Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Love’s Labour’s Won

Summer ignited, soul burst alive
Newly more completely myself
I danced for joy, then realized
By shedding my layers
Down
Down
Deeper
I was also shedding
Connections native to those layers
And you with them.

Autumn creaked in, decaying and hopeless
And all the leaves flared up
Obscuring my vision, making you
Impossible to find, but
Down
Down
Deeper
I was still searching
For a direct line
From my core to yours.

Winter laid all things bare, cooled the air
And you blazed your own path
To the center where the things that matter
Live and grow and dance
Down
Down
Deeper
We were finally reveling in
The true value of ourselves
Individually and together.

Spring fairly oozed with love wrapped in birdsong
All the rose and jasmine and citrus flowers
Prolific and heady and most deliciously
In perpetual bloom
Down
Down
Deeper
We were busily embroidering
The walls with stars
To light our way home.

————–

Thor and I have had quite a year. A partnership unraveling, stuttering toward recovery, and then thundering so far past our previous markers of good, great, and phenomenal that I can no longer clearly recall our former way of being.

We almost lost one another.

No one’s fault, just a simple matter of having drifted away from our own hearts and therefore each other’s.

And now we are found.

   
   

Tiny Adorable Reading Depository in Space

A couple of weeks ago Thor put the finishing touches on our delightful little TARDIS library.

 
I drew up some labels to put on the chosen books, mostly ones we either have duplicates of or were really good but unlikely to read again, and we stocked the shelves.

It is water-tight, which we were fortunate enough to discover on its first day out (California is attempting to chisel away the drought one drizzle at a time… wish us luck), and a great average height for kids and grownups. A few books have already been “checked out” and I’ve spotted my students’ family members reading while they wait outside during lessons. 

It has been particularly fun to watch the elderly dog walkers rubberneck as they pass by! We are already those hippies with solar on the roof and vegetables replacing lawn, so this was really the inevitable next step.

  

Not sure which is cuter, the mad man or his box. :-) Thanks, Thor!

Kuwanlelenta

I adore all industrious souls who, when faced with a problem, craft a creative response rather than uselessly wringing hands.

My friend Frida is such a person. Friend, acquaintance, or beloved institution in need? She is there, plotting, strategizing, donating her considerable talents.

Frida’s daughter attends a really wonderful school that is facing serious budget constraints unless they meet their fundraising goals this spring. What to do?

Self-publish a children’s book. Naturally.

And not just any children’s book. Kuwanlelenta is a brand-new myth, inspired by the spectacular Artist’s Palette in Death Valley. Frida’s watercolor illustrations are rich and imaginative, the story is fun and lyrical, and her protagonist is a curious, creative, animal-lover your kids will adore, and more than likely pretend to be… Especially while painting!

If you, like me, know a good thing when you see it, you’ll want to grab one of these books (or several — never hurts to squirrel away a few easy-to-store birthday presents, right?) pronto. $20 per book (plus a few bucks shipping if you aren’t local) needs to be in Frida’s hands by May 15th and your book(s) will make their way to you no later than June 15th — which just so happens to be my birthday! So celebrate me with an awesome children’s book for a great cause… You will totally thank me later.

Contact Frida at kuwanlelenta@outlook.com to ask questions or place an order. Enjoy!

Singing at the Threshold

“Excuse me, Wanda*. My name is Deirdre* and I’m here with Threshold Choir. Would you like us to sing for you today?”

“Hmm?”

“We are here to sing if you’d like.”

Curious expression unchanged.

“Would you like a few songs?”

Slow, impossibly delighted grin. “That would be lovely, yes, thank you.”

And so begins my first afternoon of bedside singing.

Last December, as my grandma’s grip on this world was slowly loosening, my friend and cello student Pythia* happened to mention her mother’s involvement in Threshold Choir. I believe she had referred to it in passing before but this was the first time we’d discussed it at any length. I immediately recognized the group as mine as clearly as if it had borne my signature, and in early January I attended my first rehearsal.

Within moments I knew my hunch was correct. These were my people, a small group of women varied in age, occupation, and temperament all called to musical heart-work. And this was music that spoke to me, a huge, eclectic bundle of songs intended to soothe and buoy the wild soul encased in failing flesh. We sang softly, voices delicately blended together, gently moving from unison to harmony and back again at a slight gesture from whomever was leading for the moment.

To my amusement, I found myself heralded for my music-reading fluency and willingness to carry any part needed. Sometimes I am so locked into the infinite quest for musical mastery that I forget to take pleasure in the skills I have already dialed in. This was a pleasant, welcome reminder.

Over the next several rehearsals I came to experience the singular joy that is singing, Threshold Choir style, which encompasses not only the music-making thrill I remember from my childhood and young adulthood in assorted choirs, but also the companionable silence between close friends, the introspective growth of a therapy session, the quiet devotion of a convent, the spark of endless possibility inherent in casting a circle.

Now this week, nearly four months later, I am “graduating” to bedside singer. Singing to the dying is oddly comfortable. Deeply meaningful, musically satisfying, emotionally strengthening… Just one more of those many little and not-so-little pieces that have been falling into place lately.

  

*names changed, of course

Introducing Sparkle and Scratchel

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We have chickies! Sweet three week old little chickens. The lighter one is a cream legbar that Owlet named “Sparkle” and the darker one is an isbar that Platypup named “Scratchel.”

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Our cats are beyond intrigued, but the coop Thor built will keep the babies safe.

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Isn’t it adorable?

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The kids are terribly impatient to hold them but are otherwise enchanted.

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They were bedding down for the night when I went out after dinner to turn on their heat lamp and despite my presence dozed off while I was watching.

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The bunnies seem unfazed by their wacky new neighbors.

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Come September we will have gorgeous and tasty eggs!

SB277 is not the answer

You may have heard about a little vaccine bill worming its way through the California legislature. SB277, aka WTF (because it goes Way Too Far).

Now, I am not a rabid anti-vaxxer. Far from it — though a couple of my dear friends are. But very few of the parents I know, including many of my fellow pro-vaxxers, follow the current vaccine schedule to the letter, and before you let loose on that nice looking stone you’ve got there, are you 100℅ up to date on your shots? Heh.

We vaccinate slightly behind schedule and omit a handful based on our doctor’s advice.

We vaccinate because the science is fairly clear on the issue and because the risks of complications are slim and the dangers of the diseases themselves are huge.

And because I am friends with enough scientists to know they are not all in on some grand conspiracy. In fact, scientists as a whole are among the least likely to do something of that nature due to their daily pursuit of empirical evidence.

We vaccinate because we have known and loved immune-compromised individuals who need our protection.

If I may pull out my favorite analogy, vaccinations are not an invisibility cloak. No scientist worth their salt would claim them to be. Vaccines are more like camouflage. Healthy unvaccinated folks are wearing normal clothing but generally no flamboyant colors. Immune-compromised individuals are wearing bright orange. This helps explain why vaccinated individuals do sometimes get sick anyway, especially if surrounded by a higher than average number of people in civvies or orange. This also helps explain why some unvaccinated individuals avoid catching what goes around. Those people were lucky enough to dress in earth tones.

Given all of the above, why am I not over the moon about SB277?

Because I’m pro-choice. Because winning people over does not and never has worked by force. And a very selfish reason: who says the latest vaccine to arrive on the heels of this bill won’t be horrendously dangerous or simply unnecessary?

There’s still time to derail this foolhardy, shortsighted proposed legislation. In order of most to least effective, fax, snail mail, call, or email these Senators before April 15th:

Education Committee
Senator Liu (Chair) Undecided
Senator.liu@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.liu@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 5097
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4025
Fax: (916) 651-4925
 
 
Senator Huff – (Vice Chair) Undecided- has asked for more info
Senator.huff@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.huff@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 305
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.651.4029
Fax: 916.651.4929
 
 
Senator Marty Block (co-auth) Supports
Senator.block@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.block@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 4072
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4039
Fax: (916) 651-4939
 
 
Senator Hancock, Undecided
Senator.hancock@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.hancock@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 2082
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4009
Fax: (916) 651-4909
 
 
Senator Tony Mendoza, Undecided
Senator.mendoza@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.mendoza@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 5061
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4032
Fax: (916) 651-4932
 
 
Senator Vidak, Undecided
Senator.vidak@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.vidak@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 3082
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.651.4014
Fax: 916.651.4914
 
 
Senator Connie Levya, Undecided
Senator.leyva@senate.ca.gov<mailto:Senator.leyva@senate.ca.gov
State Capitol, Room 4061,
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4020
Fax: (916) 651-4920

The Gardener and the Witch

The gardener grew, as gardeners do, in fertile soil
A farm surrounded by forest, by brambles and meadows and streams
Where property lines are drawn with moss-covered stones.

The witch was cast, as witches are, in earth’s palm
Wild imagination, story-fed, danced from season to season
Befriending maple and toad, cat and fern, lake and muck, stars and stones.

The gardener transplanted, to stretch out his roots a little
Swapping forest for cornfield, trading stone walls for brick paths
Drinking in friendship like sunlight and music like rain.

The witch was drawn by oaks and elms and sycamores
Into flight, and landed where her bare feet delighted in bricks wise and worn
Drinking in friendship like sunlight and music like rain.

The gardener soon saw how well her branches and his intertwined
The witch could feel that their stories together would weave
So he planted love in the ground where they stood and she sealed it with a spell.

Thirteen years later, the gardener is still sowing and nurturing and harvesting
And the witch is beside him, guiding and shaping and protecting
Their home: an orchard of magic and hope, light and love.

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13 to 31

Swap the digits and behold
How child turns to mother
How fragile becomes bold

Maternal cocoon lost, greatly mourned
Daughter once shattered
Now re-formed.

Wisdom longed for
Loving arms craved
Sheltering comfort destroyed

All now spring up
From within and around
A renewable source: heart, re-joyed.

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This Solstice brought to you by the letter B, the letter C, and the number 4

It’s been awhile since I wrote regularly. Things have been shifting in ways that are difficult to put into words, and lately I’m finding myself fueled by more active ways of feeding my soul: doing “my thing,” of course, first and foremost, but also music-making, reading out loud with Thor (lately, he’s been reading Debora Geary to me while I frantically try to finish a knitting project in time for Christmas), and lots of yoga.

Tonight seems right to get caught up a little, to honor the passing season and in particular the turning point that Solstice seems to be for me this year. As I mentally flip back the calendar pages, I am amused to discover a few common threads, which I shall share with you, Sesame Street style.

***This update on Platypup and Owlet brought to you by the letter B.***

B is for Beds. Specifically, bunkbeds (double points!) lovingly handcrafted by Thor over the past several months. Platypup has always slept in our bed. Naps were more variable but nighttime was always in with us. This was intentional; looking back on the various sleeping arrangements we tried with Owlet, being in bed with us was by far the best in terms of minimizing sleep interruptions as well as easiest on the heart. All kid-parent combos are different; this is what worked for ours.

Owlet had been at least beginning the night in her own room starting at about 20mo, but over the summer my old strategy of having Platypup lying on my belly while we put Owlet to sleep in her twin bed (both kids nursing) and then transferring him to our bed stopped being feasible due to Platypup becoming one hefty sack of flour. Thor had been helping when he wasn’t working, but in the summers he works almost every night. Solo parenting bedtime was a lot more manageable when I began putting both kids to sleep in our bed every night, especially knowing the bunkbeds were in the works and they weren’t going to be there indefinitely.

But now the bunkbeds are complete! And gorgeous. And effective… Sometimes they ask to sleep in our bed instead, but only once have we actually begun the night there since they were completed (Thor was working overnight in the city and I thought it would be cozy. And warmer! I was right). They come in with us sometimes if they wake in the night and other times both are there till morning. The first few nights Thor and I were both stunned by dreaming returning full-force, and I was irritated but entertained to discover I lost the ability to roll over in my sleep at some point in the past five years, resulting in some pretty sore arm joints most mornings.

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B is for Breastfeeding. Drumroll please… Owlet self-weaned! Once summer ended and Thor stopped working every night, I oh so delicately, serenely — nay, angelically — suggested he might want to take every possible bedtime for the foreseeable future. Side effect: no more routine bedtime milk. It faded out really quickly. First both were still nursing the nights Nils had to work, then just Platypup since I told Owlet she had to choose between nursing and having me reading to her (hard to hold a book with two latched on) and she often chose to read, and then both just sort of forgot about it as Daddy’s dairy-free routine became the norm. (Woooooo!) Platypup still nurses some mornings, but if I’m not up for it I can distract him by mentioning breakfast.

B is for Books. Owlet has been reading to herself since a little before she turned four (I know, freakishly early, and not our doing — she just really got into it), but now she is totally speedy and while she still prefers to be read to, she also can be found increasingly often tucked cozily into some nook or other with blanket and book. Also on the subject of books, due to the aforementioned bunkbeds and lack of bedtime breastfeeding, I do a lot more reading at night, and Owlet is totally into chapter books. We’ve been indulging in some of my very favorites, like Pippi Longstocking and Ramona, and I can’t wait to pull out my boxes of childhood books from the garage and share them all with her. Platypup usually falls asleep right away, but sometimes he writhes around getting his blankets settled first. I’m not sure how much of the story he is following as he drifts off, but I can tell he’s listening.

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B is for Boisterousness. Holy hell! Two kids are crazy pants. It doesn’t matter whether they are having fun or terrorizing one another, there is a lot of energy rampaging through our house all the frikkin time. Owlet was on the quiet side, especially before Platypup was born, so this snowballing explosion of insanity was rather overwhelming at first. Still is, some days, though we are getting our sea legs somewhat.

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B is for Bunnies. We moved them inside for the rainy season and it is perfect timing; the kids are old enough to really pet them (and in Owlet’s case, to hold them carefully) and help make sure they don’t chew on any stray books or pajamas that may be lost under the couch. So they are getting out of the cage a lot more than the last time they lived indoors with us.

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***This update on me-beyond-parenting brought to you by the letter C.***

C is for Change. There’s been a lot of new stuff going on around here. All of the above speaks to change, of course. And I’ve written some about my own changes, especially in finding a spiritual practice that suits me so entirely. (I’m out of the broom closet now — proudly wiccan. Still atheist, although a friend of a friend mentioned animism recently which also fits.) Thor and I have been changing, too, in really important good ways that are occasionally terribly uncomfortable and ultimately make us stronger. There is a whole ton of open, honest, willingly vulnerable conversation flowing between us and I would take this beautiful ever-evolving partnership we have now over who we were a year ago or two or five or twelve without hesitation, every time.

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C is for Courage and Conviction. If you’ve known me awhile, you may laugh; I’ve not generally lacked for either. But I’m mastering a whole new level here, mostly due to an increasing trust in my own intuition. This includes getting around to saying things when things need to be said without stressing over them for long and knowing from deep within my core whether a particular action should be taken or not.

C is for Creativity. Not just of the artsy kind, either. Yes, I’ve been songwriting and knitting and inventing my own branch of witchcraft (tee hee) but I’m also learning to cast a wider net when the usual options are failing. No solution is too outlandish to at least consider for a moment, and the impact on my daily interactions with kids, Thor, students, and friends has been substantial. I’m more fluid and at least a teensie tiny bit less stubborn.

C is for Connection. It is getting easier to deepen relationships with those around me as well as reach out to far-flung family and friends. I’ve struggled and mostly failed in the past to keep up with my siblings, college friends, and extended family, only partially consoled by our ability to snap back together like pop beads whenever we visit one another. I’m far from perfect, but I’m doing a lot better, and my college best friend and I actually have an established day and time to chat, which is no small feat for two employed people with small children, and are talking at least a few times a month. I cannot tell you how good that feels.

C is for Centered. I am not immune to the ups and downs of daily life. I still yell at my kids. I still screw up, all over the place some days. I don’t have any illusions of being mistaken for His Holiness the Dalai Lama anytime ever. But. But I come back to center so easily these days. Right now I’m working on and getting better at letting difficult emotions run through me for a solid, unsteady moment and then depart, leaving me able to catch my balance and move on in a way that feels even more healthy than all the flax and burdock root in the world (though both of the above are pretty super).

And the number 4? Well, I have a family of four, am one of four siblings, routinely gather in a group of four close friends, have a four year old (who not infrequently acts like a fourteen year old), and really ought to yell “fore!” just as a matter of course on my funky winding path through this life.

Oh, and of course it’s still 2014 for another week and a half. Happy Solstice, everyone! May this darkest night bring you peace and healing and big piles of warm things like cats and blankets.

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When You’re Smiling

I was a serious child and a shy one, prone to gazing mutely at enthusiastic adults with solemn, enormous eyes if I wasn’t in the mood for interaction.

My grandmother Millie was the opposite: vivacious as all get out, gutsy of voice and broad of smile.

“When you’re smiling,” she’d sing in her smoky alto, shimmying up a storm, “when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…”

I don’t know how any person survives losing first a spouse, then a daughter within a handful of years, but she did so in a way that embraced both life and grief wholeheartedly.

Her religion is not mine, but there was common ground where it mattered: in services on the beach at sunrise, in sitting quietly with the memory of loved ones at sunset, in music of all sorts.

She lived to be 94 years old. Ninety-four and a half, actually. Can you fathom it? That’s exactly three times as old as I am, almost to the day. She lived to see all of her grandchildren reach adulthood, to meet her great-granddaughter. And in the most graceful of all possible exits, her curtain call was just enough to give fair warning. Then, this past Thursday, December 11th, 2014, she drifted off to sleep one final time.

I showed Owlet and Platypup photos and told all the stories I could think of. Platypup thought the one where Millie is holding infant me was of “Gama Jack” (Grandma Jackie) at first.

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When I went out to honor her memory last night, I felt my lineage flare up within me more strongly than ever before. I felt how she had made my mom, my wonderful gem of a mother, and, in making her, had made me. Surrounded by the objects of my choosing — the first and last photos of she and I together, my mother’s ashes, a lilac-scented candle because lilacs always remind me of my mom, a sprig of fresh rosemary, a blue jay feather from Thor’s mother, three treasured stones (mugglestone, rose quartz, and blue lace agate), mom’s candle snuffer, and a scattering of lavender — I sent my love and said goodbye.

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