Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Gracious Plenty

As much as I may bemoan the overwhelming advance of technology and the internet (and cell phones and digital everything, blah blah blah) over our once-simple lives of cassette tapes and rolls of film, I have to give the world of blogging some props. It has introduced me and brought me close to a very solid group of girlfriends whom I adore with all my heart. It seems that sometimes one is lucky enough to make connections that are as real as they feel. And although we don't get the chance nearly often enough, sometimes some of us actually get to see each other in person. It never fails to be amazing. 

Lucky me! Mary, Fern and Missa came to spend a weekend with me here in Placerville. Bringing with them stories, wisdom, knowledge, and the makings for an amazing peach cobbler.

Lucy loved loved loved having them here. She still giggles remembering some little thing Fern did and goes "Perny!"

Settling in on Friday eve. There was a lot of coloring and a lot of reading going on pretty much the whole time. Yeah, we've got our priorities straight.  In fact, Missa created a Lion King masterpiece.

I had hopes of showing the ladies a good time, mixing in some social time with some quiet togetherness, and I'm glad to report that it pretty much turned out like I envisioned. The social times were reallllly social though. I am so grateful my two self-proclaimed introvert friends were so chill with my noisy, chaotic life!

A little bbq the first night with friends: Jorden and Becky, Zack and Rebecca, Kristen and her daughters. Although I love to have everyone around I really am so bad at organizing this kind of thing, making sure there's enough food, drinks, getting forks and plates out, etc. Luckily my team of friends helped make this happen like they always do: got the barbecue up and running, brought out condiments, provided platters of the richest lemon bars.

Fern on a brief break from pool action.

I love to see Fern's picture up in the midst of my other kid friends, just one of the gang. 

and Oliver....

Next day we had plans to go peach picking and then the river and Marcos for my classic summer day.
These two pretty mama mermaids inadvertently matched!

I forgot my camera for the rest of the day, (to my utter dismay) but borrowed Pops' iphone for my picture taking compulsion. Pops had come along as a baby-carrier and entertainer because if I don't have one, I don't get to swim. It's that simple.

We stopped by my artist friend Brian Hayes' country peach orchard for some picking. His wife Sarah makes gorgeous wood-fired clay buttons and tends to many farm related projects. They are a really cool couple and we had fun chatting with them a little bit before heading out to taste the wares. They encouraged us to eat as many as we could stuff in while we wandered.

They just finished making this cute little mobile henhouse.

We saw the kiln and checked out their studio on our way out. They work on many projects together as a couple, and right now they were in the middle of creating several hundred rustic mugs hand stamped with initials for an upcoming wedding. Such a unique and beautiful party favor!

It was about 100 degrees the whole time these ladies were here. By the time we left the dusty farm, we were so very ready to get to the river. We met up with my sister-in-law Amy and the kids in the parking area, ate some peaches, packed up and finally made it down to that water. Almost too refreshing if you know what I mean - -  deep gasp as you go in, take your time and let your body adjust, or make the plunge all at once; that water is COLD!

So many girls I love in these photos. It melts my heart.

Pops and Lucy took a fall on the way down. It was pretty heart-wrenching. He felt really bad but it was my fault for having him wear her in the Ergo, which he is not used to, and she is so big now, he couldn't see where he was going on the trail. She cried hard, but everything was just fine. And he was so helpful to me entertaining Polly for quite some time on the shore so that I could enjoy the water and being around my girlfriends. He is such a good dad. He likes to learn too; he really loved hearing Mary and Missa talk a little about some of the surrounding plantlife.

And then Dolly showed up! Another plant lover extraordinaire, Amy's sister, who knows Mary too. It's a small world. So much to talk about together, once we get started, we could go all night, sing it to the moon, and then find some herbs to eat with breakfast ;)

These ladies introduced me to some real beauties along the trail and along the water's edge. I already wish I wrote everything down, because I'm afraid I've lost some of the names. (my memory has gone to shit since having babies.) I know we saw St. John's Wort, Queen Anne's Lace, blue Vervain, California Wild Rose, mugwort, some kind of mint...coyote mint? So many others...and I ate a manzanita berry that dissolved chalky sweet in my mouth. I tucked a bloom behind my ear and felt like a witchy woman.

Onward to Marcos for a rowdy dinner; my sister Addie came too with her little family, other friends showed up, the kids ran wild and we met a nice little family who gave us their big table and brought out dum-dums for the kids; there was live music and we had a little beer and pizza and Laila's homemade curry and talked, talked, talked some more. Yelled across the table is probably more like it.

Sunday was a quieter day. (phew!) Mary made her scrumptious peach cobbler for breakfast before I even got up. A lot of coffee drinking, and even more swimming happened, backyard lounging, and of course talking. In the afternoon I took the babies for a much-needed naptime while Mary and Missa and Fern went thrifting and walked Main Street.

Later we got ready to make dinner together and the girls had more reading time. These two certainly share a deep love of books.

Mary working in my pathetic excuse for a kitchen. Wherein she proceeded to make miracles happen, whipping up a lovely seitan pasta dish with all kinds of yummy veggies and sheep cheese. Tootie ate two bowls full.

Lucy took to both these mamas immediately, snuggling right onto their laps for stories and just goofing around with them, clambering on their poor legs for rides. She knows kindred spirits when she meets them.


Last stop before they left town Monday was the big thrift store right off the freeway. I don't think anyone found anything spectacular, but it was a fitting place to say good-bye.

Looking back on this visit I am flooded with warmth. (Literal and figurative, haha) As soon as they left I missed the realness I'd felt of their wise, quiet, flowing, warm presence in my life. So now I hope for many more slumber parties over the years; I hope our daughters know each other more and more, jumping in feet first to play together, and that we occasionally but consistently bake goodies together and have coffee and swim in water and tell secrets and expound upon our feelings on big and little matters of life until the day we die.  

And for that kind of growing connection, well internets, thank you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

a saint who loved you

in a strange fit of nostalgia, leonard cohen reminds me of big sur, the henry miller library, an innocence in your early twenties, teeny's post, how important birthdays were even, how confident and nonchalant and wild we were. how we would sleep in the back of the truck on the side of the road without a shred of doubt, how i wanted to be a buddhist, how i loved the dharma bums and wanted to run down the side of a mountain and sleep in a shack cuddled with poetic men. when the storm clouds roll in i get a sudden grip of fear and sadness, as if fall were already here, as if i've lost another summer already, as if time passing loses its polish, as if fall were somehow a marker: too much time has passed, what are you doing? it is the reason fall is so unbearably bittersweet, the reason the cooler nights and the smell of hay and a late night road wet with rain and the taste of red wine when there are clouds streaking the moon, all get your blood sparking in a queer absynthian swirl. because those days were once and will nowhere live again except in the misty regions of your heart. your old best friends, where are they now? those who told you - what are you waiting for? those who teased and prodded and were funnier and wiser than they - or you - ever knew.

it all compounds in the blood, in the skin. you can tell by the way it gives you the shivers. the memories, the space they occupy as they occasionally flee, then return.     flee, then return.        the feeling of the side of the road at midnight, getting out to howl at the moon. because it is the year 2K and you are young and free and you stop at a dive bar in the middle of a northern nowhere town that is not even a town and there is an old indian woman getting drunk by herself and you are all delighted to make each others' acquaintance, if just for a while, if just for one beer. laughing way too loudly, the way it echoes against the pool tables and jukebox. you and your sister. always, addie and i. stopping to buy cherry tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, by the handfulls at roadside stands, little packets of salt, diet coke, driving all night, falling asleep at the wheel, taunting death, because we are so alive that how can we ever die, or age, or change? it's just this road, these dark rainforests along the edge of the vast ocean, the voice of tori amos, the careening road. a park near oregon's border looming close and foreign, every city an adventure, reading books to each other aloud, dreaming of boys in velvet jackets that belong to another time. nick drake. oh nick drake.

it was cool for three days, three eerie july days that remind me of when lucy was born, when a rare summer storm blew in and worried our wispy curtains all night and the cats sat peering out into that haunting brume. i baked a peach pie with peaches i had picked in brian hayes' orchard when missa and mary were in town. full of the spirit of children and friendship, that's what peaches taste like anyway, and they fell apart under my fingers, so ripe, the juices made tiny floods across the wooden cutting board. cornstarch, brown sugar, white. pinch of cinnamon, pinch of clove. pie dough baking and that smell of fall even stronger, the rain baking into the pavement, the way the  backyard lowers its voice into a whisper, quiet as the young buck with budding antlers takes a drink from the pool and eyes us curiously. and walks away on soundless hooves. now i call my babies to show them our friends. nothing is solitary anymore, always it is my babies on my hip, in my arms, a whisper's call away. show them everything new, from the ocean to the spotted fawn to the way the moon looks when she is full. and when the clouds come in july a summer rain makes us dance.

i heard of a saint who had loved you so i studied all night in his school
he taught that the duty of lovers is to tarnish the golden rule
and just when i was sure that his teachings were pure
he drowned himself in the pool
his body is gone but back here on the lawn his spirit continues to drool.

an eskimo showed me a movie he'd recently taken of you.
the poor man could hardly stop shivering, 
his lips and his fingers were blue.
i suppose that he froze when the wind took your clothes 
and i guess he just never got warm
but you stand there so nice in your blizzard of ice
oh please let me come into the storm.

- from leonard cohen's "one of us cannot be wrong"

also good listening for nostalgia: m. ward's "carolina" and "changes" by phil ochs (thanks to emily for this playlist) 
and also, "hard to find" by the National

Saturday, July 19, 2014

under the sea

i have a lot of fun stuff to write about but i will start with the most recent: Lucy's birthday! 
my little dream-come-true turned TWO on thursday.  (it really is impossible to believe that much time has passed, and it's only getting quicker...)
a few weeks ago, i asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday. "mermaid party," was her response. I asked again, to be sure. she said "choo choo party." so we discussed the pros and cons of both and she chose mermaid party. i have been hearing that phrase for weeks now, in all variety of contexts. sometimes she would throw out "bambi party" as a little joke, then "noooo," with a sly grin. 

we spent the day before her birthday getting all prepared. it turned into a pre-party. emily and scout and papa were here all day. my mom and bella came by for a spell, added a few touches. joey and darin joined us and took over baby-duty after they were off work. scott and penelope came in the evening with reinforcements: crackers and cheese and beer and pistachios.

i drew, emily painted, and joey and pops constructed the mermaid for photo ops.

scott brought the perfect beer for the occasion:

and the party mood gathered momentum with a little sea shanty jig, accompanied by bubbles thanks to emily's trusty bubble-machine.

the morning of the party i made final touches. 
come into our grotto.....

i made headbands for lucy, polly and i loosely based on rachel and sena's mermaid costumes. thanks gals!

tootie had a good early-afternoon nap and then woke up to that enchanting feeling of a long awaited event finally happening! a few people were already here, her second-cousin Mackie was already in the pool, and she had a new dolphin balloon to enjoy courtesy of Papa.

toot is so comfy with her papa and he does so much for us. i tell him he has to make it to 99 years old, because i don't want him dying until my girls are in their 30s and can handle it. we just love him to pieces and he is such an amazing helper around here.

goodies and guests starting to arrive!
a lovely local, meredith, who i met through this blog, came with her adorable curly haired blondie daughter Gwen and this amazing watermelon basket. 

my mom made vanilla and lemon cupcakes and starfish rice krispy treats.

and my dad gave lucy a new slide that the kids used all day with great glee!

i am so proud to be lucy's mama. kids love her. it seems like everyone gravitates toward her. the big kids take turns carrying her around, and she takes turns tackling the younger set with gleeful embraces. she is loving and touchy-feely and loves to (over zealously at times) give out hugs and kisses, nose kissies and head bumps. she is always having fun, easily and joyfully entertained.

amy and the kids were sweet enough to postpone their trip home to utah to spend a couple hours celebrating with the toot. she'd drive all night for us. that's how lucky we are; lucky us to be blessed by this beauty's presence:

the pool was the center of commotion ALL DAY.

the party was just how i hoped it would be. i realized in reflecting upon the day that throwing a big party for a toddler seems pretty pointless. they won't remember anyway, and it causes meltdowns, it's way overwhelming. at first i wondered why i insist on doing this. in preparing for the party, i get stressed because honestly my days allow very little extra time for anything beyond laundry, dishes, food preparation, and caring for two babies. but i realized at the same time, i do this for me. and for our community. we used to have late night summer bbqs, dance parties, drunken walks to the dive bar downtown. we need each other's company, we still need to laugh and eat and drink together and play and get outside our routine and be a little bit wild and make messes and have fun. if our merriment has to be in the shape of two-year-old birthday parties nowadays, so be it. dammit, we will come together on summer days and let the kids be totally rowdy and eat way too much sugar and run around semi-unsupervised while we tell each other stories, ooh and ahh over each other's babies, gossip and bemoan and laugh the day away. 

the other thing i was thinking about was the lack of structured kid-centered stuff at my parties. are all kids' parties like this nowadays? i was feeling kind of nostalgic for the birthday parties my mom threw us where the parents dropped the other kids off (none of this adults having fun bizness) and then we were herded around to organized games like pin-the-tail-on the-donkey or drop clothespins into a bucket or whatever, and the kid who won got a prize. although i love our big sprawling whole family hang out parties best of all, a little part of me is nostalgic for the super-70s birthday parties we had as kids.

that being said......bella leads the treasure hunt!

a bunch of darin's family made it:

and my mom had all seven of her grandchildren gathered round:
jarom, scout, polly, bella, lucy, orion, and utah in front.

local cuties having fun, zillion:

little ruby in polly's headband:

amanda wore the raddest mermaid tank top. and her teeny little stevie-lynn.

arlo is the sweetest boy. he has a very low voice but hardly ever makes a peep. he has a smile on the ready constantly and he's just a big softie.

lucy and her pals. rolling around in some of her new loot. i love how free she is with her person. she is just all over the place, and always in the center of things.

my favorite picture of me and my gal from the day. polly's in there too, but hiding.

i can hardly bear the next one because she's so innocently happy and excited, everyone just got done singing happy birthday to her and she sees her little cupcake with a fish emily drew in frosting, two candles glowing....

and then she leans in way too close and burns the tip of her sweet little nose! 

she was totally fine, just scared. i hugged her real good. then she went right back to work with the very important task of eating that cupcake! i made a wish for her ;)

and just then, cassie showed up dressed like a real live mermaid so that made everything better! cassie is the type of fun friendy-aunty who puts glitter on all the little girls and lets them try on her stuff and makes them feel very magical.

lucy opened some gifts and all the kids were glad to pitch in and help! especially since she is easily distracted and not all that aware of the whole gift-excitement thing just yet. but this set of totoro figurines from emily and joey just made her life complete.

brave grown ups in the pool.

there is one thing i especially love about this family portrait. (dolly!)

cassie let lucy try on her sparkly shirt. you could just see the gleam of pride in toot's eyes as she swirled and twirled, feeling like she was getting a glimpse of true magic.

whenever a party starts coming to an end i panic and have to take posed photos of people before they leave. 

and i seriously could not have done this day without emily's help and ideas and creativity and support. everyone needs a "memmy" in their life. i am so lucky.

it finally cooled enough for me to take my hair down and wear my headband. no wonder mermaids have to stay in the water all day!

i love the late evening light outside right now. it feels like pure midsummer, when it takes hours for the heat of the day to shake off, and then you are left with a faint breeze and a whisper of salt on your skin, cupcake crumbs and kids' shrieks echoing in your ears. tired children going home with bellies chafed from flinging themselves upon pool floaties all day (sylvan!), hugs from all your loved ones tingling in your arms. a hard day's work, a long july day that seems forever, a perfect suspended moment in the life of a bright and beautiful little girl who seems to have been born in my own spirit long before i ever knew her name.