tidepool immersion ~ disco doris

I have been thinking about posting some longer photo-heavy posts of some of my personal nature walks to share so that others can vicariously go along for the hike. These photos are from a tidepool walk on one of the last morning negative low tides of the season (y’all remember how I made my own college course on how the tides work back in January, right?) and I was having trouble choosing which photos would go into a rainbow monday post… so I decided to make them their very own post… virtual nature walk #1 tidepool immersion!

new nudi! ring-spotted doris whose scientific name Discodoris, beats the common name hands down. Disco Doris!

I am not sure what species this egg case belongs to… I’m thinking some kind of mollusk/snail?


~summer shorts~ star ecology

A disease outbreak erased sea stars almost completely from the tidepools of our coasts in 2013. I see them in greater numbers than I have in years, but still with telltale symptoms of the devastation they’ve suffered.

Sea star wasting disease is still poorly understood, and having worked in disease ecology professionally, I know this is not for lack of attempts made to understand. It is a very tricky branch of biology to study. Sea star larvae go through a dispersed pelagic phase where maybe their socially distant selves manage to stay disease free.

sea star larvae illustration by on of my faves, Ernst Haeckel, public domain

As the new recruits settle back into the intertidal, some of them have managed to grow to maturity at least long enough to spawn for themselves, but most are still showing telltale signs of infection with this disease some scientists believe may be caused by a virus. The disease persists, and for now sea stars, too, persist. It will remain to be seen how the population will respond longer term, and what effects their prolonged absence will have on the other organisms in the intertidal community. The invisible, inextricable linkages connecting members of an ecosystem sometimes reveal themselves when the system is under strain.

I have spent a few early morning tidepool rambles on a few different beaches I love, my own very small emergence into the world in a low-covid-risk manner. I make a point to watch for and photo-document sea stars now whenever I am out for one of my beach walks during low tides. For several years I saw almost none, but slowly an increase is becoming perceptible.

I lingered a last few minutes on one beach, and a hermit crab captured my attention, tucked into a former snail’s abode frosted with pink icing bryozoans. I watched and watched, and it slowly, slowly, emerged. Our return to the world feels comparably slow. I think we will be hermits for longer than is comfortable, and face choices about how we minimize our in-person interactions with the general public so we can reimagine the in-person interactions we don’t want to continue to have to live without. Not the triumphant takeover of the world as we knew it, but a halting, complicated return, much like the quiet, incremental return of the sea stars.

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ black holes and parabolas

~4-23 to 5-23~

Quadratic and executive functions

Executing school tasks took some additional remote mama support this month. He found the format of electives for school to be uninspiring. However, I talked him into doing one of the robotics options. Once he was convinced, he lit up while telling me the steps a robot would need to take to reach the Hogwarts kitchen from the front doors.

For language arts, Quinn was assigned to read The Outsiders but was putting it off. Once I found that out, I told him I thought he’d really like it (he was of course surprised I was familiar with the book), and encouraged him to read me the first paragraph. He grumpily obliged and discovered the teen male protagonist with green eyes and long hair. He came around quickly after that, read to me through chapter two, and read the entire rest of the book in just a few sittings.

Then there were quadratic functions. Quinn started caring deeply about parabolas as a freshly minted eleven-year-old, and has read an entire math curriculum through calculus in his spare time. He is not often thwarted by new math concepts, and had been quite self-sufficient learning quadratic functions, the math magic of the parabola, with only online lessons. However, two weeks before school ended, his teacher contacted me to let me know he was on his way to earning an incomplete in algebra. As usual, I only understood more about what happened in hindsight (2020) and it amounted to being stuck on one sub-concept, not seeing the obvious available ways to solve that (ask his teacher, ask me, consult textbook/video, google it) and just not doing it, or any of the following lessons. He stayed stuck and started blowing off everything, but then ended up caught up in a lie and that only added to his anxiety about the whole thing. Once I found out, we got him sorted out on completing the square, (we used khan academy and life of fred and fred is who ultimately got him there; by which I mean he was right back to doing it all in his head the instant he grasped it). I asked him afterwards if he felt relieved to not have to continue the lie, and I could see the relief written all over his face when he said “yes.”

He was overwhelmed and said he thinks about the pandemic even when he’s not thinking about it.

I wanted him to know I heard him: that he felt like no one was taking him seriously (because he has said “I can’t work under pandemic conditions.”  He did try to let me know he was struggling.

I am trying to coach him through handing in enough to earn a Pass when he feels like this, but it is hard when he is just seeing the pile and is stuck in overwhelm.

He did a programing in scratch assignment and a video tour of Iceland for his elective; in Iceland he enjoyed how they drill into magma to harvest energy. The morning after the teacher clued me in, I sent him the mp3 of his favorite song seven nation army and a ten minute meditation and he listened to both. We spent more time together on google hangouts just so I was “in the room” if he needed support. He watched a Smithsonian zoom about octopuses, something he had planned on attending prior to the math debacle. I liked watching him watch it and seeing his face light up at certain parts. I wanted him to do these other things that feed him, because we were also talking about the importance of self care in keeping up our ability to handle tasks. He is now also signed up for both dinosaur discoveries and ancient seas online camps. He had been hesitant on the dino camp because a) he already knows a lot about dinosaurs and b) he wasn’t sure the end of June would feel like enough time out of school, but in the end I told him there were 2 spots left and he wanted in. Then we did talk about the math concept, but it was sandwiched in between those lighter topics and our quality time (reading aloud). Maybe life is a little like a parabola, you have to get to the bottom of it at some point, but you can look forward to it going back up on the other side!

His paleontology camp community continued their zoom lecture series for camp alumni through May, and Quinn participated enthusiastically. He was proud because, “I asked a question!” He asked, if I understood correctly, about how they tell things about a prehistoric animal based on eggs; and got answers about how environment determines a lot about egg shape, whether an animal is aquatic or terrestrial, and where they place their eggs in order to keep them moist or from being submerged or dry. He is so quull!

He had a paleontology text flurry with his camp friends and they apparently have a conspiracy theory that, “all of the birds died in 1986 when Reagan killed them all and replaced them with spies. They are in league with the bourgeoisie.” A couple of the other camp friends consistently show up for the lectures. It is such a nice balance of getting to be nerdy and getting to be weird teens together.

The flavor of video calls this month – physics and fantasy

A friend mentioned she and her husband have been doing madlibs so I printed a dinosaur one for Quinn. It is logistically tricky to play games over hangouts so I take all good suggestions very seriously! Quinn then picked some out to do for me. Some of our favorites were, “What happens when a unicorn poops”, one about pizza, and another about how to hatch a dragon egg. We ended up with 3 new species of dragons; chartreuse dragons, butterbeer dragons, and flibberty-gibbet dragons.

During recent video calls we have continued to read Zero, do a daily logic puzzle, sometimes a vi hart video, and usually some talking and cat gazing.

Zero has been good fodder for discussion and vocabulary (new word: carom): Quantum leaps, general relativity, etc. It sends us on other tangents. One day we looked up Dr. Katie Bouman who photographed a black hole successfully in 2019, based on spinoff conversations from the book. Quinn’s imagination was quite stimulated, and I managed to convince him to speak one of his ramblings into a document using the speech-to-text function:

“First get two black holes, a star, a spaceship capable of moving at 90% of the speed of light and with a fuel cartridge big enough to hold a star in, and a very heavy object. Then get the star into the fuel cartridge of the spaceship (the spaceship must run on helium). Once you have a spaceship running on a star, connect your two black holes via 4D space-time Continuum breaking and attach one end of the wormhole that results to your spaceship and the other end to the very heavy object. now take your nearly light-speed wormhole with a very heavy object on the other end and wait 46 years because you will have messed up the space time continuum, you will have effectively ruined mathematics to the point where one year on one end of the wormhole is 2.3 years on the other end of the wormhole so after 46 years you go through the wormhole and bam you’ve gone back In time by almost 46 years. some problems are: 1. it is currently impossible apparently to define “very heavy object” in my sources. 2. it is currently impossible to go at 90% of the speed of light in one spaceship. 3. it is currently impossible to obtain a star let alone to stick it in the fuel cartridge of a spaceship. 4. it is currently impossible to collect two black holes and connect them via four dimensional space-time Continuum breaking. 5. it is currently impossible apparently for you to actually go back in time to the point where you are before your own birth and keep living on to infinity by traveling back in time infinitely and going forward in time infinitely after that so that you have infinite life-span at the time of your birth and live forever because your star even though it will last for like 8 million years is still finite so you can only become 8 millionish years old but hey, even then you are older than Yoda so…”

Tom Gauld

I also convinced him to share the document with me and he did, with the  note, “I’ve invited you to comment.” Well, thank you for inviting me!

My comment:

“I don’t know if you understand why I ask you to do things like this… and that is okay! I am thankful that you humor me, and do it when I ask. It may not seem like a big deal to you to be able to speak this kind of complicated thought in such an organized manner, but this is a skill not everyone has. It’s a skill I’d love for you to continue to nurture, and it’s a skill that I think will really help you build up your writing ability as well. Being able to speak a story or an essay is the same as being able to write it – if you use the right tools. I think the speech-to-text tool is potentially very useful for you and I hope it helps empower you to do more writing, more recording of the amazing ideas and stories and lines of thought that you have inside you, waiting to get out into the world. One day you may look back at these and really treasure them! I know I will.”

Upon finishing Zero, we discussed quintessence theory. As you do.

Then we got started on re-reading Fellowship of the Ring! The day before mother’s day, we read about when the nine leave Rivendell, and their fight with Caradhras, when they turn back and the men have to carry the hobbits through the snow, but Legolas can walk on top of the snow to bring hope back to all that the journey is one they can endure.

I end up reading most of the time, but since we both have copies of the trilogy, he has been reading to me as well.

When the fellowship were departing from Lothlorien and Galadriel gives them each a gift, Quinn became quite absorbed with the gardening box that Sam is presented. He brought it up several times thereafter, and it gave me an idea. I ordered a plain wooden box and some gray wood tint so I could make him one like the description in the book. I planned to mix some flower seeds into it for him so he could spread it out somewhere at his dad’s house to grow.

still trending: quokkas (mama attempts her first memes)

On mother’s day, I had a lovely extra visit with Quinn. He showed up at noon after sending me Sierpenski’s triangle mother’s day card, freshly showered, and wearing a button-down shirt. He dressed up for me.

We also started an email story where we each write one line and send it back and forth. It began, “Once there was a boy who lived in a land where the only things were a chain of islands and the ocean.” I’m excited to see where it takes us!

In other vocabulary news, I learned of Quinn’s pronunciation of onerous “one rus” and we both chuckled when he was reading aloud about a “biplane” in our logic puzzle which he mispronounced with a short i.

We like it when the logic puzzle is about particle accelerators and one of the researchers is named Dr. Quinn.

Subatomic particles

I listened to a nature news podcast and learned all about pions, and then Quinn and I discussed various subatomic particles, learned that we should call them elementary particles instead, and he is pretty into particle physics after our last book, but he wasn’t even aware of all the particles that have been named and identified… he particularly liked the ones named after pi and tau, of course. I think I fairly blew his mind when I told him that Ender’s Game had been written well before many of these had been discovered to exist. In 1985, electrons were still the smallest known particle, and I remember a big deal being made about quarks back in the mid 1990s.


The podcast also talked about Galileo, so it was easy to convince him to listen.

Life skills

Quinn said he used the lawn mower to mow the yard so they could move their kayaks. It is a battery mower. Certified lawn mowing technician!


Aragorn sent Quinn two guitar tracks he had recorded, and Quinn has added a drum track to them. So rad!


~black and white wednesday~ cycles

Hope is a renewable option; if you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.

~ Barbara Kingsolver

~summer shorts~ a list of emptied spaces

One – sea urchin grottos

There is a cavity left behind when a sea urchin dies, and sometimes other things come in to attempt to fill it. They don’t fill the spaces in the same way; maybe they glue themselves to the ceiling of the empty grotto and extend fleshy tentacles when the tide is in; maybe they snail along the walls grazing any newly settled algae; but they aren’t the purple spiky echinoderm that is made to fill such a hole.

Two – cardboard box boats

I’m not sure what got Quinn thinking of Baby Kitty one night, but he was sad he couldn’t remember her very much, only where we buried her. I offered to send him some photos, and he liked that idea. The following night we talked about how kitty was in the background of so many photos of him, like one where he is in the foreground inside a box boat. I remembered him taking A Lot of Otters into his box boats with him to read. The child in the book is also in a box boat.

I pulled A Lot of Otters off the bookshelf and read it to him over our video call. The basic plot premise is that 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 the child are reunited.

“Mother moon was looking for her child…”

Three – my arms

That night I had a dream about hugging Quinn again, finally, when this is all over, and when I hugged him in the dream he was so much bigger than me.

Four – mothers’ hearts

A local mother delivered her baby still born. I imagine a fresh space prepared for this babe, like an empty sea urchin grotto painted pink, and now a closed door tries to hold back the tidal wave of love reserved for this little one it cannot be showered upon. Suspended in an impossible position, this mother whose face I know, this friend of friends, carrying this staggering weight of this love she cannot bestow, carrying breasts heavy with milk with whom she can nurture no one. Full where she should be empty, empty where she should be full. If my grief cries tears into the ocean to turn into stars to light my way to reunite with my child, her grief must be the kind that fills the ocean basin from bottom to top.

Five – guinea pig kennels

Quinn’s talk of pet grief seems prophetic and he is now missing one of his beloved guinea pigs. Ms. B and Squeaky came to him when he was seven. I couldn’t sit with him through the night as he held Ms. B in his lap and worried, or hold him the next day after she passed away. On our video call that night I read him a long meditation I had written in which a guinea pig stood on a bridge crossing over a stream, not knowing how else to bring him comfort from far away and defaulting to using my words as usual.

“You cannot see what is on the other side of the stream, you can only see that this side is very lush and beautiful, surrounded by forest, but a thick fog hides the opposite bank from your view. You can see little rainbows appear here and there as the sunbeams sneak through the trees and touch the fog. It’s a beautiful mystery on that other side.”

He turned off his web cam while he listened to the visualization of Ms B crossing the bridge to the other side.

Six – forests and homes

Oregon is on fire. The winds on Monday night took out trees and power lines and brought fire and smoke and landslides to even our coastal community where we can no longer take our position beside the sea in a rain forest for granted. Breathing carcinogenic air for days intersects with the health concerns we already face and I find that this situation is helping neither my breath holding tendencies nor my anxiety. I checked the folder with the important documents, though I will probably continue pacing my house, looking out at the orange sky, looking at items and wondering which ones I would grab if we were to be evacuated, too.

I know people who had to grab their house cats in the middle of the night and get out with their lives. There are so many more who I do not know. I try not to feel sorry for myself that my overnight backpacking plans with Quinn have been postponed.

Hundreds of geese huddled along the edge of the bay as we drove through foggy smoke after picking up pizza for date night at home. Robins had sat in the grass all day looking stunned. So much dryness. So much stillness after such a turbulent wind. The lawn crunched under my feet as I pick pears up off the ground, embarrassed by the plenty falling into my hands while others are losing everything, or still waiting to hear the outcomes of their everything.

The next morning I couldn’t take the pacing anymore and flipped a hundred pancakes for evacuees sheltering in a church.

Seven – farmer’s markets

Even when farmer’s markets have been canceled in the past, my farm would still show up, in full marine foul weather gear, and sell tomatoes and cauliflower and bundles of fresh parsley out of the truck as cold rain fell in sheets and we sipped hot drinks from thermoses. This week, we did not sell any tomatoes, the markets and even the harvest were paused while we all held our breath and prayed for that manner of rain to fall.

Eight – aquarium exhibits

Max lived thirty years – a long sea lion life – but it still makes me cry that he is dead now, too. My toddler would point him out to tourists back when we had an annual membership to the aquarium and went there regularly, and they’d remark on my son’s lengthy attention span and articulate commentary about Max’s activities during the daily feeding routine. Other children would peel off after thirty seconds and Quinn would stay, narrate, re-enact, commune with Max, beyond even the attention span of the adults. I wonder if Max is finally allowed to be released back into the sea, but I have doubts.

I can’t bring myself to tell Quinn about this fresh heartbreak.

Nine – my arms

I still wouldn’t get to hug him.

Ten – enough

I think I’ll leave this one empty.

~rainbow mondays~ smolder

“How many fears came between us?

Earthquakes, diseases, wars where hell

rained smoldering pus

from skies made of winged death.

Horror tore this world asunder.

While inside the bleeding smoke

and beyond the shredded weeping flesh

we memorized tales of infinite good.”



~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


Remembering Max the sea lion (1990 – 2020) today, with a stroll down blog memory lane.


This year of heartbreak continues to take much.

We will cherish our memories with Max from our many aquarium visits…

from this post


and this one


and one more…


We’ll miss you, Max!

(art by Quinn at age 5; the name Selkie is from the book Nim’s island, Max was our one and only first-name-basis sea lion friend)

~summer shorts~ dragonfly rainbow

A small winged friend spent many mid-summer afternoons visiting my rainbow garden.

This is the variegated meadowhawk, the same species that blew my mind ten years ago when I was brooding on a beach one day, wondering if I’d ever find love, and couldn’t help but become distracted by dragonflies whizzing by me, heading south, one by one by one…

Which reminds me… I’ve been blogging for over ten years!

This dragonfly has been my garden guardian for about a month this summer, helping me through another brooding time.

(P.S. I found love.)

~summer shorts~ mystical

With no great vacation prospects on the horizon, I used some of my paid time off in anticipation of changing contracts by consulting my tide chart. I picked a Monday with a negative tide at 7am, and my husband decided to take that day off, too. Suddenly it was almost like a real vacation!

Though the remainder of our day filled itself with comfortable, uneventful puttering, we headed out the door at 6 AM for the beach. We rounded the first headland shrouded in mist and a bald eagle appeared to emerge from it, perched on a large rock surveying the tidal flats.

We wandered along, closing the distance. The eagle was in no rush, but eventually decided to move north and took flight. We headed north more slowly, picking our way over the slick seaweed rainbow covering the rocky shore.

We climbed up the next headland, hoping to glimpse the eagle once more, and sure enough, it had landed in the lone tree on the next headland farther north, where its mate was also perched. A double date with eagles.

Rich turned out to be a lot more into tidepooling than I had expected, and we covered a lot of area that I don’t always manage to visit during my solo excursions. I think I’ll hang onto this adventure buddy of mine. Later that evening, reflecting on our morning in the revelatory fog, he decided the best word for it was mystical.

The dictionary definition of mystical talks of the contemplation of divine truths that are beyond the intellect, of surrendering to the absolute, which feels right for wandering off into the fog on the edge of everything and communing with eagles. It’s common knowledge to everyone who knows us that Rich and I go to church by walking around in nature. We go to nature to know the unknowable, we breathe in the electric salt air to better connect to the source, we peer into the briny crevices to saturate ourselves in wonder.

Jessie Van Eerden wrote, “The way I see it, a mystic takes a peek at God and then does her best to show the rest of us what she saw. She’ll use image-language, not discourse. Giving an image is the giving of gold, the biggest thing she’s got. Mysticism suggests direct union, divine revelation, taking a stab at the Unknown with images, cryptic or plain, sensible or sensory. A mystic casts out for an image in whatever is at her disposal and within reach like a practiced cook who can concoct a stew from the remaining carrots and a bruised potato, or like a musician improvising with buckets and wooden spoons. She does not circumvent; she hammers a line drive. A mystic is a kid finding kingdom in an ash heap.”

I hung on every word of this definition as I read the essay I am quoting from, then burst out laughing when I got to the kid finding kingdom in an ash heap. It recalls to mind the oft-told tale of my older brother and I spreading the contents of the ash buckets lined up in the cellar way from the wood furnace that heated our home, then padding up to our nine-months-pregnant mother with our sooty 2T clothes in our hands asking for our swimsuits, because, “we made a beach!”

nudibranch sighting 2020; i’ll leave this here beside the naked nudie story…

I may have always had a streak of mysticism, as well as a tendency to seek out the divine on a beach.

~rainbow mondays~ nourish

~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