~black and white wednesday~ heart

“In anatomy, arterial tree is used to refer to all arteries and/or the branching pattern of the arteries.” ~Wikipedia


“Everyone who’s born has come from the sea. Your mother’s womb is just a sea in small. And birds come of seas on eggs. Horses lie in the sea before they’re born. The placenta is the sea. Your blood is the sea continued in your veins. We are the ocean – walking on the land.”  ~Timothy Findley


~summer shorts~ molting

I passed the tub of paid-for veggies to the outside of the sneeze guard and the customer turned sideways to me to pack them into her bag. I dipped my gloved hands in bleach again, looked around at the customers standing six feet apart, the colorful fabrics of their face masks. As I turned back towards her, her earring caught my eye – a beautiful piece, rose colored stones, the kind of earring with a tear drop shaped central stone and many little jingly bits of metal and beads dangling, like a musical feather. “What beautiful earrings,” I said.

“Thank you, they were my mother’s. When I was little, I would hear the sound of them, so now when I wear them, I hear that sound and feel surrounded by her, and by those happy memories.”

Hearing of mother connections is especially poignant as I grapple with separation, and her story came as an unexpected gift. I feel surrounded by my mom’s love when I am wrapped in one of her quilts. I have been delivering care packages in my own attempt to wrap my love around Quinn as well, as we approach five months of separation. Snacks, books, a box of seeds to grow, feathers.

It’s molting season for the birds. Every few days I look down during our bayou walks and discover a new feather shed by one of our local jays and once even a raven! This ritual shedding of items that are no longer useful seems apt. Mom and I have been talking about how we both base a lot of our worthiness on our usefulness. I am underproducing for work and powerless as a parent, so my usefulness is quite diminished. Perhaps it is time to molt, to let go of old ideas about worthiness, like feathers that need to retire from service. These feathers have done their gravity-defying work and have performed valiantly, but their ragged edges are no longer streamlined, no longer serving to decrease resistance to the flow.

The day I found an owl feather, I had really been missing Quinn, and it was a small comfort to find a trace of his favorite animal that I could pick up and hold in my hand. Its softness and lightness brought a lift I was needing. I held onto it for a week or so, but when the time came to deliver another care package, I tucked it in a ziplock bag with the latest stash of feather finds.

That same afternoon on my walk with Rich, I found one more owl feather, in the very same spot I had found the first one. This one I think I’ll keep.

Quinn will be the first to tell you that birds are dinosaurs. I would fill his care packages with live baby dinosaurs if I could, but feathers are the closest thing I can surround him with, my nestling who has fledged too soon. Of all the ephemeral things, a feather, when as a mother so much of my energy has been spent striving to overcome impermanence for him. He is a sensitive person who was a bit devastated when the peep we microwaved could not be reconstituted into its previous form – things that are fun for other kids cause him grief. He explained that he did not want to study the woolly mammoth, one of his all-time favorites, because he really wishes he could see a live one, and their extinction hurts too much. Change, transitions, extinction, impermanence. Throwing anything away is a struggle for him, so every week he went to his dad’s I carefully removed detritus from his room just beneath his limits of detection.

I have been realizing that my mom did this for me as a child, too. Thinking of birds and dinosaurs and peeps just reminded me that she once learned how to poke a pinhole in each end of an egg to blow the contents of the egg into a bowl, leaving a pristine egg surface for decorating that would not spoil. I have a feeling she might have been wishing she could just put her feet up, but she strove to overcome some impermanence for me when I grieved the demise of my colorful easter eggs.

Part of the devastation of this time is there is no protecting our children from these losses they are enduring. However, protecting our children from learning how to handle loss might be another idea that is ready to be molted, replaced with some new plumage. We will just have to trust that it will grow in brighter, stronger, readier for streamlined flight than that which it is replacing.

~rainbow mondays~ of the sun

I asked for providence to smile upon me with his sweet face

Yeah but I’ll tell you

My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark

And I do not feel the romance I do not catch the spark

My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark

(By grace, my sight grows stronger)

(And I will not be a pawn for the prince of darkness any longer)

~Indigo Girls

~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

~summer shorts~ tea kettle

I am grateful that when I walked out of the house this morning without my purse and the door locked behind me that I had also forgotten to lock the back door the last time I went through it. Double forgetfulness, like double negative, is a positive.

I decided to hide a spare key inside Quinn’s play kitchen tea kettle, and then decided I’d make a blog post about it, so I can look it up when I forget where it is hidden. (In omitting the location of the tea kettle so internet villains will not be able to break into our house, I run the risk that I may still not find the hidden key at a future forgetful date.)

I’ve had his tea kettle on the back burner of my mind as a dear object I have been wanting to trace back in time in writing. Though right now it is sometimes better to keep a lid on the memories, there are days, like today, when it feels as comforting as a mug of tea to steep myself in treasured moments from the past.

Quinn’s tea kettle was far and away his favorite play kitchen item, a present for his birthday when he turned two. I would tidy up his kitchen at night and when he would wake up in the morning he would go straight to it, pouring bunny snacks, raisins, and popcorn between the colander, the pot, and the tea kettle. He would finish his evening making dishes such as “people pasta,” simmering all of his wooden people figurines in the tea kettle.

He was in love with having, “berry berry my own tea kettle,” so I sang, “I’m a little teapot” to him, of course. Then, of course, he made me sing it a million times, with the hand motions. Then he modified it to sing to himself, “I’m a little tea kettle.”

It moved with us from that green house where he turned two to our orange house, where he was growing so mature he would request a teabag and make his own tea kettle full of tea to pour himself.

It moved again to the dragon house, and after we cleaned out the playhouse there, his play kitchen was installed, tea kettle and all. By five, he was interested in dinosaurs, chess, and ewoks, and may not have played as much with his kitchen set, but the tea kettle still got played with the most.

When we moved here to dragon house 2.0 and Quinn turned ten, I painted an old computer desk into an outdoor play kitchen for all the children we knew would be attending our upcoming wedding. Quinn approved of using his kitchen stuff, tea kettle included, to furnish the Rainbow Restaurant.

Memories of that week will always make my heart bubble over with joy.

The day started with a little forgetfulness, but ended up with a heart full to the brim and spilling over with gratitude for the memories.

~summer shorts~ butterfly shadows

I have been gathering the dried seed heads of the various columbine flowers that grow in my garden, and was headed to the final patch, the one that grows under the butterfly bush with the dark purple flowers, which are in brilliant bloom in late July.

I was so focused on the seed collection task, hunched over and looking down, that I was startled to see a shadow among the bush’s own shadow that was moving, a flutter that betrayed its being cast by something more than leaf. Abruptly, I stood up and almost hit my head on a butterfly.

This swallowtail had such tattered wings that I could see the purple of the flowers through the hole in its left forewing. It was also missing the frilly lobe that should be along the trailing edge of the left hindwing, and had other torn and frayed edges, signs of a long, hard journey, perhaps beating to windward.

It spent a long time sipping from the bright orange throats of the dark purple flowers and let me take close photos on that bright sunny day. I was grateful for this little reminder of the butterfly effect of gratitude, grateful also for the visual reminder that we may be tattered and beat up, but we should keep going, that there is still beauty in our surviving, that there is still sweetness to drink in.

I find it interesting that I saw its shadow first, even while looking down. I am peering into shadows even in summer, because if 2020 was a butterfly, it would be the most shredded looking one still flying the friendly skies. Even though July is full of bright sunshine and winged beings for the sun to shine upon, this is a different sort of summer in a different sort of year.

Normally July is a time of flying around the country visiting family, this time of wings and flight. Instead, this July is a month of being still and figuring out how to be okay with that, grieving the loss of that time with beloved kin.

As I peer into the shadows, I must remember that at least these shadows are being cast by butterflies, and take note that it is also the time of year to stop, spread my wings out on a leaf, and just absorb some sunlight.

~summer shorts~ firebirth

My friend just went through breast cancer surgery and we are on the phone discussing poop colors and whether medical waste is incinerated, and unexpected emotional devastation even when all the decisions we’ve made have been absolutely right. I am not a good phone friend, but if you are going to call me, it’s likely going to be about something raw and gritty like this. In my imagination I am allowing fire to be the outcome of where breasts go when they are removed because there are powerful metaphors in fire. Inked across the shoulder and upper arm of this friend is, rather prophetically, a phoenix. We forget fire can be a creative source of energy when we see it cause so much destruction, but the phoenix dies engulfed in flame only to be reborn out of the ashes. There is so much about our current moment that feels devastating and destructive, an inferno threatening the best things about this world, and yet if I summon the courage to look into the fire, this little thing with feathers is poking its head up out of the ashes, getting ready to be reborn. Creative plans will hatch to make a way, through art, to integrate having been utterly torn down and the work it will take to be reborn, feather by feather. The other day as she noted that her breasts, or the breast-shaped spaces they used to occupy, were burning (a good, albeit painful, sign that she is told indicates healing; mothers understand about productive pain when it comes to birth), we planned a future campfire photo art session. Like a grappling hook tossed a long way out ahead of us that we can climb to if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, this tiny plan gives us a target, a rope to grasp, a direction out of the furnace. Though the flames haven’t even subsided, and the hatchling may be weak and covered in all this ash right now, she will eventually emerge powerful and courageous. In my life there is a son-shaped hole, while her kids are there but she can’t really be with them, and it hurts; these are the people we carried in our bodies, pieces removed from us with great pain and at great cost to ourselves, more than we ever expected. Your baby is born, and you need so much more absorbent cloth than you realize to soak up all manner of fluids drawn up out of you by the gravitational force of their orbit around you. You were expecting a swaddled bundle, not a planet with its own atmosphere and trajectory. What to expect when you’re expecting a phoenix: there are expectations and then there is reality, and that book title seems to be out of print, or maybe it hasn’t been written. Yet. For now, it’s DIY phoenix midwifery. Birth and rebirth are messy, painful, intense, productive, and creative. Our children, too, are being devastated by this fiery time, and they, too, will rise, powerful, from the ashes, stronger than before, better for it. Inked on the lower part of the same arm as the phoenix is the one word calling to mind that thing with feathers, the one being reborn from these ashes, the one that never stops: hope.

see also: water metaphors

~summer shorts~ reclaiming

Have you seen me lately? is the title of one of my depression songs. I hardly ever listen to the Counting Crows anymore, but the feeling that I have gone missing lately is a little bit accurate.

When I go missing, when I need to retrieve myself, the ocean is where I go. During a pandemic, it may mean going to the ocean at 6:30 am on a Monday, and it may mean going less frequently, but the ocean is still where I go to collect myself and bring myself back. Here I am, standing, kneeling beside the crowded tidepools of my inner world. There beside them, soaking in the brine, is the end of a long strand of mended rope. I pick it back up in my hand, ready to start adding to the storyline, twisting new strands, threading on new beads and seashells, eventually stringing more cranberries and popcorn once it is a little less soggy.

woman beside a tidepool

How does it happen that I would ever set this rope down? I know better. I repeat to myself like a mantra why I write. I repeat it enough that others know it, can paraphrase it. The fragmentation that once characterized my inner experience was the result of mental health crisis – major depression brought on mostly by emotional abuse (gone), but also a little bit predisposition (still there). Fragmentation, a broken storyline, allowed me to lie to myself, disconnect from myself, betray myself, something I remain committed to never do again. Writing is my best tool to maintain a cohesive storyline, to integrate the various pieces of myself into one narrative that I can keep my grip on, so that I can see the connections between one segment and another, so that I can tell if I am being true to who I am and so that I can tell if I am deviating from my truth or forgetting crucial pieces of the story.

tidepool on oregon coast

Too much slack in the line is a different problem from fragmentation, but tangles are not conducive to okayness either. Winds will blow on me, waves will continue to endlessly pass, and if I am not doing the steady, dynamic tending this line of mine requires, it can become knotted and snarled. These posts piling up behind the scenes, where I keep second guessing myself and saving to drafts, need to start being eased out before they accumulate further. Like the sheet that controls the business end of the sail, my line works to keep me on course, to keep the wind coming across my sails in the most efficient way to maintain forward progress, to keep me from capsizing, to keep the sails full not flogging, to keep me from wallowing in the doldrums.

sea urchins and anemones

There is a certain amount of tension required to keep ahold of myself, in other words. The danger is there to become too tense, to hold on rigidly, which can also rock the boat. When my shoulders start to reach my ears, my hands are clenched, and I am holding my breath too often, I need to loosen my grip, inhale, exhale, and observe what the ocean is doing. Take stock, adjust course.

sea urchins and anemones

You can sail forward even when the wind is close to your bow, but there is a reason why they call it “beating to windward.” Heading into the oncoming wind and seas (usually they are coming from a related direction to one another, though not always) can feel like a beating. The motion of the vessel is more jarring, the force of the impact coming down from the crest of each swell causes the whole hull to shudder and the rigging to vibrate, and the ship is heeled over at quite an angle. The ship must be tacked much more frequently to maintain course, an act which by its very nature strains every line and piece of hardware, every tired seam and joint. Changing direction frequently just to keep going forward is exhausting, and you must ensure the coffee pot is lashed in the galley, the deck gear all stowed.

sea anemone partly folded inward

Still, it is while sailing to windward that I have most often encountered dolphins riding the bow wake. It is also only in the dark of night that the bow wake glows with bioluminescence. Remembering my study of the word “streamlined” a couple of years ago, I recall my conclusion that the status of the flow around me has less to do with turbulence in my life, than what shape I present to the flow; that if I present less resistance to the flow, I have a more streamlined experience. Salmon use the energy of the current to propel themselves upstream; adversity is not a direct line to crisis, in fact it can be a force of energy that is harnessed for good.

sea urchin and anemone close up

I feel as though, right now, I am swimming upstream against a strong current, or sailing into a strong wind. I am okay, but I am on watch for signs of slipping down the current too far towards the waterfall’s edge, or letting the wind get around behind the wrong side of my sails. I am okay, but I am swimming hard with nothing in reserve, I am beating to windward and taking a beating. I am okay, but I am only okay because I know firsthand the consequences of slipping downstream, of capsizing.

urchin and anemone

At market one recent Saturday, a lovely woman handed me a bundle of braided sweetgrass. She grows it herself, and she said she wanted to give it to me because I inspire her. I am using it to smudge this space and reclaim it, to clear out any traces of energy that would keep me quiet, that would turn down my voice, that would ask me to be smaller, less than fully me.

anemone detail macro

red and purple sea urchins

closed sea anemone

sea urchins and anemone

sea urchin with spines missing

chicken mole

It was anniversary eve so last night I made a yummy dinner that doubled as a running joke. Every time I am about to make nachos for dinner, again, I say, “I’ll give you three guesses what I’m making for dinner.” Usually we are on our daily mailbox date when I say this, and Rich then guesses wrongly on purpose twice, then narrowly wins the guessing game on the final guess. Lately his first guess is almost always “chicken mole,” something I’ve never made, and so I finally decided to see if I could figure out mole sauce. I obtained enough chili peppers in my grocery clicklist to approximate some of the mole recipes I saw online and decided on chicken mole enchiladas. On our mailbox date when I gave him three guesses I was hoping he might get it on the first guess, and that’s exactly what happened. It was ridiculous how much fun I had thinking about it all day, anticipating how much he would laugh at my very involved and deliberately planned home cooked joke.

Still not a food blogger

Traditionally the symbol for a third anniversary is leather… that idea of flexible durability fits us like broken-in work boots or a trusty pair of birkenstocks. However, I think our third anniversary symbol is actually mole sauce. Spicy and deeply flavorful, a labor of love, inspired by humor. A cinnamon stick, some powerful peppers, some fragrant herbs, simmered over high heat for a long time. Contains chocolate. A bay leaf means you have to kiss the cook.

At three years of marriage, there is a nice blend of predictable and unpredictable. The other day I knew he would come home and ask me to go for a drive to pick up some whiskey, and I also knew he would take the bay road home but I had not anticipated his thoughtful purchase of a six-pack of pear cider for me.

Rich made popcorn on Saturday when I was worn out from market and I was lounging in the yard when he emerged with my wonder woman bucket and a shot of rainbow whiskey we sipped together just like we did to toast our wedding… we have been doing lots of reminiscing about the wedding week. Each day we thought about who of our guests would have been arriving and what would have been going on. It would have been the Wednesday my parents arrived. Dad would be playing guitar, the kids would all be buying from Quinn’s store, Lauren would be stirring sauce, and I would be perched on Rich’s lap watching and listening and soaking in all the love. As we munched our popcorn, Rich remarked how fresh and new our yard had looked that season, one year after we started rehabilitating its overgrown neglected tangle. My newly built terrace garden was starting to grow plants and the new wood chip zone accommodated all our straw bales and the whole yard was clean and new… the garden has grown so much in the three years and other areas have been cultivated with flowers and new shrubs, right now it is all looking well-tended as we have kept busy on the yard work. He lets me do the writing, but my husband of three years, comes up with the best metaphors for marriage.

Happy Anniversary my love!

~rainbow mondays~ float


~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

~rainbow mondays~ uplift

~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