~summer shorts~ butterfly shadows

I have been gathering the dried seed heads of the various columbine flowers that grow in my garden, and was headed to the final patch, the one that grows under the butterfly bush with the dark purple flowers, which are in brilliant bloom in late July.

I was so focused on the seed collection task, hunched over and looking down, that I was startled to see a shadow among the bush’s own shadow that was moving, a flutter that betrayed its being cast by something more than leaf. Abruptly, I stood up and almost hit my head on a butterfly.

This swallowtail had such tattered wings that I could see the purple of the flowers through the hole in its left forewing. It was also missing the frilly lobe that should be along the trailing edge of the left hindwing, and had other torn and frayed edges, signs of a long, hard journey, perhaps beating to windward.

It spent a long time sipping from the bright orange throats of the dark purple flowers and let me take close photos on that bright sunny day. I was grateful for this little reminder of the butterfly effect of gratitude, grateful also for the visual reminder that we may be tattered and beat up, but we should keep going, that there is still beauty in our surviving, that there is still sweetness to drink in.

I find it interesting that I saw its shadow first, even while looking down. I am peering into shadows even in summer, because if 2020 was a butterfly, it would be the most shredded looking one still flying the friendly skies. Even though July is full of bright sunshine and winged beings for the sun to shine upon, this is a different sort of summer in a different sort of year.

Normally July is a time of flying around the country visiting family, this time of wings and flight. Instead, this July is a month of being still and figuring out how to be okay with that, grieving the loss of that time with beloved kin.

As I peer into the shadows, I must remember that at least these shadows are being cast by butterflies, and take note that it is also the time of year to stop, spread my wings out on a leaf, and just absorb some sunlight.

~summer shorts~ firebirth

My friend just went through breast cancer surgery and we are on the phone discussing poop colors and whether medical waste is incinerated, and unexpected emotional devastation even when all the decisions we’ve made have been absolutely right. I am not a good phone friend, but if you are going to call me, it’s likely going to be about something raw and gritty like this. In my imagination I am allowing fire to be the outcome of where breasts go when they are removed because there are powerful metaphors in fire. Inked across the shoulder and upper arm of this friend is, rather prophetically, a phoenix. We forget fire can be a creative source of energy when we see it cause so much destruction, but the phoenix dies engulfed in flame only to be reborn out of the ashes. There is so much about our current moment that feels devastating and destructive, an inferno threatening the best things about this world, and yet if I summon the courage to look into the fire, this little thing with feathers is poking its head up out of the ashes, getting ready to be reborn. Creative plans will hatch to make a way, through art, to integrate having been utterly torn down and the work it will take to be reborn, feather by feather. The other day as she noted that her breasts, or the breast-shaped spaces they used to occupy, were burning (a good, albeit painful, sign that she is told indicates healing; mothers understand about productive pain when it comes to birth), we planned a future campfire photo art session. Like a grappling hook tossed a long way out ahead of us that we can climb to if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, this tiny plan gives us a target, a rope to grasp, a direction out of the furnace. Though the flames haven’t even subsided, and the hatchling may be weak and covered in all this ash right now, she will eventually emerge powerful and courageous. In my life there is a son-shaped hole, while her kids are there but she can’t really be with them, and it hurts; these are the people we carried in our bodies, pieces removed from us with great pain and at great cost to ourselves, more than we ever expected. Your baby is born, and you need so much more absorbent cloth than you realize to soak up all manner of fluids drawn up out of you by the gravitational force of their orbit around you. You were expecting a swaddled bundle, not a planet with its own atmosphere and trajectory. What to expect when you’re expecting a phoenix: there are expectations and then there is reality, and that book title seems to be out of print, or maybe it hasn’t been written. Yet. For now, it’s DIY phoenix midwifery. Birth and rebirth are messy, painful, intense, productive, and creative. Our children, too, are being devastated by this fiery time, and they, too, will rise, powerful, from the ashes, stronger than before, better for it. Inked on the lower part of the same arm as the phoenix is the one word calling to mind that thing with feathers, the one being reborn from these ashes, the one that never stops: hope.

see also: water metaphors

~summer shorts~ reclaiming

Have you seen me lately? is the title of one of my depression songs. I hardly ever listen to the Counting Crows anymore, but the feeling that I have gone missing lately is a little bit accurate.

When I go missing, when I need to retrieve myself, the ocean is where I go. During a pandemic, it may mean going to the ocean at 6:30 am on a Monday, and it may mean going less frequently, but the ocean is still where I go to collect myself and bring myself back. Here I am, standing, kneeling beside the crowded tidepools of my inner world. There beside them, soaking in the brine, is the end of a long strand of mended rope. I pick it back up in my hand, ready to start adding to the storyline, twisting new strands, threading on new beads and seashells, eventually stringing more cranberries and popcorn once it is a little less soggy.

woman beside a tidepool

How does it happen that I would ever set this rope down? I know better. I repeat to myself like a mantra why I write. I repeat it enough that others know it, can paraphrase it. The fragmentation that once characterized my inner experience was the result of mental health crisis – major depression brought on mostly by emotional abuse (gone), but also a little bit predisposition (still there). Fragmentation, a broken storyline, allowed me to lie to myself, disconnect from myself, betray myself, something I remain committed to never do again. Writing is my best tool to maintain a cohesive storyline, to integrate the various pieces of myself into one narrative that I can keep my grip on, so that I can see the connections between one segment and another, so that I can tell if I am being true to who I am and so that I can tell if I am deviating from my truth or forgetting crucial pieces of the story.

tidepool on oregon coast

Too much slack in the line is a different problem from fragmentation, but tangles are not conducive to okayness either. Winds will blow on me, waves will continue to endlessly pass, and if I am not doing the steady, dynamic tending this line of mine requires, it can become knotted and snarled. These posts piling up behind the scenes, where I keep second guessing myself and saving to drafts, need to start being eased out before they accumulate further. Like the sheet that controls the business end of the sail, my line works to keep me on course, to keep the wind coming across my sails in the most efficient way to maintain forward progress, to keep me from capsizing, to keep the sails full not flogging, to keep me from wallowing in the doldrums.

sea urchins and anemones

There is a certain amount of tension required to keep ahold of myself, in other words. The danger is there to become too tense, to hold on rigidly, which can also rock the boat. When my shoulders start to reach my ears, my hands are clenched, and I am holding my breath too often, I need to loosen my grip, inhale, exhale, and observe what the ocean is doing. Take stock, adjust course.

sea urchins and anemones

You can sail forward even when the wind is close to your bow, but there is a reason why they call it “beating to windward.” Heading into the oncoming wind and seas (usually they are coming from a related direction to one another, though not always) can feel like a beating. The motion of the vessel is more jarring, the force of the impact coming down from the crest of each swell causes the whole hull to shudder and the rigging to vibrate, and the ship is heeled over at quite an angle. The ship must be tacked much more frequently to maintain course, an act which by its very nature strains every line and piece of hardware, every tired seam and joint. Changing direction frequently just to keep going forward is exhausting, and you must ensure the coffee pot is lashed in the galley, the deck gear all stowed.

sea anemone partly folded inward

Still, it is while sailing to windward that I have most often encountered dolphins riding the bow wake. It is also only in the dark of night that the bow wake glows with bioluminescence. Remembering my study of the word “streamlined” a couple of years ago, I recall my conclusion that the status of the flow around me has less to do with turbulence in my life, than what shape I present to the flow; that if I present less resistance to the flow, I have a more streamlined experience. Salmon use the energy of the current to propel themselves upstream; adversity is not a direct line to crisis, in fact it can be a force of energy that is harnessed for good.

sea urchin and anemone close up

I feel as though, right now, I am swimming upstream against a strong current, or sailing into a strong wind. I am okay, but I am on watch for signs of slipping down the current too far towards the waterfall’s edge, or letting the wind get around behind the wrong side of my sails. I am okay, but I am swimming hard with nothing in reserve, I am beating to windward and taking a beating. I am okay, but I am only okay because I know firsthand the consequences of slipping downstream, of capsizing.

urchin and anemone

At market one recent Saturday, a lovely woman handed me a bundle of braided sweetgrass. She grows it herself, and she said she wanted to give it to me because I inspire her. I am using it to smudge this space and reclaim it, to clear out any traces of energy that would keep me quiet, that would turn down my voice, that would ask me to be smaller, less than fully me.

anemone detail macro

red and purple sea urchins

closed sea anemone

sea urchins and anemone

sea urchin with spines missing

chicken mole

It was anniversary eve so last night I made a yummy dinner that doubled as a running joke. Every time I am about to make nachos for dinner, again, I say, “I’ll give you three guesses what I’m making for dinner.” Usually we are on our daily mailbox date when I say this, and Rich then guesses wrongly on purpose twice, then narrowly wins the guessing game on the final guess. Lately his first guess is almost always “chicken mole,” something I’ve never made, and so I finally decided to see if I could figure out mole sauce. I obtained enough chili peppers in my grocery clicklist to approximate some of the mole recipes I saw online and decided on chicken mole enchiladas. On our mailbox date when I gave him three guesses I was hoping he might get it on the first guess, and that’s exactly what happened. It was ridiculous how much fun I had thinking about it all day, anticipating how much he would laugh at my very involved and deliberately planned home cooked joke.

Still not a food blogger

Traditionally the symbol for a third anniversary is leather… that idea of flexible durability fits us like broken-in work boots or a trusty pair of birkenstocks. However, I think our third anniversary symbol is actually mole sauce. Spicy and deeply flavorful, a labor of love, inspired by humor. A cinnamon stick, some powerful peppers, some fragrant herbs, simmered over high heat for a long time. Contains chocolate. A bay leaf means you have to kiss the cook.

At three years of marriage, there is a nice blend of predictable and unpredictable. The other day I knew he would come home and ask me to go for a drive to pick up some whiskey, and I also knew he would take the bay road home but I had not anticipated his thoughtful purchase of a six-pack of pear cider for me.

Rich made popcorn on Saturday when I was worn out from market and I was lounging in the yard when he emerged with my wonder woman bucket and a shot of rainbow whiskey we sipped together just like we did to toast our wedding… we have been doing lots of reminiscing about the wedding week. Each day we thought about who of our guests would have been arriving and what would have been going on. It would have been the Wednesday my parents arrived. Dad would be playing guitar, the kids would all be buying from Quinn’s store, Lauren would be stirring sauce, and I would be perched on Rich’s lap watching and listening and soaking in all the love. As we munched our popcorn, Rich remarked how fresh and new our yard had looked that season, one year after we started rehabilitating its overgrown neglected tangle. My newly built terrace garden was starting to grow plants and the new wood chip zone accommodated all our straw bales and the whole yard was clean and new… the garden has grown so much in the three years and other areas have been cultivated with flowers and new shrubs, right now it is all looking well-tended as we have kept busy on the yard work. He lets me do the writing, but my husband of three years, comes up with the best metaphors for marriage.

Happy Anniversary my love!

~rainbow mondays~ float

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~rainbow mondays~ uplift

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~black and white wednesday~ feather light

“Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore”

~Edgar Allan Poe

 

“Blackbird fly, blackbird fly

Into the light of a dark black night”

~Paul McCartney

~summer shorts~ wilderness wandering

“It lives in my imagination strongly that the black oak is pleased to be a black oak. I mean of all them, but in particular one tree that is as shapely as a flower, that I have often hugged and put my lips to. Maybe it is a hundred years old. And who knows what it dreamed of in the first springs of its life, escaping the cottontail’s teeth and everything dangerous else? Who knows when supreme patience took hold, and the wind’s wandering among its leaves was enough of motion, of travel?”

~Mary Oliver

The day is hot and lazy, and my mind wades around the meandering bend of the river I sat on the bank of with Quinn just a few days ago, gazing at the leaf boats of that singular day as they begin to drift towards the horizon of memory. Downstream around a few more bends, more memories swirl around an eddy on the edge of consciousness, and I just catch a glimpse of him with pinchable cheeks, stacking river rocks into “snowmen” to match the snowman pajama pants he wore. The size of him in my backpack on this same riverbank stands back-to-back in contrast with how he has drawn up even in height with his dad.

(still life with sippy cup, May, 2009)

His voice then was a giddy gurgling over the river rocks, while his voice now glugs into a much deeper gully. I can hear this in person in a way I cannot hear it through the screen of our pandemic parenting paradigm.

We hike all the way down the switchbacks to the river. Beside a grove of giant cedar trees, we perch on separate rocks, and do not come close enough for me to smell the top of his head, to see if his scalp still carries the scent of a pinch of cinnamon. What does reach me is the zest of the tangerine he is peeling with his large, capable hands, and this scent, too, tethers me to him briefly, remembering how I ate my pregnant body weight in clementines in my third trimester, the memory only eclipsed by the thought that I should not tell him I can smell his lunch, or he will suggest we sit farther apart.

The hands get me, they have changed so much since he grappled with stacking those stones, when the river had swallowed less rain, on a different lazy summer day over a decade ago. I think about those hands, the way they would still reach for mine on the way up to the school building in fifth grade, the way they slid over slippery gray clay making a pinch pot in second grade, the glazed surface of which now preserves the texture only a six-year-old’s fingers could produce. The necklace my Mom gave to me and I wore for my wedding shines in a silver puddle in its shallow cavity. The destiny of many a child’s pinch pot is to perfectly contain treasures as precious as themselves.

Wandering in a wilderness area together all day is unlike our hour-long video calls in all ways, but most acutely in that I am positioned beside the waterfall of his imagination like I have not been in months. The story comes spilling forth of a pod of whimsical dragons hatched out of colorful eggs, each with powerful attributes perfectly complementing those of their teammates. Once we found our first wild rose, we found many. It was in a rose bush that I found my first dragon egg, of the species Photosynthesim draconis. Once we spotted our first crayfish, we found many, and this time a water dragon was hatched. Once we found one dragon egg, we found more, as it is with many wild things for which one wasn’t even necessarily looking. All day, the tale flows in between the huge trunks of the trees we pass by, a comfortable third companion on the journey. Unlooked for, it simply appears like a rainbow where the sunlight refracts in the droplets splashing over the rapids, though the sun and the water never touch.

The last time we hiked all the way to this river, Quinn napped on my back most of the way. Before we built rock snowmen, we threw rocks in the water (splash) for a long time (the name of the activity was throw-rocks-in-the-water-splash!). At one point he looked up at me and said, “I love the water! I love the water!!!” He was just barely two, but he wove a story through the trees that day, too. “I am going to grow big and tall. And when I get older and big, I’ll drive my garbage truck and come and pick up the garbage cans and dump them into the truck!”

I told him, “When you are big and drive your garbage truck to come pick up my garbage, I will come out to watch you dump the garbage cans into the truck, and I will clap for you!” (Luckily some bff emails get hastily etched into the mud beside the riverbank for me to find again years later.)

He has grown so big and tall. The wilderness within him is green and lush as ever, also having grown, expanded in all the ways a teen’s mind does.

Our video calls are now routine, comfortably structured around a game and a book. The book helps us remember wild places, but it isn’t the same as being in one together, with dragons for company. Like the night wakings I didn’t realize I was missing until a stray one reoccurred after months of unbroken sleep, this reintroduction to the storytelling magic of his mind in unstructured moments after months apart catches me off guard. What is this pang of guilt? I had not been grieving the lack of back stage access to his imagination until I got a fresh taste. It tastes like chocolate, mostly sweetness to savor but with an edge of bitter brevity and longing for it to last.

Back near the trailhead, he finds me a butterfly, and beckons me to pause and take photos. We both know his dad is probably waiting, but we stop anyway, not ready to be done. The black-speckled orange wings flit among buttercups and daisies, our eyes dazzled by its color, adjusting to the bright sunlight out from under the old growth canopy. We smile behind our masks at each other; him at the knowledge that his mama is pleased to see butterflies, me at the idea that this could be one of the silverspot butterflies I had read about, and even just the potential of finding something uncommonly rare and endemic to this place helps me alight on the flower of this moment a bit longer, not fly off just yet to what it will feel like to ache for him again for another unknown length of time.

A day lingering among the biggest trees I can find seems a good way to study their supreme patience which I have by no means acquired, even as this wandering quenches the thirst for motion, for travel, for a day set apart from the many days with just the wilderness within to wander. I breathe a prayer on the breeze in the branches, the light on the droplets, the eddies on the edges, for a measure of that patience, that this day may be enough for me and for him of what we have been lacking. Enough of a glimpse at something rare, beautiful, endemic to this place.

 

~rainbow mondays~ raining roses

I gotta get out of bed and get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail
Now I know a refuge never grows
From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose
Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose

~Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ the morphometrics of distance learning

~3-23 to 4-23~

Quull School

At the end of March we started what we called Quull School, a self-directed version of the supplemental learning of the school district. I did show Quinn the lists of projects and learning tools from the school, but after a glance at it, he decided his focus would be on his own pursuits, and I supported him on that. By design, the school’s supplemental learning could not delve into new territory beyond what the students have already learned, as not all students had gained access by just a couple of weeks into the stay-at-home order. The IT personnel of the school had been delivering chrome books and the bus drivers had been delivering supplemental learning packets along with lunches, but it would be a few more weeks until Distance Learning For All could be implemented, new material could be provided, or grades could be back in play. I support the equity of this, and at the same time, I would not require Quinn to review topics he already knows, as that is a particularly painful form of torture to kids with his neural wiring.

We launched Quull School with a game of scattergories. I had him come up with the categories based on areas of learning he would like to dive into more, so we ended up with categories of Music, Programming, Math, Periodic Table, Dinosaurs, Marsupials, and Mythology and played several rounds. For the letter E, I recalled Eoraptor from Quinn’s days of pre-reading when I would draw dinosaurs starting with each letter of the alphabet for him to color, along with the letter. When I told him about that phase of his learning career, he did not remember, so I showed him the sketchbook from that era. We discussed what would work for planning and reflecting on the learning he would be doing, and he decided on a few organizational tools and accountability measures. We planned an extra hangout later in the afternoon each day of Quull School to touch base on how his school day went. I walked him through using google calendar for initiating the meeting, which he called “school with mama.” No time like the present to acquire these extremely relevant skills; like so many life skills, he and I are learning concurrently.

I saw an example of a basic planner where each day of the week had two boxes: 1. the plan and 2. what I did. I showed it to him as a potential idea for how to track his learning goals and progress. From here, he developed his own Quull school log/table in a google doc; it started the same way with the plan/what I did (reflection) and for that first day, his entries were “make a plan” and “made a plan.” His resulting schedule slides ultimately ended up several steps more detailed than the original example. An extra slide contained his list of ideas in case of days when he wasn’t sure what he felt like learning: Math, Electronics, Music, Computer Programming, Italian, Chemistry.

As for the content of the schedule, it started filling in rapidly. Quinn’s paleontology camp director set up Paleontology lectures on zoom for every Tuesday and Thursday; Q agreed to write a paragraph summary of each one, to keep his writing skills sharp. He also spent a fair amount of time learning more computer programming on khan academy. He had been chipping away at the html section, having finished animation in javascript, but now he has moved deeper into advanced javascript because “I want to really start making games.” I helped him set up to use zoom for his paleontology lectures. I can’t help but notice that Quull school is allowing us the opportunity to actively tackle some big executive functioning skills that don’t easily fit into the normal schedule of school and life.

screensharing: check.

Geometric morphometrics

After his first zoom lecture he told me about geometric morphometrics, which he explained very eloquently and I recorded on my audio recorder. I know he found that area of study quite intriguing – math plus fossils. Quinn was munching on cherries on the hangout, or I bet he would have said a lot more!

“If you take two faces, like yours and mine, and you compare segments of them, like say between nose and earlobes and chin, for example, uh, then the overall shape formed by that is going to be different for you than for me,” said Quinn.

I said, “Ok and so you could go by the length of the segments or you could go by the area or the volume or other geometry… So then if you find a new fossil of us, of our group of beings, then you measure it and you can kind of place it in sort of the timeline of age? And or gender, or whatever it is that you’re able to find out? Uh, that is awesome. That sounds really Quinn-like, like a Quinn thing.”

“What’s just morphometrics?” he asked.

“I guess it would just be comparing without the geometry of it, just comparing features… hmm, so morphology is like the shape of things, like when I do parasitology there are different worms that I identify. I can identify them by genetics but a lot of times I do it by morphology which means I’m looking for certain features like the shape of the mouth or suckers or spines or things that a parasite can have. But just descriptively instead of measured. So presence or absence of a spine is not geometric morphometrics – morphology is what I’ve always called that. -metrics by definition is measuring, so morphometrics is maybe measuring the lengths of the features but not necessarily calculating the geometry in terms of angles and area and volume… of the snout or whatever. That’s a really cool topic. I could see you getting into that.”

Quinn’s paleontology lecture summaries contain some real gems of wisdom:

3/31/2020

Geometric morphology is where you take a series of points on a subject and only look at them, and do the same for a different subject, then compare the shape or the distance between certain points and see how, say, some animal’s shoulders get broader as it ages or that in that species, the females have smaller feet than the males, or something like that. Also, as a side note, make sure to take at least one or two classes on public speaking and presenting and other things like that. The last thing that I learned is that sometimes, political arguments between countries can block off certain areas to fossil hunting.

4/2/2020

Elytra are the wings on the inside of a beetle’s husk, folding into the shell when they stop flying and land. Also, here are some tips for doing destructive analysis if you have low sample size: do some other destructive analysis on a different fossil type that has higher sample size and keep doing it as practice until you are sure that you will not only do the destructive analysis correctly and not mess it up and that you will gain valuable knowledge from the research.

4/7/2020

Hippidion was an ice age horse that scientists are pretty sure had a trunk because of how long the nasal passages are on the skull. Also, some hooved animals that are ice age and older had three toes and some even had five toes extending off of their hooves. These are believed by some to be proto-hooves that later evolved into the one and two “digit” hooves of modern animals. Another thing is that sometimes there can be things that conflict with everything that you have studied and learned thus far, and if this happens just know that there are a lot of things we haven’t learned yet even on well studied subjects. Also, side note: never discount data just because you don’t like it or because it conflicts with what you found in your studies.

4/9/2020

There are many different types of cells in the brain and they all have very different functions. Four specific types are trained to let loose certain hormones in the brain like fear.

4/14/2020

Networking can help get you into the job you want. Also, just a note think outside the box if/when you are getting fossils out. Some weird things can be useful.

4/16/2020

Antivenom comes from mixing the venom of different snakes and injecting enough to be noticeable by the immune system of, but not deadly to, sheep. Then you collect the antibodies made by the sheep, and mix them together. Side note: if there is no job that matches the thing you want to do, make the job up, because then not only will you get to do what you want, but it makes space for more of those below you in the ranking of the business as well.

4/21/2020

If you are trying to get a job as a federal worker, make sure you did everything right (i.e. your resume is PERFECT), otherwise you won’t usually get the job. And if something says “PHD preferred” treat it as “PHD required”, because it probably basically is. Another thing, make sure to never turn down any math classes for science careers, because it might be useful.

4/23/2020

Science is not a good subject to frontload on, because it will be painful to go through as you go through the classes you picked for science. Also, try visiting different universities to narrow down which one you want to go to, but don’t go out of your way and spend $200 to go visit one thing.

In-person paleontology camp has been canceled for 2020, but online camps are being invented. I am so thankful Quinn is already hooked into such a cool paleontology community and grateful for the opportunity he has had to immerse a little more in learning on a favorite subject.

Distance learning for all

Quinn had a bit of an emotional response to the idea of school starting up online. He said, “there is a pandemic going on and if they think I am just going to do school, they’re wrong.” Distance learning for all started April 15th, and part of the resistance was, I knew, not knowing what it would really entail. The arrangements were: two half hour sessions with their homeroom teacher per week, with teachers available by appointment for other time slots for additional help. Assignments and quizzes were administered through google classroom… periods 1 and 2 released the week’s assigned work on Mondays (Language arts social studies), 3 and 4 on Tuesday (PE and band) and 5-6-7 on Wednesday (algebra, video production, science) and so he had a week to turn in the work for each class. He ultimately ended up being much more flexible, and it was a nice enough format so he could plan his time how it works for him, not be expected to be in a seat from 8:05 to 3:05 each day and tune into certain classes at specific times (he could still attend his paleontology zooms, and so on). The chance to virtually see some of his peeps for homeroom was nice (but with no pressure to – live classes could not be graded since they can’t ensure all kids can attend.) For his elective, there was a list of projects to choose from, and he chose some of the robotics-related ones first.

On days when he had trouble bringing himself to do school work (and these were not rare) I reminded Quinn to prioritize self care. That YES, we are in the middle of a pandemic and sometimes we won’t feel resilient enough to do our work. I told him I feel like that, too. We have to get our work done in good moments between now and when the work is due, but it is okay to have down time when you just don’t do any work. I think he works through these intense emotions more quickly for the lack of push back from me. I try to reflect his feelings, rather than fighting them, and I think he feels validated and can let them go.

Electronics, pi, volume of sphere, wau, frequency and pitch, volume of an icosahedron, waves and particles, extra dimensions

The sweet spot of this month was, however, that space prior to the implementation of Distance Learning. Always self-directed lifelong learners at heart….

Quinn sent me a photo of his organized resistors for making a foot pedal for his dad’s guitar. “Electronics day 1” was his caption. This is something he’s interested in, without being interested in playing guitar, just for the electronics learning. So quull.

I showed him what I have been working on- measuring the diameters of arctic cod eggs, and how I measure them in ImageJ software, based on setting a scale in the program to a known number of pixels per millimeter taken by the microscope camera; then we went over how I go from diameter to volume of an egg (sphere) and he was all over that four-thirds-pi-r-cubed math. Then we reviewed where pi came from, and how round things have pi inherent in them, and you can measure the circumference and diameter of a bunch of objects and average that ratio and you will approach 3.14159… Then I taught him a few tricks with calculations in google sheets for this, after he measured a few circles. Tricks I learned in a basement computer lab as a college freshman; how to click and drag to fill a formula down a column. We also discussed how the average will approach pi more quickly/closely for larger objects because the measurement errors would be more diluted.

We watched Vi Hart’s the science and math of frequency and pitch together at his request. She zooms in on the sine waves of each overtone of her own voice in Audacity software (which Quinn has been using to record music with his dad) to help understand how we experience sound, including nuances like why a middle C is always the same note but sounds different coming from different instruments or voices; along with a playground swinging metaphor and her excellent logical thought progression, I think we both learned a lot.

Audible made it free to listen to Harry Potter book 1, so I emailed that link to Quinn, and then realized he can also listen to it in Italian! We’ll see if he takes me up on it.  “Harry Potter, il ragazzo che ha vissuto.”

On our hangouts, we verbally reviewed wau; I used the end of my bokchoy to do an ink print on a piece of paper and then measured the angles and we were happy to see the phi angles of Fibonacci. We worked on math doodles like netted spirals, impossible triangles, fractals, Pascal’s triangles, and tesselated fish.

We played Uno and made hexaflexagons together. Then he wanted to do a project where we each made a set of D&D dice out of paper, so we did. I had Quinn look up the formula for volume of an icosahedron, aka a 20-sided dice. Quinn also worked on creating his own version of the card game mentioned in Percy Jackson called Mythomagic.

I sent Q photos of hummingbird babies enjoying multiple dinners. I miss feeding him multiple dinners. Also this month, we hiked on the beach together for my birthday and saw squid eggs and a green worm.

Reading this month: Quinn read The Parrot’s Lament and shared with me something he learned about dolphins collaborating with humans in fishing endeavors. I began reading to him Zero: the biography of a dangerous idea by Charles Seife. Sometimes a word or phrase would get him to interrupt and reveal some secret knowledge – he knew all about triangular numbers, for instance. We learned new words like flinders. He seems not only undaunted, but energized, by the necessity of additional dimensions to scaffold string theory in order to bridge the seemingly infinite chasm between quantum physics and relativity.