Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Family 4th, 2015

Our family has had a cabin of some sort on a small lake near here since I was nine or ten years old.  When I was a little girl the 'cabin' was an old single trailer house with a long and winding path or 2X4s leading to the water.  I remember forever picking sandbars out of my feet and flip-flops. I remember seeing horned toads, lizards and snakes on the trip down the hill to the water.  One time a snake chased me back up the hill and scared me half to death. I was certain it was a rattlesnake, but it probably was not, in fact.
      When my mother was the district president of the the Girl Scouts, we had day camp out there in the summer: Camp Sandburr. The perfect name.  One time I remember hooking my little brother in the back while we were both fishing off somebody's dock.  Another time, during day camp, another brother got kicked by the horse we had out there for the campers. Things happened.  We tried using an air compressor on the bank and some tubing to make our own scuba diving gear.  As I recall it 'sorta-kinda' worked for awhile.  For a while we had a diving board made out of a bridge plank we pounded into the bank. It wasn't great. No bounce.
      There were some times when we didn't go out there much and for a while we shared a cabin with the another family. When we were teenagers there seemed to be a lot of hiking around the edges of the lake, a lot of mud fights, frog gigging, swimming underwater in the pale green water. For a while we anchored an old garage door out from shore a ways and practiced seeing if we could swim all the way out to it, underwater. That door made a great diving platform.  I believe it is now resting at the bottom of the lake somewhere.
       When my siblings and I got married and started having our own children, Dad bought a different cabin on the lake front. In the passing years the lake had been developed into a nice little getaway for several families and cabins dotted the shoreline.  No one lived there permanently. We all simply came out to visit and now and then someone would live there for a year or so.

    Our kids grew up doing cannon balls off the deck, riding Skidoos and water skis around the lake until it was wild with waves.  They had tremendous fun and so did we.  Eventually the boats and skidoos were banned because of the noise, children grew up and moved away. Life kept everyone too busy to go out to the lake.
     Danny and I lived there for nine or ten months the year our house was being built. I loved it, though it was the winter months and always too cold to swim. I pedaled the paddleboat around the lake in all kinds of weather. We had cozy fires in the fireplace when it snowed and the lake froze over.  Mom and Dad added a garage, a new roof and a new septic tank.
      Unfortunately we had one family get together too many out there and it ended with my mom collapsing on the walk in from the car.  It is a horrible memory for all of us.  After that we stopped going out there for quite awhile.  Jim lived there for a while when Mom was so ill. He did quite a bit of work on the place. We put in new flooring. Jim brought out a stove and a dishwasher.
     Dad and I , and then Danny and I took over the spring cleaning, the fall winterizing, the mouse hunts, the spider bombing.  We had a couple of New Year's parties out there, but the light had gone out of it.
     Now Able and Kari have taken the place in hand, trying to breathe life back into the old girl. They go out there often and love the peacefulness of the space. Last weekend we had the family 4th of July gathering out there again.

  The traditional floaty visiting time, complete with little kids being thrown up into the air to do flips, deep sea diving for treasure and underwater sneak attacks on the sunbathers. Nothing is new under the sun.


 A couple of my brothers came out and three of the cousins. Here they are, putting together the new grill while Zaneyboy watches.  The little boys learned some important lessons about keeping your shoes on and always wearing life jackets.

 I think everyone took at least one loop around the lake in the old pink and white paddle boat. My sister did not make it this year so I took my paddleboat tour with Audie. I loved it.

     Perch were caught off the dock and fireworks blazed skyward at dusk.  There was clapping and patriotic music and a group singing of the Star Spangled Banner. There may have been a tiny brush fire. I sat laughing in my lawn chair while everyone else jumped up threw water on it until it was extinguished.  That is a story that will grow grander with the telling. We missed Abbey and her bunch this time around, but they were watching the grandest fireworks of them all in Washington D.C..
They will probably be around for the festivities next year.

     We have some plans in the works for adding bunk beds in the cabin and installing a deluxe water filtration system. It is an ongoing, multigenerational project. All ideas are taken under consideration.  Zach and Audra, Abbey and Brent are on board. I hope we spend more time out there this summer.
     There are things that had drifted away over the years when it stood empty.  They will need to find their way back again. Houses like to be needed.

Acts of Nature

    The Wren family set up housekeeping in the corner of the porch ceiling.  I had hoped this would happen. (cue the music) I had imagined I would hear their beautiful trilling songs morning and evening. They would not mind my presence.
       It has not turned out exactly that way. As a matter of fact, now that their brief courtship is over, eggs have been laid and hatched, the wrens spend most of their time berating me for being in their space. (Their space? ) And by the way, stereo scolding is not melodious in the least. The cats sit crouched on the porch chairs, bitter at being taunted by such tiny foes.  The wrens, no doubt, knew how high the cats could jump before they began constructing the nest.
      For several days I noticed the adults zipping to the nest and back but saw no evidence of little ones. But a few days ago I noticed two tiny little stickiups showing over the rim. Upon closer inspection, through the binoculars, these proved to be tiny bills patiently awaiting food. Birdie babies, how nice for all of us. I still get scolded every time I try to sit at the round table, but now there are faint chirps behind me.
      Choosing to nest under the wide ceiling has saddled the wrens with a weakness.  When they leave the nest they must first fly down toward the porch before flying out and up into clear air. Last evening we were visited by a violent summer thunderstorm; high winds accompanied by pounding waves of rain. This morning I noticed a small feather stuck in a bloody smudge on the porch floor. The cats are immensely patient.

Poem: Lightning

A vivid strike, with fanfare,
bright energy unleashed 
and veining the darkness
black and white.

An electric demon flying free,
rearranging elements.

Lovely in the distance,
lightning jolts our senses
when it stands on the steps,
unmasking within us
a primal vulnerability.

In that moment the nerves know,
even if the ego denies it,
that all our swagger and shine
is mere bravado.

We have nothing to bring
to the table of time
except an eagerness to learn,
to connect, to create,
and the desire to stay alive.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A must read for writers

I'm reading an intense book,
"Several short sentences about writing",
by Verlyn Klinkenborg.

The book is prose written in
a poetry format,
like this.

Klinkenborg lays out
what are, in his professional opinion,
the essentials of good writing.

I have given up

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Little League

     Let's talk about little league baseball. Yes, Able played little league but he didn't start until he was in third grade or so.  Everybody who knows anything about kid's baseball knows you have to start when you're four (or three for some people), hit the ball off the T and stay with those kids all the way up. By the time they reach middle school they are either sick to death of baseball and never want to see one again, or they have solidified into a killer team that goes on to take the state championship.
     Those kids who join the team in third grade (usually because their parents thought it was silly beyond reason to try to play any organized sport when they haven't even mastered pooping in the potty) never really work their way into the weave of the team. They're always the outsider, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be.
     My second round of little league started last year when Brendan played baseball for the first time. He was seven at the time; a tall seven. He spent a lot of time in  left field, but paid attention and helped with some plays, got hits, ran the bases, made a few runs and hit some people in. I call that a good year any way you look at it. All the cousins watched from the bleachers and cheered for the Falcons.
     This year Brendan played again and Zane signed up for tball.  Tball with three and four year olds is almost exactly like watching a bunch of puppies playing with a ball in the back yard, except there is a dad or mom standing in the field with each puppy and trying to get them to do something specific when the ball comes to, or by, them. Their games are hysterical to watch. Everyone claps for everyone else's kid. The games are timed, so there is an end to the silliness eventually. Games are always called for rain.
     Yesterday was the final game for both boys, at the same time, of course.  I had watched Brendan's game the night before, so I stayed at Zane's this time around.  (That decision proved unfortunate for me because Brendan, a.k.a. Slugger, hit an infield home run and their team won. How did I miss that? Well, I was down the sidewalk watching the puppies, that's how.) I love this kid's red cleats. If not for those shoes, I probably couldn't ever pick him out from the stands.  You would think I could at least tell which boy was my grandchild wouldn't you? What if I told you that when Able was that age and was playing in the outfield at one game, I asked the woman beside me who that kid was out there who was dancing around and she told me it was my son? There you go. Thanks for wearing the red shoes, Brendan.

     Brendan's team was much better this year. They usually knew where the play was, most of them had strong if not very accurate throwing arms, they know a lot of the rules now and can hit off the machine fairly well, they are trying to slide into base, they don't cry when they strike out anymore. It is beginning to be fun. At least it seems to be.
     This is what the tball players know:
1. Hit the ball off the T.
2. Run to first base.
 3. (This is an unwritten rule but all the kids know it) When the ball is hit, run like crazy for it and everyone dog-pile on top of it, laughing.
      They can all hit the ball now and they have learned to then start running toward first.  That's progress. In the beginning they were so elated to have hit the ball that they forgot what to do next. I'm fairly sure that having twenty or thirty odd adults yelling at you to run doesn't help at all. We can't help ourselves.
      Last night they played in the drizzle because it was the last make-up game and no one wanted to go another week. It is too hot. They should have been done two weeks ago but were making up games from that rainy May we had.  The kids had a great time playing in the rain. There weren't as many dog piles as there were in April. The outfielders managed to stay on their feet most of the time. I say that because usually they are so bored out there they lie down or sit down or lean against their dads. In one late game I saw one dad in the outfield who was holding his tiny little boy in his arms. The boy had fallen asleep. Take him home dad. Just call it.
   Here is Korenaki (yes, a misprint on the shirt), ready for the big play….which never came. But he was ready….most of the time. During Zane's game last night some kid ran out of the dugout and tackled a kid who was on his way to first. There were tears. I'm not going to lie to you. Zane has learned to run the ball into home plate when someone is coming from third. For quite a while he would run toward home and then stop to let the runner go by. ! This is what happens when you teach kids good manners and then switch it up on them. No, you can't be polite to a base runner. It is a footrace and you need to win.

    The side story to little league is what goes on in and behind the stands.  Mom, dads and grandparents watch the game and forget about the little kids. Cousins, and little brothers and sisters run around, chasing each other here and there, they eat snacks and steal drinks of water from anyone who isn't watching, they now and then get hit by a back-hit ball (accidents happen folks). They fall off the back of the bleachers, skin their knees on the sidewalk, poke ants with sticks, get too hot and have to be cooled down. They talk grandma or grandpa into taking the long walk to the bathroom with them several times. They get dirt in the face over and over again because the catcher can't really catch anything, they sometimes get dragged through the mud and rocks at the carousel, AND, if they are lucky, they get snacks with the team when the game is over. Apparently it is worth the wait.
     I don't think decisions about the upcoming year need to be made at the exact end of the season. By that time you are so done with the whole thing, you couldn't possibly commit to doing it again, yet. (Similar to asking a woman who just birthed a baby if she wants to have another one soon. Are you crazy?)  But memory is funny in that sometimes the worst parts of things begin to fade in the sun of passing days and after a while, you begin to think you might want to go there one more time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Midnight Ramble

     When one lives a solitary life, time is pleasantly malleable, conforming to whatever mood or circumstance exists on any given day, or night. Now that the minutes of my life are not harnessed with
those of another, I sleep when I am tired, eat when I am hungry and let myself sit on a metal chair in the golden light of evening, doing nothing more or less than watching and listening to the approach of sweet darkness. This absolute unbounded freedom, in regard to time, is extraordinary, infinitely delightful and refreshes my spirit like nothing else.
    Tonight I find myself unable to sleep, although the stars have crossed half the heavens and the moon as disappeared below the western horizon.  My little man and I noticed him, whom we fondly call 'the silly old moon', sailing high in the summer sky as we stepped out of bright heat and into the kitchen for a cool lunch of grapes and cheese earlier today. This day, as he says in his high little boy voice. This day, this night, which makes ever so much more sense than 'today or tonight', when you stop to think about it. My daughter, Abbey, used to say 'yesternight' when she was a very little girl. Makes perfect sense, don't you agree. Yesterday, yesternight.
      There is window in my home that housed a double layer of screens for several days. Until the final day, I was not aware of the doubling. Each time I would pass by, the crossing wires would form wild and beautiful mosaics in the opening. As I walked past, my thoughts were already outside and nearly arrived at my destination, so it was only my eyes that noticed the wavering patterns.  It was an observed aberration without thought to cause. The explanation for the random swirling of light and dark snapped into place on the day I discovered a second window lacking its screen altogether.
       Each of us has our own unique personality, partly that which was gifted to us through our genetics, but also,attached to, embedded within that first true gem of ourselves are all manner of habits, quirks, physical motions, vocal inflections, eye movements and patterns of thought that we have picked up from everyone whose lives have ever brushed up against our own. When we line up with any other person new patterns are formed, unique to that particular pair.  I know there are deep psychological reasons that explain why some personalities meet and click, sending off layers of harmonics, while others are fall into dissonance, making both persons ill at ease. We're not going into that right now, and probably never will, but it is interesting.
    I know, this is a ramble, but it is the middle of the night and sleep eludes me. Also,  I do not know if this will actually lead us anywhere, so feel free to click away if you feel I am wasting your time. I'm not trying to say anything, just thinking through my fingertips.
     It is very interesting to me to notice how my own personality reacts to and with the separate personalities of each of my children, their spouses and each of the grandchildren.  Every single connection is as unique as a snowflake.  This is most interesting with the grandkids because we have less history with which to be influenced. Our weavings into each other seem more cleanly defined. Of course they are more of their purer selves, especially when they are very young, before having gone to public school, that place where so much shifts due to the influences of so many, by design or by chance.
     I can almost put colors to how I feel my grandchildren are, who they are, now, in this moment of their lives. Let me try. This should be fun. The clock ticks on.
    Rowan is the youngest, at 2, and appears as a peachy apricot edged with yellow. Everett, 3 years, is a gentle, medium green with soft brown rising through it . Zane, almost 5, is sky blue and white, moving, like his eyes. Maggie, nearly 6, is lavender, silver and pink. Brendan, at 8 1/2,  is a caramel color with sparks of blue light.
     These colors are probably the colors of who they feel like when they mix with me, rather than who they are when they are standing alone within themselves. If you were to ask them what color they think they are, they would probably say nothing at all like those colors, but that is the way they feel to me.
An aside:    
      I usually don't make strong connections with the littlest babies. They need to be several months old before I begin to get the feel for who they 'are' as people. This is why I have trouble writing their personal lullabies until quite awhile after they are born.  I didn't write Everett's or Rowan's songs until they were nearly a year old.  Maggie's and Brendan's littlest lullabies were written when they about four months old, at least, and B's second lullaby, the classic Goodnight, Starlight, was written when he was two and a half years old. 
     The exception to this rule is Zane's lullaby, which was written during the day that he was born.  I knew nothing about him at that time but found myself thrown into fervent prayer for him for most of that day, for some reason. By the time we received the call that he had arrived, the song was finished. We did not know, at that time, anything about his several heart problems and certainly had no idea what other tragic turns of events awaited us mere weeks ahead.  
     I'll say this again: the songs I write are given to me out of the quiet vastness of the universe. I only write them down and pass them along. 

No closure here, my friends. I am going back to bed and try to make the magic happen once again. I feel I will be sleeping late tomorrow morning.