–throwback–

~I have rekindled my admiration of moss because of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses~

Sometimes this time of year makes me a little weepy. And it’s often related to hearing music. No, not the silly stuff from the radio that I like to torture the family with, but the music that captures something haunting and quiet and dark and lonely (e.g. the Huron Carol and Balulalow). One time I was hugging a friend after the winter school assembly and I just burst into tears.Here’s a story, something that I was told. There was once a group of 6th graders, in early December. A teacher, not their class teacher, asked a little flippantly, “None of you still believe in _______[insert your choice of childhood mythical figure], right?” The class became still except for the one child who fled the room in tears. There were most likely others still holding onto the magic, even though they knew or suspected. I remember pretending to believe because I didn’t really know how to make it known that I didn’t. I remember feeling a little embarrassed that I did know, but that they didn’t know I knew. But in this class, they were all fiercely protective of each other’s belief. And how lucky to hold onto that innocence for so long! But also, how lucky to be held in such a caring and protective group of peers.The teacher left the room to go after the child. And soon, another adult came in. He asked what was going on in the silent room. Jonas answered: “Something terrible has happened.”That night our family attended a beautiful holiday concert: candlelit, in a church, with 16 extremely talented high school chamber singers. I remember that we were not sitting in our usual area of the church (back left), but up in the front right that year. Most years I usually find some water leaking out of my eyes during this concert; it just happens. On those terrible wooden pews, too narrow for anyone’s adult-sized bottom, with our two boys leaning in, listening to those voices in the glow of the candles, I was aware of the moment. Jonas was not still a believer, though he hadn’t admitted it yet. That day a threshold had been crossed.But it wasn’t the obvious loss of innocence that moved me that night. It was what happened after, when Jonas stepped forward to speak for the group: stepping into a role, assessing the ramifications of what had happened immediately, and then responding. Hearing about this gesture broke my heart open a little bit because it was about growing up and also into something new.The same sense he had when I spotted the rat’s tail hanging out of a crack in the ceiling in our old house. He and Mr. Crafty were on the couch, reading. And I was about to head to bed when I saw the long pink tail hanging down like the most horrible mistletoe you ever saw, a pink shoelace. Right in front of me. “This is my worst nightmare happening right now,” I whispered to them. They both looked up, took in my scream-whisper and my freaked-out attention on the pink tail. Jonas got up immediately and steered me by the elbow, hustling me out of the room, and back into the safety of the kitchen, “Come on, Mom, let’s go. Dad will take care of it.” Mr. Crafty got up to figure out what the heck to do. Both of them proved their heroism that night, but in Jonas it was something new, and again, a very quick sort of assessment and responsive action, with a fierce protectiveness. (Mr. Crafty, of course, is my longtime hero, proven many times in our long association.)Sometimes the growing happens right in front of our eyes.

~in the darkness~

{make your own caption}

I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes and accidents lately. These unexpected events that happen all of our lives, wild cards of chance or fate or karma or just one moment of our own inattention or thoughtlessness. Ugh. They’ll just keep happening to us, like change, until we’re dead. I’ve had my share.

SONY DSC
{the naughty face on the right is the very same one he’s always had}

In those moments, just after the thing occurs, there’s the shock of it: “Hold on! Wait! Time out!!! Just seconds ago, I was going about my life! I had plans for this day that were not about calling insurance agencies! Or sweeping up the pile of spilled salt in the hectic middle of the making a stir-fry!”SONY DSC

SONY DSCBut these are the easy ones, right? The mistakes and accidents  remedied with phone calls or a dustpan are the ones that are inconvenient, but fixable with time and patience for banalities. (For the phone calls, pro-tip: have your knitting handy for all that time spent on hold.)SONY DSCBut the ones that are the hardest are when I know that my mistake has hurt another person. There’s shame and embarrassment, disappointment in myself, and the physical response for me is sort of a clenching in my heart. It literally takes my breath away. As a person who prides myself on attending to details, thinking of others, anticipating what will be needed, and sometimes verging into perfectionism, it can be hard to forgive myself. Because it would be one thing if I was mostly oblivious all the time, but I try very hard to pay attention.

But not always. In that awful moment when we are feeling the clenching heart and the waves of shame, we have an opportunity to be present with our own darkness (like Brené Brown describes in her new book Rising Strong), a choice to be there for ourselves at our worst, even before we get back into our head and figure out what to do next. Brown suggests articulating your inner monologue, prefacing it with the story I’m telling myself right now, for example: “The story I’m telling myself right now is that everyone will be disappointed in me.” Because if I frame it like that, I have the option to consider that it might not be totally the truth. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves sound really silly/crazy/ridiculous when we speak them out loud.SONY DSCFamily portraits will be coming in the mailbox soon for the holidays. I treasure them! I love looking at the babies growing up, the teenagers trying out their new noses for 2015, the choice of outfits (matching? not?), the way the resemblances to parents and siblings come and go. But look at some of these holiday photo outtakes in this post. They’re not polished perfection for a postcard (ugh, orange shirt), instead they are a portrait of the 99% of who these brothers are with each other: silly, goofy, teasing, enduring, annoying, annoyed, and yes, finally, and always, loving. SONY DSC

holiday bliss

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

 

Holidays have come and gone, as well as the waves of various familial configurations. There were quiet moments and louder moments, games played, food shared, lots of reading great books, some very brisk walks, great conversations, and waking up during the daylight! There were a lot of trips to the grocery store, my other home, and visits with friends in the aisles.
SONY DSCWe have continued to tame our office space which has been the staging area for incoming boxes. Unpacking lots of books, deciding which ones can stay and which should move on. We have a lot of very beloved children’s books that are keepers.
SONY DSC One of the books that has inspired me this year has been Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You may have read this review in the NYT. I read the review and felt like it was a book that would be best enjoyed in the company of friends, so I put the call out on Facebook and soon had more than 30 folks near and far who wanted to participate.
SONY DSCI created a closed Facebook virtual book group for us, so those who were far away could keep an eye on how it was going. But what I loved most was the idea that there was space for us all to participate and find support in this work of cleansing our homes, finding the sparks of joy that we wish to cherish, hearing the stories from each other of what is difficult or easy about the process.

I love the way it has rippled out to touch other members of the community: “Oh, I heard about that book group from a friend and I already ordered my own copy!” Or, “I didn’t come to the meeting because I was helping my mom clear out her barn of 38 old tires!”

SONY DSC

These photos of my dishtowels and napkins are a direct result of something a friend posted in the Facebook group. She shared her photo of her own dishtowel drawer and they were all rolled up and so lovely in their colors and patterns and textures. The dishtowels looked delighted with themselves! It was 8 pm and I had just sat down on the couch, ready to put my feet up and knit for a bit, but I saw her photo and it literally made me get up off my bum to bring some beauty into my own drawers. (What a gift that social media can be a vehicle for this type of positive peer inspiration.) It quickly became evident that the napkins were crowding out the dishtowels, so then I had to organize a different drawer to make a new home for the napkins… and in the process had to re-home some other random items. More ripples.

SONY DSC SONY DSC{We can never get enough of this guy, my brother.}
SONY DSC
SONY DSC{Um. What exactly is going on with that knife?}
SONY DSC SONY DSCSONY DSCHope you and yours enjoyed a wonderful holiday.

Tomorrow: waking up in the dark again.

all twinkles, all the time

SONY DSC
SONY DSC
~sylvan took this rare portrait of both parents together~
SONY DSC
~this one too~
SONY DSC
~stained glass star by jonas~

SONY DSC

There was a big gaming party here the other night. An older strategy game called Diplomacy—50th anniversary edition! Snoresville.

So I begged some good friends to go out on a date so I could babysit their dear girls. If you’re longtime readers, you have seen these sweethearts around the blog.

SONY DSCFirst, we had our choice of Bento boxes. Pictured above is the Dessert selection: a cranberry and blueberry on a tiny plate, with a side order of frozen blueberries in a pitcher, served on a serving rock. (That tea set used to be part of the clutter around here, and now it is sparking joy in little hands.)
SONY DSCThen we had a second dessert by the Christmas tree and wood stove, on a beautifully set table with our names on placecards. We were served mochi puffs with a drizzle of honey, with peppermint tea and honey, by candlelight.SONY DSC SONY DSCYou had to get dressed up for the occasion: Princess or sparkles. The princess dress on hand was too small for me, but thankfully there was a red, sequined shirt that was just my size.
SONY DSCI brought over a big stack of our favorite Christmas books, since no one here wants to hear me read them anymore. (Or they will, but grudgingly, totally NOT in the spirit of giving.) We read so many of them that my voice got tired! Good old favorites: Shall I Knit You a Hat?, The Little Fir Tree, Peter and Lotta’s Christmas, Ollie’s Ski Trip, Christmas in Noisy Village, The Reindeer Christmas, and more.
SONY DSC There was also “hair molish” aka Nail Polish, that I brought over. (Do you recognize these toes? I have loved them for many years now.) This was a nice choice of colors: mermaid blue and sparkly purple on the left, and hot pink and sparkly orange on the right.

The owner of the toes wanted to fall asleep in front of the wood stove. And I was the very naughty babysitter who said sure, fine, no problem, have some pillows! I got to watch her fall asleep out of the corner of my eye, while I was ostensibly knitting. So sweet.SONY DSC SONY DSCBeing in the company of these dear girls made me remember that I miss making things for little tiny people.

I made two little gnomes today and off they’ll go into the mail tomorrow:
SONY DSCThese last three pictures are also ones that Sylvan took.

{Inexplicably, WordPress will not let me make another caption on the photos.}

winterish

SONY DSC

SONY DSCSONY DSC

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCAndy Goldsworthy: Stop playing in our forest. Or wait, actually don’t stop at all.
SONY DSCThis is a painting in progress of Venice by Sylvan, as part of his report on Italy. So far, so beautiful.
SONY DSC SONY DSCI love these dreads and this girl: Now your twinkles come with a halo.
SONY DSCSquash side dish for Thanksgiving: pureed butternut squash with a little bit of butter and cinnamon, with roasted pumpkin seeds. I also sautéed apples and onions with curry and cardamom and boiled cider.
SONY DSCAnd we got all this snow! Cold and crisp and sparkling! We are so grateful to be in our new house this holiday season.

Here’s a poem, an ode to my favorite month:

November

She is the most elegant of months,
sixty-something,

though she’d never say exactly,
with her dark eyes

that are a little sad.
She used to smoke
Gauloises in her youth,
when she was in Paris
and it was trés cool.
You can see tiny lines
around her mouth.

She’s not taken in
by fashion fads:
she knows quality when she sees it,
she knows how to shop the sales.
Her colors are woodsmoke grey,
the black of wet bark,
inky shadows under the moonlight,
the russet of oak leaves
against the white sky.

Her coats are her signature,
long, heavy,
made of fur or wool
with classic lines;
she swishes by
and there’s that hint of her perfume
that you can never quite place.

Of course she’s taken lovers,
but never a husband.
She doesn’t need October’s abundance
or December’s frivolity:
they’re really just too much.
She’s better off alone,
walking silently
along the edge of the lake.

~thanks~

SONY DSC

SONY DSC
Wordpress
:

What on earth is this center-everything nonsense? The way my photos came in was in this interesting collage approach, which was also a surprise. But I can live with it.
SONY DSC
SONY DSC
This 3 seed porridge, above, is absolutely lovely, from the good folks at Nourished Kitchen.

I know that everybody thinks we should all be eating protein for breakfast, but I am much happier with a delicious bowl of cozy, nutty, delicious wintery porridge. (Sorry, but I am just that sort of temperament.)

With sautéed ginger and frozen berries, almond milk, splash of maple syrup, and pecans.
SONY DSC
I had an occasion to vist a hospital recently and it was the most fascinating 40 minutes of people watching

that I felt the only way to really process what I had seen and heard

was with a poem.

This is the second of four.

II. Waiting
New waiting room.
The receptionist had a tattoo on her neck
and a smoker’s mouth.
Mostly old people were waiting.
And three young
loud-spoken
men,
some kind of marine contractors,
who were talking across the waiting room
to another guy.
They were big and muscled,
waiting for lab work.
One of them had a cough
he wanted to have someone look at.
All of them had some kind of military background.
They talked about Kuwait, KMB,
and someone’s cousin who took a test,
then got fast-tracked to be a warrant officer,
and now flies Apaches,
at only 19.
“Is that a real thing?”
Their boots were big;
that plus their outsized voices,
made the room feel small.
Did they think we all wanted to listen?
Were their ears ruined by loud machinery?
Being yelled at in basic training?
I wanted to read my book
about a French woman,
disappointed by life,
about to win the lottery.
I looked over at the old man
two seats over,
his old man sneakers
were like anchors,
and I noticed his ball cap.
Something military,
maybe USMC.
Was he able to hear the jackasses and their loud conversation?
Nothing on his face gave an indication.
Would he have wanted to join them?

SONY DSC
These guys, above, are not that kind of jackass at all.

They were the two quietest in nursery school. Two quiet, shy boys who watched everything. One day they spoke a few words to each other.

Thank goodness they found each other.

Now, as then, they don’t have to say much to have a conversation. They recently ventured into the big city together: taking public transport, contra-dancing, thrifting, sitting in Cafes, even getting a little lost. Perfect!

Here, they were willing to help me stage a photo, for a work thing I was making.

vacate 1

SONY DSC

SONY DSCLucky, aren’t we? We have super friends who like us enough to take us with them on vacation. Nope, not our usual Moosehead adventures, but a new adventure at the camp in the Adirondacks that belongs to the family of our friends. 

One morning I got up extra early and hopped in a kayak. The sunrise pictures are from that quiet moment alone, just me and the loons (one of which you can see in the lower right of the photo above), and then a deer at the water’s edge. I like kayaking alone because I don’t like to be in a hurry to get anywhere and I like having plenty of time to look around and listen, paddle a little, then float, etc.

SONY DSC
~adirondack chairs were in abundance~

Picture lots of cabins with a central main house for game-playing and a porch for eating and hanging out on the porch swings; another building with the kitchen (two ovens!) in it as well as pingpong and laundry and nearby a funny little fridge room; an outdoor shower on the bluff; lots of porches and piney woods; a boat house with boats (all sorts) and lifejackets for every stage of life; a sandbox, horseshoes, clay tennis court. Some cabins have bathrooms and some don’t.

SONY DSC SONY DSCOurs didn’t. But we didn’t mind as we were delighted by our luck in being assigned to the Water Cabin: just a couple of feet from the water, the loons, the splashy fish, and the amazing sunrise reflections on the ceiling. And this bridge was in our backyard, right past the girls’ forest fort and onto a tiny rocky outcropping with one chair. 
SONY DSC

Some of my very favorite girls were there, so I brought “hair molish” (nail polish) along for doing toes. And a tiny knitted chicken who could “lay” little eggs (white beans). The chicken needed a nest in the forest of course, and a chair, and a bench for her collection of pine cones, and a bed for naps. And another bed for different naps. And a broom made out of a white pine frond.

SONY DSC
~breakfast porch~
SONY DSC
~this guy in the hat oversees the pingpong room~

Everyone was entered into the pingpong tournament and I played the first pingpong since I was at camp a very long time ago. I remembered that sometimes I shriek when I miss. (This could also be a good strategy for putting off my opponents.) And I wasn’t as bad as Sylvan expected! In fact my game was a good match, against a very excellent 10 year-old, in which I only lost by two points. I was challenged during Bananagrams when it was suggested that interjections like “aw” and “ugh” were not acceptable words, and was ultimately victorious when a Scrabble dictionary was consulted.
SONY DSCThere was plenty of space for everyone to have their needs met, from raucous swimming on the dock to hours of waterskiing and tubing (thanks to the dads who drove the boat), to shady reading spots and board games, cooking for a crowd or fending for oneself in the kitchen. It was such a generous, easy and inclusive place to spend time; our hosts embraced us in the natural flow of the days. Truly, it was OK to do whatever you felt like.

SONY DSC

One morning was pancake breakfast over the fire pit, by two of our hosts. Extra delicious with the smoky fire! The wind was picking up as the weather was shifting, which made it a little exciting to pour (aim?) the pancake batter. 
SONY DSC

SONY DSC
~yummy morning light on the path from our cabin~

On the last day we collected balsam so we could sew pillows with the girls. My lucky friend had some wonderful fabric samples with her and it was pretty hard to choose. Clothesline? Froggies with umbrellas? Tiny Japanese bunnies? Owls?! The weather was wild and windy, so an inside project was perfect.

SONY DSC

SONY DSCAnd they smell amazing. So grateful to vacate the premises and enjoy some time away with some wonderful folks.

SONY DSC
~MURICA!~

OK, enough with the adorable toenails and tiny fragrant pillows, let’s talk about the patriotism of the roof above. We ended up being forced (by a detour and the fact that we are maybe the only people left without a GPS or smart phone) to go through Lewiston-Auburn on our way out of Maine, a route that had nothing to recommend it, was stressful and mildly interminable. But this roof made it all worth it.

SONY DSC
~selfie on the grand isle ferry~