Tag Archives: summer

Today, We are Not Quite on Fire

Not quite.

We’ve been under a canopy of smoke that blows away in the morning and comes back overnight for more than a month courtesy of that huge fire in British Columbia.  Our August was hazy and hot and almost eerily still.

But last night, as we drove home from a mini-vacation, we were able to see flames from the Eagle Creek fire from I-84.  The air was greenish gray and thick with smoke, so thick you didn’t so much smell the smoke as taste it.

And this morning, the world is covered in a dusting of ash.

But we are not on fire yet.

And soon, the rain will come.

It’s not in the forecast yet, but it’s coming.  I have faith.

And when the rain comes, and the fires are beaten back, and the forests are left blackened and alien in their quiet, and the world around us enters its autumn, we will all breathe a little easier, through lungs and in minds.

But for now, we are hiding inside with the windows sealed up tight, holding our breath as the house holds its breath, and the people who protect our community are fighting and sweating, because today, we are not quite on fire.

Not quite.

Go Outside and Breathe

I know it’s late.

It’s hot.

It’s buggy.

You’re tired.

You just want to sit inside all day and do nothing, run out the clock on this day, and maybe try again tomorrow.

That mosquito bite on the sole of your left foot is driving you crazy and has made you shy away from sitting outside in the gathering dusk or the rising dawn or the fleeting midday shade.

Your stomach aches, whether from too much food or too little or the wrong kind you’re not sure, but it’s uncomfortable.

Your children are wild and full of evening energy, and their whooping and leaping makes you anxious and unnerved.

The thought of the sun on your skin reminds you of your uneven tan, its obvious lines, and how, if you were a responsible person, you probably would have bought sunscreen before late July.

I know.  I understand.

But sometimes you need to go outside anyway.  Even though it’s not easy.  Even though you’d rather plug in and tune out.

Because the grass is dried to hay-blond and its susurration in the breeze tells a secret.

Because the mourning dove is trying out his gentle call from that oak tree, right there outside the kitchen door.

Because the hills seem so close you could reach out and touch them but also a part of a golden fairyland in the lateral evening light.

Because the cross orb weaver on your tomato plant is just putting the finishing touches on tonight’s silken net.

Because the sky is still so blue.

Because the hens are clucking softly to themselves as they forage for a few last bites.

Because the blackberries are so ripe they stain your fingers no matter how tenderly you pick them.

Because the butterflies are chasing each other over the brambles and across the fences.

Because the wind smells sweet with hay and spicy with cookfire smoke and fresh from the river.

Right now, a Steller’s jay is stopping off in your fir tree to select nesting materials.

Right now, a train whistle is echoing off the ridges and over the water.

Right now, the breeze is freshening just a little and the sky is ocean-deep.

Right now, the scent of warmed earth and crushed blackberry is more summery than anything you’ve ever known before.

From out here, the children’s cries are muted and distant, and you can love them for their untamed nature.

From out here, you can’t hear the big bad world– or those mean-girl voices in your head– at all.

From out here, the work piled up on your desk doesn’t seem quite real, and you can have faith that there will be time enough for everything.

When you’re outside, you can breathe.

Try it.

Breathe in deep through your nose.  Open your mind wide and be present.  Breathe out slowly through your mouth, open your chest and release your spent and troubled air.


This is but one day of a lifetime.  Nothing has to be finished nor perfect today.


This is where you are now, and it is good.


This is all you are, this moment in the setting sun, this place full of hay-scented grasses and straw-colored hair on little heads, all bowing to you in recognition and shaking irreverently in the breeze.



You are the breath of your home, your family– you, too, must go in and out.




To release the toxins, and let the trees worry about recycling them.

To take in what you need to live, what the mosses and the weeds give back to you.

So go.

No more excuses.

It can’t wait until tomorrow, not this time.


Go outside, and breathe.


Last Days of Summer

This space has gone a bit quiet lately because we’ve all been so busy making ready: ready for the last fleeting moments of summer, for the coming academic year, for the new baby, for the building and practicing and learning we will occupy ourselves with when the rains move in.

So many baby things are flying off my needles these days, for our newbie and for others.  Robert has been working on our crib, and giving the chicken yard and henhouse some desperately-needed updates.  The smalls have been doing everything and nothing in that fantastic way peculiar to children in the summer.

While Robert took a rest by himself this afternoon, the smalls and I talked about what we absolutely MUST still do:

— visit our friends up in Seattle

— go to OMSI

— have Walla Walla Sweet Onion Rings and marionberry lemonade at least once more

— go to the drive-in again, IF they ever show anything decent again

— dip our toes in the pacific one last time before it’s too cold

— put up as many tomatoes as possible

— clean the sun room (there *may* have been some eye-rolling and but-why-ing about this one)

— finish stripping the bark off the logs for the crib

There are just four weeks left in summer 2015.  What will you be doing?



Looking for Bats

If you’ve been following the weather news in the US this summer, you know that we’re having a strange year in the PNW.

Let me tell you what it looks like out here in Hood River:

Cicadas and katydids everywhere, but no grasshoppers or praying mantids.

No frogs, no salamanders, and the lowest water levels I’ve ever seen.

Hot, hot, hot, and as dry as old bleached bones.

Early pears and late tomatoes.

Eight solid inches of dry, shifting dust before my trowel turns up fertile soil.

Forest fires and droughts and worry, worry, worry.


Blond freeway shoulders and crispy tree branches.

Algal blooms in lakes and even in the sluggish parts of the mighty Columbia.

Last month’s fire-blackened hills, still dark and barren and dry nearly six weeks later.

The mountains bare-faced and black on the horizon, ominous and brooding.

In short, it’s been a year for making sure that small children know the emergency preparedness plan, and scratching out anxious lists of evacuation supplies, and conserving every drop of water, and looking out of car windows and wondering how our beautiful home will survive this.

My touchstone through this trying season has been putting our flock away for the night.  In the cool breeze of dusk, I slip my feet into a pair of Robert’s old shoes, comically large on me, fill a quart jar nearly to the top with sweet-smelling scratch, and climb the terrace steps to the chicken yard.

I listen to the crickets and the calling of the poorwills and the nighthawks, I smell the neighbors’ barbeque cooking away, and I fill the hopper for the hens, who add their gentle berka-berka-berka chattering to the vespers.  I refill their water bottle, the cool liquid on my fingertips nearly salvation after a day of pseudo-desert living, and slot it back into place.  “Goodnight, chickens.” I murmur as I secure the henhouse roof, completing my task.

I put away the jar and the shoes in the sunroom, and as I walk barefoot across the deck to go back into the house, I stop and rest for a moment on the bench.  Often one or both of the smalls will join me, and we keep a steadfast vigil on the little patch of twilight sky to the northeast, over the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers, with its little border of aspen and pine.

Breathless and silent in the fading light, we wait.

Every night I wonder if they won’t come, if something has happened and they’re all dead somewhere or fleeing to better hunting grounds.  But every night, they come.

Fluttering across the clearing so fast our limited human eyes can barely see them against the darkening sky, the bats make their first forays into the night air.  They are most likely long-legged myotis bats, we have learned, this swift-winged vanguard of the night, but it doesn’t really matter what kind they are.  What matters is that they’re there.

Every night, without fail, the bats come out to feast on the crepuscular insects and spiders that have overwhelmed us this summer.  Even though these temperate bats are sensitive to human disturbance, and rely heavily on imperiled forest habitat and fleeting, drought-banished dew to survive, they have never failed me.

The piping voices of the tree frogs may be silent this year, and the afternoon frighteningly devoid of the chipping whir of grasshopper flight, but the bats are still here, and doing fine.

And, as I wait for rains that may never come, or may totally overwhelm the parched soil and wash away houses, bridges, cars, and human lives into the rapids, the bats bring me some fragile reassurance.

I look up, with faith and trembling, and when I see those tenacious flying mammals racing silently and chaotically through the dusky sky, I know that I am seeing part of that wild invisible web that sustains our fragile lives on this planet.  I know that I am watching nature take one of her courses, albeit a tiny one, and I feel a corresponding, wicked-winged speck of hope flash across the clearing of my heart.

Because maybe, just maybe, if the bats can make it, there’s some hope for the rest of us, though we are truly grounded and insensate by comparison.

And that is why I take time out of my busy day and away from my life of artifice to look for the bats.

What do you look for, to give you hope in these dark days?

WIP Wednesday

knitting on baby blanket WIPstart date: 25 May 2015
time elapsed: 1 month, 6 days
completeness: 50%

Once upon a time, I received a big skein of yarn as a gift.  It was cotton and the colors reminded me of fruit stripe gum.  I wanted to use it, but wasn’t sure how.

Then I discovered the super-sized-doily-as-blanket phenomenon.  I quickly knitted up the offending yarn into a Hemlock Ring baby blanket, and I LOVED it.  A round baby blanket!  Could there be anything more perfect?

I was an instant convert.  With a round blanket, using it as a decorative throw after your baby outgrows it is effortless.  A round blanket makes a superior nursing shawl, the perfect ground cover, and a more convenient sunshade.  To wrap a tiny newbie, fold the blanket in half and swaddle as usual.  To cover an older baby, use in a single layer and NEVER worry about baby’s feet sticking out of the bottom or baby’s hands getting entangled.

So when i was looking for a gorgeous, timeless, lacy baby blanket pattern, I was drawn inexorably toward round shawls and oversized doilies.  I finally settled on Leaves of Grass by Jared Flood.

center of blanket I'm knitting showing flowery motif from the first lace chart

This is my first pi construction project.  In pi construction, rather than trying to knit a circle by making constant small increases at greater and greater distance from each other, you knit a long flat-topped tube: sections are worked totally straight with no increases or decreases, and between sections you work an increase row that doubles the number of stitches.  The magic happens when you block it– what was a long tube blooms into a perfectly flat circle thanks to the elasticity of the lace.  But I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

me still knitting along with Númenor's legs in the background

In fact, my progress has been achingly slow, due in part to the heat (when it’s 101 F outside, it’s NOT a great time to have a big pile of wool in your lap), but also to some minor difficulties in the pattern.  I’m about halfway through the third lace chart now (of five total), and completely in love with what’s taking shape on my needles, but happy to go slow and make a row or two of headway here and there.

showing the middle chart of the blanket with lacy zigzag or branching pattern

This project has been my companion on road trips and park benches since the weather turned summery.  I’ve knit on it in the car as we cruised down the coast, and while waiting for a movie to start at the drive-in, and on the back deck in the afternoon shade.

And when blanket-knitting weather comes again in the fall, I will be happy to sit in my favorite spot in our library and finish this up.  Not only will I be glad of a lap full of wool then, but I will also have the memories of sun on my skin and warm breezes and long summer evenings and days at the beach in every stitch.

And probably some sand and some dust, too.

Númenor holding the yarn cone I'm knitting from with my lap (and the WIP in it) in the background

The yarn is Jagger Spun 4/8 Waxed Lambswool in Umber— technically a weaving yarn,  but a very economical (not to mention beautiful, durable, and soft) choice for knitting and crochet.  Some people find that it works up at DK weight, but I am pretty satisfied with calling it worsted.

My fingernails were painted last week with Piggy Paint in Midnight Pansy (purple) and Ice Cream Dream (sparkly teal).  I highly recommend this brand; it is truly odorless, but it’s also long-lasting and bright.  Their marketing patter and some of their shade names make it pretty clear that they believe painted nails are gendered, so I can’t give them full points, but they make a great product.

Find the Magic

We spent our weekend (our WHOLE weekend, friends!) cleaning and reorganizing the house.


That means there was plenty of dust and laughter and reminiscing, and lots of frustration and more than a little yelling, lots of going up and down stairs and hefting and hauling, some sadness and some serendipity, and the smell of vinegar and the sound of the Pandora station I created to bridge the gap between Robert’s taste in work music and mine.

It also means that the smalls spent the weekend Being Tested: listening, following directions, performing difficult tasks, staying focused, managing their compulsions to derange sorting piles and run around unaccustomed places, being responsible for their choices, and proactively communicating their own needs.

Unsurprisingly, then, today everyone woke up feeling pretty grumpy and low-energy.

On grumpy, low-energy days, even ones that you have earned by dint of hard work and awesomeness, it can be difficult to find the magic in your life.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So this afternoon, while I was feeling like ugh and yuck and blerg and blah, I walked around my home and captured these little bits of magic:

artwallAn updated art wall (now with figural art, perspective cues, symbols, and some child-written labels!).

knitting in progressA big project edging toward completion.

soft toys in a rowRe-discovered pretend friends.

new saltNew salt, white and pure and beautiful.

lettuceLate-planted seeds racing toward the sun.

garlic harvestThe first garlic harvest of the year, laid out to dry.

toys put awayCreative tools ready for new inspiration.

took and henhouseA laying flock.

reading nookA quiet, comfortable hideaway for book lovers.

spring raindrop baby dollSweet reminders of a spring well-spent.

blackberry blossoms and ripening fruitAnd the promise of blackberries to come.

Happy summer to you and yours!  May you find the magic wherever you look!


Stay tuned for more on the knitting!

Soft toys from L to R: homemade rocket ship (following this tutorial), sea turtle, warty pig, trilobite from PRI, and manatee from Sea World (from a trip I took in my childhood; I would NEVER go there by choice).

Toys from top L, clockwise: train, dragon, bushel basket, American maple hardwood school blocks, rocket ship, homemade storage cubbies.

Reading nook: The Hare and the Tortoise, Goodnight Oregon, C is for Cthulhu, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Basket is an old one from Ten Thousand Villages, shark bean bags are homemade based on this photo.

Spring raindrop baby was homemade, inspired by the work of a now-retired Etsy seller.