~black and white wednesday~ saturate

fourteen ~ quasar

In recent years, I have been learning math concepts and obscure number facts for each birthday Quinn reaches, in keeping with his own fascination with math. It helps me grapple with things like the slippery acceleration of time, and learning how to accept that my baby is growing up. It brought comfort to me that 10 was an order of magnitude, 11 was indivisible, and 12 was sublime.

I wasn’t sure numbers would be consoling this year. On the day before Quinn’s fourteenth birthday, the United States surpassed 500,000 Covid19 deaths, so the flag today outside my work was flying at half-staff. Quinn has been living solely at his dad’s house since March 14, pi day, so we have now been separated for 346 days with only a few in-person social distance masked hikes infrequently taken. These are numbers from which I can derive no comfort on this birthing day.

That 14 is part of pi, however, is a pleasing aspect of Quinn turning 14. He was born at 3:14 PM, pi o’clock, a time that catches my eye on a digital clock occasionally and makes me smile. So I thought I’d find out if there was anything fun about 14 that might help me create some joyful meaning on a day when I am painfully aware of some numbers whose meanings are devoid of joy.

I asked Quinn during our video call last night whether he thinks 13 and 14 feel different and he said a definitive yes, though he did not articulate the difference. I wrote last year that, “Thirteen is cleaning his room independently, having a passport, opening a checking account, getting a debit card, taking ownership of his google account, having an A in Algebra, reminding me not to buy anything “too dorky” when I went to buy some paper party plates at the dollar store. It’s sitting here writing this blog post while some new teenagers sing Take on Me and fling themselves around the trampoline, then carry out a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, emptying bowls of snacks while one of them strums my guitar. Imagine thinking 13 is unlucky. In Italy, where Quinn is heading soon, fare tredici (translated literally, to do 13) is to hit the jackpot! Any way you calculate it, 13 feels incredibly lucky to this mama!”

At least, that’s what it seemed like thirteen was going to be. Instead, we found ourselves in a global pandemic, and so much of what we anticipated about lucky 13 was irrevocably changed. No trip to Italy, nor even to the bank to obtain the debit card, no more friends on the trampoline, not even emptying any bowls of snacks on my kitchen table.

So I hesitate to say what I think fourteen will bring, unsure if the trip to Italy or other much hoped-for events such as reunion with each other and with beloved family members will be occurring during the year he is fourteen.

But I’ll give it a shot anyway. I think fourteen is: taking charge of his own schooling in unprecedented ways. Being informed and opinionated about the wider world. Humor that grows deeper, darker, richer, funnier all the time. Empathy that grows long tendrils reaching ever outward. The first taste of cynicism, of disappointment in his fellow humans. Realism, but also relentless hope. A fervent belief in the long arc of the moral universe bending toward justice if we push on it right.

I’m going to forgive myself if my assessment of fourteen doesn’t sound as perky as some years. It’s taking courage to show up and write today at all, and I am cutting myself some huge slack if the light of my metaphors does not escape the event horizon of the black hole that has been sucking my motherly soul for nearly a year. I also took myself to the beach briefly, as the sun came out after days of rain on this day of celebrating my son. The first thing I saw in the sand was a fossil, of course.

Then I met Quinn in the lab parking lot and delivered him his “birthday garbage,” a big trash bag full of presents, and I took this one photo of him. Tonight I will watch him open presents over zoom, where they will be piled at the foot of his bed just like in Harry Potter.

And now for some other fun facts about fourteen…

Silicon has atomic number 14. Quinn is a big fan of the periodic table, especially as written by Theodore Gray in his book, Elements:

“Silicon based life forms have been the subject of speculation in science fiction ever since chemists pointed out that silicon, of all the elements, is most like its neighbor, carbon (6), in its ability to form complex molecular chains, in some ways not unlike the long-chain carbon molecules that are reading this text. (That means you.)

“About the only thing that doesn’t have a lot of silicon in it is you: while some sea sponges grow bones of silica glass, your bones, assuming you are not a sea sponge, are calcium phosphate, in the form of rigid hydroxyapatite foam with almost no silicon.”

An honorable mention goes to nitrogen, with its atomic weight of 14.0067 g/mol. As an indispensable component of fertilizer, we depend on it for food. In its liquid form, it cryo-preserves specimens to -196 degrees C, useful for, say, ensuring the integrity of a coronavirus vaccine, or preserving elephant cell lines into which you might want to splice woolly mammoth genes, or putting Han Solo into cryogenic stasis. (Oh wait, that was carbonite).

Quinn has been making an elaborate D and D scenario (character, map, script) for his dad to play, and said that on the province-level maps he makes, the side of one graph paper square is one mile. “Or, square root of two, going diagonally.” Just showing off his knowledge of right isosceles triangle geometry.

Speaking of Diagon Alley, we are closing in on the ending of the final book of Harry Potter, and Quinn was delighted to hear that I had spied someone wearing the sign of the deathly hallows printed on their face mask. I made Quinn some math equations to graph that turn into a message for him that I think will remind him of that symbol. But the message really says I cardioid U Q.

 

In other comfortingly familiar pop culture, 14 appears in Star Wars when Rey, in The Force Awakens, realizes she’s on the Millennium Falcon. “This is the ship that made the Kessel Run in 14 parsecs?” Han of course barks, “Twelve!”

But back to the square root of 2. Last year we were thrilled for Quinn to celebrate a Fibonacci birthday, but 14 also belongs to an infinite sequence of numbers called companion Pell numbers or Pell-Lucas numbers. The closest rational approximations of the square root of 2 in fractions follow a sequence

1/1, 3/2, 7/5, 17/12, 41/29…

The denominators of said fractions are the Pell numbers 1, 2, 5, 12, 29…

And if you double the numerators you get the companion Pell numbers 2, 6, 14, 34, 82…

14 is in that group!

Like the Fibonacci sequence, the Pell companion sequence grows exponentially, like other things that shall not be named, but in this case to powers of the silver ratio 1 + √2. Quinn would happily embrace this ratio, irrational though it may be. Like the golden ratio of Fibonacci, the silver ratio can be represented visually as a spiral. My forever favorite symbol for the passage of time as a mother.

Spiraling outward, we can look at the universe at large for more instances of 14, like Messier object M14, a globular cluster in the constellation Ophiuchus. Better yet, NGC 14, an irregular galaxy in the constellation Pegasus! Not as far away as GNZ11, maybe, but located in a winged horse from some of Quinn’s favorite mythology is good!

His birth story aside (let’s just say maybe his mother was a bit misunderstood), it is said that when Pegasus was born, he flew to where thunder and lightning are released. Everywhere he stepped on earth, springs of water sprouted (naturally, as his dad was Poseiden). My favorite detail: when Zeus rewarded him by transforming him into a constellation, a single feather fell to the earth.

He earned that reward for helping Perseus rescue Andromeda from the sea monster who was going to eat her as punishment for her mom bragging her beauty exceeded that of the sea nymphs. Perseus turned the monster to stone by showing it the decapitated head of Pegasus’s dear old mom Medusa, and they lived happily ever after. So Pegasus will forever shine in the night sky, as will Delphinus, the dolphin who comforted Andromeda while she was chained to a rock at sea.

Anyway, NGC 14 galaxy is irregular because it appears like it is separating apart. I feel that. Separation can feel pretty irregular. It’s not the only galaxy inside Pegasus – there’s a whole cluster. There’s a spiral galaxy in there, some 40 million light-years from Earth. A supernova exploded there in 2014 while astronomers watched. One of the stars in the Pegasus constellation is also the first star known to have a planet orbiting around it, also known as an exoplanet, about fifty light-years from Earth.

Then there’s the Einstein Cross, also located in Pegasus. It’s a quasar, which starts with Q, and is therefore awesome. This quasar is 8 billion light-years from Earth and does a nifty thing called gravitational lensing. Because it sits behind a galaxy from us, one that is 400 million light-years away, and because quasars are intensely luminous, the gravity of the galaxy bends this intense light to project four images of the quasar around the galaxy. And that is just rad.

just a beach picture that reminds me of galaxies

So this Q thing, with its extreme luminosity, gets its powerful energy from matter being sucked into a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. It took a while to work this out. Around the time of the flu pandemic just over a century ago, astronomers were figuring out that some of the objects they were looking at in space were galaxies like our own. In the 1950s, some of the objects being detected out among the galaxies had properties that defied explanation. They were thought to have very small sizes, but to put out the amount of light they did, they either had to be enormously powerful for their size, or be traveling at a velocity beyond the speed of any known star. These astronomical puzzles were named quasars. In the 1960s, measurements and observations were made and their implications debated. Were unknown laws of nature invoked?

Though no mechanism could explain the enormous luminous power of quasars, some astronomers held this as the most likely scenario – that they were very small and very far away but packed a lot of punch – more than the energy conversion of nuclear fusion. In 1964 the currently accepted explanation was put forth but was rejected by many because black holes were still theoretical. Now we know that many galaxies, ours included, do have supermassive black holes at their center, but at the time this was unconfirmed.

Quasars played a big part in drawing together the fields of physics and astronomy. In this time of separation, I like to think of things that are instead drawing closer. Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted the gravitational lensing of quasars, and in 1979 this was confirmed by astronomical observation.

In summary, quasars are found at the heart of galaxies; they are some of the most luminous Q-named objects in the universe, with an energy output greater than the hundreds of billions of stars of our Milky Way. The light from some of the most quasar-y quasars had to have left its source only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang in order to be reaching our eyes, that is how profoundly distant, and bright, quasars can be. And if light from such a corner of the universe can meet our eyes, there are far shorter distances we can hope to traverse in far shorter periods of time, even if the times are unknown for right now, and that is a nice thought. Distances larger than the distance light could travel in the 13.8 billion year history of the universe have been traveled by quasars, because space itself has also been expanding. Wrap your head around that.

And even those distances are smaller than the size of my love for another luminous being with a Q name: fourteen quintillion light-years traveled by the light of a quasar. To me, Quinn is out of this world. Happy Birthday Mighty Q!

~rainbow mondays~ lighter

“…we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid,

the new dawn blooms as we free it,

for there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it,

if only we are brave enough to be it.”

Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb.

~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 boatswain’s crepuscular ditty

“Aye.” Bioluminescent waves streak past the hull of the ship as you make your way forward. Carrying out the order, you climb into the headrig to furl the inner jib. Dousing it was smart in this wind, but the swell is big enough to dunk you if you stay out too long and your stomach swoops as the top of the waves skims just below your boots on the footrope. Easy enough to accomplish in daylight when the sea is calm, but another matter entirely in the dusk, with the bowsprit reaching such peaks and troughs of motion. Furling from the peak to the clew, you don’t take time to stretch each flake of canvas into a fancy zigzag like you would to show up in port, but instead grab loops and hunks of the bulky billows and wrap a daisy chain with the downhaul line, giving a good tug to keep the peak from creeping back up the stay in the wind and resetting itself, looping over and under the mass of canvas, wrestling and hugging until it is subdued, interlocking loops of rope creating a net to contain it, and you reach the clew, secure it to the jibboom, and spider climb back inboard. Grasping the jib halyard, you take out the slack, resecure it on the belay pin. Halyard coiled and hung, you make your way aft to the quarterdeck. It’s a new feeling to be on a broad reach with a following sea of this magnitude. Just off the starboard rail, dolphins surface. Knives slicing through the waves, flashes of silver, going ten knots like your ship. Long rollers come from behind, the ship surfing over each one like a hill passing ponderously under you. Motion completely different from the Atlantic, but even on the Pacific it’s different from when the swells are on the bow. Nobody leaves the deck, though it is after dinner and your watch is on duty. Only the right combination of conditions let you sail this swiftly on your wooden ship, without the engine, though the lack of a shaft brake means the whole deck vibrates from the freely spinning propellor. Propelled instead by wind, and a powerful push from the sea. Quiet has so many different connotations on the ocean, but the most significant for you is the silencing of the inner voice. Rising and falling, watching constellations of students form and ungroup, filter below to their bunks. Slowly, the deck clears, and just the standing watch remains. Turning over the helm to you, the second mate heads below to chart a position. Up on the bow, one of the students is on lookout. Vessels begin to appear on the horizon as night falls, tiny lights in the far distance, but none come near. With your mind empty and clear, individual words roll under you like the waves. Xylophilous, to grow or live on wood, which you think is meant to refer to insects or fungus, but you like to think could refer to a person who spends days barefoot on caulked planks of oak. You tuck that one away for later, perhaps the next line in the journal swinging in the hammock where it is stowed over your bunk. Zodiacal constellations march a glittering parade across the deepening sky, the night just begun.

~rainbow mondays~ reflect

We’ve reached the end of the rainbow for 2020 so I’ve rounded up the last photos of the year.

Two days of perching on my whale watching rock produced one whale, and many rainbows.

Roses were blooming for Christmas again!

A few of these were taken to document how high the bayou rose during our recent big rain! The handsome, bearded man in the photo has spent nine years with me and 2020 has kept me mindful of how lucky I am!

Black oystercatchers

Harbor seal

Snowy egrets! I have never seen them flying in formation before!

Moon on the bayou above, and sunrise on the bayou below. One year ends and a new year begins – always a time for reflection, and possibly even more than usual this time around. It is a time I think we will look back on and with the clarity of time passing, be able to see how we grew. It was painful growth, full of a grief that somehow made me more grateful. I never announced a word for 2020, though back in the beginning of the year when I was meditating on mediocrity, I did have the lightness of butterflies in mind, the flux of tides and cycles. My concrete goals for the year were to grow more flowers for butterflies and a few purple vegetables, to go to the beach more and drink more tea, to not try to be everything for everybody. I did not envision that this extreme contraction of our lives, this hunkering down into self is the context in which I’d be carrying out these goals. One of the things I’d like to remember for this year is finding out that going inward allowed me to, paradoxically, expand in ways I wouldn’t have guessed. Though very much still cocooned, I believe I am emerging in new and exciting ways.

I have not arrived at a word for 2021 yet, though there is something resonating for me with navigation, with orienting. Discerning the best course to steer my little ship. I’m not sure what that’s about yet, or where I’m going with it (ha!) but I think there will be time to figure it out as the year starts to unfold.

violets are purple

roses are pink

they just call violets blue

because it’s hard to rhyme with purple, i think.

 

~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

tender and mild

 

I am placing this image of nine-years-ago Quinn drawing a whole bunch of baby dinosaurs “standing on the floor of the egg” here to signify that there’s a lot of writing going on, gestating behind the scenes. The sun ball lamp might be my egg incubator, and I am waking up early to keep up with the words that bubble to the surface after each long winter’s nap.

I do not want to neglect my blog, and it seems like just the venue to wish happy holidays to all, from here at a safe social distance. I considered using this as my holiday card:

but then I realized I don’t have my stuff together enough to send cards. It was just a snapshot of another “one of those days” that we have all had approximately 365 too many of this year.

It’s the end of 2020 now. I usually choose a song lyric each year, but there isn’t a “bleak and weary” Christmas song, so I chose tender and mild. It’s been mild leading up to Christmas, cold but clear, so we got to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, almost. A few days before, and two days after, above the melted sorbet horizon. The word tender certainly fits how our hearts are feeling – battered, bruised, sore, vulnerable.

The holidays are serving as an anchor point for some in a year that has felt awash in a swirling sea of time: You Are Here. For me, these holidays are so bizarrely different that they do not serve me that way exactly. I have calibrated time for myself according to the signs of seasons even more than usual during 2020. The nesting robins placed me squarely in spring, while the nest is now filled up with curled, brittle leaves, so I know we’re closing in on winter. Mushrooms, even, helped me orient, and I don’t know the first thing about them. Yet, just seeing them popping up all around me secured me into autumn. Thinking of their work beneath the surface of things to make available in the soil what the forest needs to absorb next year is a sustaining thought.

To no one’s surprise, I took myself to the edge of the world to perch on a rock and try to find a migrating whale. I did find one (the white puff in the upper left, above). Moving along at a good clip, but paradoxically, for me it was another anchor, another sign to mark the season. The gray whales are headed south to celebrate fecundity and renewal, to circle around newborns, tender and mild, in warm lagoons.

(Laguna San Ignacio 2001)

I hope these photos from an adventure long ago to said lagoons will make you smile, finding you snug and healthy in your homes for the holidays.

(Laguna San Ignacio 2001)

Merry Christmas friends!

 

~thankful thursday~ popcorn seeds

11/26/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

I am grateful to still be feeling the considerable benefits of this gratitude practice, nearing the end of year five! This year more than any other, it is clear to me that I don’t have to feel great to feel grateful… but purposely cultivating gratitude does help me feel better. I think I will still close out this year’s 30 day challenge feeling like the bedraggled flower I was when I began, but I will also have set aside a good stash of seeds for next season. As for today specifically, I’m grateful for a yummy nourishing meal, a daylight walk in the woods with Rich, some good music, and a piece of pecan pie waiting for me.

 

11/27/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

I am grateful for good men. It is a gratefulness saturated with grief today. I am listening to the good man I am married to talking to his Aunt on the phone to let her know her brother, his father, passed away today. My father-in-law was the wonderful man responsible for raising the wonderful man I love. I am so sad, and wanted to let tonight be a moment of silence, but I decided to google gratitude and grief… and here is what Brené Brown says:

“Gratitude is vulnerability. I’ve had the honor of sitting across from people who have survived tremendous things. No matter what the trauma was, they said: “when those around me are grateful for what they have, I know they understand the magnitude of what I’ve lost”. So often we’re afraid to be grateful for what we have because we think it’s insensitive to those who have lost. However I think gratitude, in some ways, is healing for people.”

I always loved to be the one to make Bob a cup of coffee or pop open a beer for him, on the extremely rare occasions he’d indulge in either one. Tonight we toasted him using the glasses he gave us, and I imagine some popcorn will be popped in his honor in the next couple of days. (Yet another divine thing he is responsible for teaching my husband.) I’m posting one of my favorite photos of our dads from our wedding. I am so very grateful for the memories we get to carry forward with us, of this good man.

 

11/28/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

I am grateful for the solace of our backyard.

 

11/29/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

I am grateful for light. Back to church we went today, and this time the sun crested like a wave over the ridge, poured itself through great cylindrical columns into the coral reef of fungus arrayed across the layers of ancient trees, and sublimed in droplets from tiny jellyfish mushrooms swimming up a tree limb.

 

11/30/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

I can tell that the gratitude challenge has had its intended effect on me again this year, because day 30 whizzed right by me without even thinking about writing a post, but was still a day in which grateful thoughts crossed my mind numerous times. I have tried to make a point over the last few years to remind myself that gratitude is not a class I’m taking for a grade, but I really feel that not showing up on the last day of class proves that I’m absorbing this lesson.

If I had a theme this year it might be the seeds of gratitude planted in the gratitude garden, and how they are an investment in my future nourishment. Whenever I notice and appreciate the snuggly kitty on my lap, the warmth emanating from the wood stove, or my hardworking husband coming home from work, it’s another seed in the seed bank. These dormant spirals of potential, storing an idea for next year, waiting it out through the harsh conditions of winter. So many adaptations to fly, float, cling, catapult, shake, or shatter, to make sure they deliver on the promise of future abundance. Many kinds of seeds require a little hardship to germinate when conditions become hospitable for growth; a freeze, some scarring, a soak in some acid, a trip through an animal gut, smoke exposure, or even trial by fire.

Somehow this fire-tested emblem of tiny, vulnerable faith, whispering its wisdom of diversity, became the mascot of gratitude 2020 and that’s just how this magic seems to work.

All of that to say, today I am grateful for nachos for dinner. Thanks for joining me y’all!

~thankful thursday~ hallowed

11/19/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

I am grateful my husband gives me assignments when he knows I am feeling blue, to go outside with my camera. Otherwise, I may never have noticed that spiders build webs in clothespins. I am grateful for date night takeout and not having to cook dinner. I am grateful for the reflections shimmering on the bay, the moon slipping out from behind its veil as it followed us, and the surprising coating of hail around one curve of the bay road. It’s easy to feel grateful on Thursdays.

11/20/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

I am grateful for hope.

11/21/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

Today I am grateful that my husband bought me a heated shirt, and that he reminded me it might be a good day to wear it at farmer’s market. He bought it back when I used to spend hours at a time in a 2 degree C cold room siphoning carefully around Arctic cod embryos, and it was a game changer in my life on the same level as the sun ball. (Cold/dark are not my happy places have we talked about this?) I was so happy to push the power button on my shirt after the initial hustle to get the booth set up was over and it was time to stand in one place where I’d need my extremities to continue to function in order to punch calculator buttons. Continue to function they did! Also, the sun was especially shiny today and I am grateful for that excellent light, in addition to warmth.

11/22/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

It has been eight years and eleven months since Rich first talked to me about watching the sunrise while out in the forest cutting firewood… and today we celebrated by taking a drive out to the forest to cut firewood! I didn’t lift a finger, but instead hiked around the surrounding area with my camera, finding fungus in all colors and sizes, and admiring the stumps of the original old growth trees that once presided over the area. These stumps had seen fire long ago, and the moss and lichen layers now knit variegated green tapestries across the charred black canvas. My favorite aspect of the fantastically gigantic stumps was that they each had some sort of window or archway or dome built into them, and each one now housed a hollowed out center – or maybe more accurately, a hallowed space. I peeked through the windows, positioning myself where I could gaze upward through them at the stained glass effect made by the trees and sky, but I did not enter each cathedral, fearing I’d drop down into some underground root system catacomb never to be heard from again. As I circumnavigated each stump, I would inevitably end up on my knees, photographing the tiny mushrooms juxtaposed against such immensity, marveling at the poetry of the whole thing. Rich watched a half dozen elk glide through the ravine from his vantage point, and when he was done filling the truck, he met me down by the stream that coursed for stretches out in the open, then snuck underneath the spongy moss-covered layers of old decomposing timber. Eight years and eleven months ago, Rich and I concluded that we have the same idea of how to go to church on Sunday, and I am grateful we got to spend our morning doing just that together.

 

11/23/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

So much to be grateful for, like a brother phone call, a super quick and friendly grocery pickup (I had my book with me…), a kitty perched sideways on his tower, a pastel rainbow halo around the moon as its reflection in the swamp water looked like a shiny egg in a nest of twig shadows, then hovered in just the perfect pocket between tree limb silhouettes on a bayou walk, in the periwinkle sky as our after work walks inch closer to dusk. Scattering more seeds in the gratitude garden.

 

11/24/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

I am belatedly posting a Tuesday post again, because between actually having lab work to do again, and the third session of my writing workshop, I ran out of both time and words. It’s funny because with how I am fairly stewed in words by the end of a workshop session, I simply cannot form sentences. Then this morning my brain woke up at 4:40 with words, but they were for the workshop piece, not the gratitude post! I joked today that I will dedicate my first book to the sun ball which is 100% responsible for me being a born again morning person. I am grateful both for work and workshops, and that my gainful employment brings me up close to creatures such as cod #9436, pictured here looking out from the swim tunnel (think fish treadmill). Of all the years to have been learning so much about respiration, a year characterized by so many horrific examples of struggling to breathe. I am learning all kinds of things about how cold water fish like #9436 breathe, and how they struggle to breathe in water that is too warm. I am grateful to use my dimensional analysis skills hard won in freshman Chemistry class, to still keep trying to save the planet.

 

11/25/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

Today I am grateful that on my way to put my fish through its paces, I arrived on the scene of a rainbow shining brightly over the ocean.

~rainbow mondays~ among

 

~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

~thankful thursday~ caterpillar care

 

11/12/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

After I posted, I wondered if speaking of placentas yesterday made anyone uncomfortable. I’m not apologizing, but I would like to say for myself that I’ve never honestly had any squeamishness about such things and sometimes forget other people do. I blame my Dad, who called me out to the barn to help deliver any calf that was stuck (or breach, or twins), and we were a good life-bringing, life-saving team. Placentas have always been a part of my surroundings, familiar and sacred.

Mom called today to tell me Dad is spending the night in the hospital tonight. Everything will be fine, but he passed out and his heart rate dropped a scary amount when they put in his IV for a routine procedure he was supposed to be having. I am feeling very grateful tonight for the quick response of the health care workers who were by his side, and those who rushed in until he was completely surrounded. By the time I talked to Mom, he had eaten dinner and napped and was ready to leave, but they convinced him to wait until after the EKG.

When I was driving today I swerved to avoid a rabbit on the highway, and I am grateful I did not hit it. I was coming home from feeding my fish, which is not that different, in my mind, than the work I grew up doing around the farm. I developed the right muscle groups for hauling buckets of water around, for sure, and caring for animals is in my veins. I am grateful my Dad made me do all those farm chores, so grateful that he is okay, and immensely grateful for the medical team who are making sure of that.

 

11/13/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

Grateful. (In photos today.)

 

11/14/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

I am grateful for my farm, and my farm crew. At the end of our veggie day, four women stood in a parking lot and decided that word of our farm stand’s new rainy day location had happily spread “faster than corona.” A remarkably steady trickle of our regular customers came and stocked up on soup ingredients. And they told two friends, and they told two friends… we figured people were ecstatic to have some good news to pass on, so they did. Gratitude is a wonderful ingredient to add to November cooking, and I came home with a good-sized bundle of it.

 

11/15/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

I am grateful for a little time in person today, hiking with my kid. With the increasing COVID numbers, he stayed even farther away from me than our last few biweekly hikes, but he did agree to come. Our first pandemic hike back in June was the subject of the essay I wrote and ended up submitting for the writing workshop I am attending, in which I observed that, “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…”

Today the waterfall of imagination poured out a quest in which I was meant to establish a civilization in a landscape he vividly described, then challenged me to decide where and how to build shelter, how to best provision myself with food, how to build tools with the various materials available to be gathered. He came up with a name for these “Talking Games” when he was very small, and still likes to play them now that he is very big. In the game, I set out on a hunting mission like any good Oregon Trail generation kid would do, but the story took a left turn and instead, I ended up finding a rare white deer who healed the deer I had speared, licking its wound until it closed, and then became my companion when I fed it a magical root and vowed to never hunt its kin again.

On our biweekly hike, we are not going for any speed or distance records. Instead, he stops to look at each caterpillar crossing the path. When this occurs on the dirt road before we get to the trailhead, he helps them to the edge. He uses his walking stick to move them, waiting for them to climb onto it, and then moves them to safety.

Today I am grateful for the kids who care about caterpillars.

 

11/16/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

I’m grateful for gratitude. It’s usually around this time in the month that I feel grateful for gratitude, I think (and I’m not fact-checking that because it’s bedtime). I really did not think it would be the same as other years, because it isn’t like the other years in any other way. I am filled with a multitude of emotions, and nothing at all is simple. But I am warm, (relatively) safe, content, loved. Having retreated into my home, I find it is a place within which I can expand, rather than a place of confinement. I think this snail from October might agree to be my mascot tonight, since I don’t have any photos of my rare white deer. I’m also grateful for the bunches of you nice people bothering to stop scrolling and connect for a moment.

 

11/17/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

Today I am thankful for the refuge I find in nature. It can be as simple as the hummingbirds buzzing Rich’s head as he leaves for work, the apricot-lit reflection of a cloud in the water we walk down to every day, a pinecone colonized by tiny mushrooms, or a newt comically toppling off the side of a large spruce root we had just stood watching it laboriously climb. It’s the little things. It’s also the big things; the wind bathing us in fresh air after a year in which breathing has become much more sacred, the eagle dancing above the rainbow-glazed waterfall at the low-tide-without-storm-during-daylight I enjoyed solo the other day, a unicorn of a tide this time of year, with rainbow sprinkles on top.

 

11/18/20

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

Elements are often a favorite theme Quinn explores in his Talking Games. He is inspired by games like Pokémon, Magic the Gathering, D&D, and many of the book series he has devoured throughout his childhood. He favors forest/tree/leaf/grass types himself, and we recognize as a family that I am of the water element, while Rich is of fire. I have always loved the phrase that someone is “in their element,” and I love to be around a person in that state, soaking up (see? Water) whatever I can learn from them. The person on my mind today is my father-in-law, whose element is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, Rock. He embodies this element in his steadfast, stable personality, his imperviousness to pain, his unwavering faith, his matter-of-factness when going about chores, and when he is in his element, he can be found tumbling, grinding, polishing, and sawing through rocks. Each of the few visits we have shared have been gems. On our last visit to Oklahoma, he gave me a lapidary lesson, and it was a highlight of our time together. Today I am grateful for Bob.

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Postscript for those reading it on the blog…

Both Dads could use prayer. Dad Rew is home and healthy and repairing things, but is awaiting test results and answers so please keep him in your thoughts. Dad Hicks is in the hospital just days after Dad Rew, and we would appreciate all good thoughts/chants/prayers heading towards Oklahoma on his behalf.