Change of seasons


There are a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and my neighborhood looks suddenly lovely, after a month or more of brown — dried mud and bitter cold, more like western Idaho than Iowa. I have spent the second half of this year like a dog chasing it’s tail; circling and circling and left with nothing but dizziness and frustration and joy. My days have been consumed with rebuilding our home. Steady buzz of a saw and the weight of a hammer in between the dirt under my nails and giggles from this tiny person who is in such a hurry to “be big like Mama”. When our plumbing failed in July, it set into motion a series of projects. The heart wrenching thud of a sledge hammer on plaster, cedar lathe below splintering into dust, mysterious cuts on my hands as I set mosaic tile, the perpetual stain which has become my manicure. (Earlier in the year it was red cedar, more recently it has been american walnut — there is a forest under my fingernails.) There have been victories and regrets, to be certain. There has been the hand to mouth desperation that only comes from large projects. But I can see our dreams under the sawdust, and I grab at his hand to try to show him, too. Some days, he sees them more clearly than others.

My tiny beautiful girl is desperate to grow up, and I am struggling with things like preschool programs, and whether to write up another grant request for the gardens or close the computer and paint pictures in her My Little Pony watercolor book with her. Because I can already hear her telling me to go away from some day in the not so distant future. She is raw emotion most days. She is fierce, and loving, and independent, and desperate to snuggle with me all at once. She begs for siblings — a brother and a sister. She wanders into my room fully dressed for the day one morning, and fights me for an hour to put on underwear the next. This is three, and there is nothing I can do but try to hang on, and love her with the same ferocity which flows from her little heart. Translation: The time is right for “mama guilt” to hit me full in the face on a daily basis.

And the gardens, like this impetuous child, pull at my heart as well. It is hard to work so hard for something based solely upon your belief that it is the right thing to do. It is exhilarating when someone else acknowledges that it is, in fact, the right thing to do. And it is an amazing feeling when you realize that just maybe, you have made a lasting and much-needed change in a community for the better. The ball has really begun rolling on this project, and I couldn’t be happier. Or more relieved. 

To say I have fallen off the radar is an understatement. 

I have never been so grateful for the ground to freeze. I have never wanted for snow more in my life. Suddenly, I am faced with a few months where I will be able to do any necessary work from my computer and regardless of the amount of daylight. And assuming I actually get the house finished up in the next month or two, I may even have time to spend doing other things. Time to pick up paint brushes. Time to write again. Time to build a huge fire in the fireplace and knit something on the sofa while she snuggles against me and we read Narnia. It feels a little strange, but I couldn’t be more excited for time to relax just a little.

So, I’m curious… What inspires you as an artist or a writer? What are you reading that reminds you that slowing down and experiencing everything in your day is the most zen thing you could do? How do you get started creating again once you have had several months of interruption?

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I’m not sure when I first noticed it was missing. I woke up early one morning, and it wasn’t there. I didn’t find it in the rumpled bed linens as I made the bed, or in the stacks of laundry waiting to be folded on the dresser. It wasn’t on the kitchen counter, or lying in a heap on the bathroom floor with his work clothes. It’s not in the stew bubbling in kitchen pans or the pipes that drip slowly within the walls.

At one point the dog was barking outside, but when I walked out onto the porch, there was nothing there. I stood for several minutes staring at nuthatches as they bounced down the tree trunk on their toothpick legs. Were they looking for it, too? Was it buried somewhere beneath the bark of that old tree? Wrapped in sap and covered with tiny armored creatures?

I can’t smell it anywhere — the sweet mix of cedar and river water and red clay. Sometimes I think I almost taste it when the wind blows just right; soft and warm off the prairie from the southwest.

I haven’t told him it’s missing, but he knows. He sees me looking for it, trying to imagine what it would look like, or where it could be found. He shakes his head, and we argue a bit before both deciding silently that we are of different earth.

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Second midsummer

Dear Spoon,

It’s Midsummer of your second year. Another solstice has come, and I have still not done a blessing ceremony for you. Life keeps getting in the way, I suppose. First health issues, then a cross-country move, now house problems. Despite my best efforts, holidays have fallen by the wayside a bit for us. Perhaps we will welcome the universe together when the time is right. This evening, instead of a formal ceremony, I said a little prayer for you, kissed you on the forehead, and thanked you for the last two and a half years. Perhaps that is enough. Perhaps you are here to remind me that all the fussiness and formality really doesn’t matter.

I want to tell you about yourself right now, in case you do not remember when you are older. You are my fierce, fearless little girl, and you are taking two by storm these days. You begin each day with laughter, and chase ferociously after joy until we tuck you into bed each night. Everything is incredibly fun for you. You refer to everyone you meet as your “new friend”. You love to snuggle and hold hands and sit in my lap, and yet you have a stubborn independence that will occasionally bring you to tears when you can’t do things all by yourself.

You love to help around the house. You gather eggs from the chicken coop and feed the dogs each day. You love helping Aaron make pancakes on the weekends, or baking chocolate chips cookies with me during the week. (Your job is always to pour in the chocolate chips and to taste the dough.) You are wickedly funny without even realizing it; you told me the other day that you have to gather eggs from the chickens because “Mama is too old”. You play pretend and make up jokes all day long and I have to admit, though it may be my own unrefined sense of humor, you always keep me laughing. Your best friends in the world are Ella and Noah next door, and you love visiting all of the neighbors. You spend your days “helping me” in the yard or the community gardens, digging holes in the dirt and stacking rocks into your collection. You love art and reading, and we spend hours each day coloring on paper or with sidewalk chalk and reading your picture books.

You are obsessed with dinosaurs. Two of your favorite books are all about different dinosaurs and paleontology. Your favorite cartoon is “Dinosaur Train”, followed closely by “Word Girl”. Your favorite movie is “Brother Bear”. You like listening to Captain Bog & Salty and to Jimmy Buffet. Your two favorite lullabies are “I Go Like The Raven” and “A Pirate Looks at 40″ (which you call “the pirate song”).

We just started doing toddler swim lessons this week which you seem to really like, despite often getting pretty cold in the pool. The first day you were in the water, jumping into my arms from the edge of the pool, blowing bubbles, and trying to stand on kickboards before the lesson even began. Yesterday, when they suggested we take all the kids down the water slide, you ran to it begging to go down. You are so brave, and the world is such a wonderful fun place for you.

Like everyone, I suppose, I worry that I am not doing enough with you or for you. Should we spend more time trying to write letters? Are you able to count past 20? Am I working too much? Should we do more “storytimes” or “play dates”? But you approach life with a wonderful casual zeal. You are passionate about everything, and you enjoy everything. Most importantly, while you are happy in a tidy structured activity, you are equally happy just running around, crayons strewn everywhere, rocks and dirt and plastic ponies and dinosaurs in your wake. Maybe you are here to remind me that it’s not always going to be perfect. That some days, time spent picking dandelion bouquets trumps bids for website optimization or blog posts. Sometimes, it’s okay to not have a plan, because you might decide to go to the park instead, or take a nap, or make art. This is why it feels okay that the only ceremony I have had for you has been a hasty prayer, a kiss, and a quick reminder that I will always be there for you, no matter what.

And I will, too.

I love you, little one,


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Still here.

I realize this space has been quiet for literally, months. I do apologize. I have been pulled in a dozen different directions; big projects and big scary things. A literal broken heart as opposed to a figurative one. Creating a tiny legacy in this cute little town where I’m living. Wondering how long I’ll live here. Thinking a lot about mothers and daughters; from both perspectives. Writing when I can. Completely shaken and glued to NPR during the last week of Boston madness. Trying to remember what stillness feels like, and trying to personify hope. A few essays scribbled into pages, the backs of napkins from the coffee shop while I sit in the car and she sleeps in the backseat. (the upside of growth spurts -> naps!) Life is chaotic and messy right now; all beginnings and the dust and mud and clutter that entails. I’m still trying to tease the threads apart, weave them into something tangible and strong; a rope I can hold on to. I’ll let you know when I sort it out. It may take a little while so bear with me, but know that I’m here in the corner, listening, taking notes when I can, and trying to memorize everything.

What keeps you going when the world feels stretched too thin?


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I remember when I purchased it. It was a bargain price, and after months of searching, debating reading reviews online, I just decided it had to work . It was one of the most expensive things I had bought in a long time. I remember it took me nearly a half an hour to load into the back of my car; my belly already getting in the way, my back sore. I carried it upstairs to the room I had painted yellow, and started putting pieces together with the allen wrench and a set of instructions which didn’t match what I bought. After a few hours, he came upstairs to help, and we figured the thing out. It seemed solid, and I liked the idea that it converted into a full sized bed. She could sleep in it until she left for college.

After awhile, I turned it into a full bed; again with no directions, and with parts that didn’t quite seem to match. It rattled like an earthquake every time my tiny daughter climbed in or out of bed. I took it apart, added screws and wood glue, and still it shook. Soon she will figure out the wonders of jumping on the bed, and I decided I had enough.

I bought an antique bed frame from a woman hoping to move to Colorado, and loaded it into a pull behind trailer. My daughter helped me pick it out. It was beautiful and solid, and 1/6 the cost of the crib.

I called him on the drive home and asked him to take apart the bed which was in her room. He grumbled a bit, but agreed that it was a good idea as it was getting late and the trailer had to be returned that night. I told him where the screwdrivers were, and my bike tool for the allen wrench. Our conversation was all business, as it usually is these days. Did you let the dogs out? Yes, yes, Audrey’s fine. She thinks this is great fun. If you get hungry, there are leftovers and beer in the fridge. I’ll be home in less than an hour. No “I love you”, just “goodbye” and “see you.”

When I got home, he nearly had it disassembled. Some of the wood had been damaged when he took it apart. He tells me he isn’t sure it can be put back together again. She has fallen asleep on the way home, so I lay her on my pillow and pull the covers around her. She smiles in her sleep when I kiss her cheek. He finishes taking her old bed apart as I unload the trailer and set up the new one. She wakes just long enough to put on pajamas, brush her teeth, and climb into her new bed, grinning. “No more wobbly bed, Mama!” she shouts, and then she claps. “Yay!” We tuck her in, read a quick story, and turn off the lights.

We stand in the hallway for a few moments, staring at the pieces of her broken crib. “What do we do with it?”, I ask him.
“Throw it away, I guess.”
I make some excuse about wastefulness. I don’t tell him I planned to save it. I don’t tell him about the cloth diapers and tiny baby clothes in boxes in the basement. He suggests putting it in the spare room until I decide what to do with it. He thinks I will turn it into art, or a crazy garden trellis, or both. Or maybe he doesn’t want to let it go either.

His hand brushes the small of my back before he picks up the last few pieces of the crib to carry them downstairs. “Thanks.” I say. But it is met with silence.

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The weight of today

Lately I have been thinking of resolve, Bodhisattvas, purpose, healing, and this song.


I wrote no more judgment, no guilt, no fear
And then folded them up in a note
Threw it on the fire on the eve of New Years
And said goodbye to the rising smoke

I wrote that note with the simple hope
That by putting it all out there
I could let go of the voice that says ‘no’
There’s no way you will ever compare

Take a minute, take an easy step back
There’s no secret password, no code to crack
It’s not a race or a contest, but if you’re still keeping score
You will always have less, they will always have more

We all can get caught up in our half empty cups
In all the little things that seem to go wrong
Your dog pees on the oriental, you can’t rent your rental
And it’s been three months since you wrote a song

Soon it’s all about you, all the errands to do
All your flaws you wish that you could improve
Like the way you wear makeup, the mood you’re in when you wake up
How when you’re nervous, you never keep your cool

Take a minute, take an easy step back
Look at all that you have and the time that you lack
It’s not a race or a contest, but if you’re still keeping score
You will always have less, they will always have more

Your eyes are all red, you’ve got the blues in your head
You look around but can’t find your halo
So you stay up too late watching TV you hate
And fall asleep on the couch wrapped in yellow

Take a minute, take an easy step back
There’s no secret password, no code to crack
It’s not a race or a contest, but if you’re still keeping score
You will always have less, they will always have more

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Holding still

I have started a new project with the new year. I am knitting what is called a “sky scarf” — maybe you’ve heard of it? Essentially, you knit one row on your scarf for each day of the year, choosing the color of yarn you have which most closely matches the sky. It actually a great exercise for me, because it forces me to slow down at least once per day, look up, and memorize the color of the sky. Sounds simple enough, but when was the last time you stopped for several moments and memorized the sky? Or anything else for that matter? Your child’s face? The warm, sweet scent of the chicken coop in winter? The movement of cold milk poured into fresh coffee?

It is a nice reminder to me to stop at least once a day, hold still for a moment, and observe. I often forget the transience of this life, and often forget to catalogue it in my mind, or my writing. Such a wonderful, simple zen practice.

I have been thinking more about the book, as well. It seems to be morphing into something slightly different… Or perhaps I am. Needless to say, I will continue on it’s path. In between that and the endless list of daily minutea will be the smell of oil paints, the warm yeastiness of rising bread, the feel of spun wool sliding through my fingers, the stillness of a winter morning.

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