eleven ~ the time of returning


cue the soundtrack… the eleven by the grateful dead is the only song i know that has a time signature of eleven beats per measure! also, i liked that this version was recorded on 8-23-68, quinn’s half birthday, 50 years ago! if we add my age and his together right now, we get 50! oh the number fun to be had on birthdays….


eleven is such a delightfully large, odd, indivisible, palindromic, prime number! but i’ve had a thing for the number eleven for a while now. my young synesthete sees 1 and therefore also 11 in the color red, but for me it’s got a red violet hue.


the eleven

High green chilly winds and windy vines
In loops around the twisted shafts of lavender,
They’re crawling to the sun.
Underfoot the ground is patched
With arms of ivy wrapped around the manzanita,
Stark and shiny in the breeze.
Wonder who will water all the children of the garden
When they sigh about the barren lack of rain and
Droop so hungry neath the sky.
William Tell has stretched his bow till it won’t stretch
No furthermore and/or it may require a change that hasn’t come before.
No more time to tell how, this is the season of what,
Now is the time of returning with our thought
Jewels polished and gleaming.
Now is the time past believing the child has relinquished the rein,
Now is the test of the boomerang tossed in the night of redeeming.
Seven faced marble eyed transitory dream doll,
Six proud walkers on the jingle bell rainbow,
Five men writing with fingers of gold,
Four men tracking down the great white sperm whale,
Three girls waiting in a foreign dominion
Riding in the whale belly, fade away in moonlight,
Sink beneath the waters to the coral sands below.
Songwriters: Philip Lesh / Robert C. Hunter


now is the time of returning… back from another revolution around the sun… to our other homeland of new york… to seeing my child at an age of my own childhood that i remember more vividly than the ones he has been before… now is the time of returning with our thought jewels polished and gleaming!

the more i mull over these lyrics, the more appropriate for a birthday they seem… now is the time past believing the child has relinquished the rein… at first glance this line suggests passing beyond a point of no return, an ending to the innocence of childhood, but upon further reflection, it seems to get beyond assumptions that growing up means the child has gone away, and instead a realization of the child’s intactness in spite of added years. he’s still there galloping along, and we’re past believing he has relinquished the rein.

we might do another double take with the initially despairing thought of wonder(ing) who will water all the children of the garden, but bringing that thought back around to its beginning once more, we might realize it is wonder who will water all the children of the garden. simple yet profound in the layers of meaning. seeing quinn’s delight in the falling snow, hearing him gasp on the morning he awoke to see it falling, and watching his gleeful play assured me that wonder is still watering his garden.

arriving at this age that already seems pre-packaged with extra attitude and a side of, “mom, why do you have to be so embarrassing?” it is easy to feel like childhood may be approaching an ending, but there is so much childhood still inside this kid, and truly in all of us troubled grown ups as well, so much wonder and joy and spunk. yet, this season of what brings new levels of flexibility, awareness, and resilience (evidence of all of these i can already see, mere days into his time as an eleven year old) that shine like thought jewels polished and gleaming, ensuring this will be his best year yet. it may require a change that hasn’t come before, but already i see him rising to the challenges and responding with an ever-expanding consciousness.

i like the word indivisible, concerning eleven’s numerical properties. i think it’s resonating for me given how far quinn has come in his ability to roll with changes and handle emotions, and i think he’s well equipped with tools to keep his spirit whole and intact. indivisible.

for his birthday, i bundled up my stick figure in a hodge podge of hand-me-downs and rapidly serged old pieces of fleece, and stuck him on the cross country skis i used when i was his age. (now is the time of returning…) with olympics mania running rampant through the rew house, he was very excited to try, but he has yet to embrace the concept that falling down a lot is a required part of the skiing process. he did say, however, that if he wins an olympic medal for skiing one day, he’ll tell them to thank me.


it was special for the whole family to get to celebrate the birthday of this particular boy together, for the first time ever!

he is startlingly tall, standing with his grampy. this is all going according to his plan to avenge his mama by becoming taller than his uncles… 6’7″, here he comes.

he opened one birthday present early in the day, because i had an inkling the cousins would get a lot of fun out of using this gift together. there has been a simultaneous bi-coastal dive into origami among the cousins, between their reading origami yoda books and his learning octahedron folding in school. much of the rainy, windy birthday was spent inside, folding colored paper into dinosaurs, yodas, and more octahedra! the entire week produced several large bags full of paper airplanes, and many empty rolls of tape, so the grand finale of origami paper and books was a fitting culmination.

make-your-own-birthday-decorations. we kept it low key, and the kids provided all that was needed in the way of birthday decor.

snow – his birthday (eve) wish come true!

so much good quality time with family made his birthday all the more wonderful. homemade pizza for dinner, time with his aunts, uncles, grammy, and grampy, and playing with his cousins… the simple joys were all he needed.

given his arrival at the age at which harry potter first stepped aboard the hogwarts express, a harry potter theme ran throughout his birthday week, including a gift of some sheet music from the movie soundtrack to play on his bells, and a tournament of wizard chess games played against his uncle t. i love the way this boy makes connections in unique ways with each individual member of his extended family.

high green chilly winds and windy vines… now is the time of returning…

this past year it has finally occurred to me that his time of birth, 3:14, has numerical significance. yep, my baby was born at pi o’clock. and he is nerdy enough to find that quull. we also ate pie for his birthday, homemade peach pie to be exact, a gift of summer made by his grammy’s loving hands, and delivered across the kitchen with flaming candles by his uncle b, accompanied by a chorus of voices of cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents.


turn it up to eleven!

uncle b also showed him a thing or two on his drum set, much to quinn’s delight! he’s a proud walker on the jingle bell rainbow… (i hadn’t noticed the rainbow lyric in this song until this writing, but… of course!) not only has he progressed well with jingling his bells with mallets in the past several months, he has begun to learn drum rolls and paradiddles! again, watching him connect with my brother on this level made me so very happy.

a very happy, snowy, indivisible, jingle bell rainbow, eleventh birthday to my favorite boy!

1 comment to eleven ~ the time of returning

  • camp boss

    looks like q had a grand 11th birthday in upstate! it is fun to see your verbosity as you process and document life in this time/space.

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