quinn’s thirty-eighth month ~ long long ago, in the great days of the grass sidewalks

~written november 2018~

sifting back through the artifacts i managed to drop in the path i am attempting to retrace my steps along so many years later, the gift is being able to pick them up, turn them over in my hands, study how the light reflects off of them at a new angle in this different season. i can decide what they mean to me now, even as i try to honor what they meant to me then, in the words i managed to scribble down in the moment. like an archaeologist with gloves and a soft bristled brush, i can both tell the story of where the artifact lies in its historical context, yet also lift it up and out and be able to gaze at it from more sides than i could at the time it was being lived.

with 8 years of perspective, i can see that one of the things holding me back from posting in real time during this period was that we were “still breastfeeding,” and feeling/being so judged that i kept these reflections more private than those of earlier toddler times. reading back now, i still feel our slow pace to weaning was the best right thing to do for quinn and so does quinn. he brought it up the other day, at age 11, as he was fixing himself a mug of warm milk and honey “because it’s the closest thing i can have to mama milk anymore!” he is capable of growing into a man who doesn’t feel threatened by this superpower of a mama, rather, he remembers being nurtured in this way, with intense enthusiastic zeal. i want to honor that by not leaving a blank space here where his good memories would have been. i also want to be one more buoy on the internet flashing the good word to the other isolated mamas in the world trying to do the thing in spite of having to do it against the mainstream current. i’d like to be part of the shift of that current, a sort of milky el niño mama oceanic shift, if you will, in the spirit of the rather dramatic el niño event of 2010. my niño will be a part of turning the tide.

while watching the 30th anniversary bob dylan video one day, he commented about chrissie hynde that, “i think she has very nice milks.” what a different world it would be if we all referred to breasts by their function in the manner of quinn the three-year-old: big milk, little milk, the other milk. row, row, row your boat, life is but a milky dream.

one morning quinn awoke early and called his usual “hey mama… hey mama…. hey mama….” over the monitor. when i walked in he told me, “long long ago, in the great days of the grass sidewalks, kip the cave boy lost his spear……. and we found it again!” as i snuggle nursed him back to sleep for a little while longer, i mused about the connection he had made between real life and one of his favorite books, the first dog by jan brett, in which kip the cave boy narrowly escapes woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed cats, and befriends a paleowolf in the process. if you stare at the artwork long enough, you see him drop an “artifact” every time he is chased by a big animal: his spear, his knife, and his food bag, foretelling of what paleontologists may be able to find one day in the distant future that will tell them the story of kip. the book begins: “long long ago, in the great days of the pleistocene, kip the cave boy bounded down the trail on his way home.” in quinn’s own life, he had encountered spear points in the desert, and when beachcombing would find rocks that were shaped with such possibility and declare them kip’s.

we spent my birthday in a yurt on cape lookout. we hiked the miles and miles of almost deserted beach and witnessed the massive influx of debris from the other side of the pacific due to el niño. the things we found in greatest quantity were plastic buoys and net floats covered in japanese characters, each and every one of which made quinn very excited to find. we were like seashore archaeologists, studying the artifacts the ocean had been hiding for years and was now spitting up onto the sand. he wanted to bring home every last buoy, as well as every piece of garbage we found.

we did haul away a lot of that garbage; after all, garbage collection was still a major passion of quinn’s at that time. his tricycle doubled as his garbage truck, given that it had handy levers to pull and a dumping compartment for hauling green and blue sippie cup garbage cans. he would manipulate them to pick up and dump with his “big tongs.”

during that trip, quinn just kept walking and walking, an impressive distance for such a small hiker. he was filled to the brim with enthusiasm, fueled by easter eggs and the promise of treasures along every stretch of sand. on one of our beach hikes he told me, “those two seagulls are having a bath! i’m amazed by it!”

we found a mangled crab trap on the beach, and he needed to bring it home, declaring, “i’m going to be the new crabbing boy!” fishing was as much of a passion as garbage in those days, so all the buoys and rope and gear we found meant that he was in heaven. all buoys and boats, all the time. every artifact i turn over seems to be about another trip to the bay front, the beach, the tidepools, and often with some type of “gear” along for dipping/hauling/casting/setting/coiling/lowering/tying practice.

probably the most exciting find for him at cape lookout, aside from the crab trap, was the massive fender buoy we did not bring back that was bigger than him. we had to settle for bringing back photos of that one. for me, the most exciting finds were the glass floats that have not been made since before i was born.

for most of the hail storms, we stayed inside the yurt, and instead of finding buoys, we hid and searched for easter eggs. quinn also got to feed chipmunks, jays, and raccoons right off the deck of our yurt.

it was around this time in 2010 that i became aware for the first time of the phenomenon of the “pacific garbage patch.” i think it was a dawning awareness for many people, including the greater scientific community at that time, likely based on such a large amount of its contents floating into shoreward currents and making landfall due to the shifts in major oceanic currents that characterize el niño. up until then, i think it was easy not to know about it, a remote and vague far away place in the middle of nowhere on the vastest stretch of ocean in the world. nowadays it seems like something of which i’ve always been aware, but i can vaguely remember it being a new idea to me. similarly, there is so much substance i was immersed in learning during that time frame, that while sorting through, seem like concepts i have always understood, and yet, so much garbage swirled around me then that i now know i was oblivious to, or incapable of seeing for what it was. i am so grateful for the years in between, the way i have been able to remove and transform so much of the muck from my gyres, and how the wide angle lens of time allows me to so readily spot the gleaming glass globes among the bits of useless waste. the shiny spheres are easy to find now, and like the easter eggs “hidden” by quinn around ted, these gems all seem to cluster around a certain little boy.

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