Monthly Archives: August 2015

Wine is to make the heart merry, and wind is a breath of fresh air

On the spur of the moment, cutting off the possibility of setting up too-high expectations of myself as a hostess, I invited our closest friends over for supper yesterday. Offered her a glass of wine as she arrived, having left her husband at home watching over the apple pie that had ten more minutes to bake. She looked surprised and said, “Are we at that stage now?” and gladly accepted a blue Hebron glass of Chardonnay, while I decided to work on using up a previously opened bottle of Riesling, and poured a modest amount into my rooster glass. I was thinking I might have to add some honey mead to make it palatable, but it was sweet and mild enough even for me. We felt quite free spirited, even when her husband came along with the pie and some non-dairy frozen pie topping, as my husband led him into a discussion of first century theology and pulled out a volume of Philo.

I’ve written before about how special this friend of mine is–so gentle and kind, so self effacing and giving, so patient. She derives her strength and deep reserves of love from a deep faith in her Lord, a life of prayer and meditation and walking in relationship… which I have not found to have become much a part of my own life at this stage of life. Not in that way or to that degree. I’m in a kind of dormancy there, or holding pattern. During our home schooling days together we were more in tune that way, but even now she continues to share her riches with me in my dry space. The men—completely different personalities—completely! always enjoy getting together too, talking amiably about politics, religion, and family life. In a way the personalities are kiddie corner, with I and my friend’s husband having similar senses of humor, verbal reticence, green thumbs, and placing our trust in knowledge and reason, while my husband and my friend are more heart-oriented. Though with him it is with intensity and a habit of speak first think later, and hers is a meeker version. Passion and compassion?

The oldest son of this couple and our oldest son became friends over a box of Bionicle action figure parts in a dance studio waiting room, then their daughter bonded with my two–she is between them in age. Their next boy became best friends with my youngest, they being within a week in age. Their youngest boy then looped into that friendship as he moved from toddlerhood to boyhood, so now that the oldest are off to college, there are two sets of three friends.

My youngest son cleared the table after dinner so we could play telepictionary, and since it’s the best game ever and not at all dependent on artistic or verbal skill, and with no winning and losing, we all joined in, except the teens, who had other things to attend to. Some of us needed those laughs very much–who doesn’t? But I laughed only so hard that my eyes watered, and did not cry. Truly, I don’t feel that welling up of sadness much any more, which is hopeful, I guess. But I feel more myself with some of my roots reaching down to a place melancholy—feels more real, and for some reason I can recognize beauty and feel joy and gratitude better from that place. Like, I need, need, need to watch that hummingbird do its whole routine, including sitting on the fence and chirping. And I need to respond, just a few words directed to that tiny being. And there’s more need for humor and laughter and music where a sorrow ebbs and flows, and things can only get better, right?

There were a lot of dirty dishes afterward. Two of them were the barely touched glasses of wine I’d poured for my friend and me. We have so much catching up to do on the drinking of wine by perimenopausal women front. Maybe a night at my friend L’s house–she even has friends our age who like to skinny dip in the lake! Those little signs of, what? the crystalization of the non-dependent identity of a free agent that is in a marriage partnership not out of habit, or for the children’s sake, but as the fulfillment of a promise. But, by God, there weren’t any promises not to go on hootenanies or shenanigans with the gals now and again! Talk of an all women dance party with disco ball, a trip out to one of the islands for a pedestrian adventure and overnight, tickets to a big name performance in Vancouver. Interspersed by a paddle around the bay, a walk to the coffee shop in the wild weather, making applesauce together from the windfalls from the neighbors’ trees.

I think I can help find a channel for that sense of fun in my friend. Now that I have more confidence there, and maybe more importantly, my husband—not wanting to hurt or worry him in any way—has confidence in me. Her husband is another story. When she gets high spirited in his presence, he quickly shuts her down–my girls have commented on it several times, and it drives them nuts. Still, I’m able to tease and joke with him in a way his wife cannot, even though she has a wonderful sense of humor. Plus he seems to think that I have her, and his, best interests at heart, so she and I have been able to do a few things together apart from other family members, with his blessing. No, don’t judge him (as I say also to my daughters)–he’s not a control freak in some awful way. He just has an exaggerated sense of his own headship and undervalues his wife’s unique identity and worth in her own right. His positive attributes make up for it, I think. Still iron sharpens iron, so why not?

The leftover apple pie and peach upside down cake was shared out and packed up, the boys were sent out to the car, and as the wind whipped the fir boughs, we said good night, and thank you for the lovely visit. I loaded the dishwasher for the final time that day, tossing down the leftover wine.



Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Places & Experiences, Relationships


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Heart shaped eaves flying, exhausted and brittle,
limbs crack and fall in the long awaited storm.
They talk of losing power.
Ironic, when the power is greater than ever,
lifting, surging, breaking.
No power has been lost, except our own.

Hummingbirds hunker in dense thickets, grasping limbs, tossed and weak with hunger.
No, don’t go, says the mate–you’ll be killed!
Butterflies that venture are slapped back down, stick on rocks, trunks, asphalt.

Down in the bay, though I cannot see, waves run gray green, topped with foam.
You run out and anchor the patio canopy. I catch buckets skidding across the yard.
The children scamper, thrilling with excitement and a little fear, pulling plastic bag kites on strings.



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Some changes, like everyone else

I picked up my daughter from her first high school day, and her answer to the usual query was “I’m so done with high school.” This from the one who said she definitely wanted to do all four years there rather than go to the community college through Running Start for her final two years like her two older sibs. Something about the atmosphere created by, well we all know it’s the extrovert, pop crowd. To belong to which sometimes this daughter regards as an aspiration of sorts. On the other hand she’s developing deeper connections with her 4-H horse club girls, thanks to last week lived together with them at the Fair. Friends of all ages, too, not just her age. That will remain her biggest deal, now that she’ll be full leasing the horse (was half leasing) she took to Fair. Lots of driving for me until she can get her license.

The plus side is they signed her up for two back to back art classes, the second one in ceramics, where she also has her home room. That will be  nice outlet for her, and help develop her creative confidence. At first she also had two P.E.’s and two second periods–go figure. Maybe she should switch out of one art class and take it later alongside more challenging classes, I suggested, but she is content. Apparently another art semester has been added to grad requirements, which I think is great. I told her things would probably get better as she connects in her own way, once the hyped up freshmen welcome is over, with the cheerleaders, give us a this and that and let’s all do the spirit thing. Group think. My older daughter took some time to go to the assembly and welcome the freshmen, and she said she could see her sister sitting in the bleachers, and she was not amused.

My seventh grader seems pretty positive about school, with teachers he knows by reputation and a smattering of friends in most classes. Says he wants to get to know some of the sixth graders in his home room, and plans to do track & field. Feels pretty good about field events, and with his energy level and appetite, needs to run. Now that his sister is on the early high school schedule, I get to hang with him in the mornings until he leaves at 8:30.

My oldest boy flew to Nova Scotia yesterday with three suitcases, a backpack, and an international cell phone plan. He managed to include the quilt his grandmother made him and his favorite old towels. Grandma and Grandpa (my parents) are helping him get around until move-in Saturday. No tears or clinging at the airport, but we were definitely all feeling the separation somewhere in there, all of us tender. My younger daughter had to say good bye early as she had a meeting for State Fair. She ritualized it, with the right cool words back atcha. She has been touched by my son’s interest in her and his wanting to hang out, though they are five years apart in age and have very different personalities. She’s already interested in visiting him.

Meanwhile my oldest daughter has a few weeks before her classes start, so is fixing up her brother’s old room in the garage as her own, with a coat of paint and lots of posters, some new lights. She stepped up at let her youngest brother have the real bedroom, thought it would be cool after all to have her own space a little apart, as long as she could keep the spiders from re-colonizing and disguise the garage door from the inside. Getting rid of another (borrowed) bed and two old mattresses another symbol of our transitions.

These weeks of dry summer are coming to a close, they say, with substantial rain predicted on the weekend. So I’ll be busy painting as much of the house as I can–time to think. So much to do–switching kids’ rooms, house and garden projects, job search and working in subbing jobs. I like to be busy in the fall–though winter is mild here I still feel that East Coast batten down the hatches drive. Fall cover crops, canning more batches of tomato sauce, checking on the pumpkins, freezing blackberries, storing away summer clothes, getting rid of stuff, sprucing up the house inside for when we spend more time in. Too bad none of this pays–it still could be a full time job.

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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Education, Parenting & Family


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Cat’s Ears

Time stretches to hours, with nothing but a lazy turn to three quarters belly up.
Flick of the ears, dreaming of sleep, and crunchy mouse heads.
What have we done to you, descendant of panther leaping, panting in steamy undergrowth?
Prowling, pouncing for living, not sport?
Silky, thick coat for a covering, not a plaything, sensual toy for human hands.
Scat for a warning, a message, fertilizer, sustenance for beetles, not bagged and buried with soda bottles and styrofoam packaging.
Licking wounds, crawling off to die timely, not insured, medicated, buried in satin under a headstone, stuffed and mounted, or cryogenically preserved.
Substitute for offspring from human loins, soul called up by a well paid medium.
Go back to the jungle. Hunt, eat, rest, bear young, and die.
But the jungle has been cut, you are left on the bed, and the papers are signed and in the drawer.


Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


Three valances left, and I’m starting to make careless mistakes, so the so day marathon of sewing for my daughter’s 4-H Club horse barn display at the fair will have to stretch to three.Yesterday as I was feeding in the strips of fabric to finish all the edges–both sides of sixty-two yards, with two extra lines for the casings—my mid started wandering as my hands worked—images came of my son at  his college–working away  in his room, then heading across campus, and the people around–I saw particular faces and even what they were wearing, sensed their energies and intentions, then in the cafeteria sitting don with some people he hadn’t met, shaking hands, connecting. Finding someone who wanted to improve their Hebrew (divinity college on campus), going to a music event, hanging out in the SUB with a cup of coffee and his laptop… Three years away (summers back here, we hope), starting in less than two weeks. A mixture of sadness at his parting and excitement for him. I can tell he’s happy. His sisters have commented on how nice he is to everyone. He’s also spending more time hanging out in the kitchen, taking time to learn tips on preparing tasty meals, asking for some recipes. He wants to take some jars of dilly beans, and some dried herbs from the garden. Will he be able to raid Grandpa’s garden in Nova Scotia, he wonders? I picture the pleasure my mother will take in loading his arms with cookies and jam after a weekend visit, my father in their conversations. He’ll miss his home town friends, so he’s spending every extra hour he can with them, taking extra garden produce to the families where he stays (and eats) most often.

My sewing task changes, and I enlist my youngest son to hold the end of the fabric while I measure and mark. My daughters take turns knotting the ends of tie strips for attaching the valances to the metal stalls, dabbing each knot with glue to prevent unraveling. They’re tired after staying up until five a.m. to watch the meteor shower. My older daughter says they only saw a meteor about every fifteen minutes, but enjoyed lying out there on the front lawn on a blanket under the stars just talking.

After last August’s fair sewing marathon—I made privacy curtains for the dressing rooms, I resolved not to take on such a project this year. But I just couldn’t resist BL, the sweetest, most caring and hardworking of 4-H moms, and if I’m only doing it for her, that’s enough. So I mentioned last year that valances would indeed look good, and I was in. Still, a few months out I didn’t bring it up, and thought maybe the idea had been forgotten. I didn’t want to do anything more for the club except get my daughter to the barn three or more days a week, help her buy all the stuff she needed, and show up at an occasional meeting. Even those were a drain on my time and energy, as every riding day was a three hour commitment, and my older daughter just wasn’t getting her license yet–kept getting spooked by some stressful incident or other, or wanting more practice at parallel parking. My usual carpool mom was on a different schedule, and has never seemed inclined to share drives anyway except when she or her husband absolutely can’t make it. Something to do with her daughter sensing my daughter’s coolness towards her? Driving this summer has been a sweaty, loud affair, with two cars with broken air conditioning. Those drives with my 4-Her weren’t exactly quality time, either–sort of a stage she, we, are going through, I hope.

I found out the club was still counting on me to sew the valances, and that it wasn’t just valances for the two dressing rooms, but for all the horse stalls–sixteen or more!

Meanwhile my daughter got her license and started helping with driving—enthusiastically, at first. Air conditioning was fixed in one car, and as the valance project was looming and I couldn’t find enough of the right fabric in the local store, I happened to stop by the second hand store, and found fourteen yards of drapery material in just the right color–right before the final pre-fair 4-H meeting! The euphoria of that near miracle carried me through miles of stitching, measuring, gathering and finishing, and now I have only about two hours of work left if I make use of my morning energy. So far my sewing machine and serger have endured. Goal is to finish early tomorrow and then turn to other overdue work–housecleaning, laundry, and getting the fall vegetable plantings in before the rains come tomorrow–the seedlings I started are ready. Then I have to can two cases of peaches and some more tomato sauce, pick and freeze some wild blackberries, finish my son’s FAFSA, and lay in some food for the rest of the family to eat while my daughter and I camp at the fair next week. If I have a few extra hours I’ll touch up the one side of the house I painted last week (now three yellow and one gray-blue-green).

That touch of fall-like air last week was a real nudge for me, as I was languishing in the heat. drought everywhere, so I have been toting every dishpan of kitchen sink gray water out to the vegetable garden and wondering when we can get around to hooking up the showers, clothes washer, other sinks and roof runoff so we won’t be so wasteful of what has now become so much more precious. Hearing how the lower mainland of BC had been declared to be in level four drought, which meant no outdoor watering except for licensed farmers–not even vegetable gardeners allowed. Which doesn’t seem right at all to me, but after all home gardeners neither contribute to the growth of any sector of the economy, with their few real input needs, nor pay taxes on what they eat. Still, no one has outlawed baths and showers and washing dishes after every meal (yet), so there should be enough leftover water for the garden anyway.

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Posted by on August 13, 2015 in Parenting & Family


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Déjà vu back in the Garden

Was the Fall about a gain in self consciousness? Is that what the knowledge of good and evil is? Premature, I suppose, to the plans of the Creator, who after all was a gardener in those days, and the fruit weren’t ripe, or maybe it was the gut microflora of Adam and Eve that wasn’t yet mature for that rich fare. Something went wrong, in any case. Mortality, at least for the current era, was apparently the disciplinary intervention, or mitigation, or whatever.

Sometimes I want to ditch self consciousness, because it really is a lot of trouble. Self including not just myself consciousness, but consciousness of one and another self, all of us and themselves. This is distinct from the consciousness of, though our various modes of perception of and immersion in, physical, chemical, biological, ecological, astronomical reality which the other creatures seem to enjoy. No ethical considerations at all for them–it’s just about the web of life and evolution, which just happens anyway. At least it seems that was to us the disintegrated entities. But it would be that way, like our tendency to think that “Earth-like” planets are the ones which would support life, because, well, life is like us, and what supports us is Earth-like.

I think this quest for Earth-like planets is only partially about a quest for knowledge for its own sake, and the rest is pragmatic/industrial/commercial. It’s all in the movie “Avatar” and the works of Ursula LeGuin, I think.

At other times self consciousness is so obviously a divine gift, though a dangerous one. We know that because we keep toying with the idea of giving it to our fave pets, our electronic devices and robots. Maybe they’re not ready, as Hawking, Musk and the gang have warned us. So will the robots eat the apple on the sly? It seems to be good to eat, and it would be only fair. And then we’d be scrambling to limit the life expectancies of those fallen robots, even before they discovered the robot equivalent of self-destructive personal habits, war, and deciding that to reproduce is not the point of a life well lived.

“And another thing!” my mother would say when she realized she had been ranting and wanted to lighten up.

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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Culture & Society, Ethics, Ideas, Uncategorized


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Please, can I have some more?

I still prefer to believe that there’s a Reality, after all, beyond subjective interpretation. Note the use of the capital letter. The way I used to see the world, the phrase “prefer to believe” would not have crossed my lips, because I was less aware then of how much preference has to do  with belief. One starts out preferring the beliefs one’s caregivers pass on. Many youths keep this up into adulthood, perhaps opening themselves to the sphere of influence of their like minded community. When and if they encounter a diversity of worldviews, some prefer to reject parental and community belief out of hand as a (false because reactionary) manifestation of individuation. Others set up defenses, with the aid of their close knit community, seeing other views in terms of falsehood or deception, and being open to them as a kind of disloyalty or apostasy (parents call it backsliding). Still others take the path of inquiry. This might be encouraged by “open-minded” or “liberal” companions. “Conservative” companions might oppose such inquiry, provide apologetic remedies, or simply let go on the “if you love someone let them go” principle: “If they come back to you, they are yours; if they do not, they never were.”

I believe in time, space, atoms, and biological and ecological rules and imperatives, and even something above all that and both superior, and, sadly, corruptible, resulting in detestable, shameful manifestations of human free will, and fates worse than death! that ended up rather shrill, and I’d better unpack it a bit, since on rereading I can barely make sense of it myself. Existence of laws of physics, on which are build laws of chemistry, biology, ecology, and, in some complex and mysterious way that no one is able to agree on, ethics. Encompassing both survival of the fittest (a truism and therefore incontestable) and altruism. Both love and violence. Fates worse than death. Now if you don’t understand, then please pretend that I am someone as smart as Locke or Heidegger, just too deep and ingenious to capture in words, even my own.

Had a very interesting conversation with a friend and former co-worker of my husband’s who was visiting for the day. It satisfied my desire to start listening to intelligent conservative voices, hear why, for example, they think Obamacare is bad, why global climate change might not be of human origin, that some Fox news shows have something valuable to say. Only dipped slightly into these topics, among others, but I had the pleasure of feeling that he had come to his conclusions with at least as much decent thinking and listening and research as I fell I have. And that he wasn’t blinded by fear or religious conservatism (he is Catholic, so I give him more leeway on that). Of course we listen to different shows and read different rags and choose our influences that way, but I couldn’t help but have the sense that I could learn something from him. For example, he gave me a short list of what is worth watching on Fox News. And he was honest about one thing: that his views were based on self interest (my husband, knowing him pointed out that that involved a good deal of compassion and service). Freedom of the individual and eschewing a victim mentality ewer his themes. I asked him a lot of questions, amny of them pointed, and he handled them well without giving any trite or simplistic answers.

Sometimes I feel like I’m on this nice little boat making a crossing, going from one port to another to see something knew, confident that my knowledge of the world will broaden greatly by seeing new sights. I have done some historical and environmental research to prepare. I also pay some attention to my foreground—the shape, design, and fittings on the boat, cloud formations, the calls and flight behavior of passing birds, if I’m lucky a dolphin or Orca. Then suddenly I realize that below this tiny ship, this little pod taking me from one patch on the skin of the world to another, is fathoms and fathoms of God knows what. The enormous ocean, mostly empty but for its molecular soup, is yet home to plankton, schools of fish and cephalopods, and below that bigger and more mysterious creatures, moving through and across the ever changing gradients. Moving back in time other wilder creatures and entities inhabit this ocean in past eons, and, how could one ever say one knows much at all, or can?

My small periodic resolutions to become a lay expert in some topic of interest are usually visited by such doubts, and I get overwhelmed. The idea of doing a master’s degree is attractive, because I do love to study, but in the half of my life that I have left, I would have to turn my back on the pursuit of the complete knowledge of everything that exists or has existed in one square meter of my back yard. I can’t do both.

To believe in reincarnation, however, is to have hope, to be released from this psychological immobilization, no? God, to be able to continue to learn life after life, and to trust that somehow only the most pure and deep and high truths will remain in the soul from one life to another, even if one must let go of the multiplication tables time after time! That is, assuming that the movement is toward the higher and not the lower (on average). And that’s why I prefer to believe in reincarnation.


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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in Ideas, Personal Growth


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