~black and white wednesday~ that’s a wrap

tides

I have always been fascinated with the tides. For me, the place at the edge of the ocean, where the earth, air and water converge, is where the magic and bioluminescence are found. When I was in college, a few of my courses contained lessons on what drives the tides, and while most of the learning from the courses of that time period has ebbed away from the shores of my mind, I tucked those particular sets of notes away in a folder to one day revisit, so that I could stitch together the fragments I had learned into a more cohesive understanding.

Twenty years after college graduation, the time has arrived! I saturated my brain with this topic over the first weekend of 2020, autodidacting my way through a weekend graduate course in tides. The second chapter of my book (now that one chapter is written I’m daring myself to say out loud that I’m writing one) contains a tidepooling scene, and in my quest to represent factually both my level of understanding of our local tides at the time, as well as to avoid putting any dubious information out into the world, it felt like an auspicious moment to take this deep dive. A big part of my quest is to take on the challenge of writing about such subjects without wringing all the life out of them, but instead retaining as much of the magic and bioluminescence they naturally contain as I possibly can, to write descriptively and with metaphor about topics that often get handled, instead, with stuffy textbook sterility.

It took immersing myself in this coastal reality with a tide chart in my pocket to be able to holistically appreciate the factoids I had memorized in school. With theory and experience tucked under each arm, I waded in.

In disentangling the enigmatic cycle of the tides and putting it into words, I’ve noticed that my notes from each of my undergraduate courses contain only incomplete segments of the information, and that online resources, even from my beloved NOAA dot gov, are likewise incomplete and occasionally provide some misleading or conflicting information. I gleaned useful clues where I could and sorted through inconsistencies to integrate the theory with my lived experience to support the scene in chapter two.

Then I ended up with 700% more brainiac thoughts on the matter than the chapter requires, so the overflow is resulting in this blog post. This way when I forget what I learned, I can come refer back to this synthesis.

In my notes from Dr. Serafy’s Field Bio taken in the Spring of 1997 was a list of three types of tides that came closest to being understandable and seeming accurate, but it was missing one level, and some further nuance. His hierarchy of tides spanned daily, monthly and what he called yearly categories. I would compile a new list with four levels including daily, monthly, I would change his third category to monthly-yearly, and add a fourth level yearly:

Daily aka Diurnal tides: twice a day high, twice a day low, at least where I live. We can visualize the earth rotating through a bulge of water created by the gravitational forces on the earth’s oceans of the moon (primarily) and the sun (secondarily). When our geographic location on earth rotates through this bulge, we experience high tide, and as it rotates through the skinny part of the bulge, we experience low tide. On the far side of the earth away from the moon is a similar bulge, the result of centrifugal force – so we get one more high and one more low before we return to the point of origin on our rotation. Though the earth takes only 24 hours to rotate once on its axis with respect to the sun, it actually takes 24 hours and 50 minutes for the earth to return to the same relationship to the moon because the moon has also been moving during the 24 hour period and it takes 50 extra minutes for the earth to catch up.

Monthly aka Lunar tides: The pulling of sun and moon in synchrony or at odds with one another result in spring and neap tides. Full moon and new moon are created under conditions of syzygy, you’re welcome for this awesome new word in your life with its three sometimes vowels, which means the tidal forces of moon and sun act to reinforce each other, and cause the diurnal tides to be spring tides (higher highs, lower lows). Closer to half moons, the lunar and solar forces run perpendicular to and therefore counteract each other, causing more moderate neap tides which see the smallest change between high and low tide (higher lows and lower highs).

Monthly-yearly aka Perigee tides (Dr. Serafy called perigee tides simply “yearly”): Each trip of the earth around the sun (we call this a year) contains about 13 lunar cycles of 27 1/3 days. During each of these thirteen trips of the moon and earth around each other, the moon is closer to the earth at one point each month. This state is called perigee and is a consequence of the moon’s orbit being elliptical; apogee is when the moon is farthest from earth. Perigee produces even higher/lower spring tides. Twice-ish per year, the timing of this close approach of the moon to the earth coincides with the lunar spring tide on the new moon or full moon, and the effects are additive, resulting in spring tides of even greater magnitude. We can call this perigee syzygy, okay?

The internet will tell you that perigean spring tides occur “about three or four times per year, in spring and fall” but I took some time and dissected what this meant, and what it means is that in spring and fall, the syzygy-perigee phenomena are most likely to overlap each other in time, so the best bets are around March and October. Like blue moons, sometimes we can get an extra one or two of these perigee-syzygies happening in, say, April, or September. This year, in March, a full moon (syzygy) will take place on the 9th, while perigee will occur on the 10th! A nice block of negative low tides (6th through 11th) coincides with this lunar magic. In October, we’ll have new moon perigee syzygy, both occurring on the 16th, with several days of negative tides once again.

A September 17th-18th new moon perigee, and a full moon perigee on April 7th seem like they bring us to four perigee syzygies for this year! It seems that we probably have perigee-syzygy a minimum of twice per year, and could have it up to four times, with two of them having possibly slightly decreased magnitude based on how well synchronized the perigees and syzygies are.

Finally, Yearly aka Perihelion tides would be level four on my list: The sun is closest to earth (a condition called perihelion) on January 2, and farthest (aphelion) on July 2. (Aside: I know that sounds backwards, trust me it’s not, we have summer in the northern hemisphere because of the tilt of the earth on its axis, and that tilt being oriented sunwards in summer; summer is not a condition of the earth’s distance from the sun.) When perihelion and perigee coincide, the result is what in the past decade I started hearing referred to as “king” tides. If we picked ONE king tide of the year, it would be the high tide associated with the perigee-syzygy situated closest to that January 2nd perihelion: in 2020, the closest perigee is January 13, and the closest full moon is January 10 (hey, that’s today! First full moon of 2020!). The absolute highest high tide for the year, then, is predicted to occur on January 11, according to my tide table. Oh hey, that’s tomorrow!

last full moon of 2019

Sea level matters… so, the January king tide will have a nice negative low tide corresponding to it, but the lowest of low tides for the year will not occur until June. Sea level will be at its lowest in summer, which is one factor contributing to this being the case (but not the only one).

The folks in charge of king tides have named quite a few dates as king tides, not just ONE regal tide reigning for the year. Still, these dates do cluster around the perihelion, corresponding to when the perigee-syzygies occur.

Winter 2019-20 king tide Dates:

November 25-27, 2019

December 24-26, 2019

January 10-12, 2020

February 8-10, 2020

I looked at them closely, and I believe they can be summarized as occurring around perihelion, around perigee UPON (some of) the new/full moons between November and February. Let’s call them perihelion perigee syzygy tides instead of king tides, alrighty? The syzygies of interest in November and December happen to be new moons, while the ones in January and February happen to be full moons. This isn’t coincidence, it has to do with the stuff I said before about “more nuance” that I was missing from my notes from college (keep reading).

After I had tackled this much of the tide cycle picture, I still didn’t understand why the “clamming” negative tides always take place in the morning during summer time, and in the evening during winter time. I took it as a clue that these big tides are close to solstices, and another clue that the “switch” from the high magnitude tidal variations from morning to evening occurs very close to spring and fall equinoxes  – you can see this in very abrupt jumps from the AM column to the PM column of the shaded “negative tide” segments of the months if you thumb through your pocket tide table. Okay, so this is something seasonal, which means, it relates at least in part to the sun.

Seasons happen, as I mentioned earlier in an aside, because the earth is tilted on its axis, and as it revolves around the sun, the angle of the relationship between our equator and the sun changes. Let’s be geocentric for a second, and we’ll talk in terms of declination, which is the angle of a celestial body above our earth’s equator. Declination is a term I learned during celestial navigation, because if I knew the angle of the sun above the horizon wherever I was in time and space on a schooner, leaning against the rail measuring said angle with my sextant, right at exactly noon, this translated very accurately (through some complicated mathematical gymnastics) into my latitude. Which is good to know! At dawn or dusk, when a few stars and the horizon could be seen through the sextant, triangulating the latitudes indicated by the declinations of several of these navigational stars could be used for another accurate latitude estimate. We can talk about the declination of any celestial body – stars, sun, planets, moon, even though we realize they’re not all revolving around us.

From our earth’s equator, the declination of the sun can range from 0 degrees (at both equinoxes) to 23.5 degrees north latitude, (on ~June 21 or Northern hemisphere summer solstice) or to 23.5 degrees south latitude (on ~Dec 22 or Northern hemisphere winter solstice). When the sun’s declination is 23.5° North, it is the closest it is going to get to our latitude of roughly 45° north, giving us our longest, warmest days we fondly refer to as summer.

Guess what! The moon also has a declination! The moon’s orbit is at about a 5 degree angle to the earth’s orbit around the sun (confusing, I know, but we’re juggling three balls here) and so when considering all three orbs, we arrive at maximum north and south declinations for the moon of 28.6 degrees. The moon travels between its maximum extremes of declination north and south (and through zero declination relative to our equator) during each lunar cycle (aka month). Here in the north, it pulls on us hardest at its maximum northern declination. Any phase of the moon can correspond to any declination, but!!! There are times of year when the moon’s maximum northern declination (when it pulls on us most and makes our higher tides higher) coincides with syzygy (which is when our high tides are already higher because of full or new moon). These effects are additive as well, so when we have both conditions coinciding, we get extra big tides. As much as I read about this, it took drawing myself a diagram to fully grasp how this interaction of the moon’s phase and its declination indicated June low tides in the morning and December low tides in the evening.

When we are at the part of our trip around the sun where our axis is tilted towards the sun (and it’s summer solstice) and we are at the part of the moon’s cycle where it reaches its most extreme northern declination (it’s at 28.6 degrees just because that’s where it is in its orbit), AND we are in a state of syzygy (new moon in the case of summer solstice), we get the most extreme “diurnal inequality” of tides, in other words, our extreme low low razor clamming tides. In the case of summer, the highs will not be quite as high as the winter king tides, because sea level is lowest; the corresponding highs are maybe 9.5 ft instead of the 10 ft levels of king tides.) This June, we will have a very low tide on June 23 of -1.7 ft (perigee will occur June 30, syzygy/new moon will take place on June 20, and maximum moon declination will take place on June 22, with, of course, maximum sun declination on June 21). We will also have a -2.3 ft low tide (the most negative low tide predicted for the coming year) on June 6, with a perigee on June 3 and full moon on June 5. I think that the close correspondence of perigee and full moons in May, June and July are the reason the tides closest to full moon on these months will be the lower lows for those months.

In winter, the maximum northern declination of the moon (Dec 30) will instead correspond to a full moon (Dec 29) near winter solstice (Dec 22). Still with me?

Finally, to really get why the summer lows are in morning and the winter lows are in evening, we need to consider that the moon, when it is new, crosses overhead at noon in our geocentric paradigm. When the moon is full, it crosses overhead at midnight! (I have always felt that it is magic that the moon rises right at 6 pm whenever it is full, so we get to see it, and not be asleep for it.) The big low tides following syzygy occur about 18 hours after this passage of the moon overhead, at either time of year. Without getting too technical, the actions of gravity are not instantaneous because we are subject to laws of physics like friction; there is lag time. Summer solstice low tide associated with new moon, therefore, takes place 18 hours after noon, or the next morning around 6:00 a.m. Winter solstice low tide associated with full moon happens 18 hours after midnight, the following evening around 6:00 p.m.

Okay! That’s all there is!

Just kidding, that’s not it… there’s more! (But you might need to go make more tea.) Please…. Consider the following:

One of the most memorable and mind-blowing days of my undergraduate career was the day my physical oceanography professor had us perform a harmonic analysis and compile a tide chart from 11 different harmonic constituents of the local (Long Island) tide. Harmonic constituents are the things I was talking about above – the various forces acting in concert to produce the tidal cycle, mainly exerted by the moon and the sun, except summarized into coefficients, numbers that tell exactly the magnitude and frequency at which these forces are exerted.

Harmonic analysis is based on Fourier theorem which says that any repeating disturbance can be written as the sum of a series of sinusoidal waves. You can superimpose a collection of sine/cosine curves of different frequencies and amplitudes upon each other, adding and subtracting their contributing magnitudes at any point along the x axis of time to result in a function representing any “repeating disturbance,” say, a tidal cycle. I like that it is called harmonic, because that makes me think of music, and the harmony of all the different instruments and voices working together to produce one cohesive piece of music.

Here are two cosine curves with different magnitudes and frequencies.

Here I have marked them up to show how you can add them together. At any value on the x axis, you come up with a new y value that is the sum of the y values of the two separate curves. At certain points along the x axis, the effects of the two curves will reinforce each other, while at other points, they will counteract each other.

All you need to do is connect the dots and you have found the sum!

Here the sum of the two blue curves is shown superimposed in orange. You can see that in some places, the two original curves worked together to produce larger peaks, while in other places, they offset each other and resulted in a more moderate value.

The various cosine curves we add together each represent one component of the moon’s or sun’s influence on the tides, that when combined, will either reinforce one another and add up to bigger tides, or will cancel or counteract each other and neutralize the curve to result in smaller tides. If you visit the NOAA tidal prediction page, you can download a set of 37 harmonic constituents for each of a whole bunch of different geographic locations where we might care about the tides, and then generate the tide tables for that area. My professor had us do this with just 11 of the harmonic constituents, of course he chose 11 of the ones that play the largest role in formulating the tides. First, we plotted 11 different cosine curve time series as separate functions. Then we added them up.

Tidal predictions will not always equal tidal observations in real time, because the predictions are based only on the gravitational forces acting on the tides, while other factors such as onshore winds and storm surges can play an unpredictable role as well.

OK! Let’s do the same fun exercise for right here on the Oregon coast!

For South Beach I found the harmonic constituents, starting with M2:  amplitude = 2.91, phase = 359.3, speed = 28.984104

For each constituent, we need to graph the function:

h(t) = R cos (at-φ)

Substituting in amplitude for R, speed for a, and phase for φ (that’s lowercase phi for the Greek fans in the live studio audience).

For our first constituent in South Beach, M2, we plug in our values and graph this equation:

h(t) = 2.91 cos (28.984104t-359.3)

And it looks like this:

M2 is the Principal lunar semidiurnal constituent, one of the many semidiurnal factors acting on the tides, semidiurnal meaning twice a day. Some constituents do their thing once a day, and others with more frequent (terdiurnal like meals!) or less frequent (fortnightly like fried chicken cravings! Annual like birthdays!)

Here is K1, the Lunar diurnal constituent. Compared to the twice a day constituent, you can see the difference in the wavelength, even if you don’t know the Greek symbol for that. This one does its thing just once a day.

Wait till you see the next one! Hold onto your teacup!

Looking at the same time frame for the SA Solar annual constituent, it looks like it’s not a repeating function at all… because we’re only looking at one day! It will take a whole year for this one to repeat itself.

See it now? I changed the scale of the x axis to show a whole year of the solar annual constituent, instead of just one day.

A whole bunch of constituents graphed as separate equations on the same grid

You can see how much each variable of the constituent matters as you graph each one, and what they do to the graph as they change. Large amplitudes will add more height to the tide… They will add it at greater frequency based on the speed, so that a new peak happens, say, every 27.3 days instead of every 365 days. The amount the whole curve is shifted along the x axis away from the origin is determined by the phase.

You can see how each of the constituents doing their own thing is a pretty graph, but not a tide table. Each curve repeats… well, repetitively, without the variation we’re used to in our tides, for example, here is what our January 2020 looks like:

We get to this by adding our separate curves together! Let’s start by adding just two components together. This is M2 + K1 or

h(t) = 2.91 cos (28.984104t-359.3)+ 1.42 cos (15.041069t-117.7)

showing this graph within the desmos interface where I made them all

Wow! It already looks more like a tide table! Each time we add in another constituent, the influences reinforce or counteract each other in such a way that the curve starts to approach what we are used to in our tide tables – now there are some higher highs and lower lows aka spring tides, and some more moderate neap tides, and they come and go in a wave of their own.

I made this!

For 730 hours (aka one month), behold an approximation of the tides in South Beach based on 8 tidal constituents namely:

M2 Principal lunar semidiurnal constituent

K1 Lunar diurnal constituent

O1 Lunar diurnal constituent (they’re fraternal twins, OK?)

S2 Principal solar semidiurnal constituent

N2 Larger lunar elliptic semidiurnal constituent

P1 Solar diurnal constituent

SA Solar annual constituent

K2 Lunisolar semidiurnal constituent

M2+K1+O1+S2+N2+P1+SA+K2

Which really looks like this in equation format:

h(t) = 2.91 cos (28.984104t-359.3) + 1.42 cos (15.041069t-117.7) + 0.86 cos (13.943035t-109.8) + 0.79 cos (30.0t-19.3) + 0.6 cos (28.43973t-339.9) + 0.44 cos (14.958931t-114.2) + 0.4 cos (0.0410686t-285.5) + 0.21 cos (30.082138t-9.9)        

My understanding is that there are hundreds of harmonic constituents if not an infinite supply beyond the 37 reported by NOAA, if one wanted to measure the way each star in the galaxy exerts a (nearly negligible) gravitational tug at one’s shoreline. But we can achieve a functional tidal prediction based on just a handful of the ones that have the greatest influence. We don’t always have to include the Lunisolar Synodic Fortnightly Constituent to be able to predict our tides reasonably well. Nor the Lunar Terdiurnal Constituent. Not even the Shallow Water Overtides of Principal Lunar Constituent (aren’t you glad these names exist though?). But you can, if you choose, or if those constituents play a larger role in determining the tides in your local area.

Back on Long Island during undergrad, our tides were also semidiurnal, and we had two highs and two lows per day, but they were much more equal in height, unlike our Pacific Northwest unequal semidiurnal tide pattern. Plugging in the harmonic constituents for Montauk, NY (I picked this station of the available ones for Long Island because of the purple sand) paints a very different wavy line on our graph!

Some constituents exert a greater influence on tides in different geographic locations! There is still a lot more to learn! Yippee!

I could keep doing this for other locations! Maybe I will! We can try the Bay of Fundy! Or an exotic island someplace! If you want to check out this fun graphing interface I used called Desmos, click on the embedded graph below. I think it could be fun for youngsters taking algebra to play with and explore their equations in a more interactive, engaging, and artful way (hint hint camp boss I’m talking about Panda). Also, isn’t it fun to know those cosines are useful for something you care about in your real life?

Ok, thanks for sticking with me through the peaks and troughs of this learning adventure! I’m off to write more of chapter two!

one year of tides; math oceanography art fun

~rainbow mondays~ rainbows on roses and whiskers on kitties

During this holiday season, none of us really knows what day of the week it is, so I figured I could sneak in a rainbow on this lovely last day of 2019, whether it is a Monday or not!

 

 

~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

joy to the world

A few days into December, I was reflecting on how beneficial the November gratitude challenge is for me – the impetus to write daily warms me up for other writing, and the topic itself is nurturing to my soul. I decided I would like to adopt a topic for December to continue the motivation to write daily, even if I only wrote a sentence and didn’t edit its grammar and shared it with no one. Immediately the topic leaped into mind: joy. For the past year or two of gratitude posts, a lot of my rambling has had to do with unpacking the concept of gratitude itself, in addition to the obvious counting of blessings. Metagratitude posts, where I’m thankful for thankfulness. I didn’t think I had quite as much of a handle on joy, so it was time to explore.

As I listed things that brought me what I thought might be joy each day, I noticed they were all the same things that I was writing about in November, all the things for which I feel gratitude – I just continued to add more popcorn and cranberries to the string. Wait, I thought, maybe I’m just not good at joy, and I’m confusing it with gratitude, since I’ve been getting better at that, with practice.

Then I got to the chapter in Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly that deals with foreboding joy as one of the obstacles to vulnerability. In that chapter, she spelled out how her research drew a very clear connection between those who experience joy, 100% of whom were those who included a gratitude practice in their life. “Gratitude, therefore, emerged from the data as the antidote to foreboding joy. In fact, every participant who spoke about the ability to stay open to joy also talked about the importance of practicing gratitude. This pattern of association was so thoroughly prevalent in the data that I made a commitment as a researcher not to talk about joy without talking about gratitude.” Then I clicked my heels together three times, because joy was already in my grasp, the gratitude I needed was with me all along.

Last night at the Christmas show at the PAC, I was feeling distinctly joyful as we sang Joy to the World along with the merry crowd. Rich and I were a little bit star-struck, after having our first conversation with Bobbie Lippmann, a woman we consider to be a local celebrity, during intermission. Rich gets the local newspaper, and whenever there is a new Bobbi’s Beat column, it can be found sitting on my chair where he leaves it for me to read after he gets done. We have both been reading her for years, mourning with her the loss of her husband Burt, and relishing her positive outlook on life and wonderful sense of humor. As she merged into the line for hot cocoa with us, Rich told her of our fandom and she shared that she and Burt would have been celebrating their 50th anniversary this month. She told us that this time of year, this year in particular, has been hard on her, and that she has considered throwing in the towel. We told her today would be our anniversary, eight years together. She looked us right in the eye and told us, “make the most of the time you have together. You just don’t know how long you have.” We assured her we planned to do just that. She seemed heartened, and asked our names, optimistic that maybe she had more to say, after all.

Today I am feeling very grateful/joyful to be making the most of my time with my love of eight years. We went on a nice breakfast date followed by a Star Wars date, and have been relaxing together beside the rainbow-lit tree all afternoon. I am grateful for the way he reached out to Bobbie (I have been wanting to tell her how much I admire her for years, but he had the nerve to greet her by name and start the conversation) and also so very grateful for her willingness to be vulnerable with us, two strangers in the hot cocoa line, and share something so personal and meaningful. Vulnerability leading to gratitude, gratitude leading to joy to the world. While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy, I’ll be here repeating the sounding gratitude.

Happy anniversary, Rich! I love you!

~rainbow mondays~ fall farewell

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~thankful thursday~ gratitude garland

 

11/29/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

At noon today, Rich and I were standing in the frosty back yard again, noticing how incredibly low the sun was in the sky at the apex of its climb for the day. This is routinely a thing which I lament; my fear, dread, and dislike of cold darkness have been foregone conclusions for all the years of my life. But without winter, would the sunlight linger at such acute angles to the ground on which I stand? Would it illuminate the webs, and then the frost, with such iridescent rainbow vividness?

Developing the gratitude gaze is a little bit like getting in the beachcombing zone. Once you learn how to see the fossil, agate, or shell you’re looking for, even if you go longer stretches between seeing them, you have your eyes focused just the right way to eventually see the next one. Once I started seeing rainbow spider webs, I knew how to see them, and started seeing more of them. Once I started to seek out the blessings in my life to start stringing them on my strand of popcorn and cranberries, I kept seeing more and more of them, and the strand just grew and grew.

I feel less like I need to rush through winter and cling to the coming of spring to keep me from succumbing to the darkness. The buds of spring give way to butterflies, the bursting blooms of summer give way to webs which give way to frosty fallen leaves. At all of these moments, there are qualities to admire and beauty to savor. This gratitude practice has helped me start to trust in it.

True, the angle of the sun this time of year increases the length of the shadows. But it also means there are afternoon sun rays beamed at just the right angle to produce a rainbow in the spider web, something that would not be the case in the height of summer. It means the morning sun creeps up gently enough to set the frosty grass aglow.

Looking into the long shadows is not always a deep dive into darkness. I am grateful for back yard walks with my husband today, and grateful that so many stories about shadows end up being stories about light.

11/30/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

The hummingbirds were nestled all snug in their hummingbird-down sleeping bags. It was cold in the Land of Gratitude.

Inside the dragon house, the wood stove had been stoked by the husband person, the kitties were snuggled on laps, naps had been taken, and we had eaten another Thanksgiving meal that couldn’t be beat (and I don’t mean nachos!).

shadows and light

Tying off the end of this strand of my gratitude garland across my corner of the web, I looked back to try to see where the other end was knotted, but it reached out so far behind me that all I could feel was a little tug on my soul.

please

As I simmered in my slow cooker, I could feel my molecules starting to align into a new arrangement, just the first hint of the influence of a month-long Quest causing the molecules in solution to align with an almost magnetic inner compass bearing calibrated to a true north called gratitude.

thank you

It’s full of shadows here in my slow cooker, but I am doing my best caterpillar soup meltdown meditation, spending the dark season doing the building and gleaning and restoring in anticipation of the promise of soaring in sunshine among bountiful blooms in seasons to come. This chrysalis of mine got its name from the Greek word for gold, and although that name might refer to the droplets of gold meticulously painted onto the outside of the monarch’s container of transformation, I think maybe it could also have something to do with what’s developing within, waiting to emerge and unfurl its wings with the daffodils and cherry blossoms, come spring.

I am grateful I don’t need to tie up every metaphor I used this month into one cohesive final chapter. I am grateful that I do not need to get an A in gratitude. B is for Butterflies, after all.

 

12/2/19

~30 days of gratitude~ Epilogue

Rich cried himself to sleep last night because, “nothing to read.” As I climbed into bed, I handed him a blue shop towel, and told him a story about how the Gratitude fairy will come back next November, even though she needs to hibernate for the winter now.

I am grateful for laughter and love.

I am writing this epilogue just to declare that there is no way in the world that I would be able to write four years of daily November gratitude posts without this guy’s support and encouragement. There is no way. I asked him last night if he ever felt I revealed too much about our life on the internet, and he just chuckled and said, “well, that ship has sailed.” He never gave me so much as a disapproving look or held me back in any way. Instead, when I talked about something else besides him during the first week of the first year, I remember him lamenting, “I was a one-hit wonder!” He makes me laugh and keep writing.

It is early morning and I am sitting on the couch, having been invited here by my son who is up extra early on Monday morning after a well-rested long weekend. He is reading his book and we are snuggled under fuzzy blankets by the wood stove. The page has turned, and it is December, though I’m still feeling grateful, my garland of popcorn and cranberries strung in a prominent place in my heart to remind me how.

I am turning to writing other writings that have been on the back burner for the month. If anyone wants to read more of my writing throughout the year, and not just in November, I have a blog that I post on roughly once a week, though the subject is not limited to gratitude. A lot of times I end up posting photo rainbows or updates about Quinn for his Grammy, the origin story for many a mommy blog; it is definitely not a food blog, though nachos do get mentioned occasionally. Oh, and the November gratitude posts are all archived there as well, for easy binge-reading when next November seems like a long time to wait. A few years ago I started a facebook page for my blog, and have been posting there consistently so that people who prefer to follow along that way (vs. the three of us who still use blog feed readers) can do so. If you have any trouble finding where to like/follow it, let me know and I will send you an invite.

A final thank you to all of you lovelies who have joined in and encouraged this crazy habit of mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

~thankful thursday~ butterfly effect

 

11/21/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

When the frost covering my windshield called for me to dig up my ice scraper this morning, Quinn said, “Ooh! Can I help?” And I felt so grateful sitting in the driver’s seat, sipping my coffee, while he did his detail-oriented scraping.

Riding on a school bus full of seventh graders headed East on Highway 20 this morning, I felt grateful (I realize that sounds far-fetched, but it’s true). Quinn and his friend played chopsticks, coconuts, and I Spy, requiring nothing more than their hands and voices to be entertained indefinitely. The tree-filtered sunlight projected the smiley faces drawn on the frosty bus windows across the gray seat backs, and they danced and smiled and stretched larger as we drove along.

A Newport grad gave us a campus tour, and then we watched the women’s basketball team be amazing. Quinn’s sound sensory overload in the basketball arena quickly dissipated when I distracted him with my Sudoku app. Watching his awesome teachers handle everything so capably, I felt very grateful. I feel especially grateful for teachers like the one who shared with Quinn her own story of growing up in two households, and how jazzed she was when she got to her college dorm and had all of her things in one place at long last. He is with others more and more, and with me less and less, so it makes me feel good that others care enough to relate to him on such a meaningful level. The boy, all the kids, the teachers, the grad, the team, all made me feel optimistic about the future.

After my day of chaperoning, I was grateful to check a very big item off the to-do list, and Quinn now has a passport application pending. A swim lesson and a karate class later (grateful for these instructors as well), and now we have eaten our nachos and are toasting with kitties by the wood stove. We have eaten nachos an undisclosed number of other times this week already, and I am grateful that my dudes never complain about having them no matter how November it gets around here.

 

11/22/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

One of the best things that ever happened to me happened during the cold, frosty, dark part of the year. I was a single mama having just debuted a schedule including two father-son overnights per week. One of those nights of the week featured a yoga class to which I signed up, and there was a handsome man in the yoga class, and we went on our first date on the shortest day of that year, seven years and eleven months ago.

Now his name pops up in my phone as “Rich husband person” with a picture of us being wind-whipped on Agate beach in our wedding attire, the day after we got married, two years and four months ago, and laughing our faces off.

This morning as we wished each other a happy dorkaversary (as we do on the 22nd of any month) he teased that I had probably already run my background check on him by this point in the year, but as you may have noticed, I write things down. According to my documentation, my trusted background checker had not yet reported back on his worthiness as a crush. Soon, she would give me two thumbs up, and our yoga teacher (who would end up officiating our wedding) would pair us up as partners and start assigning us some partner poses that made it somewhat difficult to focus on the breath.

Recently we went on a date to the play Tiny Beautiful Things, an amazing performance we both thoroughly enjoyed, though I basically sobbed my way through it. The play (and the book it is based on) peer into the shadows, much the way I have spent this November, but ultimately the story shines such a warm light out to the world. As we settled into our seats before the show, the woman next to me joked, “I only brought enough tissues for myself.” I reassured her that I had brought some for me, then turned to Rich. “Honey, I hope you brought something.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue shop towel! Of course. Industrial strength.

I’m grateful for his steady, stable presence. So big and strong, yet very flexible – as evidenced by the way he is wrapped right around the pinkies of three granddaughters. We’re a great team, through thick and thin, and even internet swooning.

 

11/23/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

Because religious dogma and personified male deities are subjects I have grappled with in my life, I have taken a long time to embrace the application of the action verb to pray to my personal noun, but when I look at the way I relate to the spirit and energy in the universe, I find that there are a few one-word messages I say to it that are prayers.

Each day as Quinn leans towards me, letting me kiss the top of his head before he lugs his giant red backpack off to middle school, I inhale his cinnamon scalp, then exhale a prayer for his safety as I pull away from the curb. Please.

When I kiss my husband as he goes off to build metal fuel tanks out of fire aboard floating grease tubs: Please.

Each time I think of Mom awaiting the results of her most recent round of medical tests: Please.

I utter many prayers of Please. Prayers of Thanks? I think I spend November intentionally focusing on these, because the scale is usually tipped well over to the Please side of the balance the rest of the year.

My intriguing son. Thank you. My loving husband. Thank you. Mom, Dad, kitties, wood stove fires, library books, coffee, veggies, nachos. Thank you. The way my fairy dog is snuggled under the blanket on my lap, her soul string knotted securely to my heart. Thank you.

It doesn’t seem to matter that my prayers of Thanks are repetitive. Threading gratitude onto a string like popcorn and cranberries, I tend to alternate Rich, Quinn, Rich, Quinn, with some other nuts and berries and cinnamon sticks mixed in at intervals, This still results in a long, festive strand of gratitude garland with which to decorate my dark December interior. November is spent running my fingers over each of these nuggets, like rosary beads, breathing each one in, breathing out like a prayer. Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

11/24/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

Today I am grateful for sleeping in, sunshine, and a breakfast date.

For dog snuggles, for making our home cleaner together, and for a nice chat with Mom.

Mom and I both feel like November has rushed by. When November begins, at least for the past four Novembers, I feel this daunting sense of “30 whole days?!” when I’m committing to doing this gratitude challenge. Then suddenly, it’s day 24! Blink, it’s December.

I told her I still feel like this gratitude thing is good for me, especially at this time of year. It has become my way of intentionally setting the tone for my hardest season, of dwelling on the good of the present moment.  A small change in the initial conditions of my winter might be enough to determine a very different set of outcomes for me, by the time I make it to next spring.

I think someone has already called that the Butterfly Effect…

 

11/25/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

I am grateful for good news and good signs today.

I am grateful for natural beauty that makes me pull over the car and get out to look at it, with my mouth hanging open.

I am grateful for dinners leading up to thanksgiving that I like to think of as “gathering together ghetto”, in which parsnip fries and roasted kalettes are sides to… hot dogs! We’re not trying to create too many leftovers in the early part of this week, after all. Another gathering together ghetto dinner I like is to top Papa Murphy’s faves with fresh organic veggies from the farm! Now you see why I’m not a food blogger.

I am grateful for time to get my turkey and cranberry shopping done today.

I am grateful for karate kid movie nights with my rainbow love.

Popcorn and cranberries, repeat.

11/26/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

I am thankful for my brothers, one of whom is celebrating a birthday today. I feel particularly grateful for their positive role model position in my son’s life. They both take him under their wing for various areas of expertise when they get around him (one for chess and computer stuff, the other for drums). But it’s more that they are nice, caring men being themselves in his general vicinity that I really love. Neither one of them is afraid to be who they are, not afraid of hugs or babies or rolling out a pie crust. Both are wonderful fathers and the most excellent uncles.

None of these are very recent photos, but they are all special ones that I was looking through this evening, feeling the sibling gratitude.

11/27/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

Speaking of rolling out pie crust… I am thankful for a reliable family pie crust recipe. I am grateful for the threats from Rich to wake up in the middle of the night and start eating the chocolate bourbon pecan one that is cooling on the table. Luckily the threats are empty, because I would sleep right through that. I am also thankful I know what to make for dinner when I’ve been in the kitchen long enough for one evening already. It starts with the same letter as November.

I am very grateful that Quinn comes home tomorrow. There is a special kind of gratitude to be felt watching a boy who is growing at an obscenely fast rate eat plate after plate of food, so tomorrow will be the perfect homecoming during which I can heap abundance upon his growth spurt.

I’m not usually grateful for cold hands, but I certainly tend to have them this time of year, and I’ve heard they are useful in making pie. “Cold hands, warm heart,” the saying goes. Last night as I made grilled cheese (it’s still non-leftover meal week!) I thought of how my mom began a tradition of “putting the love in” the sandwiches when we were kids that my brothers and I do for our sons. I like to think of the food I feed to my guys as a love language, and foods like pie, where each molecule of buttery dough is held in my hands before being filled with sweetness, seem like especially good vehicles for conveying food love.

 

11/28/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s been a day full of abundance here at the dragon house. Abundant sleeping in, abundant good food, abundant wood heat, and abundant love.

Today I am feeling very grateful for our parents. Rich got to talk to his Oklahoma Mom and Dad today, and it is nice to hear their updates filtered through him, as well as hear his side of the conversation. He says such nice things about me when he talks to other people, and I really like that about him. I found out that Bob (of the legendary popcorn) has been ninja-reading my gratitude posts. We are very grateful to hear that they are both in good health.

I am also grateful for Rich’s Oregon Mom, to whom I refer as my outlaw-mother, who came and saved me from having to carve the turkey. She is our one local parent of our five parents, and we feel lucky and grateful to get to celebrate holidays with her. I particularly enjoyed watching Quinn sit side by side with her as they laughed hysterically at YouTube videos this evening.

One of the first things that I learned about Rich, even before our first date, was that he has two moms, and that he loves them both very much. I knew he was going to be a good one, from that moment. You want a guy who loves his Mom. And this guy loves both of his!

My Mom and Dad… well, I talk about them a lot already, but I’ll always be very grateful for them. My appreciation for them grows all the time. I don’t know why I was thinking of this today, maybe because Rich and I took a walk through the frosty back yard and walked right by the spot where we gave our wedding toast, but one of the main things Rich and I agreed on wanting to mention during that toast was our parents. For their love, their support, and the wonderful example they have set for us. I’d like to honor them by dedicating this Thanksgiving Day gratitude post to our five wonderful parents!

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ holy coprolites, he’s in seventh grade!

~8-23 to 9-23~

Our end of summer family trip to New York!

The cousins absconded with Quinn and were barely heard from. It was neat how at their current ages (9, 11, 12) they do a lot more talking as they play, so there is less action and a lot of times if you observe them they are just standing or sitting and discussing whatever it is they are playing. On day one they spent time outdoors and began a trend that lasted throughout the week of playing dungeons and dragons (LARPing, in other words). Quinn was dungeon master (i heard later) and uncle t was a dwarf cleric (i think i snorted with laughter at the idea of a 6’6” dwarf.) mario was a human wizard, and luigi was an elf wizard, the only one who had named himself was luigi who was “thomas cloudwhisper”. They are able to do imaginitive play on a level I don’t think Quinn finds in many other kids and it is easy to celebrate the kindred spirits that cousins can be.

bonfire!

They played a lot of Mario video games and minecraft throughout the week. We adults were all pretty slack with the screen time limits, but we did shoo them outside regularly. The boys were content and fell instantly into their usual routine and it was easy to let them be.

They piled themselves in the hammock that had been set up between two of the cherry trees, which was hilarious and slightly nerve-wracking with feet and elbows protruding every which way. Nobody lost an eye, though.

They took a few wagon rides up to visit the apple orchards. On one trip, the boys ran back down to the house together when it was time to head back, which was when i was able to get “the picture.

One evening at sunset, the boys were launching a spinning toy they named the “bisquito”. Whoever caught the thing got to launch it next, so everyone got turns. they were all so playful and they kept looking upward towards the sunset-painted sky, resulting in some of my favorite photos of the trip.

Chicken spiedies and black raspberry ice cream are the quintessential central new york foods, and we ate as much as we could of both.

One evening we played a lively game of scrabble with a double set (twice as many letters) so by the end the board was so overloaded it got a little silly and the boys were spelling off the edge of the board.

Uncle T figured out how to make a minecraft server that the boys can play on from each of their computers, even from thousands of miles away, if they get on at the same time. The kids played minecraft in the evening, i think they like being on the “rew family server” together. They were all reading the stack of minecraft diary of an 8-bit warrior books. Quinn has read 5 of them but they had a few more in the series that he didn’t know about so he got caught up.

We went out to dinner with the whole family and ordered a bunch of pizzas. quinn ordered two dinners- cheeseburger and chicken fingers, and ate most of them, plus some pizza…

Mittens the cat is alll about snuggling in bed with a boy and quite a few times quinn had him in bed with him including the first night we were there and the last night we were there. Mario graciously loaned cousin Quinn his bed tent for the whole week, which was really swell.

The boys filled up their red wagon with fossil rocks in the field grampy had plowed up across the road.

 

 

 

 

First day of seventh grade!

Quinn’s seventh grade schedule looks pretty rad. He starts his day with a lovely person rich and i both admire for her positivity and healthy outlook on life (she is a theater friend) for language arts. He also got his same homeroom teacher as last year, and has her now for social studies as well, which is fabulous. She is the one who said Quinn gets her jokes.

Band now seems to be a foregone conclusion for his schedule, thankfully no more parental marching into the office is needed to arrange it. He is excited to be in the first chair for the percussion section! He is one of three players, one fellow seventh grade boy and a girl who is new to the district who is in eighth grade. He practiced very hard for the audition, which was played on the bells. Their section seems to be a good group, they each have strengths and are happy to share what they know with each other.

The first homework from algebra was spiral-laterals… in which quinn drew sequences of lines according to the algorithm, and discovered that palindromes (at least a subset of palindromes whose inner numbers are lower than the bookends, so 91719 but not 46764) make squares! For math, he also had to create a “myself in numbers” design.

He doesn’t have many classes with friends, but he does have band-lunch-recess-homeroom with Aragorn, a nice section of the day during which they can interact without having consequences for his grades or ability to pay attention in class. Goldberry is in band with them, too, as well as two of the other three girls Quinn says are part of their “friend group”. It seems that 5/7 of the friend group plays in band. Somehow that seems about like my school experience.

There has been zero complaining about homework thus far. He has 100% in 3 classes, the only grades that have turned up yet (science, health, and algebra). I am already seeing some major growth from last year!

 

Doctor

In preparation for his upcoming international travel, Quinn is getting caught up on a few vaccinations I chose to postpone when he was younger. He also needed a tdap booster for entering seventh grade, according to the school nurse. He hadn’t been seen at the new hospital facility yet, so he needed to have a whole well-child exam as well, which included a hemoglobin check. He wanted to watch his finger being pricked, and thought it was cool how the blood droplet got sucked into the cartridge. Then he wanted to watch the vaccine, (this was all based on being very anxious about it) though the nurse had been carefully not showing him the needle. She seemed to roll with his questions about the mechanics of the operation, though you could tell this wasn’t her usual experience (I’m guessing most kids just look away or cling to a parent), and what was in the syringe (“but is it a liquid?”). He watched her administer the shot and kept his muscle relaxed just like she said to do, not flinching at all.

He got home from the doctor and immediately signed on to the Rew family minecraft server and played with his cousins until they had to go get ready for bed (8:30 EST) and quinn had to get ready for karate (5:30 PST). We may institute Minecraft Mondays because i think the cousin connection is so important and even if they are connecting via chat about what kind of barricade to build around their fortress, i think that feels like very meaningful connection to them.

 

Text life

The paleontology camp group text featured a video from remus of her preparing a cup of tea using her microwave to heat the water. Quinn was intrigued by this amazing “life hack” as he called it and asked her for details on how long she microwaved the water for. (insert laughing emoji).

Also in the group text, Lead challenged them to only use names of rocks in place of any curse words, and quickly they came up with “what the fossil?” “’oh, coprolites.” And “holy shale!” (i didn’t suggest schist as an alternate choice!)

Phone reciprocity has seen a small incremental improvement. Often at the beginning of the week, he is better about checking it, and I may hear back from him once or twice, but then later in the week I get crickets until he is back at my house. Reframing as positive encouragement, I let him know that the goal is that by the end of the year he is 7/7 and right now he is 2/7!

 

Miscellaneous

At karate, Quinn helped sifu work with a younger friend who is experiencing some bullying in school, through role play scenarios.

There was Rubik’s cube work this month, and a D and d lego minecraft dungeon that he created and had me play my way through. I am often the test market for his game innovations.

He is still a lover of cartoons; Strange Planet is a new favorite, and he really liked this one that I texted him:

Somewhere between the end of summer and the beginning of school, I taught him the game Taboo. He is incredibly fun with word games, and our first round of Taboo was hilarious. We have continued laughing about some of his ways of getting me to say the word on the card, such as “lots of wood plants” for forest.

baby tending.

bathroom mopping

He got his hands on a piano at a friend’s house and picked out some favorite tunes:

 

Skills and tools

He is reading the newest rick riordan book trials of apollo (tyrant’s tomb) but when i asked one day if he was reading any books he said, “no, because right now i’m writing books.” he has been working on his “eternal elements” book which is sort of a d and d spinoff. he is typing it in a google doc. He feels he is faster at typing than handwriting, and it appeals more to his inner perfectionist who likes spelling, grammar, and neatness to all be good. Way to use technology as a tool, buddy.

We are also having good talks about organization and executive function skills. note taking; hearing teachers’ instructions (or not); checking the “done/submit/turn in” boxes in google classroom; putting his papers into the binder, or bringing it home thursday nights to do that the night before binder checks; he likes the notetaking set up for social studies because it is in google slides and he has no trouble keeping up; i suggested he remember that for classes he is having trouble keeping up in, and request to do it that way; he threw down the word “advocating” in one conversation and i’m just so proud. He is using his very basic $5 planner (no clutter or quotes or word searches or puzzles in the margins, just dates with lines for writing items. he has not missed a day or even a subject yet… i got it on a whim to give him the option to use it in addition to or instead of the school Avid binder and his homeroom teacher is letting him use it instead, with his four color pen – he is all about the four color pen. I think he is all about the planner just because he had a choice. Buy-in seems key with executive function, and he is starting to be bought-in on the school organization at last. The binder he has been keeping impeccably organized since he was 8? It holds Pokemon cards.

On the executive functioning topic, I learned about Seth Perler on a Tilt parenting podcast I listened to recently, and he seems to have a lot of resources and tips. A lot of it felt like validation of the adaptations we’re already making: uncluttered planners, extra scaffolding on tasks that are hard to execute, then “gradual release of responsibilities,”  and how we have to celebrate the microprogress that is made, helping identify priorities (he has daily plan templates available online), posted visual routines, web browser optimization/bookmarking, creating a sacred study space (we’ve always called it finding a successful spot after his 4th grade teacher’s phrasing), and tricking yourself into executing a non-preferred task (maybe by making it a game!). He also uses the same phrase we do, about how the only way you can eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and extends this metaphor in many ways in his speaking about tackling tasks. One thing I identified from the podcast that I want to work on doing better as a parent is giving more wait time after asking questions. The more I learn about it, the more I think processing speed plays an important role in Quinn’s struggles and Seth Perler’s coaching on waiting – longer than you think you need to wait – when listening to their answers, gave me a lot of food for thought.

He had a lot of catch up to do over the last weekend of this month but he did it cheerfully and fairly efficiently. I am encouraging him to apply some strategies to get things done more efficiently and result in more of the free time he so values. I think he’s almost to the point where he might be able to start generalizing skills he learns in one household to the other one… almost.

 

~thankful thursday~wonder woman and spider webs

11/14/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

I’m feeling very grateful for my gainful employment tonight as I sign Quinn up for another big traveling adventure. It is a lot of fun to watch him becoming more and more himself, to find out what he loves and what experiences he asks for, and this travel buff situation is really a fun thing to learn about him. I’m so excited for how these trips will broaden his horizons. The photos are from our trip to New York in August (when he asked if we would be passing through O’Hare and its C terminal dinosaur – see it?) and his time in the painted hills this summer at paleontology camp (taken by his instructor, I wasn’t there). He is basically the most interesting person in the world, so I’m feeling pretty grateful to get to be his mama.

11/15/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

I’m so grateful I don’t need to get an A in gratitude. I’m not taking this class for a grade! Happy Friday, friends.

 

11/16/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

I am grateful for the comforts of home after a day of hustle and bustle at farmer’s market. Nachos, a hot bath, a wood stove fire, a kitty curled up in a round basket, and another one stretched luxuriously on a cushion. A long session was held for brainstorming creatures originating from various permutations of elements for the video game Quinn is designing on graph paper. Some of the ideas popped into mind without effort: water-air-magic was obviously a rainbow, while fire-air-magic was immediately a dragon. Fire-water-nature took us a few minutes to think of, until we thought of hydrothermal vents. Sometimes we thought of the being (a phoenix must be included!) before we placed it in its elemental category (fire-air-magic-nature). I think it’s going to be a cool game, including angler fish (fire-water), salmon (water-nature), flying fish (air-water-fire-nature), geysers (water-fire-air-magic), narwhals (water-nature-magic), and the northern lights (air-nature-magic). I can’t wait to see how a sandstorm (fire-air-nature), a hot air balloon (fire-air-magic), a giant squid (water-fire-magic-nature), and a lily pad (air-water-nature) will interact.

A little air-nature-magic being told me that unstructured time with loved ones is a grateful way to spend a Saturday.

11/17/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

If there is a rainbow connection, I think gratitude might be a key element of its composition. I know that writing these gratitude posts brings the lovers and dreamers out to visit, and four years in, I love how it starts to feel like a little reunion of kindreds. The sweetest people tell me my gratitude posts are their favorite thing to read in November, that they make them both laugh and cry; this makes me cry, too, and we all laugh, and feel grateful in groups. I am grateful for these connections.

I’ve been weaving a web to intentionally capture gratitude and it’s working. Each year I remark on the way gratitude creates feedback loops of even more things to be grateful for and begets more gratitude. Even on days when I’m having trouble accessing gratitude, a Memory pops up and shows me a younger Quinn, or my handsome fire-builder, or a post about my parents’ farm, where I might already be lingering in spirit on that day, and this whisper of oxygen onto the smoldering coals rekindles the gratitude fire. The Ghost of Gratitude Past is a comforting companion, carrying a time capsule full of love letters to the world mailed to my future self, reverberating forward through time in ever widening ripples.

My own linear experience is like a bead of dew sliding along one strand of the web, and doesn’t even take into consideration the vast array of intersections in the rest of the web. As I obsessively took photos of spider webs this fall, I noticed how my clip art concept of a spider web really differed from the actual evolution and artistry of real spider webs. I walked outside each sunny afternoon for weeks with my camera and positioned myself to look closely, to see incremental changes in details of the webs. Sometimes evidence of a projectile clobbering one section could be seen in the form of a hole; sometimes the repair work to shore up such a hole could be seen the next day. Sometimes the tension would change so that some strands moved closer together, while other strands moved farther apart, creating more space between them. Some sections contained regular rectangles of repetition, while others carried more whimsical triangles and hexagons and trapezoids. Some looked like cat whiskers, areas where strands had become joined in criss-crossing unions so that it was no longer possible to follow one strand on its own without following the strand of its partner, their stories now intertwined. The strands separated and converged. They were brand new and taut, or having experienced more storms, would swing a saggy sway. They all connected back to center one way or another, from where the spiral originated. Sometimes a foundational support strand got taken out, and the whole web wobbled to one side, re-stabilizing in a whole new orientation. Sometimes this meant the sunlight could bounce off the strands at a new angle and the strands bent the light into a rainbow.

11/18/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

Today I am feeling grateful for the convenience of a grocery store two minutes from home where I rarely shop unless I am one ingredient short for the meal I want to make. Lately I am finding myself there more frequently, what with my giant gangly son eating an average of three dinners per night. Tonight it was five dinners. (Send casseroles!) I needed more tortillas and some ricotta cheese for the lasagna. He also ate pasta, a sandwich, and some pancakes, in addition to the lasagna and two burritos. I am grateful that he has now taken on the role of silverware put-away-er, since that job was never going to get done by me, and he apparently started to care that there were never forks in the drawer, only in the drainer. He also does a fine job baking, and I am looking forward to baking pies with him soon. Thankful for the kid in my kitchen.

 

11/19/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

I had a stressful day. I came home tonight to my Wonder Woman bucket full of the very best popcorn in the world, made by Rich. It probably looks like he acts this way during November just so he gets swooned over on the internet, but he is actually this wonderful all year round and I’m just so grateful for him.

 

11/20/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

Today I am grateful for clear skies, sunlight and starlight; for fresh starts; and for sandwich hugs.

~thankful thursday~ fall crops and late bloomers

11/7/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

Today I am grateful for a sunny estuary walk during my lunch break and the way the sunshine reflected so brightly off the bay that I had to squint my eyes. I am grateful for my husband who never seems to tire of walking around our yard with me, remarking on the angle of the sun, the way the light falls on a certain plant, tree, or object, the antics of the hummingbirds, or the antics of the cats looking out the window to spy on us. I am grateful to have farmed out the task of teaching my son to swim to a trusted mama friend, since I’m just a former lifeguard/swim team member/SCUBA certified marine biologist and couldn’t get him there. I am grateful for the good book I sat beside the pool reading, and for the window through which I could see a square of the pink-red-orange sunset sky while he worked at coordinating his limbs and breath. I am grateful I have one more night, this night, to spend with my kid at home before he goes to his dad’s. I am grateful for so much light today, a respite from contemplating the shadows.

 

11/8/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

I am grateful for date night. Live music, shepherd’s pie with cheese and hot sauce, and the very best company. Together we will sail into the mystic.

 

11/9/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

Today I am grateful for fresh veggies and favorable market conditions. While summer is an exhilarating rush of conversation fragments, fall proceeds at a more deliberate pace. The fleeting fruits of summer, the heirloom tomatoes with muscular sun-tanned shoulders that must be eaten immediately, the intoxicatingly fragrant basil that will wilt if you forget about it for a day or two, have been replaced by the sturdy parsnips and rutabagas, the stout kabochas and butternuts, friends who can cope with a little neglect while you are also moving at a slower, more ponderous fall pace, with perhaps more frequent nacho nights inserted in the weekly menu. This is not a competition between summer and fall crops, and if it was, it would easily be won by the sungolds and shishitos, sweet corn and charentais, the succulent fruits that accumulate the most summer sunshine into their cells, and these fickle friends are preserved in my chest freezer to see me through until they can be fresh again. But each year my appreciation grows for the sustaining roots and sturdy kales, the pie pumpkins made to have and to hold and to store and to keep us fed through the long winter. Today I participated in another of my favorite mindfulness practices, one concerning impermanence, like sand painting but with squashes, already scattered and but a memory. Tomorrow I will fill the slow cooker with leek and potato, celeriac and parsley root, and some imaginal cells to remind me that next summer will unfurl its colorful wings in time.

 

11/10/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

Today I am grateful for getting to sit in my trusty Adirondack chair in the sunny backyard, by the wedding trees, talking to my mom on the phone. I am grateful for Rich sweeping the whole house (just one way that he sweeps me off my feet) and doing my laundry for me while I was catching up with Mom. I am grateful for a Sunday drive date along the Bay Road to pick up movies, and grateful for a moon date, again in the back yard, again with Rich, who called me to come outside and watch the nearly full moon rising over the ridge. I am grateful for the moon itself, bringing light to the darkness. I am grateful for a day with minimal agenda and maximum fresh air. Time to ladle up two bowls of gratitude soup from the slow cooker, slice some warm bread, and pop in a movie.

 

11/11/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

It was my Mom’s birthday one month ago, and I was leaving on a visit to go and see her for her birthday (I got there the next morning.) I am so grateful for my Mom. She was the subject of the 3rd gratitude post ever, and has been mentioned numerous other times, but I think I’ve been over how I feel about repeating my gratitudes: kitties, wood stove fires, and nachos, oh my! I’m still grateful, so they bear repeating!

Mom has had a rough year, health-wise, and as the darkness starts to wrap around us for the season, the horizon is finally starting to lighten up for her. The health stuff is her story to tell, not mine, but what is mine is my concern for her, and my difficulty being so far away when things are hard on her.

One thing about my Mom that I am more grateful for all the time, is that she is willing to be vulnerable about her feelings. Without knowing to appreciate it, I think I absorbed a lot of the wisdom of that as I grew up. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and there is something so refreshing about that to me. When I have raw feelings, she is one of the first go-to people I know I can say them to; she’s not intimidated by them. I think she knows I can handle hearing about hers as well. She didn’t unload them on us as kids – her parent/child boundaries were good, and she never asked for us to take care of her emotions. However, now that we’re both grown-ups, I think we both appreciate each other as sounding board. Our chat the other day ranged from B vitamins to systematic executive functioning scaffolding removal to coparenting challenges to sewing projects, but all with attention paid to the emotional landscape.

Mom is also an intrepid learner, and that includes topics such as looking inward to see how she can grow as a person. I witnessed some amazing butterfly-level transformation in her this year in that realm. I felt lucky to be included in the inspiring conversation.

She is the best Grammy, and no heartstring pluck can compare to the ones I experience when I see Quinn enfolded in her arms each time they are reunited.

 

11/12/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

I started typing this one month ago, but it seems fitting, so I finished typing it today.

My ears popped. I opened my eyes to see the horizon through the window of the seat in front of me. Above it pink, below it, what my eyes told me was ocean. Sunrise, coming in for a landing in Newark. The way I remember New Jersey is from the waters around Cape May, 20 years ago. On this day it would just be a layover on my way to New York. I remembered a butterfly landing on the deck of a schooner off the Cape, wondering whether it was off course or had intended to fly so far out over the ocean.

Migrations. I was flying back again in October where I had just been in August. The blue part of the world below the horizon resolved itself into land in addition to ocean, smokestacks and urban clutter, orderly chaos from so high up. Land, sea, sky, the edge of everything, the convergence of elements. We flew towards the eastern horizon until the sun stabbed spears of red light up over the horizon, its rising accelerated at exactly the air speed velocity of our plane. The quickened sunrise cast a pink glow throughout the upright seat backs and tray tables as we prepared for arrival.

Arrivals. The butterflies are arriving in their wintering grounds, but it would be slightly amiss to call it their homeland. The ones arriving in Mexico now have never tasted that air until now, though they somehow knew how to get there. They are the concentric circles, the tree rings, containing the previous three generations of monarchs who flew North last spring and summer, living, reproducing, and dying in three-week intervals, brief flaming orange wings barely a flicker of existence before their lives funneled into the lives of their offspring, their own flame extinguished. The overwintering super generation are the great grandchildren of the monarchs who left there last spring headed North. Like their great grandparents, they will live eight times as long as their parents, the one generation in four who will fly over the whole migratory path, and not just a fraction of it.

I have flown a lot this year, thousands of miles, so perhaps it makes sense that monarchs have become my mascot for this gratitude season. The timing of our August visit to New York happened to coincide ever so well with a peak of their travel through the neighborhood. The October trip I took solo, and I saw one single monarch, a late migrant. Warming in the colorful tree canopy when I got near, it fluttered down to the ground and landed on purple clover. After a snack, it rose once again, this time hurtling over the canopy and off to the South, Mexico or bust.

I am grateful for the safety of the flights my family have made this year, the miracle of flight itself, overlapping generations, and late blooming kindred spirits on the wing.

 

11/13/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

I am grateful to live in such a beautiful place, where I can stop before work to see the full moon setting over the ocean, and then stop again after work and see the sun setting over the ocean. Some days I just need to look upon something bigger than all of it.