Monthly Archives: April 2016

There’s nothing good on tonight

Looked through the rental apartment ads today, thought I might just want a room of my own for a few months while the student apartments are available, since I can’t find breathing room at home, and it looks like the planned purchase of a larger home is again unlikely. The two places I go to get away are my bathroom, which isn’t much of a retreat, since someone is always wanting to use it, or my greenhouse. I put a patio recliner in there, and it’s nice in the mornings and evenings and on rainy days. No one looks for me there–just enough opacity to obscure the interior view.

I also bought a stand up paddle board, which I hope to take out, once I master the tie down. The two mornings I spent running around the local lake this week fed that desire to launch something I could dip, dip and swing, and maybe try out my new wet suit with a swim. I feel shy about that, like the way I felt when I wanted to start biking around my college town, feeling like maybe I didn’t look like a “real” cyclist. Insecurities never die completely, but I plan to fake it ’till I make it, yaw!

You might think I’m hard hearted, and not a very good mom because of this tendency to creep away. I am hard hearted, at least as much as I have managed to be–one step beyond making an appointment with grief. Now I put it on hold until I forget which line it was and the light stops flashing. And I have not made myself indispensable; they can all get along without me just fine, and in emergencies it’s better to have just one parent on hand–my husband works from home and can be roused by a serious yell. Plus when I’m not puttering around, there’s more freedom for them to cook with white flour and snack on graham crackers, leave mugs on the hearth, lights on, apple cuttings on the counter. If a kid needs something signed or a drive somewhere, they can holler and I’ll probably come out of hiding. No sense of loneliness or need for a human connection arises where the internet is a swipe away.

A student told me today I sure don’t get my feelings hurt easily. This was after a less than subtle criticism by another student of what I had to offer that day. I told them I could be induced to get offended at the end of a long day, once I got home. No, all those comments, criticisms and suggestions for improvement are water off a duck’s back in my professional life. Or, rather, something to consider and learn from, while taking with a grain of salt. I thank them for putting it all out there, iron sharpening iron and all that. I make it my goal to teach in a way that those comments come less and less and are replaced more and more by wonder, interest, engagement, but since it’s only my first year back, and this school is uniquely challenging, I can be patient with myself and try to work on a few things at a time. I’m not expecting these students all to be models of diplomacy or always to have a clear view of the higher ground anyway, so I take much of it with a grain of sea salt. But I want to be handled with care at home, though everyone else is tired, too, I suppose. I’m trying to remember that, and sad that I don’t have more to give, wondering if it might be best to cut down on work hours so I can keep my cup a little fuller to pour out at home. The challenge of modern life, eh?

When I was wiping the stove I struck my head on the corner of the metal vent hood, and by the eruption of emotion in response to the pain, realized it’s not so easy to hold it all in. But still feeling that my sadness would be misunderstood, I sneaked back out to the greenhouse and let down in my chaise there.. Time to add a box of tissues to the decor, and see if those new hammocks can be strung up in a place this size. At least until the tomatoes and peppers are in.


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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Places & Experiences


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Shree-sherra, CAW-CAW, fweet-fweet, keeee-kew, beep beep!

Ran like I was in a dream this morning, forgetting about my feet, not noticing the usual transitions between asphalt, concrete and trail. It was all about the birds singing. Names being of limited use to convey experience here, but if it helps you to to imagine the sounds I heard coursing along the treetops and piping out of the thickets, I can say there were sparrows, robins, chickadees, crows, woodpeckers, and seagulls, among others. I try to pay attention to the sights along my route, but the sounds took over this time. As usual, I wondered how I could give my students a taste. Play recordings? Ask them, after some time immersed in sounds–eyes closed–do they recognize them? Have they heard them before? Maybe I could give them three different soundscapes and see if hey could identify the local one. How, if they had to, would they describe each song with words? I could give them a numbered list with how the ornithologists have attempted, and see if they can match these to what they hear. Talk about pitch, tone, rhythm, phrasing, all without language or music as we understand it. I want to get them out there on the trail at 6:30 am to see what I mean.

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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Beautiful Earth, Education



Daffodil Cove

Sometimes I feel I never really go anywhere, but here I am, having captured a moment in a day last week to book this cliffside cottage on Salt Spring Island. Spur of the moment, so little planned that I didn’t know my husband had already booked a major meeting and couldn’t come. He had a hard time wishing us a bon voyage. I assured him we were scouting for another future trip. When I’d first broached the subject of a little getaway, he’d suggested making it a major one, which I just couldn’t stomach at least in terms of planning, for which there was no time, anyway. It was the last chance for my kids to all do something together, with two different spring break schedules, and the girls longed to get away somewhere pretty, if not to a beach in California. So the second time I looked online and happened upon Daffodil Cove Cottage, it was free for the two days we wanted it at a reasonable price, I nabbed it. A long ferry ride sounded better than a drive, and a stay sounded better than a tour, so we loaded up the blue van and here we are.

All windows in front facing the Strait, and islands all the way to vast Vancouver Island at the back. My two daughters are napping in the loft after a bit of fresh air and a bout of watching videos on their phones. My youngest son is bored, he says, but as he’s already used up his screen time for the day, I’m letting him figure out what to do with his discontented soul. He’s too tired to take a walk, he says, and didn’t respond to my suggestion that he bundle up and sit out on the deck and just watch the trees and waves, see if it might bring him some peace? I’m talking to myself more than him, and neither of us is listening very well. We’re all needing a detox–maybe a habit-forming three weeks in the woods with nothing but art and writing supplies (not ready to go totally mind-to-nature yet).

I’m missing the way (I think–nostalgia?) I used to be, again, able to be deeply aware in tune with wind and scents and the glory and wonder of the “natural world.” On my morning walk–made myself go out by will and not longing, reasoning that I really should go experience more of this beautiful scene–what moved me most (and that not much) was the ditch flowing with water down the hill beside the road. Why that? Because I used to go play in the ditches by my childhood home in the spring, sending leaf boats down, racing with the ones my brothers had launched. But not with peals of laughter and the joy of childhood, now that I think of it, just a  conviction that mine would never win, and if it did, the race must have been unfair, according to my big brother, who would keep racing until he tipped the balance again. But there was the relief of the long-awaited melting of the frosty ground, the smell of crushed stems and warm sandstone, first sightings of water striders and tadpoles, the trill of the red-winged blackbird. The wind off the bay was no longer too cold to face without a hooded coat, and the cumulus were higher in the sky, in my idyllic childhood.

I suppose the only reason I can take pleasure in those sounds and scents today is because of that early exposure. The meaning in the running of a ditch is relative. Is it too late for my high school students, then, who mostly suffer from nature deficit disorder? When I appeal to them to bring in their permission slips so we can walk a few blocks to the stream a few times this month, assuring them that it will be good, not tedious and uncomfortable and strange, am I mistaken? “I don’t like to go outside,” says one. “I already did that,” says another. Is it any coincidence that this person (gender uncertain) is showing signs of psychosis and suicidal tendencies? Am I being unrealistic to believe that a half hour in the woods by a stream could be balancing for all of us, and that even if we don’t get any official science done, it’s a move in the right direction in terms of their “education”? STill, a good number are willing, so I guess the protocol id to leave the rest at school with another teacher and a paper assignment.

Can’t believe how little I want to do, how unenthusiastic I am myself, about getting out there right now. I make myself do it like exercise, when I’m not planning it for others. Even try to get a bit more energetic first my drinking a cup of coffee. Really, has this too turned into a discipline? Maybe just temporarily. Sure, I’m not sucked into cyberspace to pursue endless curiosities or obsessions, nor do I feel the need to vlog the view, the cabin decor, and my kids eating lunch, but still, I’m not experiencing oneness with nature either. If I do some sketching it will do me good, I know, but it will have to be initiated by will power too. Since I’m not in my own home, there isn’t a garden I can work in, though I did get to chop some wood for the stove this morning. I was surprised how long the sense of satisfaction and pleasure in that work, along with the lighting of the fire, lasted. Better than several hours reading on the couch with a bag of Cheetos.

It’s all going on without me, without us, out there in creation. All those fishes and seaweeds floating and swimming by through the currents, barnacles and mussels filter feeding, deer and rabbits hanging out undercover until evening, when they’ll steal out onto the mossy trail and pull at the new grass coming through the matted straw and leaves. Owls are asleep, and small rodents tunnel under the thatch, and I’m missing it all–can’t see, can’t smell, can’t hear, especially behind my cozy glass where the refrigerator hums along with the wind in the trees outside. Trees falling in the forest in every windstorm. Season after season, as the trees, moss, frost and running water slowly break down the mountain and infuse it with air-sourced organic matter and deer carcasses. I collected a deer skull and vertebrae when I was out, and took a lot of photos to illustrate the process of weathering to my science students. I hope they will notice the little purple and yellow flowers, moss sporophytes, and all the beautiful colors of lichens and fungi, and I’ll try to tell them what else I saw when I looked close.


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