tidepool immersion ~ brooding and homing

 

At the conclusion of my 30 days of gratitude, a friend commented, “we see what we look for.” I have to agree that this is true with gratitude. It also seems to be startlingly true in tidepooling. But sometimes I don’t know what I’m looking for when I begin my walk.

In December, tidepooling becomes an extreme sport because the timing of the low low tides overlaps with the early evening darkness. Oh, and winter weather. Tidepooling in the dark and rain is not an adventure for everyone, but as much as I despise cold and darkness, this adventure had my name on it.

The air was chill as we cut across the exposed intertidal shelf, stepping carefully around deep limestone pools in our extratuff boots. Mist beaded up on my purple raincoat, scattering the beam of my headlamp in all directions, so I knelt beside a tidepool. Kelp and fish permeated the air as I leaned closer, focused my camera lens, trying not to block the light my headlamp provided, laughing at the futility of photography in the rainy darkness, but unable to resist giving it a try.

Here’s what I didn’t know I was looking for…

brooding sea anemone

Brooding sea anemones (Epiactis prolifera)

All of them start off life as females. I was looking for females. I was looking for something that holds embryos in her mouth like so many words bubbling up, tumbling down column to pedal disk, to lodge in a fold of flesh and incubate and grow and become. I was looking for someone who encircles herself with her offspring, who knows about the departures as they start to crawl out into the world and live independent lives of their own.

Nudibranchs (Leopard Dorid – aka discodoris! and Monterey Dorid)

Reportedly, nudibranchs are a predator of anemones, and can incorporate the anemones’ stinging nematocyst cells into their own being for defense. I was looking for someone who could quarantine the weapons of others inside, not to continue to be hurt by them, but to repurpose as raw material for something that serves them better in the future.

Fluffy Sculpin Oligocottus snyderi

They swick their emerald fins in rocky pools from Baja to Alaska. They leave when conditions become inhospitable. When we say, “a fish out of water,” we mean someone out of their element, someone who has been befuddled, disabled by displacement. When displaced, when fluffy is a “fish out of water,” fluffy can still breathe. I was looking for that. I was looking for someone who would up and leave inhospitable conditions, and continue to breathe, unbefuddled.

On the other hand, fluffy sculpins exhibit homing behavior. When displaced, a fluffy sculpin can find its way back to its home tidepool. I was looking for homing, too.

Snailfish Liparis florae

A swish of yellow, a tiny apostrophe easily overlooked, soft-bodied and scaleless, a sucking disc for holding onto the rough rocks. I was looking for someone who could be among the roughness but remain soft, someone good at holding on.

Florae, named for Flora Hartley Greene, advocate for children and suffragette about whom I can read almost nothing. Obscure, dusty, writings leech the color and flavor out of both fish and woman, unobtainable references, her name misspelled, her story traceable only through that of her husband, the fish nerd of the family. I was looking for a tiny fish to remind me of forgotten women who fought for my rights: to vote and be my own woman, not subordinate to a man, no matter how wonderful my husband may be.

chiton under black light

Many tiny six-rayed sea stars twinkled white light as they clung to festive eelgrass tinsel flung about in energetic celebration. Baby stars, such a sign of hope after decade-long star famine. Rich surprised us all by pulling a black light flashlight out of his pocket. It belonged to his father. Bob used it to illuminate rocks and minerals, but we shined it into dim tidepools to find out that the night-emerging shrimp trim their fanning tails and waving antennae in glow-paint. We shined it and pastel anemones lit up the pools, brighter than ever they express themselves in daylight. We shined it to find out that hermit crabs are the most colorful party-goers attending the celebration, the algae covering their shells bright red, their claws neon green, Christmas crabs crawling across inky fields of blue and purple. I didn’t know I was looking for psychedelic hermit crabs.

hermit crab

~thankful thursday~ hope and home

11/25/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all of you, dear friends and family!

 

11/26/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

(Observed on day 27) At some point every November I will say I’m grateful for Grandma’s never-fail pie crust recipe. At some point I will notice that you don’t have to feel great to feel grateful. At some point I will skip a night and observe my post on the following day, showing up to the page only to close it again without writing a word, not feeling grateful enough, like there is some sort of minimum value. At some point the next day I will remember that it doesn’t matter what the reading on the gratitude gauge says, what matters is showing up for it. Grateful.

 

11/27/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

I am grateful for mums, so there can be flowers in November.

11/28/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

I am grateful for a sunny Sunday to follow a saturated Saturday. I am grateful to have travel arrangements made, to finally see my parents for the first time since the pandemic began. I am grateful to look forward to a trip that is a vacation, after the last several that were not. I am grateful for the tiny mascot for joyful flight who posed patiently for my camera today.

 

 

11/29/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

Today I am grateful for the many connections made each year when I start posting November gratitude. If I was taking this class for a grade, I would not get an A in responding to comments this year, but I appreciated every one, and I see you all there, pressing your hearts and likes and hug faces. I felt your in-person encouragements at farmer’s market, and your messages directly to my inbox meant so much. It is just one of the ways that showing up to attempt gratitude creates the conditions under which more gratitude is generated. It comes on wings, it comes in waves, it comes one popcorn and one cranberry at a time.

 

 

11/30/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

This morning getting ready for work:

“It’s day 30! Last one! I’m grateful for these hot towels! The End!”

Rich didn’t seem convinced. I guess I did already use the hot towels on Day 4.

~

After work:

“We have been alerted that the recent lone sea otter near Yaquina Head, has hauled itself ashore on Cobble Beach with an apparent injury.

It has been taken into captivity for assessment and treatment. That’s all the information we know at this time. We will keep you updated. Let’s hope for the best. (Elakha Alliance)”

Dang it.

~

Let’s hope for….

Hope, the thing with fur. Oh, I am so sad.

Let’s hope he lives.

Let’s hope he heals.

Let’s hope he has caregivers like D from 3 West in St. Francis hospital.

Let’s hope his caregivers do not have to play hospice nurse like D.

Let’s hope he swims free again soon.

Let’s hope for all those other bigger grander outcomes, too. The triumphant return of his kin to these shores. The reunions long awaited.

Let’s hope…

~

When I tried to learn more about joy, it turned out gratitude was at its root. Maybe there is a similar connection between gratitude and hope.

~

I am grateful for…. hot towels. Nachos. Rutabagas. Chocolate cupcakes. Injured butterflies who keep flying. Injured sea otters who keep swimming.

I am grateful for the love. Sometime early in November I scrolled by a Ram Dass quote that has been bobbing to the surface of my consciousness all month. “We’re all just walking each other home.” I like that. I am grateful for how well it sums up what this year’s 30 days have been about, and grateful for your company on the walk.

~thankful thursday~ everywhere and nowhere

11/18/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

Today I’m feeling grateful for all the little things, the popcorn and cranberries that grow into long garlands of gratitude if you string them one by one.

 

11/19/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

I am grateful for spontaneous dates to go outside and look at the moon. Rich handed me my jacket a little while ago and took me out on a moon date this evening. This photo is not from tonight, but from a moon date somewhere in New Mexico, waking up in a Rest Area and getting back on the road toward home.

 

11/20/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

I am grateful for good work bringing good food to good people. I am grateful for Saturday sun. I am grateful for my crew who sees to it that I take my break, eat my thermos full of chili, and hydrate. I am grateful for chocolate poblano peppers burnished past green to purple-brown and all the way to red. I am grateful for the architecture of each savoy cabbage leaf. I am grateful for roots.

 

11/21/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

I am grateful for a hike with Quinn, for frost pockets and cold creeks, for beaded webs and sunshine on son.

 

11/22/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

I am not taking this class for a grade so it’s fine if I cheat. November has some easy days of gratitude that I shamelessly capitalize on. November 6th is nachos. The 22nd is not the only day I dedicate to husband gratitude, but it’s a definite one each and every year. Every 22nd of every month is to be celebrated, whether we are celebrating our first date or our wedding day, and all the 22nds in between bear the title “dorkaversary” to keep things light. Today is the penultimate dorkaversary before we celebrate Ten Years Together on December 22nd.

This morning as we were wishing each other a happy dorkaversary, we recalled that ten Novembers ago, we were being helped along in our eventual romance by our yoga teacher, who decided it was high time for a partner yoga series! “Breathe with your partner,” she told us, as we sat back-to-back lengthening our spines and working out how to breathe at all, much less with our partner, oh my. “Now twist to the right and reach your right hand to hold onto your partner’s left thigh.” Do what now?! At this point in the narration Rich freely deviates from what actually happened. “That’s not my thigh you’re grabbing…”

He cannot behave. I will need more time to work on him! So grateful for the time we’ve spent together.

 

11/23/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

I am grateful for hope, which appears in this moment not as a thing with feathers, but with fur. A sea otter has been visiting our Oregon coast for several days! This is an event that for most people is probably cute and fun, but for me, it is a profound gift in a heavy time of loss.

I got into marine biology to save endangered species I loved. I became better informed about that over time, and I doubt very seriously that what I do is helping at all. What I do feels like a painstaking documentation of extinction. I know an awful lot about the very specific details of endangerment, how whole ecosystems have folded in on themselves, how our coastline here resembles what it was a century ago only on the very surface. I can take credit for saving nothing.

Sea otters were hunted down to about 1% of their historic population size. The last known individual sea otter swimming in Oregon waters was shot off Newport in 1907. Locally extinct ever since (a reintroduction attempt in the 70s did not succeed), they no longer exert control over sea urchins, which overgraze the kelp holding down the base of this ecosystem. Other species help in the role of maintaining kelp forests, though none to the extent that otters once did. Lately I lean over the edge of every far-out tidepool I visit, hoping and wishing to see a sunflower star, an important urchin predator in the absence of otters. But sunflower stars reached critically endangered status in December 2020, failing to make a comeback from the sea star wasting disease epidemic that began in 2013. Locally extinct now in the southern part of its range, sightings in Oregon are now vanishingly rare. I have not been able to find one.

I started writing gratitude posts as a way to pick myself up when the long shadows of the cold dark fall bring on familiar seasonal despair. But these last two years… despair has not been a seasonal condition. I have struggled with even wanting to bring it up this year, but my kid has still not come home to me, and this day, the 23rd, is his day the same way the 22nd is for Rich and I. I’ve been Quinn’s mom for fourteen years and nine months, and to only see him a few times a week on video and every other Sunday for a hike is… well, despair has been a steady state for this mama.

When he was little, Quinn would get into a cardboard box boat and bring a book in with him to read while he paddled, set crab traps, and coiled his ropes. One frequent book was A Lot of Otters. The premise: Mother Moon and her child become separated, her tears fall into the ocean and become stars, the otters play with the stars and draw her attention to the child by concentrating their light, and she and her child are reunited.

And this is why I will never achieve any type of greatness in my field. I cannot separate this entire bundle of emotion and sadness and longing and grief and tenderness and hope from this one tiny furry being. Somehow, now, this otter is carrying on its belly, not just a tasty meal of sea urchin, but a whole load of other baggage I need it to carry for me. It is too much for one otter to fix a whole broken ecosystem, a whole broken society, a teen’s anxiety, a mama’s broken heart.

I got to see the otter for about thirty seconds yesterday. I stood there for a lot longer than thirty seconds. Waiting. Watching. My hands took a while to recover from the cold after I left, but I saw the otter. I am so grateful I got to see the otter.

This morning Rich asked, already knowing the answer, whether I would go back again today to check on the otter. I did not see the otter today. But when I heard a rumor that there was also an orca sighted in the area this morning, I knew I would stand there for a long time again. I did not see the orca either. I hope to see orcas someday. (Yes, I am crossing my fingers the orca did not see the otter…)

Maybe why I like marine mammals is that there is no guarantee of seeing them. Someone said aloud what I always think to myself about that gaze you get into when looking for mammals: that you look everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

It makes me think of one quote Joseph Campbell used about God, “an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

The seeking is the thing. The waves are rough and the mammals are hiding, I’m standing there, looking at the whole wide circle of ocean, looking everywhere and nowhere. Looking for hope.

 

11/24/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

I am grateful for this sound.

~thankful thursday~ the helpers

11/11/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

Today I am grateful for weekly date nights, for blackberries pulled out of the freezer and turned into syrup for date night cocktails, and of course for my handsome date. The photos are from other dates, we did not go to the golden gate bridge this evening, just to the Noodle Café, for which I am also grateful. But I do get to go to some very cool places with him when I am riding in the passenger seat, even when it’s not vacation.

 

11/12/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

I was having another one of those “grateful for husband/kitties/popcorn, again?” moments, wondering whether it was worth repeating all the same things over again that I am always grateful for. Then I looked back at my memories, as I’ve got a good pile of previous year gratitude posts to fall back on if I am already going to be repeating myself. I saw that one year ago today, my dad was spending the night in the hospital after a scary heart rate drop. A year later, he has a pacemaker and has re-emerged from retirement yet again and is back driving bus, but now with the proper number of beats per minute. My post from two years ago concerned butterflies and migrations and extra trips I had flown in 2019 to visit my parents, including the very last one I took there in October that year while my mom was having radiation. I am so grateful to be able to say that she is cancer-free and he is marching steadily to his new beat and in four more days they will both be boosted. My gratitude for my parents’ health is of course both amplified and shadowed by my husband’s loss of two parents in one year. But I’ve noticed that at least for me, this gratitude season always seems to involve looking into shadows, trusting that stories about shadows are so often secretly stories about light.

 

11/13/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

Grateful for a blue-sky farmer’s market day, a long evening nap on the couch by the wood stove, and bagels, the college roommate of nachos. (I took no good photos of my rainbow display today, so this one is from a few weeks ago; now there are more root veggies and fewer eggplants, but still colorful and abundant.)

 

11/14/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

While not vacationing in Oklahoma, I was grateful repeatedly for strangers who helped us take care of things. There was C, who reassured us that we were moving Nancy into assisted living at the exact right moment and not a moment too soon, and then texted me after her first night to let us know Nancy had enjoyed hot cocoa after dinner! There was E, who sat patiently with us in the bank, untying confusing paperwork knots and offering real sympathy, sharing her own story of loss even though we were randoms revolving through her office. There was J who sat with us in the funeral home, explaining the steps to this Advanced Adulting task over again when I got lost. She radiated sweetness, kindness.

And finally, I will be grateful forever for D, the nurse on 3 West at St. Francis hospital who could tell, without being able to talk to her, that Nancy needed her room a little bit warmer to be comfortable. D, who received word of decisions made in accordance with Nancy’s wishes to remove feeding tube, then a day later to remove oxygen cannula, and whose hands carried out those important jobs. D, who applied chapstick, and told us about Nancy puckering, appreciating the attention to her dry lips despite having maxed out the morphine drip. Into the isolation room she would hustle when the morphine drip beeped its “downstream occlusion” alarm, proclaiming, “it’s the song of my people!” And would joke along with us about how Nancy was just trying to get us to change the subject. D showed us her trick of being able to write both backwards and forwards with both her left and right hand. Instead of logging into the isolation room computers, she would write backwards on the glass doors, to be able to input her notes when she exited a room. D has been on the COVID ward since the pandemic began, so she has had time to perfect this skill. Concurrently with Nancy, she had two pregnant patients and was worried for them. She also had a belligerent patient who kept ripping off his cannula, who then signed himself out AMA. It’s no joke in there. When a patient from the psych ward was also COVID positive and on suicide watch, she would play tic-tac-toe with them using the dry erase markers, sitting on the other side of the window. She thought Nancy was “just a doll,” and shared about her work at the facility her Grandma had lived in. She understood dementia but it didn’t seem to get her down. She would ask her Grandma and her other residents, when they told her each incongruous story, “how old are you?” And when they said 39, or 56, it often made the story make marginally more sense. After two different days of D having a feeling “this might be her day,” based on Nancy’s vitals, she finally told us, “I’ll see y’all on Saturday,” the day before Nancy died. We did not see D on Saturday, but I’m so grateful for the days she took care of Nancy and of us.

 

(originally posted two years ago)

11/15/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

Still grateful about this.

Happy Monday, friends.

 

11/16/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

I am grateful for books! There are some gems in this rainbow of recent reads.

 

(from gratitude 2019)

11/17/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

Today I am grateful for the Ghost of Gratitude Past.

~thankful thursday~ shine-dripping

 

11/4/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

This morning I started off feeling grateful for kitties when they took turns burrowing into the sleeping bags that are still laying around the living room from road-trips-that-are-not-vacations. Then when I was wrapped in two hot towels after showering, (in recent years I decided throwing a towel in the dryer before showering was something I deserved, but only recently did I upgrade to two hot towels; I’m worth it! Anyone with self-worth issues should adopt this life hack.) I thought about when I’ve overused butterfly metaphors in years past, and how the chrysalis seems so appropriate for how this time of year feels. Going inward, wrapped in a sleeping bag and turning into goo. The slow cooker of imaginal cells encapsulating the dream of flying. But right now, the season of biding my time, wondering what all this goo is going to become when I emerge next spring.

 

 

11/5/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

My mother-in-law Nancy died on October 15, 2021, eleven months after my father-in-law Bob, who died as last year’s month of gratitude was ending. As the writer in the family, I was honored to write a respectable obituary for her, simple words that fool nobody in their attempt to capture her life in one paragraph. These words here are not those respectable ones, but they have the same intent.

May her memory be a blessing.

As an aspiring writing nerd, I think of both sides of the word memory. There is what we remember her for, and there are the contents of her own memories leading up to her death. Her own memory, eroded by dementia, was a terrifying, fascinating landscape of imagination colliding with children’s Bible stories and nightmares. At least this is how it seemed to me in April, at that turning point while she still remembered who she was, who we were, but only just.

I couldn’t help thinking as I sat by her hospice bed in October, that her memory is what nobody will end up talking about as she is eulogized across Facebook. Nobody wants to talk about dementia, but I want to, because it has had such an impact on me this past year. I suppose it may be considered rude to bring it up, but the more Rich and I have mentioned it to friends and colleagues, the more we come across others with loved ones who lived with, or are living with, dementia.

Toward the end of her life, people said things like “you’ve already lost her,” extending empathy. There were many incremental losses, and by June she had no idea who we were. But I feel like I really got to know her in a unique way in April. So much of what had formed her and structured her life had fallen away, and in moments it was just the two of us, meeting in this liminal space.

Who I found under all that had been stripped away wasn’t exactly who I had known for the previous nine years. On our first meeting, she saw five-year-old Quinn melting down and judged him in need of firmer parenting. On subsequent visits, she busied herself with dividing possessions and heirlooms she wasn’t actually ready to relinquish and we weren’t ready to receive. We grew into a loving mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship over time. She gave Quinn oodles of fossils when he was older, and shared her crafting passions with me. I saw a sneak peek of what I’ll call her new uninhibited side during our wedding week, when she snuck a cupcake or two after decades of sugar-free eating restrictions imposed on herself and others around her. But in April, the only actual food I saw her help herself to was chocolate cupcakes I baked her for her 88th birthday. She happily sat down to whatever plate I put in front of her, full of “avoid” foods from her blood type diet chart, but she wasn’t paying attention to that anymore. In April, I didn’t see her so much as fill a glass of water, dementia had progressed to the point where she would have starved on her own, but those cupcakes, though. Her memory, her loss of memory, was a blessing in that it freed her to indulge.

She told me about her father’s appreciation for good coffee from around the world, the wonderful smell of the special coffee store they’d visit, how he’d let her try sips. She didn’t become a coffee drinker, addictive substance that it is, and she would never have told this story before April, inhibited about food as she was. She wore a tiny scowl when I would serve Bob a hot cup of coffee, a treat he loved, but which she believed he should avoid. I know this was out of love: she wanted him healthy, but I am grateful that she got a chance, finally, to relax these impulses. I’m picturing her with a nice dark chocolate cupcake and a mug of excellent coffee now.

In between bouts of agitation and sundowning, I saw her appreciate simple pleasures in those last days she spent in her house, things I hadn’t seen her do before. She spun the prisms in her window at sunset and watched rainbows dance around the ceiling. She delighted in a squishy silicone ring I bought her as a placeholder for the wedding ring she had misplaced. She said yes every time I suggested going for a walk.

After, as family sat around her kitchen table and I typed her obituary, once I had the basics covered, I said the words, “She will be remembered for….” and waited for family members to fill in the blank. Every time, we ended up laughing. She will be remembered for confiscating a bag of Cheetohs, forbidding a poinsettia, hypervigilance over a set of square Tupperware. She will be remembered for thrill-seeking such as no one would suspect from her appearance or personality; ziplining in her eighties and bouncing on our trampoline, and one of her favorite memories was of flying her father’s airplane as a girl.  She will be remembered for her devotion to Bob and her children, for her vitality, for her strong faith.

I will remember her for the walks we took, those two weeks in April, around her yard. I will remember her bending to sniff the lilacs and stooping to speak to the turtle hiding beneath the bush. I will remember her whistling to the scissortail flycatchers on the power line, turning to me with a smile when they replied. I will remember her surefootedness as she navigated the uneven terrain, the deer divots and sycamore seed pods, enjoying the flowers and butterflies with me.

I had no idea about dementia when I first heard her say her memory was giving her trouble. I understood dementia was memory loss but that’s not how I would define it now that I realize how those words oversimplify. Yes, many memories were lost, but many brand-new memories were also woven from the fabric of her experiences and the fantastical workings of her mind. Of course, many of these new memories bore no resemblance to established reality, but they were her memory, just the same. Sometimes these false memories were quite problematic, suspicions and fears, this ugly side of dementia that is not encapsulated in “loss” of memory, in forgetting. I wish more people knew more about this, to know when it was not really their loved one, but the dementia, talking.

In June, it was amazing, appalling, devastating, how much had changed. To her, there was something we ought to be doing about those canoes by the lake. To her, we were her “big people” and possibly “relatives.” To her, Rich was Jesus, and she had birthed a baby just recently that she didn’t get in “the usual way.” I wish for everyone who is ever going to experience this to know, going into it, to just nod, smile, and respond positively, even when your mother-in-law thinks your husband might be Jesus. “Well isn’t that something!”

This might seem to be an odd subject for a gratitude post, but I am grateful for Nancy’s life, grateful that she allowed me to be part of her family, allowed me to get close to her while she was dealing with the impossible disease of dementia, allowed me to feed her cupcakes and help her shower and take her for nature walks. I’ll stop short of gratitude for dementia, but for the lessons, the learning I’ve done this year on the subject, for those aspects, I am genuinely grateful. I’m grateful for her memory, and even for a few freeing features of her memory loss.

When we picked up her personal items from her assisted living facility, there was such an odd mix of things, like a child’s confused duffel bag after summer camp but on steroids – so many of her belongings missing, and items belonging to others we could only guess at. In one box I found a stack of dessert napkins in a colorful floral pattern, with a butterfly on each one, that she must have taken to her room after a social event. They stood out to me, these butterflies, my own solace as I used every spare minute of my five weeks in Oklahoma this year to photograph the butterflies around her home. I set the stack of napkins in the cupboard of paper products in the house that will wait until another non-vacation trip to be dealt with, but I tucked one butterfly napkin in my folder, a sad and silly keepsake maybe, but a reminder that even in memory loss, one doesn’t have to quit collecting butterflies.

 

 

11/6/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

Happy national nacho day! Here are some tiny spicy peppers I grew, since they are good in salsa and prettier than nachos. If you’ve been here for the duration, you know this is a big day of gratitude in our household, and this year I had my avocados and cheese ready. After we ate our nachos, we walked outside in the dark to see how the clear sky had pulled up its cloud blankets over all but one small patch. Arms around each other, we gazed up and Rich joked that he saw a very slow shooting star. “That’s an airplane,” I said. “No, a satellite!” he corrected. As we both laughed, a real shooting star dove across the satellite’s path. It’s like that a lot with him, so I know now to expect the unexpected delightful light-bringing moments. Grateful for laughing at stars with my husband, nachos, and tiny purple peppers.

 

11/7/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

I am grateful for a weekend of rain-sun, shine-dripping on us as we ran errands and puttered in the yard. I am grateful for thoughtful husband gestures like finishing grating the cheese, driving me to buy the one missing ingredient for dinner, and making a huge batch of popcorn. I am grateful for brussels sprouts.

 

11/8/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

I am grateful for reruns! (click here and scroll down for apple gratitude from 2017)

 

 

11/9/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

Today I am grateful again for nachos, grateful for sunshine, and grateful that this video shows up faithfully in my memories every November.

 

11/10/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

I am grateful for writing. It hasn’t been an easy year, and the one that came before was also hard. So I’ve been writing a lot. Like a LOT. And going to meetings in boxes on screens with others who write. I am grateful for these writing friends and for their stories. The stories that stick with me are not the ones with shiny production value that wrap up neatly in a bow, but the hard stories, the ones where someone has made it here to tell the story by some grace, but with ragged edges and a careworn heart. This summer I watched my yard butterflies so diligently that I started being able to tell individuals apart by the nicks and cuts and gouges and folds in their wings. Like the writers, the most unforgettable butterflies had the most beat up and tattered wings, but still showed up to the flowers every morning, still lifted those shredded wings to take flight.

~thankful thursday~ collecting butterflies

11/1/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

Today didn’t have any obvious things to set it apart from other days. Coffee and eggs. Handling gross fish guts. Then coming home. Coming home is something I am keenly grateful for, having spent quite a bit of time away from home recently. I’ll say more about the away days in other posts, I’m guessing. But hand in hand with coming home, is who I come home to/come home with, who I sit down and read voter guides with over popcorn, who still builds me and the kitties a wood stove fire every November day. I am grateful for my partner in all of the things, including road trips that are not vacations.

 

11/2/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

When taking trips that are not vacations, I am grateful for my camera, which gives me a great excuse to take breaks from non-vacationing to collect images of butterflies. Collecting butterflies while not vacationing is a lot like practicing gratitude. You start with an intention. You have to pay close attention. You find them if you look, sometimes in unlikely places. You can’t hold onto them, only notice them. Gratitude and butterflies seem to both teach about letting go. I have been grateful for butterflies in past years, I was grateful for them exactly two years ago today according to the data, but I have been looking hard for butterflies during this season of our lives and they continue to appear and appear.

 

11/3/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

Grateful for this human and honored to be his mama.

tidepool immersion ~ possibility

 

 

feather duster worm

kingfisher

turkey vultures recycling a seal carcass

Rich took the day off for our wedding anniversary and we got to go tidepooling together. The photos above are are from our walk. He planned ahead to do this, but told me just beforehand, because he likes spontaneity. He told me the night before, rather than the morning of, because he knows how much spontaneity I can handle! It was a lovely anniversary date. I looked into all the pools, and he says he did, too, but I suspect he was mostly looking at my butt.

~

Below are from the next walk, just me.

Yeah, I was starting to notice a theme, too. Mammal, bird, fish… there is something so striking about bleached bones on the black rock beach.

 

 

pretty sure the orange dots on the snail shell are baby feather duster worms…

 

another feather duster – same pool as the maybe babies

This day was a very low low tide, and I got there with time to try to attempt a goal I had in mind since the summer began – to go to the “end,” the farthest extent of beach accessible on foot. Before I got there, I went way out on the outer edge of sea urchin territory – looking for sunflower stars (and striking out) but also just feeling so lucky to get to wander around out here where it was usually underwater. Basically snorkeling without having to get so cold…

The end. I made it! I had forgotten there was an archway around this corner. Quinn and I trekked out here years ago, but I had forgotten the view was such a treat. It spoke to me like caves and arches seem to speak to humans, of openings and possibility, of ancient connections and solid foundations.

~summer shorts~ survivor

When swallowtail butterflies wake up in the morning and climb out of their sleeping bags, they sit still and angle themselves toward the sun. They need to warm up, need to absorb enough sunlight into their muscles before they can fly.

There is no way I would have believed you if you told me last summer that I would feel better this summer despite Quinn still not being home. If you had told me last July that he still wouldn’t be home this July it might have done me in. Holding these Julys up side by side, there is no contest. I am no less tattered, but last July I was having trouble climbing out of my sleeping bag.

This July I am sitting still beside the sunlight each morning.

This July I am flying.

Tattered survivors. Pieces torn away. Wings made of something as fragile as tissue paper or gauze stretched across the thinnest wire, would melt in heavy rain, would shred in strong wind, would shatter in a freeze.

I watch them hold onto the flowers and ride the wind.

This July, I am holding on to the flowers and riding the wind.

~summer shorts~ thrive

Mid-July, I’ve gravitated each afternoon around 2:30 to the butterfly bush, which is situated in full sun at that time of day. I’m usually ready for a screen break from my work laptop, full of its regression plots of respiration data, its shellfish pedigree spreadsheets, its people in boxes having meetings, by that time.

I’m not the only one gravitating there, that time of day, but join an already-rocking party of butterflies and hummingbirds, bees and moths.

So many of our Western Tiger Swallowtail friends have been hanging around this last week since our butterfly bush bloomed. The buddleia is thriving so well, we think, because one of our weeding dates last summer found Rich hauling out blackberries and me extricating morning glories from their stranglehold around the butterfly bush branches. Then Rich did a substantial pruning job on it, which it responded well to, and he has kept the understory trimmed through the seasons.

With careful tending and nurture, things – shrubs, butterflies, relationships – are sure to thrive.

Happy fourth wedding anniversary to my partner in weeding and everything else in life!

~summer shorts~ give rise

“Some people have an aesthetic of delineation and symmetry, of keeping each vegetable distinct from each other vegetable. That’s great, and it works for them. My philosophy, though, is abundance. I want to draw people in with color, and piles of overflowing vegetables, spilling forth from cornucopias, piling into one another, blending into a rainbow.”

I stacked sopping wet bunches of carrots, cold water droplets sprinkling the multicolored veggie-print fabric on which I laid them. The new staff member painted by number, adding veggies to each basket I had laid out with a representative of what I wanted there.

Laurie had asked me to help refresh the vibe of our market booth. When she asked me to make a rainbow display, it flipped a switch for me. My pandemic farmer’s market year-plus has been a continued effort of showing up, devotion, doing what I believe in – food security, organic growing, getting food to the people. It used to be more about enjoyment than just devotion. I haven’t been making displays, much less rainbow ones. I have been letting the crew who handled the veggies handle the veggies, while I handled the money. An important job, but not soul-nourishing. Emerging from the pandemic has been halting and awkward, as predicted, but it’s been dawning on us that we can revive some things, like big, beautiful displays. The prospect of making a sweeping swath of veggie artwork before me, I was back to excited.

Cascading eggplants, purple onions, and purple majesty potatoes, purple carrots with their orangey-red lateral root scars. Fragrant basil, parsley, dill, and mint flooding green leaves around four kinds of zucchini, two kinds of cucumbers, and broccoli. Pattypan and yellow summer squash the color of sunshine blending into goldenrod-hued sweet Italian peppers, their tapered tips and seductive shoulders peeking from a basket near the center, making their summer debut. A mountain of orange carrots, golden beets blending into red beets, red Norland potatoes, dryland (non-irrigated) tomatoes, concentrated red succulence.

While searching for the term for the lines on a carrot, wondering about that specific feature of rootiness, I stumbled upon a Plant Ontology forum (as one does) and learned they can also be called root periderm scars. I guess they have been called root lenticels, but it is now understood that they do not conduct gas-exchange. They are formed when lateral roots emerge and initiate a wound response in the periderm – the peripheral cell layers. Cells proliferate, heal over this wound, form a new layer. The plant ontologists decided a new name, root periderm scars, was warranted.

It makes me think about how forming new roots can inflict injury. How wounds can result in scars, in tissue that cannot breathe. But also how injury can give rise to new growth, new layers.