egg season

I’ve been intentionally heading out on estuary walks behind the lab this late winter-early spring, watching for signs of the herring run.


Some of the days have had perfect sunlight. This day the angle of the sun on the submerged cobbles had me thinking of the rainbow-rock lakes of Glacier.


Other days had me pondering all the different words you can use to describe that metallic patina on the water when the light is limited by cloud cover. Mercury, pewter, chrome, tarnished silver.

This herring season has seemed prolonged to me. I started seeing signs in late February, but I am still seeing signs now in late March. All the furred and feathered friends of Yaquina Bay have been very excited, flocking and frolicking around.

Herring season outside the lab coincides with Arctic cod spawning season inside the lab. I’m neck-deep in embryos this time of year.


Early embryos


Embryos further along in development

So many potential fish.

x

By-the-wind-sailor jellies have washed ashore in droves – it’s their season to festoon the salt marsh grass with tiny blue prisms to catch the sun.


First pelican sighting of the season.


Raft is the collective noun for sea lions, Rich looked it up.

 

Also, I laid eyes on one or two actual herring this year! In the middle of being consumed…


Harbor seals get in on the action, too. They are just a little more stealthy about it than the sea lions.

Pretty sure this is a common loon.


I still hadn’t seen any herring eggs at all inside the estuary, so I took myself to the north jetty after work on Thursday afternoon as the tide was moderately low. It’s at this time of year I begin to rejoice that the daylight has not all faded by the time my work day ends.


I found the eggs!

Eggs covering every surface as far as the eye can see… seems like a pretty good year for herring here locally.


Seems like a pretty good year for Arctic cod in my cold room, too. Here they go, starting to hatch.

 

Baby fish galore!

 

~tidepool immersion~ within and just outside

This is a bird. I found three options on a blog of what it might be. To my eye, it looks most like the surfbird, but based on the description of rock sandpipers being solitary and quiet, that seems like a likely choice. It also resembles (to a person who looks at fish all day) the black turnstone, so I am not ruling that out as an id, either.

There was quite a breeze, and I loved the way the outer tidepools divided between the textures of the water within and just outside.

The find of the day was a dead octopus! I have never seed a live octopus in a tidepool, and while that would have been cooler, this was pretty remarkable to see. I stared at the scene for quite a while as quite a few hermit crabs crawled around the suckers. The large red sea urchin appeared to be quite interested in octopus meat as well.

I think the anemone pictured above is a painted anemone (Urticina grebelnyi). Below is our very common giant green anemone.

~seventeen~ supersingular

Happy seventeenth to Quinn.

In keeping with tradition, here is the grid of birthdays:

12 months 8 sock monkey bdaysealion Photo2196 Photo1104

Photo505 0225131805 Picturez 006 happy 7 orange IMG_6629

   

We will celebrate Quinn’s seventeenth birthday next weekend when he is home, but I could not let the day pass without marking it in my usual way, wandering through random tidbits of science and math and literature while reminiscing about this young man I have had the privilege of raising.

My photos of Quinn as he approaches seventeen are of him playing in band, and of him holding kittens. These seem to be the two moments he doesn’t mind having his photos taken, so I will take what I can get. Luckily, others were holding cameras at Quinn’s winter band concert, and I have another band parent and Quinn’s English teacher to credit with some of those images.

Seventeen is the seventh prime number. It is the only prime number which is the sum of four consecutive primes (2 + 3 + 5 + 7) because any other set of four primes results in an even number. It’s a lucky number of Euler, which is different from the way 13 was lucky, but still quull. In abstract algebra, seventeen is a supersingular prime, the explanation of which I had no comprehension of, which is probably a sign I never took abstract algebra, but I still think supersingular sounds intriguing.

Quullest photo. This was taken by Q’s English teacher.

Quinn is not taking math this year as a junior, but he would still be the only person I know who will find some of these tidbits quull, like the fact that the Pythagoreans abominated the number seventeen (I imagine he will giggle at this). I think he will be tickled that Carl Gauss chose mathematics as his profession because of his proof that heptadecagons (polygons with seventeen sides) can be constructed with a compass and unmarked ruler, and that this is because seventeen is a Fermat prime, whatever that is. Quinn likes Carl Gauss as much or more than the next seventeen-year-old. I think Quinn would like that there are seventeen fully supported stellations in an icosahedron. And I also think he will find it interesting that seventeen is the minimum number of givens needed in a Sudoku with a single solution.

According to MIT, seventeen is “the least random number,” which is because it is the most commonly chosen number when someone is asked to choose a random number from 1 to 20, according to several experiments.

Quinn is taking chemistry this year, and the element with the atomic number 17 is chlorine (which rhymes). Also, it reminds me of swim lessons. The element with a molecular weight of seventeen is ammonia. Which reminds me of diapers. Doesn’t time fly?

But the subject Quinn has been the most excited about this year (possibly with the exception of band) is English. So it will bring me great joy to remind him that the Haiku form has seventeen syllables (5 + 7 + 5). In other literary greatness, seventeen is when a wizard comes of age, and is the number of sickles in a galleon in wizard currency.

There are the same longings as ever. I wish I had more time with him. I wish I had his birthday with him. I wish I could fully support his stellations.

When we left off at sixteen, NASA was getting ready to launch a mission to space object 16-Psyche, an asteroid made of iron and other metals. The launch was successful in October, and in December, the spacecraft turned on its cameras successfully, the moment on a space mission called “first light.” The craft will fly by Mars in 2026, receiving a gravity assist from the planet named after the god of war, and then will continue on to Psyche, arriving in 2029. This asteroid may be a planetesimal, the building block of a planet, or in other words, an opportunity to look at what our own planet looks like on the inside. Our own earth is a hunk of metal at its inaccessible center, and this is our chance to learn more about our own core. Maybe. Or find out something else.

Messier space object 17 is the swan nebula. What is a nebula, you might ask? So might I.

A nebula is

Luminescent star-forming

Interstellar stuff

From my vantage point crowd controlling the middle school band at the winter concert, I got this back-of-the-band shot of my tall drummer.

Nebulae are those colorful, foggy space places whose images would make good Trapper Keeper covers, and they are full of cosmic dust. They are the places where the particles of cosmic dust clump together and attract tumbleweeds of more material until they give birth to a star. I picture a grain of sand in the mushy mantle of an oyster gathering ocean bits to form a pearl, only space. After the stars get born, the remaining material leftover is thought to be the makings of planets and their rings, their moons, their comets and asteroids. A nebula is like a solar system womb, then. And the swan nebula is one of the largest star-wombs in our Milky Way.

NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M. Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team and ESA

 

Wombs. Milky ways. Quick subject change before I get too weepy.

Cicadas! Some species of cicada have a seventeen-year life cycle. Probably a lot of people already know this, but every time I hear it, I still think it’s miraculous. Between mating seasons, they are buried underground for seventeen years. This seems excessive and impossible and also has very cool ecological reason and rhyme. Also there are fossil cicadas dating back to the Triassic in Australia. Automatically quull.

Also, the periodical cicadas (including the 17-year varieties) are part of the genus Magicicada. I just learned this and I think it’s magical.

Magicicada

Underground for seventeen

That seems excessive

Cicadas are of course known most for their music, and as musicians, they are basically percussionists. I can keep going.

Did you know that the different stages of nymphs that develop during the 99.5% of their life that takes place underground are known as instars? There are few words I love as much as “instar.” See star-womb nebula discussion above.

There are a hypothetical thirty broods in the Magicicada genus, which are exclusive to North America. Many of the hypothetical broods have not been observed. I try to wrap my head around this and picture the type of nerd whose job it was to hypothesize mathematically occurring cicada broods, and I am picturing someone not that different from Quinn. (They numbered the broods with Roman Numerals. Am I wrong?)

We will not be enjoying roasted cicadas for Quinn’s birthday, though this is a culturally important delicacy to the Onondaga people.

Despite the hypothetical brood abundance, only fifteen of the broods are known to survive today, and their timelines are mapped out for our entomology ecotouring convenience. Brood XIII, the Northern Illinois brood from the Midwest, is a seventeen-year cicada expected to emerge in 2024. The next time they do, Quinn will be turning 34.

Least random number

Happy Birthday Quinnigan

You’re Interstellar

 

edited to add belated celebratory photo epilogue…

neon

Quinn could, as a younger boy, become sentimental about dryer lint, sticks he had collected on the floor mat of the car, candy wrappers. Perhaps he resisted farewells as a response to living in two separate households, and within each household, moving homes several times in his younger years. I would not know, as I was lucky to have one household—a farm!—and it is still the household I return to visit my 48-years-married parents in. So when I’d remove his stick collection from the floorboards to vacuum the car, I’d reverently pile them in a section of the garden where he could visit them if he liked (until we moved again). He has grown marginally more pragmatic about such things as a teen, but I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it when the actual car was the thing we would be saying goodbye to.

The Neon became unreliable in 2023, and I have been opting not to take it on highway 20. This winter I realized the trunk had leaked so much that the seats were now moldy. For a while I cherished the idea of passing this car onto a teen who needed a first car, maybe even Quinn, but the project of its rehabilitation was getting beyond me. Cue several months of avoidance and driveway sitting.

Last Saturday, a young man knocked on the door and asked if I’d like him to remove the Neon from the driveway. He works on cars, knows how to drain the fluids, and would take the car to Dahl’s for the $200 they will give him for it. He offered to split the money with me. I accepted his offer.

Quinn happened to be home, or this would have been a harder decision. I knew he’d want at least a chance to say goodbye.

I thanked the universe for solving my adulting problem with no effort on my part, and told the young man to come back in a couple hours with his trailer. I pulled the last remaining items out of the car, an archaeological dig that tugged its own heartstrings. I located the title. I had the car empty by the time Quinn came outside and I filled him in on its impending departure.

 

He made me peel the Lisa Frank stickers off the dashboard that B pancake had stuck there years ago, and hang onto the rainbow tie-dye steering wheel cover Rich’s mom had given me and save it, despite the elastic being shot. He reminded me to check the CD player. The battery had enough juice to power the eject button and lo and behold, Brandi Carlile’s Firewatcher’s Daughter had still been in the slot. The Eye is a song Quinn and I love to sing along to together. I would have been very sad to lose it.

Then he asked if I would transplant the tiny fern that has grown for years out of the Neon’s left front fender.

At this point the lump in my throat grew painful. I used two jack-o-lantern carving knives with their skinny blades to carefully extract the roots of the plant from the grungy fender crevice. We found a spot in the corner of the front garden bed to situate the fern in a bare patch of soil.

Satisfied, Quinn and I watched from the driveway as the guy got the Neon started and a black cloud of exhaust emitted from the tailpipe. He stepped out of the car one more time to discuss payment, and I told him to keep the money, he was doing me a favor. Was I sure? Yes, I was sure. He thanked me. He said it sounded like a cracked head gasket. I was glad to know I wasn’t wrong, the car was at the end of its life. 195,120 miles and many memories have accumulated in our fourteen years with the Neon.

After he drove it up onto the pavement to load it on his trailer, earthworms emerged from the ruts where the tires had been sitting.

We went inside and Quinn turned around and blew a kiss through the window at our good little car.

When I was with Quinn’s father and pregnant, we bought a used jeep that was intended to be the “family vehicle” as soon as Quinn was born. But, while I was still pregnant, his father’s truck died and the “family vehicle” became his work vehicle, while I walked and took the bus to my two jobs. Even with a newborn I commuted by public transit, which thankfully was doable in Portland, but let’s just say, less than ideal.

We split up on the eve of moving to Newport. I took the jeep so I could get to my new job and support Quinn. The $800 blue book value of the jeep was a contentious line item in mediation. I could not wait to never drive it again.

I found the Neon on Craigslist. A friend’s mother’s car someone was selling cheap, with low mileage and a stick shift. It was under $2000 and even so, I needed to convince my credit union to give me a loan. Andrew, a lab friend, drove me to Florence to pick it up, and I paid it off a year later.

 

The Neon is the only car I’ve ever independently bought, you see. Independently buying a car hits differently if your movements and finances have been constrained and controlled by another person for years. The Neon meant more to me than a 2002 car with hand crank windows ought to have meant. With my next tax return, I bought Quinn, who was three, a nice car seat that would keep him safe up to eighty pounds. As my string bean lengthened but did not gain much weight, he held onto that seat until I convinced him he no longer needed it, around second grade. All the beach bird feathers he had tucked into its side pouch were added to the stick collection in the garden.

I don’t have many photos of the Neon, but hunting through photos shows me all the places the little car took us; in a sense, it’s just outside the frame of every picture. It took us to beaches, to hikes, to campouts, to the end of Beaver Creek Road for several years and multiple flat tires. To school and activities and all over town. Loaded to the gills with a canopy and market gear, we drove it to farmer’s market every Saturday.

It was the site of all the Pickups and Drop-offs of Quinn’s two-household/one-driving-parent early life. It was where Quinn learned to blow kisses, as a fundamental building block of the routine to make transitions marginally more okay for him, to help him cope with always being left by the other person he loved. It was always the site of our coming back together again after we had been apart. A car can mean a lot more than you ever meant to let it mean.

~thankful thursday~ magnitude

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

11/23/23

I am grateful to have Quinn home, where he can up his apple-peeling game.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ days 24 and 25

11/24 and 25/23

Giving myself two days of gratitude credit, because I was away from my laptop for a full twenty-four hours (and I know it’s unusual, but I don’t use Facebook on my phone). I am grateful for the uniquely special relationships you can come across in blended families. There is something so refreshing about a four-year-old saying, “Nana, can you ask Quinn if he will play Candyland with me?” In earshot of the sixteen-year-old, who says, “Sure!” without reservation, and then they go play. Something extra tender about the way the sixteen-year-old knows how to play up what a tricky hiding spot the four-year-old has hidden in this time, during hide-and-seek. It reminds me of when the sixteen-year-old was just barely five and cheering on the college track athlete, yelling along with her teammates to “push it, girl!” and how she was totally game to color with him in his dinosaur coloring book in the stands after her race. Now he is showing her daughter how to dig up dinosaur bones in a phone app, and trots along by her side in the park as she pedals her princess bike with training wheels.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

11/26/23

I am grateful for these brothers of mine, this year and every year. I’d be grateful just for their excellent brotherness, but they are also superb in the department of uncleness. I hear B’s laugh and T’s sense of humor in my kid, and it was sure nice of them to share.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

11/27/23

It was just four days into my first year ever of writing gratitude posts when I first declared my gratitude for “sleeping kitties purring near the crackling fire.” One of the things that has hit home for me during this eighth grateful year is that gratitude does not stop or even slow down time. My kitties were so much younger then, and this year, their age suddenly showed. Three years ago, I included this Brené Brown quote in my gratitude post, and it still resonates.

“Gratitude is vulnerability. I’ve had the honor of sitting across from people who have survived tremendous things. No matter what the trauma was, they said: ‘when those around me are grateful for what they have, I know they understand the magnitude of what I’ve lost.’ So often we’re afraid to be grateful for what we have because we think it’s insensitive to those who have lost. However I think gratitude, in some ways, is healing for people.”

It was earlier that day that my father-in-law had died. There have been a fair few November nights over these years when I have felt daunted by my commitment to keep on showing up to reflect on what I’m grateful for. Two years ago, November arrived just as we returned from Oklahoma following my mother-in-law’s death. This November I spoke at a gathering of Don’s friends and family because Don died earlier this year. In these times it’s not that hard to access gratitude, it’s more that it’s hard to rein it in, to narrow it down, to not feel compelled to attempt to reckon with every single thing about a person’s whole life for which I feel gratitude. Those nights when nachos, while a great dinner option, cannot be the subject of the post because there is too too too much else.

As I sit here deciding what I’m grateful for tonight, I keep glancing over at Lisa kitty where she is lying stretched out on the cushion in front of the wood stove, and I stare for a minute to see if the fur on her belly is still lifting with another breath. She has let me give her four baths now. On the last one, she barely complained, but lay in front of me, letting me wring warm washcloths across her back. If you know Lisa like we do, you know she curses like a sailor, dropping f-bombs every other meow, so this submissiveness was telling. Last night she climbed on my lap and let me pet her for a good hour or more, though she has been extra solitary lately, crawling into a box or a drawer for long stretches of hours. But after work tonight she greeted Rich with meows to hurry up and light the fucking fire, then curled up in front of it. It feels meaningful that she is here with us this evening, front and center by the warm crackling fire, in our midst, for a wee bit longer.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

11/28/23

Lisa held on until this morning, but before I went to work, she took her last breath. Rest well, sweet kitty, I will miss you.

I am grateful that work asked so very little of me today, other than to absorb research talks about Pacific cod, one of my fish loves, so basically I watched tv about Alaska and flashed back to my summer wilderness time in Kodiak. Some nice escapism. Usually my job asks much more in a day; on Monday I tagged fish—performed thirty-one minor surgeries—before lunch. Today, light duty, but lots of brain engagement, which was what I needed.

And my friend of the uncanny impromptu casserole timing nailed it again, so that after I got home an hour late after driving home the long way to avoid the accident bogging down traffic, dinner was already made. (I’m looking at you, camp boss.) So grateful.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

11/29/23

I am grateful for this month of sunrises. Every November marks a new beginning for me, ever since I started doing this crazy thing. Sunrise seems a fitting symbol, and the ones I’ve witnessed this month, including this morning, have been exquisite.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

11/30/23

It has been a month. I sprinkled some seeds on our Lisa kitty’s grave this afternoon, to get a nice soaking now that our rain is setting in, so some wildflowers can start rooting in before spring. Three years ago, I said this about seeds: “If I had a theme this year it might be the seeds of gratitude planted in the gratitude garden, and how they are an investment in my future nourishment. Whenever I notice and appreciate the snuggly kitty on my lap, the warmth emanating from the wood stove, or my hardworking husband coming home from work, it’s another seed in the seed bank. These dormant spirals of potential, storing an idea for next year, waiting it out through the harsh conditions of winter. So many adaptations to fly, float, cling, catapult, shake, or shatter, to make sure they deliver on the promise of future abundance.”

It hasn’t been all eulogies and graves this November. It has also been Candyland and apple peels, sunrises and sunsets, yard kittens and mini writing retreats, nachos and casseroles, twinkle lights and wood stove fires, warm towels and heirloom apples, poems and bay road drives, garlic bread and ocean soundscapes. I’ve been warmed, fed, cheered on, cheered up. A chorus of voices of complementary gratitude has sung out from all of you who climbed on the gratitude bus with me for yet another year. I’m so grateful to begin winter once again from this gratitude grounding.

~thankful thursday~ all true

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

11/16/23

I am grateful for the sun melting into the ocean on my way home from work, and the red crescent moon dipping into the ocean on our way home from date night.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

11/17/23

I am grateful for writing, as a discipline and hobby and obsession. One of the things I like about writing personal narrative is that there are constant opportunities to reanalyze, rethink, reassess what I always thought was true. There is a story I tell myself, and then there is a story beneath that story that I have yet to discover, and when I do finally get at that deeper story, it is always more rewarding. Usually the surface story is something I’ve memorized about my life that feels true enough, and has served me well enough, but the story underneath is truer, and will serve me better. The story underneath is always the one with more layers, more complexity, more nuance, and less duality. There is moral certainty in the top story that I have to give up, though, in order to embrace the truer story.

My son required a neonatal intensive care unit when he was born, and that is where my attention has been during the war between Israel and Hamas: the NICU in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. There is no story I can embrace where 39 babies in critical condition must be used as a shield by either side in a war. There is no justification for infants who require breathing assistance to not be receiving it, for their bundled bodies to be lined up in a row on a bed when they are prone to infections and should be in isolation, when they need warming beds, but the fuel to provide the electricity they require cannot reach their hospital because their “side” might pour it into a tank instead.

I read that 90% of the children in pediatric hospitals in Gaza are experiencing traumatic stress, and 82% of them say they fear imminent death.

I read that parents are writing their children’s names on their bodies—when children’s bodies arrive in the morgue, coroners find the marker writing on their legs and torsos. In some cases this is the only way to identify the bodies.

Women continue to give birth during this conflict, infants are being tended in a neonatal unit where the life support equipment helping children to make it through their first weeks of life has stopped beeping their heart rates, stopped inflating their lungs, stopped warming their tiny bodies. The medicines commonly needed in a NICU like surfactant and caffeine citrate have run out. Because I can remember how it felt to press my face against my son’s sedated body in a NICU cubicle, to wind my arms under and around his tubes and wires to be as close as I could to him, I can recall the comforting sound of beeping, the warmth of the incubator radiating from his body. The story I’ve carried was that I just wanted him out of there, that the NICU was a place of trauma that was keeping us from beginning our mother-son life together. I know that story served me in a way, but I know a truer story now, one in which I feel gratitude for that place and the bridge it provided to help my son make it to the start of that life. I imagine the terror and heartbreak of that comforting beeping going silent, the incubators going cold.

If we give up our moral certainty, can we find an answer that is not anti-Palestinian, nor antisemitic, nor anti-Islam? I do not know what it is, but I believe it precludes the slow sacrifice of babies requiring neonatal intensive care. The solution will not be born from the surface story that has seemed true enough and has served its purpose, but from a truer one that is harder to tell.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

11/18/23

I am grateful for a day saturated with writing, reading others’ writing, reading my writing aloud, and hearing others read their writing. And a little lap time with yard kittens.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

11/19/23

I am grateful that Rich is at least as invested as me in my gratitude posts, and I cannot go to bed without him reminding me that I haven’t written one yet. Good morning, love, I am grateful for you.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

11/20/23

I am feeling grateful for my mom and dad today, and realized I didn’t take any super awesome pictures of them together this summer, so I will remedy that on my next visit. I did take pictures of them separately back in June, Mom and Quinn, heads together as she showed him how to make soap, Dad on the tractor, and there is a snapshot of the two of them blurry and laughing at the dance party following my MFA graduation. I am grateful for the comments on my previous post, appreciating the love between Rich and I, and wondering if we know how lucky we are. I know it is rare, and I do know we are lucky, and I also am lucky to have witnessed another rare pair, all my growing up years.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

11/21/23

I am grateful to have finished work with time before sunset at 4:43, for a walk to the water’s edge, and ten minutes of listening to the ocean.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

11/22/23

Can you find my husband in this photo? I can, because even though I can’t read the name on his coveralls, his sideburns are unmistakable. I am grateful for him (again, I know, ew, but the 22nd is our day). He does fascinating things at work like suspend a very heavy engine on very short straps and move it from point A to point B inside a fishing boat with zero room to maneuver. Sometimes he welds and fabricates, sometimes he operates a crane, and other times he solves impossible problems like the one in this image. Which I’d like to thank his coworker for taking, because sometimes when he tells me about his day, the stuff is barely believable. For the first few years we were together and someone asked me his occupation I said he allegedly welds, because I hadn’t actually seen him do it. I mean, making things out of metal and fire? But then I did see him do it one time. And it was all true.

 

~thankful thursday~ hugs

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

11/9/23

I am grateful for another stunning sunrise over the bay this morning.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

11/10/23

I am grateful to have him home on this Friday night, watching Ice Age together over the official meal of November. (Photo from summer, when both these youngsters were smaller than they are now.)

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

11/11/23

I am grateful for a few little spaces in my weekend for some extra writing time.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

11/12/23

Today was Don’s celebration of life.

I am grateful to have gotten to know Don before he went on to join the mycelial network that feeds and communicates with the trees. I am grateful and honored that Jeannie included me in his celebration today. I am grateful that in my extra writing time this week I was able to write five pages and then cut them down to two and a half pages, to fit in a four-minute time slot. I am grateful that while my hands shook, I don’t think my voice did. I am grateful Rich and Quinn were there holding my hands. I am grateful for the embracing response of the rest of Don’s community (like literal hugs; his older brother whom I’d never met hugged me not once but twice), for new connections, and for the energy Don is already somehow instigating to keep his work going.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

11/13/23

We’re entering that phase of November when the gratitude really starts flowing, picking up momentum, and although I have one by 8 am, I also have seven more by 8 pm and it becomes impossible to choose. I am grateful for a sweet share from a farm girl I’ve known since I was a farm girl, of a post written by another farm girl she thought I’d appreciate. I am grateful for the sunshine day after a soggy, windy weekend. I am grateful for a sunny window table in the library at my work where I spent my lunch break with my laptop (more mini writing retreats whenever I can). I am grateful Rich made popcorn when we got home from work.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

11/14/23

Some nights in November I am just grateful to bask in the warmth of the wood stove and scroll back through photos of summer.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

11/15/23

I am grateful for my job. You know, when you picture what you will be when you grow up, and then you actually grow up and you are something, they can be two very different things. And yet, you can end up being grateful for the weird thing you ended up being, all the same. This is a picture of a weird thing, a fish called a penpoint gunnel, like a little squiggle of eelgrass, only a swimmy little animal, which I only know because of my weird job and how it sent me to Alaska, three times now. I think if I am still going to Alaska years from now and finding penpoint gunnels, I will be grateful.

~thankful thursday~ yet to let me down

~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

11/1/23

Welcome to Grateful Year Eight!

As usual, I come to the blank page of November 1st with a large helping of overthinking and a heaping portion of here-comes-winter dread, with no idea what to write about today. I am grateful for the beautiful Halloween morning sunrise on my way to work yesterday. I am grateful, always and every day, for Rich’s humor on the dimming days leading up to November, for begging me to not disappoint my adoring fans (he means himself), and for his wonderful suggestions of what to write (which I will not share here.) I have in other years (including the very first year) begun day one with how grateful I am that he is my person. As usual, I do not want to begin with my gratitude for the nachos we ate for dinner tonight. (Of course we did, and I am grateful for them). But the beginning of the month always feels like this, like it will take effort to “come up with” a post. So, I think I will embrace that, and say I am grateful to have learned that this practice requires work, to know to expect it, and to know that I can also expect the multitude of benefits that result. I don’t mean benefits/results in a “The Secret” sense, because focusing on gratitude does not magically make only good things happen to me. In seven years of gratitude there has been loss, grief, a pandemic, in addition to nachos, butterflies, popcorn and cranberries. I have ridden the waves of all the different emotions. Gratitude doesn’t eliminate the hard things, but it does provide a whole lot of perspective. Gratitude has yet to let me down. I’m still me, still ambivalent when November pulls up to the curb and tells me to jump in, but jump in, I do.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

11/2/23

I am grateful for date night. It might sound like same gratitude, different year, but there is always something new, exciting, or silly on our dates. Tonight there was an enormous, gnarled, and bulbous jack-o-lantern perched on a curve of the bay road as we drove to dinner, a plate of crusty, buttery garlic bread with some sort of aged cheese melted on top, and our server (who we know by name by now) had the rest of our “usual” order memorized. I look forward to Thursday date night all week.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

11/3/23

I am grateful for poetry. One of my forever favorites is by e.e. cummings and ends with “it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” A few memorable ones I’ve come across this year have been Ada Limón’s “Joint Custody,” Camille Dungy’s “Sanctuary,” and Kate Baer’s “What Children Say.” This week I was introduced to Andrea Gibson and when I turned on their album Hey Galaxy on the drive to work this morning, I cried during each of the first three poems. The lines that got me first, in “Your Life” were,

“Choose to spend your whole life telling secrets you owe no one

to everyone, ’til there isn’t anyone who can insult you

by calling you what you are”

And for the poet the insult had been one about being gay, whereas the insult I remembered (because the gift of poems is they take you right there) had been one that cut me so deeply a long time ago. I don’t need to tell it to you to make the story make sense, because all you need to know is that if someone called me this same thing now, my smile would just shine. And so I cried in my car instead, big ugly sobs while gripping the steering wheel just before the traffic light by the pawn shop and the kite store. Which is about the closest I can come to describing the inner life of this grateful 45-year-old woman.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

11/4/23

“Gratitude doesn’t eliminate the hard things” as someone once said. Today I am grateful that Lisa kitty allowed me to give her a bath. We are in a little bit of denial that Bart and Lisa have arrived in kitty old age at fourteen. Lisa has (probably) cancer in her jaw that is making it harder for her to do normal cat stuff. Grooming is especially difficult for her now, and it was time to give her a hand with that, but cat baths are generally not done for good reason, and I wasn’t sure how it would go. She didn’t love the idea, but she held still on the towel I had warmed in the dryer and let me rub her with warm wet washcloths and comb her fur. She did not extend a single claw, and now has a nice lemongrass-cedar scent (a big improvement). I knew she had not held it against me when I wrapped her in another warm towel and she willingly snuggled on my lap getting rubbed down for a half hour after the bath. Her purrs and tail twitches communicated that she feels grateful, too.

 

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

11/5/23

I am grateful for my husband’s unfailing willingness to drive me places. Our annual pilgrimage to the Fill Your Pantry market started out a colorful forest drive and ended up a gray downpour. All I had to do was enjoy my heated seat and look out the windows. At the market, we obtained our usual bucket of honey and stash of responsibly raised meat, and I am grateful for the full freezer. I saw heirloom apple varieties I recognize like Winter Banana and Fameuse, which made me rattle off a few more in my head that I did not see, but know from my parents’ orchards: Blue Pearmain, Hubbardston Nonesuch, Red Astrachan, Mother. I reveled in the varietal names of the dry beans I didn’t buy, too. Found another mother called Good Mother Stallard, a mottled maroon whose namesake was someone named Carrie Belle. I am thankful for the growers and namers of all the good food that fills our bellies.

~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

11/6/23

Nachos! It’s their day, and this year, we happened to synch up (yes, for those keeping score at home, we did just eat them on 11/1. So?) I’m grateful for an easy evening meal following an easy grocery shopping (parking lot pickup has my heart). Hope you’re having an easy evening, too.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

11/7/23

When I got to work this morning, the cubicles were strung with twinkle lights, and my coworkers had added a fish lamp to our shared office space. We eschew the overhead fluorescent lights, and have been slowly bringing more good light to the cubicles, but today we leveled up. It is the right time of year for bringing the light. As I documented the twinkle situation with my phone (that sweet “already found my gratitude and it’s not even 9:00 yet” feeling) I realized there were fun reflections in the photos that hang in my cubicle. I had to hold my head a certain way to overlay the light reflections across, say, a butterfly. How I hold my head seems important to practicing gratitude, to finding light.

More lights kept arriving throughout the day. As I left work, a rainbow saw me on my way home. In a chat with a couple of writing friends, light bulbs seemed to appear above each of our heads as we spurred each other on to new ideas. And a “one minute” chat in my driveway turned into more like a half hour when a friend swung by with an extra pan of enchiladas she happened to have. Though the driveway was dark, laughing in her Subaru added even more light to my well-lit day. I’m grateful for all the ways the light finds me in November.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

11/8/23

I am grateful for yard kitten snuggles as I sat in the yard after work and watched each solar path light blink on, one by one around the yard, as the day dimmed. Some of the lights are rainbow colors, a treat we gave ourselves this year. Smoke began to rise out of our chimney and I knew Rich was inside building me a fire in the wood stove, and I felt grateful.

kodiak august edition

Back from Kodiak.

 

Otters!

Salmon!

And bears! Oh my!

I found another career idea for Dad: boat launch backer-upper. When you want to launch your boat but you need a big tractor to do it…

This octopus is named Gilbert.

These jellyfish are unnamed.

Until next year, Kodiak.

Don

Don André especially loved working with couples, yes.

But also relished working with half a demolished couple, apparently. Loved working with couples and the individuals liberated thereof?

You could tell he loved his work, when you sat in the big blue EZ-boy recliner across from him. It’s easy to see couples counseling as a worthy, important profession, when you only picture couples entering therapy and then going on to become happier, stronger couples. But it is equally noble to efficiently perceive when an individual in a couple is having a hard time knowing her own worth because of long-term emotional abuse endured in a couple context (made difficult to perceive by the way people behave differently in a professional setting). It is noble to stand by her while she learns to perceive her worth, long enough for her to make the painful steps involved in extricating herself from a severe entanglement.

Don died on July 8th.

I knew that Don was dying. I learned that Don had died on July 15th, one week after his death, while I was in Kodiak, but waited until this information was shared publicly by his family before saying my own words about this staggering loss. His obituary appeared in Friday’s News Times. Rich couldn’t keep the tears out of his voice when he broke the news to me over the phone, which he learned from a long-time mutual friend. He knew this was a biggie for me.

Don wasn’t the kind of therapist who sat and said nothing while you poured out your guts. He got you pouring out the guts, but he also shared some of his guts. I think some of us require that dialogue to learn the skills we need. To get how it was for someone else helps us see how it is for ourselves, when we are too stuck inside ourselves sometimes to see it at first. He said enough for me to be able to picture the possibility of being with someone with whom I could be myself, with whom I could feel relaxed and free… I needed to know couples like Don and Jeannie had that, could sustain that, in order to believe it could exist for me, maybe, someday. (Spoiler alert: it does exist, today.)

My heart goes out to Jeannie.

As for me, what claim do I have to grieve this person? Like so many people here, I met Don as one-half of a broken couple. “The Perfect Storm,” he affectionately called us for the way we brought out the absolute worst in each other. “What I hear you saying is that it didn’t go that well,” he’d gently summarize, after whatever latest debacle I dragged in each week and poured through ugly tears. This understatement always made me laugh through the snot-filled Kleenex I clutched. I kept seeing Don professionally long after my ex quit seeing Don, and then years later, enough time having elapsed since our professional work, I sat with Don while he worked on articulating what it is he has learned in these long years of his life’s work. He had writing goals, I knew. During our sessions when I was his client, to which I faithfully brought a notebook and took copious notes, he had always joked that I would need to help him write his book one day.

I did just graduate an MFA in which I learned to write books, and I keep those notes, and those audio recordings of our “Donifesto” chats, in a safe place. It is hard to imagine writing Don’s book now that Don is gone, but then, it’s hard to imagine not sharing Don’s work with the world, too. I feel like I am sitting on a gold mine, one intended for the world to benefit from, not just me. Don had a grasp on the human condition, though he would never claim to have it figured out. He’s like Brené Brown but snarkier, with more tree/mushroom/compost metaphors, and a dude.

I never figured out why he would give such a gift to me. He always believed in me more than I believed in myself, as a way of showing me how to do it.

I mean, I don’t know what the protocol is for mourning your former-therapist-turned-friend-and-intellectual-buddy? He would laugh at this overthinking. Which makes me smile, though I’m really sad. I know I am among friends who are probably feeling this one hard, too.

There are few people in my life who have been more pivotal to my well-being. I will miss you, Don.