Marching Forth


It’s always true. When you just get outside, something magical will always happen.

I almost didn’t go out. There was the knitting. The couch. The warm wood stove. The sharp wind.

But all of this amazingness was OUT THERE! I was thinking a lot about some special friends in my life while I was walking. Wishing so much Carrie was with me to admire this beauty.

{Are you freaking seeing this? For real?!}

Parenting from afar is new for me. (Oh sure, there’s still plenty of parenting to do right here at home. Don’t worry.) The hardest part about faraway parenting is striking the right balance: giving enough space, but also wanting to stay connected. Communication often happens digitally via text, by phone or FaceTime, sometimes inconsistently, and occasionally with urgency and all-caps.

As in (text):
MOM!
Or recently, when there was a very important message to deliver and all other forms of communication had failed, on his Facebook wall:
JONAS!!!! Call home.

I will always take his calls and I will always answer his messages as soon as I see them. When I don’t hear from him, I assume everything is fine.

I’ve been listening to Hamilton on repeat, as everyone in the world has. Loving it, just like everybody. I have to skip a couple of songs though, if I don’t want to get the twinkles in my eyes. This one, about his children: “Philip you outshine the morning sun, my son.” Sends me right over. Also, the terrible song where Hamilton’s son Philip has been shot in a duel and his mother is holding him as he dies in her arms. Any mom’s worst nightmare.

Worse than Eponine’s death in Les Mis! Any mom’s second-worst nightmare!

One of my favorite lines is one of King George’s, when he is singing to America:
“I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”
I’m knitting a new sweater, with some yarn I got with a birthday gift certificate to my local yarn shop, The Cashmere Goat. One of the best presents to get! So far, not much ripping out, but it’s no doubt in the future of this project somewhere. It is one of Kate Davies’ yoke patterns: Asta Sollilja. The beauty of modern times was that I got digital access to all of the patterns as soon as I had ordered the book online. I am delighting in reading about the history and cultural significance of yoked garments.

But really. This:

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dreamy

It was a three-day weekend for my birthday! Surprise snow day on Friday added an element of restful leisure to my life — so grateful for that!

~winter cheering up quilt is coming along~


There was time for weekend chores plus some low-key add-ins: a spontaneous dinner with friends, and a lovely afternoon snow-shoe in all that blue and white sparkle. We wended our way through a wooded path that hugged the ocean’s edge; I was on some of those old classic snow shoes, all wood and cat gut (or whatever… don’t tell me!), with such great fishy-shaped prints!

Here’s what I’m reading: Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier, for book club. And to keep the Russian theme going: City of Thieves by David Benioff about the siege of Leningrad. Good winter reading.


It’s not that I’m feeling old or morbid or anything. I’m 41 years young! It’s just that I read perhaps the most succinct and exquisite eulogy this week, about someone’s pet hedgehog. It was a beautiful piece of writing. After reading it, I truly felt I knew something about who this creature was. 

Eulogy for Myself, After Clare’s Eulogy for her Deceased Hedgehog

February 6, 2016

I don’t know many other people who loved getting into bed so much that you would sometimes shriek with glee.

You hated stepping on Rice Krispies, were indifferent to historical dates, and would rather have had another natural childbirth than vomit, but you loved red shoes, enjoyed hanging laundry on a clothesline, and watching the snow fall.

You always hoped to see an owl sitting in the tree outside your bedroom and, though it happened rarely in your life, swimming and playing in tropical waters was an immediate short-circuit to joy.

One of your special talents was knowing the exact moment when a loved one drifted off to sleep, but you incorrectly estimated the amount of yarn needed to either cast on or off in most knitting projects, almost every time.

You remembered musical tunes, not lyrics, and provided your family with great amusement singing along to the words you thought you heard.

Being a mother was your life’s work: the most difficult and most rewarding thing you ever did. Your work outside of the home called upon some of the same skill sets you learned as a mom: listening with all of your senses, helping people find things, communicate with each other, to love books, to be kind, and to clean up after themselves.

So long, you lover of hedgehogs, chubby baby feet, and pillows of verdant moss. We’ll toss a Rice Krispie on the floor and think of you.

Fondly.

So much was done.

These two: mostly brothers from way way back. They were two of the quietest small boys in their kindergarten, just sitting near each other, mostly in silence. They had some big plans recently, things to finish up in advance of Jonas’s departure. Such as the above world map, painted on Jonas’s wall. They had traced it out using  a projector earlier this year and then got down to brass tacks and painted it, over the course of 8 hours in one day.

The next day they walked from our house to his house, which are 31 miles apart. The result was a lot of blisters, but they were hardcore (being 16 and 18, respectively), and so they ran the last two miles in the dark (with flourescent shirts and headlamps). There is no limit to what these two can do, obviously, and they also made videos of both adventures which, annoyingly, are not on YouTube so I can’t share them.
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~tiny whales on a bowtie! little Magrittes for a lover of apples!~

SONY DSCThen, there was the preparation to leave, which included the usual packing up and organizing, but also just for fun, finishing up an online AP class right down to the wire, and for extra extra fun, wisdom teeth extraction! I have a whole poem about the waiting room experience, vis a vis listening to classic rock and all the most important news (everything Tom Brady), all. morning.long.

These ties and bowties are from a few of his fans. I sent out a little invitation to participate in a tie/bowtie send-off and they came through! I presented them to him while he was recovering from the teeth surgery— little colorful packages and notes of encouragement. Think of all that love, living in his closet this year.
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This love note was written on our steps on the morning of his departure, a little art from a friend who came in the night for a last goodbye. I got teary then.
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I made his bed in his dorm room. No top sheet, his forever preference. His room overlooks one of the quads, so green and shady.
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~science building~

Leaving him, I felt awestruck. And as the week has progressed, the adjustment is settling in with the just three of us. Mostly the part that is hard is that I can’t read him every moment, to know how he really is. But this is the new life! Moving forward and on his own, the same way it was strange when he went off to kindergarten and there were whole parts of his life that I was suddenly no longer part of. Letting go and trusting, just some of the biggest themes of parenting.

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~library!~
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~a history classroom in the library~

Here’s a poem about our golden boy who still lives at home…


 

Last Summer Sleep

Your arm was extended in repose,

golden wrist and hand limned in that ray of early September sun.

The rumpled nest of quilts

were pooled around your sleeping form,

and I watched you

breathing in and out—

that beautiful line of your elbow and arm rising up to meet your wrist,

like Adam’s casual response to God’s outstretched forefinger.

 

God was making all the effort.

And Adam was like,

“…whatever,”

lounging back in the nude,

a bit laissez faire, if you ask me,

in the face of God’s intensity of *capital-C* Creation.

Like He was on some sort of cosmic merry-go-round

and if He didn’t put out his finger just right in that exact moment,

really quickly,

—and despite that terribly awkward position—

He might have missed the golden ring.

“Dammit, Adam, could you at least sit up? And put out your finger! Come on man, make an effort!”

 

There you were,

enjoying that last delicious sleep of the summer.

Your face was relaxed,

captured so perfectly between

teenage man-boy

and baby,

depending on how I shifted my gaze.

 

Your hair was perfect,

even in sleep.

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SummerSpace

SONY DSCAs promised, if belatedly, more photos from that idyllic evening on Penobscot Bay…SONY DSCSo I’m waiting tables this summer, a new experience for me. And because I like to keep people happy, it’s immensely stressful work because there are so many factors outside of my control. People have been fabulous and patient (new restaurant), and generally lovely. I’m a service person, through and through; it’s something that is a deep part of who I am. SONY DSCI have the house to myself for a few weeks and am enjoying a quiet life and very rare trips to the grocery store. I’m also building a quilt. Sylvan’s Turning 13 Quilt! It’s been two years since I have sewn anything!!! It’s amazing to be back. And I am exploring a new-to-me sewing machine, a true machine, an old Singer from the 1950s which glides smoothly along and is an absolute pleasure to work with. The part that makes me crazy is the placing each square part: it is always impossible (can’t have two same fabrics touching, need an overall balance, etc) and I spent about five hours getting it right (enough). It’s so nice imagining my cozy boy snuggled up inside it…that’s what carries me through the agony of placement.

SONY DSCSONY DSCBut here it comes with a new sense of reality: we have the date when Jonas will be heading off to school. I was typing it into our digital family calendar: “Take Jonas to School.” And then a tiny and very very  mean voice in my head added: …AND LEAVE HIM THERE. (Then I cried.) This happens to all mothers! This isn’t a unique event, in fact it’s absolutely mundane. Every day, forever, mothers have been sending off their children into the big world, and let’s take a moment give thanks for our extreme good fortune that I am sending him off to boarding school and not to fight in a war or to make a new life in a new country. This is how it was always going to be, it’s a part of the job that I signed up for, and this is one way I know I have done it well. SONY DSCSONY DSC—–

6/19/15

The Last Ride

Sometimes you don’t know when it’s the last time

so the occasion slips by unnoticed.

The last time you fell asleep in my arms,

cried in front of me,

needed a reminder to take a shower.

 

It was our last ride to school this morning.

Our playlist was two songs framed around

a biology concept litany,

timed to the length of our commute.

First, “Lilac Wine” by — surprise, I never would have guessed!– Miley Cyrus.

Then cell respiration,

photosynthesis,

acronyms,

words and vocabulary,

a few

of which I recognized,

like hearing another language.

Your voice, reciting,

next to me in the passenger seat,

and me,

just listening to the sounds of your words.

 

Sharing the space with you,

our proximity

was fleeting.

Once, you were the listener:

drinking in all those words and stories spoken

by me to you,

and you were the one making sense of a new language.

 

The final song of our last ride,

“More” by Usher,

is one of your classic pump-up songs.

(More is what you always wanted: more of the world, more time awake, more of everything, stories, time, dessert, information, from your babyhood right to this moment.)

“More” delivered us right to our usual parking space

under the windmill.

Your timing was impeccable.

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Summer Report 1

Summer is just rolling right along in typical breakneck fashion. Here are a few images of what we have been up to. 
Photoshoots on the porch with these rockstars. Dang.

Oh! And THE PORCH.

This porch sometimes impedes my ability to motivate myself to do anything productive. Because you sit out there, screened from the bugs, enjoying shade and pleasant breezes and the songs of birds like this one that I recorded (hermit thrush).

Remember last summer? No relaxing porches for us!

Three hands were needed to tie this hand-made bowtie.


Oh and our anniversary! Sixteen years together! We celebrated with a beautiful dinner at Salt Water Farm in Rockport. We enjoyed lovely company as we overlooked Rockport Harbor—and I had a delicious piece of halibut, so beautifully cooked and presented (no photo, what on earth was I thinking?) in a broth of sorrel with shaved radish and chive florets. Our well-informed server reminded me of Kevin Kline in French Kiss (except with no mustache)—trailer is here.

Well, but it’s still Maine (this was late June), and here I am waiting outside in the blowing, chilly downpour for a concert to start. Silly me, I thought when I finished this Birthday Knitting project (yarn from Madrona, pattern is the Gaptastic Cowl), that I wouldn’t be able to wear it until the fall. Foolish!
(More on this fabulous summer moment later… It needs its own post.)


My Mother’s Day gift this year was a bouquet CSA from Goldenbrook Farm. I get a beautiful, organic bouquet each week for 24 weeks—especially perfect this year when we don’t have much growing around here. These bouquets last! So usually by second week, I am re-making a smaller bouquet, and enjoying our fresh one too. Our farmer and friend Susan is a talented arranger and I am loving the colors and this gift that keeps arriving each week!

{In other news: I am waitressing—trying something new at 40!—at this awesome new restaurant here in the midcoast.}

more wonderland

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I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about the snow we have been experiencing here this winter. It’s basically a winter wonderland every single day. Snow and snow and snow. It’s the winter for jumping off roofs, sledding, skiing, and of course, shoveling.

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~two of my favorite friends between sled runs~
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~valentines from two sweet girls~

And knitting. I finished this Wave Shawl, a belated holiday gift for my mom. It felt a little like work by the end of that LONG hypotenuse side of the triangle. The yarn is yummy merino and silk.
SONY DSC SONY DSCAnd now I am onto Thing 1 of my birthday year knitting! (See here for more info). Two lovely skeins from two friends. The variegated is Misti Alpaca Qolla, in the most luscious tide pool colorway, all slate and greens and rusty and teal. And the solid is Yak/Merino by Lang. Super soft and yummy. 
SONY DSCSONY DSCThe chevron is a nice stitch idea from another special friend and Thing 1 will be a scarf. The stitch pattern is easy and it’s very pleasing to look at.
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I’ve embarked on a writing journey this winter, simple really, just write every day for 108 days. If you skip a day, no problem, no stress. There’s a Facebook group, if you’re interested in joining. It feels exciting to be doing this. Below is something that will give you a little picture into the last slog of knitting that lovely shawl.

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My Brain on Knitting

We can blame the dopamine receptors

for why the

–anticipation–

of creating the new knitting project

is so alluring.

Anticipating and planning

releases more dopamine

than actually doing it.

I’m an addict.

 

It really is a sort of itch,

my mind just wants to go there all the time,

pursue the math of the puzzle,

the new gauge,

learning the new stitch pattern.

This conception phase is like that obsessive love,

the kind that looks for every possible

“chance” encounter,

when you might “happen” to run into each other between classes

if you take the back hallway,

since he’ll be coming from gym.

And it’s not like it’s that much out of your way.

Anyway,

so totally worth it,

even if it was.

 

This is my brain in love with an idea,

really an ideal,

because the gleam of perfection has not yet worn off.

It’s just that tantalizing puzzle,

the new sexy yarn,

and oh!

those colors.

 

I’m so ready to dump that old nag project.

We’re almost done with each other.

I did love it once,

before it became an obligation,

the knitting equivalent of calling every night,

texting all day long,

being too needy.

Still beautiful, sure,

but so clingy.

 

Would it be cheating to knit a small swatch

with that new dreamboat yarn?

Just a tiny one?
No.

You’re right,

I’ll just have to face that sad old thing

eyeing me balefully from the knitting bag.

 

It’s for someone I love,

that’s all that’s keeping me going now.

And I did love the project once,

loved it enough to impulse-buy the yarn in the shop

because they had a gorgeous sample knit up.

The pattern was free,

the lace sequence was easy to learn.

 

Winding up the ball of new yarn wouldn’t count as cheating, right?

It’s casual,

just a quick coffee.

Nothing serious.

OK.

Fine.

You’re right: I’m fickle.

 

I’ll do what’s right by the soft, elegant shawl—

the color of morning glories.

I’ll finish it.

Stick with it to the end.

Power through that damn hypotenuse of the triangle,

knitting for miles.

 

But, know this:

I’ll be riding those dopamine highs in my thoughts,

as I imagine my hands on that next project.

 

Anticipation is a delicious moment.

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Birthday Girl

SONY DSCWell, Alice, my birthday was the one that just happened! This is a reference to Frances the Badger, from the series by Russell Hoban, who told her imaginary friend Alice: “That is how it is, Alice. Your birthday is always the one that is not now.”

I made lemon curd for a crowd: it was 8 full eggs plus 8 yolks and 3 sticks of butter, plus tons of sugar and delicious lemon juice (12 lemons/2 cups).
SONY DSCThere were beautiful tulips and some roses too. Inspired by my reading of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (mentioned here), I asked each guest to write down a few things: a favorite book title, favorite poem, favorite movie, and a memory of a time we were together. I was even gifted a mixed music CD! Some read their poems aloud and shared their memories—so fun to hear all those good times spoken about, sharing such good company with some of the women I admire and love the most.
SONY DSCI also asked each guest for a skein of yarn. To be turned into somethings or a something… to commemorate the occasion of turning 40, a grand and grown-up birthday.

SONY DSCOne theme of memories emerged: experiences that we shared outside and in the kitchen. Now I have this beautiful collection of cards and poems to read and re-read, new movies to seek out, and books!
SONY DSC SONY DSCBooks, memories, yarn, cards, chatting, and a delicious meal catered by my dear family. I was surrounded by love all weekend. What could be more perfect?

Oh and wait. Here is something incredible: two friends brought two skeins of the exact same yarn, in a different dyelot, but the exact same colorway (luscious purples)—even purchased in two different states! Unbelievable!SONY DSCHere’s a poem from today, while I shoveled:

Andy Goldswothy,
where were you today
when I was shoveling
still more snow ?

Each shovelful
flung airborne,
was a moment for your team
to photograph.

(Just out of curiosity,
did you get any snow down your neck
or sprinkling your face
when it was blown back?)

The dusk was falling
and the quality of light
was soft,
muffled,
grayish-blue.
And because it was so cold,
the snow was tiny,
granular,
crisp.

The sound of the snowflakes
as they sailed off the shovel,
was
hush hush
shush.
Like plunging your hand
into a barrel of cool, dry lentils.
Or barnacles whispering.

When I waded over to the wood pile,
it was too hard to walk
in the drifts.
So I crawled.
And this was better,
but the snow
kept sneaking into my mittens;
the worst feeling besides
taking off a boot
when your sock comes with it.
(Later, this happened too).

Being in the snow is the same
as playing in the water:
a short-cut directly to joy.

Andy, if you come to photograph
me and the shovel,
be sure to bring the sound equipment.

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