teachers have rebel spirits, wild minds and they find a way.  But you won't find 'nurturing the wild mind' as a Benchmark or Standard anywhere.  Too bad.  

At Seahurst Park, OM and I marveled at the children.  There were kids from about 5 or 6 different families all working together on a big project to dam up the little stream that ran into the sound, diverting the water into another portion of the stream with the goal being, I think, to make a bigger waterfall.  The kids were determined. They were cooperative. They helped each other.  They connected.  They might have been mostly strangers to each other but it didn't matter. They were a community.  Everyone had a job, a purpose.  Everyone was allowed to help.  No one argued or bickered.  And they worked on it for hours. It was awesome to behold:

Here's Gino with his "dam special muck":

The kids had an excellent time, one they won't soon forget.  In our minds, so be it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


"Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes."
What a bundle of gift-days I've had lately.  Caroline had a wonderful birthday--loved her new/old yellow bike:

I had to make her birthday cake twice, because it didn't pop out of the bundt cake mold on try #1:

B was here visiting for the weekend, and was kind enough to assist me with party set-up and execution, including discovering that the sweet pinata I bought had no opening for candy-filling.  Who knew?  B cut a hole with a utility knife and then loaded it with candy, do-dads, and in his words, "shrapnel" i.e. glass marbles and  small, hard plastic flowers. (He was also a great help in eating cake-clods from rose cake attempt #1.) We had to decorate the dining room because it rained the morning of the party.  But with the guests, also came the sun, so the outdoor garden party dream was realized:

Then back inside for CAKE time!  

(note the rose cake--looks better this way, yes?)

And then back out for the PINATA!!!  

Later that night, we went down to the park to watch the Duvall Days fireworks.  As darkness fell, B, Jack, Caroline and I were lost in thought and deep anticipation of the sparkly show:

"...Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more, 
Just another Wednesday

you whisper, 
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink."
    --Billy Collins

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sweet Caroline

            Life and love--baby of mine,
             Here is a thought for thee--
     Happy the heart that feels and knows
                Beauty in things that be!
                    --Marjorie Wilson

Today is Caroline's birthday.  7 years ago, I became the mother of a daughter, and my life has never been the same.  Caroline is almost like my conjoined twin.  In her mind, as it's always been, I'm hers.  This is very different from Jack, Mr. Independent.  I know everyone marvels at how their children turn out so differently from one another, but man, it's something!  Caroline loves me with an intensity that I've never known.  One of her favorite past times is to simply sit next to me, sucking her left thumb and with her right hand, either twirling my hair or rubbing my back.  I asked her once how she feels when she does this and she just sorta sighed, "comfortable!"  
(here she is with our beloved kitty Mow-Mow, RIP)

I love this child with the same intensity with which she loves me.  She is funny, a real character.  She is sweet but also extremely full of the Sassy Business (wonder where she gets that, ahem).  She loves all animals, but especially kitties, and Copper, Todd's boxer, her "best friend."  Caroline goes where I go, and she's great company.  She loves fancy stuff and wears a dress or skirt almost every day, even when we go to Cayuse!

And she positively oozes joie de vivre!

I love you, my sweet Caroline Rosamond Rebecca!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

To Carry WIthin Us An Orchard

"...O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach."  
     --Li-Young Lee

As mid-summer rises for me, I'm thinking of things like this.  Celebrating the sun and the shade (and the rain--it's pouring outside right now)!  These summer days stretch out and I love them all.  Even today, when what I really want to do is go back up to my bed and lie there and just listen to the rain.  And be lazy. And read my book. And then take maybe a little teeny tiny nap.  I'm not going to do that, though, not today.  I have stuff to do, errands to cross off of my list.  Caroline's birthday is tomorrow and I'm on a mission today to locate a cutie bike basket and some handlebar streamers.  How fun a mission is that?  Pretty fun.  I need to pick up the last of the party supplies, a few ingredients for her cake, and buy a big bouquet of pretty flowers.  I'm looking forward to doing all of it.  

When I get home, I'll putter about.  If this rain stops, like it usually does by early evening, perhaps there will be a bit of hammock time in my future.  I enjoy days like these, both busy and not busy.  

The kids and I have had lots of fun this week, mostly hanging out at home, which is just how I like it!

We also had a visit from my childhood friend, M and her kids--big fun!  We played tourist at Snoqualmie Falls:

We ate Farmer's Market Dinner--The Bread, sugar snap peas, squeaky cheese, and salad, with the addition of shrimp on skewers, courtesy of OM's unbelievably tasty recipe--simply Next Level delicious.  The kids played and played and the little boys stayed up real real late talking.  And M thought it was so funny that they came to "Seattle" to hold chickens:

Enough procrastinating for me, I'm off to get clean and then go to town.  All the whilst, biting into the round jubilance of peach!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Such Rollicking Measures

"In Breughel's great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and 
around, the squeal and the blare and the 
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them.  Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel's great picture, The Kermess."
    --William Carlos Williams

What a week it's been--full of rollicking and adventures.  Jack had a swell time at his par-tay and the weather was perfect!  Hot and sunny, but not too hot, as in not hot enough to melt the Rolos on the tops of the cupcakes, yo.  

And then, 2 short days later, it was the 4th of July!  So. Much. Excitement!  OM and I met up and took the kids to the Carnation parade.  

Hi Nance!!!  (I am friends with a CELEBRITY!)

And of course, later, fireworks!  CC and the Lovely Mr. A had us up for a BBQ and a fan-freakin'-tastic home fireworks show.  Merci, CC and Mr. A!!

After all that birthday and 4th of July business, I had a few days kid-free, so I went to Washougal to visit my lovely mom and The Bobster.  It was beyond relaxing: wine-thirty, watching eagles, osprey, ducks and geese flying up the river, a ride in Bob's new dream car--a convertible, no less, and a trip into Portland for fun shopping with Mom and Auntie Rowan.

Hippo Hardware, hello!!

Duck Sculpture outside of Twist in NW Portland

And finally, the  beautiful Multnomah County Library.  Really, so so pretty and full of books and card catalogues and readers, for goodness sakes!!  

This week is full of company (yay!) and Caroline's 7th birthday.  The dance goes on...

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Birthday Boy

Tomorrow is Jack's birthday. He will be 9!  Unbelievable.  Sometimes I look at him with his stretched out limbs and muscular little body and just marvel at how he's grown so fast, and wonder, where did all the time go?  He still indulges me (at home, not to be attempted in public) and lets me smooch all over his sweet face, will still cuddle up in my lap, and loves to have his back rubbed and his hair ruffled.  These things haven't changed, but I know they won't last forever, so I cherish them bigtime.

Jack is becoming his own man.  He is quite independent, setting his alarm for 6:10 every morning and getting up at at 'em.  What does he do at that ungodly hour (especially in summer! )?  Well, I'm not up to witness it, but he says that he plays Legos, draws, writes and reads.  He's pretty honest, and I'm pretty sure he hasn't been taking out the car to go wildin', so I believe this to be the truth.  He's real, real quiet--considerate.  He can play with those Legos for hours, building complex towns and vehicles and little Lego guys.  There's always a running dialogue of what's going on, who's doing what, that sort of thing.  His imagination is next level, and I hope it lasts and lasts.  To be able to just play like that, fully entertained for hours, what a gift!

And he's a gift to me.  Such an easy kid to be around.  He's thoughtful, fun, adventuresome, pleasant, introspective and deep.  He's a  stubborn creature of habit, starting in utero where he settled himself into a frank breech position and stayed put, regardless of what I did (breech version procedure, acupuncture, home acrobatics, etc.) Today, I'll make the usual cupcakes for his party; the same party 5 years runnin' now ("Mom, you know how I am!" --Jack's most oft-quoted words to me): yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and a Rolo on top.  The party is at a beach park and goes like this:  I bring beach towels for tablecloths, his dad brings the hotdogs, watermelon and chips, I bring the Rolo cupcakes, kids show up and play in the water or on the playground or both, we eat lunch, we sing HB, we eat cupcakes, Jack opens presents, more playing and then go on home.  Easiest. Party. Ever.  And a kid who never expects you to change it up from year to year--and in fact, just wants the status quo.  That party is good enough (that's m'boy!).  Here's a pic from last year's fete--check the Rolo, yo:

Tonight is birthday eve dinner.  I told Jack I would cook anything or take him out anywhere he wanted to go.  He asked if I'd make chicken noodle soup.  Awwww...yes I will, little man.  So, tonight it's chicken noodle soup and cream biscuits, with strawberry shortcake for dessert.  Raised waffles, bacon and the ubiquitous strawberries for birthday breakfast tomorrow and then onward to the party for some good old-fashioned birthday fun.

Happy 9th Birthday, Dear Jackie Bug.  I'm a proud mama.