We spotted the first crocuses of the year this week!
This is the first week in ages and ages when I had just a normal workload, not a bananas one. And I felt a bit like a cat in winter, prowling the house trying all the doors but balking at walking through any of them. Last weekend I had actual free time and no idea what to do with it—or rather, too many ideas, a bewildering array of options and a seeming inability to commit to any of them.
(I used to be like this as a kid whenever I came home from the library with a pile of books. Couldn’t pick which to read first, and sometimes it would take me days to make the choice and commit.)
What lovely thing to do first? Handwork? Read? Paint? Take a walk and bumble around some of the artsy shops on Hawthorne or Alberta? Tidy up the houseplants? Write a letter? I had to make myself a list, not a to-do list but a Fun Stuff list, with checkboxes and everything. I’m 100% more likely to do something if I’ve given it a checkbox. (But only if it’s my checkbox. Other people’s checkboxes, especially the homeschooling kind, send me running.)
I did wind up reading, quite a lot actually because I’m still working my way through the YASF Cybils finalists. (Two to go. Reading’s on the fun list tomorrow, for sure. Of course, so is all the other stuff. The question is: will I DO it instead of waffling between options?)
(Answer: yes. I’m determined to Have Some Fun. Or else Do Nothing Much At All, which is just as important as Fun Stuff. But I am putting my work away for the weekend. Housework doesn’t count. I like mopping floors, and we’re overdue.)
All right, enough browbeating. Here are some things that are working well these days:
• My morning ritual of reading poetry and writing…hmm, writing things that will grow up to be poems when I come back to them. The bones of poems, or maybe just the marrow. The pluripotent stem cells that will become poems, eventually. (Hmm, there’s another poem there, actually.) I get up at 5:30 or 6—alarm is set for six but I often wake up early and then I can’t wait, cannot wait, to get back in the chair to read and write. I turn on the electric kettle, the studio lights, the warm blanket because I am a creature without much in the way of natural warming abilities.
I do a few stretches in the kitchen while I wait for the water to boil. Then I curl up in the gray chair with the red blanket, the turquoise mug, the green notebook. I start with poems: this week it was Rachel Zucker’s Museum of Accidents, which smashed my heart into smithereens, I’ll never be the same; and Olav Hauge’s The Dream We Carry, who is full of quiet surprises. Then I write for a while, until quarter of seven when Huck pads in, pajama-clad, and climbs into my lap under the warm blanket. He always stops to turn off the overhead light (there’s no convenient place for a lamp next to my writing chair), so that the window goes from glassy reflection to backyard view. The sky is perfect today, he whispered yesterday morning, settling in. It’s been a sheet of gray lately but yesterday it was five or six shades of blue fading one into the other, almost green where it bumped the neighbor’s rooftop. The bare arms of the trees, the morning flights leaving PDX, the rumor of sunrise just beyond the garage. These are good moments.
• The Wee Free Men, which has been deemed utterly enchanting and is the first thing we want to reach for when we begin our homeschooling mornings together.
• The “pick one chore today” list on the family chalkboard, when I remember to write it!
If you’re on Instagram: I accidentally invented a new hashtag today and you are welcome to play along. In Stories, I posted a stack of the books that Beanie, Huck, Rilla, and I are reading (we were the only ones home at the time) and tagged it #ourdayinbooks—and later discovered that tag had never been used before. I wrote a post about it, and now others are joining in the fun. If you’re not an Instagrammer but would like to play, feel free to share your list or link here!
I took this photo a couple of weeks ago; most of those glorious leaves have fallen now and the sky is hung upon the bare arms of the trees. Light glows from behind the clouds. I hadn’t realized how much I missed clouds, all those years under the clear blue Southern California sky. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the sky is painted by Maxfield Parrish, shot through with light. Even when it’s overcast and gray, there’s a glow behind the veil.
I made a list yesterday of things to write about. I’ve tucked so many stories in drafts this past year! But everything on my list feels like work. And I’m trying really hard not to work today.
So I’ll talk about Project Feederwatch instead. 🙂 Are any of you participating this year? We missed it last year. And our San Diego feeder attracted rats, so we abandoned it. But here, the birds are putting on quite a show. Our count days are Monday and Tuesday. Last week we counted 25 goldfinches, a flock of bush tits (we lost count at 25 but I think there were more), a handful of house finches and juncos, a female Northern Flicker who visits the suet feeder every morning, a downy woodpecker, two chickadees, two scrub jays, and some starlings. A highly satisfying count. The best view of the feeders is from my studio window, and it amuses me no end to come in here and find the chairs pulled out for better viewing. Huck and Rilla spend a lot of time in here, watching the show.
If you’re interested in taking part in the project, it’s not to late to join for this season. It takes a few weeks for the packet to arrive, but you can download a data sheet to tide you over. Once you get your registration packet in the mail, you begin entering your bird counts online. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses this data to “track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.” I think it’s open to U.S. residents only (and costs $18 to participate), but there’s a Canadian version linked on the site.
I fill our two tube feeders with sunflower seeds. One suet feeder holds a peanutty cake, and the other is a suet-and-insect cake that the woodpeckers seem crazy about. We scatter a bit of millet on the ground for the juncos, and they clean up any sunflower seeds spilled by the squabbling goldfinches. We also have a mesh sock full of nyjer thistle for the finches. But my favorite is when they descend upon the big pot of cosmos and pick out the seeds from the flower centers.
I keep watching for the varied thrushes who began visiting our yard last winter. No luck yet but I’m hopeful!
I would love to hear about the birds that visit your yard, feeders or no!
Sick kids this week, and lots of IEP stuff going on. But golden hour doesn’t begin until 8pm these days, so I’ve managed plenty of long, rhapsodic evening walks. The light is glorious. I’m completely enchanted.
Huck, Rilla, and I are still reading The Penderwicks and lots of poetry. They finished learning the Willow Cabin speech from Twelfth Night and have begun If music be the food of love. play on. We spent a few weeks immersing in the history of Ancient India, and next week we’re starting an exploration of ancient numbering systems. Rilla helped me prep for it and we’re both pretty excited to dive in. And we’re doing watercolors almost every day, because I’m addicted. Strawberry number two was ripe today. We’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of this lovely book: Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. (Amazon influencer link.) I’m in no hurry at all for the tide to go out.
Hello hello hello hello!
Today is my 24th wedding anniversary. You know I gotta post that pic I always post. 🙂
Still crazy about this guy. (Understatement.)
We celebrated Mother’s Day by…cleaning the garage and basement. Yes, I am THAT woman: the one who saves the grungiest jobs for the day her family lives to do her beck and call. 😉
My gift was a really lovely surprise: a couple of weeks ago I posted a pic on Instagram of some perfectly GORGEOUS flowers (Hayley Mills voice there, obvs) I spotted in a neighbor’s yard on one of my walks. I learned that they are called Lewisia (after Lewis of Lewis & Clark) or, commonly, bitterroot. I adore them.
I swooned hard again when I saw them at a nursery the week after—but I was there for garden starts and I Firmly Resisted the Temptation to Indulge. And then the other day after my first post-treatment mammogram (all clear, hurrah!) Scott surprised me with a detour to the garden center. Unbeknownst to me, he showed my Insta photo to an employee…and now I have my ownty-downty little bitterroot plant. Bliss.
Flew home from Virginia on Tuesday and have spent the week catching up on Everything. Catching up—and taking as many nature walks as humanly possible. Rilla and I have been casually tracking the waves of blossom here in Portland—first came the crocuses and hellebores; then the flowering plum and pear trees, with quince close behind; and now everywhere is a sea of daffodils and grape hyacinths, and the bees are tumbling in the cherry blossoms, and the first tulips are filling their cups with sky. When I left for my trip last week, Klickitat Street was a froth of pink and white, giving way now to a veil of soft green.
Why am I inside right now? Goodbye, I have to go for a walk. 🙂
“You are doing TREE-mendous work!”
That’s what a neighbor said to us today when he and his dog passed us in the park where Huck, Rilla, and I were using printouts of the Portland Tree Map to identify the blossom-laden trees we’ve been swooning over these past couple of weeks. Does your area have one of these?
I mean, this is just heaven on a web page as far as I’m concerned. Whenever I move to a new part of the country I have a burning need to learn the names of All The Things as soon as possible. I’m a little slow out of the gate this time around, but then again I wasn’t exactly up for long leisurely walks last summer or fall. I was scrolling back through my Instagram the other day and came across a caption from October in which I talked about how happy I was to finally be able to take a walk around the block again. These days I’m averaging almost four miles a day—because spring.
“Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends” (Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 52).
Happy First Day of Spring, my friends!
I’m heading to Virginia later this week for the VaHomeschoolers Conference. Excited! Swamped! Wondering if my tulips will bloom while I’m gone!
March 1. Sunshine today! Went for a walk down Klickitat with Scott and then another longer one in the other direction with Huck and Rilla. Violets, grass daisies, daffodils, crocus in abundance. Pussywillows budding over a mossy stone wall. Still plenty of puddles for wading in, which was important because Huck wore his rainboots. Rilla exclaimed over each new patch of moss.
Found our first Portland geocache and stopped in the rock store to admire the thundereggs, geodes, shells, and fossils. Debated the merits of the hypotenuse (a slanting street, thick with cars, the shorter way home) versus the quieter, mossier, puddle-strewn right-angle lanes. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know which we chose.
So here’s a little peek at what my Northeast Portland neighborhood is looking like this first week of February. 🙂