Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cosmic Candles

On one of my adolescent birthdays, my bestie, Carmen, and I climbed up on my the roof of my dad's house with sleeping bags and pillows. We snuggled down in our sleeping bags, feeling the cool night air fresh on our faces and turned our heads skyward to watch the cosmos put on a light show in celebration of my birthday, known to others as the Perseids meteor shower.

In the light of the millions of stars and the soft glow of the milky way's spiral arm, I never knew where I should look—which one of the tiny lights would suddenly take flight across the sky. The roof was not flat and we oozed inch by inch toward the gutter as we waited. We talked about young girl things and kept a careful watch, then one of our arms would fly up, “Did you see it?!”

As we pointed another would flash then one would burn so bright and streak across our entire field of sky that we waited followed it to see if it would crash somewhere. They never did, the curvature of the earth brought them behind the dark forms of the tall douglas fir trees that encircled our house.

It was magnificent.

I’ve always been irrationally flattered by the coincidence of the showers landing on my birthday. As one who struggles with self-worth, I choose to see it as God reminding me that my existence means something beyond what I achieve, or earn, or other performance metric… That in simply being, I have value.

Reality check.

The earth is passing through a debris cloud left by a comet called Swift-Tuttle—cosmic garbage that catches fire when it barrages the earth like the cloud of bugs that splattering against a windshield. It has been doing this long before my birth and will continue long after I’ve returned to dust.


Dandelion are noxious weeds.

The clover and buttercup in our lawn are the result of neglect and sometimes my kids step on bees.

The Norwegian maple tree in my backyard is an invasive species whose roots are lifting our concrete.


Dandelions light up my kids’ faces as they present me with a lovely bouquet. They are food for bees and feed my children's longing for magic as they make wishes.

Clover petals are sweet on my tongue, just as they were when I was five. Buttercups provide a little cheer in an otherwise plain lawn and are an oasis for bees in the desert of suburban neighborhoods.

The maple lovingly provides the shade for my hammock, a place for my kids to test their climbing skills, and an anchor for our slackline.

Reality? Our planet hurls through space at 30 Kilometers per second, splatting cosmic mosquitoes on our atmospheric windshield.


Happy Birthday Amy.  You matter and I love you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Farm to Table

I live in the city; a growth hungry city that has gobbled up nearly all the farms, ranches, and horse pastures within its Urban Growth Boundary.  A short drive over that boundary and the farms reappear. The road rolls, my head clears, the land opens, the knots in my shoulders relax.

The owners of these farms both fear land-hungry city and leverage its proximity to their produce stands.

And we love to oblige.

Today we are visiting West Union Gardens, a berry and vegetable farm. The farm stand is staffed with ruddy, fresh faces that explain which rows are open for picking and the distinctions between Triple Crown blackberries and Chester blackberries. They enjoy my girls’ enthusiasm and complement their Easter Baskets as they weigh them for the tare metric.

Berzo and Boots dash down the rows, Boots shouts the names printed on the signs while looking for the third row of Triple Crowns that opened up today. They dive into the rows and start picking immediately. Boots drops her berries into her basket and Berzo drops hers into her mouth. I appreciate that the berries aren't sprayed.

I coached the girls on determining ripeness and in no time our rounded baskets and Berzo's rounded tummy signaled that it's time to go. We headed back to the stand and the farm-stand girl weighs our baskets. I attempt to transfer some of the berries that have already been weighed to Berzo's basket to account for those she’s eaten, as evidenced by her berry splashed mug, but the girl waves me off and says that it’s all part of the experience. She's eaten at least a half-pint, which would be about five dollars at the grocery store. . . but we’re not in a grocery store.

We browsed the stand and the girls each chose a small watermelon and I picked an aromatic garlic clove. We paid for our farm goodness and headed back to the pickup.

Everyone's smiling.

Next we headed to Schoch Dairy and dropped our four dollars in the soup-can and took a half-gallon jar of milk. The cows mooed their greetings as my girls negotiated who would get to hold the jar. Vince the horse nickered and mosied over to sniff us down for treats. We have none, but he tolerates our attention anyway. He snuffs Berzo's hair sending it in all directions and sending her backpedaling with a giggle. The girls pet him and he allows them. I pet him too and ask him about his day. He snorts and I snort back. I feel you, man.

We say our goodbyes to the cows and Vince and head towards our pick-up; Vince's perked ears tell me he's still hopeful a carrot or two might lie within.

Boots tells me, “Mama, it's so much cooler getting milk from the diary rather than the boring old grocery store. Who knows where that milk comes from.”

I agree.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Itching...

Our home is in a lovely, lively part of a gentile town. There are parks a-plenty, Max trains, Farmer's Markets, the library—all within walking distance. There are classes for the kids through Parks & Recreation. The neighborhoods are tidy. Our neighbors have become extended family. The schools are nice—it's all very nice. Right down to the baggies of dog poo and coffee cups in the park garbage cans.

I'm fed, sheltered, clothed, socialized, and entertained.

Yet I feel an itch. An itch behind my eyeballs and inside the ventricles of my heart. An itch that can only be poulticed by dripping mosses, old trees that make me feel young, round stones and dirt beneath my feet. An itch that requires a balm made from wild huckleberries and fresh caught trout and lake mud and a blanket of stars at night. STARS.

I feel as though I am a zoo animal. I jumped into a truck that smelled of delicious things to eat and woke up in a place that looked like my natural home but wasn't. There's too much plastic, my range is too small, there are people around—all the time, the artificial ambiance track plays in loops, the fences are too high, and I can't break through the plexi no matter how fast I run when I hit it.

Yet everyone is so nice here.

When I was eleven years old, my grandfather died.  My father, brother, and I, road-tripped all the way to Southern California to my relative's home for the funeral.  Their home was opulent, cavernous, easily a million dollar home (in the 80s) and I looked into the back yard and blurted out, "Your yard is so small! I'm sure glad I don't live here, I would feel so cooped up."  The adults looked at each other and laughed at my frankness and naivete.  I'm pretty sure one of them patted my head.  We lived in shitty duplex, with holes in the floor of the kitchen and no handles on the shower.  But, we had 200 acres of area to roam which was surrounded by Forest Service land on three sides and a golf course on the fourth. Deer wandered in our yard eating fallen apples, the acreage was home to two horses that I fantasized were mine, a mile trek through the forest land found me at a creek in which to catch crawdads as I kept a sharp lookout for bears.  I was feral and free and I wouldn't trade those moments for all the square-footage and granite countertops in the world.

I itch for home. Not home as a place, but as a habitat; one with fewer people, more trees, running water, wilderness to explore. A place that is wild enough to make me feel tame. A place where I fear animals as they fear me. A place where I feel a part of the ecosystem rather than apart from it. I itch to introduce the wonders of this life to my daughters and my husband.

But you must build your business before you build your home.

I have no business, I have nothing to contribute to a new home.

So I wait. I get creative with coat hangers and Q-tips in effort to reach those itches. Books are windows to the world to which I will return someday. FaceBook and coffee are distractions…I run on my wheel to stay in shape for the day I run free.

I will miss this zoo when we leave. We will miss the friends we have here—perhaps they will come too?

But the damned itching!