Posts Tagged ‘nature study’
Rilla and I made a bug snug yesterday. I don’t have a photo of it yet (too cozy to get up right now, and anyway if I go downstairs I’ll be swept into The Rest of the Day and this post will float into the drafts pile with the hundreds of other unfinished musings I’ve amassed over the years), so I searched for bug and then bee in my photo library. So. Many. Bee pics. This one isn’t the crispest but the red coneflowers felt more apt for this November morning.
Anyway, the bug snug! You make a tripod of sticks or canes—we used this video to assemble it—and fill it with twigs, leaves, flower stems, grass cuttings, all the wealth summer left behind in your yard. This creates habitat for overwintering insects. Also it’s very cute.
The bug snug is part of our big project: participating in Portland’s Backyard Habitat Certification program. The new house has a biggish corner lot, beautifully landscaped by the former owner (she’s my hero—oh the care and love she lavished on this house!), mercifully pesticide free, with roses and berries and perennials, but also a lot of grass. We’ve begun our project by sheet mulching over the grass along the retaining wall that runs along our corner sides (the front and west sides of the house). I’ve planted a few perennials there and some wildflower seeds, but the main goal for now is to knock back the grass and create beds for planting native shrubs and pollinator plants in the spring.
The kids were surprised when I told them it will likely be two or three years before we get to the Silver certification level, and longer than that to qualify for Gold. For me, the leisurely timeline is a comfort. It’s a puttering project, a little here, a little there, doing what we can do.
Huck has done most of the digging for the south-side border. We’re sheet-mulching over the grass (layers of cardboard, compost, and leaf mulch), but we needed to remove a narrow grass right along the retaining wall so we could tuck the cardboard down, and he’s making another narrow trench to edge the bed. He has discovered that he loves digging. This is excellent news for his mother.
My notebook is full of the Delta variant, the wildfires, the worries. How is it possible I have so many unvaccinated friends?—none local, but scattered across the country in counties with spiking rates, and I’m wondering what losses the next ninety days will hold. I sent out a few Cassandra-like texts last week, and got back gentle rebuffs or silence. Don’t worry about us, one friend replied, and I groaned—it isn’t something you just turn off. I listen to the epidemiologists, and I know what’s rushing up on us.
I write this here because I don’t want to chronicle the celebrations and joys, the beautiful richness of life, without also acknowledging the dire state of the world outside my doors—the people in peril. The planet in peril.
Here, in this house, in this room? Not peril. Peace, sometimes. Contentment, often. Helpless laughter, frequently. A busy thrum of activity, constantly. I document all this, too, in various notebooks, and, when I can, here on the blog. I keep a ridiculous number of lists. Lists of work accomplished, housework done, books read, television watched, podcasts and audiobooks listened to; lists of small moments that sent gratitude or delight surging through me.
—aeschynanthus blooming at last
—two sunsoaked tomatoes in the big black pot
—chickadees and bush tits at the feeder
—how much Huck and Rilla loved Nine to Five
—The Firelings, richer every time I read it
—Thomas A. Clark’s poems
more light on the branch
more light on the leaf
than appears to fall
on light or leaf
—Holly Wren Spaulding‘s posts like manna in my mailbox
—my studio, the daily rush of appreciation I feel for this lovely space
—a piece of aqua-colored linen in my hands, a vision for what it will become, a salamander in ferns, the meditative pleasure of handstitching the raw edges so they won’t fray
—on green quilter’s cotton purchased long ago, a pink chrysanthemum blooming
—my Aunt Genia’s recipe for inside-out chocolate cake, baked for no reason at all except that I was thinking of her
—the new mop bucket, the satisfaction of gleaming floors
—Rose’s long quest for an apartment, successful at last
—the smell of morning, the expectant crows, the clatter of peanuts on the patio
—dulce de leche ice cream
—kids playing Zelda for hours
—my friend Kyleen’s viola, Allen’s upright bass
—my candy-colored socks
—the Seam Finishing 101 class at Creativebug, a true gem
—the free Bystander Intervention training at Hollaback
—the Sister Act 2 finale, which will never get old
The celebration lists, and the Cassandra letters. That’s what I’ve got for the world right now.
This category is such a gimme—in Portland—in spring!
Scott and I take a walk every day after lunch—longer and longer, as the weather improves. And I often take an earlier walk with Huck or Rilla or both. Some days, after Scott and I return, I go back out, another ramble through the streets of Northeast PDX, by myself. With music or with silence. I love walking to a soundtrack, but a quiet walk provides the white space I’ve been seeking. I sometimes find it hard to choose.
In bloom this week: daffodils (the earliest risers now fading, but big lush clumps of them still nodding in full glory); cherry blossoms and tulip magnolias; a few flowers left on the flowering plums & Bartlett pears, but those are mostly leafing out; tulips beginning to open; a profusion of grape hyacinths (my favorite bulbs); wild violets in the lawns; camellias already dropping petals in a thick carpet on the sidewalk and grass; vinca and lantana; a few early rhododendrons.
Bees ecstatic in the cherry blossoms.
Last year’s green onions, neglected, fattening with bloom.
Poems by Thomas A. Clark, who continues to delight me.
to feel while the wind
howls over stones
or tears at the meadow grasses
quiet in your bones
The captivating videos of Abe Haruya, porcelain artist
Oh and so much spring
February 3, 2021 @ 10:12 am | Filed under: Books
My first encounter with our local crocus patch, Feb 4, 2018
In the neighborhood:
• The snowdrops and crocuses are blooming, and the daffodil stems are getting tall. It’s time to visit the nearby park that becomes a field of purple and yellow crocuses this time of year. Most park-goers here seem to be good with masks, so hopefully we can safely meander along the paths.
In my reading life:
• Our Wrinkle in Time readaloud is getting to the exciting part. Yesterday, Huck and Rilla (along with Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace) got their first glimpse of the shadow blotting out a swath of stars. Things are about to get intense!
• Library books keep expiring on my Kindle before I get through them. This is poor patronage on my part! (Given the hefty prices libraries pay for e-books, which have a finite number of check-outs and then must be repurchased.) The blessing of rabbit-trailing is also its curse: I encounter more books than I can possibly read, ever, ever. Currently in progress: Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood; Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari; The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner; The Cave Painters by Gregory Curtis; and (oh the irony) Start Finishing by Charlie Gilkey. Oh, and Grace Lin’s The Year of the Dog, for which I’ll be writing a Brave Writer Dart this month.
• Oh but of course there are hard copies in my hands too! My friend Michelle reminded me of Christian McEwen’s World Enough and Time, which I bought a year ago but hadn’t begun. If you’re a Patreon subscriber, you know I have now begun reading it at last, and I’m adoring it. Am also midway through a reread of Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic.
• The poets I find myself reaching for most often at present are Ross Gay, Ilya Kaminsky, Louise Gluck, Basho, Olav K. Hauge, and Julia Hartwig—and the title of her book gave me a good chuckle just now, considering what I was just saying about my library books: In Praise of the Unfinished.
Feb 4, 2018. Wilshire Park, Portland, Oregon.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’m scooping things up from Facebook memories.
Feb 3, 2009 (A couple of weeks after Huck was born)
Just said goodbye to my parents (sniffle) and now I’m alone, possibly for the first time, with my OH MY GOODNESS six children.
Feb 4, 2009
Off to a busy start. Speech therapy, piano, Journey North. Nothing like diving right in!
Feb 3, 2010
This moment caught: 9yo sketching amaryllis, the 2 boys playing w/ trains. 11yo reading about B. Franklin. Teen reading Gulliver. 3yo sings.
Jan 27, 2013
Kids tearing through the room, shrieking, swords aloft, while Scott softly strums the ukelele, singing sweetly: I Wanna Be Sedated
Feb 4, 2013
Aw, how cool is this? The Journey North Mystery Class coordinator wrote me to say thanks for sending so many new families their way. Thanks to YOU guys for joining the fun! You know who you are.
Feb 3, 2014
In my statcounter this morning: search hits for “done with downton abbey” and “downton abbey season 4 not believable.”
Feb 3, 2014
Dear new lady in yoga today who said to me, “You’ll understand once you hit 30”: I LOVE YOU.
Feb 4, 2014
Sticky short film preview: “Exiled from the tropical paradise where they evolved, a tiny population of remarkable stick insects dodged extinction by hiding under a single windswept bush on the world’s tallest sea stack for 80 years. Thanks to a dedicated team of scientists they’re now living safely in captivity, but when can they go home?” (2020 note: I never did see the whole film. Must remember to look it up.)
Feb 3, 2017
In the car on the way to piano lessons, there’s a heavy sigh from the backseat.
Rilla: Sometimes…sometimes I just wish I were a mantis shrimp.
Feb 4, 2017
Just read the 2009 NYT obit for Eleanor Perenyi. Have decided that being remembered as a “writer and deliciously opinionated amateur gardener” is a worthy life goal. I’m sure I have a book of horticulture essays in me somewhere.
Feb 4, 2017
This one’s too long to paste: a detailed note about books I was reading/half-reading after two frenzied months of reading Cybils YA Fiction nominees. “Books I have read 1-3 chapters of since January 1st, most of which I do mean to finish eventually.” (Note to self: would be fun to do an update of this post. Which ones did I actually finish?)
I’m in a weird place right now where reading is concerned. I do this sometimes–read the beginnings of too many things and find it hard to settle down to finish something. I could have read three books in the time I’ve been pinballing between a dozen.
I try to be patient with myself when this mood hits, once or twice a year. It’s very common for me to rebound from Cybils reading this way—that fierce two-month drive to read a staggering volume of books. It’s compounded this year by—oh, let’s just say by many factors unique to 2017.
Feb 4, 2018
This one reminds me it’s time to visit Wilshire Park to see if these beauties are back in bloom. I’m guessing yes: we’ve got crocuses popping up all over the neighborhood.
I’ve found it suits me better not to announce or necessarily even plan my occasional breaks from social media, but rather to let them happen organically and reflect on them afterward. This one wasn’t a total break, since I did post snippets to IG Stories almost daily, and I spent a little more time on Twitter than usual. (Which still isn’t much. I have to take Twitter in carefully timed microdoses these days.) But for two weeks, no Instagram grid posts, no captions, no FB, no Bonny Glen, and I put my Patreon on pause for the month of August.
None of this (except the Patreon pause) was planned; I was just busy elsewhere. WB had surgery at the end of July (went well, good recovery); Jane moved home from California around the same time. This weekend we celebrated Rose’s 21st birthday. (!) In between: work, long walks, a book or two, lots of embroidery. A small party where I found ‘my’ karaoke song (i.e. one I can nail). Or maybe that was before the surgery; late July and early August melted into each other.
I took Holly Wren Spaulding’s free mini poetry challenge this past week and welcomed her infusion of gentle insight into my morning creative practice, a practice which continues to be the most satisfying and nourishing gift I can give myself: this quiet, screen-free dawn hour, alone with a few good poems, a notebook, a fresh pen. I spent a lot of time with Kimiko Hahn this summer—Mosquito and Ant; Toxic Flora; Narrow Road to the Interior. Also a lot of Japanese haiku in translation. Huck wakes during the end of my writing time and staggers sleepily into my studio to snuggle into the gray armchair with me, tucked under our poppy blanket. We read poems and watch the sky change. Even when I’m tired, it’s delicious.
I also spent a lot of time in the garden, enjoying the late-summer lushness! Hummingbirds in the hyssop; bees industrious in the fennel and coneflower. A few tiny strawberries, a handful of cherry tomatoes. Asters spangling the porch wall with blue stars. A strange crow with a coppery head raiding the suet feeder each morning. My neighbor’s asparagus bed now a forest: airy green treetops festooned with apple-red berries. An abundance of small noticings. A necessary quiet.
My parents were here for Wonderboy’s spring break, and Portland greeted them with an explosion of bloom. Their visit overlapped with the Association of Writing Programs Conference (AWP), which meant I had friends in town and poets I love, and though I didn’t attend the conference proper I found time to slip away to a few offsite events and spent most of Saturday at the book fair, aka heaven. Cherry blossoms, daffodils, good company, blue skies, and poetry at every turn.
Now I’m collecting my thoughts for the final push on my novel revision (two more weeks!) and plugging away at other work. It’s challenging at this time of year. When I’m inside, I want to be outside. The grape hyacinths and euphorbia are in bloom, and camellia and hellebore, and tulips are beginning to open! And tulip magnolias in their glory. Focus, Lissa. Focus.
On Patreon this weekend, I wrote about my weekly meandering through various books of poems and artists’ journals in my morning poetry hour. It’s a while since I’ve explained my Patreon here, so a quick refresher: you can subscribe for as little as $1/month, which grants access to a weekly post about my reading and writing life (including sneak peeks at the book in progress, as it begins to move through the various stages of publishing). At the $3+ tier, you’re invited to join my weekly coffee hour, a casual, chatty, unrecorded Google Hangout where you can pop in and pick my brain about anything you like.
Tomorrow I’m off to Salem for a monthly meeting of folks in the intellectual and developmental disabilities supports community. And then on Wednesday: it’s back to high tide for Huck, Rilla, and me. Another milestone today: it was Beanie’s first day of school—and college! Bean and Rose are taking an oceanography class together. We have a few more months before Beanie officially graduates from our homeschool, and then—gulp—I’ll be down to just two students here in Bonny Glen Academy. Talk about the tides!
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!