being the rainbow around the dragon house… rotating flowers through the rainbow jars and dying/hiding/finding rainbow eggs in stolen weekday moments before my son left for his dad’s on good friday.
this is bart, being the rainbow kitty healer. he has a special sense to know which body part upon which to drape his 19 pounds and purr in order to perform his best healing magic. he hones in on a uterus with cramps or a knee with a twinge, he drapes himself across one’s neck if one has a sore throat, and across one’s face if one is congested. so this one time (thursday) when i dislocated my left shoulder, he could be found attending to things in his usual manner. p.s. is this shirt candy pink or baby pink, do you think?
red: another fire child celebrated a birthday, and since we’re growing old together, the universe figured we could practice more “in sickness and in health.” i’m pleased to report that rich still knows how to make nachos and washed all the heavy dishes for me over the weekend. he said i don’t need to hurt myself in order to get him to help in the kitchen. not being able to use one arm for a day made me appreciate allllll of the things i do while taking for granted my two capable hands. “sweetie, would you please open my underwear drawer?” i was back to french braiding yesterday, but for friday rich got to practice his ponytail skills.
red: on saturday i was back in action for farm work, i just didn’t throw any 80 pound totes of veggies around, and restricted myself instead to emptying them out into their displays, arranging rhubarb into bright red rainbows, without holding any of it up over my head.
orange: i’ve been reflecting lately on trying to be open to what is next for me in terms of career path. now, when i said open, i didn’t mean i wanted to be broken open. i meant in the sense of brainstorming and thinking outside the box. but, as the late l. cohen sang, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” if nothing else, my injury was effective at enforcing that i work on my wedding invitations… i couldn’t exactly haul buckets or push the wheelbarrow around this weekend.
for fun i looked up shoulder injury in louise hay’s you can heal your life, which i’ve found to be startlingly accurate every time i’ve referred to its hippie dippy master list. it did not disappoint this time either: joint injuries represent changing directions in life and the ease with which we make those transitions.
orange: i guess cracking is how we get to the yummy part of the egg, too.
yellow: my legs were still working fine, so i took a few bayou walks with rich. we are in skunk season.
yellow: we are also still enjoying the trout lily patch immensely. in a rare moment of sun, i laid sideways on my good shoulder and took pictures of this spider’s fancy gypsy tent.
green: a few bayou walks with this lad were taken as well. trilliums were observed.
owls were impersonated.
trees were hugged.
green: rich and i went to a lady rizo concert last night. she is an expert weaver of metaphor during her performances. she sang the leonard cohen song i quoted above (title: anthem), and had me in tears with her recitation of the statue of liberty poem during the song’s bridge. as a new york city resident, she saw that lady liberty, mother of exiles, went dark the day the second executive order immigration ban went into effect. she wasn’t sure whether the credit was due to some crafty park rangers, or mere coincidence, but the metaphor couldn’t be denied. sometimes imprisoned lightning is more visible when it is suddenly absent. sometimes it’s the silences between the notes that sing the loudest. sometimes we can see the shaft of sunlight better when a trail of smoke goes across it, and like a light bulb to lemon juice, reveals a secret message we’ve been needing to read.
green: a wind storm blew a bunch of the flowers off the maple tree onto our driveway, and i find them to be quite captivating filling the green jar on my windowsill. maple is a family favorite (i’m thinking of all my pancakes and also of my great grandfather’s maple syrup/sugar business), and as i am a special fan of green flowers, these first green flowers of the spring are a new favorite.
blue: don’t forget!
purple: the garden will still be there when i get back. in the meantime, the hyacinths are holding down the bottom level of the terraces, and i’ve pulled all the ivy all the way to the cedar tree where cardboard is now laid down. i’ll be inside the house under a cat. contemplating the cracks in everything… they’re how the rainbows get in.
i had wanted to say more during women’s history month, but here we are slingshot into the month of april, and 2 of my 3 big events of the year have come and gone. quinn is 10! i am 39! and our wedding is a few short months away, for which we are giddy with anticipation. this is my letter written in the sand, as my 39th birthday surges on by.
on april 3, i woke up, made the bed, trudged upstairs and hugged rich. when he told me, “happy birthday sweetie,” i replied, “oh yeah! i forgot!” and that, ladies and gentlemen, is 39 in a nutshell.
being born on april 3 is a little harder to fit into a nutshell, because those of us who share this birthday, jane goodall and myself included, tend to be relatively passionate, difficult to encapsulate, individuals. which means we can be boisterously enthusiastic, fiercely loving, miraculously multitasking, as prickly as we are cuddly, including the leg hair we sometimes boycott shaving due to so many other more important things we need to be doing! doing! doing!, especially starting projects, and we can be the biggest compilation of contradictions you have ever encountered. i probably shouldn’t speak for jane on these matters, but i’d be surprised if she didn’t fit some of this description, being my birthday sister.
wedding boss is learning what my mom has known since i was a child, that i have a hard time articulating creative endeavors before they are completed, that i rarely initiate group projects and prefer to make things myself with nobody watching, and that yes, i say contradictory things about my plans. “you have said both that you want lots of color and lots of flowers, and that you want to keep it minimal and use lots of white.” what can i say, sis, it makes sense in my own head! the lots of flowers in the terraces will provide single flowers for the colorful vases on the mostly white tablecloths… surrounded by rainbow prayer flags. lots and minimal and white and color.
i was born in the same year as a giant blizzard, under the fire sign of aries. a tornado of fire who can’t keep her extremities warm to save her life. to be situated in the draftiest northwest upstairs bedroom in the farmhouse was my childhood fate. i am blessed with an equally fiery fiance who, probably due to all the taurus in his chart (*wink*), is able to store his warmth and share the excess with me on chilly nights, and it’s just one of the galaxy of reasons i am so happy to be marrying him.
two aries might sound like a lot of head butting, but between his grounded earthiness and my attraction to the fire-quenching water, we both seem to have found some balance and evolved a few coping skills, not to mention the chemistry of our teamwork that seems to result in a lot of cleared land with plants growing in it. maybe aries finally become more settled with age, more able to channel that fire into a forging, creative bed of embers, than a raging, destructive inferno. sometimes i even finish projects nowadays. i know i feel a lot readier to embark on a lifelong relationship with someone than i ever would have in the previous two decades of my life.
i think my parents must have had some notion that i was a born hippie, right from an early age. at that time, the only way i had to exercise it might have been to experiment with consuming large helpings of sprouts and sunflower seeds at the pizza hut salad bar. but there were other signs, accumulated over the longer term, that might have clued them in.
when we were allowed to choose among the three afternoon tv programs (sesame street, mr. rogers, and the electric company) i remember frequently choosing mr. rogers. i was drawn to his nonviolent communication and his neighborhood of make believe. and ohhh, the crayon factory episode. when a premature calf was born and i insisted on bottle-feeding her multiple times a day during my summer vacation around age 8, they could see my (stubborn) heart for animals. i disliked eating steak, and refused to eat any beef at all if my father revealed the former name of the cow we were consuming. i belonged among the wildflowers, i belonged on a boat out at sea. with an unlimited supply of scotch tape.
my fiance knows about my thing for wildflowers. this is my birthday trout lily (in the yellow vase), a delightful patch of which is thriving on the bayou trail.
as i grew up, i went from calf rescue to calf delivery midwife. for my career path i was torn between music, art and biology, with biology eking out a slight lead due to its inclusion of wildflowers, whales, and boats out at sea, the subjects of the music and art i liked best.
jimmy carter was president when i was born, and in 1980 when the first women’s history week (which expanded to the whole month of march) was born, along with my younger sibling. he even put in a plug for the e.r.a., which still hasn’t been ratified. i don’t know if that has anything to do with my becoming a feminist, but i always did have an interest in female heroes. i wrote essays for the famous american women contest in numerous years, my most memorable subjects being beverly cleary and mother hale. mother hale cared for hundreds of crack-addicted and hiv-infected babies when no one else would take them in. beverly cleary wrote the most captivating stories about a girl with whom i acutely identified, who got muddy, did not consider herself inferior to the boys, preferred to wear pants, and got in trouble with her teachers… in oregon. between ramona quimby and playing oregon trail on the apple iie computers, i think i have always been destined for oregon. with a strong desire for all babies to be wanted, and a need to write on behalf of women’s equality.
i wrote on quinn’s birthday that 10 is both a culmination and a beginning; 39 feels like being on the cusp of finally arriving at home within myself. i also wrote that 10 was a sum of consecutive prime numbers; can you guess what other number that can be said about?
“Thirty-nine is the sum of consecutive primes (3 + 5 + 7 + 11 + 13) and also is the product of the first and the last of those consecutive primes. Among small semiprimes only three other integers (10, 155, and 371) share this attribute,” says wikipedia. considering that neither of us is likely to ever reach 155 or 371, we are rocking two pretty special ages this year, my boy and i.
since i took calculus around 155 years ago, i can’t remember if the color pattern quinn chose represents a harmonic series or some other kind… 1,1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 4, 1…
the song 39 by queen was an unexpected birthday gift i discovered when i googled 39 to find out its mathematical attributes. (yes i am that much of a geek.) the song touches on the subject of fleeting time when a ship full of space travelers return one year older to a world in which generations have passed them by. maybe when i chose the word ephemeral for 2017, it had something to do with how keenly i am feeling time rush by in great dollops. ephemeral like letters in the sand. relativity is relentless, “the day i take your hand in the land that our grandchildren knew…” but woven into this turnover is a web of connection. “your mother’s eyes through your eyes cry to me,” makes me think of the way i’ve been told ever since i can remember that i have my nana’s eyes, smile, mannerisms. thinking of that brings grief entwined inextricably with comfort. i have mentioned ani’s lyric about children, “the funnel through which women’s lives are poured,” and more and more, in spite of being my own distinct someone, i feel like a vessel, a conduit, through which my son’s life energy can pour forth.
so, i guess i have a lot on my mind. it totally makes sense that i didn’t remember it was my birthday!
i spent part of spring break on wedding projects, including dying and cutting the fabric for prayer flags i am asking my guests to help decorate.
checking items off the to-do list feels pretty good!
i also gave my rainbow jar/flower plan a test run, even though i didn’t have any orange or green flowers yet to work with.
my son requested that i buy him a set of the yoga cards his teacher uses in class. i felt like this particular card was a sign that it was a good addition to our library. he has been setting up flows for me to do with him ever since they arrived.
rainbow tidepool creatures from a low tide walk with a good friend on sunday… with sunshine! on my birthday weekend, i couldn’t have asked for nicer weather for our walk!
red: sunlit crab in the shallows
red: another, larger sunlit crab!
red: gooseneck barnacles are not often seen on land, as they often grow on pelagic flotsam. we saw a cluster on the beach yesterday, looking like they’d just arrived from outer space.
orange: crabs seemed to be prevalent!
orange: including hermit crabs! i loved this little guy perched on the baby orange urchin.
orange: as part of my pre-birthday celebrating, i tested for my orange belt! had an awesome test alongside some inspiring young women.
yellow: test day, the last day of my previous belt rank of yellow.
yellow: and one of my first days of sparring. i was dreading it, but it turned out to be very fun!
yellow: a friday night outing with some girlfriends included a fun dessert, which came with sparkler candle! the friend who took this pointed out my angel over in the lower right corner.
green: minecraft, irl! (in real life, with real bricks.)
green: more sparkly twinkles. dew on clover.
green: twisting dragon pose!
green and blue: sharing smores with camp boss!
blue: smiley face rock!
blue: eagles always visit us at this beach. this was a juvenile.
purple: we picked up some trash from the tidepools, but some trash has become a growing surface, like this sparkly red plastic. i had reached in, ascertained that it was not one to be removed due to baby sea urchin, and stooped lower to take this picture before i saw the sculpin lurking in complete stillness! they are incredible at hide and seek.
purple: still quite sparse after the wasting disease that diminished their population to almost nothing, we did see a hopeful handful of sea stars.
purple: sea urchins with tube feet visible!
purple: some of my birthday flowers, and another purple birthday present, from sparring. it looks much worse than it feels!
purple: crocuses in the terrace garden. i’ve always loved the stripey ones!
red violet: speaking of stripey, the trilliums are beginning to do their magical color change trick. trilliums in red violet, 3 petals on the 3rd of april, a lovely birthday present!
white: but a few of them are still white, providing a nice camouflage substrate for the cute white spider.
pink: practicing gratitude for daylight savings, and appreciating that i can be up before sunrise once again for a brief few weeks…
pink: my fiance comes home with his truck covered in cherry blossom snow each day lately.
red: then we walk around and look at nature together.
a wild bayou hummingbird sighting! the salmonberries in bloom are a favorite of the hummers.
orange: there is a fungus among us.
yellow: i can’t get enough of these…
yellow: or these! but rich can… poor pollen people…
yellow/green: someone please tell me what wildflower this is?! i cannot find it in any of my field guides. it’s growing near the bayou, just on the side of the trail. i feel like it is familiar in some way, but those crazy reindeer-antler leaves are throwing me for a loop on the identity.
green: watching the slow unfurling of the hidden inner parts of things…
… spiraling outward…
…beginning again and again…
green: renewal can take many forms. like starting over again after a long, hard day, getting a hug and a photography assignment from my fiance so i can regain my positive outlook. i took about thirty photos of individual raindrops that day, and felt like they washed it all away.
blue: forget-me-nots, my nana’s favorite and one of mine, are starting to show their faces. we know they are abundant here at the dragon house, since we were arriving in their high season last year!
blue: happy to be enjoying a slight uptick in hours when this blue stuff is showing.
blue-violet: hyacinths in bloom in the bottom (purple) level of the terrace rainbow.
red-violet: a surprise azalea on our north fenceline, just underneath one of our hummingbird feeders. we think this one will thrive more than it might have in the past, since rich has done a lot of pruning and trimming of overgrown shrubbery that might have shaded it out.
brown: where’s waldo, the tree creeper? (at least i think that’s his name…)
black/gray/white/brown/green: knock knock! hello monday? it’s tuesday and i’m here with your photos.
it’s been a good couple of months to be review listening to harry potter audio books, with so many themes having heightened relevance to our current events. it was quinn’s idea to listen to them again, when we finished with the heroes of olympus. while we were waiting for the order of the phoenix to come in at the library, we briefly reviewed some lemony snicket, and quinn observed, “these titles sure have a lot of alliteration.”
when he turned 10 *gasp* a month ago already, i borrowed from some of my lifelong learning notes for the birthday post, so you’ve already heard about peaceful protests, fourth person point of view, and our chatty walks up to the school building each morning.
the peaceful protests, of course, were a residual effect of his essay on martin luther king jr, an essay of which i think he is quite proud now that it is finished. he put a ton of effort into it, and i personally learned facts i hadn’t known before, such as that the day of his assassination, mlk:
“…went to Memphis, Tennessee to help black garbage collectors get the same amount of money as white garbage collectors for the same amount of work.”
i could copy and paste that snippet of his work into this post because we live in such a fancy modern age that our children can “share” their google doc essays to their mama’s email address when prompted to do so!
i went to school one friday while they were doing their martin luther king jr essays and i was circulating and helping kids. the first 10 minutes of the 45 minute class was a mindfulness breathing exercise… the teacher had them sit tall and breathe along with a drum beat for each breath, and a breathing ball (it expands and contracts) that the two team leaders handled. this was followed by a loving kindness meditation: “may i be safe and healthy… may i be happy… may i be… ” was the first of 4 rounds; second, she had them think of a person they love, and hold that person in mind and repeat “may he/she be safe…. “; third, “this one is harder… think of a person that it’s hard for you to like… “may he/she be….”; and finally, “may everyone be…” this was such a good investment of ten minutes, because the kids proceeded to spend the next 35 minutes acutely focused and getting so much accomplished on their essays. with lots of direction from her (they were working on conclusions so she provided examples of transition phrases that work well for beginning a conclusion…. and then had kids share their first sentences… then they worked on how to include the 3 main ideas of the essay in that first sentence… and went back to work on their first sentence some more… very methodical with them on actually how to write.) quinn had a ton of writing on his piece of paper, and also arrows going here and there of places he wanted to insert sentences he wrote later… the kids completely understand “drafts” and they get excited when it is time for “publishing” and writing their final drafts… he picked the right year to work on improving his writing, with such graceful guidance.
he is a certified… guacamole masher, steam mopper, fireplace filling technician!
(i clearly was unable to put a log in the wood stove, with 30 pounds of cat on my legs, so someone had to do it!)
risk and play date fun with a panda, and birthday celebrations with a koala.
beach clean-up class field trip! we found some cool rock formations including some that quinn claimed were dinosaur eggs in a nest! we filled a pretty big pile of garbage bags from our little stretch of beach.
first belt test at his new dojo! quinn earned his half yellow belt, something he was very keen to do. i appreciate sifu’s approach, and the way he tunes into the individual needs and interests of each kid. he knew and understood that quinn wanted to “collect them all” and was happy to oblige with a half belt test! quinn actually already knew almost all of his yellow belt curriculum, so his full yellow test was scheduled for soon thereafter.
this dojo is a really good fit for us. i personally enjoy the self paced curriculum, because if i feel ready for new techniques, all i have to do is ask for them. if i need more time to practice, i can take more time. i am not lumped in with a group all trying to advance at the same pace, and yet somehow teaching everyone new individual techniques does not seem to become unmanageable even with large class sizes. i am trying to use as many opportunities in life right now to help quinn learn to assert himself in positive ways, to advocate especially for what he wants to learn. since our debut in public school, i have wanted to reinforce his right to self-direction in his learning choices. in the conversations we’re having about learning, i keep trying to set the tone that what he wants matters, and that speaking up about it is always a good choice, even if his wishes can’t be accommodated right away. he is getting to practice that in his karate pursuit, and i am glad for the parallel to his schooling that i can point to as an example.
creative reading postures; eye rolling
a visit from ruby tuesday! she’ll even hop up on his loft bed with him to snuggle him into bed at night. we are so lucky to be her fairy dog family.
games! playing games with panda, playing games with grammie e, who recently added quinn into the weekly rotation of her grandkids so he could play games with her and have some undivided attention. they played monopoly for their first round. when he’s not playing games, he’s usually making games…
some recent game themes included wilderness survival, owl evolution, battle islands, an angry birds spinoff, and a few others that he didn’t not have fully developed or named yet. graph paper!!!
most of his peaceful protests had to do with bringing graph paper, pencil and markers along to work on a game design. he also made some new “elements game” cards one afternoon, based on magic the gathering, but with his own spin. i was glad i had already turned on google safe search when he started google image searching terms like “mermaid queen.” all of the mermaid queens he found were fully dressed, thank goodness!
it will be fun to find out how this game is played!
one of our vacation house roommates came to visit! he hadn’t been to our new house so we got to give him a tour and feed him dinner and treat him to our air mattress. he brought a king cake for dessert (awesomeness, straight from NOLA) and i made soup and bread for dinner and we all ate and got caught up. we told him he needs to bring his other half and come back in july for a get together we’re having. we also showed him the bayou, the name of which was of course inspired by our new orleans roomies.
after dinner we got out the king cake which had a warning label “inedible baby figurine included” or something to that effect. they don’t hide the baby in the cake anymore because of litigation so the baby was sitting inside the wrapper. i took it over to the counter and hid the baby under a piece that had green sugar on the frosting, thinking quinn would want a green piece, so maybe he would get the baby. (if you have never had king cake this all sounds incredibly ridiculous!) i brought it back over and handed rich the knife and he asked quinn what color he wanted. quinn said green, and rich cut the exact piece where i had put the baby (which was a long shot!) and the baby popped out as he was putting it on the plate. lots of laughing, quinn was happy he got the baby, and our friend told stories about king cakes he’s eaten in the past; how some high end places use gold babies, and how his cub scout leader had a king cake one time with 15 babies in it so all the kids got a baby and it was a fun surprise, and several other funny scenarios involving king cake.
our friend had been tracing the geneaology of his family, who it turns out have been living in the 9th ward for something like 8 generations. he has been visiting old family homes, graves, and digging through old microfiches to trace family members back even farther. we were talking about the naming conventions of various family members and he would say to quinn, so who is your grandfather’s son (and quinn would answer, um…. my uncle) and then it got more tricky and there was a discussion of what “once removed” means in cousin terminology. i told the story of how luigi always called q “cousin quinn”, and that one time when we went to visit when q was 5 and luigi 4 and i was coaching them on being kind to each other “after all, you’re cousins” and luigi saying, “wait, i’m a cousin?!” mind blown. that led to principles of family like “you can’t have a cousin without being a cousin” and you can’t have a sibling without being a sibling, and quinn was coming up with more. then we talked about how it applies to friends too, but can you have a friend without being a friend? that was discussed, but then it got silly with “but what if the second friend is really a spy, and only acting like a friend to extract information from the first friend…” so then to be even sillier i asked, “well then what if the first friend is a double agent” and then it was “oh yeah, what if the second friend is a triple agent?” and by this time we were all giggling hysterically at the table, to quadruple and quintuple agents, and beyond.
when our friend asked quinn about school, quinn said they are learning mostly about martin luther king jr. right now, and also about native americans. he told us all how their land was taken away, and talked about the sioux and knew where in the country to point to on the map of where their land was, and didn’t know what states’ names that corresponds to now, so he went to look for an atlas, and wandered away. i went and found him after a while and he was on his bed reading calvin and hobbes. we looked at an atlas together and he pointed right to the dakotas, with an “oh yeah, that’s right.” i am glad to know he is learning such things right now. i got him a young peoples’ history of the u.s. on audio cd (howard zinn), one of his stocking presents for christmas and i think he will get into it once he starts. knowing how he absorbs auditory information, he will be an american history expert (from the zinn perspective) in no time.
i chaperoned a field trip to the art department at the local community college. the kids had all prepared a drawing they would use to carve and print a linocut, so they set about carving right away. this was full of ups and downs for a few of the kids who struggle a bit with perfectionism. not that i know anything about that. at one point he wanted to give up and felt he had ruined the whole thing, but as he worked through it, he found equanimity again, and then he tried a print even though he wasn’t finished carving and beamed, and said, “it looks like an old black and white photograph!!”
using the brayer; printing his first draft
pleased with his print
“just like an old black and white photograph!” i guess i’m not the only one in this family who likes spirals… i quite like the way this spiral has a beam of light shining out of it, and even if he continues to carve away the rest of the outer portion, i will treasure this first print.
recently the name “the happy spot” has come back into vogue; lately he likes to get cozy in my chair with my laptop and my heating pad on the low setting… often it is his first activity upon arriving home from his dad’s week.
he started back up studying computer programming on khan academy and got caught back up to the point where he left off a year or so ago in one night. after that quick review he moved forward. this was a totally self motivated effort.
in the department of “life lessons we wish we didn’t need to learn” these past few months, one of the teachers quinn had for walk to math last year in third grade was arrested for sexually assaulting a teen minor at a summer camp. the teacher had already left quinn’s school, and was now teaching in a different county, and so our school system did not even appear to address it, which was disheartening. for my part, i discussed it with quinn, preferring him to hear about it from me rather than from classmates (i heard about it via facebook, where a friend had originally learned of it from her 6th grader reading the online news article aloud at the breakfast table (!), so i felt it was safe to assume it was going to circulate around school), and we sat together and read the brief few pages in it’s perfectly normal that cover the things that are not normal or okay when done by an adult to a child. i had just recently ordered this book, since we had the 7 and up book it’s so amazing but are now approaching 10!
the song happy by pharrell williams came on the radio on a random weekend day when we had npr on the radio. quinn loves listening to all of those shows (wait wait don’t tell me, radio lab) and laughs at the political jokes. happy came on and quinn was singing all the words and rich and i made eye contact over his head and grinned as we do when stuff like that happens.
he’s getting so big… he has favorite songs he knows the lyrics to…
he got past the part where leslie dies in bridge to terebithia.
he has inside jokes with me like “whatever sleet is.”
karate is a fun long evening twice a week, and i feel good about the time we’ve spent every time i’m leaving there. he is learning a lot in sparring, which in this dojo has a lot to do with control vs pummeling your opponent, and he is finding he likes working with some of the adult class green belts because they teach him while they spar.
one day quinn and i were all by ourselves for a day class, and he got to go through all of his moves for his full yellow belt test. he had fixed one foot maneuver sifu had worked on with him in his short one form, and sifu noticed that he had fixed it and said “i’d give you your belt just for that.” that was a nice acknowledgement of quinn’s attention to detail.
and the full yellow test was again a success! this time he tested with a friend, and they both did a wonderful job. and better yet, they left feeling like they knew they had done well, their hard work had been affirmed and encouraged.
valentine’s day; excuse for dorkery in the kitchen and receiving handmade cards!
some random learning moments this month; listening to his friend read to him (as part of their daily 5 reading program, i think quinn has probably helped this one boy with his reading quite a bit this school year, by being such a loyal listener and patient decoding helper. plus they are awfully cute sitting in their camp chair together. we also attended a fun movie night at the dojo, to which each and every student brought their fuzzy fleece blanket. before the show, board games were played, which of course is always a good time for quinn! he even got to eat an off-brand lunchable, poor deprived child that he is, he has had precious few of them in his lifetime, like possibly only one other one, but i succumbed to his special request.
his birthday weekend was nice, and not stressful. by deciding to keep it simple, i ended up free to make it fancier. he helped, and it was so low key that i could have fun and be creative. the pizza pokeball and the type symbols on the veggies were last minute add-ons, because i had time to sit around and briefly google “pokemon party.” quinn set up the pokemon figures, and also decided he liked my balloon curtain idea, so he hung 4 out of 5 of them, after i hung up the first.
the boys played outside quite a bit, and would come in and do pokemon and legos and stuff in between. quinn got a minecraft medieval fortress book from grammy and grampy and that was his favorite. for a while they played minecraft, and then they would revisit the table and load up on more pizza and veggies. the three of us sang to quinn and he joined in singing to himself and laughed, and then he made his wish and we ate cupcakes. we put on a movie in the evening so the boys could transition to inside voices. we watched indian in the cupboard since they’re both familiar with the book.
then they went to bed and read and drew and talked. i turned the light off at 9 or so, and they fell asleep 9:30ish. not too bad, they were actually noisier the next morning.
it’s wild that he’s 10 and having sleepovers…
he hasn’t parted with the minecraft book (it rode to school in the car with us several mornings) so that definitely won best present. he does like his jedi robe though, and he was listening to music on his mp3 player morning while he got dressed for school. because he’s happy… “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.“
i am a summer girl at heart, but early spring is a very happy time of year for me, because of all the hopeful new beginnings, new growth, and flowers! the first flowers after the longest period of going without flowers are some of the sweetest. part of the changing of seasons for me is allowing myself to feel the associated dread, diappointments, anticipations, longings, awe, wonder, and magic that each ephemeral moment holds. giving myself permission to feel the whole spectrum of the human emotional experience.
pink: as i was brainstorming wedding cupcake ideas with wedding boss and co., we settled on flowers in every color. i won’t spoil all the details, but i am happy to say that cherry blossoms will be representing in the candy pink/baby pink department. to explain why, i wrote that to me they symbolize “the saga of a tree and an over-extended metaphor about renewal.” the ornamental in the above picture at dragon house 2.0 may actually be a plum, but the metaphor lives on for me in every blossom i see, and is always a reminder for me of what can bloom even after brokenness and devastation.
red: the hummingbirds have certainly recognized that spring is upon us, and are emptying the feeder in frantic four-hour periods this week in preparation for nesting.
orange: also in the “it’s officially spring” department, robins! (we saw a turkey vulture soaring over the bayou the other day as well!)
yellow: more work on the rainbow terrace garden was accomplished as providence provided another sunny sunday, but a few bulbs in their bucket transitional homes have bloomed before i could transplant them. these crocuses will be leading off the early spring end of the yellow terrace level in years to come!
yellow: 3 trilliums, petals of 3, sepals of 3, and leaves of 3. the magic number! a sweet-smelling spring favorite of mine, always just before my birthday. (39 this year on the 3rd! more 3s!)
green: spring brings signs of life, signs of renewal, signs of love. tender new leaves emerging from long dormant earth.
blue: speaking of love, i haven’t moved all of my 8 yards of compost yet, but this handsome man moved most of his 10 yards of gravel in a little over a day. it’s hard to get my own work done because i get distracted by watching him! (or at least, that’s my excuse.)
purple: sprouting broccoli at the farm stand on saturday, and since my kiddo has been requesting broccoli lately, i brought some home for him to try.
purple: another fresh spring arrival, the pile of radishes featured one rogue bunch of purple radishes, of which i couldn’t resist snapping a photo. the farm seasons offer a comforting continuous awareness of renewal as last season’s crops fade away and new arrivals make their appearance. i find the farm work especially grounding in this current life season, as i have had about all i can take of looming budget cuts, grant-funded research, and the restrictions and expectations of carrying on an unsustainable lifestyle in order to be under paid and lack job security in a project i can therefore not invest any life force in, since i only having a master’s degree. looking forward to renewal in the area of career in the upcoming months.
brown: a squirrel heartily enjoying a pine cone. rich and i got to watch it peel each seed and spit out the husk, turning the whole thing over and over in its paws like corn on the cob.
i didn’t have a major topic lined up for today, which is probably another case of providence, since i think we could all use a little breather after my previous post! i want to say that i appreciate each and every comment and the effort and time you each put into responding and searching and digging into the meat of a difficult topic with me! the one link i want to share today, concerning empathy, is one that i felt was helpful for me in articulating why it hurt to hear many versions of “get over it” following the election wherein folks were “sick of” hearing others expressing fear and sadness. we are all human, and i want to be clear that one reason i appreciate my readers so much, is the way you all already regard my and each other’s feelings as entirely valid; the “get over it” sentiments are not ones that i heard in this space! empathy takes us a long way past many of the roadblocks to dialogue that much of our society seems to have a hard time clearing.
“When we react to our emotions with rejection or repression, they become complex story bundles, locked in our hearts and bellies, and we call them things like depression and rage. Allowed to exist on their own, they are weather patterns, and the rain they bring renews the despairing or apathetic soul with life giving force.”
mary good’s post also talks about how we can “give our hearts permission for the full range of experience,” including those very vulnerable feelings that can be uncomfortable. when we let the ephemeral clouds drift across our skies and simply observe and validate them, we get to both experience them more fully, the whole rainbow of emotion, and find much greater ease in letting them go. i’m finding this to be an excellent and much-needed reminder for myself right now, with uncertainties and unanswered questions stirring in my own life, and knowing there are vulnerable times ahead for so many of my friends and family as well. let’s be rainbows in each others’ clouds as we embrace the renewal that spring brings.
it was a couple of hours of my time well spent, wandering through the berkeley art museum back in 2002, absorbing salgado’s amazing collection migrations: humanity in transition. i was adrift myself, recently relocated far from home in a post 9/11 political climate, when i took in these visually stunning photos of displaced people from all over the world. something about them really touched my core; my account of the exhibit and the feelings it evoked, complete with the exhibit pamphlet and newspaper clippings of salgado’s photos, fills several pages of my journal from that time. that journal is full of many other long entries as i was sorting out a lot of my own values and beliefs – as you do when you’re 23 and know absolutely no one. i had landed a technician job in a marine mammal genetics lab, relocated 3000 miles away in my 1988 corsica, which promptly blew a head gasket, and i spent the next 5 years making my way around the bay area on borrowed and second-hand bikes. at the time i saw this exhibit, i was still pretty fresh off a schooner, both broke and nursing a broken heart, and eating rice and beans and whatever fresh vegetables i could fit in my backpack on the 6 mile uphill trek home to the oakland hills.
“there are adults who have lived their whole lives in camps where only the oldest remember where they were displaced from. there are children who have been separated from their families in the chaos of flight from violence, warfare. whole orphanages full of them.” the journal entry was seriously grappling with the privilege i felt guilty to be enjoying, compared to the poverty and fear experienced by so many.
i don’t feel such overwhelming guilt now, but i do feel a sense of responsibility for maintaining an awareness of the plight of people much less fortunate than myself. as elie wiesel put it so well, “as long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. as long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. what all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.”
elie wiesel is also quoted as saying, “no human being is illegal.” which, when you think about it, is a no-brainer. i like how he thinks, which i guess is why i’ve kept insisting on quoting him recently. he seems to have understood that someone else having rights, not only doesn’t detract from one’s own rights; on the contrary, it enhances everyone’s freedom.
a country based on freedom should have policy that reflects it. i remain unconvinced of the supposed threat we face from refugees, and remain convinced that it is our responsibility to treat “the least of these” with compassion. in the aftermath of muslim ban 1.0, before the judicial system rightfully put a stop to it, many legal permanent residents were cast into uncertainty about their lives, careers, and futures in their legal country of residence, scrambling until judges upheld their right to not be illegally deported, their right to have their families reunited. a breastfeeding (american citizen) baby was separated from her (legal permanent resident) mother at an airport, for hours, unable to receive comfort or nutrition from her mother because of this chaos. an eleven month old infant: truly, the least of these.
muslim ban 2.0 cannot be allowed to stand either. my safety, my security, my freedom is not enhanced by separating nursing infants from their mothers; it is degraded. my security is not enhanced by refusing to accept someone who is without a homeland.
i understand that those who want to join our country need to be vetted. but this is already happening. what part of the already extensive vetting process needs improvement? what’s the plan to improve it? in the meantime, how can you evaluate the vetting process accurately without seeing it in action? if it was truly so flawed it needed to be halted, what were the problems that were identified? who slipped through the cracks, what harm did they cause, how did they get through vetting undetected? what is the actual threat prevented by a ban? (hint: there isn’t one.)
this author, who claims, “i’m pro life, but i hope to become more so,” put this lack of threat in perspective. “since 1980, three million refugees have been resettled in the united states. in that time not one has taken the life of an american in an act of terrorism. the conservative cato institute estimates that the likelihood of an individual american being killed in an act of terrorism committed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion a year. somehow it does not feel truly and fully pro-life to be unwilling to give up one-3.64 billionth of my security to make room for someone bombed out of their city, someone who is homeless, cold and unwelcomed.”
this article outlines all “major terrorist attacks” since 9/11 on american soil… “of this list, zero fatal attacks were carried out by immigrants from the seven muslim-majority countries targeted by the ban. two attacks were carried out by individuals with ties to the seven countries: the 2006 unc suv attack, and the 2016 ohio state university attack. neither of those plots resulted in american deaths.”
terrorist attacks carried out by american citizens from montana, tennessee, arkansas, texas, wisconsin, new jersey, kansas, nevada, south carolina, and colorado did, though.
another article succinctly laid out the facts concerning the “phantom menace” a muslim ban would claim to combat:
nationals of the seven countries singled out… have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on u.s. soil between 1975 and 2015.
six iranians, six sudanese, two somalis, two iraqis, and one yemeni have been convicted of attempting or executing terrorist attacks on u.s. soil during that time period…
over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the united states have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on u.s. soil, and only three americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by cuban refugees in the 1970s.
between 1975 and 2015, the ‘annual chance of being murdered by somebody other than a foreign-born terrorist was 252.9 times greater than the chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist…’
i mean, call me crazy, but i’ll take my chances and open my arms to refugees.
in the words of jack white, “love is the truth – it’s the right thing to do.”
i’ve found the rainbow connection, at least when it comes to potluck dishes. i was assigned veggies for the family st. patrick’s day get together (celebrated early this year) and though i would personally make a rainbow for any occasion, the leprechaun believer in me felt this was a fitting occasion.
white: we’ve been learning about sleet…
pink: but now we are starting to see more very hopeful signs of spring! high up in the plum tree, a burst of pink blossoms really made my sunny sunday. i even broke out the old heart-shaped lens for the occasion.
red: this might not look like a heart-shaped lens photo, but it is the real deal. the sister who made too much dinner for her family on a friday night so she made dinner for mine, too, that kind of heart-shaped lens. also known as providence.
red: said sister had a perfect viewing/photographing spot during our st. patty’s celebration for our hummingbird friends. i may have to do a whole hummingbird post!
red: rich in raspberries, the boy can talk his mama into buying out of season fruit once in a while.
ilse, a childhood friend of mine,
once found a raspberry in the camp
and carried it in her pocket all day
to present to me that night on a leaf.
imagine a world in which
your entire possession is
one raspberry and
you gave it to your friend.
~gerda weissman klein, holocause survivor; new england holocaust memorial
red: there was a story that went along with the hand gestures…
orange: my fall-planted bulbs are starting to bloom! these little crocuses brightened my weekend.
i sing sometimes
like my life is at stake
’cause you’re only as loud
as the noises you make
i’m learning to laugh as hard
as i can listen
in women and poor people
if more people were screaming then i could relax
but a good brain ain’t diddley
if you don’t have the facts…
…for every lie i unlearn
i learn something new
i sing sometimes for the war that i fight
’cause every tool is a weapon –
if you hold it right.
gold: i love this guy, such an individual.
ani also says:
and half of learning how to play
is learning what not to play
and she’s learning the spaces she leaves
have their own things to say
then she’s trying to sing just enough
so that the air around her moves
and make music like mercy
that gives what it is
and has nothing to prove
yellow: first dandelions! so, this week’s rainbow includes a little collection of quotes that kept finding me as i was researching some of my earlier posts. it seems that the theme of silence is a big one, when it comes to threats facing vulnerable people. i have been struggling with finding the balance between “learning what not to play” and letting my silence suggest i’m complacent. i’ve also been feeling like i’m saying too much, and being pulled in the direction of staying quiet, and at other times, have felt that i’m not saying enough. i’m definitely not going to claim i’ve found that balance, and will probably continue to err on the side of verbosity, just to make sure. but for today i’m letting others’ words do most of the talking.
first they came for the socialists, and i did not speak out—
because i was not a socialist.
then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out—
because i was not a trade unionist.
then they came for the jews, and i did not speak out—
because i was not a jew.
then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
yellow: a lone skunk cabbage on the new bayou vista, reflecting on things.
green: a couple of old souls
green: this is serious business, the feeders require filling daily during this busy frenzy before they nest!
green: some years i am able to snap a before pic of the green jello… not this year.
green: i had 8 yards of compost delivered to the dragon house, and used my sunny sunday to wheel 20 loads (4 buckets each) to dump into the terraces. it’s really starting to look like a garden in there! handsome fiance overseeing the documentation of progress in the late afternoon.
green: then we went for a walk to the bayou, heart-shaped lens in hand.
green: a thursday afternoon stretch of highway on the way to eugene with my love to see some more live music. unintentional rear view selfie and soggy farmland. more reflecting, while i enjoyed my place on the passenger side.
we must take sides. neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. sometimes we must interfere. when human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
blue: farmland, with trees, more passenger side view.
elie wiesel declined to have his memoir night produced as a feature film. he felt his story would lose its meaning without the silences in between words.
blue: we got to see these lovelies, the shook twins (an oregon country fair favorite of ours) after that lovely ride through farm country and a killer burger. they are some inspiring young women with something to say. they just happen to say it, as they put it, with “the face drum,” the “telephone opera,” and a giant egg. they also play the heck out of their guitar and banjo, but they played an amazing version of the tears for fears song mad world, all just with their voices. very powerful.
they were the opening act, and then we got to see the wood brothers, who were a new band for us.
and if you ask him
how he sings his blues so well
i got a soul that i won’t sell
i got a soul that i won’t sell
i got a soul that i won’t sell
purple: miner’s lettuce in abundance at the dragon house! i love the vibrant green mossy backdrop for this purple spring yumminess.
red violet: so much easier to get a non-blurry photo of a primrose when the sun comes out!
black: an exciting blank canvas, waiting for rainbow flowers!
on this international women’s day, i want to share some thoughts i’ve been collecting since before the election, concerning the experience of victims/survivors of domestic violence. i realize domestic violence is not a rainbows and butterflies topic, but it is one of the most important topics i write about, and on a day that is all about women, it’s important to me to remember how very alive this problem remains.
there are a few statistics that jumped out at me when i went a-googling, in order to give some context to just how big a problem we are talking about. the national coalition against domestic violence says that in the united states, about 20 people per minute are abused physically by a significant other. also, although we know that toasters don’t make toast; people make toast! it does seem significant to me that the risk of homicide in a domestic violence situation increases by 500% in the presence of a gun. this article portrays the problem in another shockingly succinct statistic: “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766.”
with that i would like to share a friend of a friend of a friend’s words that i saw posted as a comment on one of dan rather’s pleasantly sane facebook essays. to me, it reads as a poem of sorts. it explains exactly how i feel about certain refrains i keep hearing about the current administration.
“Karen Rose says: A few things I’ve heard the last two months:
Give Trump a chance.
Maybe it won’t be that bad.
All politicians are horrible.
He’ll get better once in office.
Just a few things I’ve heard from victims of domestic violence.
I’ll just give him another chance.
It’s not that bad.
All men are like this.
He’ll get better once we’re married.
Just a few things I’ve heard months/years later from victims of domestic violence:
She’s in a coma
He killed her child.
He’s now beating his new girlfriend. “
this article is probably the one that hit home the most during an election campaign cycle that i personally experienced as déjà vu. many other women experienced it the same way. roughly, i’d say, one in three women, might have experienced listening to one particular candidate as traumatic or triggering, because of how it reminded them of emotionally violent partners. physical violence is only part of the story, of course, and almost always goes hand in hand with psychological/emotional abuse. in my case, the emotional violence was far worse, went on for far longer and was far more responsible for eroding my coping skills and morale than the one physical attack i endured.
actress margaret vale howe marching in 1913 for women’s suffrage in washington d.c.
(public domain, found for me by my fiance)
i’ve talked about memory issues that i have, and one of the reasons i write is a need to put my storyline back in order and keep it in order after it was fragmented by trauma. this fragmentation in domestic abuse situations can stem from the way in which the rules of fair discourse go out the window, and the rapid fire pace at which lies, denial, and fallacies of logic are lobbed at you. the shifting of blame, the abuser framing himself as victim (and finding plenty of folks who are willing to assert his victimhood!), the gaslighting (aggressively denying objective truth is a definition i like for this term); the way the subject gets abruptly turned back on you when you try to address an issue; the appeals to “everyone” who is said to agree with him about whatever egregious claims made about you; the use of voice as a weapon (the therapist who mediated between my abuser and me told me privately that he observed me becoming meeker and quieter as he got equally louder and more forceful in his speech); the confusion of being accused of dishonesty by the person who was a seasoned veteran at dishonesty (confusion, because i was receiving these accusations before i knew that he was a cheating liar. my mom saw that coming, and knew the accusations were a red flag. i now see it in other people the same way she did, and know to avoid them.)
these tendencies in emotionally abusive individuals became normalized during the election. everything i just said is represented in the way the president has spoken and acted these past months. insistent denial of a very clear public record of lying; when confronted on his appalling record with women, bringing up the other candidate’s husband’s past record with women; when confronted on tax returns, bringing up emails; grossly overgeneralizing; making sure his voice is the loudest one in the room. jane goodall, renowned expert in ethology (the study of behavior) calls it like she sees it: he behaves like a male chimpanzee asserting dominance.
the article on emotionally abusive debate tactics didn’t mention physical intimidation (since it’s not a verbal debate tactic) but invading someone’s space and positioning one’s body in threatening ways is another thing survivors are familiar with. i’ve had door frames filled by a man’s bodies who wanted to trap me, i’ve had my own space invaded in order to back me down from sticking up for myself. there is a whole world of women who know what that looks and feels like, along with me.
i’m weary of the way people are treating each other. i’m disheartened by the descent to the lowest common denominator, the name-calling, the number of times i’ve heard people i thought were otherwise decent human beings use terminology such as “libtard” (and much worse) on other human beings. i was condescendingly criticized for my “thinking style” and accused of twisting words by a childhood friend on another friend’s facebook post. i stood up for “lefty liberals” when another friend of a friend slammed “them” for bringing the demise of recreational salmon fishing, since i was able to speak firsthand about my own work to ensure that there are any salmon left for future generations (including but not limited to recreational fishing). i’ve also chimed in when called out for “crying victim” which is how some “friends” would summarize the intent of the women’s march. there is a whole post to be written on the subject of shaming and invalidation of emotions such as fear and sadness, the natural and proportionate responses to things going on in the world.
this violent, careless way of speaking to people is not limited to the political divide. sitting in karate with coparent a few months back, who shares many liberal political views, he passive aggressively spoke about what an idiot his Psych 101 professor must be, because when he asked her to define codependency she failed to respond that it is, “the refusal to take a look at your own issues.” it’s been almost 9 years since i had a restraining order, but some things (victim-blaming) still haven’t changed.
and my situation, as tough as it was at times, reeks of what a place of privilege i experienced it from, and am able to reflect on it from. there are others with far fewer resources and who are therefore far more vulnerable to the effects of domestic abuse. you caught that 98% of domestic abuse cases also include financial abuse when you read through the statistics, right? my case did as well, but i had a way bigger safety net to jump into than many women.
which is why i don’t buy that anything this administration says they are doing in the name of protecting women is really motivated by actual care for women. this (very current) article sums up how clauses in executive orders targeting domestic violence (of a certain religious bent) are more likely to pose an increased barrier to reporting domestic violence, and more like to threaten the very group of people they are claiming it will protect: immigrants. as if financial hurdles and the common threats of losing child custody and housing stability weren’t enough, these women have to deal with potentially being deported on top of it all if they speak up about abuse.
migrant mother (florence owens thompson, who at the time was a single mother of 6, and worked farm labor jobs during the depression) ~ dorothea lange ~ 1936
“After September 11, 2001, we had abusers from certain communities who affirmatively used anti-Muslim hostility as a tool of abuse… ’If you contact that police, you’re exposing our entire community, our household, and you’re likely to be treated as a criminal as well.’”
any provision to target the violence of only one religious group (and ignoring all the other religious groups with domestic violence issues), is a thinly veiled targeting of immigrants, rather than a source of help for victims of domestic violence. this administration’s threat of removal of funding from all 25 VAWA grant programs makes this case; this executive order is motivated by something other than care for the welfare of women.
which is why when it comes to abusive men, something we all need to learn (i needed to learn it!) is that even if you can’t trust anything they say, you darn well better watch their actions. as maya angelou said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
i’ve quoted her once, and i’ll quote her again. she and the women in the photos i’ve borrowed to celebrate today, are great examples of women to look towards for inspiration, as women step into the strength that is already ours, but that the world still hasn’t embraced.