tidepool immersion ~ possibility



feather duster worm


turkey vultures recycling a seal carcass

Rich took the day off for our wedding anniversary and we got to go tidepooling together. The photos above are are from our walk. He planned ahead to do this, but told me just beforehand, because he likes spontaneity. He told me the night before, rather than the morning of, because he knows how much spontaneity I can handle! It was a lovely anniversary date. I looked into all the pools, and he says he did, too, but I suspect he was mostly looking at my butt.


Below are from the next walk, just me.

Yeah, I was starting to notice a theme, too. Mammal, bird, fish… there is something so striking about bleached bones on the black rock beach.



pretty sure the orange dots on the snail shell are baby feather duster worms…


another feather duster – same pool as the maybe babies

This day was a very low low tide, and I got there with time to try to attempt a goal I had in mind since the summer began – to go to the “end,” the farthest extent of beach accessible on foot. Before I got there, I went way out on the outer edge of sea urchin territory – looking for sunflower stars (and striking out) but also just feeling so lucky to get to wander around out here where it was usually underwater. Basically snorkeling without having to get so cold…

The end. I made it! I had forgotten there was an archway around this corner. Quinn and I trekked out here years ago, but I had forgotten the view was such a treat. It spoke to me like caves and arches seem to speak to humans, of openings and possibility, of ancient connections and solid foundations.

~summer shorts~ survivor

When swallowtail butterflies wake up in the morning and climb out of their sleeping bags, they sit still and angle themselves toward the sun. They need to warm up, need to absorb enough sunlight into their muscles before they can fly.

There is no way I would have believed you if you told me last summer that I would feel better this summer despite Quinn still not being home. If you had told me last July that he still wouldn’t be home this July it might have done me in. Holding these Julys up side by side, there is no contest. I am no less tattered, but last July I was having trouble climbing out of my sleeping bag.

This July I am sitting still beside the sunlight each morning.

This July I am flying.

Tattered survivors. Pieces torn away. Wings made of something as fragile as tissue paper or gauze stretched across the thinnest wire, would melt in heavy rain, would shred in strong wind, would shatter in a freeze.

I watch them hold onto the flowers and ride the wind.

This July, I am holding on to the flowers and riding the wind.

~summer shorts~ thrive

Mid-July, I’ve gravitated each afternoon around 2:30 to the butterfly bush, which is situated in full sun at that time of day. I’m usually ready for a screen break from my work laptop, full of its regression plots of respiration data, its shellfish pedigree spreadsheets, its people in boxes having meetings, by that time.

I’m not the only one gravitating there, that time of day, but join an already-rocking party of butterflies and hummingbirds, bees and moths.

So many of our Western Tiger Swallowtail friends have been hanging around this last week since our butterfly bush bloomed. The buddleia is thriving so well, we think, because one of our weeding dates last summer found Rich hauling out blackberries and me extricating morning glories from their stranglehold around the butterfly bush branches. Then Rich did a substantial pruning job on it, which it responded well to, and he has kept the understory trimmed through the seasons.

With careful tending and nurture, things – shrubs, butterflies, relationships – are sure to thrive.

Happy fourth wedding anniversary to my partner in weeding and everything else in life!

~summer shorts~ give rise

“Some people have an aesthetic of delineation and symmetry, of keeping each vegetable distinct from each other vegetable. That’s great, and it works for them. My philosophy, though, is abundance. I want to draw people in with color, and piles of overflowing vegetables, spilling forth from cornucopias, piling into one another, blending into a rainbow.”

I stacked sopping wet bunches of carrots, cold water droplets sprinkling the multicolored veggie-print fabric on which I laid them. The new staff member painted by number, adding veggies to each basket I had laid out with a representative of what I wanted there.

Laurie had asked me to help refresh the vibe of our market booth. When she asked me to make a rainbow display, it flipped a switch for me. My pandemic farmer’s market year-plus has been a continued effort of showing up, devotion, doing what I believe in – food security, organic growing, getting food to the people. It used to be more about enjoyment than just devotion. I haven’t been making displays, much less rainbow ones. I have been letting the crew who handled the veggies handle the veggies, while I handled the money. An important job, but not soul-nourishing. Emerging from the pandemic has been halting and awkward, as predicted, but it’s been dawning on us that we can revive some things, like big, beautiful displays. The prospect of making a sweeping swath of veggie artwork before me, I was back to excited.

Cascading eggplants, purple onions, and purple majesty potatoes, purple carrots with their orangey-red lateral root scars. Fragrant basil, parsley, dill, and mint flooding green leaves around four kinds of zucchini, two kinds of cucumbers, and broccoli. Pattypan and yellow summer squash the color of sunshine blending into goldenrod-hued sweet Italian peppers, their tapered tips and seductive shoulders peeking from a basket near the center, making their summer debut. A mountain of orange carrots, golden beets blending into red beets, red Norland potatoes, dryland (non-irrigated) tomatoes, concentrated red succulence.

While searching for the term for the lines on a carrot, wondering about that specific feature of rootiness, I stumbled upon a Plant Ontology forum (as one does) and learned they can also be called root periderm scars. I guess they have been called root lenticels, but it is now understood that they do not conduct gas-exchange. They are formed when lateral roots emerge and initiate a wound response in the periderm – the peripheral cell layers. Cells proliferate, heal over this wound, form a new layer. The plant ontologists decided a new name, root periderm scars, was warranted.

It makes me think about how forming new roots can inflict injury. How wounds can result in scars, in tissue that cannot breathe. But also how injury can give rise to new growth, new layers.

it’s no wonder

I’m reporting back from my first semester one-week residency, and I don’t think it will surprise anyone that I’m having a fabulous time in Writing School!

I thought I’d share one of my favorite quick ten-minute writing prompts from the workshop portion of the week, shared by my instructor Nadia Owusu, that she picked up from fellow author Kiese Laymon. (Highly recommend both of their books!) I think there are friends reading who might love this prompt as much as I do, and I challenge you to take ten minutes to do it!

The prompt:

Can you remember one sentence that was said to you by another person, or that you said to yourself, that made you feel horrible, maybe even among the worst feelings of your life? Write that sentence down. Now revise it so that it’s affirming, or so that it opens up new possibilities. Riff or journal about it.


And here is mine:


It’s no wonder you suck at being a mom – you got kicked out of grad school.


You left a PhD program that was depleting your soul, and made the most of it by writing a Master’s thesis to be proud of. It’s no wonder that you are rising to the occasion of mothering so beautifully with your newborn son.

It’s a wonder you could believe you got kicked out of grad school. You kicked grad school’s ass on top of which you are kicking ass at being a mom.

I wonder how you could have gotten to the point of believing him tell you lies about yourself like that you got kicked out of grad school. It’s a wonder how you’ve bloomed as a mother after sucking in so much of the sewage he spewed.

When grad school lost its wonder you made the move to end it with grace, then turned your wonder towards the baby boy in your arms.

When grad school lost its wonder you kicked it to the curb, let being a mom suck you in.

When grad school lost its wonder you kicked it out, then kicked out the man who insulted you.

When grad school lost its wonder you bloomed into a mother.

It’s no wonder you bloomed.

~rainbow mondays~ monarchs and miracles

In Oklahoma, there were taxes, swarming ants, flight delays, ticks, flies, hospital bills, dead mice, paperwork.

But there were also sunset rainbows…

Miracles… like a lost wedding ring found…

Paintbrush flowers…



Winged beings…

And flowers everywhere I looked.

~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

tidepool immersion~blue inside


(The photo above is from a different beach I visited on a grayer, less photogenic day, save for these colorful anemones.

All that follow are from a single tidepooling trip.)


On my recent tidepool walk, I found a fish lying on the sand. A large sculpin? I picked it up to take a picture (as one does). In my hand, its body shifted so that its mouth dropped open and I gazed into a gaping chasm of blue! Its mouth is blue?! Simultaneously, its opercula opened, closed, gasping. It was still alive!


I snapped quick photos and rushed it into the water. It lay on the bottom, letting water pour across its gills, brown lumpy body camouflaging its secret bright interior. At home, I looked it up: a cabezon, part of the true sculpin family, a rocky intertidal dweller who feeds on crabs, fish, and mollusks. In its blue inner realm – not just mouth, but also flesh and internal organs – tiny abalone shells are said to become brightly polished in its digestive acids. The cabezon spawns on rocks, where its eggs, poisonous for consumption, can disperse up to 200 miles from shore, drifting as embryos divide, develop, hatch into wiggling larvae, absorb their yolk sacs. Arriving back in their tidepool spawning ground as fry, they hunt and grow into adults who lurk in the kelp beds.


I walked to the farthest extent of the beach one can access, and then only on these lowest low tides. Actually, I stopped short of the farthest tippy tidepool at the end once I spotted hauled out seals, and ceased approaching. Took zoom lens photos of baby seals raising their heads and rear flippers like they were rehearsing their swim, strengthening their core muscles.

Discodoris sighting! aka Diaulula sandiegensis from family Discodorididae

I chose fishing line as my genre of litter to collect on this day, filled my pockets.  Stepped across a vein of something agatized or fossilized. Made by pressure, revealed by water, without having to dig.  The smooth light gray rock erodes pockets and dimples. The small black cobbles collect inside. On the farthest stretch, the crabs are less accustomed to having to hide from hikers, and they plop and tumble into tidepools, scuttle and skitter under eelgrass clumps.


Otter is the name of the beach I wandered, though the last known individual sea otter swimming in Oregon waters was shot off Newport in 1907. Locally extinct ever since, they no longer exert control over sea urchins, which can overgraze the kelp holding down the base of this ecosystem.

Other species help in the role of maintaining kelp forests, though none to the extent that otters once did. I leaned over every edge of every farthest shelf of rock on this day, hoping and wishing to see a sunflower star.

(Like the one Quinn is touching here in 2010.)

(Or this pair from 2011.)

But sunflower stars have reached critically endangered status as of December 2020, failing to make a comeback from sea star wasting disease. Locally extinct now in the southern part of its range (zero Mexico or California sightings since 2018), sightings in Oregon are now vanishingly rare. I have not been able to find one.

I did see a leather star, though, between meals of anemones. A number of purple and ochre sea stars wrapped around mussels. Some species are making a halting comeback, others not. They will pull on the threads that connect them to other species until a new equilibrium is reached.


Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished reading Into Great Silence, a memoir written by a woman who studied the Chugach transient orca pod in Prince William Sound, a diminishing group that has not reproduced since the Exxon Valdez emptied oil into the sound in 1989. There are now just seven individuals. Maybe it’s because the author, Eva Saulitis, included a quote from the poem The Last One by W.S. Merwin, so I read the rest of the poem. I think a lot about these last ones, the impossibly lonely condition of being a last one, that so many species are facing. And then the one is gone, and there are none. Maybe it’s because I felt like I discovered a kindred spirit in Eva as I read her book, and know that she, too, is gone. Or maybe I’m a cabezon. I’m just a little blue on the inside, too.



~rainbow mondays~ blooming

Posting from Aurora, Colorado, this morning as we have been stuck in an epic airline debacle overnight on our way home from Adulting In Oklahoma Part II. It feels appropriate that there are so many pictures of columbine in this post, which resonates for this town not too far from the April 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High. But mostly these photos make me long to be home again, as I trust we will be by this evening.


~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

back to writing

I had a good day: built a garden bed, then spent 3.5 hours on the phone with Mom. She filled me up with new stories of Anna Hilda, and Hilda Louise, warrior mothers in my matriline. I am grateful for receiving some loving messages despite closing the comments. I am grateful to be able to sometimes remember it’s possible to be okay even when things are not okay. Back to the writing studio (an early version at Nana’s house pictured here.)


I’m not here to tell anyone to be happy today. I’m at a pretty low ebb in my identity as a mother – am I even a mother if my son has spent over a year not with me? I’m on a two week social media hiatus so I don’t have to look at everyone else being happy today. I consider it self-preservation at this languid, eroded stage in the pandemic. I’m not looking for a pity party, or answers to my rhetorical questions, but I’m also going to put this here to be real with myself, this still hurts. I still miss my son and I still miss my mom.

There don’t seem to be very many photos of just Mom and I, but I have found a couple over the past year as I have been scanning batches of family photos. Both of them happen to be taken in the Adirondacks, one I suspect taken by Nana, and one I took myself. I’d like to get back there one day, and I’d like to take Quinn there to see a place that was so important to my childhood, and Mom’s. For now, it’s another item on the list of things I miss.

Sending love to all who are experiencing missing today.