Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Annual Argument

Ben and I got our Christmas tree yesterday and ended up having the same discussion we have every year:

Bronwen walking over to the car: Have you tied the tree to the roof yet?
Ben: No, I'm just going to hold it.
Bronwen: Hold it to the roof from inside the car?
Ben: Yes.
Bronwen: You are going to hold the tree?
Ben: Yes.
Bronwen: With one hand?
Ben: Yes.
Bronwen: Out the WINdow?
Ben: YES.
Bronwen: while we DRIVE?
Ben: yes.
Bronwen: 35 mph and around corners?
Ben: It will be FINE.
Bronwen: Ben---

The conversation goes on and on like this until segueing into exasperation. How would you explain to the person behind you whose windshield your tree just smashed that it wasn't tied down because you'd decided "just to hold it"? Unlike most years when I march back into the tree lot, muttering to myself as I unravel 20 feet of string, and march back to the car with the tangled mess of it, this year I gave up early. I couldn't bear the ridiculousness of the argument -- or the fact that, once again, we were having it.
Ben: "This is going to work fine -- I'll just tie net around the tree to the roof rack."
(tie the net to one side of the roof rack so that worst case scenario -- hopefully -- the tree just rolls off the roof and hangs along the side of the car hiding us from anyone who thought a Christmas tree was tumbling off the roof and about to hit them).

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Double-Sunrise Shell

I like picking up stones and shells to mark experiences. It's taken me a while to realize that relationships are made up of a lot of unremarkable finds -- gravel, beach pebbles, skipping-stones, broken shells. It's a rare day when one finds a green stone on a beach or a large piece of sea glass, or a pebble shaped like a heart. But these, of course, are what keep us looking.

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I started thinking about this one evening when my dad and I sat in the semi-dark living room speaking more honestly than we usually do. His tenderness during that conversation is one of the perfect white stones I will carry in my pocket.

I realize that I wish relationships consisted of those remarkable moments all of the time -- the close, intimate, and undivided ones. I am reading Gift from the Sea* by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She talks about how the stages of early love, friendship, and even parenting are "pure" -- they exist in the sweet spot of fresh, early love where a relationship is a world unto itself, unhindered by the responsibilities and complications of life. In this early stage we are "loved alone" -- completely and exclusively, outside of all other affections and distractions; we are, as Donne says, in that small time, each other's whole world.

From Lindberg's chapter "Double Sunrise":

"We all wish to be loved alone. Perhaps, as Auden says in his poem, this is a fundamental error in mankind.

'For the error bred in the bone

Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love But to be loved alone.'

...In discussing this verse with an Indian philosopher, I had an illuminating answer. 'It is all right to wish to be loved alone... mutuality is the essence of love. There cannot be others in mutuality. It is only in the time-sense that it is wrong. It is when we desire continuity of being loved along that we go wrong.'"

One comes in the end to realize that there is no permanent pure-relationship and there should not be. It is not even something to be desired. The pure relationship is limited, in space and in time. In its essence it implies exclusion. It excludes the rest of life, other relationships, other sides of personality, other responsibilities, other possibilities in the future . It excludes growth...
One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms." (73-75)

Though what she says holds true for all relationships, I have thought about it especially in terms of marriage (the relationship she most specifically addresses here). Ben's brother Zack is getting married in February. I have loved watching him and Beth the past few months-- how they talk to each other under their breath in a way that's almost their own language, look at each other with small smiles tucked in the corners of their mouths, wend through their weeks popping in and out of thrift stores, and photographing each other in greenish light. Fresh love.

Watching their world has also heightened my awareness of what a different world Ben and I now live in -- a world orbited by two dancing moons, a world with lots of life to maintain. But Lindberg reminds me that change can be life-giving, a mark of expansion and growth, that instead of trying to return to an old form, we can work to reconnect and create new forms. She talks about how we can rediscover "the miracle of the sunrise" shell (the rosy early stage where two are joined by a perfect simple hinge) when we duck out of life's rush together. "What unexpected joy... to leave the children, the house, the job, and all the obligations" and find the "sudden pleasure of having breakfast alone with the man one fell in love with... Nothing [to separate each other] but a coffee pot, corn muffins and marmalade." (70-71) (I don't much like marmalade, but that sentence makes me want a whole jar of it on the kitchen table).

For now, I am off to make breakfast with Silas -- not quite the same, but doesn't it help to remember his downy-headed little self while he is yelling the entire house awake at 6AM?
And yet wouldn't I be even more exhausted had he stayed that nursing baby? (Oh, so grateful not to be in that stage any longer!) Reminders all around...

*If you are not familiar with the book, a little background: each chapter is an essay based on a different shell she's found. She writes from a bare-bones beach house during a week of solitude. The book, written in 1955, pre-Feminist movement, is definitely dated in parts, which she addresses in an afterword, but the heart of her musings stand true.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eastern Early Winter Reminders

*the magic of static sparks in the dark
(winter's version of fireflies)

*chapped lips

*sock lint (I realize how seldom we wear socks!)

*that jet lag means that even when dog-tired from small people who rise early, I may still be wide awake Christmas shopping online come bedtime...

*the fun of tromping through a field of papery poplar leaves, watching Eden learn to lift her knees and kick foot-fuls as she goes

*the sink into quiet during stretches of cool, grey days

*traces of my parents in the mornings: a kitchen that smells like coffee and newspapers sectioned on the table

My eyes are tired, but it's good to be home this week...
(the other home)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Silas has begun to "help" me pack. I just opened his roller backpack (a clever way to make him carry the DVD player and videos) and found 6 cars, 1 combine, a yo yo he can't use, a light-up spy rocket ship, a stuffed tweeting bird, a pop gun, two packets of trail mix, and a handful of change I told him to put in his piggy bank. A little bit of packing, a little bit of unpacking, a little bit of packing, a little bit of unpacking... Slowly but surely we will get on our plane tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Attempt to photograph the two together...

t i r e d

I feel the kind of tired where I could fall asleep mid-chewing and nod right into a plate of eggs. Tired between my eyes. And in my neck. And head.

After Eden was born (and it probably should have been illegal for me to drive because I was so tired), I listened to the Weepies album Hideaway every time we got in the car. It marks that time of great shift, summer brilliance, and exhaustion.

I listened to it again today for the first time in a while and couldn't help being bolstered by the lyrics to "Can't Go Back Now":

Yesterday, when you were young,
Everything you needed done was done for you.
Now you do it on your own
But you find you're all alone,
What can you do?

You, and me, walk on walk on walk on
Cause you can't go back now.

You know there will be days when you're so tired
that you can't take another step,
The night will have no stars
and you'll think you've gone as far as you will ever get

But you, and me, walk on walk on walk on
Cause you can't go back now...

I can't really say why everybody wishes
they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter
are the ones you take all by yourself

And you, and me, walk on walk on walk on
Yeah you and me walk on walk on walk on
Cause you can't go back now

It's about this stage of life trying to waltz in a life of solitude; fumbling for our next steps; feeling pangs of isolation, exhaustion, and the stubby rough end of our rope; knowing at the same time that we aren't the only ones journeying; choosing to walk on because, after all, we're able to do so much more than we think we can.

Cloth diaper update (very very small)

Well, it has been a while, I realize, since I updated you about the world of cloth. A few quick things:

*For the past two weeks, we've been using only disposables again because Eden had a killer rash and then an infection, so we had to use creams. Because of that I feel a little out of practice, though the past two days have whipped me back into shape (routine sets in quickly).

*I've started putting them in the dryer rather than hanging them out in the shade. Makes sense and IS easier.

*I've also started bleaching them once a month, which helps the freshness factor.

*Eden loves sitting on the potty -- asks for it (sometimes to stall going to bed -- why are they so smart?) and has peed there twice. Maybe we will be moving away from diapers before TOO long. (and then again, maybe not... you never know with these things)

I thought I had many new things to say about cloth, but it turns out I have hardly anything to say... ha!

Thursday we leave for DC again, and I am planning to haul the cloth with us. I have lost a little momentum and excitement in thinking about traveling with all the diapers again, but I think I will rise to the occasion.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Funny Little Thing

After Silas's ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad went less than well, Ben's been "preparing" him for the Matterhorn (I haven't even asked) -- giving him the play-by-play, watching the ride on YouTube. The climax of the roller coaster for a 3 year old, of course, is when the giant monster with red eyes (red eyes, as I've mentioned, are particularly terrifying) roars.

When they were talking it over, Ben asked, Silas, what's that monster's name?

a moment of thought....
The Obama Snowman.
(also known as the Abominable Snowman)

So excellent.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My little Senile Uncle and Auntie

It struck me yesterday as I spent a low-key day with Silas and Eden, that spending time with them is very much like spending time with a sweet little senile aunt and uncle pair.

There is Silas carefully calculating things like, "I will put a stamp on this for one hour and fifteen minutes," or "I am not ready to go to bed. I want to play for 5 more minutes, no THREE more!!" -- proving again and again that despite his convictions, he has a poor grasp of time.

And then there's little Auntie who will even just hear me talking to someone in an animated way and will begin madly nodding with earnest "yes, yes"'s each time her head bows (they are deep nods). Little miss playing along.

Looking at them this way definitely lightens the mood. Even (or especially) when Eden is feeding dozens of flat rate priority envelopes through slats in the bench inside the post office, and Silas is fully lying on an empty shelf while I mail a package...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Fall Soup: Yellow Split Pea

Inspired by Hollie Moyer's recent potato soup posting (and photo idea, since it turns out soup in a pot is difficult to photograph and make look appetizing -- I am still figuring out how to photograph food...)

Last Wednesday, my sister Kaia Joye and four of her friends from the Island (doesn't calling it "the Island" make Catalina sound mysterious and like LOST?) stopped over for dinner on their way to Joshua Tree. We piled into the living room, sitting on every available surface, and drank wine from jam jars, ate crusty bread, salad with crasins, pears and sunflower seeds, and bowls of fall soup. This was the first time I'd tried this recipes, and one thing I loved about the final product is how beautiful it is with flecks of red tomato, orange squash, and ribboned kale against the yellow.

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Autumn Squash and Kale
(from Fresh From the Farmers Market, by Janet Fletcher)

2 T o.oil
2-3 oz (I'd say 3-4) pancetta, minced (you can buy it diced in a container at Trader Joe's)
1 large onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c dried yellow split peas
1 fresh rosemary sprig, 4"long
4 c chicken broth, plus more for thinning later if needed
1/2 lb peeled hard-shelled squash such as Kabocha or Butternut, diced
1/2 lb plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced
1/3 lb kale or green chard, ribs removed

Heat oil in large pot over moderate heat.
Add pancetta and saute until it renders some of its fat, about 3 min.
Add onion and garlic -- saute until soft, about 10 min.
Add split peas, rosemary, 4 c broth, 4 c water
Simmer, cover and adjust head to maintain simmer
Cook until peas completely soft, 45 min-1hr
Taste often and remove rosemary when flavor is strong enough (should be subtle)
Season soup with S&P
Stir in squash and tomatoes
Slice kale into ribbons and stir into soup
Cover and cook until squash and kale are tender, about 20 min.
Think with broth of needed.
(it will thicken considerably as it cools)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Morning After

I moved through October with heightened senses -- sweeping stores for creepy decorations since even in the most unassuming places, there can be contorted, bloody, rotting-faced masks...

Halloween used to be my favorite. I could not begin to understand the people who forbade trick-or-treating or only took their kids to harvest festivals. How grossly over-protective.
But then I met a soft impressionable child with wide eyes and a leaping imagination whom I had to protect. And the world looked different. Experiencing horror on his face -- his first real fear -- because of a "decoration" in a store last year changed me and reminded me that images stick.

Last week, I tried to get to the YMCA with the kids over and over. But there was weather, a cough, a loss of motivation. We didn't go. At the end of the week, I finally went alone. In the entrance hung the most horrific decorations I have ever seen in a public space. They were unavoidable and larger than life. I couldn't even think how Silas would have responded (for days after).

the entrance of the Y:right inside above the front desk:

Today the stores will be drained of witches, masks, fake blood, bones, rotting corpses and spiders, and will be prematurely filled with fake snow, elves, stockings, shiny balls and candy canes. This November morning I can feel my guard melting. Once again, Halloween is over.