“What still amazed me about the desert was all the life it had in it. I had come to Arizona expecting an endless sea of sand dunes. I’d learned of deserts from old Westerns and Quickdraw McGraw cartoons. But this desert was nothing like that. There were bushes and trees and weeds here, exactly as anywhere else, except that the colors were different, and everything alive had thorns.” – The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
It was almost fourteen years ago that I packed up my Honda Civic Del Sol leaving friends (with the exception of my best friend in the passenger seat), family, and the 365 days of sunshine behind for the Pacific Northwest. Seattle was my destination. I tend to lean towards extremes.
From the outside it was for college. On the inside it was for my spirit. The damp earth, the evergreens (a-hem - conifers), even the heavy grey sky offered a vibrancy that the San Diego sunshine never could possess. I needed to leave to go home. And having just returned from a trip from San Diego, I find myself saying it again but in reverse. After all these years there are still bits of sand under my nails.
Not all of San Diego is a desert I am learning. Regardless, the desert is alive. There are parts of us that to our mind’s eye look dead but only lay dormant. It’s amazing what a little bit of sun can do. I was able to see some color in those blue skies and softness in the thorns.
Ornaments for two bucks,
A new stocking to fill (only helping St. Nick) and traditions to create that knit us together as a family.
Freedom is not always freeing if you ask me. Too many choices can overwhelm. Again, for me. So, this holiday season I decided to narrow my scope and count on my neighborhood (Greenwood in the house!) to help me with my holiday shopping. Not only did I get to know some cheerful, creative and kind shop owners, the best part was that I was done in a day’s time. A DAY. Which freed me up to sing Christmas carols to Milo around the Christmas tree, drink my own eggnog lattes (so much cheaper and enjoyable in one of your own ceramic mugs) and channel my inner crafter.
These cards a 5 year old could make. Which is why they turned out to be a success in my book. Just my skill level. I am a wanna be crafter. I think about crafts or things homemade more than I create them myself. This is do in large part to having little to no threshold when it comes to tolerating frustration, which speaks to my inner toddler. Yet I like to think if I surround myself with creative people that some of their glitter will rub off on little ol’ me.
Sure. We “can make that!” we declare as we pick up that stylishly felted floral broach adorned with just enough vintage buttons that make you bust open your pocketbook or trot down to the local craft store to gather the supplies. But the difference between me and them is that they really can and I can’t. I just like to think so. Which is why I prefer to think about making that hand knit stocking or stitching that pretty embroidery pattern rather than try. Sustains the comforting illusion that I can make anything (which is not true of course but it feels good to think so).
Let me get back to shopping. Shopping local, that is. We live in an age and culture that buys (sigh) their values I realize so if you want more time with your families or friends, time to bake cookies, do laundry or to channel your inner crafter I recommend just walking out your front door. Makes for a more meaningful gift giving experience. Not to mention, you get to interact with another human being who lives and breathes as you do and is trying jut as you do to sustain and support themselves. It’s more work than filling up your electronic shopping cart and clicking “pay now” in the upper right hand corner of your computer screen but worth the investment.
Here were my stops:
Sasquatch Studios – LOVE! Local art, homewares, jewelry, delicious children’s clothes, and last Thursday you guys could have scored a free beer from Park Pub and 15% off the merch.
Emma Jeans Antiques – I spent at least half an hour learning about the early jazz scene in Seattle at EJ’s at no extra charge. And talk about treasures…
Top Ten Toys - Fun for the whole family. I wanted to buy Milo (I mean have Santa get Milo) all of those marionettes. They aren’t that creepy.
Wouldn’t it be swell if I could make all of my Christmas gifts? Sure. I value the homemade but there is something to be said for being honest about one’s limitations. As well as those falsely perceived ones.
New Year’s Resolution: Try more. Think less.
We have been welcomed into the world of “firsts.” As proud new parents it’s all the rave. First coo. First laugh. First grab. It’s like heaven on earth to watch. Everything’s new for this little being. We parents on pins and needles to witness the small as monumental.
At the same time Milo has been “taking it all in” I have been also challenging myself to have some of my own firsts. (Notwithstanding the big fat first of being a parent; no wonder new parents require just as much sleep as their new little ones. Everything is new for us too). I am talking intentional firsts. Perhaps it’s a shame we adults (can I lump you in with me here so I feel less alone?) forget to have them or pursue them for that matter. Our routines and preferences help us structure our life (form – there it is again) yet they can also keep us from learning something new about ourselves and others, the world. It doesn’t even have to be big. I’m talking small, Milo-sized firsts.
This morning I sat in a different chair in our dining nook. That was a first. I didn’t realize how BORED I was sitting in the same seat with the same view of our living room. So me and Milo settled into our new seat accompanied by a pretty magazine and beverage and it actually changed my perspective of things. I now don’t see the need to re-arrange my living room. Nice.
I bet you there are dozens of firsts that happen to us everyday. The only difference being the absence of the uber-enthusiastic parent in our back pockets to cheer us on and simply delight in these small steps of newness we take. We should claim these, no? I am not sure why but part of me thinks it’s important.
Do you remember the thrill or disgust of your first kiss? The first time you grew and devoured your first vegetable? The first time you…
I did make a bundt cake a couple of weeks ago. That was a first too. Not to toot my own horn. (toot)
Bake a pie crust.
Label the perennials I am dividing from our garden with real labels, not mental ones.
Listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving because if I’m feelin’ it, why not? It is Milo’s first Christmas.
It is Sunday afternoon and we are having family time at Caffe Fiore on Queen Anne Hill. There have been many cups of coffee had on this hill here with this hubby of mine but he was pre-hubby then and we, pre-child. It was on this hill too that we often asked one another, I think he first: “What was your perfect moment today?”
Everyone defines their perfect moment in their own way. There are no right or wrong answers. Just yours. And you know it best.
My perfect moment today was sitting down to a large round wooden table to a steamy latte, a stack of coupons to rifle through, baby Milo on lap, my mate to my left, and Jean Bradbury’s exquisite oil-paintings keeping watch over us all the while. I was immediately drawn and after reading her blog I can see why – she’s a gardener for one. 2) She likes the poet Billy Collins whom my friend Morgan just introduced me to and 3) She pays attention to the little things. I sure like what Jean sees.
Thank you Jean for contributing to my perfect moment today. I especially love your “Plenty.”
What was your perfect moment today?
Been reading this book called Listening Below the Noise. It’s been a real treat. Like a gentle bowl of tea that you hold with two hands. Just the other day I had a couple minutes to go outside – solo- to harvest the last of our zinnias growing inur back patch of sun and noticed the dusting of frost on this here sage plant. There was something so soft about the look of it. And centering. Which is what this book is about. How silence centers. How silence teaches one how to listen and most importantly pay attention to what’s inside of you. As well as outside. Both being practices of the heart.
Generativity ~ it’s a word that I learned from the psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson and one that has been on my mind as of late. I quite like the sound and meaning. It’s broadly defined as “creativity” and “productivity” but also more specifically in Erickson’s book as “the interest in establishing and guiding the next generation.” So we’re not only talking about making babies here although implied, but something much greater I think.
Enter the word “values.” Doesn’t have to be a nasty word. They are important to all of us. However, I am particularly fond of those that don’t require exclamation, proclamation, or defending. I prefer values that are simply lived, learned and passed on through observation. No words required. Pretty powerful stuff if you ask me.
How we live and the quality with which we live it is, I am learning, is more formative in shaping our little one’s hearts and minds than mastering the helpful hints offered in any parenting how-to book. Parenting (or mothering/fathering in any form not necessarily biological) is a creative endeavor. An art, not a science. This of course is MUCH easier said than done.
So, what do I hope to model to our little one? There is the obvious: empathy/compassion, the ability to laugh at one’s imperfections, that there are many “right” ways out there, and that all questions are welcome (at least they are under our roof). But there are also some little things that are important to me. A couple as follows:
1. Homemade bread. (I have this fantasy that Milo, years down the road opens up his lunch pail alongside his buddies at recess and to his horror and his mom’s delight, discovers that his is the only PB&J made on really grainy healthy homemade bread).
2. Fresh Flowers. From the garden, preferably.
Why the bread and flowers? Could be because they give me joy or that bread and flowers carry a symbolic meaning much greater than their component parts: flour, flowers, yeast and water. I think it’s more of the latter than the former. I take that back. It’s both. Generativity isn’t limited to character formation but also the preservation of lost arts. Interesting the resurgence today of so many of these lost (home) arts: beer and wine making, knitting, canning…I even surprised myself when we walked home from the library a couple of weeks ago with two quilting books stowed safely in that handy compartment under our boy’s stroller. Perfect for books and other delightful free finds along the side of the road.
Milo will undoubtedly make his own conclusions about things such as: homemade bread sucks where’s the Wonder bread? The kid may even have terrible allergies: no gluten, no peanuts, no pollen. What a dud. But I must remain flexible and respect that he is in fact different from me. But I can only hope that the little things we do count somehow. That fresh bread and flowers communicate something deeper and more lasting. Such as, although life can be at times terribly burdensome it is also peppered with bits of joy.
Or more broadly, how we live matters and the quality with which we live it can be passed on by people big and small.
“Give me one word…”
I don’t know about you but sometimes I find it difficult to communicate what I feel or what I am experiencing and I’m talking about to people who WANT to know. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know the answer. Other times it’s because I feel so many things I get overwhelmed and find it hard to reduce my answer to its simplest form. That’s when I often ask myself and others who struggle with the same thing – this: “Well, let’s just begin with one word. What is the first word that comes to mind…?”
It’s a fun Rorschach-esque little game I like to play not only with others but apparently also with inanimate objects. Like the above. One word to describe this scene?
I love my neighborhood. We might not have sidewalks but we do have great statuary. It does really help you get a closer looksee at what’s growing or in this case, gathering…under a camellia tree.
This garden vignette is chock full of intent, in my opinion. No, hipsters this would not be featured in DWELL magazine but I love its earnestness. I mean, someone took the time to arrange this lovely assortment of woodland fauna (+one gnome) into a community.
Makes me want to go play. Lighten up a bit.
To be earnest. Live with intention. It’s not one of the adages in the 4 Agreements, is it? It should be. Pairs nicely with not taking your life too seriously because let’s face it. For some of us, intention could get the better of us, its shadow side squeezing the spontaneity out of things. Like the pleasure of not being productive. Like getting stuck in traffic (Why God WHY?). Or say taking naps. Then again, I think my husband approaches every nap with a heavy dose of earnestness don’t you dear?
And to think this all began with one word.
Be earnest. With others. With yourself. Or whatever you create in the garden or otherwise.
Now I gotta go get me some of my own woodland creatures, however, I do in standard Greenwood fashion own one garden gnome. I will have to take him out of hiding.
I do love him to pieces. This picture was actually taken a couple of weeks ago and I have been meaning to post it. I couldn’t resist. It’s rare you walk into the house and stumble upon a human being just “being.” No music. No TV. No reading. Nothing. Just sitting, kitty in lap, sipping coffee.
And looking so delicious in those overalls of his.
So I took a picture not only for his scrumptousness but because it was a beautiful thing to stumble upon. Andre is a real advocate of boredom. We were just talking about “boredom” last night on our walk to the Phinney Ridge Farmer’s Market which closed by the time we got there. He likes the word boredom. I prefer non-attachment or rather, generous emptiness. We agree to disagree here but with the point being there is some wisdom in being still. Just being. Being bored. Listening to the source of our “hunger” and I am not just talking belly hunger although it can feel that way. Being still. Drinking coffee. Listening to yourself. Enjoying the kitty on your lap.
I think this is a gift too. If you can withstand what can feel like the scariness of the silence. Because if you do you end up discovering YOU. And isn’t that something to love.