Monday, August 30, 2010


last summer, weeks before our house was lifted up 5 feet than set back down on a new foundation, me and my two boys headed south toward olympia.  the idea was to be out of the way during some of the more dirty aspects of construction prep- a plan that didn't entirely hold firm- but a good plan in theory.

we were all packed into our minivan- that small nick on my ego- which had recently begun to act as if it was in the midst of being abducted, a small fact i chose to ignore before setting off on my road trip down interstate five.  as we neared fort lewis, the van began it's strange behavior again.  if it were human it would have been the toddler, pre-nap who hasn't eaten anything for 5 hours, is covered in sticky juice and has a bad rash.  the van just didn't have any will to drive forward.  all of the lights on the dash started to blink and the motor surged in a last attempt to get us off the freeway as seren moaned in the backseat and i said supportive things to the windstar like, "come on- just get us off the freeway!"

we cruised to a stop at the only thing on this exit- a small gas station on the right near a small open park.  to the left was the military base.  at first i thought that the van just needed to rest a bit.  that always makes me feel better.  but no, after 10 minutes running about in the grass- me and the kids, not the van- the engine didn't even seem to acknowledge the presence of the key.  i went into the gas station where the young guy behind the counter produced the wimpiest pair of jumper cables ever seen- but ours had mysteriously disappeared from the van.  the young guy and the guy parked next to me worked together to try to get the van going- but no luck.  as the kid wound up the cables a SUV pulled up and a man popped his head out the window to ask "need any help?"  the kid perked up and assured me that this guy could fix it.  his confidence was inspiring.  the man parked nearby and came to look at the engine.  while i explained the symptoms of the ford's meltdown he nodded and told me it sounded like the alternator. 

"i can fix that for you- it's easy," he said with a slight hispanic accent.  he was in his forties and dressed in a collage of camouflage and green.  his hair was short and he had several tattoos peeking out on his arms- one seemed to say "mary."  i assumed he was in the military and catholic.   he seemed genuine and trustworthy- but i really just wanted to get to olympia before the sun went down, which was sinking pretty fast.  he gave me a jump- got the van going and gave me a slip of paper with his phone number on it, telling me to call him if i needed anything.  i planned on calling him the next day- he said he'd come to olympia to fix it for me.

as i put the van in reverse and heading to the on-ramp, i looked down at the paper.  it read: jesus 564-2837.  i laughed.  of course, i did.  i probably even said to myself "thanks, jesus!" as i headed onto the freeway intent on making it the last few miles to dinner and bed.  well, we didn't get too far.  the van began bucking and such almost as soon as we got on the freeway.  the next exit landed us in the parking lot of a golf club.  i gave jesus a call.  his wife answered the phone.  her name was mary.

at this point in the story- i feel the need to explain, briefly, about the only other time i have been stranded in a broken-down vehicle.  it was about 4 am on highway 101 in the middle of the olympic national forest.  i had my baby seren- who was about 10 months old at the time and our old dog, kimik.  there was no cell reception, even if i had one on me- and it was still dark out.  a lone vehicle approached me- a run down pick up with two brown men in it.  they were migrant workers who made cedar shingles at the local mill.  i was nervous, hesitant- until i saw that one of the men had a necklace on.  i show my ignorance by simply describing it as "one of those catholic necklaces."  it was on a basic black chord and had the photo of a saint on it.  when i saw this i trusted them immediately- despite that i, myself, am not a christain.  they drove me back to my mom's place- out of their way- and refused any money i offered until i convinced them to buy something nice for their wives or their mothers.

so when jesus and mary showed up at the golf club to help- i trusted them.  he got the van running again and then came up with the plan to have me follow them to the nearest auto repair store where an alternator could be bought.  the van wasn't so keen on this idea.  it died on I-5 right on the expansive nisqually delta.  this spot of the freeway has always called to me.  it is so completely peaceful with it's marshy land and soft hills.  well, i was getting a chance to really take it in as jesus pulled apart my engine and i loaded the kids into their bronco.

we sped off as mary called local stores to find the part needed.  she found one, just north of us, in a shop that was closing very soon.  jesus hopped off of the interstate as tacoma traffic loomed ahead and started to maneuver the back roads.  the very deserted back roads.  if you know me, you might be surprised to hear that i can be very morbid at times.  i mostly blame my mom for this- well, why not? she did let me watch sweeney todd when i was about 8- and my over active imagination.  so, as jesus and mary ushered me and my two boys, then 7 and not yet 1, through the wooded roads west of fort lewis i did get a little nervous.  and like most nervous people, i started to chat with them.  i asked about their jobs, their kids, where they moved here from, how they liked the weather, anything i could think.  and i also told them all about me. 

i made sure to mention my husband being native- because being white i somehow thought this would earn me points and they wouldn't abduct me and my kids. again, i blame TV and my mom for my situational paranoia- if that is even a term.   i realize that could be somehow racist- but i'm being honest here.  just as it is probably racist to say that i trust hispanic/latino/chicano people that i do not know much more than any other race of people.  no doubt, this is because i grew up in southern california and was a minority as a white person.  i vividly remember the startling moment i looked in the mirror as a young girl and realized i was white with bright blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes.  and i somehow felt the need to communicate some part of this to jesus and mary.  i worried that maybe i just looked like another white mom in a white van with her two half-white kids.  well, i guess that is exactly what i was- but i wanted them to know that i wasn't one of those white moms in a white van...whatever that means.

as the road stretched out and i realized i had no idea where i was part of my brain was coming up with escape plans- i've seen a lot of A Team episodes- that's really my only excuse.  but the bigger part of me was getting to know these nice folks.  jesus had been out of work for a while- he was a mechanic.  mary worked at a retirement center for the very well-to-to military folk.  she had one daughter who was a teenager.  they had moved here from texas.  i got them to laugh once or twice. i decided they weren't driving us to a drop off point in the dense forest.

finally we arrived at the store and the rickety test-machine confirmed that my alternator was dead.  jesus beamed a bit at me.  he wanted me to know that he wasn't lying about it being bunk.  after a long, pregnant wait the man produced the new alternator.  on the way back to the van we stopped at an ATM so i could get out $200 to pay jesus and mary.

as we pulled up to the van the sun was sinking- it was after 9 pm now.  mary held the flashlight so he could install the new alternator- which he did very quickly.  as we waited in the van- a state trooper pulled up to see if we needed anything.  no doubt, three vehicles pulled over in the nisqually river basin looked like a party.  he asked if the other car was with us- nodding to the sedan with the person puking out the passenger door.  no.  they weren't with us. 

soon enough, the van roared back to life.  how many times can you thank someone for helping you like this?  probably not enough.  i imagined that as they drove behind me- to make sure the van was working- that jesus felt good about using his knowledge to help someone out and to earn some money.  i bet mary was proud of him.  or maybe it wasn't that big of a deal to them.  maybe when you are named after a man credited with unconditional love for all folks- maybe part of you takes up that cause too.  maybe it was just another day of them looking around and seeing who needed something that they could offer. 

but for me, being saved by jesus was a big deal.

Monday, August 23, 2010

purpose of the blech

for the past 36 hours or so i've been not feeling too well.  anything i eat makes me feel worse.  like the toast i just ate to try to curb my hungry stomach is now churning about in an uncomfortable way.  i've also had more bloody noses than normal and now my head aches a bit.  faced with these symptoms i am drinking tea, taking baths and naps. 

treating illness is fascinating to me.  the many different ways we all handle it.  the random bits of old country advice- whatever country your ancestors come from- handed out with hopes of healing another.  for example, as a kid when i was sick i remember three main treatments.  first, there was vicks vapor rub.  my mom still swears by this despite some evidence that it can be dangerous for kids.  but this was in the seventies and maybe it wasn't so dangerous then?  she would slather us up with this stuff and try a bandanna around our necks.

the other remedy was flat ginger ale.  i have never understood this.  i think part of it was that we were rarely allowed soda as kids- so it was a treat of sorts.  beyond that i cannot quite figure out how this was supposed to physically help us.  i should ask her.

the other...shutter....was milk toast.  yes, the name is the recipe.  make toast, butter it and pour warm milk over the top.  this was something my grandmother gave to my mom and my mom loved it.  she still does.  again, the mysterious healing powers of it are beyond me.  i haven't had it in years but i do remember eating it.  because when your a sick kid you do almost whatever the adult that loves you tells you to do.  you honestly believe that they can make you better.

maybe in a way they did make me better because it was about comforting to me.  to have my mom, a single mom who usually was at work, stay home and bring me things that i never otherwise ate or drank.  to have her sit next to me and read me stories until i slipped into sleep.

  i cannot remember at time when i was sick or hurting, physically or emotionally, that i didn't feel better after a little bit of comfort.  someone bringing me hot tea or cold water.  a back rub or a cool washcloth.  sometimes just having someone sit next to you and do nothing at all has made me feel protected.  even when i was in labor having someone's hand in mine helped me to feel supported.

sometimes i slip and let myself think erroneous ideas.  for example, i used to think that if i did "the right thing" i would be happy.  i have now since come to realize that being happy is a choice and that sometimes i choose not to be happy- and i'm ok with that.  in that same vein, i sometimes think i would never be ill if i just did "the right thing."  most of this is in hind sight, of course, but there are some choices i could make in my life that would no doubt increase my health.  when i get sick, like now, i start to berate myself a bit about this.

but then i stop and think about the purpose of being ill.  yes, it does strengthen our immune system.  yes, we can learn much about ourselves.  and yes, sometimes being ill is the only way to get a person to slow down and rest.  beyond that i think that illness or dis-ease offers an opportunity for bonding.  for making connection.  for showing affection.  for providing comfort.

this summer both boys had chicken pox.  seren, being 8, understood what was happening and although he was uncomfortable at times he wasn't upset by his illness. cyrus, being 2, did not go so gently into that goodnight.  there was a moment when he was just miserable, so i got into the warm oatmeal bath with him.  i just held him, his pock covered body so weak that it felt like he was asleep but his brown eyes were wide open.  we lay there for a long time- now and then i would add more hot water by turning on the tap with my foot.  i was all he wanted and in that moment i could give all he wanted to him.  which is a gift for the giver and the reciever.

right then i was thankful for the chicken pox because it offered an opportunity to bond with my boys by being able to provide them comfort.  they were able to rely on me for small bits of relief.  then the function of illness to a family, to a society, changed for me.  i thought about what it would be like if a child never got sick, never got upset, never was anything but happy and healthy.  would that really be the ideal?

yes, we can all do our best to stay healthy.  but when we do get sick we can allow ourselves to be comforted.  and when we care for someone who is sick we are healing more than their physical bodies.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

turkey terrific

our neighbors have turkeys again this year.  one tom and two hens.  they will eventually be eaten- not sure that they know this.  they area of the yard they live in parallels the whole rear side of our property.  there is a fence that the birds can easily fly over.  they have demonstrated this several times. 

as soon as they are in our yard they want nothing more than to get back to their side.  usually this is because one of them, most often the tom, is at home a bit freaked out to be separated from his ladies.  as far as physical make-up and vocal abilities the tom has more features.  if he was a vehicle he would be the more souped up version.  he puffs up and struts about if you so much as look at him.  if you look at him and make any noise, a grunt, a hoot, a trill, a gobble- well then, he gets quite feverish about his display of don't-fuck-with-me-or-my-girls.  in terms of cause and effect it is very rewarding to get the turkey to do this.

he does this especially passionately when he gals are over here and he is not.  even more so when we attempt to get the gals back over there-  which involves cornering them and then tossing them back over.  these turkeys are not small either and i have somewhat of a irrational fear of turkeys which stems back to the infamous "turkey terrific" of my childhood in torrance, ca.

here's the setting: my childhood home on 170th street not far from the intersection of crenshaw and artesia.  a definite suburban setting.  however, there were five or so homes on our block with unusually large lots considering the area- ours was about a 1/4 acre.  i lived there until i was 14 and throughout those years we had a large assortment of animal friends: ducks, a tortoise, cats, dogs, a seagull (named sherlock) and this turkey who didn't live with us too long- we eventually did eat him, although it's never  been clear to me if that was the intention all along or if we just grew to hate him so much that it was a reasonable revenge.

let me explain.  turkey terrific was mean.  this could be because he had no female companion.  and when someone is lonely they can turn on you.  what i remember most about this turkey is that he ran very fast right at me.  there was a span of my life when i was terrified to go in the backyard because the turkey, whose head looks much like a vultures, if you look closely, would charge at me with his bustle all up and his wings all splayed and his spongy neck flesh all bright red while he made some kind of hissing-like noise.  he was my height to top it all off.

the only thing he did other than attack me was defend the lawn mower.  we had a beat-to-shit red gas lawn mower that the turkey loved dearly.  he would strut around it fairly often trying to impress it with his prowess.  and when he decided that she, if a boat can have a gender- why not a lawn mower?- had been sufficiently wooed by this he would mount the machine and flutter about clumsily until satisfied with his performance.  then he'd go back to attacking me.  need less to say, we didn't mow the lawn much that summer.

i have this very clear memory of turkey terrific that i'm not sure is real.  my brother should be consulted.  my birthday is in the summer and i remember having a birthday party- outside of course.  somehow my mother, it must have been her, had pinned the turkey to a fence by his spongy-neck thing...what are those called? that he could not chase anymore.  and i mean pin- as in she took a large safety pin, pushed it through is a wattle?....and then hooked this onto the chain link.   i remember being fascinated by his purplish eyelids and the sheen of his feathers.  up close i could almost see his beauty behind his evilness.  with so many giggly young girls close by the bird became upset and in that state of excitement ripped free of his torture.  he then dove at us with a ferociousness that was horrifying.  girls went screeching about with their summer dresses in daisy prints streaming out behind them like a comet's tail.  several were crying, pretty sure i was one of them. not my best birthday party.

we ate him that thanksgiving.  a neighbor slaughtered him for us and did all the things to a dead animal you need to do in order to eat him- which i am still mostly unclear about.  my neighbors, no doubt, know this routine.  they've gone through it with turkeys and fryer chickens for several years now.  i believe it's the mom who uses the hatchet.  she was in the marine corp before she had kids.

her kids have no fear of turkeys or really mean roosters.  when the lady turkeys are in our yard, their youngest daughter- who is around 10 now- comes over and walks right up to them without any hesitation.  she pins the wings down and tossing them over the wire fence as if she was throwing a pillow onto a newly made bed.  of course, this is the same gal would enter the chicken coop with a tennis racket to deal with their rowdy rooster.  but that's a whole other story.

i like to watchand now as a mom would spends most of her time with two boys ages 2 and 8- i can totally understand how not having a peer around can make you a wee-bit crazy.  sometimes you just need to reach out to whatever is there- i've been known to talk to my oven.  as long as it doesn't start to talk back- i'm not worried.

Friday, August 20, 2010


80X is the route number for the county connector in the lexicon of SKAT, which is the odd acronym for the public transit system where i live in skagit county.  this bus travels about 35 miles each way between here and there- there being whatcom county north of us.  it's a pleasant ride and costs $3 a trip which is a lot less expensive that driving our 1986 Ford F150 there and back.  so that was the plan for today.

the 80X departs at 8:45, so i hustle the kids out of the house by a bit after 8 which takes a good bit of "encouraging" because during the summer, just like the sun, we stay up very late.  seren pleaded to sleep in despite the greatness of our destination.  i did at one point bribe him with the promise of a co-op muffin- knowing he would pick the one that is little better than cake.  he did.  we made it to the station by 8:30.

we waited for the doors on the bus to open along with the small crowd of north-bound characters- and to me this is the highlight of riding the bus.  reducing carbon emissions, saving money, enjoying the smooth ride- it's all secondary to observing the odd beast we humans are  and wondering what is going on in their lives, going on in their heads.

as we waited a man emerged from the transit center.  he stood out immediately in the white-washed downtown area because of his race:  african-american.  he was in his forties, i would guess.  he had on white and black basketball shoes, a large athletic coat, black sweats and had in ear buds under this head band and baseball cap that perched on his head at slight angle.  he was also carrying a very large box which added to his uniqueness.  the box was held together, barely, with packing tape strips.  he plunked this down on the curb and retreated.  he came out again with another similar box.  he did this again.  the boxes slid off of each other.  one landed in the curb.  no one moved to right it.

the bus driver opened the doors so we could file in.  i watched out the window as he returned to the bus with two large pieces of luggage: an enormous gym bag and a black garbage bag knotted at the top.  as he walked, his wallet fell out of his pocket and landed on the sidewalk.   i got up to tell him, but he noticed it after he crossed the road and jogged back to pick it up.  i sat back down.  the bus driver convinced him to use the lift to load his belongings.  as he did, she felt compelled to tell him that "riders are only usually allowed three parcels."  she wanted him to know she was doing him a favor- something you do for people you like usually, but her tone was condescending, as if he should have known better.   as he heaved around his awkward and heavy bundles he explained to her, "i just got out of PCN."

anytime someone uses acronyms it spikes interest.  i saw ears perk up.  i know what PCN stands for, and i was surprised that he would so willingly share this info with a snotty bus driver and the surrounding strangers.  sure enough, as soon as the man got settled into the gray bucket seat, another gentleman, quite chatty and just riding the bus to have something to do-  that's what he announced to the driver as he boarded- asked him what PCN was, to which he was given the correct answer "pioneer center north."  which obviously says nothing about what it is. 

"you got a lot of stuff with you" replied the curious guy rather than following up with the next obvious question.  maybe he also knew that PCN is rehab- a drug and alcohol treatment center in sedro woolley.

"yeah," explains the man as he shifts in his seat, "i had all my stuff with me when i got arrested.  i was living out of my car.  this is just about a quarter of it.  i lost the rest of it."  i got the impression that lost didn't mean he misplaced it somewhere, but i still wondered where it all was.

no one said, "oh really, what'd ya get hauled in for?"   rehab, homeless, arrest: that's a conversation killer. the bus rolled through traffic.  no one talked to him after that except when the bus driver asked him to move closer to his stuff in case it tumbled off the seats.

after we crossed the skagit river i saw a deer grazing on the side of the freeway not far from costco.  i've never seen a deer out there before.  there's just not enough habitat.  i deeply appreciate deers but it made me sad to see it.  i wanted someone to save it before it needed to be saved.  i get that feeling sometimes.

i was several rows behind the man and his looming, lurching luggage.   i wanted to offer some kind of encouragement to him, give him some small bit of acknowledgment that would help him with his re-entry into his life.  maybe rehab did change him, but most likely it didn't change his best friend or his partner or his bed at the  shelter.  could i somehow help this man's reality by simply being nice?  like when someone hands him a beer or a pipe or a needle he's going say, "well,  i don't need that.  that white girl said to take care and she smiled at me.  so i'll pass."   it sounds naive, i know, but i do believe that on some level.  i think polite conversation can help fight off the fear, guilt and shame that drives many people to use and abuse.  it may not slay anyone's demons but it certainly helps sharpen the sword.

at the same time i was hesitant to talk with him- not because of the addiction, homelessness and arrest.  the arrest was likely due to the homelessness.  in many places it is illegal to sleep in your car.  (it is in bellingham where all sorts of atrocious laws exist like "no sitting on the sidewalk.")  the homelessness was probably related to the addiction.  maybe he drank away his paycheck and couldn't afford the rent.  or maybe he got a UA at work and was fired and then couldn't pay the rent.  maybe his wife threw him out.  perhaps he was a veteran suffering from the war long after the battle had been fought.  in any case, i've known lots of addicts. i've loved a few- so i know that they are humans looking to ease some hurt. 

my hesitation was more due to the fact that he so readily shared all of this information with a bus load of strangers.  deeply personal information.  i pondered my reaction to his divulging nature.  i wouldn't say that i am a guarded person- i share my pain and embarrassment with people.  i just have always been made uncomfortable by over sharing.  i am hesitant to enter into a conversation with someone who i am afraid will tell me more information than i need to know.  i never know what kind of visuals i could get stuck in my head or what type of emotional rescue i might get sucked into because on some level i will feel compelled to try to make it better.  this could be just my nature or back lash from being a human resource manager.  maybe a combo of the two.

i wanted to tell this man that his confession was not going to win any sympathy with this crowd even though i don't know if he wanted it.  i thought that some folks would use this scenario only to reinforce their own prejudice against his race. i didn't tell him anything though, and maybe he already knew all those things.  my husband is not white and sometimes he breaks social norms just to shake things up; as a way of saying, very bluntly, that he doesn't play by the rules because the rules suck.  more often than not, the rules do suck if you are a minority or experiencing homelessness or getting out of rehab and needing to take the 80X back home with more than three pieces of luggage.  when we got to bellingham we went our way as he struggled with his baggage.   

even now, i keep thinking about him.  the sun is going down and it's been a long day.  his world has possibilities in it that it did not have in it last night.  i am seeing him walking outside in the fresh night air and he is breathing in the crispness of a summer night.  every green leaf he sees shows him that growth is a part of life.  every ripe black berry sings of nature's sweetness.  each step his body takes fuels him toward his destination and tells of his strength.  i see him in a good space, and i hope that the stuff he lost was the stuff that was just weighing him down.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

going to seed

what i like about mowing the lawn is that it is like vacuuming a really dirty rug.  there's the before and after picture that is rewarding.  it's the "i did that" feeling especially since the lawn doesn't get mowed as often as some other lawns i could talk about.  other than that- i like little else about lawn mowing.  i do it mostly to keep the weeds from going to seed, and i do that mostly from peer pressure from neighbors.  silent peer pressure peppered with coy remarks that are encoded with the message: mow your lawn!

we have several lawn mowers- funny, i know.  i typically use the basic push mower.  the engine exhaust blows out in front or maybe it's the wind from the turn of the blades that causes the blades in front of me to quiver a bit.  this at least gives the moths and frogs warning enough, or so i tell myself.  when i find frogs i move them to the un-mow-able parts of the lawn and i apologize to them silently.  not sure they understand why my neighbor's opinions are have more weight than there's.  i don't entirely get this either.  yes, so we have some well rooted resident weed colonies in our half-acre chunk of land.  let me introduce you to them.

buttercup.  pretty delicate yellow flowers that grow in clumps, mostly in soggy ground.  rumor has it if you eat enough of these they will poison you.  i have no beef with buttercups.  sometimes i sing to little buttercup has the sweetest smile.

dandelion. you know these guys.  they amaze me with their speed of reincarnation.  i can mow them and almost watch them push up new blossoms within 2 days.  you can make wine from them and some documentary once told me their milk can be made into rubber.  they is dandy, me thinks.

morning glory, aka bind weed.  she's a beauty with a tad bit too much ambition.  if she could just leave well enough alone- but no.  she wants more, more, that billy idol song.  i weed whack her regularly because she kills everything she touches.  typical femme fatal.

thistle.  how many cries have erupted after tromping barefoot on these bristly bad boys?  so many.  the first year we lived here i would always forget to wear shoes outside and then be stuck amidst a mine field of thorns.  the next year i bought a specially designed tool, now since lost by boys using it as weapon, that popped them up.  you need gloves -thick ones- to handle all but the smallest of thistle babes.  the stocks are woody and sometimes i have to use the big loppers to snip them off.  they require the most gear, the special tools and these disappear regularly, so the thistles that manage to sprout where the mower cannot reach have the best chance of making it to their goal: going to seed.

but here's my confession about thistles.  as they mature into full-thorned mamas, i find them alluring.  their feathery purple blooms that pop out atop that green head. the angles of their leaves and the white needles gleaming.  their indestructible seeds that love your compost pile.  they are worthy of worship as is their cousin, the glorious artichoke.

today during nap time i wandered outside.  i surveyed my very small garden and the army of volunteer weedy soldiers and noticed, both sheepishly and a bit gleefully, that some thistles were blooming. ( in the background i could hear my neighbor mowing her lawn.  i felt her looking my way, i think.)   the proverbial angel and devil materialized on my shoulder but they couldn't figure out what action they were routing for.  the angel liked the look of the thistle but wanted the approval of the neighbor.  the devil grinned at the teeth-like needles but kinda wanted to see the thistle chopped down just to witness some destruction.

as i stood there a bee came and landed on the thistle top.  the bee was joined by another and they milled about, got loaded up with thistle pollen powder then flew off.  i know that this means the thistle could go to seed, but more importantly to me- it means that the bees got fed!  they got some nice organic thistle lovin and they are probably sharing the booty right now with the hive.  unpacking their pollen pouches saying, "man, check this out!  i got the rare pure dust this time!"

bees really need flower loving that has not been sprayed with pesticides.  ever hear about colony collapse?  well, turns out...big surprise here...that the toxins from flowers wind up in the bees wax where baby bee larvae live.  toxin cribs cause damage and a whole generation of bees die.   the painful irony of this is almost cartoonish in nature.  we want pretty flowers so we spray this crap on it to kill off the bad bugs.  maybe we even want pretty flowers cuz we like bees a bit..who knows.  but our spray kills off the bees and so the flowers don't get pollinated and then the flowers don't go to seed.  we can easily spiral off of that sad reality to what this does to fruits trees, squash, tomatoes- all the goodies we eat thanks to the bees' hard work.

i get that all little bugs have a purpose and that taking one being out of an ecosystem screws up the whole thing- so i hesitate to elevate bees to a position of more importance than say, dung beetles, but really - if there is one insect that we should respect- if not outright worship!- IT IS THE BEES!  so for now- let the thistles bloom, damn it!  i'll cut off their heads after the bees have dusted themselves up good.

or maybe this year i'll let the thistles go to seed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


i watched the tv show fame as often as i could growing up.  it came out when i was 6-  it warped my mind, i'm sure.  high school- all three of them that i attended- were no comparison for what i was hoping for.  i wanted to break out in spontaneous dances on the fold- down tables.  i wanted my classmates to sing out their teen angst in acid wash with aqua-netted hair.  i wanted sax solos played out in front of the restroom where girls put on make-up that their parents didn't allow. and, yes, i wanted to pay in sweat.

instead high school was much like the previous eight years of my experience in public schools.  i did what i was told.  i did worksheets enough to paper the moon over twice and i liked it because i was supposed to like it.  i was never asked to take any real risks by doing something that scared me.  i got good grades with minimal effort.  i didn't stand out as amazing nor delinquent.   i was another average white girl.

flash forward about 20 years-

when i moved to new mexico, i got a job at the public academy for performing arts, a new charter school for teens.  they danced for PE, had acting classes, took band and voice.  apparently some of them were in films and could only come to school when they weren't on the set.  since it was a charter school kids got in on a lottery system- not on talent.  some kids were there just because they didn't want to be somewhere else.   they all seemed like regular kids to me.  regular kids who didn't want to do the homework i assigned them cuz reading "1984" didn't feel important to them in light of their own personal dramas. 

being people, they were all fascinating to me.  there was jesse, the jewish kid with bushy hair who made me laugh whenever he reenacted the arguments of his grandparents from brooklyn.  caleb- the first out gay student i ever had who had piercing blue eyes and flirted endlessly.  jasmine- who painted a picture for her final project in english class that just floored me. luke, the slacker skater graffiti artist who dropped out to make adobe houses with his dad.  mike, a dine artist who lived in a church and played christain rock.

i remember one dancer in particular, crystal.  her mother was a tyrant on the board and was determined that her daughter would be a ballet dancer.  as her peers grew legs like storks and sprouted buns atop their heads, crystal remained a bit stocky and covered with freckles.  the school would had talent shows fairly often, probably cuz there was just so much damn talent!  most of the girls who danced did so either to bootie-slapping-hip-hop, shocking parents with moves that looked like vertical sex or ballet swans in pale pink leggings with arms long like noodles.

except for this gal.  she came out in a leopard print leotard, her face painted like a cat and her red hair wild.  some kids snickered.  as the music kicked in, rapid drums and crazy horns, she broke out into a contemporary dance piece that involved a lot of feline impersonating, which involves a lot of rolling on the floor, clawing at the air, hissing, and sprinting about in chase of imaginary objects.  you seen cats do this.  probably haven't seen a 13 year old do it in front of her entire school.  it was a first for me.

what i remember most about her dance, as i watched enthralled, was the intensity of her.  it wasn't that she had mad skills-  she was average in her abilities.  it was that she was in her element expressing something that was so potent even the pains of being a 13 year old named after a soap opera character, as she was, couldn't keep it bottled in her.  she was so taken with dance that her drive to perform overcame her fear.  she was snagged by a passion that pulled her out of her own life, her own story, her own skin.  she was being danced.  in that moment it did feel like she could live forever, that she could learn how to fly.  high!  and it was so much better than the tv show.

(cue fame theme music...)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


my mom told me about these hummingbirds.  it's worth sharing...albeit i did flesh it out a bit! 

 one night the wind and rain swept through the trees with a fierceness that surprises most.  inside people peeked out through the curtains or maybe dashed out to roll up the car windows.  most sleep well under the pattering of rain drops.  in the morning the lawn was littered with brittle branches that just couldn't quite hold on anymore. 

on the end of one thin branch was a small bird nest,  and in the small bird nest, huddled against the elements, were some very, very small baby hummingbirds.   a woman found them as she walked from her home to her car.  she looked down at them and was astonished that these fragile little beings had weathered the storm.  they were like living jewels, rare and mesmerizing.  she gently picked up the branch as she scanned about for the mama bird.  most likely, she worried about the mama being frantic for the loss of her home and babies.  but being a mama herself, maybe she realized how little time she had before these glimmering bird buds died.  she took them in.

no doubt, it took her a bit to figure out how to care for such small birds.  maybe she asked a librarian for a book or maybe she just googled it.  she probably didn't ask the ranger who could report her for illegally housing wildlife or some such nonsense.   in any case, she learned to feed them but was wary of leaving them at home alone.  who knows what kind of mischief they could get in even though they couldn't yet fly.

so, this clever lady found a way to clamp the branch onto the dash of her car.  this way she could drive about and have the hummingbird babies nearby.  they were her co-pilots.

imagine you are this small bird in a small nest.  most nests are fairly still.  of course, the wind blows the boughs but they usually don't break.  the world is at rest until you take your first flight.  as you swoop down from that nest the green grass blurs, the ground rushes at you- suddenly your life is in fast motion.  your instinct kicks in and you flap your wings frantically.  you are simply hard-wired that way.  the faster the ground reaches out, the quicker the blurring, the faster you flap! 

as the car began to maneuver about, the curious birds noticed the world whirling around them.  they climbed up out of the nest's bowl and sat perched on the edge, no doubt to get a better view.  then their tiny brains tried to make sense of the speed they were traveling at.  the trees rushing past them, the clouds and sky streaming by- "of course!" their brains told them, "we are flying!"

and so the small hummingbird babies did just what their brains told them to- they flapped their shimmering wings as they motored about town on their dash board perch.  i bet they were so proud of their first flight- going 65 mph.

eventually they grew up and were released to live their lives sipping at flowers and being followed by the adoration of people.  maybe they weren't like all the other hummingbirds around the feeders- maybe they always did fly on the right side of the yellow lines and stop for every red light. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

think less, write more

my favorite question is "what if?"- that one often gets me into trouble in my head.  it is a great place to start when writing though.  "what if i started to blog?" i asked myself one day.  i was inspired by a local artist, jessica bonin, who has a blog called "one a day."  each day she posts a piece of art that she has created that day.  the idea being that having a blog would help keep her accountable.  after viewing her daily contributions to the beauty in the world i started to imagine what writing each day would be like.

the next question i often ask myself is "why?"  and the answer here is simple.  writing is something that i enjoy but do not yet do often enough.  the more i write, the more i write.  and so- here is my blog.

as i was zipping through the fields to get this thing up and going the naming of the blog popped up.  normally i would think a lot about something like naming a blog.  but with my two boys milling about around me i wondered what they would name my blog.  at that moment, the naked 2 year old we call Cyrus demanded "mama, up!"  he is now laying in my lap nursing as i write this, and he has the honor of having named my blog.

the more i think on it- the perfectness of the name grows on me.  mamas help folks get up all the time.  we pick up and sometimes we give up.  this blog will help me giddy up.