killer whale week

It’s been a big week.

This week I got my start date for my new job (July 5th), I finished my second semester—my first half—of my MFA program, and I saw killer whales in Yaquina Bay!

 

I managed to take a few terrible photos, and some rather poor videos, which I will cherish forever and always. How I love them. I spent an entire thirty-page submission writing about them during first semester, so it seemed fitting they would come help me celebrate the day I reached the halfway point! I tried to clip many frames of blurry, empty water, and skip to the pertinent parts, but apologize for causing anyone seasickness with my shaky cinematography.

 

This one is longer and retains more shakiness, but also shows an eye patch a time or two, which was completely awesome to see. I was fairly close. You can’t hear it in the video over the wind, but from where I was standing, I could hear their exhales each time they surfaced!

After work, I grabbed my camera and husband for a bay road drive date and he got to see a couple of them, too.

 

All of which is to say, a lot is going on behind the scenes, but I’m still here, and I still write things.

herring

Here is my poem about the welcoming party for the herring who came to spawn in Yaquina Bay on Quinn’s birthday:

western grebe

western gull

hooded merganser

harbor seal

great blue heron

bufflehead

black brant

double-crested cormorant

California sea lion

fifteen~love

The first player to score in tennis earns fifteen points. Fifteen-love. I guess no one is sure why zero in tennis was originally called love, however “the most accepted theory is that those with zero points were still playing for the ‘love of the game’ despite their losing score.”

Maybe it’s immature to think of this coparenting journey as a tennis match but sending a child back and forth between two households was a never ending volley, until it wasn’t. Many times I remind myself I’ve consistently chosen to play the long game when it comes to parenting, that I may be in a streak of losing game after game, I may be about to lose this set, but if we’re lucky, it’s still early in the match. In the long game, maybe I have a chance. The long game is the basket I have all my eggs in.

In the short game I’m at zero. Zero is love. Love is zero. Love is a big goose egg. Love is missing the egg I could be finding. Love is emptiness. Empty spaces. Empty nest. Empty loft bed with dinosaur stickers on the side, dinosaur flannel sheets, fuzzy owl blanket, and a quilt each from Grammy and Mama. Empty seat at the table. Empty green plate that I’m sure is too small for him to eat off of now. Except for maybe eating birthday cake. Which he isn’t going to eat from it this year.

Image credit Roberto Mura

 

We left off at fourteen, chatting about galaxy NGC 14 and a quasar called the Einstein Cross in the constellation of Pegasus, the winged horse. Well, 4.2° west-northwest of the brightest star in Pegasus, there is a globular cluster called Messier 15. M15 is 360,000 times the luminosity of the sun, contains pulsars and a planetary nebula, and wouldn’t you know it: astronomy suspects its center may contain a black hole.

In another galaxy called Holmberg 15, a supermassive black hole was recently discovered, one of the largest black holes ever known (40 billion solar masses, I guess that does sound big). I thought, huh, I wonder what constellation Holmberg 15 is found in. Wouldn’t you know, it’s in Cetus, the whale. (I’ve said it before, you can’t make this stuff up.)

This little planet Quinn has now taken fifteen trips around our sun on, rotates 15 degrees per hour, making the sun and stars appear to move fifteen degrees per hour over our heads.

From the music of the spheres to the music of our own solar system, fifteen is a special number. Not a lot of time signatures involve 15, but there is one I know of:

15
8

Which is sometimes called compound quintuple meter. Or it can be called triple quintuple time. Marking time in our ongoing separation feels complicated, like it might need a special time signature. It feels compound, in the sense that a fracture can be compound. It feels like I need to concentrate hard. Then it feels like I need to avoid thinking about it at all. I think compound Quintuple meter fits.

My ability to document the lifelong learning that is still ongoing despite our separation has ebbed and flowed. The notes have been tucked away, and I have not given up on one day backtracking to revisit this time, but for now, my heart isn’t ready for much of it.

A few of his presents are Rubik’s cubes. He recently solved his 6 by 6 Rubik’s cube, so I got him the 7 by 7, as well as some other shapes that remind him of D&D dice, and finally, a Molecube. He told me about solving the 6 by 6, detailed step by step his approach to solving it, which reminds me that I’ve never entirely trusted the evaluation that disqualified him from being on the tippy end of the autism spectrum, and come to think of it I wonder about myself sometimes, and if you’re still reading this verbose sentence you must really love us for who we are. Example:

“The three by three is interesting to solve, because you can’t move the centers in relation to each other. You can only move other things in relation to the centers. You have to solve all the corners, of which there are eight in any cube puzzle, and you also have to solve the grand total of twelve edges between all these corners. My method solves four adjacent corners that are all on one face, then solves all the edges between those corners, all with the center obviously solved for those. Flip the cube over, solve the other four corners. I always do the same colors. I go to the yellow, I solve the yellow corners, along with the yellow layer, like not just that side of the yellow is solved, but like the green and the red on the side of it, whatever. Then I flip, and I solve the four white corners, then I flip it like this with yellow on the left and white on the right. And from that there are some other sequences you can use to solve the white edges. So, you use sequence A1 and A2, E1, E2, E3 and E4 to solve the yellow side. Flip it, and use sequences C and A2 again to solve the white corners. Then flip it so the white is on the right. And using sequences G1 and G2, solve the white edges….”

At this point in my audio file we are at 4:41 of a 39:43 minute “dialogue” concerning cubing solutions and it will probably take me until he is sixteen to type in the rest.

 

As usual with birthdays around here, there are the mathematical fun facts. Fun facts about 15, according to Wikipedia:

15 is a lucky number.

Fifteen is a triangular number:

12 months 8 sock monkey 

bdaysealion Photo2196

 Photo1104 Photo505 0225131805

Picturez 006 happy 7 orange IMG_6629  

 

When I first made a grid of Quinn’s previous nine birthdays as he turned ten, I reflected on him being halfway to 18 one year and halfway to 20 that next year.

Now he’s halfway to 30.

15 is a hexagonal number:

 

hexagonal grid of circles oe each for Quinn's 15 years

Fifteen is a repdigit in binary, and there are few people who love binary counting as much as Quinn, age 1111.

15 is a magic constant of magic squares.

In pi, 15 comes after 14:

3.1415….

All of which is to say that 15 is quull.

In navigation, every 15 degrees of longitude equals one time zone. These lines of longitude, also known as meridians, are farthest apart at the equator, but they come together at the poles… eventually.

In the meantime, we can span time zones on computers, even three of them if we need to, as Quinn recently has to connect with his cousins Mario and Luigi on Discord. The three of them are peas in a pod still, even online, where Quinn is leading his cousins on a D&D quest for which he prepared a nine-page campaign script, five spreadsheets worth of maps, and an ancient scroll to introduce them to the quest.

Fifteen is the number of months Quinn had been out of the womb when he started walking. Now that he is 180 months of age, the moments I am going to look back on are our walks together. Our pre-birthday hike was a good one, and we noted that our spot in the forest is also visited by owls:

Someone has pruned a lot of the regenerating trees on either side of the trail, limbing them up so they will grow taller (the trail goes through former clear cut). On the way back down the hill, the light was just right for me to see what is left of some of the mother trees, still present there, still supporting the lanky youth.

Quinn, you are the magic constant in this mama’s life. Wishing you a happy fifteenth birthday today!

tidepool immersion ~ between scattered showers

Between scattered showers, between the week-before-deadline and the deadline, I hit a lucky low tide. The sun came out and shined on the encrusting critters, the chitons decorated with barnacles and limpets, making the anemones look lit from within.

I see a selfie in this heart-shaped tidepool. Happy Valentine’s day!

Hermit crab, you are in the middle of a sea anemone. Not sure if you know.

juneuary beaches

…in which I share the photos I keep scrolling back through, from that one week in January (or sometimes February) we can’t count on but always appreciate when we get it.

two walks… the first is a lunchtime walk I took myself on.

This image reminds me of my writing process lately. It’s like trying to braid water.

Pyrosome

The second walk: I got asked on a sunset beach date. I accepted.

~rainbow mondays~ snow capped nest

Sunrise on the icy farm.

This is my New York rainbow… as you may be able to guess, it features a lot of white! And a lot of a certain furry friend who is more of an off-white character.

FINALLY seeing my parents was just the best.

The weather was exactly the weather you’d expect for Central New York in January, but the light was lovely most days. The kitchen… site of the soap making Mom and I did together. I learned how to make the faves of the hick-a-rew household: lemongrass lime and vanilla sandalwood.

Mom also kept Christmas up at my request, which felt like it made sense given the snowy ambiance.

Any given day’s temperature report, but I was snug in my “writing loft” upstairs for week one, attending my second semester residency! I love going to writing school.

But Dad took one for the team and plowed the driveway over and over again.

But blue sky though! It was lovely the few times it warmed up to 20 and I got to take walks.

The longest walk I took was all the way to the east orchard (which they barely visited in 2021 due to excessive rain/mud), where I set eyes on Big Mama, the apple tree matriarch.

I spied many dormant bird nests around the orchard, which were easy to spot all capped in snow.

I watched a northern harrier patrol the fields.

And I spied a fox a few times!

My handsome husband joined me for week two. We had a great, mellow, trip, and made it home safe and healthy.

~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

coprolites

I am declaring a word for 2022 and that word is coprolites. I do not know why this is the word, only that once it came to me, I knew it was the one. It happened when I was packing a handful of Bob-rock pendants in my travel jewelry box (a plastic Strawberry Shortcake bandaid case) and chose my very pretty coprolite (aka fossilized dinosaur doo-doo) to bring on my trip to New York.

I AM FINALLY GOING TO VISIT MY FAMILY IN NEW YORK.

I wear poo for you. After wrangling fish all day so don’t judge my frizzy ‘do.

I think there will be more to say about coprolites as the year unfolds, as well as better photos to take when the light returns, but for now what I’ve got is that with the passage of time, and under the influence of all the forces of nature, poo can become treasure.

 

let your heart be light

Ten years ago (yesterday) I went on a date with a guy from my yoga class, and I have no regrets. Back-to-back date nights this week, also with no regrets!

This is my Christmas jam this year, reflective of my mood.

 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let your heart be light

From now on our troubles will be out of sight…

Here we are as in olden days

Happy golden days of yore

Faithful friends who are dear to us

Gather near to us once more.

 

These lines in particular feel like they fit the moment.

Hitting a big milestone – ten years! – has me thinking about how we just really don’t know what is in store for us. Things are not all roses, and things were not all roses ten years ago, but Rich and I agree that these have been the best ten years of each of our lives. We are seeing signs that we have made the right choice in going down the road together. We’re looking forward to ten zillion more years!

 

Let your heart be light.

tidepool immersion ~ brooding and homing

 

At the conclusion of my 30 days of gratitude, a friend commented, “we see what we look for.” I have to agree that this is true with gratitude. It also seems to be startlingly true in tidepooling. But sometimes I don’t know what I’m looking for when I begin my walk.

In December, tidepooling becomes an extreme sport because the timing of the low low tides overlaps with the early evening darkness. Oh, and winter weather. Tidepooling in the dark and rain is not an adventure for everyone, but as much as I despise cold and darkness, this adventure had my name on it.

The air was chill as we cut across the exposed intertidal shelf, stepping carefully around deep limestone pools in our extratuff boots. Mist beaded up on my purple raincoat, scattering the beam of my headlamp in all directions, so I knelt beside a tidepool. Kelp and fish permeated the air as I leaned closer, focused my camera lens, trying not to block the light my headlamp provided, laughing at the futility of photography in the rainy darkness, but unable to resist giving it a try.

Here’s what I didn’t know I was looking for…

brooding sea anemone

Brooding sea anemones (Epiactis prolifera)

All of them start off life as females. I was looking for females. I was looking for something that holds embryos in her mouth like so many words bubbling up, tumbling down column to pedal disk, to lodge in a fold of flesh and incubate and grow and become. I was looking for someone who encircles herself with her offspring, who knows about the departures as they start to crawl out into the world and live independent lives of their own.

Nudibranchs (Leopard Dorid – aka discodoris! and Monterey Dorid)

Reportedly, nudibranchs are a predator of anemones, and can incorporate the anemones’ stinging nematocyst cells into their own being for defense. I was looking for someone who could quarantine the weapons of others inside, not to continue to be hurt by them, but to repurpose as raw material for something that serves them better in the future.

Fluffy Sculpin Oligocottus snyderi

They swick their emerald fins in rocky pools from Baja to Alaska. They leave when conditions become inhospitable. When we say, “a fish out of water,” we mean someone out of their element, someone who has been befuddled, disabled by displacement. When displaced, when fluffy is a “fish out of water,” fluffy can still breathe. I was looking for that. I was looking for someone who would up and leave inhospitable conditions, and continue to breathe, unbefuddled.

On the other hand, fluffy sculpins exhibit homing behavior. When displaced, a fluffy sculpin can find its way back to its home tidepool. I was looking for homing, too.

Snailfish Liparis florae

A swish of yellow, a tiny apostrophe easily overlooked, soft-bodied and scaleless, a sucking disc for holding onto the rough rocks. I was looking for someone who could be among the roughness but remain soft, someone good at holding on.

Florae, named for Flora Hartley Greene, advocate for children and suffragette about whom I can read almost nothing. Obscure, dusty, writings leech the color and flavor out of both fish and woman, unobtainable references, her name misspelled, her story traceable only through that of her husband, the fish nerd of the family. I was looking for a tiny fish to remind me of forgotten women who fought for my rights: to vote and be my own woman, not subordinate to a man, no matter how wonderful my husband may be.

chiton under black light

Many tiny six-rayed sea stars twinkled white light as they clung to festive eelgrass tinsel flung about in energetic celebration. Baby stars, such a sign of hope after decade-long star famine. Rich surprised us all by pulling a black light flashlight out of his pocket. It belonged to his father. Bob used it to illuminate rocks and minerals, but we shined it into dim tidepools to find out that the night-emerging shrimp trim their fanning tails and waving antennae in glow-paint. We shined it and pastel anemones lit up the pools, brighter than ever they express themselves in daylight. We shined it to find out that hermit crabs are the most colorful party-goers attending the celebration, the algae covering their shells bright red, their claws neon green, Christmas crabs crawling across inky fields of blue and purple. I didn’t know I was looking for psychedelic hermit crabs.

hermit crab

~thankful thursday~ hope and home

11/25/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all of you, dear friends and family!

 

11/26/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

(Observed on day 27) At some point every November I will say I’m grateful for Grandma’s never-fail pie crust recipe. At some point I will notice that you don’t have to feel great to feel grateful. At some point I will skip a night and observe my post on the following day, showing up to the page only to close it again without writing a word, not feeling grateful enough, like there is some sort of minimum value. At some point the next day I will remember that it doesn’t matter what the reading on the gratitude gauge says, what matters is showing up for it. Grateful.

 

11/27/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

I am grateful for mums, so there can be flowers in November.

11/28/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

I am grateful for a sunny Sunday to follow a saturated Saturday. I am grateful to have travel arrangements made, to finally see my parents for the first time since the pandemic began. I am grateful to look forward to a trip that is a vacation, after the last several that were not. I am grateful for the tiny mascot for joyful flight who posed patiently for my camera today.

 

 

11/29/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

Today I am grateful for the many connections made each year when I start posting November gratitude. If I was taking this class for a grade, I would not get an A in responding to comments this year, but I appreciated every one, and I see you all there, pressing your hearts and likes and hug faces. I felt your in-person encouragements at farmer’s market, and your messages directly to my inbox meant so much. It is just one of the ways that showing up to attempt gratitude creates the conditions under which more gratitude is generated. It comes on wings, it comes in waves, it comes one popcorn and one cranberry at a time.

 

 

11/30/21

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

This morning getting ready for work:

“It’s day 30! Last one! I’m grateful for these hot towels! The End!”

Rich didn’t seem convinced. I guess I did already use the hot towels on Day 4.

~

After work:

“We have been alerted that the recent lone sea otter near Yaquina Head, has hauled itself ashore on Cobble Beach with an apparent injury.

It has been taken into captivity for assessment and treatment. That’s all the information we know at this time. We will keep you updated. Let’s hope for the best. (Elakha Alliance)”

Dang it.

~

Let’s hope for….

Hope, the thing with fur. Oh, I am so sad.

Let’s hope he lives.

Let’s hope he heals.

Let’s hope he has caregivers like D from 3 West in St. Francis hospital.

Let’s hope his caregivers do not have to play hospice nurse like D.

Let’s hope he swims free again soon.

Let’s hope for all those other bigger grander outcomes, too. The triumphant return of his kin to these shores. The reunions long awaited.

Let’s hope…

~

When I tried to learn more about joy, it turned out gratitude was at its root. Maybe there is a similar connection between gratitude and hope.

~

I am grateful for…. hot towels. Nachos. Rutabagas. Chocolate cupcakes. Injured butterflies who keep flying. Injured sea otters who keep swimming.

I am grateful for the love. Sometime early in November I scrolled by a Ram Dass quote that has been bobbing to the surface of my consciousness all month. “We’re all just walking each other home.” I like that. I am grateful for how well it sums up what this year’s 30 days have been about, and grateful for your company on the walk.